Murder, absolute murder: A plan was made, many weeks ago, for a large ensemble to investigate a site on Bodmin Moor. Getting more than 4 members of the group together takes some organising. It is not often we are able to meet up in a large number, so somewhere spectacular was needed to make the day extra special. I suggested The Hurlers ancient stone circle, a Cornish Tin Mine and the gloomy 19th Century Bodmin Jail. With an early start, we had the day to investigate. Little did I know, that the team had already decided where they wanted to point their EMF meters and focus their psychic energies…… Jamaica Inn. My heart sank, and my enthusiasm dwindled. Please, please, not the Jamaica Inn. The day arrived swiftly, and before I had an opportunity to say "grotty pub", I was in the front of the people carrier, map in one hand, and a hot tea in the other.
Chips with everything: I can understand the desire to visit Jamaica Inn, if you haven't already. It's a legendary pub, with great stories. You may also know that it was the inspiration for Daphne Du Maurier's novel of the same name, and two films. Add to this mix, a televised "ghosthunt" by the MostHaunted team in 2004. It should be a great day/night out for the supernatural enthusiast, and offer much in the way of experience. Sadly, the realities are far from the stuff of legend, but I will attempt to keep this casefile as perky as possible. Here goes….
Lost in the fog: Somewhere past the Golitha Falls, and the Yarg Cheese Farm, we managed to lose our way. We are lost on the Bodmin Moor, in the thickest fog I have ever seen. "This was more like it", I thought to myself. The team seemed to be enjoying the adventure, as we made our way down yet another long, winding lane, avoiding the odd wandering sheep. Occasionally, we would catch a glimpse of a standing stone, here and there.
Finally, a road sign declared we had arrived in Bolventor, and the Jamaica Inn loomed out of the fog. The team falls into an uneasy silence, as they cast their eyes over the building. Bob manoeuvred our vehicle into a parking space, of which there are hundreds, and was the first to speak:
"Where is it?" he asks, in some shock.
"There!....umm....here!" I say, pointing at the main entrance, "Big, isn't it!"
| Bodmin goes Disney:
I can understand the shock. Rather than creepy, moorland Public House,
we find ourselves at the Jamaica Inn Experience. The fog is clearing.
A scattering of older buildings, and frightful extensions, makes up
the tourist attraction known as "Jamaica Inn". Patsy has brought her
two delightful offspring along, Myles & Morgan, who appear to be the
only people impressed by the bastion to money making we see before
us. Children seem to have a knack for sniffing out ways to get parents
to open their wallets. We are here on a Sunday, a busy day for eateries
and pubs in Cornwall, but Bob is wondering why the car park is empty.
Good question. You see, it's not just any ol' Sunday, it's the half
term Sunday! For my readers overseas, I will point out that "half
term" means that schools out, and tourist hungry patrons can
rub their hands together in glee, thinking of the profits that lie
ahead. So, where are all the tourists?! Lorraine has endured my misery
long enough, and exclaims "Last one inside is a rotten egg!". We all
smile, and run for the double doors.
Upon entering, most of the group continue their dash, all the way
to the toilets. Lorraine has a wander around the interior, to sample
the atmosphere on offer, but doesn't get far:
"Which part of the building is original?" she asks.
"Ah ha! That's for you to discover." I point out. Letting the psychic
know the age of the rooms would be bad practise. Plus, even an A-Level
in art history can't see through decades of gloss paint, and 'renovations'.
The others return, and we sit down in the massive dining area for
a spot of lunch. There's room for hundreds, but again we are surprised
to find ourselves utterly alone in the restaurant. It is noon. On
a Sunday. The occasional member of bar staff wanders through, like
tumbleweed. Decisions are made swiftly, and within moments I am making
my way to the bar, to order our food. I know there are spoilers
littered around the pub, which I do not wish Lorraine or Patsy to
see. Many of Jamaica Inn's legends and ghosts are mentioned here and
there, and it would be silly to allow our modest mediums to get free
hints. Passing through the arch, which separates the restaurant from
the main bar, I am struck by how garish this pub is. The décor really
is enough to make your eyes bleed, so I cast my eyes to the floor.
Oh no! The carpet is competing with the walls for the prize of Most
Ugly Addition. It takes me 15 minutes to order lunch. The pub appears
to have a policy of employing brainless foreign students to man the
bar, which is neither practical, nor fun. Quite how "duck breast"
translates as "chicken bites" I shall never know. I begin to realise
why the pub is scarily deserted. While ordering, an elder couple arrive
at the pub, and make their way to the bar. She is talking excitedly
about ghosts, and Daphne Du Maurier, but he looks nervous and unsure.
Apart from two depressed (and drunk) locals, the bar is also empty.
My transaction is complete, and I cast a quick glance around the bar.
The elder couple are nowhere to be seen, but two half finished drinks
sit on a table, which was rapidly vacated.
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Time to begin: Food is eaten in good humour, which is essential
given the menu, and we make plans for our investigation. I also spend
a moment worrying about the nutritional value of the children's 'Turkey
Shapes', and suggest a runaround in the play area wouldn't go amiss.
Lorraine wishes to tackle the top bar (unsurprising), Patsy feels
the exterior is far more interesting (wise creature), and Bob and
I wish to photograph the smaller rooms, and passageways. He also wishes
to decipher the old parts of the building, from the new. This may
take some time.
Myles and Morgan wish to play in the garden, but an odd look from
Matt draws my attention. He has seen a figure outside, by the children's
play area. The character looked suspicious enough to worry Matt, so
the kids are told they must stay inside. I will hear none of it, and
proceed into the garden.
Motorways and moorland: I could find no sight, nor sound, of
the figure seen by Matt. The garden was properly searched, and I note
the limited access to the garden area. Perhaps Matt was mistaken.
The fog is very thin, but eyes can still play tricks. Myles and Morgan
escape to the garden, under the supervision of Matt. Beyond the garden,
a dull rumble reveals the expanse of the A30 motorway. Fir trees line
the garden boundary, in a weak attempt to shield punters from the
Do ghosts need toilet breaks?: Time for something more interesting.
I experienced something very strange in the gents toilet. (Stop laughing
in the back). While spending a few moments in the first cubicle,
I heard the toilet door open, swing closed, and a figure cross the
floor. I saw a shadow, pass the bottom gap of the cubicle door. Immediately
opposite my position are the sinks, and hand driers. To the right,
the urinals are housed in a separate small annex. So, I was expecting
to hear the sound of running water, the blowing of a nose, or…. well….
Anything! Nothing. Just silence. Finishing up, I exited the cubicle
to find no-one there. I quickly glanced into the corridor outside.
It is a good 6 metres to the end, and there was no-one. Odd. The toilet
block appears to be one of the new additions, so did I really hear
the ghost of a character from the Inn's past? Can ghosts wander from
the areas they would have known in life? I think both Patsy and Lorraine
should spend some time in the corridor, and maybe even the gents loo!
Oh dear, this is rapidly becoming farcical. The things we do for ghosts.
The Playful Youth: Lorraine is lured away from the bar, and
her brandy, lime and soda, to the corridor. I have not mentioned my
experience, and look forward to her impressions. This happens rather
quickly, and Lorraine is delighted when she says:
"Oh, how funny. A child has just stroked my hand!"
We are standing next to the gift shop (you knew they'd be one somewhere!),
which is locked up for the day. A few odd displays and information
boards decorate the corridor, but there is no mention of ghosts or
legends. Lorraine is pacing up and down, and almost looks as if she
is playing hide and seek. It's a rather sweet moment. She moved towards
the door to the ladies lavatory, and pushes the door, very slightly:
"He likes this area, and these doors. Like a play area. Oh. When the
shop is open, I am sure people have seen him, or some movement. Like
the toys moving. Something like that. He doesn't mind being seen.
Ha ha! No, he loves to be seen. He's a lovely boy, and enjoys playing.
There isn't a nasty thought in his head."
Lorraine asks if it is possible to get inside the shop, but the bar
staff are less than helpful. In fact, given their expressions, you
would think we had asked for their index fingers on a string. We plan
to return to the corridor, and invite Patsy in from the outside. She
has been "picking up" residual energy from the courtyard to the front.
There has been much activity, and the energies are "scrambled" together.
She describes the scene outside as comical, as you have people from
many eras competing for attention on the cobbled expanse. She suggests
they enjoy the attention almost as much as the patrons.
A return to the haunted corridor: Lorraine keeps tight-lipped, as we round the corner from the restaurant, and enter the corridor once again. I pretend to be distracted by a poster advertising Cornish cycle routes, and Lorraine interacts with the rather odd looking dummy, that greets visitors to the Inn. Patsy, on the other hand, wanders a little further down the corridor, and stops by the doors to the gift shop:
"There's a lively one here…." she mumbles, "….he's very active".
Without any warning, she launches herself through the door to the ladies loo, and disappears from sight. Lorraine raises an eyebrow, and we both follow her into the room. Yes, I did enter the ladies loo. Let's not make an issue of it. The coast was, temporally, clear. Lorraine wasted no time:
"He's playful….. and doesn't have a bad bone in his body….. he likes to surprise people. Especially the girls, both in here, and the shop. I'm seeing the name 'Timmy', but it could easily be 'Tommy'. I don’t think he's a long term visitor, he seems happy to wander these areas of the pub. He could be familiar with them, or maybe just inquisitive".
Patsy signals that our time is up, someone is approaching, and we leave the room. Morgan and Matt are waiting in the corridor, and inform us that "ghost legs" have been seen in the garden. Utterly puzzled, we proceed through to the restaurant to discuss this new development. It seems, while playing outside, that Matt, and both Morgan & Myles, saw someone standing behind the fir trees on the garden boundary. From their position, and the angle of the feet, they guessed the figure was facing the motorway below. Most alarming of all, there was no body to accompany the legs! The lower section of leg was visible, and disappeared behind a branch. Above this branch, there was no sign of a body. Matt describes the clothing as "brown suede or leather shoes and blue corduroy trousers". He was rightly shocked, at first, as he feared a pervert may lurk in the trees. It now seems more likely that someone, or something, was observing the traffic below. If I were more fanciful, I would suggest this figure may have a connection with the traffic. Perhaps he was a fatality on the busy A road beneath. It is decided that playtime is over, and the children can stay inside. The encounter left Matt feeling a little queasy, but I suggested that was the gammon slab he'd had for lunch.
Ghost's make money: The Inn never seems to get busy. In fact, I would wonder how they support so many members of staff. Chatting to the bar manager I learnt that the Inn does a roaring trade in "Ghost Nights" following exposure on TV's MostHaunted. I've always been suspicious of how many Inn's, pubs, museums and stately homes are featured on that very show, and the lengths the owners may go to when providing the essential 'spooky material'. Basically: No ghosts, no business, no money. The guestbook at Jamaica Inn seems to confirm this theory, with endless submissions claiming "bumps" and "bangs" in the night. Strangely, there is no mention of the phantom cart sounds, or the ghost of the murdered man, that the Inn is well known for. Further more, the majority of accommodation at the Inn is almost brand new. A new extension was built to house ghost hungry tourists, and gullible paranormal investigators. The Inn's own website states: "we have now added extra accommodation to provide more bedrooms at Jamaica Inn". Haunted bedrooms? I don't think so. A haunted wallet more like! I ask the manager about the ghosts, and his experiences. He is able to recite the stories without effort, and explains the findings of MostHaunted's meduim, Derek Acorah. When I ask him again, about his own experiences, he looks totally blank (an essential requirement for staff members at The Jamaica Inn) and says "Dunno. I haven't had any". Oh dear. So, the home spun twaddle flows with ease, but the honest comment is more than disappointing. What a con!
Packing up our cameras, barely used equipment, and ourselves. We pile into the people carrier, and leave Jamaica Inn a little wiser than when we entered. For every ghost, there is a publican with their hand out, looking for payment. Rather depressing really, and I am sure Daphne Du Maurier would be ashamed. As we turn onto the moor road, I sarcastically comment "we should have gone to Bodmin Jail", only to be booed, hissed and generally derided. I'm glad they had a good time.
In retrospect: I am sure there are spooks to find, and legends to uncover at The Jamaica Inn. The slightly more lively, and inexperienced, ghost hunters may find the place delightful, and full of superficial charm. For those who wish for something a little more substantial, get yourself to Bodmin Jail before it's extended, revamped and brutally murdered. That's our next destination, and I can't wait. See you there!
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