Sunday, 6 October 2013

Haunted Bodmin moor Part 1, A brief history of Bodmin moor, and the famous Jamaica Inn.

Smuggling, mining, beasts, and ghouls; Bodmin moor has them all and for the month of October, in celebration of Halloween, I’m going to be exploring some of the moor's spookier goings on.

My fascination with Bodmin moor started at a young age. Growing up, not far from its granite Tors and rugged, untamed landscape meant that I was frequently able to explore the area with family and friends; which, for a child with a big imagination, was a dream come true. 

Although incredibly beautiful, there is a sense of foreboding that comes over you at times, as you stand looking out across the moors, and perhaps there should be. 

            Bodmin moor can be a deadly place, where thick fog descends quickly with little warning. This fog can completely disorient even the most experienced moorland walkers and can make it difficult to see hidden dangers, such as an old mine shaft or boggy pit underfoot. Tales of those who have been turned around on the moors and subsequently become lost are common. 

            Bodmin moor is situated in North-East Cornwall and covers approximately 80 square miles. It's recorded history dates back to 10,000 BC, when it would have been covered in trees and the home to hunter-gatherers, who would have been bringing down deer and other wild animals with which to feed their communities. 

The woodlands; however, were slowly cleared over time, until only small clusters of trees remained. This paved the way for the farms that are now a huge part of moorland life.

Today, there are around 500 farm holdings on the moors, with about 10,000 cows, 55,000 sheep, and 1,000 horses and ponies, residing on the moors; some of which roam freely around the unfenced areas. 

Evidence of old cairns and Bronze-age round houses and villages can still be seen on the moors and pottery, dating back to 15,000 BC, has also been found here by archaeologists, along with fine flint work that suggests the hunters that once roamed here were skilled in the art of flint knapping (The process of shaping a piece of flint into a sharp useful tool). 

Over 200 settlements have been recorded and found on the moors over the years, showing that despite it's unforgiving landscape, it has for centuries been home to the human race. 

© Copyright Humphrey Bolton
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As a writer, Bodmin moor's history, unforgiving nature, and amazing beauty, have proved inspirational and I am not alone in this. Many writers and artists have gained inspiration from this rugged landscape, including the famous, Daphne Du Maurier, who has been a huge inspiration to me and my own writing.

It is no surprise perhaps to hear (for those of you who don't know) that my first published novel, Insane Reno, is set on Bodmin moor and grew from my fascination with this magical place.

When reading Insane Reno, you can travel with my characters, Lizzy Bray, Jem Trerise, and their families, as they explore and enjoy the moors, Lizzy and Jem sharing a kiss at the spot pictured above, and in Tizzy's case, fighting for her life with Roughtor as her backdrop.

If you have not read Insane Reno and wish to do so you can get it in both paperback and Kindle format on Amazon. If you wish to know more, please read the back cover splurge below:

What happens when you have a secret so dark and disturbing that uttering it could result in your death? Would you keep quiet? Perhaps the stakes have risen and you find that suddenly your silence could mean death for those you love the most. Now what?

Take a seat, get comfy, and join Lizzy Bray, as she sets out on an emotional journey to discover the whole truth behind the secrets and lies that riddle not only her family’s past, but her new home, too. You never know; you might just discover more than you bargained for.

For those of you who have read Insane Reno already, you'll be aware of the secrets that Lizzy Bray's new home hides. I don't want to give too much away and spoil things for those who have yet to read the book, so I will simply say that the secret is connected to a past owner, who was involved in the Cornish smuggling trade.

  Jamaica Inn       


© Copyright Miss Steel
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Another place on the moors that is famous for its smuggling connections is Jamaica Inn, which is our first spooky destination in this month-long exploration of the moors.

Before we dive in and explore the ghosts of Jamaica Inn, I'd like to tell you a bit about its history.

Jamaica Inn was built in 1750, as a coaching inn. Coaching inns were like our modern day services, providing a place to feed, water, and rest horses, riders, and passengers, who were on long journeys.

It was used by people travelling the turnpike between Launceston and Bodmin and would have proved a welcome break on a long journey over the bleak moors.

The inn; however, was not frequented, solely by weary travellers. It also opened its doors to smugglers; providing them with a place to hide and store the illegal contraband that was regularly smuggled ashore, after customs dues were put in place, back in the thirteenth century.

Unlike criminals today, the smugglers were highly regarded by the local people, who would turn a blind eye to the sound of many horse's hooves, late at night, and keep their lips, tightly shut, whenever they came across any of the smugglers' illegal contraband. 

            As a result, smugglers were rarely caught and even when they were, they were often dealt with leniently by the magistrates, who, more often than not, were customers of the men brought before them. 

A poem by Rudyard Kipling expresses this well. 

You can listen to the famous poem below:

           Half the brandy and tea, smuggled into Britain was brought ashore along the Cornwall and Devon coasts. All of this needed to be hidden from the authorities, until it could be transported around the rest of the country and Jamaica Inn, with its isolated and remote position on the moor, was the perfect spot. 

          Goods such as silk, tobacco, tea, and brandy would, no doubt, have been hidden at the inn, back in its smuggling days, and some believe that the inn's name came about, due to its considerable trade in smuggled Jamaican rum. This; however, is not the case. The name actually originates from the Trelawney family; two of whom, served as governors of Jamaica, in the eighteenth century.

I have only just touched on the smuggling history of this amazing inn; but, if you wish to know more about Jamaica Inn and its past, a good place to start would be the inn, itself, where they have a smugglers museum that boasts one of the finest collections of smuggling artifacts in the UK.

I have been there myself, with my family, and it is incredibly interesting and very reasonably priced.

Jamaica Inn and its smuggling past were immortalised in Daphne Du Maurier's fictitious novel, Jamaica Inn, which she penned in 1936. 

Daphne Du Maurier was a famous author, who loved the moors and frequently stayed and wrote at the inn. Her life and work are also represented at the museum and you can even see the desk, at which she would write, when she stayed at inn, as well as purchase her books in the gift shop.

If you want to know more about her book Jamaica Inn, check out the back cover blurb below:

On a bitter November evening, young Mary Yellan journeys across the rainswept moors to Jamaica Inn in honour of her mother's dying request. When she arrives, the warning of the coachman begins to echo in her memory, for her Aunt Patience cowers before hulking Uncle Joss Merlyn. Terrified of the inn's brooding power, Mary gradually finds herself ensnared in the dark schemes being enacted, behind its crumbling walls and tempted to love a man she dares not trust.

I've read a lot of Daphne Du Maurier's books and have loved them all. They really are worth a read.

Now that you have a better understanding of the inn's history, lets see how its past has resulted in Jamaica Inn earning the title of one of the most haunted inn's in Britain. 

When the inn was featured in the popular TV show, Most Haunted, the team filming there said that it was, "One of the spookiest programmes ever recorded..." and it's not surprising, as the inn boasts a wide variety of strange goings on. 

 © Copyright Chris Coleman
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Stranger at the bar
Perhaps one of the best known ghosts connected to the inn is that of an unknown man, who sat, late one night, at the bar, enjoying a tankard of ale, unaware, it seems, that his life was about to come to an early end.

At some point during the night, the man was summoned outside to the courtyard, leaving a half-finished drink behind; a drink that he would never return for, at least not in a living state, as his lifeless body was found the next morning,  alone, out on the windswept moors. The local authorities believed the man to have been murdered, but his killer was never found. 

           After the murder, people started to report that they had witnessed a man, matching the description of the murdered stranger, sitting on the low wall that surrounds the courtyard, outside the inn. The man was reported to sit very still and to appear so real that many who were witness to him even offered up a greeting which he neither seemed to acknowledge or respond to. 

           Footsteps, believed to be that of the murdered stranger, are also heard heading for the bar and many believe that he is returning, in spirit form, to finish his ale. 

Smugglers from the past
Some of the most common incidents at the inn occur late at night, when most of the guests are silently tucked up in their beds. These include footfalls, which echo through the hallways, reminding people of someone nervously pacing, and the sound of horse's hooves and metal-rimmed wheels on the cobblestone courtyard below. Despite people investigating the sounds, the courtyard and halls appear empty and no explanation can be found. 

           Is this perhaps the sound of a nervous landlord, waiting for the latest shipment of smuggled goods to arrive, and the latter sound, that of horses, pulling carts carrying the goods themselves? 

The man in the Tricorn hat

           Another very visual ghost that haunts Jamaica Inn is a man wearing a black cloak and a tricorn hat. Tricorn hats were popular in the 1800's and worn by all classes, so who this man is, no one is sure; but, he has been seen moving about the inn and disappearing through solid doors by many of the inn's staff and visitors.

Lone rider
             Another ghost that prefers the night is that of a lone rider on a large horse. He appears often on foggy nights on the road that runs in front of the inn.

The inn still allows guests to stay overnight and regularly hosts Haunt Nights, which you can learn more about on the Jamaican Inn website.  If you wish to stay in the most haunted bedrooms of the inn, then rooms 3 through 6 are the ones to go for.

One lady, who stayed the night at the inn, reported waking to the sound of her TV, despite being sure that she'd turned it off, before going to sleep. On reaching for the control on the bedside cabinet, it shot across the room and she was unable to find it, despite a thorough search. Turning the TV off manually she returned to her bed and sleep.

Before leaving the next morning, she again searched for the remote, eventually discovering it, beneath the bed, in the centre of the floor. With the walls being quite far from the bed, it was deemed unlikely that the remote could have hit them and rebounded to end up in the position it was later found. Stranger, still, is the fact that after leaving the inn, the lady's flash drive was later found by the cleaner in the same position as the remote control had been earlier that day. The woman was confused as to how this could have happened and adamant that the area beneath the bed had been free of items, when she'd left.

Have you ever visited the Jamaica Inn? Did you witness something strange? I love to hear your stories. If not, I'd still love to hear your thoughts about Bodmin moor and the Jamaica Inn, so feel free to leave a comment, below. 

Love and hugs, Joss xx

© Copyright Steve Daniels
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  1. Loved this post. Learned so much. Thank you! It's amazing how that woman could go back to sleep. Will get your book when my Kindle charges. I've been to Devon several times, but not Cornwall, an elusive goal I hope to catch one day.

    1. I know, I certainly couldn't after that. I'm a complete coward with stuff like that though. Oh thank you, I really hope you enjoy it :) Devon is beautiful too though. I'm very blessed as I live on the border between Devon and Cornwall. So I get to enjoy both. Thank you so much for stopping by and I'm so pleased you enjoyed my post.

  2. Wow! No wonder you're fascinated by Bodmin moor. It's full of so many fascinating things. And your admiration for the area really shines through. So much so that you got me excited about it! :)

    1. :) well I am away's pleased to get someone enthused about the moors. They are absolutely amazing. I'm really glad you liked the post and thank you so much for stopping by.

  3. I love creepy history like this. And oh, I would love to visit the moor! Sounds like a place that would enchant me.

    1. Me too, and the moors are definitely enchanting. It would be the perfect setting for one of your awesome fantasy's. By the way I just finished reading the 13th floor complete collection and wow. Really amazing. I absolutely adored it.

  4. Love the ghost stories! Very creepy.

    1. :) I'm glad you enjoyed it, thank you so much for stopping by.