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Mercure Banbury Whately Hall Hotel

Father Bernard, a Catholic priest haunts the hotel, most notable on the staircase; he used the building centuries ago to practise his faith at a time when Catholics were persecuted. It had been arranged that a bell would be sounded to warn the priest of danger but one day a servant rang the bell as a joke, and the priest died of a heart attack at the thought he had been discovered. However, the accounts of his demise seem confused, with at least one account saying that he died a natural death. Whatever his fate, his phantom is said to be "jolly", "smiling and chuckling" as he hurries down the corridors, but he has also been reported in the grounds, sometimes skipping along and sometimes with his cowl obscuring his head.

Update: 4/3/20 Front of House Manager Nik Torrens sent me a document detailing the history of the building. In this version, 4 days after the visit of King James II in 1687, John Heuston pulled the emergency cord. Heuston was a member of staff who had returned to the hotel after a night's drinking. The scare killed Father Bernard. As the document says, "It is believed that Father Bernard took to walking the passageways for the last 300 years in search of the prankster. It is fateful that Heuston in turn died a violent death by stabbing. This is thought to have occurred when co-workers and patrons of the Inn found out about the awful prank gone wrong ... Late in the year 1913 a guest by the name of Michael Murray and his wife stayed in room 52. Whilst having supper in the sitting room saw the room to the door open, revealing a robed figure. A chill was said to have settled over the room, which lasted during the figures presence. After a minute the figure is said to have dissipated. New marks were noted to have appeared on the doorframe, which Mrs Murray believed were due to the prayer beads in the figures hand. This door incidentally is one of the few doors and frames that has not needed to be replaced, in almost 100 years, since this sighting. Perhaps the father found his prankster has he has been quiet over the last few years or perhaps he is just watching and waiting." It is therefore not clear if there are any recent sightings, and the hotel did not respond to my further queries.

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