Dating back to the 18th century, Jamaica Inn was once a haunt of smugglers, cut throats and wreckers.
Several ghosts, including the villains and their victims, now wander the rooms of this legendary Cornish coach house.
History of Jamaica Inn
Jamaica Inn, with its notorious reputation as a haunt of smugglers, cutthroats, and restless spirits, has long been an enigma shrouded in mystery. However, recent historical discoveries have unveiled new information that challenges the established understanding of the inn’s origins.
The quest for truth can often lead to challenging established narratives and beliefs, a journey Karin Beasant from the Jamaica Inn Paranormal Team knows all too well.
Her tenacious near-decade-long pursuit of accuracy in understanding the inn’s history has led her to recently question and correct the commonly accepted timeline.
She told GhostMag, “I was always under the impression that the Jamaica Inn was built in 1750 and extensions added in 1778. Gradually over the years, some information didn’t make sense.
“You can be a blind believer or someone as lucky as the official team here. We have a moral responsibility to always check and recheck our information to make it as accurate as possible.”
Her commitment to accuracy and meticulous investigation has led to a significant shift in our understanding of the famous inn’s history.
New revelations shine a light upon the true origins of the inn, the intriguing story behind the inn’s peculiar name, and even the conception of the hamlet of Bolventor in which Jamaica Inn stands.
A professional historian hired by the inn’s previous owner uncovered some new historical snippets, spurring Karin and another researcher Helen Bennett to do their own research.
Karin reflects, “Over eight years ago, I hardly knew what research meant. Thanks to a wonderful lady called Helen Bennett, who did the initial research, it opened up a fascination for not just the building but those who had lived and died there.
“Helen uncovered the new beginnings, but I have to admit, when talking to her, some of my research she didn’t have, which was such a lovely compliment.
“I used Ancestry and national newspaper archives but focused on interviewing those who had lived or had worked there many years ago. They could offer valuable oral knowledge that had to be documented before it was lost.”
The previous owner’s claim that the cottage opposite the Inn was Tudor in date has also been debunked, with research indicating that the moorland hamlet of Bolventor was, in fact, established in 1776.
Helen’s final report was uncovered in a folder in April 2023, and upon consulting with the inn’s new owner, Karin took the opportunity to correct the inn’s construction date for public information. “It is confusing for the public to see 1750 written inside when we know the accurate 1776 date. He gave me the honour to decide, to which I went with the historically accurate date, and I am slowly getting the new information out there”.
The origins of the Jamaica Inn and, indeed, the hamlet of Bolventor itself can be traced back to a sea captain named John Broad.
“He was away at sea for great lengths of time, which explains why he only had two children, seven years apart,” Karin explains.
“Like many mariners before him, leasing an inn was very common, but this must have been the last thing on his mind as he became a widower with a young baby when his wife suddenly died.”
Despite the family tragedy, together with his kinsman Thomas Hawke, they leased twenty acres of moorland from property owners Thomas Wills and James Scawen Esq.
They planned to hedge in the land and turn it into pasture, but Broad also agreed to build a large dwelling house with stables and a hayloft at his own expense. While there is no doubt over Broad’s involvement, there are still question marks over how he funded the project. “How did he obtain the great deal of money that it would have cost to do all this and buy livestock?” Karin ponders.
The chosen location for the inn also holds historical significance. Situated along an old Roman track that crossed the desolate moorland, it was just a few miles from the village of Temple, founded by the Knights Templar as a resting place for pilgrims en route to the Holy Land.
This remote location also made it a perfect stopping point for rum smugglers due to the lack of law enforcement in the region. Many would take the turnpike between Launceston and Bodmin and stop at the inn after crossing the perilous Bodmin Moor. Contraband from France and Ireland regularly landed on the Cornish Coast and was often brought across the moor by pack horse.
By 1798, the untimely death of John Broad left a noticeable void. The following years proved no kinder, with his son James passing away in 1803 and leaving behind a widow and eight children. John’s brother didn’t escape the clutches of fate either. Despite his marriage to a woman named Elizabeth, the couple had no children. When he passed away in 1812, his resilient widow held onto the lease until 1828, when she finally decided to move on.
Notably, from the original twenty acres of land, the property expanded to encompass a remarkable 1,565 acres. Whether this growth resulted from smuggling activities or the direct influence of the inn’s operations is hard to tell; however, 19th-century descriptions of the inn painted a less-than-glamorous picture, with its food and bed linen deemed unfit ‘for both man and beast.’
Following Elizabeth’s departure, the lease was picked up by various local families. By 1880, the inn transformed into a temperance house, gaining the title of the Jamaica Inn farm. This period attracted visitors interested in moor shooting, but they had to contend with a dry spell as no alcohol was sold on the premises. It wasn’t until 1950, after four attempts, that the inn regained its full liquor license.
Another common misconception is the suggested connection to the Trelawney family, who served as governors of Jamaica. In reality, James Scawen’s family were merchants with ties to the West Indies, and John Broad had likely sailed there himself. “It is not uncommon for ex-mariners to name their inns after their travels,” Karin explains.
Throughout its history, Jamaica Inn has played host to notable figures. Daphne du Maurier, the renowned author, visited in 1930 and again in November 1931. During her second visit, she shared afternoon tea with the vicar of Altarnun Church, Mr. Charles Triplett, at the inn. During their conversation, Mr. Triplett regaled her with tales of wreckers and smuggling, which would later inspire her to write her famous novel.
It is also believed that US Army General George Patton stayed at Jamaica Inn in June 1944 amid World War Two. There was even a suggestion that the inn played host to secret military meetings during this period.
Karin explained: “I have read Patton’s diary and believe this is correct. We also have two American soldiers’ reports confirming this.
“My biggest regret is not sitting down with an old local who used to tease me about secret military meetings at the Jamaica Inn during WW2. I could kick myself, as the lovely gentleman passed away and that vital bit of history has gone.”
Ghosts of the Jamaica Inn
One thing there can be little doubt over is the Jamaica Inn’s paranormal reputation. Over the years, Karin and her team have amassed a vast database of sightings, reports, and interviews.
With reports dating back to the early 1900s, Jamaica Inn is undoubtedly one of the most well-documented hauntings anywhere in the world.
Karin’s first sighting of a ghost, a Victorian girl, occurred sixteen years ago and left a lasting impression.
“Little did I know that this beautiful Victorian girl wearing a dark dress with white over smock, with the most beautiful long blonde curly hair, was the moment I fell in love with the place,” she explained.
Despite the plethora of sightings, there is an unpredictability to the paranormal activity. As such, Karin explains it is almost impossible to identify the most haunted area of the location. She explains that recent experiences have pointed to Room 6 as the most active bedroom, despite having slept in the room herself on many occasions and not experiencing anything paranormal.
Hair being touched on command, giggling from a little girl witnessed by multiple individuals, and the inexplicable opening of a closed bathroom door have all been experienced in recent months during paranormal investigations.
Curiously, the reported activity has also changed significantly over time. While it appears some mainstays are grounded at the inn, there have also been sightings of new ghosts that have been reported for the first time, such as the US airman first reported in 2016.
Karin wonders whether ghosts can simply appear and disappear, pointing to the entity that folded guests’ clothes back in the 1950s – “Why does that not happen anymore?” she contemplates.
The most famous ghosts include the Tricorn Man, whose presence dates back to the 1950s, and the enigmatic figure believed to have been murdered on the moor. His spirit has been seen sitting on the inn’s wall since 1911 and several times since.
Other reported phenomena include ghostly animals, several children, a Victorian Woman, a Pilgrim Man, a man in a dark cape, a housekeeper, a serving girl, and a mysterious shadow figure.
Despite the recent revelations, Karin admits there are still many questions that remain unanswered: “You will find a nugget of information and end up down a wormhole. What fascinates me most is why paranormal activity is recorded in the modern annex area of the Jamaica Inn and what attracts this activity”.
Jamaica Inn’s reputation as one of the most haunted locations in the UK has been solidified over the years. It was thrust into the spotlight following a visit from Yvette Fielding’s Most Haunted in 2004, who referred to the inn as one of the spookiest places they have ever visited.
Still, Karin is cautious about claiming it as the most haunted location in the UK. “Do I claim it is the most haunted in the UK? No, as claims like that cannot be proved. I can say that the paranormal activity has spanned 112 years.”
Karin’s team regularly hosts paranormal evenings and private hires at Jamaica Inn, allowing the public to investigate the building using several ghost-hunting techniques.
“We want the public to question everything, take away what they decide may have been a paranormal encounter, but to reason and realise that ‘activity’ is often small and fleeting.
“When we have a private hire, I question the poor investigators and make notes, as they might not know an experience they had was recorded multiple times before. We keep around 30% of reports secret to see if we have repeated reports of the same phenomenon.”
Karin’s invaluable contributions to understanding Jamaica Inn’s history and paranormal phenomena have reshaped our perception of this iconic Cornish establishment, which remains a location high on the average ghost hunter’s bucket list.
Karin eloquently states, “The Jamaica Inn captures your soul; you feel as if you belong and can breathe when you are there.
“You can expect honesty and brutal realism, and if the Jamaica Inn likes you, you may walk away with an experience that leaves you dumbfounded. I have seen that many times before.”
|Resident Ghosts||Jack, James Broad, Victorian Girl, Tricorn Hat Man, US Airman, Pilgrim Man, Housekeeper, Serving Girl, Shadow Man, Man in Dark Cape|
|Paranormal Activity||Apparitions, wet footprints, objects moving, disembodied voices, sound of horse hooves, footsteps, crying baby|
|Fear Factor||👻 👻 👻 👻 👻|
|Overnight Stay||Book here|
Visiting Jamaica Inn Today
The Jamaica Inn has been standing proudly on Bodmin Moor for over four centuries.
This iconic inn, which is one of the most famous coaching inn’s in Great Britain is situated in one of the most stunning locations in Cornwall and welcomes both locals and travellers alike.
If you’re planning a visit to some of Cornwall’s top attractions, such as the Eden Project or Falmouth’s National Maritime Museum, why not make a stop at Jamaica Inn? Who knows, you might even catch a glimpse of a ghost!
From breakfast through to late evening, you can indulge in a wide variety of home-cooked dishes that are perfect for the whole family. With its charming cobbled courtyard, beamed ceilings, cozy log fires, and selection of real ales, Jamaica Inn offers a warm and friendly atmosphere that is perfect for any time of the year.
The Smugglers Museum houses one of the finest collections of smuggling memorabilia, while the Daphne du Maurier Room pays homage to the great writer. For a truly romantic experience, stay the night in one of our luxurious four-poster en-suite rooms and enjoy breathtaking views of the wild and beautiful Bodmin Moor in Cornwall.
Jamaica Inn also offers comfortable and well maintained accommodation for guests who wish to stay overnight
There are 36 bedrooms in the well maintained, historic property. Some of the traditional rooms are in the original inn and some are in the modern annex.
Ghost Hunts at Jamaica Inn
Various events and ghost tours are organised by the Jamaica Inn’s very own paranormal team. They run regular paranormal investigations and sleepovers, which can be booked on the Jamaica Inn website.
This article was updated on July 3rd 2023.