SITUATED ON THE INCLINE of a steep hill in Wotton-under-Edge, the bottom of the building partially submerged at the side of the modern road, the Ancient Ram Inn plays host to a variety of ghosts.
Originally an 13th century inn, the earlier building was damaged by a fire that swept through much of the village at that time, but it was rebuilt as a tavern in the 14th century and catered to locals and lonely travelers until into the early part of the 19th century.
The present owner is John Humphries. He brought the dilapidated building (which none the less retained its ancient design and structural character) in 1967 and moved in with his wife and two young daughters. It was only soon afterwards that he learned about a compulsory purchase order that had been put upon the building by the local council. They wanted to demolish it to widen the road, apparently unconcerned about its ancient charm or rural antiquity. But John had other ideas and, backed by a determined campaign that had the support of the local people, eventually succeeded in overturning the council’s order and getting the Ram Inn registered as a grade two listed building.
There was a lot to be done, but John decided to stagger the work – a necessity perhaps as at this time he was working nights as a goods train driver. But before too long, he had turned the Ram into a comfortable home for himself and his family, and certainly discouraged the rats and mice that had long since made their home there undisturbed.
My first experiences with the RAM INN and its associated phenomena took place in October 1998. I had been contacted by Ross Gage, of the Sheffield Paranormal Society some months earlier about other cases of unexplained psychic activity, and we had finally got around to discussing the Ancient Ram Inn.
She had expressed her interest in conducting a nightly vigil there with other members of her group, and explained that she already had the permission of the owner, so it was just a question of arranging a date.
I was invited to attend once arrangements were finalised, and the date was eventually set for October 31 that year. But although originally intending to hold the vigil with four other members of the her group, at the last moment, three of them dropped out due to unforeseen circumstances.
I did not learn about this until the morning upon the intended day, although she told me, one other member of her group, David Holland, was still able to go and would be taking her in his car.
We agreed to meet at the RAM around 6pm. I decided to make my own way there by train. Ironically perhaps, I too, had been let down at the last minute by two local members of the BPOS who had supposed to have been arranging a car. Though I managed to take the matter philosophically, having learned of the unexpected twists and turns that can accompany psychic investigations.
It was already dark when my train had pulled into the station. It was barely 5.15, but the last bus had already left for Wotten-under-Edge, so I was forced to look for a taxi to cover the last twelve miles or so.
On first impressions, the building certainly lived up to its various descriptions. Mostly in darkness due to the absence of adequate street lights and the sunken shades in which it lay, one could just make out the antique timbered outline of its forlorn walls merging almost menacingly with the black sky. The sun – if ever it came out there – could surely never penetrate such inpentrateable blackness; certainly not then, but you were only left to wonder whether the place would still maintain its black gloom in bright daylight.
It was hard to imagine any light being cast upon this formidable place. But then I knew that, imagination, when applied to fields of the Unknown, should not be allowed to stray into the realms of fantasy or supposition, thereby clouding direct perception into things which were not reliant on “normal” visual images or everyday impressions.
I arrived at the Ram Inn, to find that Ross Gage and Dave Holland had only just arrived. John Humphries was not quite as I had expected. I Judged him to be around seventy – and I was actually right as far as that turned out. From first impressions, he looked mildly eccentric, wearing a black leather cap and a ‘Hell’s-Angels-type’ jacket with leather tassels across the chest, and tight blue jeans. He certainly wasn’t well dressed. He spoke with a distinct Devonshire accent, but at the same time, was quite softly spoken and cordial.
He offered us all tea, and almost from the onset he started describing experiences that he’d had in the Ram Inn itself. We learned, for example, that he lived mainly in a converted garage at one end of the Inn which he’d converted into a living room-cum kitchen with a sleeping area upstairs. This was actually an extension to the original Inn, and the reason he’d done that was, because he wouldn’t enter the Ram Inn at night on his own, and he felt more secure in this little self-contained living-quarters he’d constructed. But he told us, that even when he was alone in this little self-built ‘house’, if you like, he’d often experienced drops of temperature and he frequently heard strange noises during the night; for instance, distinct “tapping sounds” or the sound of footsteps walking around in the main part of the Inn. And, needless to say, when he was on his own, he never went into the Inn itself to check them out. But as well as that, he told us about experiences which other people had had, who had visited the Ram Inn. For example, a visitor there had once been “pushed over” in the main part of the Inn. He had been pushed to the ground with some quite considerable force for no apparent reason. Another interesting thing he told us, was that he often saw strange orbs of light floating around the Inn after dark, but he’d seen these so often that he’d become quite accustomed to them, so these didn’t really worry him unlike some of the effects caused by the other ghosts – or whatever they were – that haunted the place.
Another interesting fact that we learned from John Humphries about the alleged psychic activity at the Inn, seemed to bear out that the alleged psychic phenomena ‘at work’ there seemed to be definitely malevolent by nature. It may be recalled that, in his younger days, John Humphries had serious considered the possibility of becoming a Methodist preacher. In the event, this never happened, but John had acquired a ‘prize’ portrait of John Wesley which, in his early days in residence at the Ram, he kept hanging on the stairs. But almost from the first moment he hung this portrait on the wall, ‘something’ kept removing it and throwing it down to the floor. He kept replacing it but systematically, the portrait kept being removed after he had replaced it on the wall. In the end he gave up. He wouldn’t throw the painting out, obviously, but was eventually forced to secure it behind other objects in a corner.
After having explained the basic history of the Inn and bring us up to date with the psychic goings-on there, we decided to go out and get something to eat and come back after ten (it was now about half past eight in the evening) and set up the equipment up to start the nightly vigil for around midnight.
In fact, we later set up most of the equipment we had in The Bishop’s Room upstairs – supposedly the most haunted room in the Inn. (Because the other people hadn’t been able to attend, we had to make do without some items, such as the night-vision video cameras).
(c) David Farrant