The intriguing inn with an astonishing past
Jamaica Inn, for those unfamiliar with this infamous old coach house, is bursting with ghostly tales and rich history. It stands proudly between Launceston and Bodmin in Cornwall and has an impressive catalogue of past hauntings. The inn itself was even the inspiration for Daphne du Maurier’s famous ghost story of the same name.
The inn has its own paranormal team that records the ghostly goings on. Karin Beasant has been running paranormal hunts at the Jamaica Inn for more than seven years. And her first impression of the imposing inn was one that will stay with her forever.
“14 years ago, I went to Jamaica Inn to stay the weekend with a friend," she tells Bionic “I remember the first time I saw ‘something’ - I was in the museum part of the building and I suddenly saw slithers of light coming into focus.”
She continued: “I could make out the figure of a girl, maybe aged seven or eight, she had long blonde curly hair and was playing with some bracelets I had put on the floor. But the bracelets weren’t moving at all. That was the first time I saw something was there.”
And how did she react? Karin said she was so stunned at what she was seeing, it left her speechless.
“I was just in initial shock,” she said, “Your brain cannot compute what it's seeing - it's a sheer shock.”
She went on: “What I didn’t know until later, was that there had been sightings of that same blonde girl for over 30 years around the inn. From the records, we assume it’s a little girl called Elizabeth. She likes to giggle and knock on doors when guests are asleep.”
Jamaica Inn has four specific bedrooms where guests report the most paranormal activity, they are rooms 3, 4, 5 and 6.
“It’s really weird. I’ve slept in those rooms many times over the years, the first time I slept in Room 4, I had the feeling of being watched from the corner of the room, later I found that many past guests have said the same thing about the same corner.
“The bathroom in Room 5 used to have a latch key, when a friend and I stayed in that room, we heard distinct footsteps walking around the bed and the latch being pressed on the door in the night,” she explains.
Any room at the inn?
Jamaica Inn was a working farm for over 100 years, in 1880, it became a temperance house, which meant it didn’t have a licence to sell alcohol. It only got its licence in 1950, probably because the guests needed a stiff drink before heading up to their haunted rooms!
In 1930, English novelist Daphne du Maurier visited the inn, she got lost on the moor and the story is she let loose the reigns of the Jamaica Inn horses and they found their way home. But it was Daphne’s second visit in 1931-where she had afternoon tea with the vicar of Altarnun church, who told her tales of smugglers and wreckers - that would inspire her to write a novel laced with ghostly goings on, ‘Jamaica Inn.’
And ghostly it is indeed, sitting 900 feet above sea level, when the morning mist comes rolls in, the inn itself looks like an eerie floating island.
“I’m only there to do the paranormal side of things at the inn.” Karin says “But it’s a beautiful building. After seven and a half years of working here, I still feel the same excitement when I see it. As I come over the hill and see the inn in the distance, I still have my stomach do a little flip.” She explained.
“It’s like you’re coming home, the inn has a way of reaching out and grabbing you and you can never entirely leave. You never know what might happen from night to night” Karin tells us eagerly.
So, what has been the most recent spooky encounter she’s had?
“On Sunday night a few weeks ago, we had a team from 'UK Haunted' in, I walked down to the lower bar to turn the lights off after we’d finished and I saw this solid shadow figure for a spilt second by the kitchen. The only way I can describe it is ‘blacker than the black of the night’. It had no features.”
Karin elaborated: “I am a seasoned investigator, but even that scared me, I tried to rationalise but there were no car headlights that could have caused that shadow. I was speechless.”
Getting spooky on social
The Jamaica Inn Paranormal Team, which is the ghost-hunting side of the business that Karin and three others run, takes care of all the inn’s public events and private hire functions. Investigation teams can come in, laden down with equipment or you can come along as an amateur, wanting to appreciate the historic surroundings and learn more about the hauntings.
The inn is a 36-bed hotel, so it can get very busy. Karin and her team have a way of combatting this problem though.
“The only way to do private hires of the inn is to take all the bedrooms in the old block, so the guests are away from it all, it’s hard to investigate with the public there. We try to manage though.”
“There are four of us in the paranormal team, me, Lisa, Gemma and Rachel. We all bring something different to the table. This makes us unique because two of us are quite sceptical, the others have an open-minded belief with a rational approach. We don’t do entertainment though; the purpose of these investigations isn’t to scare; we try to explain the science behind the paranormal.”
Karin says that being conscientious of other people’s feelings and beliefs is the crux of everything they do as a team.
“There’s a place for many techniques in paranormal hunting, as long as you bring integrity, honesty and respect, you’ll be fine.” She says.
Karin goes on to say she likes to try and debunk ‘cheap tricks’ that a lot of ‘ghost hunters’ use as proof of an afterlife.
We don’t ever try to convince people of their experiences. We want to explain things like ‘spirit orbs’ that are just dust particles. We want to debunk those things. For example, if we stare at wallpaper, or clouds for a period of time, our brains are equipped to see things, faces or shapes. I like to rationalize and separate the real experiences people have.”
“We like to collect the data and sometimes we don’t release it straight away, we collect enough sightings before we look for comparisons between the experiences. We don’t want to influence people, we want it to be as authentic as possible.” She tells us.
Jamaica Inn has a paranormal page where it advertises its ghost hunts, but Karin says they also make the most of social media to promote themselves too. But, most of their business is secured by word of mouth and the intriguing posters on the wall advertising public nights.
“Gemma does a lot of our social media, she’s the queen of Twitter,” Karin laughs “I also advertise over Facebook when I can. This month Jamaica Inn is featured in ‘Haunted’ magazine, there is a five-page article I wrote up about what we do. It really is a privilege to go to the locations and have the trust to explore these historic venues.”
Passionate about the paranormal
And what is the best thing about doing what she loves in such an awe-inspiring setting?
Karin considers: “The team that runs the Jamaica Inn and the staff make the place work.” She decides before going on: “It’s a lovely, tight unit but if it wasn’t for the Jamaica Inn staff, myself and the rest of the team wouldn’t be doing this.”
Karin loves her job though and she’s even been awarded the title of ‘Official Paranormal Consultant’ for Visit Somerset. She’s passionate about keeping the investigations authentic, so the paranormal doesn’t affect the truth and the history of the heritage sites. She’s even hosted a recent talk at Wells Cathedral and features on the local community update for BBC Radio Bristol on a monthly basis.
“It’s important to keep our heritage sites open for future generations.” She says, but she is determined to get the truth out there and tell the real stories of these locations.
“There are some paranormal investigations you see and you think ‘that’s not the real paranormal, that’s entertainment.’ Where’s the proof? Folklore is one thing but making up history is another.” She says in exasperation.
“It’s interesting because we now finally know the true history of the inn. In 1760 there was a man called John Broad from Northampton.” Karin says, before continuing.
“We think he was possibly a sea captain, and he was allowed to hedge in 20 acres of moorland, he built a small dwelling house, and this house is Jamaica Inn as you see it now, but only up to where the chimneys end.”
She went on: “The research element of a historic site like Jamaica Inn fascinates me” Karin explains “I love looking at newspaper cuttings and finding out what happened in the past. People forget locals have such a rich oral history too, you can find out great titbits about the area from speaking to the locals.”
But it gets scarier than that. Karin continues, spinning the tale of an extra spooky encounter with a resident ghost at the inn.
“By 1828, there were more than 1,565 acres of land,” she says “So it makes you wonder how much of that trade was due to smuggling. By 1834, a man called Thomas Dunn was the landlord, he had improved the inn and took an out advert in the local paper to encourage guests. He was married to Anabella who he had a few children with. Later, Anabella found out Thomas had fathered another child with a woman called Mary.”
The description of ‘Mary’ and her baby is often compared to accounts of a pale woman with a baby frequently seen by guests. Mary haunts room 3, as a sobbing woman has been reported many times. A crying baby has also been heard in Rooms 3 and 7.
“It really makes you think, is this woman that people see in Rooms 3 and 7 Mary? I personally think it is.” Karin ponders.
Jamaica Inn itself is a hugely historic place, and whether you’re brave enough to stay the night or not, there are lots on offer. It has an informative museum, a cosy restaurant, a pub and a shop for you to enjoy if you’re not about those ghostly goings on.
Karin is proud of how far the inn has come and how much historic value it adds to Cornwall. As a parting gift, she had some spooktacular advice for other busy business owners
“Never take yourself too seriously!” She tells us adamantly. “You never know what’s around the corner and you need to have a bit of fun and enjoy what you do.”
Here’s hoping there are not (too many) ghosts around the corner she’s referring to. If you’d like to know more about Jamaica Inn or are interested in booking a paranormal tour, head over to their Facebook, Twitter or website.