IT WAS A VERY COLD NIGHT and there was absolutely no heating upstairs where we were. There was light, although we preferred to work by candlelight instead and use torches. An exception to this was a light that John Humphries had insisted that we left on in the attic. There had been some partial renovation work done there and he did not want to be responsible if anybody went up there and injured themselves by falling over the rubble. In fact, the attic was lit only by a small table lamp with a dim 40 watt bulb, and ghosts aside, it was easy to see how physical injury might have occurred in the dark It was still very gloomy and hazardous being strewn with discarded furniture scarcely visible on the floor, and the numerous cobwebs clinging tenaciously to your face did nothing to help you keep balance. The Bishop’s Room, in fact, lay right beneath a part of the attic, which itself ran across most of the main building.
Ross Gage set up an electronic thermometer up in The Bishop’s Room and, interestingly enough, even before that was actually used, there were distinct ‘cold spots‘ throughout that particular room. We actually sensed these ‘cold spots’ before we used the thermometer itself; the thermometer merely confirming this later by its electronic readings. In fact, it was possible to ‘walk through‘ these cold spots, which were about two feet in diameter, and you could actually stand outside them and put your hand inside the invisible space and feel the distinct drop in temperature. And this wasn’t just imagination.
The main vigil was spent within The Bishop’s Room, which, after all, was supposed to be the most haunted room in the building. Ross Gage spent most of her time here recording temperature variations and taking other measurements whilst Dave Holland and myself ‘moved around’ a little more; in particular spending some time in another supposedly haunted room by candlelight (near to The Bishop’s Room) and in the attic – obviously, with cameras at the ready. We also had small tape recorders with us, just in case!
We spent about an hour in that particular room, but apart from the odd strange noise such as ‘creaking sounds‘ bangs or thuds which could have happened in any old building and which were are not necessarily supernatural, at one stage we did actually hear a distinct ‘knocking sound’ up above in the attic. Its hard to say if these could have been rats knocking something over or whether it was of supernatural origin. But we decided to go up into the attic and spend and spend a couple of hours there to see if we could witness anything.
David Holland positioned himself at one end of the attic, while I was at the other. I took two or three pictures at random before noticing that the built-in light meter in my camera had ceased to register, despite the fact I was using an ultra sensitive 1500 ASA film.. Now, even in that very low light it should have picked up some sort of reading; but the needle just remained ‘dead’. I checked the camera but found nothing untoward so focused it directly on the table light itself, but still a zero reading. The needle would not budge.
This apparent malfunctioning of the camera did not unduly surprise me. For on past occasions this had happened at other supposedly haunted places. Indeed, I recall once at supposedly haunted Whittington Castle in Shropshire, the camera had acted in a similar manner when I was trying to take some photographs at the top of one of the ruined towers. It was a bright sunlit afternoon but the camera’s meter refused to register within an area of about six feet but if you stepped outside the diameter of this ‘invisible circle’, the needle registered as normal.
After spending a good hour in the attic, we went back downstairs to The Bishop’s Room and it was then that Ross Gage confirmed to us that every fifteen minutes the temperature dropped quickly and distinctly by four degrees (she was taking all these readings down in concise detail). It remained that way for five minutes or so and then it returned to normal. But then precisely fifteen minutes later, the same thing would happen again following a consistent pattern.
Apart from these the drops in temperature, she hadn’t actually witnessed anything, other than claiming to have heard some unusual sounds in an adjacent room. She’d gone outside to look but apparently, there wasn’t any apparent cause for it. By this time it was about three o’clock in the morning, so we thought we might as well lie down in the Bishop’s room, obviously with tape recorders, cameras and torches at the ready, and spend some time there to see if anything happened. The Bishop’s room, I should add, was still very well furnished; there was a large four-poster bed in there with two antique single beds either side so there was no lack of space for people to lie down. John Humphries had supplied us with ample blankets to keep warm, so we thought we might as well relax for awhile for this part of the vigil – so we settled down and just lay in silence for some time.
It was about an hour after that, we all heard a distinct tapping noise coming from the ceiling, obviously caused by something knocking on the floor in the attic. In fact, I was lying in the end bed nearest the window, and this sound occurred right above my head; but everyone could hear it, it was that distinct. It was rather like hearing somebody knocking purposely on a door, to let you know they were there and that they wanted to come in; distinct, and almost ‘deliberate’. This happened twice with a gap of about half a minute in-between. There were five or six knocks each time; not pounding, not soft either, rather like somebody using their knuckles knocking sharply on wood.
Needless to say, leaving Ross down in The Bishop’s Room in case the sounds occurred again, Dave Holland and myself went back to the attic and located the spot these knocks would have come from, because you could tell roughly where the beds were underneath. But there was nothing there to account for the sounds them and it was very hard to contemplate such sounds being made by rats or mice, even had they knocked something over.
Apart from these occurrences, not least the regular drops in temperature which went on until daybreak, the rest of the night was seemingly uneventful. But these relatively small things that did occur, were certainly not the result of fanciful imagination, nor did there appear to be any logical cause to explain them. It could be added here – and this cannot be taken as any sort of ‘psychic proof’ – there was a very strange atmosphere that seemed to permeate The Bishop’s Room and the attic. You’d have to actually be there to experience this precisely. But everything was deathly quiet. Perhaps that in itself is not so surprising because there was little or no traffic that time of night and the Inn lay isolated at the edge of the village. But quite apart from the quietness, there was a sort of overbearing sense – and I’m not trying to sound sensationalistic – sense that somebody was watching you. You really felt that everywhere you went, whether walking around lying down or sitting in a chair, ‘somebody’ was aware of your presence. I can’t really describe it any better than that, because this it was more of a sensation that could only be picked up by the senses, not by any sort of physical means.
But it was not just in The Bishop’s Room or in the attic that this ‘atmosphere’ prevailed. The Inn itself was very atmospheric throughout, maybe partly due to its construction and layout. It was filled with antique furniture, and had extremely old fireplaces which had remained unchanged for centuries, with strange symbols engraved in the stone hearths of some of them, which were most likely symbols of protection against evil spirits. Indeed, a huge fireplace downstairs was strongly rumoured to have concealed a secret passageway leading from it to the church which lay a couple of hundred yards away. Near this, in the same room in fact, there was a deep hole in the stone floor where the floor had been dug up to a depth of about five feet. It was explained to us later, that on an earlier occasion, John Humphries had called in some dowsers who’d expressed an interest in the place, and they were looking for any other underground passages, covered-over wells, or anything of the kind, and one of these dowsers told him that there was something lying beneath the foundations. He’d got a violent reaction with the dowsing stick at this part of the floor. So they eventually dug down (and this was obviously a few years before we visited), and they actually discovered a lot of children’s bones and a couple of sacrificial daggers. Obviously, this was reported to the police, but there was nothing much that the police could do after they’d deduced that the age of the skeletons was several centuries old.
I believe these bones were forensically examined and it was confirmed that they were hundreds of years old. But obviously the conclusion by John Humphries and many other people was, that human sacrifice had taken place in the actual Inn itself at a much earlier date.
We left The Ancient Ram Inn next morning after being given some tea by John Humphries. It was a Sunday and there were no buses running, but somebody kindly gave me a lift to the nearest railway station, at Stroud some twelve miles away. We said our good-byes to John Humphries and he invited us back again. And as we left he more-or -less apologised that nothing much had happened because, he said, that normally anybody that spent a vigil there usually experienced much more definite phenomena. He added that perhaps we had just picked a bad time …
In fact I was to return again to the Ram to hold another nightly vigil there. This occurred in the autumn of 2002 and was attended by members of the Black Country Paranormal Society. But that, of course, would have to be another story.
(c) David Farrant 1998