The most famous street in the small medieval town of Rye in East Sussex is Mermaid Street and its most famous building is the Mermaid Inn. The Mermaid Inn is reputed to be one of the most haunted pubs in England. Parts of the inn date back to 1156 although some parts have been rebuilt, the Inn retains its original charm. It’s an atmospheric, sprawling, thatch-roofed building, filled with secret passages, priest-holes and sliding wall panels. Pirates or smugglers would probably have used these areas as a hiding place or as an escape route.
Mermaid Street, formally Middle Street, was the main entrance from the sea through the Strand Gate. The anchorage below Mermaid Street had 20 feet of water at high tide, with space for over one hundred ships to anchor off the Quay. Rye was known as a big smuggling port, and it can be considered that the Mermaid was involved in this trade.
Judith Blincow, joint owner of the Mermaid Inn came downstairs one morning to find a couple of guests sleeping on the couch in the lounge. The couple refused to go back upstairs they’d seen people walk through walls in their bedroom. Other guests have reported being woken at night by loud footsteps outside there room when they investigate there is no one there but as soon as they get back into bed the footsteps return.
A previous landlord was approached by a local medium, convinced that the pub would be the perfect location to arrange a ghost watch. The landlord asked the medium to take a look around the Inn, and on rejoining him at the bar it is said that two ghostly figures appeared, and drew their rapiers and started to duel. The landlord witnessed this fight to its end and, when it concluded, the victor ran his sword through his opponent’s chest, then removed a floorboard and disposed of the dead man’s body. The apparition then escaped by fleeing into the early morning sunshine.
Other strange tales include the many sightings of a lady in grey, and a chambermaid who was supposedly murdered by a smuggler for talking too much about his criminal exploits. A few years ago a barman was tending to the fire when bottles at the end of the room flew off their shelf, he handed in his notice the next day. Then there’s the woman who moves clothes around and the man in old-fashioned garments that takes to sitting on occupied beds. Rooms turn cold for no reason, rocking chairs move of their own accord.
Guests have seen a lady by the fireplace and found clothes left by the fire have becomes soaking wet. In Room Five a maid is said to haunt the room where she was murdered by smugglers, while a vision of men fighting has been seen in the Elizabethan Room. Along the corridor in Room 17 a chair is said to rock by itself.
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