Haunting at the Birdcage Inn, Thame
25 February 2021 (Updated 10 February 2023)
With its wooden beams and Tudor styling, the Birdcage Inn in Thame may look picturesque but it's 'birdcage' name alludes to its dark past as a place of imprisonment for criminals, prisoners of war and those inflicted with infectious diseases.
Ghosts at the Birdcage Inn
A number of supernatural experiences have been reported at the inn, many centring around strange sounds, including knockings, scratching and unexplained nocturnal footsteps.
Two cameramen filming a documentary about the town are said to have heard footsteps on the empty landing at 2am and witnessed 'a sort of cold mist' drifting out of their bedroom. On another occasion a team of paranormal investigators held a séance in the top-floor room in an attempt to make content with the spirit haunting the inn. They apparently managed to initiate a conversations with the spirit, but when they asked it what it wanted, its chilling answer was 'kill you'!
Apparently, whatever haunts the inn is sensitive to discussions about it: there are also unexplained movements of the till whenever the hauntings are discussed in the bar!
Possible explanations of the hauntings
The inn gained its 'birdcage' name when it was used as a staging post during the Napoleonic wars. The 'birds' in question were French soldiers and the 'cage' was the inns cellar where the captured soldiers were locked up! One theory is that the ghostly footsteps heard in the inn are those of the unhappy and mistreated French soldiers who passed away while imprisoned here.
Another group of 'birds' were the colony of lepers who for a time lived in the attic of the inn. These unfortunates would have been looked on with a lot more sympathy and charity than the French soldiers, but fears over the infectiousness of their condition meant that they would have been kept well away from the patrons of the inn. Perhaps attributing the sound of their footsteps to a supernatural source was preferable to explaining the truth and putting customers off their pints?
I've also read a theory that the haunting is one of the lepers who was stoned to death at the property for some unspecified misdemeanor, but I haven't read any historical evidence to support this.
- 'Haunted Inns and Taverns' by Andrew Green (ISBN: 0747802947)
- 'Oxfordshire Ghost Stories' by Richard Holland (Bradwell Books, 2013, ISBN: 9781902674735)