MJ STEEL COLLINS takes a look at one of England’s most haunted pubs, The Ancient Ram Inn in Wotton-under-Edge, Gloucestershire
Dating back to 1145, The Ancient Ram Inn is perhaps the ultimate destination for any enthusiast of haunting, the occult and the macabre. Located in the market town of Wotton-Under-Edge in the Gloucestershire end of The Cotswolds, close to Stonehenge, the Grade II listed building has a very dark history. The current owner, octogenarian John Humphries, has lived there since 1968 and could fill several books with his stories of the Inn’s haunting, which he has encountered from his first night there. As it is, he has filled a wall with press cuttings detailing the building’s ghosts.
Even before the Ancient Ram Inn was constructed, the land it stood on was already dark. It was the site of pagan burial; in 1997, bones were discovered under the floor after it was ripped up. Later tests indicated they were of a woman and child, most likely victims of ritual sacrifice dating back to pre-Christian times. The Inn also reputedly stands on two ley-lines, which are thought to contribute to the weird goings-on in the building.
When Wotton’s St Mary’s Church was being constructed in the 13th century, the Ram Inn was used to accommodate the craftsmen and slave workers building the church. Following this, it was put to use as an inn, and operated as such until the 1960s, when John Humphries purchased it for £2, 600, saving it from imminent destruction. Several dark events during the Inn’s history contributed to its ghostly reputation today.
The Witches Room is where a woman accused of witchcraft is said to have taken shelter when fleeing from the authorities in the 16th century. She was discovered and taken to be burned at the stake; it’s believed she continues to haunt the room to this day. People standing in the street have reported seeing the outline of her face in the room window. The Ghost Club, when investigating in 2003, concluded that this was the most active room.
Another superbly creepy room is the Bishop’s Room. Prior to entering, when showing people around, John Humphries has a ritual, where he knocks on the room door three times with a crooked walking stick, yelling, “Is anyone there?” Sometimes there is no response; sometimes the walls reverberate with knocks. He took to doing this after hearing the door violently rattle in the middle of the night, and it apparently settled. A man is supposed to have died in the room after having his head shoved into the fireplace when a good blaze was going. Part way up the chimney, horse shoe and circle of wood were found in a small wood, claimed to be artefacts of devil worship. Several apparitions have been seen in the Bishop’s Room, including monks, a Cavalier, a woman hanging from the rafters and people sleeping there have woken up pinned to the bed, believed to be the Ram Inn’s resident sex demon, a Succubus. Furniture has also been thrown about the room.
In the attic is the Weaver’s Room, haunted by the spirit of a young woman called Elizabeth. She was murdered in the 16th century. John Humphries’ daughter Caroline once lived there with her partner, though presumably not for long, as they were plagued by poltergeist activity, which included Caroline’s tarot cards being thrown about. It was in this room the Most Haunted team had equipment failure and Derek Acorah possessed by a nasty entity.
As for John Humphries, having lived so long in the Inn, he appears to have come to some sort of co-existence with its ghosts. He has lived there alone for years, sleeping on a makeshift bed upon a sofa downstairs, he says because the building is so cold. He became aware of the haunting on his first night in the building, when he woke up to his bedclothes being dragged off and himself being thrown on the floor. He claims to have been attacked several times by the Succubus.
These days, it is possible to visit the Ram Inn, for an impromptu tour, which John himself still conducts, for a suggested donation. The Inn has featured on several ghost themed TV shows, including Great British Ghosts, Most Haunted and Ghost Adventures. It has also featured prominently in the press. John comes across as a delightfully eccentric old man, proud of his home, which he has stuffed to the rafters with his various collections.