Cornwall has been described as the most haunted place in the British Isles, and for good reason! Stories of
haunting abound and most towns and villages have had more than their fair share.
At the famous old coaching hostelry Jamaica Inn (made famous by Daphne Du Maurier's Novel) at Bolventor, near Bodmin, the ghost of a murdered sailor returning to finish his last drink has been seen by many visitors sitting on a wall outside.
Customers at The Dolphin Inn at Penzance have witnessed the sight, and in recent years, the sound of an old sea captain dressed in tricorn hat and laced ruffles paying them an unwelcome visit. It is believed he may have been a victim of Judge Jeffries (1648-89), the famous "Hanging Judge" who is reputed to have held an Assizes in what is now the dining room of the inn, or possibly an old smuggler returning to claim the casks of brandy recently found hidden away in the cellar during renovations.
From the Punch Bowl Inn at Lanreath, near Lostwithiel, comes the tale of a demonic black cockerel believed to have been the angry soul of an old rector of the parish who fell to his death down the stairs to his cellar whilst fetching a bottle of wine. His guest for dinner that night was the new young curate who had fallen in love with the rector's young and beautiful wife. Did he fall or was he pushed? We'll never know, but the very next day a large black cockerel suddenly appeared and began attacking everyone in sight. Eventually the bird flew in through the window of The Punch Bowl Inn and straight into an old earthenware oven. A quick thinking kitchen maid imprisoned him inside it and a mason was duly called to cement it up for all eternity.
The Wellington Hotel, Boscastle's famous old coaching inn, has more than its fair share of ghostly inhabitants. Some years ago the Hotel's owner, Victor Tobutt, was working at the reception desk when the figure of a man drifted silently past him. Looking up, he was surprised to see that the man wore leather gaiters and boots, a frock coat and a frilled shirt, such as might have been worn by an 18th century coachman, and his hair tied back in the old fashioned style. "There was nothing insubstantial about him", Victor told, "he looked remarkably solid." To his shock, the apparition disappeared through the wall, but when he began to describe what he had seen to one of his employees, the man completed the description for him. Apparently he too had seen the ghostly visitor on more than one occasion.
Another employee at The Wellington Hotel, retired policeman Bill Searle has twice witnessed a misty shape wearing what appears to be a cloak drift across the landing and disappear through the wall of a guest room. It is thought to be the spirit of a young girl who, crossed in love, flung herself in despair from the ramparts of the hotel's tower. Victor also believes that another part of the building is haunted by a murdered man, and there is also an "animal friendly" spirit, which was eagerly pursued by the small dog belonging to the writer of ghost stories who stayed in the hotel. Ironically, the writer himself didn't see it, but his wife witnessed a shape move across the room, followed by the dog excitedly wagging his tail!
Several of the staff and customers have also witnessed a dark shape float down the stairs and disappear into the cellar late at night. Curiously, the two oldest hostelries in Boscastle bear the names of two of history's most famous adversaries. At the top of Boscastle's steep "corkscrew " hill, high above The Wellington Hotel stands The Napoleon Inn. It is said that the inn served as a recruiting office in the Napoleonic Wars, but the sympathies and interests of many Cornish smugglers lay more with their French suppliers than with King and Country. Legend has it that The Napoleon Inn was so named because it was actually used to recruit volunteers for the enemy!