Welsh hotel owners and public houses have long been aware of how much curiosity a resident ghost can be for their living guests. Many venues famed for a gray lady or a headless horseman, attract visitors eager for a paranormal experience.
Undoubtedly, there is increasing public interest as the growing number of paranormal investigation groups in the UK offer Ghost Hunting events and even specialist websites dedicated to finding guests eerie evenings and spooky suppers with promises of creaking floorboards, cold spots and sleepless nights!
As the previous landlady of a pub in Bristol that had a legendary ghost, I know I had certainly never had a customer too afraid to step into the building and being an enthusiastic amateur investigator, I was rather surprised to hear first hand from one of the guests staying at a stunning Regency mansion house in Powys, which is primarily hired as a wedding and group booking venue.
“We had been staying at the hotel and the owner had been enthusiastic about its history” reports the guest, who requested we keep the identity of the location confidential.
“The house dated back six centuries and of course sat around a roaring fire with the wind and rain howling outside we shared stories about ghosts. One member of our party had some interest in the paranormal field and the amused owner gave him permission to investigate and even suggested he try the cellar – allegedly haunted. .
“The guy had a simple voice recorder with him, and called out “is anybody there?” of course it was a bit of a giggle, but afterwards we all had an enjoyable and comfortable night, well nothing went bump at least!” he joked.
Actually, what emerged once he cleaned up the footage at home on his computer was what he describes in this field as “Class A EVP” (electronic voice phenomena is the recording of alleged spirit voices) he continued.
“He shared a YouTube video of it on social media for us all to hear” continued my source.
“You can clearly hear a softly spoken female Irish voice which appeared to respond intelligently to the human voice speaking in this recording” continued my source, provoking the group to speculate as to who she was – maybe she was once a previous resident of the house or perhaps someone who once worked there?
“Whether you believe in that stuff or not... it was fascinating!”
A member of the party shared the footage with the hotel owner, but this time his earlier good humour vanished, instead he urgently contacted the guest and demanded he remove the footage ASAP from any public site, stating his very real fear of it being hugely detrimental to his business.
“He did remove it, although we were astonished by this reaction. The guy genuinely thought people would cancel weddings if they knew about the ghost” he concluded.
It appears that the hotelier’s fears may be unfounded, however, as many businesses in Wales do enthusiastically promote their venues as haunted.
The Halfway Hotel in Llanelli, popular for ghost hunting events, even made headlines in 2013 after the owner revealed he had caught out a bogus psychic and exposed him as fake after his staff caught someone climbing down from the attic.
The knocking that had been heard coming from there during the investigation appeared to be from a man planted up there prior to guests arriving and the medium in question was banned from returning to the hotel.
I spoke to Wes McDermet of HauntedRooms.co.uk, a business website that became a reality in early 2009 in response to the public’s ever present interest in the paranormal. Primarily a hotel directory, they offer people the chance to experience something spooky first hand, whilst also enjoying the luxuries of staying in a hotel.
In a conversation I asked him for his thoughts on whether or not ghosts could be bad for a business such as this? He reflected;
“I can understand where the hotelier is coming from but then again, I very much doubt any adult would be completely put off a hotel if it’s reportedly haunted.”
He continued “We have had advertisers in the past ask to be taken down from our website as they didn’t want to advertise this side of their hotel. But the way I see it is, there are no negatives from being seen as a haunted hotel there are only positives”
“The only people looking to see whether a hotel is haunted or not, are the ones who have an interest in the paranormal. People looking to book their wedding or a weekend stay somewhere are not likely to search online for this information, and in the most well established hotels/locations you are very likely to find that it is haunted according to some information somewhere online.”
Mr McDermet added “I don’t think it’s a great primary marketing tactic for a hotel, but it’s definitely one to add to your arsenal to bring extra guests in the door without dissuading any of your main customers.”
This is a tactic certainly that The Skirrid Inn in Abergavenny takes on board, with its amazing history. One of the oldest pubs in Wales it’s history dates back over 900 years, reputedly used as a Courtroom on the first floor where capital punishment was imposed for certain offences, including sheep stealing. Legend has it that as many as 180 convicted felons were hanged, possibly some from an oak beam over the staircase outside of the Courtroom. Markings, perhaps from rope marks, still exist in the wood.
The Skirrid Inn is thought to be extremely haunted and has been at the hub of Poltergeist activity, glasses have been seen thrown around in the bar area, spooky apparitions and shadows have also been witnessed and eerie voices heard.
At a price of approximately £59 a ticket, guests can book a simple two course set menu supper and an investigation of the building.
Fully booked sometimes two years in advance by paranormal groups year round the building remains open as a public house during the evening after which the lights go off, and the investigations commence, as it opens its doors to ghost hunting events almost every weekend of the year there is no doubt that this is one of Wales most popular locations for spooky events.
So why do people seek such experiences and why are events such as these set to become even more popular in 2016? Jolene Lockwood of Phantasmic Paranormal, one of the UK’s leading paranormal event specialists observed “Events are even more popular thanks to the likes of the US TV series Ghost Hunters International and also UK’s Most Haunted” she continued, “people want to experience firsthand what it is like to be inside a haunted location, I also feel that people attend events due to having had a personal experience”
She added “we are always looking for new locations and are often asked by our clients about Wales as it combines beautiful countryside with a fascinating history”