Monday, 10 October 2011

The Ghosts of Jamaica Inn, Cornwall

Beyond the Tamar lies Cornwall, once a fiercely independent Celtic kingdom and now a Duchy long since incorporated into England. And yet the Cornish are a distinct people and some Englishmen may feel that they are entering a slightly foreign country when they enter this wildly scenic land. The red on white cross of St George is replaced on boats and cars by the white on black cross of St Pinon, and there are still a handful of people who speak Cornish and erect signs in their ancient tongue.

And when it comes to the supernatural, Cornwall is in a league of its own. There is a greater variety of ghosts, spooks and otherworldly creatures here than in almost any county in the kingdom. Certainly they are packed densely together. And nowhere more so than at the Jamaica Inn at Bolvenor, high on Bodmin Moor.

The inn is famous as the setting for the classic novel by Daphne Du Maurier, but has recently gained fame for its ghosts. Nobody is entirely certain how many there are lurking in this welcoming ancient inn.

Given its naval connections, it is not surprising that one of the ghosts at Jamaica Inn is a sailor. He sits on the stone wall outside the pub as if waiting for a coach or a friend to come along the main road from London to Penzance. If so, he waits in vain. The road outside the inn is no longer the main road, for a modern bypass takes the hurtling traffic a few hundred yards to the north. Which makes this a more peaceful place than it would otherwise have been.

The sailor is, however, rarely seen. Far more active is the Man in the Tricorn Hat, who haunts Room No.5. This room is on the first floor in the oldest part of the Inn. The room dates back to the 16th century, so a gentleman in 18th century clothing would be quite at home.

Glen, the general manager in 2002, reported “He appears by the window, usually in the small hours of the morning. Then he walks across to the cupboard and vanishes. He can muck about with clocks and watches. In the autumn, a lady staying in this room was late to breakfast because her alarm clock had stopped in the middle of the night. That would be the ghost. She didn’t see him. But it was him. He likes stopping clocks.

“Down in the bar is a corner table where the old man sits. He has grey hair and is dressed in dark, old-fashioned clothes, which are a bit shabby as if they are wearing out. He just sits there and stares out the window. We don’t like him much. We had a psychic in here a little while ago. She said he was dishonest and shifty - a real crook.”

Val the cook worked at the Jamaica Inn for nearly 30 years and knows the ghosts well. She said that another ghost lurks in the restaurant. “We sometimes see a smokey shape of a human at the far end. Can’t make out if it be man or woman, but it drifts about like it is looking for summat. But the real ghost appears in that there doorway to the car park. It be a man in a green jumper - yes modern like. Sort of thing people wear these days. I saw him one night when we kitchen staff was sitting here eating our meal after a big do. He just stood in the doorway watching us. Then he turned round and walked out to the car park. Gave me a real turn it did. I had locked that door shut just five minutes earlier. And it were still locked shut when we tested it. Very odd.”

There are other phantoms at Jamaica Inn. Some are seen rarely, others are only heard. Some put in an appearance once, then are not seen again. A few years go the Ghost Club carried out an investigation here and reached the conclusion that the Inn is a major centre for psychic energy. Perhaps this is because it stands at the centre of a whole network of ley lines, those ancient lines that link sites of sacred importance.

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