I thought it might be fun to feature a series of articles about haunted pubs, not only from the U.K where nearly every old boozer claims to have a ghost and most will give themselves the dubious and amusing title of “The Most Haunted Pub In Britain”. I’m not sure if it really matters or not that these pubs are actually haunted, I think it’s more important that these stories are recorded and told as they have become part of local heritage and folklore.
Here in the U.K our public houses, some being hundreds of years old, are being lost at an alarming rate and with them a rich social history and a way of life as well as the stories of the ghosts that so many lays claim to. So it is the aim of these forthcoming articles to highlight some of the more well-known cases as well as those which are not.
The George and Pilgrim in the Somerset town of Glastonbury is a pub I have been fortunate to have visited many times, it is especially dear to me as it is opposite of what has become a favorite bookshop of mine. It was built in the 15th century to house the pilgrims who visited the Abby, which is just a couple of minutes walk from the pub, and it is also the oldest purposed built in in the southwest of England. It amazes and thrills me that you can still go into this ancient building and still get a pint of ale and a bed for the night, it is still serving the same purpose as it was designed to do nearly 600 years ago.
The first ghost we come to was recorded by Guy Lyon Playfair (of The Enfield Poltergeist fame) in his book ‘The Haunted Pub Guide’. In it Playfair writes ‘One, not surprisingly, is a monk. Early in the 1970s, a woman guest described him in unusual detail, having seen him for what she reckoned to be ten to fifteen minutes……At one point the monk sat down on the guest’s bed, and she felt the sheets and blankets tighten over her as he did so. He was not alone; hovering in the background were two indistinct shapes that remained in a sort of vapour, as she told proprietor Jack Richardson soon after the event.’ So right away we don’t only have one spook but three of them it’s fascinating to think what their motives, if any, might have been.
The next spook that Playfair mentions comes from 12 September 1976 when a Canadian couple from Winnipeg stayed at the George and Pilgrim with the express purpose of seeing a ghost and it would seem they were not disappointed: ‘After a pleasant evening they settled down in their separate single beds in Room 7. Mrs. McCormack took some time to get to sleep, and when she did she dreamed a quite normal dream about her sisters back in Canada. Then she awoke suddenly on hearing three footsteps and looked up to see ‘a bright, arched, glimmering light’ at the end of her husband’s bed. Out of this light, there emerged a man. He was tall, slender, and ‘grinning at me’…..He was wearing a blue sports coat, ‘the kind worn by elderly Englishmen on Sunday picnics’, and he remained visible — grinning all the while and still surrounded by the halo of light — long enough to make Mrs. McCormack leap out of bed and wake her husband. As soon as he awoke, however, the ghost disappeared.’
Another famed ghost hunter Peter Underwood in his book ‘Ghosts Of Somerset‘ claims that one of the rooms which has become known as the haunted cell or in other sources The Monks Cell* is supposedly haunted by a figure of a fat jolly monk who it is said was supposed to have taken his own life by hanging himself in that very room. However, as Underwood observes, one wouldn’t expect to see such a jolly shade remaining after a hanging, although maybe he appears to be happy in death because his life was so miserable and his suicide was a merciful release. One visitor, according to Underwood, described the ghost as dressed in monk’s habit but claimed that there were no feelings of fear, in fact, they felt delighted and happiness. Another case from the same book tells of a woman who was a guest at the pub. She was woken in the middle of the night to a sound of three light taps and upon awakening saw the figure ‘of a man standing at the foot of her bed, smiling’, but by the time she had roused her husband the figure had vanished.
There have been many more sightings in the old ale house, but I’d like to step into slightly more modern times with a report from a local newspaper Central Somerset Gazette. The article shows what is claimed to the ghost of a lady who is supposed to haunt the building along with the jolly monk, which personally I think it’s bad photography, but I’ll let you guys make up your own minds.
Finally, I did once hear or read about a ghost dog that has been seen near the bar area of the pub, but not for want of trying, I’ve been unable to find a source for this so if anyone reading this should happen to know anymore then please do comment below.
Ghosts Of Somerset 1985 Peter Underwood
Somerset & Bristol Ghost Stories 2015 Richard Holland
The Haunted Pub Guide 1985 Guy Lyon Playfair