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Source: Essex Enquirer 30 Oct 2002
By Kim Gandy

As ever intent on providing it’s readers with a chilling Hallowe’en tale, the Courier’s Kim Gandy drove psychic Patricia Putt, without giving her any prior information, to England’s most haunted inn one dark, windy night.

St Ann’s Castle, on the ancient thoroughfare that runs through Great Leighs, is, allegedly, the oldest inn in England, having been built around 1170. Its proximity to Leez Priory and the fact that it is bang in the middle of prime Essex witch country makes it a hotspot of spiritual activity, with more than its fair share of things that go bump in the night.

When we were within a mile of our destination, Patricia started to complain that her legs felt weak and she became visibly uncomfortable as we pulled into the car park. As we approached the steps to the entrance, she declared that “they” wouldn’t let her enter. However, with the help of a bible and holy water, we gained admittance.

I introduced Pat to the landlady, also called Pat and we set off on our psychic voyage. Our first stop was one of the bedrooms in which our medium heard a baby crying. Apparently this was emanating from a tiny anteroom. She picked up on the fact that the mother of the child was also present and asked the landlady if she’d recently rearranged the room and why. The landlady stated that she had indeed rearranged the room at 2.30 that very morning, having felt a huge compulsion. The spirit mother had, it seems, compelled her to do it, as the room layout had interfered with the positioning of the child’s crib.

In the next bedroom, Pat saw a man dressed in hunting gear, apparently of the year 1380; as she was stating that she felt the man had followed the black arts, a crash of thunder and flash of lightning shattered what was left of my composure, sitting, as I was, just three feet away from where Pat had claimed to have seen him. At this point, I retired, quivering, to the landing.

Throughout the investigation, Pat perceived the presence of monks but described their behaviour as anything but Christian. She ‘felt’ the presence of nearby Leez priory, even though not particularly familiar with the area and having been driven there in the dark.

In the main bedroom, a royal connection came through, with a strong sense of Anne Boleyn and Elizabeth 1. (The Queen Anne is reputed to have stayed in this room: although the others may have, it is not documented.) The tragic nine days’ queen, Lady Jane Grey, Pat felt, had stayed here on her last journey to London. She then pointed to an area of the ceiling and said that a comprehensive search would turn up some “interesting documents”.

As we continued around the upper floor, several details connected including the fact that the mother of the baby and the man in red and black had been linked and that this man had, in fact, strangled the woman.

It was whilst we were in this room that Pat went into a trance and the country voice of a spirit called ‘Anne’ came through. It appeared that Anne was a young girl who had been tried as a witch. As tears ran down Pat’s face, the voice claimed to have asked ‘Mary’ to help her. It continued: “I pray my end is soon and the pain is not too much. I have had a good life in this place.”

Later, Pat claimed to hear buzzing “like bees”, which is quit feasible as monks kept honey bees to make mead. Another spirit complained that she didn’t like her remains having been disturbed. This story is corroborated by the fact that there is, in fact, a piece of rock outside the pub, locally referred to as the ‘scrapfaggot (old name for a witch) stone’. This had been driven over by a Second World War tank and thereafter removed to its present position. After this occurrence, all kinds of strange events started to occur inside the pub, including clocks going backwards.

The bathroom, it turned out, was the worst place in the house. Pat found herself drawn to an anteroom beyond the shower cubicle, which, after a couple of minutes she hurriedly left, claiming she could feel stabbing sensations and smell burning flesh. She insisted that awful things had happened and appeared reticent to go into too much detail. By now all the hairs on the back of my neck were on end!

Our last port of call was the cellar and Pat claimed that she could ‘feel’ darkness (although it was lit) and wanted to ‘claw her way out’. The cellar is, in fact, the means by which the monks would enter and leave the inn, via, reputedly, two tunnels connected to the priory.

After our chilling investigation we repaired to the bar - which is very much in the present, with its contemporary music and sceptical regulars - and the two Pats began to compare notes. As Pat the landlady already knows several psychics and has also compiled a history of the pub, she was able to corroborate much of what Pat the psychic had touched upon, including the presence of the woman and child and the connection with royalty. The scrapfaggot stone story is not widely known and the bathroom has been the room that most psychics have shied away from.

Interestingly, the psychic had correctly picked up on spirits from different historical periods in the appertaining parts of the inn as, with most ancient buildings, some parts had been added over the centuries.

Sceptical though I may have been to start with, the ghosthunting tour proved fascinating from a historical perspective. However, the accurate timing of the thunder and lightning shook me rigid. I thought that only happened in films!