Things that go bump in the night: Is your pub haunted? If so, could you make money from a 'haunted stay'?
An example of a pub with a strong haunted history is Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem in Nottingham. The Greene King site, which claims to be the UK's oldest inn, is run by Karl Gibson.
Karl says: "When you look at the The Trip, you know there are stories to be told by the sheer age of the building. Our most famous ghostly element is the cursed galleon, which has been around for hundreds of years.
"The curse goes that anyone to touch it or specifically clean it, then dies or becomes fatally ill. Most of the tales have come via previous staff, who have experienced odd goings on or been told stories. The pub used to be owned by the Ward family and people say the spirit of George Henry Ward, known as "Yorkey", often visits the pub and taps people on the shoulder."
Pub accommodation experts Guestline say creating a bespoke offer – such as haunted stays – helps to set your site apart from local hotels.
According to a recent survey by Stay in a Pub, only a quarter (27 per cent) of travellers would choose a pub over a branded hotel for their accommodation. Nevertheless, the trend towards converting upper floors or outbuildings is one of the most potentially profitable venues for pubs to explore.
Often these areas will come with ghostly stories attached. Chat to regulars and locals to find out the history of these buildings and see if you can come up with a story about former tenants.
Once you have the story, local or even national press interest can help spread the word. Karl says: "Every year through the local press we talk or present our ghostly history, especially around Halloween. You can also find videos on Youtube talking about it."
Lorna Jane Smith, who runs events and bookings for The George Inn in Southwark, London, says there is "definitely a story to be sold" when it comes to ghosts. "We have had celebrity clairvoyants looking for sensory experiences," Lorna says. I have had two such candidates in the last three years, who we have taken on a ramble through the dwelling, and they seemed impressed by the amount of ghouls still residing here."
Stay in a Pub's survey reveals two-thirds of customers now book online, with the figure going up even higher for millennials. You could list your rooms on sites such as directory HauntedRooms.co.uk or English Country Inns' listing page for haunted inns. Costs for the latter are £64 a year, while the former offers bespoke pricing.
It could also be worth trying to create a bit of a stir about your haunted rooms on social media (See 'Hair of the Dog',
Inapub April 2018, for an example of a pub that caused a buzz with a photo of a supernatural patron). Lorna says: "I have not put any information of alleged sightings on any social media but would contemplate that as a spinner at Halloween."
Nothing to be afraid of
But are there any negatives in the venue being promoted as "haunted"?
Karl says: "There is no downside to this, it's a great way for visitors and regulars to see a rich history in a different way. We are very proud and do everything we can to welcome everyone – and the ghosts play a part in that."
Lorna says: "Definitely not. It is its history. I just don't want to join their forces. We love the fact that old souls live amongst us!"
Make sure to check out local ghost walks and be in all the tourist guides, Karl advises. "The Trip has had a long-standing relationship with Nottingham ghost walk, which celebrates 25 years this year. Every Saturday we have guides who begin the walk from the pub then go around the local area explaining the rich ghostly history in our part of Nottingham. It's very popular and great for locals and visitors.
"There can be anything between 15 and 50 people every week on a walk. There will be a celebratory real ale created this year in July in honour of the 25 years."
Who you gonna call?
Another way to beef up the pub's haunted credentials is to call in the ghost hunters. The British Paranormal Association and several other ghost hunting firms should be able to assist.
Inapub also contacted TV's Most Haunted, which is shown on the Really Channel. A spokeperson for UKTV, which runs the channel, said the producers were always on the lookout for new pubs – and had visited several in recent series.
A new show called Help! My House is Haunted also features pubs. A number of pub visits are on the UKTV online channel, including The Fleece Inn in West Yorkshire, and Ye Olde Kings Head in Chester, Cheshire.
Could a guest from beyond the grave make your pub famous too?