You don’t have to go far in Devon before you encounter a ghostly tale, legend or reported apparition, and our county is a popular destination for those seeking paranormal thrills and breaks.
Here's a rundown of Devon's top ten spookiest spots, from our guest blogger Claire Cooper at Haunted Devon - an investigation team that actively seeks the truth behind these tales.
1. Berry Pomeroy Castle, near Totnes
No Top 10 hauntings list would be complete without Devon’s most notoriously haunted castle. Built in the 11th century the castle is rife with reports of ghostly sightings and experiences. The most common include a ‘blue lady’ often associated with the death of a child and said to be a distressed soul. Alongside her sits reports of a ‘white lady’ haunting St Margaret’s tower and the sounds of screams and thumps as two knights leap to their death over the ramparts rather than face capture from an enemy army. There are also reports of time slips, black hounds, a ‘grey lady’ and a very spooky driveway ...
2. The Palace Theatre, Plymouth
The grand opening in 1898 of this monumental theatre building was a far cry from its current disused and neglected state. A fire three months after opening closed the theatre temporarily and from this time it served in many forms offering various entertainments before closing as a nightclub in 2006. Rot and decay have since taken a hold of this glorious building. Reported hauntings include disembodied screams often attributed to a female ‘Mary’, who was said to have passed in the fire along with other occupants at the time. Mrs Hoyle, a former owner, is also said to still wander the theatre and various dark silhouettes and strange occurrences have been reported here.
3. Chambercombe Manor, Ilfracombe
Chambercombe Manor has a compelling history and one finding in particular gives it a place in Devon’s most notorious hauntings. The discovery of a secret chamber was said to have been made by a tenant in 1738, who noticed the outline of a window with no corresponding room. Further exploration revealed a chamber between the bedrooms which held a grandly handsome bed and the skeleton of a woman. It is said that she was a titled lady found in a storm and following her death the manor occupants stole her jewellery and the room was bricked up thus concealing her body from the outside world.
4. The Reel Cinema, Plymouth
Designed in art deco style and first opening its doors in 1938 the cinema and its surrounding areas seem to attract much paranormal activity which has been witnessed by visitors and staff alike. Documents exist that show at least three burial grounds to exist in the area and certainly activity seems to increase whenever renovation work occurs. Activity witnessed by the Haunted Devon team includes doors banging, whispering, female singing and shadowy figures. Particularly strong entities felt include the spirit of an actress named ‘Emily’ who took her own life backstage, a caretaker and a man looking for his wife - thought to have been killed during the bombing in WW2.
5. The Valiant Soldier, Buckfastleigh
The Valiant Soldier gives us a unique glimpse in to living history - and even looks like it's been frozen in time for 50 years. This pub has many reports of paranormal activity, including scratching, banging, running footsteps and the smell of tobacco smoke. The Haunted Devon team have encountered a blind flying off a window and a light bulb jumping out of its fixing. The museum even has an official certificate to verify its haunted status. Perhaps this is the resting place of choice for past regulars?
6. Okehampton Castle, Okehampton
Okehampton Castle is reputedly haunted by the ghost of Lady Howard who lived here until her death in 1671. She is said to be doomed to pick each blade of grass from the Castle Mound as punishment for murdering all her husbands, and rides a spectral coach from Fitzford House to Okehampton with a phantom hound running behind. Lady Howard was the daughter of John Fitz who killed two people, including his best friend, before committing suicide. It is likely that Lady Howard's ghostly punishment is the result of the bad reputation acquired through her father’s evil wrongdoings. Legend says that her punishment will be complete once each blade of grass is removed. Regardless of the origins of this legend, these castle ruins hold many layers of history and intrigue within their skeletal walls.
7. Shaugh/Leighbeer Tunnel, Shaugh Prior
To the day tripper this may seem like a rather innocuous tunnel, but once the sun goes down and the stars come out batteries drain and torches switch off unexpectedly. It's not unusual for a night time investigator to be overcome with strange feelings of unease, trepidation and nausea. This may in part be due to the extreme darkness of the tunnel which was originally part of a railway linking Plymouth to Tavistock. However, there is no disputing the uncomfortable atmosphere of the tunnel which is said to include the ghost of a large bearded tunnel foreman who likes to ‘shove’ people, especially women. There are also reports of two young Victorian girls who tug hands and whisper to people within the tunnel.
8. Old Forde House, Newton Abbot
The present Forde House was built in 1610 and has seen many Lords, Ladies and even a King in the form of King Charles 1 pass through its doors and sleep within its walls. Secret tunnels are linked to the house including one said to lead to the local ‘Devil’s Pit’ in Bradley Woods. Old Forde House is rumoured to have been the victim of a Monastic Curse following the dissolution of the monasteries. This cursed all children born to families residing in the house to die in childhood. Reports of paranormal activity include ghostly footsteps, shadows and apparitions. Ghosts of children are reported to have been witnessed by staff and visitors, including a girl in a red coat, and children are often sensed on the periphery of any investigation. Could these be the unfortunate victims of the ancient curse?
9. Paignton Picture House, Paignton
This gem of a building has seen both grandeur and dereliction, and is now one of the oldest surviving purpose built cinemas in Europe. Its historical importance is demonstrated in its popularity with its famous patron Agatha Christie, who had a regular seat in the auditorium. Activity which has been reported and experienced by the Haunted Devon team includes shadow figures, female singing and oppressive atmospheres. Possible spirits who visit include that of a wealthy Edwardian lady called Mary, along with the spirit of a young girl and a soldier called Edward. Recordings have also indicated that a wealthy woman who enjoys a mink coat visits the cinema still ... could this be the ghost of Agatha Christie herself?
10. Devil’s Stone Inn, Shebbear
If the name isn’t enough to give you chills the list of reported activities may be! Taps run by themselves, beds unmake themselves, pictures are found on the floors and doors and windows fly open. Heavy footsteps are heard on landings where the rooms have no residents and there is said to be a secret tunnel attaching the Inn to the nearby church. All this activity has gained the pub a reputation as one of the 12 most haunted pubs in England.
To find out more about the evidence behind these ghosts and other Devon hauntings please visit the Haunted Devon website - or even join them on an investigation.