Devon is home to some of the UK’s most haunted places. CHRISTINE MILLER tells us 10 of the spookiest.
Chambercombe Manor, near Ilfracombe, Devon
A tragic case of mistaken identity at Devon’s Chambercombe Manor in the 1700s led one man to rob his beloved daughter while she lay dying. Could this hideous act have led to a slew of paranormal repercussions within the manor that continue to this very day?
The tragic tale goes that a young woman known as Kate lived in Ireland and wished to surprise both her parents by making the journey by boat to see them back in Chambercombe Manor.
However, the vessel in which Kate was travelling hit rocks and violently broke apart, scattering Kate’s battered body onto the shoreline close to where the manor lies. William, Kate’s father and landlord of Chambercombe, had seen the freak accident occur. He brought the woman, by now barely breathing, into Chambercombe to lay her in an upstairs bedroom in the vain hope that the warmth would breathe some life into her weakening body.
Having no idea that he was indeed his own flesh and blood, William noted the large purse on Kate’s person, containing quite the number of gold.
Without hesitating, believing the woman to soon be in little need of coinage, he seized it.
Kate soon died from her extensive injuries, although it wasn’t until the morning light that William and his wife became aware of the deceased’s true identity. Wholeheartedly bereft and guilt-stricken, William boarded up the room in which his daughter’s body lay and fled the manor house, where he and his wife were never to return.
Is Kate to blame for a large amount of paranormal activity witnessed by visitors and staff alike? From soft phantom hands lightly touching members of the public as they tour the manor, to the distinct yet comforting smell of perfume that wafts throughout the building for fleeting moments before disappearing, Chambercombe doesn’t disappoint many a ghost enthusiast.
There is said to be someone – or something – more sinister than Kate, however; in the Great Hall, a pensive male spirit with dark, brooding eyes has been spotted frantically pacing throughout the room as if heavily battling with his emotions. And, within the Balcony Room, visitors have reported being physically blocked from moving up the staircase – as if an invisible force is refusing them entry.
Read more about Chambercombe Manor.
Devon’s Torquay Museum is a stunning grade II listed building, first built way back in 1874 has been the scene of a few uncanny sightings of the otherworldly.
The spirits who reside in the Victorian building don’t hold back on making themselves known to the living. A number of figures have been seen over the years, with one ghostly gentleman walking directly through a bookcase within the library rooms.
Then there are the footsteps that plague the entirety of the building. And the intense feeling of being watched by unseen eyes.
Even the museum’s most prized possession has a creepy tale attached, the artefact is that of a mummified young boy. While the case containing the child’s remains hadn’t been opened in years, during a routine inspection, staff noticed the curious fingermarks, which all who witnessed them believed to be child’s prints.
The ghosts have even allegedly caused havoc in the gift shop, with their antics being caught on camera. One video on YouTube shows staff members’ bemusement when a series of leaflets tumble from a shelf, seemingly of their own accord.
And apparently, the phenomenon wasn’t a one-off. Staff have been regularly pulling their hair out after opening the shop only to discover the poltergeist-like activity has left the area a mess.
Read more about Torquay Museum.
Fisherman’s Cot, Bickleigh
Fisherman’s Cot is a haven for those wishing to leave the daily grind at bay in return for an indulgent spot of R & R in stunning surroundings. Although it’s not quite clear how many guests succeed in either resting or recuperating, given the ghostly sightings that plague the picturesque inn.
In the bar area, guests and visitors have heard what they believe to be a laughing female ghost. Some have even heard the laughter manifest in the upstairs rooms. But, if you are really (un)lucky, you might just catch her form, adorned in white, moving through the hallway – laughing, of course.
No one is quite sure of who she is, or why she spends the afterlife merrily haunting the Cot, but she’s not the only spirit in the inn. There have been murmurings that a Headless Horseman calls Fisherman’s Cot home too.
Stand outside this Devon inn late at night, and you may just hear the faint sound of otherworldly clopping peregrinating towards you.
Read more about Fisherman’s Cot.
While you might not necessarily have heard of the B3212, you will almost certainly have heard of “The Hairy Hands of Dartmoor”, which have plagued drivers on the notorious stretch of road that runs near the Two Bridges for over 100 years.
There’s been a disproportionate amount of accidents on the road, with many suspecting the culprit to be a distinct and horrifying set of hairy hands that abruptly take control of the wheel, only to entice vehicles to swerve dangerously, causing all manner of deadly accidents.
One army captain claimed that he witnessed a set of “hairy hands” grab control of his motorcycle, at which point he was unable to regain control of his vehicle. He and his bike were forcefully flung into the roadside, shocked but not seriously hurt.
While many, such as the captain, have been fortunate enough to live to tell the tale, others were not so lucky.
One Dr E.H Helby, physician at the nearby Dartmoor Prison, perished when the motorcycle he was driving inexplicably lost control and catered into a ditch. Thankfully, two young teenage girls in his charge who were located in the sidecar, managed to escape without major injury.
This was a road the good doctor had travelled many times before, all apparently without incident. The fabled hairy hands were soon blamed for Helby’s untimely death by the locals and wider media, who had quickly picked up on the road’s disturbing lore.
Read more about the Hairy Hands of Dartmoor.
Powderham Castle, Exeter
Any trip to Powderham in Devon should come with a warning: ensure that you do not come face to face with the castle’s feared Grey Lady.
According to locals, although her spirit is not wicked or intent on wishing ill on the living, she is believed to be somewhat of a very negative omen to anyone unlucky enough to encounter her wandering the fortified manor house.
She’s most often seen in the library and the grounds around Powderham; one sighting is enough to denote that the head of the witness’s household is soon to die. Those who have seen her for a fleeting moment may be forgiven for thinking her appearance was little more than their imagination, save for the inexplicable ice-cold chill which emanates in the vicinity long after her ghostly form has departed.
The Grey lady isn’t the only spirit attached to the castle; a young woman has been sighted cradling a small child. The sightings have plagued the castle for many centuries, but it wasn’t until about 200 years ago that who the pair were was finally understood.
The castle was undergoing refurbishment when a group of builders knocked down a wall, only to discover the remains of a woman and infant. Whilst a formal burial was cordially carried out, it did little to stop the sightings of the tragic pair.
Read more about Powderham Castle.
Shute Barton Manor, near Axminster
It isn’t just Powderham Castle with a Grey Lady; Shute Barton Manor, about 30 miles away, has its own – and what a rather grumpy spectre she is.
While there is some debate about who the ghost could be, there have been suggestions that this grey lady is no other than Lady Jane Grey, the nine-day Queen herself.
Whoever she is, she certainly isn’t keen on the living and loathes being approached by staff and visitors brave enough to confront her. Those that have witnessed her – and there have been a few – say that when they have walked towards her, the woman’s face turns to something between mild disgust and genuine loathing (depending on who you listen to), and she vanishes abruptly.
If you think spending the afterlife in a sprawling mansion might be somewhat of a lonely affair for the Grey Lady, fear not.
She has the company of a ghostly cat which is seen on the grounds of the manor – most usually terrifying visitors by looking just like a regular moggy, only to slink through solid walls and disappear.
Read more about Shute Barton Manor.
Wistmans Wood, Dartmoor
There’s something about Wistmans Wood in Devon that feels, well, different. Even if you haven’t read the dozens of unnerving stories of phantom hounds and spirits, one step into Wistman’s and you’ll know you are in truly unique and foreboding surroundings.
The Wisht Hounds are said to have lurked in the woods for centuries. With menacing fangs and eyes of fiery red, on certain nights, these hellhounds are realised by the Devil to attack anything or anyone unlucky enough to be caught in the woods after dark.
Then there’s the slightly less petrifying prospect of running into a small dog, ironically called Jumbo, who has been seen chases the local wildlife throughout the dwarf oaks that stand proudly throughout the wood. The terrier is believed to have died after being bitten by an adder and continues his favourite pastime into the afterlife.
Those tempted to follow the curious canine, beware. The dog is said to have gotten many an intrigued wanderer lost deep within the forests, and as we have already heard, the prospect of staying in the woods after nightfall is a risky venture.
So, when in Devon, do as the Devonians do – you’ll be hard pushed to find a local who will venture anywhere close to Wistman Wood when dawn is approaching.
Read more about Wistmans Wood.
The Minerva Inn, Plymouth
The oldest pub in Devon that has been in continual operation, the Minerva Inn was first opened in the 1500s and has proved to be a popular watering hole ever since.
Chillingly, in the bar area, a man is said to appear as he walks throughout the first floor of the Minerva. Suddenly and without warning, the man, known as Henry by staff and locals, emits a guttural, blood-curdling scream as he vanishes.
The small figure of a child has also been seen appearing and disappearing in front of a packed bar. And, five ghostly women of the night, brought into the pub centuries ago to entertain the throngs of sailors that would populate the pub.
Then there’s the poltergeist activity which is rife throughout the building; these ghosts sure don’t like to make life easy for the staff at the inn. All manner of strange, terrifying, and downright frustrating things have been witnessed – from a turned-off jukebox blasting music to levitating cutlery, to even pub’s supple of gas being turned off repeatedly.
Read more about the Minerva Inn.
St Peter’s Cathedral, Exeter
St Peter’s Cathedral in Exeter, Devon, is the setting for a tragic love story between a monk and a nun, named by locals as John and Martha.
While the couple lived during the 14th century, over 700 years later, they are still sighted at the cathedral, one of the areas where some believe they lost their lives in the saddest of circumstances.
After meeting, the two fell deeply in love; so deeply that they couldn’t bear to be apart from one another. Yet, as was their calling, both were forbidden to be together and as the time drew nearer for them to part, the intensity of their feelings for each other truly became apparent.
Both by now wholly unable and unwilling to return to religious life, John and Martha believed there was only one way to ensure they would be united forever – to die together.
The doomed couple committed suicide, but whether the fear surrounding their entry to heaven was to blame, or they simply refused to move, the pair to this day remain earthbound.
Numerous visitors have watched as the ghostly duo walk permissively outside of a cathedral, and then slowly vanish slowly and completely into the night’s air.
The Old Church House Inn, Torbryan, Newton Abbot
The 13th century Old Church House Inn is full of some rather fascinating artefacts- as well as ghosts. With a claim to fame for having the oldest bread oven in the country as well as panelling from a Spanish Armada ship, there certainly is a lot of rich, if unique, history to the inn.
A woman staying in one of the rooms in the 1990s had a terrifying overnight visit when she awoke to find a disembodied arm pointing over her head before quickly disappearing. Unsurprisingly, she quickly packed up her bags and left.
She isn’t the only guest to have felt something peculiar: visitors even take to Trip Advisor to tell of their spooky experiences at the inn.
Many more have reported to staff hearing footsteps across the upstairs corridor, only to go outside to see no one – yet the footsteps still continue, sometimes accompanied by the odd disembodied sigh.
Read more about The Old Church House Inn.
What’s your favourite haunted location in Devon? Tell us in the comments section below!