Halloween is on the horizon, and it’s going to be a busy one here in North Devon with plenty to keep you occupied, no matter your age or interests.
But aside from local events, trick-or-treating or pumpkin carving, how else can you get yourself into the spirit of things? By reading this blog, that’s how - because we’re going to be filling you in on the spookiest spots to visit here in North Devon. Keep reading to discover the very best places to find things that go bump in the night, such as eerie old buildings, pubs with a haunted history, or locations where ghost sightings and paranormal investigations are more frequent than you’d think.
Seafield House, Westward Ho!
Credit: @kevlyford on Instagram
Everyone knows Seafield House in Westward Ho! - a sprawling, 12-bedroom and unfortunately dilapidated property, which sits on the edge of the coast and carries unrivalled views out across the sea.
Locally, it’s better known as the Haunted House - although there’s a lot of discourse surrounding that very matter. While plenty of people have reported eerie feelings, or even strange sightings and sounds coming from the building at night, many others claim that it’s simply a building in a bit of disrepair with nothing otherworldly going on at all.
Haunted or not, it’s a beautiful house, and we hope we can see it restored to its former glory someday.
Chambercombe Manor, Ilfracombe
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Frequently hosting tours and even dedicated paranormal evenings, Chambercombe doesn’t shy away from its reputation, but promises the spirits inhabiting the building aren’t nefarious - they’re simply mischievous. Commonly reported are the ghosts of two little girls, who frequently try to play innocent tricks on visitors, as well as ghostly orbs, cold spots, and a feeling of seasickness when guests look at certain pieces of furniture that were once aboard ships.
The most famous story tells of a man repairing the roof in 1738, who found a chamber between two adjoining rooms - in which he discovered a skeleton laid out on the bed. Legend claims that the skeleton comes from a time when the house was owned by shipwreckers, who found the woman and stole her jewellery before realising a terrible tragedy had struck - but you’ll have to visit yourself to learn the rest.
Barnstaple Guildhall and Cinema
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The busy town of Barnstaple is known for its fair share of ghosts. Most famously, the cinema is supposedly haunted by a man who fell to his death while repairing the roof, while a ghostly double act supposedly inhabits the Guildhall - which has been standing since the 1800s. Nobody knows how the men are supposed to have died, though.
Other strange sightings include large animals, most often a form of big cat, roaming the town at night.
The Puffing Billy, Torrington
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The Puffing Billy is an old Victorian building, built on what was once Torrington station - and this tidbit of history is important, because its hauntings stem from this point in time.
The stories say that the building is still haunted by its old station master, and his wife - who reportedly still roams upstairs each night to tuck in her children. The spirits have reportedly been noticed after-hours, from guests who used to stay overnight when the Puffing Billy was still a B&B, and in the past ghost tours that have been held on the premises.
Mortehoe and Morte Point
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Mortehoe is one of North Devon’s most beautiful spots, but it has a gruesome history, marred by shipwrecks and murder.
In particular, Morte Point (which translates to Death Point in Latin) was an infamous point for shipwrecks, with many voyages meeting unfortunate ends on the rocks here; 5 alone were wrecked in the winter of 1852 alone. This contributed to the nearby village’s popularity with wreckers and smugglers, who would deliberately guide or lure incoming ships directly into the rocks, so that they could salvage and sell any valuables. Because it was illegal to take cargo if anyone on the ships were still alive, the wreckers would kill anybody left on board who’d survived the wretched waves and rocks. One of the most notorious and feared wreckers was Elizabeth Berry, who would reportedly drown sailors using a pitchfork, until her arrest in 1850.
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The Coach & Horses Inn, Buckland Brewer
Another pub with a past is The Coach & Horses Inn, Buckland Brewer - although theirs is much more grisly. Supposedly, having been built in the 13th century, the pub was once used as a courtroom, with a hook inside for the purpose of hanging criminals. Yikes.
These days, guests have claimed to spot ghostly cavaliers hanging around in the corners of the room - perhaps attempting to punish criminals, to this very day. That’s not all though, an eerie woman wearing all black is also said to lurk in the pub, wandering around the corridors.
The Devil’s Stone Inn, Shebbear
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The Devil’s Stone Inn is an especially interesting one. Its name comes from the mysterious Devil Stone, which is turned by Shebbear villagers every 5th November, to ward off the devil and protect the village.
The name comes from a similar legend, which claims the stone was dropped in Shebbear by the devil, as he fell from heaven to hell. Other theories suspect that the stone was brought to the village by druids, but there’s no confirmed origin - nobody knows how the stone got to Shebbear, or where the legends relating to the devil came from, the only confirmation people have is that the stone is not from any local rock formations.
Speculation isn’t just around the stone, but around the inn, which is thought to be haunted.
The Bideford Witch Trials
Credit: Andy Francis
Another slice of North Devon’s spookier history lies in the small town of Bideford - which was the home of the last women ever to be hanged in England’s medieval witch trials. Temperance Lloyd, Mary Trembles and Susannah Edwards were all convicted of witchcraft and sentenced to death in Exeter.
Between 1500 and 1660, thousands of people - mostly women - were believed to be witches, and were persecuted across Europe for anything as small as being single, lefthanded, or having red hair.
Whether you believe in ghosts yourself, or you just enjoy hearing spooky stories or slightly gruesome history, make sure to get in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Share your own experiences, tell us any tales we’ve missed, and however you’re celebrating in North Devon this year, have a fangtastic Halloween!