I’m happy to announce I have been granted an exclusive interview with Barnesy, otherwise known as The Haunted Bartender.
Originally from a small village in North Wiltshire called Aldbourne, The Haunted Bartender has been working in the hospitality trade for over 30 years, managing pubs and hotels throughout the West Country. Barnesy has collated tales of reportedly haunted drinking establishments from around England and bought them together on his social media pages. This came about, he tells me, as a result of combining an interest in the paranormal with working in several haunted pubs and inns. Calling himself ‘The Haunted Bartender’ came about after a stint working in The Kings Arms in Monkton Farley, Wiltshire.
The King’s Arms, Monkton Farley
‘When I first saw the building, it was a gothic looking place and I fell in love with it. There was a sort of, connection to the building.’The Haunted Bartender
It turns out The Kings Arms has earnt itself quite the accolade after being named ‘Wiltshire’s Most Haunted Pub’.
As a 17th Century Grade 2 listed building, it has plenty of history. It is thought to have been built on the site of an 11th century Cluniac priory, which may explain why a couple of monks are just two of the resident ghosts. There is the mystery of the key that fails to fit any lock in the building. It was uncovered during renovations during the 1990s. A superstition attached to the key says, if it leaves the bar, trouble may start up in the building!
Barnesy says he has heard lots of strange noises over the years, working in old pubs and inns. He always tries to ‘de-bunk’ anything unusual before coming to a paranormal conclusion. The strange tales of his time working at the Kings Arms follows:
“It was about 7 pm and I had just opened the bar for the evening. I was just stood, arms crossed, resting back on the bar waiting for the first customer of the night. There was no one else in the pub at the time. Literally, no one. And no animals about the place. Donk, donk, donk. I heard sounds along the passageway above the bar. It sounded just like heavy, steady footsteps. Trying to be sensible, I thought to myself. ‘Oh, the central heating is making a bit of a noise with the water being pumped through the pipes.’ It was then I realised that it was the middle of Summer. There was no central heating on! There was no other explanation for the noises.”
These footsteps have been heard by other people too. Could it be the phantom footsteps of one of the monks he heard? And that wasn’t the only day The Haunted Bartender heard them either!
Another occasion he recounts took place in the morning when he first started working there. It was around 10 am and he was wiping down tables in the games area of the pub, preparing for the place to open. He got this feeling, a sense of something being with him, “Out of the corner of my eye.” Something had run across the corner of the room. It was small, around hip height and ran quite swiftly through the bar area. Being new to the pub he didn’t know anything of the other staff witnessing similar shadow. He remembers thinking it was a child. He called out, “I saw you!”
Later that day one of the bar staff, a local lady called Joy, came into work. Barnesy consciously didn’t want to put words in her mouth but wanted to find out if she could shed any light on what had happened. He vaguely bought up his experience.
She said, “Oh, you’ve probably met Miranda! She sometimes sits on the edge of the bed in room 2. Sometimes she cries and you’ll hear it coming from that room. She likes to play hide and seek with the staff.”
B was actually staying in room 2. He promptly moved out, into room 3.
Barnesy had several encounters with Miranda and says she often played hide and seek. He feels she was responsible for swinging the plug and chain of his bath, in the middle of the night. Have a look at this video. It’s pretty dark but Barnesy managed to capture it swinging one night.
Other ghostly apparitions have been witnessed at the Kings Arms. It’s definitely a place that needs more investigation from me and I intend to revisit this location in the future. In the meantime, if you would like to read more about the ghosts of the King’s Arms have a look at Haunted Wiltshire’s blog post here.
The Haunted Bartender at The Cedars, Axminster
It was around the same time, in the early to mid-90s, that Barnesy worked as head barman at The Cedars, in Axminster, Devon. No longer a hotel, it is now a residential home. Records show there has been some sort of property on this land for many centuries but the main part of the current building was built in 1799, with the main parlour added in 1817. Interesting, someone had thought to write about the renovations of the house and place the record in a bottle before bricking it up in a wall. The note was found in 1939 when it was converted into a hotel.
It was upon the third floor that Barnesy’s friend Darren, the hotel’s chef, lived. Darren would, at times, refuse to walk down a particular passageway and doorway on the top level to get to his room. He would sleep in any other spare room in the hotel when the ‘feeling’ got too much to ignore. Barnesy said they both ‘felt’ something dark up there. It wasn’t a good feeling and was just something that couldn’t be ignored. Their intuition told them it was best to stay away from whatever was up there. Even to this day Darren refuses to talk about what actually happened on that landing, 30 years ago.
But the hall wasn’t the only place where unexplained happenings occured. There were electrical issues in the bar and kitchen area of the pub that could never be resolved. An ice machine would often malfunction, despite being regularly serviced by a professional technician. Alarmingly, a coffee and tea vending machine once sprayed Barnesy with boiling water, at exactly the time he was discussing with his colleagues the possibility that the hotel was haunted. Almost as if ‘something’ wanted to show its presence.
The strangest of Barnesy’s experiences in this establishment happened down in the bar area one night after closing. John, the then owner of the hotel and Darren were chatting with Barnesy about some potential renovations, knocking two rooms into one. It was at this point that one of three heavy portrait paintings, that were securely hung on hooks, launched itself from the wall. It crashed down onto two tables, two or three feet away. The painting wasn’t damaged, the hooks were still in place. No one had even been near the painting for hours. It was almost as if someone listening was not happy about any potential renovations taking place.
Barnesy mentioned that this pub had a very large basement as many traditional old pubs and coaching inns did and still do. These cellars were quite often used as places to store bodies when they were being transported from place to place by horse and cart. This was before the days of electric and refrigeration and was generally the coldest part of these buildings. We chatted about basements and how oppressive and spooky they normally are.
Is it because of the lack of daylight and the fact they are underground that contributes to their atmosphere or is it because this is exactly the sort of place that any potential spirit may choose to hang out? A bit of both possibly?
The Three Horseshoes, Branscombe
The experience that Barnesy had at The Three Horseshoes, just outside Branscombe in Devon, is the one which can only be described as the witnessing of a full-body apparition. Again, this happened in the 1990s. The pub is now sadly derelict. Originally a coaching inn, it was built around 1830. The road it was built next to is an ancient one. There are records from 500AD mentioning a bank and ditch opposite the pub and even records dating back to the bronze age mentioning footpaths and tracks running along this road. There must have been many, many people who have travelled this route through the centuries.
Back to the spooky sighting! Barnesy was the head barman of the old coaching inn back then and was working a late shift alongside the chef, a Welshman by the name of Niel Watkins.
Niel lived at the back of the pub in an old static caravan. Niel suggested to Barnesy that he might like to stay over in the caravan for the night as he was going to be working the early shift the following morning. It seemed silly to drive all the way back to Axminster, where he was living at the time, to catch a couple of hours sleep only to turn around and come back again. The men finished work at around midnight and stayed up, burning the candle at both ends in the caravan.
It was around 3 am when they heard a loud commotion coming from the farm behind, known as Three Horseshoes Farm. The resident hens sounded very upset, as if a fox had managed to get into their house. Barnesy and Niel decided they should investigate and they headed out into the night. It was one of those very clear and bright nights that sometimes occur at the time of a full moon, almost as if it was daylight. Still and eerily beautiful.
As they went outside the hens seemed to settle and all was quiet. The light of the moon was so beautiful they stood looking out, enjoying the moonlit view across the car park and beyond, over the hills.
It was then they witnessed a young girl with long hair, wearing a long dress, just standing in the car park with her back to them. Barnesy tells me that Niel, in his strong Welsh accent said something along the lines of ‘what are you doing out here at this time beaut?’ She turned to look at them but as she did the noise of the hens started up again. Both men turned their heads back towards the farm for a brief look before turning back at the girl. But she had simply vanished. Completely gone! Barnesy told me the car park was gravel underfoot. There was no way she could have ‘just done a runner’ within those couple of seconds. They would have definitely heard her feet on the gravel and seen her running away.
It’s rare for two people to witness such an apparition at the same time. It alleviates the possibility of it being a hallucination of vision. Add to that the full moon and the time of the night, 3 am being known as the witching hour. You have yourself quite a sighting!
I asked Barnesy if he was scared. He said that he wasn’t. Just rather surprised. However, they both decided it was probably a good time to return to the safety of the caravan!
Despite my research, I haven’t been able to find out about any other sightings of this ghostly young girl. I wonder who she was? I guess we will never know!
The Haunted Bartender is currently waiting out the Covid pandemic on a boat in the West Country. He is, however, looking for the next exciting adventure, managing a historic pub or inn anywhere in the area. If you are looking for a new manager for your pub, hotel or inn, you can get in touch with Barnesy through any of his social media channels. He is happy to consider anywhere with a resident ghost!