• Story taken from the Waltham Forest Guardian, 17 September 2003.
While some diners and drinkers might describe the Royal Forest Hotel as their "favourite haunt", the expression has taken on a whole new meaning for staff.
Manager Jo McCormack and his team believe the spirit of a woman they call Mary is causing them difficulties. Mr McCormack said: "Mary manifests herself in various ways.
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"Common occurences include lights and cookers being on without any electricity supply, or dogs barking for no reason. "One member of staff, who used to live upstairs, moved out because he felt someone was staying in the room and even felt that person sitting at the end of the bed.
"But when he looked, there was no-one there."
The staff and Brewers Fayre, which owns the pub restaurant in Rangers Road, Chingford, is keen to hear from anyone who can provide information about the disastrous fire of 1912 which they believe may be at the root of the alleged haunting.
The hotel was built and opened in 1890 to provide for the many Londoners who started to come out to Chingford to enjoy Epping Forest after it was fully opened to the public in 1882. Tea gardens, pubs and other places of refreshment were developed to cater for them.
The then Forest Hotel, by far the largest inn in the district, had its own coach house and stabling. It had 60 bedrooms, some with en-suite sitting rooms, and it also
provided private dining rooms for small parties.
In 1912, disaster struck. A huge fire swept through the building, destroying parts of it. Though none of the many history books in the Guardian offices refer to deaths in the blaze, Brewers Fayre says that the fire burned for two
days and trapped and killed two guests and a fireman on the top floor.
When the building was restored, the top floor of the previously four-storey structure was not replaced. Mr McCormack and his staff believe that as a result of the reduction in height, their ghost, Mary, is now suspended between the spirit world and the real world.
The manager told the Guardian: "A 'sighting' of a woman's face in one of the top windows of the restaurant was recorded on a photograph, but its whereabouts is unknown."
He and his team would like more about the people who perished in the fire. If you have information, contact Pat Stannard on the Waltham Forest Guardian newsdesk, 480-500 Larkshall Road, E4 9GD or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org