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Ghostly goings-on at Radlett pub
I am not a wimp. I laughed through Paranormal Activity and did not flinch once during The Exorcist, and I watched that when I was ten-years-old.
So when I was given the chance to ghost hunt in the haunted Waggon and Horses pub, I jumped at the chance, hoping it wouldn’t leave me jumping for my life.
Legend has it that a gambler was murdered here, and that his ghost still wanders the cobbled walkways at nightfall, waiting, watching.
It happened on a chilly October night in 1823. The sky has turned from grey to amber and the wind sweeps the autumn leaves across the empty lane.
William Weare and John Thurtrell are on their way to a game of blind hookey when their horse drawn carriage rattles to a halt.
One of them is about to die.
The stars above light the Waggon and Horses, where merry townspeople dance to the sound of folk music that fills the entire street. Thurtrell draws his gun from his pocket, his eyes laced with a menacing glare, and shoots Weare in the face over a gambling debt of £300. Blood pouring from his cheeks, Weare runs for dear life towards the pub but is met by a tackle from Thurtell, who gouges his face with a knife until his brains spill to the ground.
In a fit of delirium, the cold blooded murderer and his two friends, Joseph Hunt and William Probert, stash his body in the well in the pub’s garden.
And as if nothing has happened, the trio then order themselves a meal of mashed potato and pork chops and spend the night drinking.
Chillingly, the murder was summed up in a child’s rhyme: They cut his throat from ear to ear, His head they battered in.
His name was Mr William Weare, He lived in Lyons Inn.
Rob Hutchings, the new landlord of the 500-year-old pub, admits: "A few things have happened here that rattled me a bit. "The fireplace keeps blowing gusts of smoke onto the bar but the chimney fittings are all sturdy.
"A pot once tumbled from the kitchen worktop missing the ledge that should have caught it - and then there was the time a spotlight randomly fell from the bar.
"It all feels mischievous though, almost like it is being done on purpose by somebody who just wants to play."
Then he gets a bit more serious. We are sat by a swelteringly hot fire, but his lip quivers slightly and his eyes widen. It makes me tremble. "I do feel a spooky sensation around here sometimes. The corridor leading out to the back door gives me the shivers when I am here alone. I feel like I am being watched".
Could it be a coincidence that Thurtell entered the pub through that very door after hiding Weare’s limp and lifeless body down the well?
Perhaps a hint of naivety on my part, I plead Mick and Sue Churchill, paranormal investigators from Crystal Moons, in Drayton Road, to take me to the well.
The old well was destroyed years ago - but Rob tells me that a new one was built in homage to the murder around one hundred years ago. As we get up to go, Sue points at the window right behind where I was sat. "There was a young woman who would stare out the window, waiting for something that never came.
"She feels sad."
Outside, the city lights below us set the crisp, autumn fog alight and the air is chillingly cold.
As I try to warm my hands in my coat pocket, Sue and Mick both turn their attention to the same, single spot in the garden. Their eyes closed, they look locked in thought.
"It feels powerful. There was blood spill here", says Mick poignantly. "There is a strange feeling, like we are being watched. "It is an earthly, neutral energy and it means us no harm - but it means is no good either. "Something happened here, it is an important site."
"Is it going to follow me home?" I joke, in a bid to shake off the nerve-jangling feeling I am overcome with.
Slowly, Mick moves over to the grassy spot where the old well used to be. "I can feel something here. I can’t put my finger on it but for a split second I felt something negative, and then it went. It doesn’t want to be seen.
"There is no way of proving this. It is just a strange feeling I got."
In a tribute to Weare, Rob and his co-landlord, Geoff Taylor, are serving Weare’s Last Supper as a limited edition menu option for Halloween.
After drinking the night away, an inebriated Thurtell decided to move his victim’s body from the well with the help of two accomplices.
They dumped the corpse in the Slough Hill Pond, in Allum Way, but in their drunken state forgot one thing - the blood stained knife was still on the street outside the pub.
It was not until he was lead to the gallows that a remorseless Thurtell finally admitted his crime.
Do I believe the pub is haunted? I like to keep an open mind about things, but my ghost hunting experience did leave me feeling a bit spooked.
The pub’s incredible history definitely makes the place all the more fascinating. I just don’t fancy sampling Weare’s Last Supper anytime soon though, just in case...
Read more about the murder here http://www.watfordobserver.co.uk/nostalgia/crimelibrary/johnthurtell/