Phantom buildings are not so common in British folklore as ghostly riders or coaches, but they are occasionally mentioned. One such tale, which was told to the folklore collector Ruth Tongue in 1970, concerns a traveller caught in a heavy snowstorm on the wolds near Dursley, who was delighted to see the lights of an inn ahead of him. A little old groom came out to attend to his horse, and he himself was shown to a warm, comfortable bedroom by ‘a servant in green livery’, and well fed. He woke before dawn, wanting to press on as soon as possible to Stroud, and, as he could find nobody about, he left two guineas on the table and rode off.

The friends waiting in Stroud had been anxious about him, so he told them he had stopped off at ‘that splendid inn above Dursley’. ‘There’s no inn at Dursley,’ said his friends. To settle the argument he led them back to the spot, but all they could find were the tracks of the traveller’s own horse, and two guineas lying in the snow. ‘I’m told they come out on stormy nights,’ said his friend’s wife, ‘and they never take payment. They never stay after cockcrow. It’s lucky you went early or you’d have waked in the snow.’

There are details in this story implying that it is fairies, not ghosts, who help the traveller; the servant’s green livery is one such, and another is the final remark about waking in the snow, for this is often said to be the real fate of those who are deluded into thinking they are guests in fairy dwellings. However, there are similarities with the tale at COLD ASHTON, which does seem to involve ghosts.



Haunted England : The Penguin Book of Ghosts – Written by Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson
Copyright © Jennifer Westwood and Jacqueline Simpson 2005, 2008