England’s most haunted pub – The Mermaid Inn, Rye

Do you believe in ghosts? Then a trip to what is reportedly Britain’s most haunted pub, The Mermaid Inn in Rye, could be right up your alley. Here’s what happened when Matt Risley braved the spooks for TNT.

It goes without saying that everyone’s own personalised bucket list is bound to vary. But I can confidently state that I never expected ‘publicly soiling myself’ to rank above other similarly life-changing events. I should have known, however, that an overnight stay in a haunted inn is tantamount to torturing your mind and playing Russian roulette with your bowels.

An adolescent fascination with things that go bump in the night and chilling fireside ghost stories was all but annihilated by the noughties’ reality TV tendency to throw deluded hacks and melodramatic medium luvvies on screen under the guise of ‘ghost hunting’. So I thought I’d offer full transparency in admitting that I was very much on the paranormal fence upon arriving at Rye’s Mermaid Inn.

%TNT Magazine% englands most haunted pub1

Darkness Falls

As I step off the train in Rye late into the evening, the light is well and truly fading. Streetside electric lanterns begin to flicker awake and an eerie wind blows in from the nearby coast, swirling through the narrow cobbled streets.

A famous poet once described Rye as “a little bit of the Old World”.

Nobody mentioned that it was Jack the Ripper’s.

A Murky Past

The inn itself isn’t as terrifyingly imposing as I’d imagined, although its beautiful white and black oak-beamed Tudor exterior, with hanging green foliage and creaking pub sign, certainly leaves an impression.

While it originally dates back to the 12th century, the inn was rebuilt from local ships’ timbers after a French port attack in the 14th century.

The builders incorporated more than a few hidey holes and secret chambers along the way to accommodate the flourishing pirate trade in the area, which inevitably saw its fair share of duels and murders within the inn’s walls.

Visitors have regularly seen people walking straight through their bedroom walls, gawped at ghostly figures engaging in rapier fights, and an American couple even reported throwing off their duvet in the middle of the heated summer night, only to find themselves tucked straight back in again after turning back to sleep.

I just about resisted the urge to tell them that’s the kind of six-star room service that people die for.

%TNT Magazine% englands most haunted pub2

Night Terrors

I retire to my rustic bedroom (replete with unsettling oil paintings of goggle-eyed angels, sloping doorways and a four-poster bed), where there have been regular reports of a lady in grey who sits in the chair by the fireplace watching visitors sleep.

I wake up several times throughout the night. Firstly to the sound of someone stomping their way past my door at 2am (easily dismissable). At 3am, I sit bolt upright and stare at the chairs in the hopeful fear of seeing some OAP staring back.

Things take a Twin Peaks-ian turn at 4am. I wake up on my side, and – whether through semi-hazy sleepiness or fuggy imaginative half-awakeness – I feel the mattress push down, as though someone is perching on the edge of the bed.

With my heartbeat and brain barrelling around in triple time, I leave it a minute or so before finally rolling over. Whether fact, fiction or psychosomatic self-freakout, there is nothing actually there.

Then again ‘playing peekaboo with a pirate poltergeist’ never inched its way on to my bucket list, so I’m more than happy to live with the indecision.

%TNT Magazine% englands most haunted pub3

Spooky Tales: Britain’s Weirdest Haunts

While ancient folklore and conventional horror stories beg to differ, it’s reassuring to know that Britain’s eccentricity extends to its spooks, and that hauntings occur far beyond ye stereotypical olde inns and possessed pubs.

1  The M6: The most haunted road in the country. Drivers regularly report tales of seeing ethereal trucks heading the wrong way, spectral hitchhikers
and even a cohort of Roman soldiers marching their way up the motorway.

2. The sofa:
There’s eccentric and then there’s just plain bonkers. In 2008, a Bristolian family reported that their brown leather sofa was haunted by a squeaking noise which even had their Yorkshire terrier spooked.
‘Experts’ (cough) have said they have been unable to explain the weird noise.

3 London Underground:
While there are a few tube stops with their own haunted history, Farringdon station has the most disconcerting.
A young trainee hat maker, Anne Naylor, was murdered in 1758 by her trainer, and people still hear her screams echoing throughout the station to this day.

Need to Know

When to go: Anytime, although you can find better deals midweek.
Getting There: By rail. Trains from London St Pancras take just over an hour to reach Rye, then it’s a five-minute walk to the Mermaid Inn
Getting around: Explore Rye on foot.
Going Out: A pint costs about £3.50.
Accommodation: A stay at The Mermaid Inn costs from £80 per person per night.
Get more info: mermaidinn.com