My first contact with this hotel was when I was asked to conduct a paranormal investigation with a local radio station for their Halloween programme.
We were looking for the Lady in Grey and the victim of a murder, maybe the murderer was still about too as there was something not very nice on the back stairs. We found much more than we bargained for, so much so that during a glass moving experiment the glass almost flew off the table! With its rabbit warren of corridors and back stairways I decided a full public investigation was called for which we carried out in March 2006. We were not disappointed.
Hidden behind a Georgian facade, the Great White Horse Hotel is a timber framed coaching inn dating back almost 500 years to the 16th century. Today the original courtyard still remains, though now glazed over.
Originally built on this site in 1518 and previously called The Tavern it gave it’s name to the street it stands on. It was rebuilt, strangley enough, in 1815 and it’s guest list reads like a who's who of historical and famous people.
From 1520 onwards, The Duke of Norfolk, Queen Elizabeth 1st, King George II, King Louis XVIII of France and Lord Nelson (then High Steward of Ipswich) with Lady Hamilton. Charles Dickens was another famous guest, featuring the hotel in the Pickwick Papers. In more recent times Edward VIII and Mrs Simpson (after the abdication) and many more names you will know from your history books.
As for our investigation, the disembodied leather boots of a soldier were seen walking along a back corridor and contact was made with a servant girl, we believe the murder victim we originally searched for. The table on wheels we use for Table Tipping danced around the ballroom, as if the ghost in contact was re-living the memory of a bygone age. Unexplained moans, an uncomfortable energy; we believe may have been the murderer, remained unidentified, weird lights and EVP: (Electronic Voice Phenomena) captured by a customer on their camcorder, completed the weekend.
The strange thing about the EVP is that it was in French. We know that Louis XVIII of France and his entourage stayed there but we were unable to ascertain if one of his staff were killed or died there. The customer was waiting and filming in a corridor with his team ready for their next experiment. One of the team asked if anybody knew if this was the right place. The answer, recorded in French said “File d'attente ici”, translated to “Queue here”. It would seem ‘they still serve those who stand and wait’.
On a more normal note, the artist Jevan Watkins Jones was in residence at the Great White Horse Hotel from September until December 2001. During this time, he recorded and reflected upon the tedium and buzz that a hotel encounters in its daily life. His works; The Housekeeper, the Head Chef, the Night Porter and All – Life at The Great White Horse Hotel, were displayed in The Room Upstairs gallery at Christchurch Mansion, Ipswich: 8th December 2001 – 27th January 2002.
John Blythe is Senior Executive Manager for Haunted Weekend who organise public paranormal investigations in haunted hotels and castles throughout the UK. He has appeared on television with Haunted Weekend clearing a haunted house and has featured in and written for many paranormal magazines. He is also a featured expert on the paranormal for World Reviewer, a website that specialises in unique experiences.