Happy Halloween! What better time to explore some of the UK’s most haunted pubs! Spurned lovers, duelling brothers, highwayman spooks, and headless Dukes. Here are the horrible histories of some of our favourite ancient inns to get you in the spirit of the season.
Golden Fleece, York
The existence of the Golden Fleece was first documented in city archives in 1503 when it’s cellar was allegedly used to store the unclaimed bodies of hanged convicts. The pub is reportedly home to 5 ghosts including; Lady Alice Peckett – wife of one-time Landlord and York’s Lord Mayor of 1702, and Geoff Monroe – a Canadian airman who fell to his death from Room 4 of the inn in 1945 – did he jump or was he pushed? Either way his spirit has been troubling staff and guests alike ever since. There have been complaints of bed covers being ripped from terrified residents throughout the night and the feeling of invisible hands tightening around the necks of staff members when behind the bar. The Fleece has since earned a reputation of being one of most haunted pubs in the UK – even receiving a visit from Derek Acorah and the ‘Most Haunted’ team in 2005.
The Spaniard’s Inn, NorthWest London
Mentioned by name in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The Spaniard’s Inn on the fringes of Hampstead Heath dates back to 1585. The story goes that the name is derived from a pair of early Landlords Francesco & Juan Perero who duelled after falling for the same woman, resulting in the death of the latter. His body was buried in the garden of the pub and customers have reported sightings of him throughout the establishment. In another spooky claim to fame, notorious highwayman, Dick Turpin was also said to have spent many a night here when it was under the management of his father. After his execution in York in 1739 his spirit is said to have returned to The Spaniard’s where he now stalks the roads outside along with his trusty horse Black Bess.
Ye Olde Man & Scythe, Bolton
Being one of the oldest pubs in Britain (4th to be exact) automatically ups your level of spooky-ness by a few points – not that this particular pub needs any help. Ye Olde Man & Scythe has been the scene of many bloody encounters including the Bolton Massacre in which hundreds of soldiers & civilians were killed in 1644. Not surprising then that it is reportedly haunted by no less than 25 spirits. One of those being that of the 7th Earl of Derby, James Stanley, who spent his last hours here before being beheaded in 1651 towards the end of the Civil War. If you’re not convinced check out this CCTV footage from 2015 and see what you think.
The Red Lion, Avebury, Wiltshire
Surrounded by a prehistoric stone circle, The Red Lion of Avebury is the only pub of its kind in the world with the building dating back to the early 1600’s. Before becoming a coaching house in 1802, The Red Lion served as a farmhouse with a well, which over time and expansion has come to reside in one of the current day front rooms. In this well supposedly lies the body of the Lion’s resident phantom, Florrie whose husband returned from the Civil War to find her in the arms of another man. After killing them both he dragged her body to the well and threw it into the depths then sealing it with a boulder. Residents and customers have since claimed to have seen her ghost emerge from the well – alarming for anyone sitting at the table which it has since become.
The Mermaid Inn, Rye, East Sussex
Another alumni of TV’s ‘Most Haunted’ The Mermaid Inn was established in the 12th century with the main building being traced back to 1420. The Inn was used by a group of smugglers known as the Hawkhurst Gang during the 18th century, taking advantage of the buildings many secret passages. The wife of one of those smugglers is thought to haunt the rooms upstairs. Known as ‘The Woman in White’, she has been seen walking through walls and appearing at the end of the bed of more than one petrified guest. And it’s not just visitors who are spooked, supposedly one of the rooms – The Kingsmill Suite – is so haunted that the cleaners will only enter in pairs! You can watch The Mermaid Inn’s appearance on ‘Most Haunted’ here.
Jamaica Inn, Launceston, Cornwall
This 900 year old former coaching inn, set in it’s isolated location on the edge of Bodmin Moor, served as the perfect hideout for rum smugglers, ship-wreckers and even murderers during the 18th century. Made famous by the works of Daphne Du Maurier, who visited the inn during her youth, it has been subject of many mysterious tales. One of the most famous is that the of a gentleman who, having left his unfinished pint on the bar, stepped outside and never returned. His body was found nearby the next day but no reason for or suspect in his death was ever found. Years later in the early 1900’s, there were many reports from customers and passers-by of a man sitting on the wall outside The Jamaica Inn. Never moving or responding to greetings, but who looked uncannily like the slain patron. Modern day ghost-hunters are invited to investigate the paranormal activity for themselves with guided tours happening throughout the year.
The Viaduct Tavern, Newgate Street, London
The Viaduct Tavern stands as the last example of a traditional Victorian Gin Palace, with ornate decor and original toll booth still intact, this building dates back to 1869. It was once neighbour to Newgate Prison and Courthouse, overlooking the caged walkway known as ‘Dead Man’s Walk’ – for obvious reasons. Some of the condemned souls were reportedly buried under this walkway, which would explain how it has come to gain a reputation for hauntings. Staff have reported experiencing lights cutting out and doors locking themselves – particularly in the cellar where cell like structures can still be seen. Some dispute the validity of the claims that these were used house the overflow of prisoners due to be put to death, but the pub’s proximity to such terrible tales has continued to intrigue visitors throughout the years.
Ye Olde King’s Head, Chester
With Elizabethan fireplaces reportedly constructed from timber salvaged from the wreckage of one of Lord Admiral Nelson’s sunken ships Ye Olde Kings Head is certainly steeped in history. The Inn has existed since 1622, with foundations which can be traced all the way back to the early 1200’s. During a refurbishment in the 1930’s a sword – now proudly displayed in the bar – was discovered under the floorboards of Room 4, allegedly one of the most haunted rooms in the building. Guests claim to have heard phantom children running up and down the corridors and the figure of a woman standing at the windows. Legend has it that these are the ghosts of a former Landlords family who, upon discovering his wife’s affair, drowned their children in the river as revenge. The distraught wife supposedly took her own life in one of the rooms after learning what her husband had done.
The Grenadier, Belgravia, London
This Central London favourite has stood in Belgrave Square since 1720 originally serving as an officers mess before becoming a licensed public house known then as The Guardsman. The story goes that the current name comes from a soldier who was killed in a savage beating outside the pub in 1818 after being caught cheating at a card game. Locals have affectionately named the spirit Cedric – said to be a friendly occupant who is fond of breaking the odd glass and moving chairs in the bar. The walls and ceiling are covered in foreign currencies left by tourists from all over the world, apparently in an attempt to pay off the young soldier’s debt.
The Skirrid Mountain Inn, Abergavenney, Wales
Glasses flying across the bar and footsteps coming from empty corridors are nothing but the norm for The Skirrid Inn, nestled between the Skirrid & Black Mountains. Claiming to be the oldest inn in Wales, it was apparently once the rallying point of rebel Owain Glyndwr as he led his uprising against King Henry IV in the early 15th century. For many years the first floor of the building was used as a Court of Law where sentences was passed for crimes warranting the death penalty – records suggest that around 180 men and women in total were condemned. Some of the hangings were actually carried out within the stairwell of the inn, where markings can still be seen on the wooden beams from the swinging rope. Unsurprisingly the inn has capitalised on it’s gruesome history and subsequent tales of paranormal activity by offering overnight ghost hunts.