One of the most atmospheric and ghostly places I have visited is the town of Rye on England's south coast. Some claim it is the most haunted place in the UK and on a visit it's possible to see why this is.
Last year my wife and I were staying in a 15th century cottage in Rye, right in the center on the square surrounding the church. The cottage was creaky and timbered and the road surrounding the church was cobbled and virtually traffic free, other than for quick access. The photo above of the cottages was taken from top of the church tower.
On the day we moved in for our stay I parked the car tight against the cottage window to quickly unload our luggage. It was exactly as we hoped and as we walked in I noticed a trap door in the wooden living room ceiling. "Wonder what that's for?" I asked no one in particular.
I didn't get any answer so I went to the car to carry in a few more bits and pieces. Outside was an old women seemingly removing a stone from her shoe. I smiled at her and apologised for the car obstructing her path.
She looked at me and simply said, "I used to live in that cottage twenty years ago. It's got a trap door in the living room to take the coffins in and out of the bedroom, when somebody dies. The stairs are too narrow and steep otherwise. It's also used for furniture." And with that she went on her way and disappeared from view.
For some reason it sent a shiver down my spine. The question I had asked was answered, not by my wife, but by a strange old fashioned lady.
The cottage was only small but very much original. Only one room downstairs, other than an extended (modern) kitchen. There were two floors above, each with one bedroom accessed by narrow, creaky, difficult to climb stairs. It was like we had moved back in time several centuries. Perfect!
As we settled in we liked to walk around the town late at night along the cobbled streets and past the old buildings full of history, while no one else was about. Sometimes it felt like having slipped through a time zone and into a bygone age.
We had a strange experience at the small castle. My wife was looking at something or other and I slipped into the garden grounds. I saw a woman dressed in medieval clothes tending the plants. I took a photo below.
My wife caught up with me and I told her to look at the woman in strange clothes. A group of visitors from the USA overheard what I had said and also followed my wife into the garden - but no medieval woman to be seem.
The Americans joked with me about seeing things, as did my wife. I showed them the photo on my digital camera so they took another look but still no woman to be seen.
I'm not saying it was a ghost but it was mighty strange. Perhaps it was someone dressed up, I don't really know. There are, however, dozens of hauntings in Rye and many famous writers have lived in the town including HG Wells, GK Chesterton, Henry James, EF Benson and Joseph Conrad.
Henry James, who lived in Lamb House in 1898, claimed the ghost or spirit of an old lady used to help him with his writing.
The Mermaid Inn and the Union Inn have their own ghosts. The Mermaid Inn goes back to the 15th century though the foundations are thought of as being much older, maybe from the 1100s, and it claims to be the most haunted pub in Britain.
In Mermaid Street female ghosts are often seen as is a small girl dressed in blue. In Watchbell Street you might just spot a small boy wrapped in a white sheet. In Turkey Cock Lane there is the ghost of a monk who wasn't quite as chaste as perhaps he should have been. He was bricked up alive after being caught trying to run off with a local girl.
And so the stories go on. The Rye Heritage Centre runs Ghost Tours and walks.
For me Rye is very much a ghostly, but magical, place. I'll finish with a few photos.
Photo above is Church Square, Rye with it's own black cat on the cobble stones. The wall on the right of the pic belongs to the church, as seen below.
Once the steps of the church tower have been climbed there are views in every direction. Below shows some of the town's roof tops.
More old buildings below dating back to the 15th century, this is the rear of the Mermaid Inn but no ghosts in sight.
Rye was once an important port, which is now hard to believe as the sea is several miles south over marshland. The river silted up centuries ago leaving lots of flat land for sheep to graze.
My wife was in one of the small shops and they told her that the rear of where we were staying was once known as Fish Gut Row. This was where the local women would gut and clean the fish their men folk had caught.