Is Thomas Oken Tea Rooms haunted?
When we took over the Tea Rooms in November 2011, I must admit to being a total non-believer as far as anything remotely paranormal was concerned! I had a young weekend staff who told me many tales of strange goings-on and ghostly sightings, but I dismissed them all as being the workings of teenagers’ wild imaginations. I was told we had three supernatural beings in the building – that of Thomas Oken himself, the ghost of an adult female servant and another of a young girl. Waitresses told me they would sometimes feel the latter pull on their leg as they came down the stairs, as though she wanted to be played with. Much as I disparaged these stories, I do think that the house itself gives off a very warm and welcoming atmosphere – I feel totally comfortable working here on my own late at night – so if there is anything about, I know it’s friendly! This isn’t really surprising, as Thomas Oken was a wonderful man when he was alive – a great supporter of the ordinary people of Warwick and a kind, generous benefactor of the town – certainly not a malevolent presence.
However, in the three years since we’ve been here I have had so many other people – customers, friends, guests – telling me of things that they have seen and felt whilst visiting the Tea Rooms that I have to bow to their heightened senses of perception and acknowledge that there must indeed be ‘someone there’. One customer told me that, sitting in the big upstairs room, she was immediately transported into an auditory world of a busy medieval market street – with sounds of horses and carts, and vendors shouting their wares – when a dignified gentleman, with fine clothes and a stick, sauntered into the room, going from table to table and smiling benevolently at the customers seated there. The exact same description was given to me by a friend who said the gentleman was standing next to her as she sat at an upstairs table, looking on while she chatted to a group of work colleagues. Another said a little girl had run up to her, holding a pile of stones in her hand that she wanted to play with. A couple in the small upstairs room (Thomas Oken’s bedroom) said someone had sat between them while they enjoyed a cup of tea on the sofa. Another couple downstairs said they saw an older lady in a mob cap dashing about. And only a couple of weeks ago a customer telephoned us after their visit to say they felt they had actually been served by a ghost. I have had too many stories from too many people now to continue with my disbelief, even though sadly I’ve had no encounters myself. But they’re obviously here to stay – and they’re very welcome. Sometimes, when we have a group booking, we even lay an extra place for Thomas Oken, just in case….