Staithes is a small town located in North Yorkshire, United Kingdom, that is popular with tourists. Going back in time over 200 years ago the town was a very busy fishing port, with lively fish auctions at the harbor and horses and carts rushing back and forth to trade with nearby towns. Amongst all this hustle and bustle the undercover industry of smuggling was rife. High taxes on imported luxury goods such as liquor, tobacco and tea led many down an unlawful path to obtain them. Networks of underground tunnels were used to transport the prohibited cargo to be enjoyed away from the prying eyes of custom officers.
What if the electric atmosphere that was created by these illicit activities left an impression that we could still pick up on today? Or maybe it is possible that the ghosts of those involved still haunt their former residents? I would have said neither was possible until my stay in a former smugglers cottage over ten years ago. As a young teenager the prospect of spending a week in a haunted house would have terrified me, so when my parents rented out a holiday cottage in Staithes and were warned about its apparent haunting, they chose not to disclose it to me until we returned. This makes what happened all the more frightening as, psychologically, I was not expecting to experience anything supernatural.
The cottage was three stories high, with my bedroom in the attic space. From the first day we arrived I hated being alone in there, as there was just something oppressive about the atmosphere. As I unpacked my suitcase, it felt as though there were a pair of eyes boring into the back of my head.
After a brilliant day crab fishing in the harbor I reluctantly climbed the stairs to my room. As I lay there in the darkness I felt frozen in fear as I heard faint whispers around me, and brushes against my skin by invisible hands. I cried out in terror and insisted that my mum stay in the twin bed opposite, which she ended up doing for the duration of the holiday.
In the cold light of day I wondered if it had all just been my imagination running wild, and the following night I was undisturbed. However it became noticeable, even by my parents who were skeptical about the ghostly activity, that the lights in the cottage seemed to have a life of their own. As you exited a room and turned the light off, when you returned it would be on again. This happened frequently and, whether it was a paranormal or not, it sent a chill down your spine!
The following evening we visited a local pub, and upon our return my heart almost stopped as the kitchen cupboard door opened by itself, and then slammed shut. This particular cupboard opened up into the cliff face, and was perhaps used by the smugglers centuries ago.
Another freaky experience happened while in the shower, as a feeling of dread washed over me like someone was standing behind the shower curtain, and all of a sudden I was overcome by the strongest smell of stale tobacco.
Finally, the night before we left, I ascended the stairs to retrieve something from my bedroom. As I reached the top of the stairs I looked back to notice the light was on again. I crept back across the landing and quickly turned it off, not wanting to be in the attic space another second. As I again reached the top of the stairs, to my horror, I saw the light was on again. Before I could react I found myself tumbling down the stairs. I was unharmed but completely shaken up, and I demanded that my dad search the room as I was convinced that I had been pushed.
As we packed up and left the next day I was glad I wouldn't have to stay another night. Even though the experience was terrifying, it captivated my interest in the paranormal, and my love for North Yorkshire.
Staithes has a colorful history with tales of ghosts, witches and mermaids and whether what I experienced was paranormal, or merely psychological remains to be seen.