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Saturday, 30 October 2010 12:31

A website with a piratical skull and crossbones on its home page does not, I must admit, fill me with an urge to leave the comfort and safety of my own home, but Halloween is approaching and this column needs spooks. I'm off to Jamaica Inn – one of England's most haunted pubs, and the very one in which Daphne du Maurier set her murderous tale of Cornish wrecking.

The inn sprawls over a wide area. Clearly, outbuildings have been converted over the years. Though, thanks to dark slate and stone, it somehow merges with the moorland backdrop. There are two car parks, one so large it hints at coach parties. I bet they pull in for lunch and a visit to the inn's museum – devoted to smuggling and Daphne du Maurier memorabilia.

A large mounting block still stands in the cobbled front yard where once coachmen would have had the horses changed on the Truro to London route. It wasn't only coaches that stopped here, however. The inn opened in 1750, and was a regular stopping point for smugglers, who used some 100 secret moorland routes to move contraband around. This is a lonely spot all right. My taxi drops me off.

No garlic in my luggage but I've inadvertently brought a cross (on the cover of The Priest, the debut thriller written by my friend Gerard O'Donovan). I turn down the ground-floor four-poster room next to reception in what looks like a converted annexe. Do they have a room in the original part, over the pub?

"Room Four's free," says the receptionist. "You do know that room has been on Most Haunted," she says, then, seeing my expression, adds that it is the room next door that seems to get all the action. "Some guests have spent the night in their car," she says.

We reach the door of Room Four; it's named Harry the Pedlar, after one of du Maurier's characters. I'm transported back in time – to the 1970s. Wooden twins, sheets and blankets, a trouser press and tired furniture. Still, it's warm, there is a perfectly serviceable bathroom, a flatscreen telly, and tea and coffee things in a little dressing room. The floor slopes dramatically, so I find myself hurrying towards the bathroom whichever direction I'm trying to take.

Down in the bar, beside a massive granite fireplace, over tasty cod (in St Austell Tribute beer batter), chips and mushy peas, I flick through the "Ghost Visitors' Book", a catalogue of supernatural occurrences guests claim to have experienced. Some of them are worryingly recent and include blasts of cold air, voices in the bar when the pub is shut, lights, TVs and showers coming on in the middle of the night. This is in addition, of course, to the inn's established reputation for the unaccountable sound of horses' hooves on cobbles in the dead of night.

Thank goodness the staff are so cheery and warm, amusing me with their tales about doors which open themselves and objects being hurled when there is no one in the bar.

Do I encounter any ghostly goings-on? Thank God, no. It's the mattress springs that give me the bum's rush. So no lie-in. Instead I'm helping myself to grilled tomatoes and bacon at 9am sharp from the self‑service breakfast area, before crossing the courtyard to spend a morning in the museum which, along with the lovely staff, is the high point of staying at Jamaica Inn. Unless, of course, you really do see a ghost.

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This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.

Courtesy to guardian.co.uk.

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