The very curtains of her bed seemed at one moment in motion, and at another the lock of her door was agitated, as if by the attempt of somebody to enter. Hollow murmurs seemed to creep along the gallery, and more than once her blood was chilled by the sound of distant moans.
– Northanger Abbey, chapter VI
I am pretty sure that Catherine Moreland would have loved to spend a night at the George Inn in Norton St. Philip. It’s one of those ancient inns with low beamed ceilings and creaking stairs that without a doubt have an amazing effect on a 17 year old girl with a very lively imagination. Or for that matter, on a 37 year old travel guide writer who is visiting places that have a connection with Jane Austen.
In 2013 I spend a night at the The George Inn. It was used in the brilliant film adaptation of Persuasion from 1995, as the inn where Anne Elliot and her party are staying in Lyme Regis. I thought it would be special to stay the night there, and have a bite to eat in the same room as Anne (Amanda Root) and captain Wentworth (Ciarán Hinds).
It seemed like a great idea, until, the night before, I read a review on Tripadvisor. It made my hair stand on end. I suddenly wasn’t sure I wanted to stay at the George Inn all by myself.
The review was from a gentleman who was very positive about his stay at the inn, but there was something that was still bothering him. During the night he had woken up from a creaking sound. He had looked to his wife, but she was fast asleep next to him. Then he looked at the rocking chair that was standing next to the bed. It was rocking. And there was no one in it.
I was extremely relieved when I checked in at the George Inn that there was no rocking chair in my bedroom. There was a huge closet, which I decided to keep shut. No ‘inventory of linen’ for me, thank you very much! I must say that I had a pretty good night’s sleep. No creaking sounds, no hollow murmurs, no distant moans. The only downside of my stay was that I bumped my head four times to the doorframe of the bathroom. As if it was getting smaller every time I walked through it. But I was surely only imagining that. Or was I …
The next morning I decided to ask the girl behind the bar about the rocking chair. ‘Oh yes, we do have a ghost here’, she said matter-of-factly, as only the English can. ‘But don’t worry, it’s a friendly ghost.’ As I turned to leave, touching the bump on my head, she added: ‘Although he likes a good prank now and then.’