Story of "poltergeist activity" at the local pub
- Credit: ARCHANT
One of Huntingdonshire's oldest, and possibly, saddest ghost stories is the tale of Mary Ann Weems who is said to have haunted The White Hart pub in Godmanchester and also an area nearby at St Mary's Church where her remains are buried.
In his book, The Haunted History of Huntingdonshire, Mark Egerton, describes how he first became aware of the story in the mid-1970s, but there was an update in 1985, when the then landlord of the pub reported "poltergeist activity".
"The landlord of The White Hart, John Watson, reported regular poltergeist activity in the main bar," explains Mark.
The background to the story is that Thomas Weems married Mary Ann Dixon on January 3, 1818, believing she was pregnant with his child. It seems that later Thomas realised he had been tricked and, according to the records, on May 7, 1819, Thomas and Mary Ann stopped off at The White Hart to wait for a coach. Thomas had promised his wife a trip to London, but had no intention of making the trip, and instead, he brutally murdered Mary Ann at nearby Wendy, which is approximately 20 miles south of Godmanchester.
"It is believed that Mary Ann's battered corpse was returned to Godmancester and placed in an open coffin next to the window of the pub. This was to allow passers-by to view the body and pay their last respects, " says Mark.
Shortly afterwards, she was buried in the local cemetery. Thomas was arrested for her murder and after being found guilty, he was hanged in Cambridge some three months later on either August 6 or 7th, as the records vary.
"It has been almost 200 years since Thomas committed his gruesome crime, but the story is still well known in Godmanchester. There are two reasons for this, firstly, Mary Ann's grave stone is very unusual as it bears a comprehensive public warning and secondly, over the decades since her murder, the ghost of Mary Ann has allegedly been seen."
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The original headstone has now been replaced with a modern replica with details of Mary Ann, detailing that she was killed in the "21st year of her short life". On the rear of the stone is the public warning to anyone contemplating murder.
Mark says: "One of the things that has always puzzled me about this story is why Mary Ann should choose to haunt The White Hart and the cemetery as she had little or no real connection with either place. Generally, with hauntings, you will find the phantom will haunt a place closely associated with their life, or in some instances, the place were their life ended. Two theories have been put forward are that Mary Ann was not happy that her corpse had been placed on public display or that she does not approve of her gravestone being used as a tourist attraction."
An article in the local press in May, 1985, carries an article which reports regulars at The White Hard "experiencing strange goings-ons" in the bar. Landlord John Watson and his wife Terrie were interviewed by reporter Peter Webb. The spirit in the pub was said to be moving ashtrays and furniture around after closing time.
Mark adds: "There is nothing else mentioned at all to suggest that it is Mary Ann, other than her historical association with the building. From speaking to Godmanchester locals, it would seem that something is or has been present at The White Hart."
Former pub employee Ellie Brookes, told Mark: "I used to work at The White Hart and there was most definitely something there. One day, a plaque or a plate flew off the wall. My dad admitted that something pulled on his tie."
Godmanchester resident Gary Smith, said: "When I was a young lad, in the 1970s, we were always told that Mary Ann would appear if you walked around her grave three times when the moon was full."