Haunted hostelries are a recurring theme in paranormal lore, their eerie environments often inspiring the works of famous novelists. Cornwall's famous Jamaica Inn inspired the Daphne du Maurier novel of the same name, whilst across the Atlantic, the Stanley Hotel, located in the Rocky Mountains, served as inspiration for Stephen King's 'The Shining'. The UK seems especially blessed, or cursed, depending on how you look at it, with tales of haunted hostelries, and one of the most notorious of these can be found close to the Welsh-English border, in south east Wales.
The inn has a fascinating history, and is said to have played host to many historical figures. In the early 1400's, Owain Glyndwr, Wales's most famous opponent of English rule, is believed to have spurred on his rebels at the inn's courtyard, and indeed, numerous English kings are also reputed to have stayed at the inn - but presumably not at the same time.
Much of the inn's ancient construction remains. The building's exposed oak beams are said to have been fashioned from ancient ships' timbers, and many of its wooden window frames are considered to be of original construction, along with one of the inn's wooden doors. The Skirrid's dining room houses some authentic sixteenth century wooden panelling.
The Skirrid Inn has a fascinating, though very bloody history. Between the twelfth and seventeenth centuries, it served as a court room. During this era of British history, harsh sentences, including the death penalty, were meted out to murderers and petty criminals alike. More than 180 individuals are believed to have been executed by hanging at the Skirrid Inn, during its days as a courtroom. The inn's first floor is believed to have housed the courtroom, and a holding cell for prisoners was located half way up the stairs. The former cell is now a store room.
In 1685, during an exceptionally bloody period in the inn's history, 180 insurgents from the Monmouth Rebellion were hanged at the Skirrid. The hangings were ordered by the notorious George Jeffreys, 1st Baron Jeffreys of Wem, more popularly known as 'Hanging' Judge Jeffreys.
The Catholic King James II sent the judge to Wales to mete out harsh punishment to supporters of the Duke of Monmouth's failed Protestant rebellion. The rebels were executed by hanging from a beam beneath the Skirrid's staircase. The rope marks are said to be preserved in the wood of the beam.
Many believe that the Skirrid's bloody history has left the inn with a whole host of non-paying guests, none of which show any signs of wanting to leave.
Although there is no documentary evidence that he ever sat in person at the Skirrid's courtroom, Hanging Judge Jeffreys is rumoured to stalk the upper floors of the Skirrid Inn, no doubt looking for felons to condemn to death. One such felon, a sheep rustler named John Crowther, has reportedly put in many appearances throughout the inn. The malevolent presence of Judge Jeffreys' hangman has also been reported, along with those of several other hanged felons.
Not all the Skirrid's reported spirits are criminal or malevolent in nature. They include a local clergyman, Father Henry Vaughn, whose presence has been reported as friendly and harmless. Fanny Price, who worked at the inn during the 18th century, is said to be very active throughout the Skirrid. It is believed Fanny died of consumption in 1873, aged just 35. She is reportedly most active in Room 3. Other ghostly occurrences include sightings of a spirit dubbed the White Lady, the sound of soldiers in the courtyard, the rustling of an unseen lady's dress, a powerful scent of perfume, and glasses flying off the bar unaided by human hands. An estimated ten to fifteen glasses are broken in this way every week. In fact, glasses began to fly around the bar as a former landlady, Heather Grant, negotiated a potential sale of the inn.
Visitors, often totally unaware of the inn's haunted history, have reported a variety of disturbing phenomena. On more than one occasion, guests have complained of feeling as if they were being strangled, shortly before the appearance of welts on their necks, resembling rope burns. Other guests have become overwhelmed with dizziness, nausea or fear on the stairs, or complained of a palpable but invisible presence passing them at the same spot.
In recent times, eight late night drinkers at the bar reportedly witnessed a bizarre phenomenon, flying money. Some paper notes, weighted down by coins, levitated and drifted around the whole bar. The notes allegedly hovered briefly in mid-air, before crashing to the floor.
The inn also experiences peculiar knocking sounds, with doors either slamming shut spontaneously, or shaking violently before flying open unaided. Unexplained footsteps have been heard all over the Skirrid, and numerous cold spots felt, for which no logical cause has been found.