The Ostrich Inn,
Saturday 13th September 2003.
On the evening of Saturday 13th September, 2003, seventeen Ghost Club members met at the Ostrich Inn in Colnbrook, Slough, to conduct an overnight investigation. Members in attendance were, (in no particular order):
Kathy Gearing, Milton Edwards, Steve Rose, Paolo Sammut,
Ken Marsh, Helen Johnson, Jo Holness, George Britten,
Philip Hutchinson, Ian Johnson, Nick Seear, Christine Britten,
Claire O`Malley, Dave Stephens, Shirley Mason, Darren Woodyer,
Unfortunately, due to a family emergency, Christine and George had to leave immediately after our meal and were not present for the investigation.
The pub is situated on the main High Street in the village, but it is not until you enter the car park at the rear, that you can appreciate the size of the building. As you look closer, three main historical periods are evident as the Inn grew in size over the years. Even with the thunderous roar of aircraft passing overhead from nearby Heathrow, it is easy to get a feel of the age of the building, and after a couple of hours, the noise from the planes seems to diminish and hardly registers.
The pub dates back to the 15th century, and was built on the site of an even earlier hostelry founded as far back as 1106 by Milo Crispin. The Ostrich Inn, (a corruption of the word “hospice”), was to be held in trust “for the good of travellers in this world and the salvation of their souls in the next!” It is said that King John stopped here on his way to Runnymede to sign the Magna Carta in 1215.
Paranormal activity at the Inn has been mentioned in many books, and suggests that the activity is a result of the gruesome acts carried out in the fourteenth century, by a Landlord by the name of Jarman and his wife. It is said that they would ply the poor unsuspecting traveller with ale and wine, after which their “victim” would retire to the “blue room” to sleep off his excesses. Once he was in bed, the Jarmans would pull a lever, which would drop the poor man through a trap door and into a cauldron of boiling water, (or ale), where he would scald and drown to death. Naturally, the Jarmans would strip their unfortunate victim of any valuables before disposing of his body in a nearby brook/stream. Legend has it that the Jarmans murdered over sixty wealthy travellers in this way. Perhaps this could be considered a rather unique interpretation of Crispins ideals!
A man by the name of Thomas Cole was their last victim. A clothier from Reading, he had managed to stay at the inn on previous occasions without coming to harm and was a frequent visitor to the area. The alarm was raised when his donkey was found and was recognised by locals. Mrs Jarman was arrested and the gruesome contraption discovered. Mr Jarman was later apprehended in Windsor Forest. It is widely believed that this is how the village of Colnbrook got its name, (Cole in the brook). Whilst it is recorded that the pair were hung for their crimes, it does not specify where this took place, but much speculation suggests that they would have been taken to the infamous Tyburn.
Phenomena has been reported over a lengthy period and includes sightings of ghostly figures, objects moving by themselves, electrical appliances turning off and on, doors closing by themselves and strange noises have been heard in unoccupied parts of the building. It seemed that the male members of our team might be in for a special treat, as apparently a girlish laugh has often been heard by men visiting the pub, and is thought to be a girl of about sixteen years old who loves the attention of the men!
Peter, the Landlord, introduced himself and gave tours of the building, including his private quarters. Although he and his wife have not had the pub for long, Peter was keen to join us as he feels sure that he often has company! In particular, he describes a feeling of being watched and believes it to be a young girl. In actual fact, a previous visitor suggests that it is a young girl who hung herself, or was hung from one of the beams upstairs. There is actually a groove which can be felt distinctly, although because of its height and position, cannot be seen easily by the casual observer. After some discussion, it was generally felt that a hoist may have once been positioned here, as this corridor is actually a walkway over the courtyard entrance. (This is not to preclude the idea that someone may have actually hung from the hoist). So vivid is the impression of this little girl to Peter, that he actually positioned a red rose in memory of her on the beam, some weeks ago.
The investigation was quite late in getting underway, as we were keen to wait until all customers had left the premises. The moment the last straggler passed through the door, we all moved downstairs to the main bar area which was to be our base for the night. Initially, we split into our respective teams and held a couple of vigils, but we were soon to discover, that very quickly we all had our own particular places of interest! For this reason, it seemed very much in our best interests, to let individuals investigate where they wanted and at their own speed. The building is quite spacious and is set out in such a way that this would not cause any real problems for anyone. As soon as he entered the premises, Ken Marsh, a platform medium, reported being met by a male presence in the bar asking his identity. When Ken answered by way of asking the same question back, the entity apparently remained silent, until later on when Ken was dining. Ken recalls, “He said his name was John and then he showed himself. I felt that there was no threat”. His dress was reminiscent of the sixteenth century. “I also asked if he could remember who was on the throne at the time he was on the earth plane”. His answer indicated Elizabeth (1). “With that I lost contact with him for the rest of the night”. During a conversation later in the evening, our host Peter, mentioned that a medium who had recently visited the pub, had also experienced a meeting with someone by the name of John.
Later, as we were congregating in the bar to organise ourselves and our equipment, high EMF readings were recorded around the fireplace and from the buildings front wall, to about 6-7 foot into the room. Several members, simultaneously witnessed a small ball of light, or orb, (of about 1.5” in diameter), shoot out from the left hand side of the brick fireplace and disappear behind a suit of armour. The light re-emerged seconds later, only to disappear again towards the top right hand corner. Several of us were quite sceptical at first, myself included, and thought it was possibly a moth or some other such insect passing through a beam of light. With this in mind, I proceeded to examine the area and search for a “flying culprit” but could find nothing. During the coarse of the night, this happened on several occasions with the majority of the team witnessing it, at one point or other. What was particularly interesting, was that this seemed to occur in conjunction with abnormally high EMF readings, registering during and for a little while after the lights appearance. At one stage, I witnessed the orb seemingly disappear into the suit of armour, and for quite sometime afterwards, the armour itself seemed to produce some very high readings, only to register nothing at all later on. At this point the spot lights were off and nobody was shining a torch etc, so this ruled out my “moth in a light beam” theory.
Ken attempted to make contact with any spirit lurking in the bar area, (not of the liquid kind). Dave writes:
01.16 Large EMF readings in the bar. The temperature is very warm which according to Ken, is due to the high energy in the room. Ken stated that there were a lot of spirits near.
01.20 Legs getting very cold whilst the upper part of my body is still very warm. The large EMF field is still measured on the Guass Meter. The levels around Ken are very large.
01.29 Ken asked the spirits in the room to stretch the flame. It appeared to stretch. When the flame finally dropped, there was a noticeable drop in the EM field.
01.30 Ken made contact with one of the spirits. No name was given. It was female and either could not remember or would not give her name
01.31 It is still very hot, yet my legs are frozen. EMF readings still high
Philip spent a little while dowsing near the fireplace after he had witnessed one of the “orbs” brief appearances. He recorded: “ white ball of light, as if from a torch, shot up to the top of the fireplace from behind the top of the suit of armour. Cannot be from car as occurred on inner wall where it couldn’t reach”. Needless to say, there was nobody shining their torch at this time. Philip noted that the rods seemed to react only when the electro-magnetic field was registering abnormally high.
PRIVATE LIVING QUARTERS:
Peter has had experiences in his private living quarters in the past, and very kindly showed teams around. Although no vigil as such was held in this part of the building, no members reported anything unusual.
THE JACOBEAN ROOM:
Situated up on the first floor, and used primarily nowadays as a function room, the Jacobean room was described by many members as exuding quite a pleasant feeling. Helen Johnson was able to produce some very strong results by way of crystal dowsing, and went on to say, “questioning seemed to suggest that one male and one other were present. Feeling in the room is oppressive but not unpleasant – like being in a very crowded room”. When spending some time in the room later on, Philip describes a feeling of “many people and impressions of swathes of movement on the floor”.
Jo Holness sighted an orb whilst in the room to the right of the door. She had the impression of an old mans bearded face, with sideburns and Ken found a number of cold spots. Dave writes, “ initial sweeps of the room identified four spots showing high EMF readings, there was no success however with dowsing. Continually sweeping the room, it was noticeable that the fields were moving. Four photographs were taken but no phenomena was found when analysed. It was then found that 3 of the EM fields had gone, leaving only one weak field in the room. It was almost like the spirits were trying to avoid us!!”
THE ELIZABETHAN ROOM:
Separated from the Jacobean room by wooden screening, the Elizabethan Room was where the group dined at the beginning of the evening. Jo had a sense of something “hovering” near the window both during the meal, and later in the evening.
Steve Rose attempted a question and answer session in this room and invited Peter to have a go as well. They apparently managed to make some kind of contact, but suddenly Peter dropped the rods and made a swift exit. There were concerns over our host as he had actually knocked himself out earlier in the day, so the team dispersed as several of the members searched for him to make sure he was okay. Peter had been startled by the strong movements of the rods and needlessly, was feeling a bit embarrassed, but was otherwise absolutely fine.
Ken and Dave were spending a quiet few minutes in the function room having a coffee when Ken reported “sensing a condition to the left side of the head” which he likened to a heavy blow to the head. Shortly after this they both could smell a strong and pungent odour. The nearest description Dave could think of was that it “smelt as if someone had not bathed for a long time”
Whilst chatting a little while later, Dave had inadvertently left the EMF meter switched on. It was lying on the table when it suddenly sprang to life showing a reading of 2-3mg. Ken tried to make contact but the Guass Meter dropped back to zero. After some coaxing by Ken no contact could be made as such, but the meter suddenly recorded high readings again.
The stairs, and the area of the Ladies toilets has been of particular note activity-wise in the past. Shirley and the rest of her group did seem to have results while dowsing and several members reported feeling that they were going to fall, however due to the age of the building, the stairs are very uneven and you can experience an sensation of being off balance everytime you negotiate them, and this could possibly attribute to this sensation. Shirley reported seeing a misty swirl on the ceiling over the stairwell and at the same point experienced ringing in her ears.
Jo noticed a small light apparently moving up the stairs very briefly.
Apart from this, there was nothing else to report on the stairs.
Several of the more agile and adventurous investigators made their way at different times to the attic. It is not easy to climb into, and even harder to get out of again! With the constant need to tread carefully on the rafters, and concentrate on your every step, and the fact that being an attic it is dusty and constantly gloomy, it would be easy to allow your mind to become subject to false impressions. I always feel that this is heightened when subconsciously you are aware that if the need arose, a fast exit would not be possible. Having said all this, the whole team acted very calmly and professionally.
Several members reported sudden drafts and cold spots, but all felt that this should be expected in such a place. However an impressive and sudden drop in temperature of just over six degrees was recorded at one point.
Ken felt that there was a great amount of energy up there and reported seeing green orbs, which was especially interesting later on when Ian Johnson took this very peculiar photo! A previous shot shows the same greeny-yellow light albeit smaller, so whatever this was, seemed to have been gathering in mass and on the move. Light-heartedly dubbed “slimer” on the evening, this anomaly is yet to be explained.
Philip reported some wild fluctuations of the Guass Master at the attic door.
My strangest experience of the evening, happened just outside the door that you access the attic. Steve and I were discussing the building in general, and he was moving towards me, away from the ladder which leads to the attic. All of a sudden, we both let out a “yelp”. We both stared at each other for several seconds, I think both of us feeling unsure about what had just happened and feeling shocked. I can only describe the feeling of something cold and heavy apparently moving at considerable speed, down from the attic and passing straight through both of us. I know it sounds daft, and admit to feeling quite embarrassed trying to describe it, but this feeling can be likened to nothing I have experienced before.
Despite being one of the places that staff feel very uncomfortable in, the wine cellar seemed calm and peaceful.
THE BLUE ROOM:
The infamous Blue Room, by its very reputation, would be most likely to conjure up feelings of unease. True to form, whether produced by residual energy or by the subconscious, feelings of foreboding, depression, distress and discomfort were reported. The room is warm as it houses various boilers and at present is used as a temporary store room. Having said all this, a very unusual phenomenon was witnessed by the majority of those present that evening.
Whilst conducting a vigil in this room, Paolo was positioned near a stool to the wall to the left as you enter the room. After a while, Darren reported seeing Paolos features changing and described him as having long straggly hair, a scarred face and hands and broad shoulders. The effects seemed to grow weaker and stronger but were always present with varied light levels.
A little while later another team reported very similar results. Philip writes, “myself and Ian, whilst sitting on the corner stool in the blue room, and on camera, underwent a great deal of profound and disturbing face changes”
Naturally, I wanted to check this out for myself, and when the opportunity arose, joined Steve, Shirley and Paolo in this room. Paolo sat on the stool, we dimmed the lights and waited. After a little while, I noticed that Paolos eyes were darting around the room, the pupils appeared dialated, he would stare at Steve and Shirley for a few seconds, and then start over. As I leaned closer to observe Paolos face, I discovered to my surprise that his eyes were actually firmly closed. At this point, I had to accept that there really did seem to be something quite odd taking place, and took up position right next to Paolo. (Firstly, so that I could be of assistance if there were problems, and secondly, so that I could observe from a different angle and at close quarters). A little while later, Shirley and Steve gasped and moved closer. They each said that Paolos face had changed, and Shirley said that his hands appeared gnarled and twisted like those of an old arthritic man. From my perspective, Paolos facial muscles seemed to be moving of their own accord, his hands did appear “odd” and was if I were observing them through a grey mist. His eyes were still closed. After a short time, Paolo started feeling extremely uncomfortable and moved away from the chair.
Steve Rose took up position next, and I remained on the seat which was next to him. He said that he felt quite comfortable and relaxed sitting there. After a few minutes, he started to act very oddly and started talking strangely as if “we were all wrong and there was something not quite right with us”, almost as if he didn`t quite recognise us. Paolo noted, “his entire manner of speech was very different to what it normally is and his features looked lightly distorted as though someone else were talking through him and making his facial muscles work differently”. The person sitting next to me felt very different and seemed to be exhibiting a growing anger in his mannerisms. I made Steve stand up and move away. A few minutes later, I noticed that Steve seemed “not quite with it” and called his name. I had to do this several times before he responded. When he did reply he was adamant that he had been joining in with the conversation and that he had responded right away. He said that all the time he had felt comfortable and relaxed, and did not seem aware of his previous behaviour. We left the room shortly afterwards and went outside to get some fresh air. Steve had become very drained and was quite disturbed that his memory of what happened did not seem to correlate with what had actually occurred.
One of the most dramatic changes of the evening seemed to happen to Ian Johnson who sports a very dark beard. When he sat in the chair, he appeared clean shaven to the onlookers, (one of which was his wife Helen, who is naturally very familiar with his true features).
Whilst many of the members witnessed this, there were some in the groups who didn’t. Whilst sceptical at first, believing it to be a result of simply eyes refocusing and adjusting to the darker conditions, I have to say that I think this can be partly dismissed due to the experimentation with different light conditions. What was particularly impressive, I think, was that this “phenomenon” seemed to occur to a variety of subjects, and witnessed by a mixed group simultaneously, and for some reason always on this particular spot.
As always with this type of investigation, when something happens, you come away with even more questions than you started with. Traditionally, “transfiguration” is performed, (if that’s the right word), by physical mediums in “red light” conditions. According to the Spiritualist National Union, (the SNU), transfiguration is the result of ectoplasm forming over, or just in front of the face, which moulds into the features of a “spirit person”. If the transfiguration cannot be seen by ALL present, then it is not true transfiguration. Obviously this does not fit with what happened, so I phoned renowned transfiguration and trance medium, Hadyn Clarke for his opinion. I gave Hadyn only details of what happened, but none of the history or the location.
Hadyn describes true and traditional transfiguration, as a web that forms over the face, that gradually moulds itself into the features of a “spirit person”, but readily agreed that sometimes a mediums features can be “moulded or pushed around” to create the same effect. He felt that this sounded more like what had happened to our group, that the position of the stool was crucial and perhaps within a “vortex”, especially if there were recorded temperature changes. Playing “devils advocate”, I explained that I was suspicious regarding the lighting conditions and whether perhaps we were all just “seeing” things because of the dim light. (I didn’t mention our experimentation with the lights). Unphased, Hadyn went on to explain that he uses “low light” conditions as the results are usually seen better and are rarely seen very well in normal “white light”. (Perhaps this would explain a lack of photographic evidence during these demonstrations, but I wonder if anything would show up on “0” lux?). Hadyn himself does not agree with very dark conditions, as it might make some members of his audience nervous. He added that he believes the Victorian Spiritualist movement had got it right to some degree using red light, because the audience can see clearly what is taking place and the audience are more relaxed. All very interesting!
Peter has very kindly allowed me time to organise a further investigation, so perhaps if it reoccurs, we can put this phenomena to the test. He is also going to do his best to research the local history a little and see if he can find out more about the pubs fascinating history.
In summary, I believe that there is little doubt that something strange is occurring at The Ostrich Inn. Ever conscious of the many different beliefs and ideas of our members, I believe that even for those who would prefer to rule out physic perceptions/awareness, there is much tangible evidence, (with EMF recordings, temperature drops, the peculiar phenomena which seemed to take place in the blue room, orbs visible with the naked eye and photos), to suggest that this is well worth further investigation by The Ghost Club.
It just leaves me to thank Peter for being a wonderful, ever enthusiastic host. Its great to see the pub going to a couple who are endeavouring to sympathetically conserve this lovely building. Kathy Gearing
Subsequent research has uncovered some quite fascinating facts!
(1) Around 1579 – 16.00, the Elizabethan novelist Thomas Deloney, wrote a book entitled “Thomas of Reading”. Primarily, Deloney he was famed for his ballads, but towards the end of his lifetime wrote three novels, which are widely considered to represent “the first consistent attempt in English Literature at drawing material for fiction from the everyday life of ordinary people”. Much of the bases of his works were famed/infamous historic events. The question of coarse is whether the murders were fact around which he romanticised his novel, or whether these gruesome acts were part of the fiction itself.
Excerpts from “Thomas of Reading”
(“Shorter Elizabethan Novels”, reprinted in 1966. Everyman Library by J M Dent & Sons).
“Her wicked counsel was followed, and when they had listned at his chamber doore, they heard the man sound asleepe: All is safe (quoth they) and down into the kitchin they goe, their servants being all in bedde, and pulling out the yron pins, downe fell the bed, and the man dropt out into the boyling caldron. He being dead, they betwixt them cast his body into the river; his clothes they made away, and all things as it should be: but when he came to the stable to convey thence Coles horse, the stable door being open, the horse had got loose, and with a part of the halter about his necke, and straw trusted under his belly, as the ostlers had dressed him ore eve, he was gone out at the back side, which led into a great field adjoining to the house, and so leaping divers hedges, being a lustie stout horse, had got into a ground where a mare was grasing, with whom he kept such a coile, that they got into the high way, where one of the Towne meeting them, knew the mare, and brought her and the horse to the man that owd her…”
“The servant musing what should be become of his Master, and making much inquiry in the Towne for him: at length one told him of a horse that was found on the high way, and no man knew whence he came. He was going to see the horse, knew him presently, and to the Crane he goes with them. The hoast of the house perceiving this, was blanke, and that night fled secretly away. The fellow going unto the Justice desired his helpe: presently after word was brought that Jarman of the Crane was gone, then all the men said, he had sure made Cole away: and the musitians told what Jarman said to them, when they would have given Cole musicke. Then the woman being apprehended and examined, confessed the truth. Jarman soone after was taken in Windsor Forest. He and his wife were both hangd, after they had laid open al these things before expressed. Also he confessed that, he being a Carpenter made that false falling floore, and how his wife devised it. And how they had murdered by that means lx* persons. And yet notwithstanding all the money which they had gotten thereby, they prospered not, but at their death were found in debt”.
I would conclude that either “Thomas of Reading” was based on fact, or that Thomas Deloney himself was a frequent visitor to The Crane/Ostrich. If this is the case, he must have been well acquainted with the owners as he is so familiar with the internal layout of the building, and it is unlikely that he would have had access to all of it as a normal paying guest. During the coarse of the introduction to the 1966 edition, it is noted “ Local tradition at Colnbrook identifies this inn with that now known as The Ostrich and retells the story of the murder with almost the exact details of Deloneys narrative”. A case of which came first, the ostrich or the egg, I suppose!
Naturally I will continue with the research and hope that a search for any sign of structural evidence at The Ostrich can be made, when the refurbishment is underway.
(2) It was suggested to Peter a while ago by one of the older local residents, that the Ostrich was used in WWII as a communications centre. He has in the last couple of days found very thin, single sheath copper wiring, running continually, back and forth, around the entire beer cellar. Could this have been for some sort of alarm or is it the remains of a Farraday cage?
* I noted that ina 1920 edition printed by “Blackies English Texts”, (which readily states that the books have been “shortened by omissions, and a few alterations made, as in the imitation of dialect”), that the Jarmans confessed to 40 murders. I suspect their translation of numerals was an error.