Although the exact date is unknown, around the year 1800 is where our next story regarding the legendary Saltersgate Inn takes place.
During this time, in Britain, the Salt Tax was at it the highest it had been in history. As has been noted various times through history, if there’s a tax then people will find a way around it, and the Salt Tax was just another tax that people tried to avoid.
Many fishermen and smugglers began making use of the isolation of the Saltersgate Inn (then know as the Wagon and Horses) to carry on their trade of illegally salting fish, which kept them fresh when transporting around the country. Large amounts of salt were stashed between the walls in the Saltersgate Inn, more so around the fire to keep the salt dry and ready for immediate use.
One dark night, after a day of fishing, a coach of fishermen from Robin Hood’s Bay began a journey across the dark and lonely moors with their catches of the day, that was ready to be salted at the Wagon and Horses. The fishermen preferred to travel under the cover of darkness so their illegal activities would go undetected. It was custom at the Wagon and Horses for a light to be lit in the small window facing the south to warn smugglers of Excise Officers, if there was no light it meant that it was safe to enter.
That evening, when the fishermen approached, there was no light in the window and so they went on towards the Inn. What they, and the landlords, didn’t know was that a single Excise Officer was in their midst and had managed to go undetected as he tried to collect evidence of the illegal activity.
The officer sneaked down to the cellar and caught the fishermen red handed. A fight broke out between the men and ended abruptly when the landlord of the Inn hit the Excise Officer over the head with a rock, cracking his skull and killing him instantly (though some sources state different ways in which the Officer finally met his gruesome end).
The culprits panicked, knowing that if they were caught they would be tried for murder and hung. The fishermen and the landlord hatched a plan; they would bury the corpse underneath the fire pit and plead ignorance to anyone who came searching for the officer. After all, people were always getting lost on the moors and going missing – whose to say that the Excise Officer had even made it to the Wagon and Horses? The men took a vow of silence, swearing not to speak of the grisly incident again.
As for the Excise Officer? He is said to be still buried underneath the fireplace, and no one was ever brought to justice for his murders… he was just another person who had gotten lost in the lonely moors. The fire above him burned for 200 years, and it was believed that if the fire were put out his ghost would come back and seek revenge for his death.