If the popular imagination prefers to put ghosts into stately homes, ruined castles and churchyards, it is interesting that some of the most active ghosts are to be found flitting about in the fresh air beside the roads, lanes and footpaths that crisscross Herefordshire.
One of the more gruesome, and spectacular, of these is the ghostly inn of Callow. Most phantoms are of single humans, sometimes of two and rarely of more. But Callow musters an entire ghostly inn complete with staff and customers.
This is no ordinary inn, but one that was demolished many years ago due to the horrible crimes committed inside. The A49 now bypasses the village, but the old road into the village from the south passes the site of this inn, shortly before it reaches the church. The inn was a welcoming one serving fine ales, ciders and good food. Many travellers on their way to or from Hereford stopped here and enjoyed themselves enormously.
A few visitors found when they got home that they had lost some valuable or other. It was never anything particularly much and most people thought that they must have dropped their watch, purse or the odd coin somewhere along the way. In fact, the landlord of the Callow Inn was adept at filching objects from his guests. He was careful not to take too much in case investigations were put in place and the trail led back to his inn.
But he could be more ambitious. If a particularly wealthy gentleman should stay, the landlord would put his attractive wife on the case. Flashing her bright eyes and making a fuss of the visitor she would wheedle information out of him. In particular she would want to know if he travelled alone and, if so, whether any of his friends or family knew that he was staying at the Callow Inn. If they did she would quickly be called away to another customer.
But if the man was alone and nobody knew his travel plans, his fate was sealed. He would be plied with fine wines until he was tipsy, then tucked up in bed. When the inn had emptied, the landlord would sneak upstairs to murder the guest and rob him of everything he had. Then the landlord and his wife would carry the body away across two fields to be buried in a private copse.
Eventually a man was missed and his trail was followed to the Callow Inn, but no further. Investigations were made and soon a list of unsolved vanishings was revealed. Exactly how many travellers had been murdered was never discovered. One was enough to hang the miscreants, and hanged they were.
But they return in spectral form to Callow. Most often the ghosts of the murderers are seen staggering alongside the old main road carrying a corpse between them. They are seen only on moonlit nights. More rarely the long demolished inn is also seen, its windows filled with a warm, welcoming light. Fortunately it vanishes if anyone seeks to approach.
This is an extract from Haunted Herefordshire by Rupert Matthews