The Mermaid Inn in Southeastern England is said to have housed pirates, gangsters, and even Queen Elizabeth I. According to some people, the inn still houses the ghosts of these people. The inn’s walls and structure if they could talk would have many stories to tell. But those stories are still locked up inside the inn. The inn dates back to the 15th century and was once used by smugglers and pirates whose ghosts are still said to supposedly inhabit the inn.
The story of the Mermaid Inn
The Mermaid Inn is situated near the port of Rye in East Sussex in England. It was once a popular tavern for sailors in the Middle Ages. However, the inn seems like it has stood on the cobblestone street since eternity. It was actually built in the 12th or 13th centuries. Its exact date of construction varies but according to popular belief, the cellar of the inn dates back to 1156. The inn was known during its apogee for its custom-brewed beer and its cheap lodging which was just a penny a night. But the town of Rye where the inn stands was almost entirely burned down by the French in 1377. It was rebuilt along with the inn in around 1420. By the 16th century, the locality in which the inn stood was renamed Mermaid Street in its honor. The inn stopped operating about 1770. It wasn’t opened till it was bought by its current owner in 1993. But the inn still looks the same today as it did back in time. Probably that’s why it is still believed to be haunted.
The Hawkhurst Gang
As a port town, the city of Rye was extensively used by the English crown when it was returned by France to England in 1247. It was used along with other such towns for the Crown’s military and trade purposes. It had to supply ships for the king’s use. In return, such towns received tax exemption as well as a lot of other freedoms. Rye thus became a breeding ground for smuggling with smugglers bringing tea, tobacco, silk, and alcohol into 18th century England through it. Though officials were overwhelmed by the number of smugglers operating in the town they still managed to confiscate the smuggled goods whenever they could.
One of the prominent but infamous gangs of smugglers operating in Rye was the Hawkhurst Gang whose main base in the town was the Mermaid Inn. This gang was known for its notorious activities in southeast England from 1735 to 1749. They are said to have terrorized other guests by keeping loaded weapons on the tables in the inn. As per legend, officials had confiscated tea from the Hawkhurst ship which the gang stole back from the king’s custom house in Poole. The gang also killed many people who opposed it. They are said to have buried alive an elderly official named William Galley after he attempted to apprehend a gang member known as ‘Diamond’. A shoemaker who had the gang’s smuggled goods in his possession and was called as a witness against the gang was also brutally murdered by the gang.
The violence was primarily due to one of the gang’s most brutal members named Jeremiah Curtis who beat a laborer named Richard Hawkins to death as he was suspected of having stolen two bags of the gang’s tea. Hawkins’ body was later found in the pond of a politician’s estate, weighed down with rocks. Two of the Hawkhurst gang leaders Arthur Gray and Thomas Kingsmill were executed for their crimes in 1748 and 1749 respectively. Kingsmill’s spirit is said to inhabit the Mermaid Inn where he is said to haunt a rocking chair in Room 17. Surprisingly no one remembers what happened to Kingsmill’s wife.
The hauntings at Mermaid’s Inn
A chambermaid was murdered by a smuggler in Room 5 after she spoke about his deeds. Thereafter chambermaids only entered the room in pairs. Apart from these, hotel patrons have also reported seeing a mysterious ‘lady-in-white’ walking through the hotel doors and stopping at the foot of their beds. She also is said to sometimes sit in a chair by the hotel’s fireplace. Several men along with women and children have also been reported as walking through the walls of the hotel. There’s a ghostly woman who is said to move clothes around. Many guests staying in the ‘James’ Room’ have woken up in the morning to find their clothes which had been left in a bedside chair to be soaking wet.
A pair of travelers told the staff of ‘The Sun’ that when the woman sat in the chair to take a photo, she felt something push into her and turned cold. When they looked back at the photo, it contained strange and unexplained orbs floating around the room. The crew of ‘The Sun Online’ stayed at the Mermaid Inn after seeing the hotel in an episode of the show ‘Most Haunted’. They set up a camera to record the famous self-rocking chair during the night. The crew later reported that their night vision camera which had been set up to capture any ghostly figures managed to eject its tape in the dead of the night. This happened despite needing to push a hard button and the battery of the camera being fully charged. With daybreak, they tried to replay their footage but the screen instructed them to ‘reinsert the cassette’.