Just beyond Holywell, on the edge of the River Ouse, stands the Ferry Boat Inn, according to Peter Underwood, writing in 1971, ‘haunted, for perhaps nine hundred years, by the ghost of Juliet’. She was said to be a young girl who deeply loved a rough local woodcutter named Tom Zoul. He preferred the company of his workmates, and she finally hanged herself for unrequited love from a willow tree on the banks of the river. As a suicide, she could not be laid in consecrated ground, so was buried on the riverbank, her grave marked by a plain slab of grey stone. The Ferry Boat Inn was later built on the site of Juliet’s ‘gravestone’, still to be seen in the floor of the bar.

Local tradition says that Juliet died on 17 March, and Underwood reports that for many years people have gathered at the inn on that day to watch for Juliet’s ghost, said to rise from the flagstone and drift out of the inn towards the riverbank where she died.

In 1955, the Cambridge Psychical Research Society sent a team of investigators, but their instruments showed no abnormality. The landlord told Underwood in 1965 of a dog that would not go near the ‘gravestone’ (a not uncommon phenomenon in old churchyards), adding, ‘of course the local women don’t come near the inn on March 17th.’

A rather different version of the story was given to Joan Forman in the 1970s or earlier by a local man who said he remembered his grandparents speaking of it and even then the story was old. According to this version, a lady in white walks into the pub and points to a certain flagstone on the floor of the bar. She was assumed locally to be pointing at the stone because it concealed treasure. Joan Forman says that it was ‘a psychical research society’ (possibly the Cambridge team of 1955) who claimed to have identified the protagonists in the story as Juliet Tewsley and Thomas Zowl (for Underwood’s Tom Zoul).

Guy Lyon Playfair in The Haunted Pub Guide (1985) adds that, in the past, the inn obtained a special licence to stay open until midnight (the witching hour) on 17 March in the hope that Juliet would appear, but that the last person to have claimed a sighting of her died in the 1960s.



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

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