Storyteller: Tales of folklore and paranormal activity in Chudleigh – Torbay Weekly

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Just before Christmas, I took David Hammond to revisit some of the locations that I’ve investigated in the past, with a view to recording updates and reminiscences for his radio show on Riviera FM.

Funnily enough, most of them involve pubs!

One of our stops was in Chudleigh, which, for a relatively small town, has more than its fair share of folklore and paranormal activity.

The place that first caught my attention was Chudleigh Rocks, said to be the home of the local pixie population, possibly a branch of the Dartmoor pixies, as its not that far away as the fairy flies!

I visited the stunning rocky outcrops many years ago, heading into the cave system to get a closer look at their potential habitat. Sadly, there was a locked metal gate preventing you exploring too far, so you had to content yourself with staring into the gloom, and imagining many pairs of tiny eyes peering back at you.

The area was popular with rock climbers and dog walkers, as it was on a public right of way. There was even a garden centre at one of the entrances.

Unfortunately, that has long since closed down, becoming overgrown, seemingly denying access to the rocks behind, but, hopefully, the pixies still reside there in the depths of their secret caverns.

Further up the high street, you come across one of many pubs that Chudleigh has, once catering for the many sheep farmers and merchants that frequented it back in the days when the town was big in the wool industry.

Sadly, many are long gone, and this one, The Bishop Lacey, has also recently had to close its doors, yet another victim of our current cost-of-living crisis.

It’s named after Edmund Lacey, once Bishop of Exeter. The pub is said to be haunted by the ghost of a monk, often seen on the stairs, and the figure of a woman in Victorian dress.

The staff regularly reported poltergeist activity, in particular, one door that appeared to open by itself. This bothered them so much, that they ended up keeping it wedged open.

On the night we were invited to investigate, and camp out in sleeping bags on the bar floor, I made a point of keeping this door closed, placing a chair in front of it, then taking it in turns sitting there and seeing if anything would happen.

During the night, somebody accidentally stumbled against this door, the poor girl on the chair at the time shot out of it screaming, scared half to death. The incident was captured on camera, and now resides in the outtakes file of TIP’s film archives.

Towards the other end of the high street, is situated another pub, now known as The Phoenix, so called as it has risen from the ashes of The Old Coaching House that was damaged in a fire back in 2011. It narrowly escaped destruction during the Great Fire of Chudleigh, which took place in May 1807.

When we investigated the building’s history of unusual activity, many present claimed to still feel heat coming from the end walls, the other side of which the great fire was finally extinguished.

Were they experiencing some sort of residual energy from that historical event, or a premonition of the 2011 fire?

When we made our recent visit, we found the new owners in the middle of decorating for Christmas, and we couldn’t help but admire the beautiful village scene on display in the window.

The proud landlady told us it was a much-cherished family heirloom from her own childhood, that she now loved to share with her customers, both young and old alike.

The Christmassy village decoration in the window of The Phoenix
The Christmassy village decoration in the window of The Phoenix

While we chatted, we swapped stories of what spooky activity they experience today, compared with what we experienced during the many visits we made there when the previous landlady called us her ‘Ghostbusters!’

It would appear they still have problems with one of the cubicles in the ladies’ toilets, often finding it locked from the inside for long periods of time, and when they finally gain access to it, no one is there.

During our time it was an hotel, with rooms upstairs that we could check out. Now they are private flats, totally separate from the pub.

I recalled an incident when one of our team was investigating a cupboard under the stairs, members of staff not liking the atmosphere there, claiming equipment was often found thrown around after the door was locked. She came out covered with odd scratches, but said nothing had touched her.

We then took it in turns going inside to see if anything else happened… it didn’t.

On another occasion, one of our sensitives claimed to pick up on the presence of a male and female in one of the rooms, both appearing quite agitated.

The woman seemingly confined to the bed with a fever, while her partner paced the floor, continually checking out the window. Their style of dress suggested French aristocracy, from the time of the French revolution.

Maybe they had been brought here by carriage, and were expecting to be moved on, or, worse, captured and sent back to France.

We were always happy to help, whenever they experienced anything unusual at The Old Coaching House. One night they called us in over reports of strange orbs hovering over the car park, captured by their external CCTV camera.

My friend and I spent ages puzzling over the footage they showed us, until the penny finally dropped – it was a spider spinning a web over the camera!

Because it was so close to the lens, it was flaring up like a bright orb, and its repetitive action, crawling over the fine thread, made it look like it was hovering outside.

Another case successfully solved by the boys of TIP!

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