Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Some Exeter Ghosts

A fine pair of adjoining buildings in Exeter High Street are said to be haunted, though whether it is by the same ghost is unclear. The ancient Turk’s Head pub has for centuries played host to the ghost of a red-headed lady in a long green dress. She is said to walk slowly around the ground floor, but is never in sight for very long. This ghost has the knack of being seen just as she walks out of sight through a door or behind a post.

The Turk’s Head shares its cellar with the Guildhall next door. This building too is said to be haunted by a lady. She has not been seen recently, however, so it is difficult to get a good description. Perhaps she is the same lady in green, perhaps not.

Very different is the phantom who has been seen outside in the High Street. This is the great Victorian novelist Charles Dickens. Dickens spent a lot of time in Exeter, and lodged at the Turk’s Head on most visits. He is sometimes seen standing quietly by the side of the road, watching the passersby intently. Perhaps he is looking for a good character for his next novel.

Down an alley off the High Street stands the ancient Ship Inn. The sign outside depicts a 16th century warship surging through a stormy sea under a press of canvas. The sign is appropriate for it was here that Sir Francis Drake lodged when visiting Exeter. The dashing sea rover has been seen several times since his death. He wears a doublet and hose of, for his time, a most fashionable cut and stalks restlessly through the pub. Sir Francis Drake was a dominating figure in Devon during the 16th century and his ghost may be encountered in Plymouth and at Buckland Abbey as well as in the Ship Inn, Exeter. And he is linked to another haunting at Musbury.

During the 1970s the Ship Inn experienced some strange phenomena. A few people found themselves being pushed gently from behind as they walked down the stairs, though nobody was behind them. Various small objects went missing around the pub, only to turn up in unexpected places. At the time the events were linked to the ghost of Drake, but if so he soon tired of his pranks.

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