Image: ‘Self’ at Wikipedia GNU 1.2
It was dusk when we arrived at our hotel. Between rush hour, such as it is in Cornwall, and my refusal to believe that a sign reading ‘museum’ was really a sign for the inn we were seeking, it had taken a while to get there. I had mixed feelings about staying at the place, given both its fame and its notoriety, but as it was in exactly the right location and a reasonable price too, we were to spend the night at a place reputed to be one of the most haunted inns in the country.
It wasn’t the prospect of ghostly roommates that bothered me so much as the fear that as the place has succumbed to the tourist trade, it would focus more on its profitable history than on the comfort of the guests. I need not have worried. The guest rooms and facilities were exceptionally good, and my only complaint is that, with the veritable plethora of well-documented ghosts, I slept undisturbed and saw nothing… at least, as far as I know. Because, let’s face it, unless a ghost sticks to the accepted rules by being amorphous, giving you inexplicable chills, walking through walls or making unsettling noises, how are you supposed to know if you’ve seen one?
To be fair, we were in the more modern wing of the inn. There had been an inn on the spot since 1537, and prior to that there is an abundance of archaeological evidence that the area was occupied right back to prehistory. Most of the ghostly activity is reported in the building that replaced the older inn and which dates back to 1750, when the coaching inn on Bodmin Moor was a haunt of smugglers.
The wreckers and free-traders from the Cornish coast used the isolated inn as a halfway house, and one tale says that Jamaica Inn got its name from the barrels of rum that illicitly made their way there. In fact, the inn took its name from the Trelawney family, local landowners, two of whom had been governors of Jamaica… but that rum, tobacco and many other illegal imports passed through the inn is beyond question. The smugglers had over a hundred routes over which they carried their contraband goods and, when the present inn was built, there was nothing else for miles around, making Jamaica Inn a perfect stopping place.
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