Jamaica Inn, a world famous stone-block 18th century carriage-stop, is half way between Launceston and Bodmin in Cornwall. It's near the center of Bodmin Moor, about a mile west of Dozmary Pool (where Excaliber was allegedly thrown after King Arthur's death), and a few miles east of Brown Willy (the sacred, highest point in Cornwall). There has been an inn there since 1547, but the current building is from 1750. It was named by the original owner, who was governor of Jamaica. Jamaica Inn is said to be one of the most haunted places in Great Britain.

Jamaica Inn: Room 5 - Upper Floor Right

After a traveling from Cardiff, Wales--via Cheddar Gorge in the Mendip Hills, Exmoor National Park on the shore of Bristol Channel, Exeter, a Roman fort town in Devon, and a drive across Dartmoor--my wife and I arrived at Jamaica Inn at four in the afternoon on Easter Sunday. The place was jumping. All the picnic tables on the broad, stonewall enclosed, patio were occupied. Crowds of people were standing around with drinks in their hands talking, or were milling about enjoying the beautiful afternoon. Scores of motorcycles and cars filled the parking lot and the Smuggler's Bar was noisy, hectic and smelled strongly of spilt ale.

Smuggler's Bar at Jamaica Inn

The inn's receptionist seemed glad to see us. She escorted us through the bar and dining room, then up a steep set of creaky stairs to the second floor. We followed a narrow, uneven, warped-floor hallway to the far end. The building's age was obvious, and its atmosphere was intriguing and inspiring. We had Room 5 in the oldest part of the inn.

"It's one of our most haunted rooms," the receptionist smiled as she wrestled with the key and antique door latch. "They did paranormal investigations in this room for a TV show."

"Really?" My wife and I simultaneously said. It didn't scare or worry us, though.

Room 5 at Jamaica Inn

The room was rather small. It had a canopied double bed, a Victorian style dresser with an oval mirror, two bedside tables and a freestanding wooden wardrobe. Though it retained an historic ambiance, the room offered contemporary conveniences. There was a coffee making nook and a flat screen TV. The bathroom was modern and large, though a hand printed sign suggested: "Let water run 2 or 3 minutes for hot."

"The ghosts of a woman and a girl about seven years old, named Hannah, haunt this room," the receptionist warned. Pointing to a rattan basket of toys in the bottom of the wardrobe, she added, "Those belong to Hannah. She doesn't like people messing around with them. People have heard voices in here at night. There's a video of a mysterious shadow near the wardrobe and a guest once saw the woman in the dresser's mirror."

We appreciated the promotional alert but didn't feel any spiritual aura in the room. We were road weary enough to not particularly care. We tested the toilet facilities, unpacked our bags (hanging garments in the wardrobe above Hannah's basket of toys), and cracked open the bottle of wine and box of chocolates that came with our 'first class' reservation. We were hungry and freshened up before heading downstairs for supper.

We were half way down the hallway when I remembered our cameras. I wanted to get some photographs of the inn before dark. I wrestled with the door latch, too, then barged in. The unevenly hung door slowly swung closed behind me. At that instant, something did strike me. Alone in haunted Room 5, I got a slight sensation. It wasn't the sense of a presence, just a subtle feeling. I closed my eyes to appreciate it for a moment. I thought about the basket of Hannah’s toys and, maybe to encourage a response, or for some other inexplicable reason, I took two small teddy bears out of the basket and placed them on the bedside table, propped against the reading lamp.

I’m a Quaker and like to believe I've become receptive to the Spirit. I've encountered it innumerable times during Meetings, and at other times. I sat down on the bed and stilled my thoughts, focused on the Light Within, as I do every Sunday. Surprisingly, almost immediately, an image appeared in my mind. It was a shield-like crest, a coat of arms. The shield was edged in black and was poised against a white, cloudy background. I couldn't distinguish the emblems on it, except for a black 'X' in the upper left quadrant.

I was startled by the image's clarity and intensity. I opened my eyes and looked at the teddy bears sitting on the bedside table. They hadn't moved. The wardrobe’s door was slightly open and I glanced in at the basket of Hannah's other toys. They had not changed or moved. It was very subtle, the sensation I felt, not overpowering or intense. I closed my eyes again. The same image reappeared. With wonderment, I contemplated the black rimmed shield with the black X.

I projected my spiritual energy, tried to influence the image. The white cloud swirled and the shield slowly began to submerge into it, as though disappearing into fog. Though the black lines were still visible, the crest became dimmer and obscure. When my concentration wavered, the shield re-emerged and the black X stood out prominently again. I refocused and the image faded, then intensified in an almost pulsing manner, then faded again. All I could see was the black outline and the X. It, too, was slowly pulsing.

With eyes closed, I concentrated on the image a third time. The coat of arms slowly dimmed to a hazy outline and, finally, completely vanished into the swirling white mist. It did not reappear, had been totally suppressed and absorbed. The foggy cloud then began to glow from within with a soft yet radiant white light. I opened my eyes and had a strange, soothing sense of relief and peace.

Before I left to join my wife downstairs in the dining room, I took some of pictures of the room; of the wardrobe, of the teddy bears, of the canopied bed. Remembering strange things I'd read or seen in spooky films, I stepped back and took a photograph, directly into the dresser's mirror. "If there are ghosts here," I thought, "They will reveal themselves in the mirror."

*

Welsh Countryside

Prior to our stay at Jamaica Inn we toured Wales--one of the last, closest to pure, remnants of the Celtic culture that dominated Western Europe prior to its conquest by Rome. The mysticism associated with the society and religion of the Britons--which inspired in the construction of Stonehenge and thousands of other stone rings and religious sites scattered across the British Isles--is well known. In fact, as we crossed rural, central Wales we could sense it. There was a subdued but unmistakable spiritual aura that seemed to emanate from the countryside itself.

Standing Stones in Wales

Preconceptions and imagination undoubtedly played a role in the formation of the impressions we had, but, whether internally or externally provoked, the feelings were real. Anyone, in our opinion, who is at all educated on the history of Wales and is the least bit spiritually sensitive, cannot deny its eerie presence.

The spiritual sense we got in Cornwall (once called West Wales), wasn't nearly as strong. That country's culture has been more thoroughly diluted by Anglo-Saxon intrusion. Yet, Cornwall still has a fiercely independent attitude and strongly promotes and clings to its mystical heritage. The strongest examples of that tradition are the myths and legends surrounding King Arthur, who Cornwall claims as a native son.

 

Tintagel Castle Ruins on the Cornish Coast of the Celtic Sea

The true history of the Welsh and Cornish people is shrouded and obscured by those legends and romantic tales--which were composed a thousand years after Arthur's death. Despite them, our perception was strongly influenced by an ancient, mystic aura and accented by visions of Druid priests waving apple-wood wands and dancing in the moonlight. We accepted King Arthur as presented; reveled in the myth at Tintagel Castle and Camelford (site of Camelot?). We bowed our heads at Slaughter Bridge where Arthur died; but, we clearly sensed, beneath and beyond those legends, the deep and ancient spiritual strength of bygone days.

In the Land of King Arthur

*

When I joined my wife downstairs the Smugglers' Bar was still roiling with action. We had no reservations but as inn guests we were given priority. They found us a small table with uncomfortable stools. In the name of simplicity, we ordered the Easter Special buffet. The cuisine was international; though there were a few side dishes and vegetable preparations we were unfamiliar with. After dinner we visited the onsite Cornish pirates, Smugglers' Museum. The violence and cruelty of a smuggler's world was impressively and graphically displayed. We also visited the museum's Daphne du Maurier (author of the novel Jamaica Inn), annex.

 

Smuggler's and Daphne du Maurier Museum - Jamaica Inn

Both my wife and I reread Jamaica Inn before our trip (it seemed supremely appropriate). In fact, I'd acquired a First American Edition of the book and planned to have the hotel staff sign it. That would come later. I'd left the book up in Room 5, on the dresser with the mirror I'd taken a photograph of; the one in which someone had seen a ghost.

It wouldn’t be dark for a while, yet, so we drove to Dozmary Pool, a mile or so down a dirt lane from the inn. We didn't expect to see the Lady of the Lake reach out of the water holding Excalibur, but we were in the Land of Arthur and the site was too convenient to miss. The smell of manure, curious cattle and a four-strand barbed wire fence discouraged us from hiking down to the shoreline to watch the rapidly sinking sun settle onto Bodmin Moor.

We returned to Jamaica Inn, took our baths (letting the water run 2 or 3 minutes to get hot), then spent the evening relaxing and watching television in Room 5--the most haunted room in the most haunted inn in Britain which stands on the barren, desolate moor in the myth and legend steeped county of Cornwall. We sensed nothing. No spirits or ghosts intruded on our slumber that night.

*

Brown Willy from Rough Tor

My original intent, while on Bodmin Moor, was to climb Brown Willy (from the Cornish Bronn Wennli, "Hill of Swallows"), the highest point in Cornwall. The 1378 foot tor was clearly visible from Jamaica Inn. However, hiking the trail to the summit was said to require five hours. Our itinerary for the day included many sightseeing stops and a drive to Penzace and Land's End, so I simply did not have the time. Instead, I opted to 'conquer' Cornwall's second highest point, the adjacent Rough Tor (Routor); a rocky protuberance of 1313 feet that played a prominent role in the climactic conclusion of the novel Jamaica Inn.

Rough Tor (Routor); Bodmin Moor, Cornwall

From atop Rough Tor, Brown Willy loomed, beautifully and mysteriously, a few miles to the east. Of all the 'hills' in the prehistoric land of Cornwall, it is the only one that shows little or no evidences of human habitation. It was considered a sacred site since the dawn of history. Dozens of stony, dwelling foundations on the slopes of Rough Tor date to the early Bronze Age--before the monoliths at Stonehenge were erected. But, on Brown Willy there are none.

Transfixed by the stunningly barren vista from Rough Tor’s top-rock, on which I stood, I could feel and almost hear Brown Willy's subtle, ancient beckoning. I nearly dispensed with the plans and set out on the cross-moor trek to answer its call, to climb it, to touch its sacred soil and stone. But, my earthly, contemporary consciousness prevailed. There were no Druids priests, no voices emanating from the mires and stones, urging me on. I headed back to the car. But, before Brown Willy disappeared behind the crest of Rough Tor, I stopped and stared back at the Hill of Swallows for a long moment, and wondered.

*

Sometime, late during our second night in Room 5 at Jamaica Inn, I awoke. In my dreamy state, I felt a presence. It was the same presence I've felt since childhood when I was convinced the boogie man, the monster in the closet, was there. It was the same dark, misty cloud of a presence that I've occasionally felt as an adult; that I believed was a malevolent aspect of the Spirit which had arrived to harass me in the darkness. At those times, I would repeat the Lord's Prayer, over and over, until the presence was gone.

This time, I simply sought the Light Within, the Light that is the Spirit. I brought forth in my mind the white cloud that had absorbed the black rimmed crest with the black X I’d seen the day before. I felt no fear. I felt no danger. In fact, I felt no uneasiness at all. The presence was real, but as I conjured the Spirit within me, whatever was there recognized it and slowly, benevolently, returned from whence it came.

*

A week or so after we'd returned from our trip to Wales and Cornwall, my wife was holding the camera, looking through the stored pictures we'd taken on our vacation. She said, "Some of these are really good." But, suddenly she got a perplexed look on her face and said, "What the heck is this one of!?"

I came closer and looked over her shoulder. I wasn't wearing my glasses to begin with, and the photograph was blurry. I leaned forward and squinted my eyes at it. It looked like a, from-the-chest-up, person wearing a medieval war helmet and holding a lance in front of him; or, perhaps, Darth Vader holding his light saber. The helmet's visor was down and there was a rectangle of white light in the center of the front of it. There was a swath of white below the 'chin' and on the top and side of the helmet. 

Photograph Taken in Room 5, Jamaica Inn

"I have no clue what it is," I admitted with some concern. "It almost looks like King Arthur, or some other knight. Who took it—you or me? What's the picture before it?”

She scanned back. The previous photograph was of our canopied bed in Room 5 at Jamaica Inn.

"Oh, my," I said.

"What is it?" She asked.

"It's the photograph I took into the mirror. The oval part is actually the mirror. The straight thing, the lance, is the bedpost. I don't know what that rectangle of light is, or the bright spot in the center, or the halo, or the swaths of light. A ghost, maybe."

  

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