Monday, 5 November 2012

The Ghosts of Haunted Rye

Have you heard of the ghosts of haunted Rye? The history of Britain is long and has frequently been bloody, so it has perhaps not surprising that there are so many stories of hauntings and the paranormal.  And Rye is one of the towns that is most famed for its ghosts and hauntings.  Rye was once one of England’s ancient Cinque Ports and is perhaps the quaintest and most picturesque old town in the whole of the United Kingdom.  The position of Rye, high on the hill, commands beautiful views across Romney Marshes and to the sea.  Rye was heavily fortified in medieval times although only the Landgate, Ypres Tower and a small part of the town wall still survive.  The centre of Rye is filled with sloping cobbled streets, 16th century half-timbered houses, old inns and little shops.  The town used to be a thriving port before the harbour silted up and its colourful history contains many tales of smugglers, pirates and the revenue men who tried to catch them and stop their illicit trade.  Indeed during the 18th century Rye’s prosperity was very heavily dependent on the smuggling trade, much to the dismay of the evangelical preacher John Wesley who visited the town in 1773.  It has also been home to many writers in its time, including Henry James, E F Benson, Joseph Conrad, G K Chesterton and H G Wells.

Mermaid Street, Rye - Wikimedia Commons
Mermaid Street, Rye

So where in this old town do you go to possibly see one of its famous ghosts?

Lamb House

This old house was built in the 1723 and is now owned by the National Trust.  Henry James moved into Lamb House in 1898 and his later novels were written there. Henry James claimed that a ghost of an old lady used to visit him and help him with his writing.  Poltergeist activity has also been recorded in Lamb and the house is also said to be haunted by a man called Allen Grebell who was murdered by a butcher.

Mermaid Inn
Reputed to be one of the most haunted pubs in the United Kingdom, the Mermaid Inn dates to the early 15th century, though it is thought that parts of the cellars and the foundations may date as far back as 1150.  During the 18th century the Mermaid Inn notorious for being a smuggler’s haunt, and the inn has concealed staircases, rooms with moving wall panels, an a concealed entrance to a ‘Priest’s Hole’.  Room 16 of the Mermaid Inn is known as the Elizabethan Chamber and during the 1930’s a guest sleeping in the room witness a pair of phantom duellers fighting with rapiers.  The ghost who won the duel is then said to have dragged the loser’s dead body through the Inn and dropped it through a trapdoor.  A grey lady is also said to haunt the upper floors of the building, with Room 5, which is known as the Nutcracker suite, being one of her regular locations to materialise.  She is seen drifting through the closed door and halts once at the foot of the bed before disappearing.  It is thought that she is the ghost of a girl who was murdered for being too indiscreet about her smuggler lover’s illicit activities and that she is now endlessly searching through Mermaid Inn to find her murderous beau.

The Mermaid Inn, Rye - Wikimedia Commons
The Mermaid Inn, Rye

In rooms 10 and 18 a man who fades away has been seen entering and leaving, and he is often seen disappearing through the wall. In room 1 a lady wearing pale garments has been seen sitting in a chair by the fireplace, and even guests who have not seen the apparition have complained that they have hung their clothes over the chair at night only to find them soaked with water the next morning.  One of the rocking chairs at the Mermaid Inn is has also been seen rocking of its own accord and the chair cushion was seen to squeeze down as though an invisible someone had sat down on it.

Monastery Hall

In Rye’s Monastery Hall during the 1940’s a line of monks was seen in the hall and gardens.  This may have been related to the digging up of several skeletons in the garden at that time and there was some evidence that they had been buried alive.

Needles Passage

In Needles Passage echoing footsteps can be heard by people walking through the passage although there nobody can be seen when they pass by.

Reysons Farm

In the 1930s loud footsteps were heard going up and down the stairs and the ghost of a man was also seen at night.

The Union Inn

The Union Inn is an old, medieval building and has been a pub since 1420.  The name of the Inn probably derives from the union of England and Scotland at the accession to the throne of King James I, who had previously been James VI of Scotland.  The inn boasts the ghost of a little girl who was often seen wandering through the kitchen and restaurant of this old inn in the mid 1990’s, many of the people spotting her believing her to be real.  It is also thought that the inn is haunted by the ghost of an unmarried mother who died when she fell down the cellar steps.
Rye Town Centre

In the town centre of Rye, two female ghosts have been observed walking down Mermaid Street wearing long dresses and a little girl dressed in blue has been seen crossing the street.  In Watchbell Street the ghost of a little boy wrapped in a white sheet has been seen and disembodied footsteps have also been heard.  In the Old Tuck Shoppe in Market Street there is said to be the ghost of a grey lady.

Turkey Cock Lane

Ghostly sounds like those of a turkey gobbling used to be heard in Turkey Cock Lane.  They apparently emanated from the ghost of a monk who broke his vows of chastity and went mad after he was bricked up alive after being caught trying to elope with a local girl that he had fallen in love with.  The shade of the monk is apparently still sometimes seen, but the spectral sounds are no longer heard
White Vine Hotel

From November 1995 the White Vine Hotel in Rye has been a focus of poltergeist activity.  The kitchen gets rearranged by unseen hands and food gets moved around and hidden.  Sometimes the poltergeist activity moves to the bedrooms, but always eventually comes back to the kitchen.

So could Rye be the most haunted town in Britain?  If you wanted to visit haunted Rye for yourself, there is a good range of accommodation available from self-catering through to hotels and old inns.  For a taste of the paranormal, try staying among the ghosts at the Mermaid Inn itself or Rye Heritage Centre runs a Ghost Tour Experience which you can book onto.  There is plenty to see in the old town, such as Rye Castle Museum, and some glorious walks in the surrounding countryside.  So have a happy ghost hunting break in ancient Rye!

Mermaid Street Image Ian Macnab Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0 
Mermaid Inn Image Chris Whippet Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 2.0


  1. Would like to run our own paranormal investigation at the mermaid Inn.

  2. I've been to rye today and it's quite cold but it's was very foggy, we we to this place called dungeoness and there was an a abandoned house and a boat with TNT in it, we also saw a misty figure walk across the streets near
    mermaid inn I think it's haunted :o

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