Monday, 16 November 2009
In a secluded valley in south Gloucestershire lies the quaint Ango-Saxon market town of Wotton-Under-Edge. Within this historic town, there is one building that stands out (especially if you're a seasoned ghost hunter) above the rest -The Ancient Ram Inn. A grade II listed building, once the meeting place for highwaymen, thieves and undesirables. The Ram is believed to date back to 1189 and is regarded as one of England’s most haunted establishments and certainly Wotton‘s oldest building.
The Ram Inn closed its doors as an inn in the late 1950’s and stood unoccupied and slowly decaying for several years until the current owner - John Humphries read an article in a local paper which announced, ‘the oldest building in Wotton-Under-Edge; The Ram Inn, is marked to be demolished for road widening.’ John immediately seized the opportunity to view the building and fell in love with it. He persuaded Whitbreads' the brewery to sell the property, which they did for £2500. The deal was struck and John and his family moved in. The Ram had been saved.
A Brief History
As mentioned earlier, the town was originally an Anglo-Saxon settlement. It was due to John’s enthusiasm and endless research, that an old Saxon map came to light, which showed The Ram to have been at the centre of a circle of huts. Later, whilst excavating the grounds, a row of wooden post holes were unearthed and what appeared to be the remains of an ancient Saxon dwelling. This pagan circle, which also encompasses the nearby church, is rumoured to have been of mystical significance. The find was further endorsed by the discovery some time later of a crude grave in the Men‘s Kitchen(a ground floor room) which contained the skeletal remains of several children, accompanied by a sacrificial dagger and various pieces of pottery. A good friend of John’s and a local dowser is convinced there are more bodies buried under the building but this has never been confirmed as excavation work ceased after funds ran out. John has promised himself that one day when funds allow, he will complete the dig and hopefully unearth a secret subterranean tunnel which is rumoured to lead from the Ram to the 11th century church opposite.
The Ram Inn, with its low oak beams, brooding interior and an atmosphere to send shivers down the spine of even the most hardened sceptic, positively exudes a feeling of unease. From the moment you step into the building, you can’t help but feel a certain ‘something’. It's difficult to explain in hard print but I my opinion, if ever there was a place that deserved to be haunted, it’s this one.
The Ram has an abundance of unexplained incidents, which have been witnessed and documented by many professional people over the years including: doctors, clergy and the police, in fact folk from all walks of life have openly testified to having experienced things they could not explain.
Amongst The Ram’s many spectral inhabitants are: a cavalier, a monk, a shepherd and his dog, all said to haunt the Bishops Bedroom. A Grey Lady called Elizabeth, who was allegedly murdered by highwaymen after overhearing a conversation she should not have been privy to. Indeed, the remains of a female skeleton were unearthed under the floor of the Men’s Kitchen and are believed to be those of Elizabeth. Her ghost has been seen walking from the Beaufort Bedroom, across the landing and down the stairs, whereupon she vanishes at the point of her grave. The same flight of stairs is haunted by a 'shadowy, menacing figure' who takes great delight in pushing the unwary down the stairs. The stairs seem to be a focal point for so-called 'cold spots,' which some believe are of a paranormal nature. The ghost of a young girl has been seen waving at passers-by from Beaufort Bedroom window. It is said that even the road immediately outside the building is haunted by a phantom motorcyclist. The roar of its engine can be heard in the dead of night, as it thunders up to the front of The Ram then abruptly stops, only to be followed by repeated revving of the engine. When John has peered out from his bedroom window on countless occasions, there is never anything there.
Many people who have stayed at The Ram and particularly in the Bishop's Bedroom, describe the terror of being physically dragged from their beds by unseen hands in the middle of the night. Others have felt an ‘oppressive presence’ accompanied by flashes of light, sharp rappings on the walls and an unpleasant odour. Some who have stayed in the Bishop's Bedroom do not make it through the night and just up and leave.
The Bishop's Bedroom, which is regarded as the ‘heart of the house’ by many mediums and psychics (some of whom have refused to enter because of a malevolent presence) is where most of the activity has taken place. On entering this room for the first time, my team and I were immediately struck by its deathly quite, which was odd due to its close proximity to the main road. Many people have experienced a presence in this room, including me - I think; which I will go into later. John recalled one incident that happened to him shortly after he and his family had moved in. He had just got into bed, had switched off the light, when suddenly he was grabbed by both wrists and flung out of bed. John has never slept in that room since that night.
Other disturbances which occur throughout the building included: heavy footsteps heard walking the attic where a murder is said to have taken place; knocks, clicks, odours, furniture being moved, pools of water where there are no leaks; often a sign of poltergeist activity. Wisps of what appear to be smoke but without the associated smell. A powerful force said to pick people up and throw them across rooms. John has experienced this invisible energy first hand, having suffered its wrath on several occasions. In one such encounter, he described being pinning to a wall for several seconds, whilst a friend of his was thrown across the room after trying to help him. This energy has manifested itself in other ways. One night John recalled locking himself in his bedroom, terrified by the melee going on in the adjoining room. Thinking there were intruders in the building, he grabbed an antique sword, mustered up the courage and flung open the door, at which point the noise ceased. However, John was astonished to see that all his furniture had been piled up in the centre of the room. John also believes that on several occasions, he has been the victim of succubus attacks (a female demon with sex on her mind) whilst in bed. He describes being woken in the dead of night with a pressure on his chest and also the sensation of something entwining itself around his body - now that is creepy.
Some animals are also effected by The Ram. Many of John’s friends no longer bring their dogs to visit, as the animals will not enter the building but just sit outside whimpering.
During our investigation, John showed us many letters from people who had stayed and written about their experiences. One letter in particular caught my eye. Two builders were doing some work restoring one of the walls, when the younger of the two men heard footsteps behind him, thinking it to be his partner, he said something only to be met with a stony silence. Turning around to find out why there had been no response, he discovered the room was empty - he fled in terror. What is more, the young man would later swear blind that the footsteps chased him into the street. He was so shocked by his experience, that he ran across the road and in to the church, at which point the footsteps ceased. He remained there for sometime until he was eventually coaxed out.
When I was actively ghost hunting, some years ago, until it later dawned on me that I was effectively wasting my time. We visited (there were four of us in all) The Ram on three separate occasions during 1996 and clocked up some 50 hours there. During our stay there were several 'incidences' which I feel are worth a mention. Whether they could be considered paranormal or not remains contentious.
On the first visit, after various items of electronic gadgetry had been deployed by our resident techno geek - Mike, we set about organizing our vigil. By this time it was getting dark. As a matter of procedure, two of us would walk the building every thirty minutes, armed with torches and Walkie-Talkies, whilst the other two would stay in the Bishops Room, which was to be our base camp.
The first night looked as if it might pass without disturbance, in fact most of it did, that is until approximately 2:15 am. We had all gather back in the Bishop's Bedroom. I was laying on one of the beds reading, when suddenly my right foot was psyically pulled quite sharply. Startled, I glancing around the room at my three colleagues, expecting one of them trying to conceal a guilty look. I was surprised to see that no one had moved, two of my team were sat reading at the opposite end of the room, whilst the ever attentive techno geek - Mike was dozing in a chair well out of reach of my foot. I remember asking, “okay whose funny?” They all looked at me quizzically, even Mike stirred from his slumber. I described what had just happened and immediately Mike whipped out his digital thermometer, as you do, and checked the area near my foot. The temperature had dropped some 5 degrees since last measured - interesting that, but what does it prove?
Our second visit involved an incident with Mike. We all decided to go walkabout just to escape Mike’s incessant snoring; yes he was asleep again. Foolish on hindsight really, leaving him alone in the Bishops Bedroom, a golden rule broken tut-tut. We had just gone down stairs when it became clear that Mike was trying to contact us via his Walkie Talkie. We attempted to return his hale but were only met by noisy static. Hurrying back to the Bishops Room, we discovered him in some distress. After we had calmed him down, we managed to establish what the problem was. He said he had awoken suddenly feeling intensely cold and had realized he was alone. He tried to raise us on the Walkies' but although his fingers worked the send button, his voice was trapped in his throat. After some discussion and reassurance, we put the whole thing down to a vivid dream and the temperature drop down to waking from a deep sleep. He reluctantly accepted this explanation but I don’t think he was totally convinced and to be honest. Suffice-to-say he was not left alone again nor did he fall asleep again.
As I mentioned earlier, many people have testified to a presence in the Bishop's Bedroom but until the final visit, none of us had really experienced said presence.
The last visit took place on a hot afternoon in August. My colleague and I decided to call in on John one last time to finish off some filming for a program we were putting together for our achieves. It would give me the opportunity to shoot some video footage in daylight, without the clutter of equipment and team members - bless 'em.
Armed with just my video camera and a light, I left my colleague in the garden with John. I started by filming the notoriously haunted stairway. From there I moved upstairs and filmed in the Beaufont Bedroom. Finally, I crossed the landing to the Bishop's Room where the door was shut. I must just mention, that at no time had I been thinking about The Ram’s history or its ghosts. I was concentrating on lighting and getting the best shot.
Lifting the camera up to my eye and opening the door at the same time (one needs effect you know) I went to step into the room but was suddenly riveted to the spot by what, I have no idea, only that a feeling of utter dread took hold of me. I remember slowly lowering the camera and staring into a completely empty room, the feeling however, was that someone or something was in there. To say I was alarmed would be to understate and to try and describe in any detail how I felt at the precise moment is difficult, other than a feeling that I was intruding in someway, an overwhelming sense that something wanted me to get out, though I had not got that far.
I remember trying to call out to my colleague but the words would not come. My legs felt like lead weights were attached to them, my heart thundered in my chest. After what seemed like an eternity but must have only been a few seconds. I managed to compose myself enough to take flight. I hit the top of the stairs running and descended them two at a time, until eventually bursting into the August sunshine.
I would later be told how visible shaken I had looked. All John would say when I told him of my experience was “oh that happens to many people in that room, some can‘t even cross the threshold”. His casual response to my story didn’t really help temper my shattered nerves.
I still ask myself just what was it that had so spooked me. Could there really have been some unseen entity lurking in that room, something that I had inadvertently disturbed. Or was I simply the victim of The Ram’s colourful history, a history that came flooding back just at the moment that I open the door, resulting in blind panic. If there was something in that room on that sunny afternoon in August, then maybe I now know what it is like to confront the malevolent entity that has become infamous with The Ram Inn.
So, is The Ram haunted? Well in my opinion and having heard many stories, read many of the letters left by visitors attesting to some bizarre and often frightening experiences, having listened to the findings of two respectable spiritualists that accompanied me on one particular vigil, having spoken with other paranormal researchers who have investigated The Ram, I would have to say quite possibly. There have been too many strange and inexplicable stories recalled by a host of reliable witnesses to just discount all of them as figments of the imagination, in fact, I think it quite naive of anyone to suggest it so.
Why not spend a night at The Ram and make up your own mind. All John asks for is a small donation towards the upkeep of the building.
To visit the Ram, contact:
The Ancient Ram Inn