Jamaica Inn – Cornwall’s Most Haunted Building?
I remember my parents taking me to Jamaica Inn as a little girl. It’s one of those memories that really sticks out, even though I can only have been about ten at the time. A squat, dark, grim building, surrounded by very little apart from the bleak moors. And inside wasn’t much cheerier. Lightless rooms, creaking floorboards – and a weird taxidermy museum, stuffed full of little kittens in clothes. Yes, it was as macabre as it sounds!
These days (thankfully), the morbid museum is no more, and the property has become a rather more serious museum, telling visitors all about the building’s rich history and literary connections. Even visiting on a sunny day, people claim it’s a property that doesn’t ‘feel’ very nice – and I’d count myself among that number. And come nightfall, things can only get a whole lot worse…
A Shady Past
Jamaica Inn was originally built in 1750, as a coaching inn. Despite attracting some quality clientele, it soon developed a reputation for housing rather ominous characters – particularly smugglers. For those who don’t know much about smuggling in Cornwall, it was a big thing back in those days. All those secretive, craggy coves? They were perfect for concealing contraband, and plenty of people were in the smuggling trade in a big way.
Wreckers also used to frequent the Jamaica Inn on a regular basis. What is a wrecker, you might ask? Well, allow me to enlighten you. A wrecker is someone who deliberately lures ships to the rocks using false lights – and probably causing several deaths along the way. After the ship is wrecked, all they need do is collect the valuable cargo afterwards. Yes, they’re every bit as unpleasant as they sound.
Of course, Du Maurier went on to immortalise these events in her book – which she began to write when staying at the inn in 1936, after having been lost in the famous mists of the Moor.
With such a menacing past, it’s hardly surprising that Jamaica Inn has its fair share of ghosts. On a moonlit night, people have heard the sound of hooves, clattering along the cobbled courtyard – yet when they investigated, not a single horse could be seen.
Others have been woken at night by footsteps, pacing ceaselessly along the corridor outside the bedrooms. And perhaps even more eerily, some have even seen a man, dressed in a hat and cloak, who appears, only to walk through a solid door shortly afterwards. Most unsettling!
Staff at Jamaica Inn suggest that one of the ghosts is a victim of a murder that took place many years before. A stranger to the area, he’d been enjoying an ale in the Inn, before stepping out into the night. His body was found on the Moor the following day – though to this day, no-one knew who’d killed him, or why.
Unsurprisingly, The British Paranormal Association (yes, there is such a thing!) awarded Jamaica Inn the high accolade of being a ‘genuine haunted building’.
Dare You Visit?
Rather marvellously, you can actually stay at the Jamaica Inn, and even go on a ghost hunt, if you’re feeling brave enough. I will have to do it one day, once I find someone as gutsy (ahem, daft) as me to be my companion!
Have you ever been to Jamaica Inn? If so, let me know what you thought of it!