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A Haunted Moorland Pub

Updated: Feb 12

I used to be the landlord of an old pub on Dartmoor. It was here that I saw (and heard) a ghost for the very first time.

The Royal Standard in Mary Tavy is no more. Having stood empty for five years, the local council appears to have given in and granted planning permission to turn it into flats. Houses will soon spring up in what used to be the car park and beer garden. If so, the new residents will get quite a surprise. For The Royal Standard isn't quite as empty as everyone thinks!

It was originally a miners' pub. Judging by the architecture, early Victorian in age. Tinners from the nearby Wheal Betsy and Devon Friendship mines ventured there to receive payment in the form of tokens, which could only be spent in the mine owners' stores. The Royal Standard being also a public house, needless to say many of those tokens found their way back over the bar, traded for ale and cider.

Of course, by the time I took over the pub in 2014, the miners were long gone.

However, defying all known laws of God, Science and Nature, one former inhabitant remained.

I saw her for the first time one late Friday night. It was almost midnight and two late stragglers remained propping the bar. Tired and desperate for them to leave, I was astonished to see the ghost of a woman walk through the bar. She wore a gold ballgown; this was almost all I noticed before she vanished into thin air. I was astonished by this apparition. Especially since, prior to this, nobody ever suggested the pub was haunted.

The ghostly woman was seen a handful of further times. I saw her again in the upstairs flat when she turned to stare at me. An expression of surprise was on her face, as though she was as amazed by my presence as I was hers. She also revealed herself to my barmaid Kat and a visiting friend, Jen.

Poor Kat was alone in the pub when the ghost appeared at the bar. I was away on a skiing holiday at the time, whilst Kat managed The Royal Standard for me. It was after closing time and she was alone with most of the lights switched off. Seeing the phantom lady scared her so much, she had to ring a villager to get him to drive down and chaperone her safely outside.

An old photograph of the historic Royal Standard in Mary Tavy

The ghostly woman was anything but quiet and retiring. Most nights my sleep was disturbed by banging noises coming from somewhere in the building. They may have been old pipes or walls settling; I couldn't say for sure what caused these loud sounds. However, there was no question about the paranormal nature of some of the other noises after dark.

One night I was awakened by footsteps crossing the lounge floor to my bedroom. It took me a couple of moments to remember that I was alone in my flat, meaning the footsteps had no innocent explanation. On another occasion, the same was heard on the stairs leading from the flat to the bar. Kat heard them and so did a couple of young people drinking cider.

There was also the time the barman Ali was in the pub with a young villager, enjoying a beer when his shift finished. The two men were the only present and they'd treated themselves to an impromptu lock-in. Their fun ended when they heard what sounded like a chair being thrown down in fury onto the stage area at the other side of the bar. Knowing there was nobody there to do such a thing, they put down their glasses and got the hell out!

Festive seasons require ghost stories and The Royal Standard has one of its own. My girlfriend was in the bar whilst I took my younger daughter on the nearby Polar Express, a Christmas attraction then run by the Okehampton Steam Railway. My girlfriend said she heard pans clattering in the kitchen, glasses being smashed. Filled with trepidation, she ventured out back, but when she got there, everything was calm. Not a single pan was out of place and no glasses were damaged.

What caused these disturbances is impossible to say because most of the locals swore blind that the pub wasn't haunted. Only one publicly said otherwise, and she claimed it was visited by the ghost of a "Lady Tavistock". I've searched online and found no trace of such a personage. The closest match was the infamous Lady Mary Howard...

All of which leads neatly to one final tale, involving one of those sceptical patrons, an old man with the nickname "Blue". Paul Bluett knew the pub far longer than me, for he'd been raised in the village of Mary Tavy, and been a beer-loving regular of The Royal Standard for many years.

He arrived one lunchtime and asked me where the other man was.

"What other man?" I asked in bemusement.

"The one I watched walk in before me," Blue answered.

He said he'd followed, at some distance, a man he saw walking up the hill to the pub. Even witnessed him enter. There were two big problems with this. Firstly, the front door had been locked before Blue entered. And secondly, there was no such customer in the building.

A former landlord of the Royal Standard in Mary Tavy

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