Madeley Court Hotel is said to be the most haunted in Britain Mecure

At three in the morning we were both awake lying in our bed with our eyes closed, not daring to admit to the other that we were both spooked out of our lives.

At that hour, the darkest point of the night, every sound is multiplied to the point that you convince yourself there is another presence in the room. Every creak of the 500-year-old wood echos an everlasting thought in your head: "Are we totally alone?"

The hearts pounded.

My girlfriend, Steph, and I checked into Madeley Court Hotel in Shropshire - a 16<sup>th century monastery and former country house to Robert Dudley - on the Friday evening preceding a weekend deal in a national newspaper.

We were merely two unassuming punters staying in a country hotel in the Midlands near a small industrial town called Ironbridge, and had clearly not done our research by staying in England's most haunted hotel.

The Friday night passed in a blur, and the following day we decided to walk the Ironbridge Gorge nearby, passing museums and country pubs on the way. It was stunning. As the evening drew in, we found a cosy town pub buried into the southern side of the gorge called The Horse and Jockey and had one more pint of beer before heading back to Madeley Court.

As we drank, locals began a little banter with the "couple from the smoke", asking us where we were from and where we were staying. Neither of us could remember the full name, so I scrounged around my email account on my mobile phone and looked for our booking. "Madeley Court Hotel," I said.

The air in the bar changed. People stopped talking, another at the bar had his eyebrows raised in surprise and started shaking his head. Sensing the change in atmosphere I naively asked: "Does it not have a good reputation?"

For the next ten minutes we were lectured on the "monk" that people had seen "glide across the grounds at night". The man said: "People try to approach him, but he simply ignores you."

The effect of the story totally spooked Steph, and although I didn't admit it to her at the time, I became incredibly wary of the stories too, and the fact that she was so scared only made me worse. We both decided to get as drunk as possible to knock us out for the entire evening.

But at 3am, both our subconscious minds had got the better of us, and we lay there petrified that something would come out of the shadows. It seems embarrassing to admit now, but when you're there totally alone, almost expecting supernatural to happen from any which angle, it is a terrifying experience.

It wasn't until the following morning, however, having survived the night that further details emerged of the haunted hotel that led Steph to admit that she could "probably never return there again."

Intrigued by the ghost story, I began to ask staff about the "monk". It unravelled that the monk wasn't the only unwelcome visitor. A small meeting emerged and one by one people were confessing that they had had an encounter.

Stories of children laughing in the early hours, or musical instruments being played were fairly regular. But the spookiest story of all was to come in, what the staff call "spook central", Room 11.

A corporate business man checks in one night into Room 11, ready for a big meeting in the Midlands the following day. At four in the morning, he stirs to feel a "weight" at the foot of the bed. He rubs his eyes and sees "half a man" sitting there. Without a second hesitation gets up and runs downstairs to head to reception. "I'm moving to a new room," he declared. Too scared to return he asks the night porter to fetch his things.

"Some people never come back," said the receptionist Jenny. "These stories get the better of some of our clients and they're too scared to come back"

Another member of staff, a sous chef, said: "My daughters taken a picture of a ghost here once. She took it with her mobile phone - the camera picked up that it found faces on the screen by a window in one of the rooms."

One woman, who had stayed at the hotel on their wedding night, said: "We heard somebody dragging heavy robes through our room as clear as day. I wasn't a believer then [in ghosts], I am now though."