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A Haunting at Jamaica Inn

May 5, 2017

Jamaica Inn, a world famous stone-block 18th century carriage-stop, is half way between Launceston and Bodmin in Cornwall. It's near the center of Bodmin Moor, about a mile west of Dozmary Pool (where Excaliber was allegedly thrown after King Arthur's death). It's a few miles east of Brown Willy (the sacred, highest point in Cornwall). There has been an inn there since 1547, but the current building is from 1750. It was named by an old owner who was governor of the Jamaica Colony. Jamaica Inn is said to be one of the most haunted places in Great Britain.

Jamaica Inn: Room 5 - Upper Floor Right

After a traveling from Cardiff, Wales--via Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip Hills, Exmoor National Park on Bristol Channel, Exeter (a Roman fort town in Devon), and a drive across Dartmoor--my wife and I arrived at Jamaica Inn at four in the afternoon Easter Sunday. The place was jumping. The picnic tables on the stonewall enclosed patio were filled. People were meandering and chatting, enjoying the gorgeous afternoon. Rows of motorcycles and cars filled the parking lot. The Smuggler's Bar was loud and hectic and smelled like spilt ale.

Smuggler's Bar at Jamaica Inn

The receptionist seemed glad to see us. She led us back through the bar and dining room, up a steep set of creaky stairs and down a narrow hallway. The floor was warped and noisy. Room Five was at the far end of the second floor, in the oldest part of Jamaica Inn. The building was ancient but neat and intriguing.

"This is one of our most haunted rooms," the receptionist smiled as she wrestled with the key and antique door latch. "They did paranormal investigations in here for a television show."

"Really?" both my wife and I simultaniously. We weren't scared, just tired.

Room 5 at Jamaica Inn

Room 5 was kind of small. There was a canopied bed, an old dresser with an oval mirror,  bedside tables and a freestanding wooden wardrobe. It kept it's historic ambiance, but offered modern conveniences. There was a coffee nook, a phone and a flat screen TV. The bathroom was new and big, but a sign suggested: "Let water run 2 or 3 minutes for hot."

"The ghosts of an older woman and a young girl named Hannah are in this room," she warned. Pointing to a rattan basket of toys in the bottom of the wardrobe, she said, "Those are Hannah's. She doesn't like people touching then." She pointed out the amenities and continued the tale: voices had been heard in our room during the night and there's is a video of a moving shadow near the wardrobe. One guest saw the old woman's ghost in the mirror.

We listened to the promotional hype but didn't pick up any aura from the room. We were road weary and didn't particularly care, anyway. We immedately tested out the toilet facilities, unpacked, hung stuff in the wardrobe--right over Hannah's toys--and cracked open the bottle of wine and box of chocolates that came with our 'first class' reservation. We were hungry and headed downstairs for supper.


Half way down the hallway I remembered the camera. I wanted to get some shots of the inn before dark. I wrestled with the key and door latch then barged in. The unevenly hung door swung closed behind me. Just then, something struck me. Alone in the room, I felt something. It wasn't a presence. It was only a subtle feeling. I'm a Quaker and practice to be spiritually sensitive. I sat down on the bed and closed my eyes for a moment. I thought of Hannah's basket. Maybe to provoke her, or for some other unknown reason, I took two little teddy bears out of the basket and put them on the bedside table, propped against the reading lamp.

I'm pretty good at meditation and prayer so I stilled my thoughts. I focused on the inner Light, like I always do. Almost immediately, an image appeared in my mind. It was a shield-like crest, a coat of arms. The shield was edged in black and was poised against a white, cloudy background. I couldn't distinguish the emblems on it, except for a black 'X' in the upper left quadrant.

I was a little startled at the image's clarity and intensity. I opened my eyes and looked at the teddy bears sitting on the bedside table. The wardrobe 's door was open. I could see the basket. Nothing was different. It was a very subtle, the feeling I had, not intense at all. I closed my eyes again and the image reappeared. I consentrated on it. I again saw a decorated shield, black rimmed with the black X and some other symbols on it, again against the cloudy background.

I focused my mind on it, tried to touch it with my thoughts. The cloud swirled and the shield began to submerge into it, like it was disappearing into fog. The black lines and the X were still visible, but the crest was dim and obscure. When I lost consentration the shield re-emerged, the X was prominent and brighter again. I refocused. In almost a pulsing manner, it re-faded into the cloud. I continued to concentrate on shield again and it slowly dimmed and finally vanished. The cloud then began to glow from the inside. I opened my eyes and felt a soothing sense of relief and peace.

Before joined my wife down in the dining room, I took some of pictures of the room; of the wardrobe, of the teddy bears, of the canopied bed. Remembering some strange things I read, or heard about over the years, I stepped back and took a picture straight mirror on the dresser. "If there are ghosts here," I thought, "They'll show themselves in the mirror."


Prior to our stay at Jamaica Inn in Cornwall, we toured Wales. Wales is one of the last, closest to pure, left-overs of the Celtic culture that dominated Europe before Rome. The mysticism associated with the society and religion of the ancient Bretons--which inspired the construction of Stonehenge and thousands of other carns, stone rings and churches scattered across the land--is well known. In fact, as my wife and I crossed rural Wales we sensed it. There was a subdued but unmistakable aura that seemed to emanate from the countryside itself.

Welsh Countryside

Preconceptions and imagination undoubtedly influenced the impressions we got; but, whether internally or externally provoked, the feelings were real. We knew some of the history of Wales and she has roots there, but with any 'sensitivity' at all, the eerie sense and presence would be felt by anyone.

Standing Stones in Wales

The "sense" we got in Cornwall (once called West Wales), wasn't nearly as strong. That country's culture has been more thoroughly diluted by Anglo-Saxon intrusion. Yet, Cornwall still has a fiercely independent attitude and strongly clings to, and promotes, its mystical heritage. The strongest example of that tradition are the myths and legends surrounding King Arthur, who Cornwall claims as a native son.


Tintagel Castle Ruins on the Cornish Coast of the Celtic Sea

The real history of the Welsh and Cornish is obscured by those legends and tales--written a thousand years after Arthur's time. Despite them, our perception was influenced by the more ancient and mysterious aspects of the lands. We could nearly see Druid priests waving apple-wood wands and dancing in the moonlight among the stading stones. We accepted King Arthur, as he is today. We could revel in the myths at Tintagel Castle and Camelford (site of Camelot?). We could feel sad at Slaughter Bridge where Arthur died; but, we sensed, beneath and beyond it, the deep spirit and mystique of the mythical land.

In the Land of King Arthur


When I joined my wife downstairs, the Smugglers' Bar was still roiling with action. We had no reservations but guests have priority. We got a small table with uncomfortable stools. For simplicity, we ordered the Easter Special Buffet. The cuisine was international, with a few sides and vegetable dishes we didn't know. After dinner we checked out the onsite Cornish pirates, Smugglers' Museum. The violence and cruelty of that world was fully and graphically displayed. We also visited the museum's Daphne du Maurier (author of the novel Jamaica Inn), annex.


Smuggler's and Daphne du Maurier Museum - Jamaica Inn

Both my wife and I reread the book Jamaica Inn before our trip (it seemed supremely appropriate). I brought along a First American Edition to have the hotel staff autograph. It would have to wait. I'd left it upstairs in Room 5. It was sitting on the mirrored dresser that I took picture of; the one someone saw a ghost in.

It wouldn’t be dark for a while, so we drove to Dozmary Pool, a mile or so down a dirt lane from the inn. We didn't expect to see the Lady of the Lake holding Excalibur out of the water, but we were in the Land of Arthur. It was too convenient to miss. Manure odors, curious cattle and a barbed wire gate discouraged us from watching the sun settle behind Bodmin Moor.

We returned to the inn, took our baths (letting the water run 2 or 3 minutes to get hot), then spent the evening relaxing and watching television in Room 5--the most haunted room in the most haunted inn in Britain; which stands on a barren, desolate moor in the myth and legend steeped county of Cornwall. However, no spirits or ghosts disturbed our sleep that night.


Brown Willy from Rough Tor

My original intent, while on Bodmin Moor, was to climb Brown Willy (Cornish: Bronn Wennli, "Hill of Swallows"), the highest point in Cornwall. The 1378 foot tor was clearly visible from Jamaica Inn. However, the hike to the summit took four or five hours. Our itinerary included a bunch of 'Arthur stops' and an hour drive down to Penzace and Land's End. I simply didn't have time. Instead, I decided to 'conquer' the nearby, second highest 'peak', Rough Tor (Routor). It's a rocky 'protuberance' (1313 feet), that was the setting for the climactic ending to Jamaica Inn.

Rough Tor (Routor); Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

From atop Rough Tor, Brown Willy loomed across the moor. It was bueatiful, barren and mysterious. Of all the 'hills' in the prehistoric land, it's the only one with almost no evidence of human habitation. It's been a sacred site since the beginning of history. There are many stone dwellings on Routor that date to Early Bronze Age (even before monoliths were put up at Stonehenge), but, on Brown Willy there are none.

It was a stunning vista from Rough Tor’s top-rock. I was fixated on Brown Willy, though. I imagined it's holieness an ancient call. I nearly cancelled the itinerary and set out on the cross-moor trek to answer its beckoning. I thought about leaving my wife back in the car and climbing it anyway. I imagined touching its sacred stones and soil, looking for swallows. But, my 'travel plans' prevailed. There weren't any hooded priests or voices from the mires and stones, luring me that morning.

I headed back down the hill, but before Brown Willy totally disappeared behind the crest, I stopped and looked back at it for awhile, just staring, imagining.


Sometime late, during our second night in Room 5 at Jamaica Inn, I woke up. I was groggy but felt a presence. It was a presence I've felt since childhood; when the boogie man was near. It was the same one I've felt as an adult, too. It's not a friendly aspect of spirit. It comes in darkness and scares me. Then, as a Christian, I said the Lord's Prayer until it was gone.

Now, I simply seek the Light. It came; the white cloud again. I wasn't afraid, like I usually am. It was more like the feelings I had when I did see a ghosdt, like my mother-in-law's. Something really was there that night. I continued, in the Light, and soon whatever was there went back from whence it came.


A week or so after we got home from Wales and Cornwall, my wife was looking through the vacation pictures on the camera. "Some of these are really good." she said, then got a puzzled look on her face. "What the heck is this one!?"

I looked over her shoulder. The photograph was blurry. I leaned over and squinted my eyes. It looked like a somebody, from-the-chest-up, wearing a medieval war helmet and holding a lance in front of him. Or, I thought, Darth Vader with his light saber. The visor was down and there was a rectangle of white light in the center. There were swaths light the chin on the helmet and lance. 

Photograph Taken in Room 5, Jamaica Inn

"I have no clue what it is," I admitted with some concern. "It almost looks like King Arthur, or some other knight, doesn't it? Who took it? What's the picture before or after it?”

She scanned back. It was of our canopied bed in Room 5 at Jamaica Inn.

"Oh, my," I said.

"What's it of?" 

"It's the one I took into the mirror. See, the oval part is actually the mirror. The straight thing, the lance, is the bedpost. The rectangle of light from the eyes in the helmet, I don't know. Or the halo, or the swaths of light. A ghost, maybe."


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