I was contacted a little while ago by a women who is the Landlady of a pub named the Bird In Hand in Blidworth, a village in the county of Nottinghamshire, England and she kindly related to me her experiences of weird goings on at the pub.
The Bird In Hand is the local watering hole for the people of the village and thanks to its stunning views and great menu it is also visited by people from far and wide. Mara and her family have been (at the time of writing) in the pub for nearly 18 years, arriving in time for millennium celebrations. Mara tells me that she first noticed or rather felt things were a little amiss within the first two weeks of moving in.
“I had the feeling of being watched and was forever looking over my shoulder expecting someone to be there especially in our living quarters. It was nothing negative. Just that knowing someone was there. But as you do, it was a new place and I just brushed it off as my imagination and unfamiliarity with our new surroundings and never really gave it a second thought. At this point it didn’t even occur to me to think it was anything paranormal.”
I think most of us can relate to feelings of unease and maybe a little discomfort at moving into a new home and that coupled with starting a new business it’s not surprising she decided on the rather normal explanation she did. But as we will see this was just the start, because within the first month says she encountered a full body apparition.
“We had not long since moved in and were still sorting the living quarters out. We had furniture and wardrobes piled up in the passageway ready for moving to their designated rooms. It filled the passage completely, floor to ceiling. I came out of the bathroom to find a man standing on the landing, he was an older gentleman and he just stood looking at me. Quite startled at finding him there I also stood for a moment looking back at him with numerous questions running through my mind, the first one being, how on earth had this customer found his way upstairs to our living quarters as there is only one way in and out and that is by going behind the bar to get to our stairs. Why didn’t our bar staff stop him? My next thought was hang on a minute the pub is closed! As was common practice back then, pubs like ours would close for a few hours in the afternoons and this was mid-afternoon, so not only had he found his way upstairs, how had he gotten in to the pub as it was closed & locked for the afternoon? I then remember thinking that his clothing was a little odd, but that to one side, thinking somehow beyond the odds, this gent was simply lost, I asked him if I could help him. He looked me straight in the eye, then smiled at me and before I could say anything else to him, he turned and walked straight through the furniture that was piled up in the passageway and disappeared. This left me completely bemused thinking that’s not right. I checked the furniture to see if there was any way he could have managed to squeeze through a gap but there wasn’t one. Even a cat would have struggled to get through that lot! I went around the other way to the other end of the passageway to see if he’d managed to end up in the bedroom or lounge, he was no-where in sight and he would have had to pass me in order to go back downstairs. So, that was my first inkling that we may have some non-paying residents! All in all, the whole thing probably only lasted a minute or two, but as far as I was concerned, this was a living person, a lost customer, but clearly after the event, I realised he wasn’t.”
Mara goes on to say that although she has told other people that story she has never given anyone a detailed description of what the spectral gentleman looked like. The reason behind this was the idea that should someone else see the apparition and describe the same thing then she would have a certain amount of personal confirmation that she saw what she saw, and the experience was genuine. Well, she would have to wait for a few years but, eventually, Mara had the confirmation she was looking for when an ex-pat couple, who at the time lived in South Africa, came to visit the pub for a little nostalgic trip down memory lane. It turned out that this couple used to run the pub way back in the 1970s, and it wasn’t long before the conversation turned to talk of ghosts and the paranormal and that’s when they made a revelation. They described to the landlady the exact same gentleman as she had seen but, sadly upon questioning they did not know anything else about him. So, after one fortuitous chance meeting Mara tells of meeting with another person a short time later who added another couple of pieces to the puzzle, she says:
“A few weeks after this couple’s visit, a gentleman who no longer lives in the area also came in for old times sake as he was back in the area after several years. He told me his parents used to bring him in to the pub when he was a child and he was in his mid-80’s at the time of telling me this. He told me that as a child, he would see a ghost and then went on to describe the same man in full detail! He also told me the ghosts’ name and that he had worked here, but couldn’t remember what he did. So, I have my confirmation that what I saw was real and that he has been haunting my place for at least 75 years!”
At this point, I did ask Mara for the name of the ghost but she was reluctant to give it to me for the same reason as she didn’t want to let anyone know what he looked like. You see, if anyone in the future should say ‘Oh hey, I just say this ghost that looked like X and he told me his name was X’ then she would know they were on the level.
It is not just the living quarters of the old pub that is frequented by suspected spooks the kitchen has been a source of anomalous goings on as well. There have been many bangs and crashes heard emanating from the kitchen and to the best of my knowledge Gordon Ramsey was nowhere in sight! In fact, the kitchen was always empty of people, Mara Explains:
“Several years ago, there was just one of my staff and myself in the pub one morning getting it sorted ready for opening, when we heard an almighty crash come from the catering kitchen. It sounded like the shelving rack & all the saucepans had fallen to the floor and bearing in mind these are not domestic saucepans but huge catering ones, that’s a lot of saucepan. So, I asked the staff member to go and see what had fallen over. She point-blank refused to go in there by herself so off I trot closely followed by my staff. We got in there to find absolutely nothing out of place! Bearing in mind this is only about a minute at the most since we heard the crash, I then went outside wondering if a car had crashed in the car park, again absolutely nothing! Back in the catering kitchen, I examined the shelving unit that holds the saucepans, this is firmly attached to the wall and all the saucepans are in place. We looked everywhere to find the cause of the noise, but again could find nothing out of place. I jokingly put it down to my ‘prankster’ ghost, my staff wasn’t impressed as she would be working in the kitchen later. Just a few months ago, during one of our weekly quiz nights, a group of our regular customers who always sit next to the catering kitchen door, reported to me that they had just heard a very loud crashing noise in the kitchen! The kitchen is closed at this time of night so I know there’s no-one in there, however I went in to investigate. Again, I could find nothing out of place & again I checked the car park just in case … but nothing! Same experience years apart … coincidence? I’m biased, but I don’t think so…lol.”
Next, she tells me about an incident in the kitchen that was witnessed by two people up close and personal.
“One busy lunchtime my two waiting on staff came running out of the kitchen to me. I could tell they were alarmed and thought maybe one of them had had an accident. They tried to discretely tell me what was wrong but neither were making much sense and being aware that we had lots of customers in, I started to walk with them back to the kitchen. Both of them refused to go in so still a little confused myself, I took them in to a back area out of the way so they could explain themselves. It turns out one of them was in the middle of preparing some desserts and had a bowl on the work top. The bowl apparently moved by itself a few inches along the worktop, thinking nothing of it, the staff member placed it back in its spot. Just as she was about to add something to the bowl, it moved again! A little bemused, she then called the other staff member over and explained what had happened. As she was doing so, the bowl then slid a couple of feet across the worktop!! At this point, they both legged it out of the kitchen to me…lol. I went in to investigate and lo & behold, there was the offending bowl sitting at one end of the worktop and not in the middle where it should have been. I replaced the bowl back to the middle and waited … nothing happened, so then I tried nudging the bowl gently to make it move, it tipped a little and with a little more force, moved an inch or so. Undeterred and wondering if perhaps some moisture had been under the bowl causing it to slide, I then went and got some water and spread it on the dry worktop, placed the bowl on top and waited for it to move …it was going no-where, so again I tried nudging it. This time I had limited success as it moved a couple of inches but in a circular motion and had to stop it falling off the worktop, but it would not slide sideways or for the length of the worktop as it had before!”
But my favourite incident involving the kitchen once again involved a human shaped entity but it is unclear if it is the same as was seen upstairs, Mara says:
“Our pub has been serving customers for over 200 years now and I’m convinced the building is much older. Because of this, the rooms have been adapted rather than purpose built a number of times over the years and the old living quarters now make up our catering kitchen which consists of 3 small rooms with only one way in & out through the main room to the back two rooms. The main room consists of a swing door through to the pub, a back door opposite leading directly outside and a third doorway leading to the other two rooms. The chef’s work area is directly left of the swing door as you are working at it. A couple of years back, I was stood there preparing some food. Although I was looking at what I was doing, I saw my husband come through the swing door go past me and go in to the back room where our tea & coffee making facilities are. He would have been no more than a couple of feet away from me as he passed, as these rooms are very compact. I was talking to him whilst carrying on with what I was doing and he ignored me. I spoke to him again and still no answer, so thinking he either didn’t hear me or was pulling a deaf one, I went through to the other room … he wasn’t there, no-one was! There is no way he could have come back past me without my seeing him, but failing a logical answer for his absence, I went through to the pub and my husband was behind the bar. I asked him why he hadn’t answered me whilst he was in the kitchen and the glazed look in his eyes said it all, he thought I was going crazy because he hadn’t even been in the kitchen! There were no other staff working that shift and we were about to open, so no customers in the pub either. I have no clue who came through the room and passed me that day. But somebody did!”
So, next we move into the bar where generations of locals have spent many an enjoyable evening but the world to rights over a couple of good pints and as you might expect this area isn’t without it resident ghost, although this one isn’t a man but man’s best friend she had explained to me there had been several sightings of the dog but the follow I thought was great:
“We had a young man waiting on for us. He was clearly very uncomfortable about talking or hearing any stories about the pub being haunted, so once I realised this, I didn’t discuss anything more with him. It didn’t take much to realise first mention that we are haunted and he was ready for being off out the door. Anyway, he did put his notice in and on his very last shift, came to me complaining about a customer’s dog that was getting under foot whilst he was trying to serve meals. I casually asked him where the offending dog was and what sort of breed. He described the dog and the spot where our ghost dog has been see previously. I said nothing more but went out to see for myself…there was no dog in the pub and no one had been in with a dog that day. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I thought he had just met our ghost dog! Just a couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a customer who we’ve known for years. The subject turned to the paranormal and the pub and to my amazement, he went on to tell me about our ghost dog, describing it and where he’d seen it oh and our newest member of staff has seen it too! Maybe just coincidence? To this day, I’ve not seen it myself…but with several accounts of the same dog in the same area?”
Another experience that really interested me was that of a set of keys:
“This was a few years back too, last off as I was closing down for the night and the only ones left in were the people I could see in front of me. I put the keys there because they are trusted customers, but also, they would have had no reason to go past that spot as they left the building. I didn’t even look as I put the keys down as far as I was concerned I was basically just dumping the keys there for a minute. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I went to pick them up and I have tried many times to replicate how the keys were standing with the same bunch but never managed it.”
Ok so that nearly brings us to the end of our journey to The Hand In Glove but these stories only scratch the surface and if you would like to know more then why not pop in there for a good meal and maybe a chat about ghost whilst enjoy some of the other house spirits, and who know what you may encounter. So, my fortean friends I’ll leave you with just one more tale before they call time:
“One of my more recent experiences happened last year. My (adult) daughter and I had been out on a day trip and got back to the pub very late about 1.30 in the morning. we close at midnight so everything was locked up and in darkness apart from the emergency lighting. Knowing that the rest of the family would be in bed fast asleep by this time, we were very careful to make our way through the pub as quietly as possible so not to disturb anyone. Part way through I stopped because I could hear people talking and laughing. I turned to my daughter and her face told me she could hear it too before I even asked her! We knew where it was coming from but it sounded distant at the same time, so just to check, I popped to the window to see if by any chance anyone was outside. Highly unlikely as we are on the outskirts of a very quiet village, this was midweek and it’s rare for anyone to be around at this time in the morning, but thinking logically, this was the only place anyone could be. Of course, there’s no-one there. The voices had stopped, but we knew they were in the area we call the snug and not outside, however, I then wondered if anyone had left a T.V on upstairs so off we trot to find the place in complete silence…they were all asleep. It probably sounds incredible, but I have at least 7 residents that I know of and a couple that pop in from time to time too.”