Recently I visited an isolated pub in North Wales, the Sportsman’s Arms, which stands among the open moors of the Hiraethog in Denbighshire, to attend an informal evening of spooky conversation. I learned of two intriguing happenings which I shall attempt to summarise here.
Londoner Peter Young told us about a flat he was helping to do up some years ago in Chelsea. A couple of burly builders got completely spooked in there, so Peter agreed to join them. Apparently, there was a remarkable amount of activity, most of it centring round the drinks cabinet, which kept opening of its own accord. I can’t remember all the details but I recall whisky apparently being drunk by an unseen entity – is that spirit cannibalism?
There were a lot of mysterious noises, glimpsed shadowy figures and – a rather Gothic image this – a swinging chandelier. Needless to say, they finished up as quick as they could and got out of there.
The story Peter learnt later was that a man had killed his lover there in a drunken rage, and he also heard of similar activity in the next-door flat, which at one time had been part of the same suite of rooms.
I also met a lady who used to run an old pub in North-East Wales with her husband. The inn in question, the Pwll Gwyn (which means White Pool) stands along the A541 Mold-Denbigh Road. When I interviewed the then current landlady here for my 1992 book Haunted Clwyd, I was told that the building stood on foundations of a medieval hostelry servicing pilgrims to St Winefride’s Well at Holywell. This was used as an explanation for the apparition of a monk allegedly seen sitting in the dining room, often in daylight.
The woman I spoke to in the Sportsman’s Arms, who was landlady up until the late 1980s, denied any medieval hostory for the building, saying that as far as she was aware it had always been a coaching inn belongining to nearby Maesmynan Hall (I gathered the owner of the Hall kept his own horses stabled there, too). She also knew nothing about a ghostly monk but certainly experienced a spooky presence about the place, especially on the first floor. The publicans I spoke to prior to 1992 had also spoken about an eerie presence upstairs.
But what this lady added to the mix was a phenomenon that may be unique and greatly engaged my interest. Although they saw no appairition duign their time as licencees, she and her husband (and staff) did get used to ciming into the dining room on occasions and finding little piles of salt had been mysteriously appeared on various surfaces overnight. Very neat and tidy, pyramidal piles they were, and the source of the salt was also a mystery. Salt, of course, is a substance seen as sacred in many cultures, representing purity in the Christian religion (and capable of banishing evil spirits). The dining room, of course, is the room where the monk was seen in later years – was ‘he’ responsible for placing the salt?