WALKING through the doors of the 272-year-old pub The Eclipse Inn, I sense something in the air – and it’s not just the smell of cheese and onion crisps.
Over the past year, co-manager Elliott Fearns claims there has been “a worrying spike” in paranormal activity that, fittingly enough, is targeting his premium spirits.
After reporting how high-end gin stoppers were mysteriously popping off at the boozer, The Sun decided to drop by for a pint – and see if our team had the bottle for a spooky investigation.
The night before we visited the 16th-century building in Winchester, Elliott claims shots of jager flew off the shelves and caught the evidence on CCTV.
The psychology graduate, who has worked in the pub since last July, says there is a paranormal experience “at least once a week” and now his staff are being targeted too.
And it turns out the pub has a sinister history – with stories of burial grounds and a grisly execution that will put even the most hardened regular off his pork scratchings.
Mysterious case of the sliding jagers
Leading us up the creaky and uneven stairs – designed that way so that no one could sneak around without being heard – we reach a dingy stock room.
It was here that Elliott, 28, had his first run-in with the ‘haunted entity’.
“I was in here late at night and I could hear things moving around me, it was really quite scary,” he explains.
“I didn’t turn the light on because I expected to be in and out but it was really freaky. The next day the room had a strange feeling and the atmosphere was heavier.”
Next, he points to a small flatscreen besides a broken shisha pipe that was allegedly smashed during one ‘encounter’ – and rewinds the pub’s most recent CCTV recording.
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Elliott explains: “I poured the jagerbomb shots and bent down to get the Red Bull.
“Suddenly the Jagermeister goes flying off the shelf. A couple landed in the glass and some on the floor. It went everywhere and was very sticky.”
We watch the footage several times and, as Elliott says, there’s no doubt something is amiss.
But was it Casper the thirsty ghost… or just the result of a slippery bar surface?
Back at the low-ceiling pub’s bar, we inspect the bottles of Silent Pool Gin and The Source Gin, which retail for £52 and £35.
Elliott explains it’s “not easy” to remove the bottle stoppers and after an arduous time tugging at the glass and cork caps, I finally manage to prise them off.
“The spirit definitely has good taste because it’s going for the premium ones and not the cheaper stuff,” Elliott jokes.
“We don’t know if the spirit is into gin or Jagermeister but we do a good deal on the jagerbombs – three for £7 – so it’s probably just watching its money!”
Morgan Barrass, 20, from nearby Eastleigh, who has worked at The Eclipse Inn for six months, tells me there are certain things she cannot explain.
“One night when I was upstairs it felt like there was someone cuddling me but no one else was in the room, it was a little bit creepy
“Another time I was in the cellar and heard a noise like an ale pouring, when I came upstairs one of the taps running and the drip trays were full of beer.
“It was odd because I had just cleaned them and always leave them in a certain position to show that they are clean. They were not how I left them.”
Ghoul soldiers & a spirit cat
There are a number of theories behind the spooky goings-on that come from a range of sources… including the local medium.
Elliott recalls one man allegedly seeing a cat in September during the middle of the day – when questioned if he was drunk, he replied: “No!”
He claimed the pub hadn’t had a resident pet for years and when he probed the gentleman further, he was told it was a “spirit cat”.
Years earlier, an American paranormal expert said she saw a spirit soldier in the pub, while another person spotted the ghost of a little girl.
In many ways, it’s no surprise to hear paranormal tales. The area is steeped in history and prior to hosting spirits – of all kinds – the building had a number of previous lives.
It was initially built in 1540 as a rectory for the Church of St Lawrence and later was part of a Norman graveyard, where monks were said to be buried.
The haunted household was also a private residence and inn before becoming an alehouse in 1750.
Innocent Samaritan beheaded
One of The Eclipse Inn’s explanations for the hauntings is the story of Lady Alicia Lisle, who was the last woman to be executed by a judicial sentence of beheading in England.
The 68-year-old was found guilty of harbouring fugitives from the Monmouth Rebellion in 1685 and put to death.
George Jeffreys, known as ‘The Hanging Judge’, allegedly coerced the jury into overturning their not guilty verdict twice and ordered for her to be burned at the stake to “make an example of her”.
News of the case spread to King James II, who decried a woman of such stature shouldn’t be set on fire, and insisted she should have her head chopped off. How kind!
The night before her death, she was held upstairs in what’s now known as the Lady Lisle Room and watched as the scaffolding for her beheading platform was constructed.
On September 2, she was led out of the window on to the wooden structure where she met her end at the hands of an axeman in front of a large crowd.
Elliott says: “Lady Lisle was a nice lady, she took in the fugitives because she thought they were homeless and didn’t know they were criminals on the run.
“She was pardoned after her death, it was a shame it happened then, but it changed the law surrounding how women were treated.”
Elliott, the staff and locals all believe it’s the ill-fated Samaritan who haunts the building and have spoken to a medium.
‘Spirit stopped pub burning down’
According to Elliott, the unexplained events are not all terrifying and one may have stopped the pub from burning down.
“Someone lost their phone in the pub. It was strange, it just disappeared. Later they set an alarm off to find it and it was tucked all the way at the back of the fireplace,” he says.
“They hadn’t been anywhere near that part of the pub. I believe it could be fate because I found a melting plug socket near the phone.
“It smelled like burning and maybe it was put there on purpose by the spirits to give us a sign that the pub could set on fire.”
Other alleged hauntings are more “light-hearted”, including the fridges and freezers doors being left open.
“I wouldn’t do it myself. I’m the co-manager of the pub, I’m not going to let the food go to waste by leaving the doors open,” insists Elliot.
If no one wants to believe me that is fine. The truth never lies and I’m telling the truth
Locals laugh as the co-manager tells his ghost stories – including Penny Catchpole, who believes people’s “imaginations are carrying them away”.
But for Elliott it’s definitely real. He says he’s been targeted more than any other worker at The Eclipse Inn, and doesn’t care if no one believes him.
“I can only explain what has happened to me and if there’s science behind it or evidence to disprove what I believe, do come and tell me,” he says.
“If no one wants to believe me that is fine. The truth never lies and I’m telling the truth.”
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