In 2002, I decided to sit down and write my ghost-hunting memoirs; since 1995, I have been on over 20 cases, and I felt that I needed to put some form of permanent record down to catalogue my experiences, from a first-person point of view, rather than recording what is "wrong" or "right". Naturally, some cases are well documented; these are the first few, where the whole ghost hunting phenomena was still a novelty; some cases are notorious and hence leave an unpleasant "taste in the mouth"; and some cases are well remembered simply because they are the most recent. Naturally, some places have requested anonymity.
I intend this to be a living document, so that I will add to it as I go on more and more cases. Apologies for the wealth of spelling and grammar mistakes in this document: these will be corrected eventually, time permitting, and new photographs added.
Often I wrote these stories out in a hurry, determined not to forget any detail and as such, any spelling mistakes etc. will have been forgotten about in the hurried, frantic process of mechanical typing. All pictures have been obtained, or donated from the internet - hopefully they are public domain, but if anyone has issues with their inclusions, please email me.
I am grateful to Mark and Julie Hunt for their kindness and generosity in allowing me to participate on their vigils.
(For more info on the Queens Head, click here)
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|1. Dudley Castle||October 1995||Parasearch||
|2. St.Williams College||November 1995||SpookySoc|
|3. Charlton House||November 1997||ASSAP|
|4. Clerkenwell House of Detention||May 1999||The Ghost Club|
|5. Charlton House||October 1999||The Ghost Club|
|6. Belgrave Hall/Talbot Inn||November 1999||ASSAP|
|7. Private Home (Beckton)||July 2000||ASSAP|
|8. Legal and General Building||November 2000||The Ghost Club|
|9. Oxford Prison||November 2000||ASSAP|
|10. Abandoned Cottage||February 2001||The Ghost Club|
|11. Manor House pub||August 2001||Parasearch|
|12. Dudley Castle||September 2001||Parasearch||
|13. Hatton Court Country House Hotel||October 2001||ASSAP|
|14. New Tavern Sea Fort||December 2001||ASSAP|
|15. Woodchester Mansion||January 2002||ASSAP|
|16. Private Home (Plumstead)||February 2002||ASSAP|
|17. The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-under-Edge||April 2002||Mark and Julie Hunt/"The Ghost Detectives"|
|18. Angel Inn, Pershore||October 2002||Parasearch|
|19. Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire||March, 2003||Heidi Graham and Mike Burden, Ex- Ghosts-UK|
|20. Brockett Hall, Hertfordshire||April, 2003||UK Ghost Investigators|
|21. Farnham Castle, Surrey||June, 2003||UK Ghost Investigators|
|22. The George Hotel, Ashford, Kent||August, 2003||Mark and Julie Hunt/ASSAP|
|23. The Ram Inn, Vigil 2, Wotton-Under-Edge||September, 2003||Mark and Julie Hunt/ASSAP|
|24. Maes Artro Village||October, 2003||Ghosts UK|
|25. Wymering Manor||August, 2004||-|
|26. The Edinburgh Vaults||September, 2004||Ghosts-UK|
|27. The Newcastle Keep||November, 2004||Ghosts-UK|
|28. Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, Nottingham.||March, 2005||The British Paranormal Alliance|
|29. The Ghosthouse, Nottinghamshire.||July, 2005||-|
|30. Margam Castle, Wales.||November, 2005||ASSAP|
|31. Theatre On The Steps, Bridgnorth.||May, 2007||Parasearch|
Dudley Castle, West Midlands
This vigil was organised by Parasearch, a group founded in 1986 by Dave Taylor in the West Midlands; although at the time, I was invited along as an interested observer, I was to have close contact with Parasearch in the coming years.
I first heard of the vigil from Graham Dillon, who had joined York University as a DPhil (PhD) student a few days before hand. After briefly chatting with each other, we learned of our mutual interest in ghosts and the paranormal, and he told me of ASSAP, a group of whom I had never heard of until that point. Graham told me that he and his brothers, Mark and Sean had been informed of a vigil in the Birmingham region from their local ASSAP co-ordinator Ros and that people were needed to boost numbers. Graham invited me along and one Saturday evening we all went to Dudley castle.
The castle is mostly a ruin, and stands on top of a hill in Dudley; surrounding it is a zoo. The keep and living quarters are in ruin, but the chapel ("undercroft") area is quite well preserved. After brief introductions (and the only person who stood out afterwards was a "psychic" called Pam, with whom I had long discussions about The Stone Tape theory), we settled in for the night. Sadly, not a lot happened!
The vigil session in the crypt itself was quiet, although compared to the other areas of interest, it was the warmest!
The session in the Castle Keep/battlements region was again quiet, but provided some small points of interest and excitement. Graham had noticed some water on one of the stairs but couldn't locate the source - probably a mundane explanation. I recall seeing a shape across the lawn and trained my torch on it, only to be disappointed- it was a bin surrounding local sources of light.
I also recall, after chatting with Pam, that she said that she was going for a wander on her own. Imagine my surprise a few minutes later when I shone my torch up on a window high in the battlements and saw a figure in white! I stared at it for a few seconds and saw it wave back at me! It was Pam. She later admitted that she waved because she realised what I must have been thinking!
The derelict living quarters were next, and again, were very quiet. A few strange noises proved to be the animal enclosures directly below the castle.
The last area of investigation was a lodge for workers, at the base of the hill, called "The Round House". By this stage, word had started to filter to the team members about the odd events in this building, which was a pity as it probably coloured our views of what was to happen.
The Round House is in the grounds of the zoo, and we had to drive there to get to it. There is no inside toilet (the nearest convenience was across the car park), and access at that time of night was facilitated by climbing over an iron fence. Inside, on the ground floor, there is only a living room, and a doorway to the sealed cellar. Upstairs were a bedroom and a study. The whole room was musty and not pleasant to be in.
I recall that we placed a video camera in the bedroom and a tape recorder in the study. Then the lights were turned off. I remember I was last down the stairs and I couldn't get down them fast enough. Of course, when I got into the lounge, the only chair was right next to the staircase!
The session lasted half an hour, and for the first 15 minutes I was absolutely petrified by ...something. I kept looking over to my right, up the stairs, convinced that something was going to come down at any second. The fact that the stairs curved to the left and thus made visibility into the rooms upstairs impossible was also disconcerting. I thought I heard creaking noises upstairs, a cross between someone walking on the floorboards and a rocking chair.
After 15 minutes, the atmosphere lifted so much that I fell asleep. It was odd, as if the blackness enveloping the Round House had gone.
After the session had finished, I had a chat with Pam and she agreed that the atmosphere wasn't very pleasant in there. The other two in the group, Sean and Graham Dillon didn't sense anything untoward.
In the next few weeks, I heard from Graham at work that the video camera had picked up a bright flash in one corner of the bedroom, but this was never confirmed. After we had finished at the Round House, we drove back up the hill to the castle and compared notes. We had time for one last half-hour long session, and were down to 6 people. We all agreed that the most disconcerting place was the Round House. The others agreed that, if we pooled our equipment and if we placed two people in each room, with a video camera and a tape recorder, we would pick up something. I recall they had to use a lot of persuasion to get me back into the building, but I agreed ("Safety in Numbers"). Of course, nothing happened, and the atmosphere was nowhere near as black as it was before.
Later, we would hear some of the stories connected to the place: that summer, the Round House was the home for a children's entertainer, Bonkers the Clown (I kid you not). It seems he had been woken up by someone banging on the front door to the lodge. Given just how inaccessible the place was, it seems unlikely that someone would scale the castle and Round House fences, that is, after hunting in the darkness of the castle grounds for the House. Anyway, not too long afterwards, Bonkers was again woken in the middle of the night by a monk bending over him and saying, "What are YOU still doing here?"
Needless to say, Bonkers didn't stay long.
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St.Williams' College, York
At York University, I was a member of the now defunct group SpookySoc (Spooky Society), a social group that revolved around experimentation with Ouija boards and occasionally booked guest speakers, hosted video evenings etc.
One of the very few, if not the only vigil that was organised was St.Williams' College. For this, we must credit Richard Openshaw, the society's secretary. He had written to the Treasurer's House, site of the famous sighting of the "Lost" Roman Legionnaire by Harry Martindale in the 1950s. He got no reply from them, so he tried a building just up the cobbled path, and just metres away from beautiful York Minster.
St.Williams' College was, and probably still is, a museum that describes the history of the Minster. It also doubles as a function hall for weddings etc. That night, Rowena Wiesneska Richard Openshaw Matt Brown and myself had a brief session at the College. Because of security, we could stay for only as long as we were supervised by museum staff: an odd, and paranoid feeling to recall that museum staff were only a few metres away staring at us. Sadly, I can't recall much of the events there, except to say that the curator has encountered strange noises in his office, in the rafters of the building, and a mysterious crouching figure had been seen close to one of the exhibits.
Being new to this business, all four of us sat down, talked a bit, meditated, got bored and went for a wander. One of the few things I do recall is a fantastic scale model of the Minster in a glass display case.
After a while, we got bored, and with permission, we went across the courtyard to the main banqueting hall, where we sat down in near perpetual gloom and tried a ouija board session using one of Rowena's rings in place of a wine glass (!). About the only memorable things were: the distractions caused by the pubs closing at 11.00pm; and I managed to smuggle some Kentucky Fried Chicken into the building. The vigil finished not too long after. It was nice to see a fantastic old building but, being so young and inexperienced, we had no idea what to do. Fortunately nothing happened: how would we have coped if it had!
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Charlton House, London
All pictures of Charlton House courtesy of Roger Downham.The site of the ASSAP investigator's training day in 1997, Charlton House has long had a connection with ghosts and the paranormal. It was a site for visitors on "A Bus Trip to Murder" paranormal tour of London in the mid-1980s. Charlton House started as a Jacobean mansion house: today it is community centre, run by Greenwich council (although I have heard that, as of December 2001, it is run by Greenwich University).
The day at Charlton House was eventful, and had a full schedule of events for would-be investigators. In addition, many new contacts were made, such as Dr.Melvin Willin, who recommended afterwards by email that I join the lamentable Ghost Club.
During the vigil, we were split into teams, and the usual invigilators check lists were handed out: by correlating events on the lists, we could rule out natural, or normal events that had been recorded by different teams. On one of the questionnaires before this check-list was handed out, we were asked if we had any psychic ability, and if so to tell our team "leader", a member of the ASSAP executive. This was to prevent bogus "psychics" afterwards coming forward and spouting unverifiable nonsense. I told the member of the ASSAP exec (I won't name him to spare his blushes) that I had been told by another psychic in York that I was psychic. He snorted and brushed this off: "thats what they all say!" he said. Needless to said, his brusque handling of this matter did not impress and I made a point of mentioning it on my checklist! The vigil passed off fairly uneventfully. Most haunted locales are famous for their cold spots, but Charlton House was like a sauna! Everyone had brought jumpers and blankets to keep warm. We soon found ourselves stripping off to our shirts!
A few things stood out: whilst in an adjoining room to Williams Langhorne's bedroom (one of the alleged ghosts, desperate for a male heir and taken to assaulting women to this day!) we all heard a metallic ringing noise, like a coin being dropped, coming from the direction of the staircase. Many other teams heard this, but there was no explanation. The team on the stairs heard footsteps behind them as they sat on the landing.
I was also later to learn from a friend I made years later that he was in the Long Gallery on the top floor and felt a sharp pain on his wrist when he pulled back his shirt, he saw a big bite mark, complete with teeth marks. He was sure that this was the same vigil that I was on, but it he said anything in the post-vigil de-briefing, he didn't say anything.
The only other thing to happen was in the Grand Salon. A lot of us had gathered there for some reason (the remains of our buffet meal had been left their for us to pick at) and we were settled down for a session in darkness. Then, two very bright flashes erupted, very closely in time, from the fireplace. We all looked at each other but no one moved. My reason was I didn't want errant footsteps to fool people in the rest of the building. I said at the time that it looked like a flash gun going off. Anyway, when the lights came on, I went to the fireplace and checked - and found a flashgun rigged inside the chimney breast! The rest of the ASSAP exec arrived and said that it was put there deliberately to see if we would react and investigate. They also asked if an open tool box, next to the fireplace had aroused anyone's suspicions!
The only other interesting thing was after the flash gun incident but before the lights came on. As you look towards the fireplace in the Grand Salon, the left hand doorway leads to the White Room, and the right hand doorway leads to the staircase. For some duration, I heard floorboards creaking in the White Room.
I got increasingly exasperated by this, as everyone was supposed to remain as silent as possible. The creaking was intermittent, like footsteps. During the debriefing, the team at the time in the Long Gallery (on the other side of the White Room/staircase landing) remonstrated with us for making so much noise. Our team looked at them and said, "we thought it was you!" Obviously, someone in a room between us (The White Room) was making noise. At the time, it was unexplained, but now I think that it could have been the place where the ASSAP executive "hid" during the sessions, when the flash gun went off. Who knows?
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Clerkenwell House of Detention, LondonNote: if you're reading this because of "Most Haunted's" visit to the House of Detention, you really should read this website. It catalogues their list of lies and deceit.
This was my very first vigil (or "investigation" as they prefer to call it) with the Ghost Club. The House of Detention was built many centuries and was London's biggest remand centre in the 19th century. Some time ago, the huge complex above ground was demolished, leaving just the cellar area, which was then filled in. Until recently, these were being excavated, and the place had been opened at as museum: I did hear a year or so back that the area around the House of Detention was in the process of being converted into flats and the museum closed: a pity.
The Ghost Club had been involved in "investigations" in the House of Detention before: in 1997/8, a BBC film crew accompanied the team down into the gloom. Of course, the psychic picked up "impressions", including that of a little girl, and there was a large temperature drop which no-one could account for. Before hand, I had gone into Kingston (near where I live) and purchase some equipment; some of these were mundane (like a thermos flask), some were cheap pieces of kit (thermometer and compass, to detect a change in the ambient magnetic field)...and a very expensive (150) image intensifying scope from Dixons!
I was aware of the very anti-science, anti-equipment stance of the club, and had even been informed by John Fraser (Vice Chair and Investigations) that a club member in Nottingham had donated a big box of mercury thermometers. And that, it seems is the limit of the Ghost Club's use of equipment!
(Jumping forward in time to a vigil by the Ghost Club in the summer (??) of 2001, Club members asked the psychics if they would be happy if equipment were brought along, and they said "no". Typical of the Club, the question should have been asked to those people with equipment, but I doubt if they would have allowed the alleged psychics to take part.)
So, in addition to all these thermometers, we also had some stuff that the members have brought along; member Lionel Gibson had brought along some ex-Soviet army issue image intensifying goggles. And Rita Leek, a true gem in the Club, brought along a picnic hamper with salmon rolls and a bottle or two of fine white wine! It was just a shame that her leather coat made such a rustling noise that it made aural observations very difficult at times.
When we got to the House of Detention, the blasted thermometers were put in place, together with a log sheet so that people in each area could record the fluctuation in temperature every so often. I noticed at the end of the evening that only a very few readings had been written on the sheets. Also placed were a few trigger objects, which it was hoped, would incite the ghosts to move them around. Why they would actually want to do this is anyone's guess.
I placed my voice activated tape recorder near a flagstone, in an area where the temperature drop had taken place on previous investigations. This area was now used for storing chairs and tables. This turned out to be a bit of a bad idea because John Fraser had a whistle which he used to summon Club members from the various part of the prison remnants in case something happened, or there was a change in shift. So, every time the whistle was blown, the tape recorder would activate. Most of the used portion of the tape had been used due to this alone.
The most disconcerting area in the whole prison was the "out-of-bounds" area right at the very back of the prison cellar. This was an area that was on the point of being excavated, and thus, was very dilapidated. Rubble was scattered all over, pipes hung from the ceiling, there were big holes in the floor ... and worse, there was no power down there! Obviously, this area was not open to the public and was barricaded with "keep out" signs. Regrettable, hooligans had broken into the cellar complex and had daubed witchcraft symbols on the walls. These were still there when we visited and it gave the whole room a very uneasy feeling. Thank God for my image intensifier - "I like to see what I'm scared of!"
It was in this area that Ray Watkins. One of our psychics, picked up a name ("Sheila"). A very 19th century sounding name I think you'll agree, unless they meant the Irish variant "Shelagh" ?
It soon became clear that one of our more attention seeking psychics, Zeta Collins was running the show. Whenever anything happened, the club members jumped to her every whim (I plead guilty to this too, being inexperienced with the nature of vigils).
I recall sitting in the dark "out of bounds" area when the whistle blew, and the three of us in that area (Rita Gideon Sadler and myself) rushed to our main base, which was the main entrance hall where we had assembled some chairs and tables. When we got there, we found Zita mumbling something from her spirit contacts, and fellow psychic Jeanette Watkins (daughter of Ray) was also saying something about "whatever it was" that was allegedly down there with us.
However, Zita was running the show. We all looked at each other, no-one daring to speak but just looking nervously at each other. After all, it could have been genuine!
Other instances like this spring to mind, all similar in nature.
I was sitting comfortably with Rita in the kitchen area, again completely blackened, with our torches providing the only illumination. We were having a great discussion on the nature of observed reality, quantum mechanics and the like (as you do in a dungeon at midnight on a Saturday evening). All of a sudden, other Club members joined us. And then more, and then more, until everyone was with us. Rita and myself whispered "what the hell is going on?" It turns out that Zeta had had a psychic message telling her "to go to the kitchen", and everyone had followed her like lost puppies. So, Jeanette and Zita sat side by side along one wall, everyone else encircling them. Quiet whispers from ourselves were met by a loud yell of "QUIET!" from Ms.Collins. There then erupted a cock-and-bull story of little Victorian girls and an axe-wielding poltergeist. At least something that she said corroborated something that another "psychic" had said, which had not been mentioned or reported up till that point. Zeta reported smelling "burnt beef" (and despite it being a prison kitchen, there was nothing "in the pot"!). The impression of the previous psychic was a smell of "burning flesh". So, perhaps something was picked up, but the theatricality of it destroyed whatever credibility she once had.
Later on, just before we left, Jeanette, Zita, myself and one other (probably Gideon) agreed to do one small sitting in the kitchen, just the four of us. Jeanette is a young girl, very quiet and polite: she certainly doesn't publicise her "psychic gifts" like Zeta did. I recall Lance being there, but he denies this.
Anyway, I sat next to Zeta. She could tell I was a bit nervous (a combination of a few glasses of wine, plus the mirk of the place plus what we had been told early on), and told me not to worry as her spirit guides would protect me. She then gave me a quick-peck kiss on the cheek and let out a huge giggle. Oh dear..... So we sat and waited. It didn't take long for the stories to emerge, which culminated in her telling me "its the bloody poltergeist. Its right behind us and it has got an axe". Now, who WOULDN'T be alarmed by a message like this?!
At some point, we enquired about Jeanette, whose unease was showing. She went next door into a connecting store cupboard. Zeta cornered her and asked what she was sensing, but Jeanette didn't want to confront it. Zeta kept saying, "come on. Say it" and finally got Jeanette to pipe up. It looked like Zeta was feeding Jeanette, perhaps to be the centre of attention? Finally, some threatening message was picked up (I can't remember what) and we all got out of the Kitchen area as fast as possible into the main entrance hair via one of the huge air shafts. Both Zeta and Jeanette have severe mobility problems (arthritis for the former, and a degenerative bone disease for the latter), so this caused problems.
The session ended some little time later, and we all went home (although I had to stop at Rita's house that night because there were no trains running to take me home to Surbiton)
Looking back, I am a bit angry that the whole evening was dominated by one person. The investigation seems like a badly organised run-around. I am not impressed.
Perhaps I should finish this section with something that Gideon was saying all night along - that the unease down there was due simply to the "power of suggestion"?
For the Ghost Club's write-up of the House of Detention investigation, please click here.
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Charlton House, London
A return to Charlton House, this time with the dratted Ghost Club. I was not too keen on going on this session for a number of reasons: I was dubious about the Club's expertise with "investigations": I had done Charlton House and it was a case of "been there, done that": I was stressed out from excessive commuting forced upon me by my job: and also because Zeta Collins was going to be there.
This time round we had a large number of non-Club members. They came from an organisation that provided "alternate", "interesting" nights-out to people who wanted to try something different. Looking back, I am amused to recall that Alan Murdie, the Chairman of the Ghost Club was still chasing up this "Activity Superstore" organisation for the fee for allowing its members on one of our ghost hunts.
This time round, Charlton did have something to show for itself: at a previous Ghost Club vigil a few months beforehand, team members stationed all around the house heard a colossal explosion-type noise in the Grand Salon. This was coupled with the movement of a trigger object (a small carved, wooden mushroom) about 10 feet. Whilst the latter event might be due to a hoaxer (something that never occurred to the Club incidentally), the explosion was truly inexplicable. It made people jump and run for the Grand Salon from their positions. Plus beforehand, one of the psychics had received a "message" just beforehand that "something was going to happen".
For those of you who believe that ghosts and other paranormal events may be due to recordings which are then played back when circumstances are just right, I should say that the section of the House from which the noise occurred was hit by a bomb in World War 2. If you look at the front of the house, you can see that the style of bricks is different in that area of the house.
However, sadly, NO-ONE TOOK A TAPE RECORDER WITH THEM THAT NIGHT. Therefore, a great opportunity to record, and later analyse a possibly unique event was lost forever. I personally find that unforgivable.
Back to the evening's events ... we all had hopes that there would be a re-enactment of the "boom" that October night in 1999. Alan Murdie had even brought many of the wooden mushrooms with him in case this triggered something off. To the non-initiated virgin spooksters, this must have been bewildering, but all was explained at the end of the evening.
We had a brief warm-up session, at the suggestion of Alan, where we introduce ourselves to a stranger and tell them our favourite comedian. This was to get us into a more relaxed frame of mind, which is usually very effective when triggering paranormal events.
We split up into the usual teams, and this time I was Zeta Collins and Ray Watkins. It was mostly very quiet that night. In one session in the Long Gallery, Zeta saw a shape through my image intensifier, which could have been lens flare. Or imagination. Needless to say, I didn't believe a word she said anymore!
One of my friends, an electronic engineer named Tony Vilches was setting up a camera in the White Room when he happened to remark to Zeta that there was an "old lady crouching by the fireplace". This stunned Zeta - she hadn't picked up on this at all! Tony later told me that he only has mild psychic abilities, and certainly doesn't broadcast his talents to all within earshot.
In one shift, Ray, Zeta and myself, and two activities superstore people were sat in the Grand Salon, where the famous "boom" originated. We were sat just staring into space when we all heard a distant "boom-boom" noise. I recall I turned to look over my shoulder, where I thought the noise came from, way beyond the house. Zeta was pacing up and down, trying to pick up anything, when she heard the noise, stopped in mid-stride and spun round. Zeta is convinced that the noise came from inside the room, as did Ray I think. I got conflicting stories from the activities people. At the time, they thought it came from inside the room, but John Fraser, who wasn't there that night, said that they thought it came from outside.
Zeta wouldn't budge on this issue. She was convinced it was a "spirit rap". I thought it was a firework. After all, this was only a week before November 5th and we could hear fireworks exploding all round the house all evening, but these sounds came from quite a distance away.
Unlike the Club's previous excursions at Charlton, I DID take a tape recorder with me. I had placed it in the White Room on the windowsill and had not put it into voice activated mode, so that it picked up everything (wasteful on tape I know, but fortuitous since it would not have picked up the sound otherwise).
What you get on tape is a distant, but still audible "BANG-bang, BANG-bang", the second and fourth bangs being much quieter than the first and third. Then there are the sounds of a commotion, probably us in the Salon.
It does sound reminiscent of a double gun shot. I am familiar with the sounds that guns make thanks to my interest in the assassination of President Kennedy, and I know that a gun makes three sounds in very close succession. The first is the sound of the bullet being fired, the second is the bullet breaking the sound barrier, and the third is the sound of the target being hit. I must add that not too far from Charlton is the East End of London, where there are occasional sounds of gun shots due to gang fights and robberies etc.
I recall that I did see something odd in the top right hand corner of the House, near the Newton Room. I was looking down the staircase, over the banister where the elevator was located and caught a brief flash of someone coming up the stairs. I looked away, and then realised what I had seen, and by the time I had looked back about a second later, it had gone. A trick of the mind? Almost certainly. I recall that the other staircase still has a strange feeling to it, but as for the rest of the house, I didn't feel alarmed. I could easily wander around with no apprehension at all. Some of us familiar with Charlton later remarked that whatever it was in the house has dissipated.
And then the evening drew to a close...before we left, I asked the security guard to clear one mystery. I had read in one ghost book that the mummified remains of a baby were found in a fireplace during renovation work. "The Good Ghost Guide" even says that this was in the North Wing of the house after the building had been bombed (presumably the incident in World War 2). I asked the guard which fireplace this was, and he said that it used to be in the place where the elevator is located now. I found this strange. For one thing, this is in the South Wing. Secondly, the elevator is built around the stairwell. Why would anyone build a fireplace into a stairwell? Normally, a fireplace is used to keep a room warm. Why would anyone want to keep a stairwell warm? Looking back, I don't believe this story at all!
Perhaps the fireplace is the one in the Grand Salon from which "orbs" were to be seen emerging by the Ghost Club the following year? At least someone had the presence of mind to record them with a camera!
The whole evening was very quiet and perhaps people were too desperate for something "odd" to happen, even going so far as to ascribe anything to the spooks after the success in the previous vigil?
As for the bang noises: why settle for a supernatural explanation when a mundane one will do?
For the Ghost Club's write-up of the Charlton House investigation, please click here.
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Talbot Inn and Belgrave Hall, Leicester
Thank heavens for a well-organised, scientific vigil! This session was organised by ASSAP as part of its annual training day. Belgrave Hall had achieved worldwide fame due to the anomalous shape recorded on a CCTV (see picture below).
The shape has since been identified as a falling leaf, but at the time, no-one knew what it was and researchers zeroed in on the Hall. Rather coincidentally, the pub just down the road, the Talbot, also has reports of phantoms. It was in this pub that Mike Lewis, then ASSAP National Investigations Co-ordinator saw his first phantom in 35 years of ghost hunting. It was so real and life-like he didn't recognise it for what it was until later when he realised that it had walked into the skittle alley (with no exit) and not emerged. Mike had this tape recorder and camera in front of him but didn't think to activate them. Anyway, all this was to come...
It has to be said that the evening was quiet, and cold, particularly the shift in the local graveyard. Over the next few years, I learned that Julie Hunt (who will re-enter our story later on) had seen a figure in the graveyard and had taken a photograph...but strangely, when developed the whole roll was blank! This was not on our vigil, but the first ASSAP session early on in 1999 when the CCTV footage was broadcast.
One of the more humourous aspects of the vigil was in the Talbot. We had to wait quite a while because the jolly activities in the pub lasted well beyond the chucking out time of 11.20pm. When we finally got in there, myself and a friend from Paraseach got strange results from our magnetic field meters and spent ages tracing field fluctuations on the wall, or behind it. Perhaps a power cable. The real mystery is why people use Gauss to measure magnetic field strength when the accepted unit these days is Tesla. And why do they pronounce Gauss as "Gause" rather than the correct "Gows"?!
Incidentally, this was the first appearance of my Natural Trifield meter which I had purchased from the US in the summer.
All-in-all, not a lot happened, although it was good to meet up with some old ASSAP chums (Stephen Hall, Phil Walton) and meet up with new ones (Val Hope).
The only event of any note in this vigil was after everyone had gone home. There was only Stuart, the curator of the Belgrave museum and one other invigilator who was getting a few hours sleep before going home. All of a sudden, there was a colossal crash from the house. Of course, after a thorough search, nothing was found to be amiss.
Now I know why ASSAP call the Belgrave Hall sessions "Night of the Living Cold"!
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Private house, Beckton, London
I was invited by Phil Walton to attend this investigation into poltergeist activity in a private house on a modern housing estate in Beckton, London. Also in attendance was Catherine Crayford of ASSAP, and her friend (now fiance) Steve.
Although, not a vigil as such, it was a chance to see some very odd activity, and we inspected the damage and talked to the family at the centre of the events. We saw none of the classic signs of the domestic tensions often at the root of poltergeist infestations.
The activity had been occurring for at least the last few months and manifested itself as attacks on the walls. It seems to have started in a wardrobe, before moving into the room beyond this. The walls were literally covered with thousands of tiny little pin pricks, peeling off the wallpaper, and often tunnelling into the masonry beyond to expose the metal mesh in the walls. There were literally hundreds of marks in a square inch, each one reminiscent of a nail having being hammered in. Most of the walls in the room had been damaged. The "entity" was prone to moving from room to room, from the wardrobe to the next room and back again. No-one had seen any damage themselves.
One night, one of the family went to bed, and when he woke up, he was covered with plaster, with fresh damage above him! Whatever it was, it was very quiet not to have woken him.
The family dog had a similar experience. Members of the household noticed that there was a patch of dust and plaster on its head. When they checked, they noticed an outbreak of fresh damage. The dog must have sat and watched the thing chiselling away at the walls (we joked afterwards about fitting a webcam on the dog so that we would see whatever it was seeing!)
Phil Walton had devised a plan to get some measurable data from this outbreak. He had placed a tape recorder with a contact microphone inside a large case, and then sealed the latches with wax. He then plugged in two leads, which ran around the box. These leads didn't actually do anything: the whole purpose of the box was to make it look like it did do something! We asked the family to leave the box where it was, propped up against the wall where most of the damage had occurred in the hope of picking up some sounds.
I know very little about the outcome of this case. Phil told me a few months later that the box seemed to have scared the "...whatever..." back into the wardrobe.
I never heard anything more about the outbreak.
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Legal and General Building, London
Yet another Ghost Club ramble, but at least this one was without the nauseous Ms.Zeta Collins who had been ejected from the Club early on in the year for insulting the friend of a guest speaker.
In this case, most of the occurrences had been sighted in the basement of the Legal and General insurance building in the City of London, where a lot of the records are held. It certainly was interesting to see thousands of records stacked up on the shelves in this massive room. We were told that something had been seen in this room near one of the fire escape doors in the corner of the main records room.
The evening was, again, quiet, livened up by Lionel Gibson bringing a bottle of red wine into the session. Philip Carr, the new Ghost Club newsletter editor took some photographs of the events that night, one of which wound up on the ghost section of "The Big Breakfast" on Channel 4 last Hallowe'en (despite me being in the foreground, I wasn't mentioned possibly because I had stormed out of the club in disgust as its ludicrous and unfair pricing policy in August that year).
Not much springs to mind on this case. I recall feeling a little dizzy and disorientated as I passed some of the big garbage skips outside the records room ,and a few others felt the same way there. In all, the atmosphere wasn't very intimidating at all and I even went for a few private sessions, first in the main room, and then at the bottom of a pitch black corridor, where I surprised Helen Edwyn-Jones by waiting until she was only feet from me before switching my torch on! Ha ha!
The only interesting thing that night was the Ouija board session. We alternated the board members, but we only got something when Rosie Murdie (Alan's sister) was in contact with the board.
The Ouija session was partially garbled: perhaps random outpourings from our minds. In the few seconds of coherence, we found that "it" was British, was possibly called "Jainai", was female, born in 1829 and was aged 29. "It" was alive during the reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901), which is significant since most "ghosts" can even get basic facts right. "It" also said that is family name was Jones (so, very easy to trace then!) but significantly, couldn't spell out where it was born, what its job was or how it died (respectively Marlgila, snirxoz, ilk)!
In fact, when we asked where it was born, and it spelt out "Marlgila", we said "is it Marylebone?" and it said "yes". I find this is very silly to do during a seance/Ouija board session. Whilst at York, we used to indulge in sessions every week, and sometimes we would ask "How did you die", and it would spell out "H-E-" and one of us would interject "Heart Attack?", to which it would obviously answer "yes". If the ouija board is just people subconsciously pushing the glass then we have just told the other on the board what the answer should be! This makes the results suspicious....
I digress. Shortly afterwards, "Miss Jones" moved the planchette to "Goodbye". We then got in touch with something else, and this moved the planchette very rapidly. Its name was gibberish, didn't want to say whether it was good or evil, and had a message. It died in the area, but not by someone's else's doing although it wasn't an accident - it was suicide. "It" was 72, and died in the year "9" (1909? 1809?). It was female, and her husband had died. The name was "JONS" OR ""JOUNS", and her husband was buried in "Kathni" or "kip" church (I wish ghosts knew basic literacy and were consistent!)
Furthermore, she lived in London, didn't regret suicide but was looking for her husband. "It" also said that Rosie knew where her husband was. Rosie was quite alarmed by this and wanted to end the session but we persevered. "It" said we/Rosie could help by praying for her and her husband's soul, and Lionel offered one for her.
The Ouija session becomes very muddled after this point: the "ghost" now said that her husband was still alive and that his name was Reginald Fox, who lived at ** Sughe Way in Hatfield (obviously I have removed the number in case the address does exist and someone does live there).
I should note here that about a month before this, a train had crashed near Hatfield with loss of life. It is highly likely that this was still in our mind, hence the possible reason that the name of the town appearing in the session.
Obviously none of us thought that the session was worthwhile since no one at the Club requested a transcript of the Ouija session and certainly no one bothered to see if Mr.Fox did live at the address.
Later we were told that the main entity was a monk-like figure seen in the vicinity of the fire escape that I mentioned before, and in a back passageway. With the ruins of the Temple of Mithras being just outside the L&G building, this made sense, but having been told this it made for a nervous trip retrieving my bag from the room where the Ouija board session was held!
An interesting evening, and certainly better than most Club's events.
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Oxford Prison, Oxford
A fun night in a prison was to be had in this vigil! Like the previous two years, this was part of the ASSAP training day, and was also a case of "too many cooks spoiling the broth": there were 40 of us in the prison that night. Sadly, an Oxford ghost walk failed to occur and there seemed little to do except retire to the pub, of which Oxford is suitable blessed. The evening started off with a trip to the pub where a fair amount of alcohol was consumed. We even managed to smuggle half a bottle of red wine into the vigil!
After some trouble getting in due to our slightly late arrival, we met up with Mike White who was organising the session. Oxford Prison is now a deserted shell and was to be refurbished into a hotel complex. Before this evening, the prison had been used in the filming of a movie of some description, and there were Korean or Japanese symbols daubed all over the walls in red paint. God knows what the film was!
We assembled into teams where I was pleased to meet up with Andrew Homer of Parasearch as well as other ASSAP stalwarts, like Stephen Hall. In our team were myself, Rita Leek and Bob Savage (all of the Ghost Club). We soon became very bored just sitting down waiting for things to happen and we all knew that nothing was going to happen. We therefore elected to explore the prison as we would (hopefully) never be in one again in our lifetimes! Buoyed by alcoholic bravery we literally went all over the place, even winding up in the attic space above the cells' galleries, the shower room and the administration wing. Rita and Bob even made it onto the roof, alas I couldn't join them because I got vertigo going up the spiral staircase and ladder. By about 3-4 o'clock we elected to go back to our hotel and thanks to the generosity of Bob, I got somewhere to sleep that night after he offered to share his room with me.
As an example of the "too many cooks..." syndrome described earlier, as the three of us tried to leave the prison, we took a wrong turning and went down a totally black corridor. I asked if the way out was down there, and then, a second later, half a dozen torches snapped on in front of me! There were at least 6 people standing in a corridor no more than 10 or 12 feet long, everyone being within touching distances of each other. Just what were these people expecting to happen, or to see?!
Funnily enough, I never did find out what was supposed to be in the prison; all I did find out was that it wasn't in our wing. However, some people did get some strange glowing shapes when their films were developed: these were not visible when the pictures were taken...
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Abandoned Cottage in Levington, near Ipswich
Above: A view of the abandoned cottage the next day
This cottage, in the village of Levington, near Ipswich, had been abandoned since August 1997 when the owner, an old lady, fell and injured herself. She was placed in care shortly afterwards and the building has not been inhabited since. On the desk, there are newspapers and bills dating from 1997, and the place is festooned with dust and spiders webs. In some of the rooms, it looks like the plants and bushes outside are forcing their way into the house.
There is no gas, and the electricity supply is very erratic; so much so that we were asked not to use it unless very necessary. For nearly the whole session, we used our torches plus some candles that we had brought. Needless to say, it was freezing cold that night!
The house had been on the market for many years but had failed to find a buyer. What brought the place to the attention of the Ghost Club was the presence of a footprint in the dust upstairs. Remember that no one had been in the place for years! Local people had said that, when the old lady lived there, their children did not like going into the house, and a figure had been seen in the upstairs window (though this could be due to a trick of the light).
The investigation at the cottage was a two-stage affair. Alan Murdie led the team on Friday evening and John Fraser on the Saturday. Later on, Alan would tell me that he didn't think that the cottage was haunted, but that sightings of phantoms was possibly due to the effect of electromagnetic pollution on the brain: there is actually a mobile phone mast within sight of the cottage.
The place is certainly antiquated, and the upstairs made you feel claustrophobic, because it was one large room partitioned into two with a serving hatch in the middle. The story is that the husband, before he died, had been a prisoner of war captured by the Japanese in World War 2. He had been tortured so much that when he returned to England, he had constant nightmares. He would arise from his bed and go into terrible destructive frenzies as he relieved his wartime experiences in his dreams. For this reason, his wife had the partition installed and she would sleep in the other section of the house.
None of us relished the idea of spending all evening in the darkened shell, so we adjourned to a pub for quite a few drinks and a nice meal. By the time we arrived at the house to start, it was quite late and the alcohol had given us a sense of bravado.
From an equipment point of view, two other members (Matt and James) had brought their own equipment, cameras...and their own TriField meter. None of us picked anything up. The only other thing smuggled in was a bottle of Romanian Plum Brandy, which no-one drank!
Our session was certainly very quiet. There are reports of a "sigh" from the downstairs bedroom. We held a Ouija board session but picked nothing up apart from something calling itself "Legion". I recall I remarked that "this is starting to sound biblical", but John Fraser asked the "entity" what Legion it meant (!!!) in light of the story of the man of the house which we did not know at this point. After that, we tried to get some sleep which was difficult considering how extremely cold it was!
Above: The bedroom in which the sigh was heard
In a show of defiance to the spooks, we manhandled the ornamental door knocker outside. The local legend is that bad luck with come to those touch it. A year on, and I'm still here.
For the Ghost Club's write-up of the Levington investigation, please click here.
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Manor House, West Bromwich
By this point, I have become sufficiently dissatisfied with the Ghost Club to elect to "have nothing more to do with it" on the grounds that it was elitist and its subscription policy was "morally offensive". I thought that by making a stand and leaving it would prompt a re-think of Club policy. Nothing like that happened. Everyone's attitude was "Oh, bye!" and I have become a pariah. None of my friends in the Club contact me anymore.
However, by the early half of 2001, I had become more and more involved with other groups, such as ASSAP. I had asked Parasearch, based in the West Midlands to give the Club a talk in early 2001 and we were all sufficiently impressed by the quality of evidence and equipment they had to want to form strong ties with them. I personally went one step further, by joining them as an associate member. Because of the distance involved, I was unable to go to every vigil, but I still go on as many as I can, train bookings allowing. The Manor House is the second Parasearch vigil that I went on, after Dudley Castle 6 years earlier. The place is a pub, and is of great age.
It has its own chapel/museum and has a moat, now empty. Many ancient artefacts found in the moat are now part of the museum. Many years ago, when the pub was being refurbished, the front facade came away to reveal an even older front to the pub. The decor inside is certainly very odd, with low hanging ceilings and oak beams, hanging draperies etc.
Parasearch had been to the pub many times, but this was the first time under new management and the proprietor was fascinated and asked to take part in the vigil. Previously in the last few days, psychics had told him that "something" was going to happen that night. This new landlord had experienced heavy doors being opened and repeatedly re-opened in the night when he was doing a routine check-up of the building.
Things looked promising upon arrival as one team member asked if anyone (a woman) had been in one of the darkened front rooms. The landlord said no, but then pointed out that that room is easily accessible from the upstairs bar just around the corner.
Previously, Parasearch had seen odd things in the upstairs bar, including a figure that materialised against one wall in full view of two people. Unfortunately, the video camera was pointing slightly off to one side and missed this.
Also, Carolyn Adey, David Taylor's (Chairman) partner actually saw a crouching figure near the downstairs food bar. More importantly, the figure seemed to see Carolyn and reacted to her, as if it was trying to hide!
It seems that the prediction of the psychics was off the mark. It was a very quiet night indeed. The only "exciting" part was when I was going up some stairs towards the darkened room where the female figure had been seen. I didn't notice the low lying beam at the top of the stairs and I cracked my head! The pain was so intense I recoiled from it. According to everyone else, it certainly made a very loud noise. Fortunately, the pain soon went. I noticed that the darkened room made me feel uneasy, and this due to my perceptions: in the far corner, was a staircase and because of the way it curved round and followed the wall, I couldn't see the bottom of it. This made me feel very uneasy, and it brought back memories of the Round House staircase before. It didn't make me feel in control of the situation when part of the room was obscured.
The rest of the night passed off quietly. There was a loud noise by the downstairs bar as the evening drew to a close, and perhaps some small light effects, but nothing spectacular. In stark contrast to the Ghost Club, the pub was filled with equipment!
But the only thing that I saw that night was stars. Ouch!
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Dudley Castle, West Midlands
A return to Dudley. Again, a very quiet session but a few things do immediately come to mind. Only a very small contingent could make it (4 of us plus the curator); Carolyn Adey wanted to make it but was ill. It was hoped, via myself that members from the Ghost Club could come to boost numbers but I felt disinclined to help the Club in any way at all.
The vigil was in the midst of the UK's foot and mouth epidemic and because of the zoo animals, we were all obliged to walk through a disinfecting tray before going into the castle grounds. Also, because of the foot and mouth, no cars were allowed into the grounds so we had to carry our boxes of equipment up the hill. Surprisingly, it wasn't that far to walk! David Taylor informed us that this might be the last trip to Dudley Castle because the site is being developed into a business park. However, because of good relations with the current proprietors it was felt that access might be allowed in the future. What this means is that the zoo will probably close down, hopefully the castle will remain open though.
Also, the Round House, much to my great disappointment was inaccessible due to the fact that it is now used as office and storage space. Damn!
The castle looked the same as it did in 1995, with one or two changes. Part of the ruin had been converted into a visitors centre and (rather tacky) shop. It was in the shop that strange things had been noted but I can't recall what they were. In front of the shop was a stage for amateur productions for the public. With the wind, and later rain that night, the tarpaulin flapping in the wind made an eerie noise.
It has to be said that the evening was very quiet, and the atmosphere was not threatening at all inside the castle and undercroft area. I was determined not to fall asleep because, with any luck, upon waking the phantom(s) would be right in front of me: that always seems to happen. An anomalous electric (or magnetic ? - I can't recall) field strength reading was quickly traced to a nearby fluorescent strip lamp in the shop which was emitting an audible hum. Nothing was picked up on our Trifield meters though.
Very, very quiet unfortunately.
Oh, by the way, in an effort to muster funds, Dudley had formed a "sponsor a ghost" money making scheme. David thought this was a great laugh!
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Hatton Court Country House Hotel, near Milton Keynes
This vigil was organised at very short notice (about 5 days!) and unusually took place on a Sunday evening rather than a Saturday. The quality more than made up for the brevity of notice.
Stephen Hall, the National Investigations Co-ordinator for ASSAP phoned me up and asked if I wanted to do a session at the "Hove Hotel" near Milton Keynes. Of course, I said yes. He also said that also in attendance that night would be a film crew from Meridian, filming a piece for one of their Hallowe'en slots that year. Also there that night were three others: Caroline Searley, Eileen Rodgers, and Ian Percy, all wonderful people.
That night was memorable for more than one reason: when I left my flat in New Malden, the weather was clear. By the time I got to Milton Keynes it was raining. Very heavily. I asked a taxi driver to take me to the "Hove Hotel". he had never heard of it! For one second, it looked like I would be heading back to London again! Fortunately I had Stephen Hall's mobile phone number and I got the correct name of the hotel. It turned out to be a very long distance outside of town.
When I got to the hotel, the only people there were the film crew and they informed that there would be an imminent announcement about the US stance on terrorism: in fact, the reprisal bombings on Afghanistan started that night. Myself, the two cameramen then drove to the nearby (!) pub to meet up with Caroline and Eileen and get something to eat. Stephen and Ian arrived quite late having run into traffic congestion on the M25 from Bournemouth, caused by the bad weather (although it had stopped raining in Milton Keynes at this point).
I was told something of the place. The main seat of the hauntings was in room 7, and was usually left unoccupied unless a guest insisted or there was no other space at the hotel. One night, a rugby player was given the room because there was no where else. He awoke in the night and went to the bathroom, where there is a huge mirror. As he looked into the mirror, he noticed a figure behind him. He fled and spent the rest of the night in his car.
Before I got there, the light switch on the landing near Room 7 turned off by itself. It was a proper press-down style switch, not a push button so it required force to switch it on/off. The light was taped in the on position to see if it would switch back. It didn't.
Also, in room 9, where the film crew had set up their equipment, you could feel an instant chill the moment you crossed the threshold. It was as if an air conditioning unit was mounted just above the door, except for the gust associated with such a unit. There was no air conditioning unit. It was obviously a few degrees colder as you walked into the room.
The first session was spent in room 7. There were minor cold spots in there, although not as obvious as the one in room 9. Actually, walking into room 7, it didn't feel as cold as room 9. In room 7, we tested the temperature with a remote heat sensing gun. Everything was fine (although the temperature around the wardrobe did fluctuate quite a bit), except for Ian Percy whose temperature was well below everyone else. He said that he did feel cold, and was wearing a jumper (everyone else was wearing shirts, or loose clothing). In the darkness, it was fairly nondescript and uneventful. Caroline picked up a green orb on the night vision scope on her camera, and there were a few other minor light effects (I should point out that night vision scopes show everything in green anyway). Whatever it was, I don't recall seeing it with the naked eye.
The evening was so eventful, I am unsure as to the exact sequence of events, but I will try and place them chronologically anyway.
We then held a Ouija board session, and Eileen elected to opt out at this point. This was the best Ouija session that I have ever attended. Every single answer was in perfect English, with no garble, although some of the syntax seemed "old". It was as if the "ghost" was sitting right next to us. Again, I can't recall much of the detail because so much was said/communicated, but the information pointed us to a painting on the wall of the dining room, which showed the original family, when the hotel was a private home many, many years ago. The "ghost" also said that the father of the house was a cruel man, who had taken to drinking gin, and that the ghost was looking for her children who had drowned in a now-filled in pond outside in the grounds. We had heard this previously and it is a local legend, so maybe this was colouring our views of the place and affecting the session? Funnily enough, Ian Percy described a craving for gin afterwards, and he normally can't stand the stuff.
The "ghost" was very conversational. At one point I joked whether it wanted a drink, and it said "tea". I asked whether it wanted Earl Grey, Darjeeling etc. and the ghost gave me a rebuke saying, "don't mock me"! One of the film crew was having a quick nap on the floor, and the ghost enquired about "sleeper", saying that his shoelaces were untied (I don't think they were but everyone else swears that one of the laces was coming undone).
Four of us were on the floor at this point; myself, "sleeper", Ian and Caroline. Caroline later remarked that she was getting very cold, and her hand felt cold to the touch. Only Ian and Caroline were in contact with the board, and they weren't obviously pushing the planchette. Stephen was sat on the edge of the bed and toppled backwards, to get some rest. The "ghost" asked "Why is Stephen asleep?" No one had noticed that Stephen was now lying prone on the bed. Ian was quite shocked to learn this because he had his back to Stephen!
Also, the other crewmember from Meridian was playing about with the hand-held temperature sensor and joked that it was like something from Star Trek. "Beam me up, Scotty!" he said. Quick as a flash, the ghost replied "Who is Scotty?" (!)
At one point, we asked the ghost where it was, and it said "next to Ian". This put it right beside Ian and myself. I placed Stephen's Dr.Gauss magnetometer and my Trifield meter on this spot and both went bonkers! Things quietened down and we asked where "it" was now, and it said "on the bed". Again, when we ran the magnetic field meters over the bed, they went off the scale. After the quietened down, "it" was asked where it was and it said "everywhere". Wherever we placed the meters, they shot off the scale. We then asked "it" whether it was going this and it said "yes", but it asked that we stop using the meters as it didn't like them. Very eerie and very convincing.
We decided to have a break for a drink in the bar and examine the painting in the downstairs dining room. We sealed the room up and place my Trifield meter in there (its a good burglar alarm too!), a motion sensing burglar alarm, video cameras, tape recorders and a baby alarm (so that we could monitor sound levels in the room remotely). Sometime around now, Stephen Hall found that the battery in his camera had drained to nothing!
So we all retired downstairs and had a chat. We tentatively identified a figure on the painting as the "ghost". Stephen's baby alarm picked up nothing but a strange pulsating noise, which one of the cameramen said sounded like a radio trying to lock onto a signal, which was odd as the transmitter was only about 10 feet above us! To give you an idea of what it sounds like, it you have a voice activated tape recorder, when you play a tape back, you get the rhythmic click-click-click sound of the motor whirring as it is recording. Possibly nothing paranormal, but I should point out that Stephen had huge problems with the baby alarms originally. He was unable to pick up the signal from the transmitter adequately even when in the same room.
And then it was time to be interviewed for the Meridian news item. Alas my contribution ended up on the cutting room floor. Oh well. By the way, at this point it was 3.00am, and all of us were feeling pretty groggy and cold. If only we'd been interviewed hours before!
Finally, we went back to room 7 for another Ouija session and even managed to get Eileen to sit in. Although interesting this session was not as exciting as the first and seemed to repeat a lot of the information. After this, we all got a few hours sleep in the haunted room. Again, nothing happened, but bearing in mind the rugby player story, we were all nervous when we went to the bathroom and tried not to look in the mirror when we got in there!
Definitely the best vigil to date.
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New Tavern Sea Fort, Gravesend, London
Another marvellous vigil, again organised at short notice. This time I had the huge pleasure to meet Mark and Julie Hunt, two exceptionally nice people. They became famous for their photograph of the shape on the stairs of the Ancient Ram Inn in Gloucestershire in 1999, and are veterans of dozens of vigils.
The New Tavern Sea Fort is built on the shores of the Thames and was designed to protect London from attacks during the Napoleonic days by firing across the river: a similar battery, facing south and on the other side of the Thames made the protection complete. Any ship passing by would have been broadside by the massive gun emplacements. During World War 2, it was used as an army barracks and again, huge guns protected the Thames from assault by the Nazis. Today, the Fort is owned by the council, but run by a team of volunteers who are restoring the site as a museum. In the grounds is a very old church, and the bodies are monks are buried nearby.
The Fort is comprised mainly of two underground tunnels. As you go into the main entrance, where the main security desk is located, there is a tunnel leading to the right, and a very long U-shaped tunnel leading to the left. As far as we could ascertain, there is no other access point to the tunnels. The right hand tunnel was the location of a bizarre encounter between a security guard doing his rounds and a figure dressed in out-of-time uniform (alas I cannot recall, or was not told the period). The security guard had reached the end of the tunnel and turned round when out of one wall stepped the figure. The figure turned towards the guard, stamping his feet twice, as if coming to attention, and turned to face the guard. The figure was saying something but although the footsteps were audible, the voice wasn't. The figure either turned and walked through the opposite wall, or vanished (I can't recall which).
In the left hand tunnel, a few strange things have been seen or encountered. In one room, there is a recreation of a room where shells were stored. The shells are extremely heavy and impossible to move without assistance. At one point, one of the volunteer workforce noticed a green mist in the room, and when he checked back later, he noticed that one of the shells had moved.
Further down the corridor, at a junction between the tunnels, an odd shape was once encountered. A visitor to the complex noticed that one of her rings had disappeared and despite extensive searching, was never found. An insurance assessor visited the Fort afterwards, and the guide who showed him where the ring was snatched noticed a dark shape at the junction of the corridors. He didn't say anything at the time. However, back in the security office, the insurance assessor asked his guide "did you see that black shape down there?" Needless to say, this piqued Mark and Julie's interest and after a short delay were granted access to the Fort.
Joining us that night was ASSAP equipment custodian, Adam Bailey. Occasionally dropping in to visit us from time to time were two people who volunteered to remain on site (in the workshop where the restoration takes place). Mark and Julie set up their video camera in the junction of the tunnel where the black shape had been seen, and Adam set up his camera trained on the other tunnel where the army figure had walked through the wall. It was an odd feeling to walk down the narrow tunnel knowing that monks bodies were probably buried just a few feet to the left and right.
We had also managed to get the security cameras working, so that we could view most of the tunnel network, but without sound unfortunately. The system cycled through a setting, so it would alternate through all the cameras; some of the cameras were malfunctioning, giving shapes like the back of a chair (a tunnel) and a flying Rubik's cube. Oh, the jokes we had that night! The depth and the layout also meant that our walkie-talkies did not work either so communication had to be done face-to-face.
I had set my Trifield meter at the end of the U-Shaped tunnel, so that it would activate an alarm if the sum of the magnetic and electric field exceeded a threshold. Further up the corridor, going towards the entrance was a burglar alarm. Anyone down there would set at least one of these off. The Trifield meter kept beeping at regular intervals, as if the field strength was either increasing then decreasing or increasing or decreasing. It is impossible to know which. At a few times, Mark and Julie noticed the meter "screech" loudly which only happens if the field strength peaks.
Nothing really happened that night until Adam and myself took the watch in the left hand, U-shaped tunnel. The corridors were full of crystalline material, a mixture of mould, condensation and some other, fibrous substance, which got all over our clothes. I was sat with my back to the wall, looking down the end of the tunnel where the Trifield meter was. Adam was a few feet away, in the tunnel itself. We were talking amongst ourselves, when we heard a distant "bang" and then a "stamp-stamp" noise (remember the story of the phantom soldier early on, although we didn't make the connection at the time). Adam and myself looked at each other and went down the end of the corridor, setting off the burglar alarm in the process. All Mark and Julie, based in the control room, could see was Adam and myself talking between us and wandering about on the CCTV monitor.
Unable to find the source of the noise, and confident that there was no way anyone could have found their way in, Adam and myself started talking again when we heard the same noises. Being subterranean, there was no way that noises outside could have been transited into the tunnels. Besides, it was late at night and we couldn't think of anything that could have cause the sound. We later learned that the restoration team's workshop was inactive at this time. We had to conclude that there was no obvious source for sounds. Additionally, Adam did observe a green/yellow mist. After a while, he satisfied himself that was the substance off the wall evaporating, or falling and catching the light down there, and could only be seen at certain angles, such as standing flat against the wall. Thinking about the green haze in the shell room, did this solve this mystery?
Mark and Julie joined us and we related what we had heard. We chatted about the theory that paranormal activity usually tends to happen when you least expect it, when you are in a relaxed frame of mind. To test this theory, we stood around in the tunnel and told some (rather risque) jokes. We were goading the ghosts, and it didn't work! However, whilst going up the tunnel, Adam noticed that his mobile phone, which he had placed on a nearby table had suddenly gone into "locked" mode, and that only happens if someone touches the keypad. No one had of course.
Later on, having given so much attention to the U-shaped tunnel, we went into the right hand "straight" tunnel. We walked in and walked straight back out again! The temperature was 11 degrees C; in the other tunnel, it was 16 degrees (probably nothing paranormal in that, it could be due to the fact that this was about 2.00am, plus a combination of cold air from the river and the layout of the tunnels). It was lethally cold that night.
The biggest surprise was well afterwards. I found one particular part of the network to instil great apprehension. At another junction (between the place where the black figure was seen and the room where the shell was moved), there is a pitch black room. I felt nervous walking by this room, as if something was ready to pounce or something was following me. The power of suggestion perhaps? Anyway, I had placed my voice activated tape recorder in the doorway and left it running. Most of the noise it picked up was the sound of us talking and moving.
There were, however, extra voices on the tape.
At some point (and it is impossible to say, since the tape lacks a timecode), a male voice, distorted as if speaking through a radio (recall that ours wouldn't work down there) says something - to my mind, it is "Do it again". There then follows a weird, two-tone wailing noise. At this point, a male voice, similar to the first and similarly distorted, says in a slightly sarcastic tone "Thank You!". There is then a strange giggle and then a bizarre voice saying "We have ways of making you work", lampooning the stereotyped Nazi saying of World War 2. Mark things that the "We have ways..." voice is female, but I think it is male, with a silly falsetto. To give you some idea of what it was like, think of the Nazis in the BBC tv sitcom "Allo Allo". Adam has a theory that someone, or something was trying to get the tape recorder to activate by making the weird noise. The noise itself is artificial, not produced by the vocal chords as far as I can determine. It is not the walkie-talkie, or the burglar alarm, or the Trifield meter. For the voices and sound to have been picked up, they would have had to have been quite close to the recorder. Just how close is a matter of further research. I recall that there is a ruined air-raid siren down there, but it didn't work. At any rate, we were just 20-30 seconds walk away from the tape recorder and we would have heard something as loud at the noise from our position.Having heard the voices, Phil Walton and Adam Bailey, ex-ASSAP members, are convinced that the voices are Mark and Julie Hunt. I must say I do agree. Mark and Julie probably forgot that they made the sound.
I was so convinced that I hadn't picked up anything that it took me a full month to actually work up the enthusiasm to play back the tape. Only about 10 minutes had been used on a 90 minute tape, but what has been picked up is mystifying and intriguing. We hope to go back for more research!
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Woodchester Mansion, Gloucestershire
Until very recently, Woodchester Mansion had been thought to have been free of phantoms; the grounds, on the other hand, are replete with stories of figures, angels, red mists and even a levitating coffin-shape! The mansion is built into a huge valley, comprising seven lakes, and is very remote (the nearest town is Nympsfield, about a mile or two up the road). Work on the Mansion started in the 19th century, but finished after quite a few decades, never to resume leaving the house about 1/3 unfinished. Inside, rubble and masonry litter the floor, and the architecture looks vaguely Mediaeval.
Last September, at the request of the Fox television network (who were making a documentary on the world's most haunted houses), the Ghost Club was invited to send representatives to participate in a vigil. Apparently, a lot of money was spent on the programme, including the hire of a helicopter for panoramic shots (the noise of which succeeded in annoying a neighbour who lives in the proximity). It has to be said that the evening was eventful for the Ghost Club. First of all, they noticed phantom letters on the wall, to the right of the fireplace in the drawing room (these letters already exist as graffiti on the wall, however).
Then, there were a few bangs on the wall, and then all hell seems to have broken loose. I haven't heard the recording made by Fox (and they don't seem to have given a copy to the Woodchester Mansion trust), but it is variously described as sounding like a steam engine crashing, a jet engine and bags of coal, or whatever being dragged along the floor. This sound seems to have been centred on the main staircase, a beautifully restored example of Gothic-Victorian architecture. Apparently, the film crew were so frightened, they kept dropping their camera! No source of the noise was ever located.
Needless to say, this attracted my interest, and I was initially hopefully of being allowed on the next Ghost Club investigation in November, despite me no longer being a member. This was vetoed because my name could not be provided to David Price, the head of the Woodchester trust. Or perhaps because I had fallen out of favour with the Ghost Club?
I was determined to spearhead a professional vigil at Woodchester. Knowing the Ghost Club's methods, I know that they would provide no recorded data. One of the Club's methods is the use of "Trigger Objects", (as described in the Clerkenwell account above), and in this case a 2p piece went missing. (All this proves is that there might have been a thief at work, something not considered by the club). That and the trusty thermometers used amounts to a pretty worthless investigation. I couldn't bear the thought of such poor techniques being seen by lay people as the way that professionals operate, thus giving other teams a bad name. I was also horrified by the reaction that the show could generate in the US, where they have wonderful equipment; compared to our American friends, the Ghost Club is still chasing phantoms with bell, book and candle.
Funnily enough, when the documentary was eventually broadcast, just about all of the footage relating to the Ghost Club had been excised!
With the help of Wendy Milner, who is an ASSAP member and tour guide at the Mansion, we negotiated access for a night in January 2002. David Price was a bit suspicious at first, saying that he didn't want "thrill seekers" but only people who were seriously interested in the field (how ironic!). Wendy had collated ghost stories from the valley, but had never heard of anything occurring in the Mansion itself. The only proviso for vigil was that each member pays 10 to go towards the Mansion's upkeep, and that there be a minimum of about 12 people. In the end, we managed to get about 18 people including Mark and Julie Hunt, Caroline Searley, Stephen Hall, Ian Percy, Andrew Homer (from Parasearch), and Mike White and Michael Lewis from the ASSAP executive. We rendezvoused in a local pub in the afternoon, before heading off to the Mansion in pitch darkness at 8.00pm. Sadly, due to problems with communications and the difficulty organising so many people, two of our team found themselves outside the locked gates after the rest of us had entered, and headed back to London.
When we got to the Mansion, we realised just how cold it was. With the exception of the drawing room, nearly all the rooms were open to the environment, and its fire couldn't combat the gnawing cold. Copious amounts of coffee and electric fires all failed to get us warm- thermometers were obviously useless in this place! Another odd aspect was the cows. They were in surrounding fields and were very noisy, lowing all night long. Both the caretaker and David Price said they had never heard them that agitated before. Odd......
I must admit that I was daunted by the size of the group. Outside of the ASSAP training days, this was the largest group that I had seen assembled. And, what was worse, suddenly everyone turned to me to lead. I was very apprehensive, but looking back I think I did very well considering this was my first such vigil. That, and the few beers inside me gave me some much-needed courage, not to say warmth.
A few interesting things happened that night:
In the kitchen area was the clock for the main tower, removed for restoration. It seems that, whenever no-one was looking at it, the pendulum would start swinging, to varying amounts. This happened on the Ghost Club vigil last November too. The floor is solid stone, so there are no floor boards to transmit vibrations. The clock itself was not working, but, in under an hour, the hands of the clock moved from 12.15 to 5.25. Paranormal activity or....?
The other phenomena we experienced were mainly auditory, with three exceptions: three girls (including Wendy when she was locking up after we had all left) had the sensation of their hair being pulled, or touched. One girl, in the basement at this point, thought that she had caught her hair in her jacket zip. Julie Hunt had her hair pulled in the chapel area, when her back was to a darkened, unoccupied corridor.
Two team members reported the sound of a train, first of all close to the cellar, and then some distance away in the valley. This was early in the morning, when any nearby trains (and the nearest line is miles away) would not be running. At any rate, there are no trains in the Woodchester valley itself. Mark Hunt picked up the possible sound of a train on his videotape in the Kitchen (pointed at the pendulum). The wind was never that strong that night, but early in the morning, we had about half an hour of rain, which could have caused the "rushing" noise caught on tape. However, the tape lacked a timecode on it, so its impossible to know if this was the sound of the rain. Later, I was to learn from Wendy Milner that the wind causing the roof tiles to rattle causes a very similar noise.
Mark's video also picked up another interesting event whilst it was trained on the clock/pendulum. There is the sound of approaching footsteps approaching, then a couple of flashes along the side of the screen (probably caused by a torch). There is then the sound of a door being slammed, a bolt being drawn and then further smaller sounds. Now, there is a door in the vicinity, leading to the caretaker's apartment, but it is a light, flimsy thing and could not have caused the loud slam caught on tape. Mark Hunt pointed this out and I agree with him. Wendy however thinks that the door could have caused the bang, and also says that there is an inside door, which tallies nicely with the "internal" sounds picked up on tape. Mysteriously, if it was the janitor, then the flashes of light, thought by myself to be a torch, become more mysterious. The janitor knows his way round the building and doesn't use a torch. ASSAP member Mike Lewis was using a torch, but he never entered the janitor's flat. Also of note is that, rather strangely, Mark Hunt had enormous difficulty recharging his video camera battery that night.
Strangely, a week later, the Ghost Club held another vigil (where the astronomical number of 30-odd people turned up), and Andrew Homer's video camera also picked up the noise of a door being slammed, from its location near the top of the house. It must also be said that sounds are very deceptive in the house; due to the Mansion's unfinished state, many of the floor are missing and sounds transmit very easily across great distances. For instance, at the top of the restored staircase, I heard doors and footsteps from what I thought was right above me, on the landing, but they turned out to be from the main hall almost directly below me! In that part of the building, the floors are completely absent, and the sounds had become transmitted upwards to my location.
The most interesting event was at about 12.05, when we all heard the clear chime of a bell. At first, we just attributed it to a clock in the building, or the one in the kitchen. We were perplexed to learn that there is no clock in the Mansion with a clapper. Fortunately, Andrew Homer had actually caught the sound on tape. It was later confirmed that there IS a clock in the house, in the main turret, but access is very difficult. The wind could not have caused the bell to sound, and the nearest town is too far away for it to have originated from a local church. A horologist confirms that the bell is being struck "correctly" by a hammer or clapper. One of the most interesting aspects of this bell sound is that the sound seems to have been very localised. IF the sound did come from the main tower/turret, then it is odd that everyone in the drawing room (furthest away from the tower) heard it, the video picked it up (a floor down from the tower and in another wing of the house), but no-one in the cellar or the Kitchen (three floors below the tower/turret) heard it. Given the ease with which sounds transmit in the house, this is very odd indeed.
Andrew Homer and his Parasearch friends also indulged in some infrasound experiments, following on from the work of Dr.Vic Tandy at Coventry University. I don't know what, if anything Andrew detected that night.
One other odd sound, again picked up by Mark's video camera in the kitchen is a sound similar to a tuning fork being struck, then a few minutes later, the sound is repeated three or four times. As stated above, it is impossible to know when these noises occurred. However, shortly after the bell sound, and Andrew Homer confirmed that he had captured it on tape, we went upstairs to listen to it. Whilst he was searching the tape, we got a few squeals of audio feedback. Perhaps this is the sound of the "tuning fork". Perhaps Andrew had also got some feedback when he played the tape back for himself and noticed the bell sound? If so, this initial feedback wasn't heard by anyone in the drawing room.
A few of us were suspicious about the noise heard during the Ghost Club television extravaganza in September. We thought that someone may have sneaked away from the recording session and banged the external scaffolding to create the odd sounds. In an attempt to test this hypothesis, David Price went outside and banged and banged. All we heard was a scaffolding pole fall somewhere in the chapel area (which we could not locate). It didn't sound much like the described noises. However, I believe it would have been very easy to hide a loudspeaker within the debris the Mansion, and play back odd noises, to the bewilderment of all. Likely, we shall never know: apparently, the Fox TV team were sure that the noises were not by any human agent. But Wendy Milner, like myself, is sceptical of ghost reports in the Mansion itself. If ghosts are "the spirits of the dead" then just who is infesting the place? No one had ever lived there, and certainly, other than a tale about a builder being killed and his body hidden during construction, no-one has died there.
Of course, with such a large team, co-ordination was very difficult between teams, but there were a few moments of levity.
I recall that I was in the kitchen, whilst Caroline, Ian and Stephen were in an adjoining room: this room had had crucifix-style graffiti drawn on the wall, which had since been painted over. The team in there had reported some low-level light activity, such as little red lights on the wall. All of a sudden, the whole room lit up! We ran for the room and talked excitedly about the "event". When we compared notes with other teams, it transpired that Mark and Julie had been taking flash photographs in a nearby room. Later on, I found a 10p piece in the Kitchen right in front of the pendulum mechanism, and thought that the ghosts were being kind. Checking with other teams, I soon learned that Mike Lewis had placed it there as a trigger object!
On the Tuesday after the vigil, Wendy reported a strange event that the live-in caretaker had witnessed. He was woken early in the morning by his dog barking, and then discovered that all the lights in the mansion were on. Thinking he had disturbed an intruder, he climbed out of his window to confront the miscreants. There was no-one there, and the Mansion was locked up securely. Additionally, to switch the lights on, the master switch has to be thrown, which would have provided a very large "clunk" noise, which he hadn't heard. However, he hadn't heard the September Ghost Club sounds, or the times when the burglar alarm had activated.
So, what do we make of these stories? I personally don't think the Mansion is haunted, and neither does Wendy. The whole building, despite being cold seemed calm and without any disturbing atmosphere at all (although I wouldn't want to spend any time there alone). It is worth visiting, but any future vigils have to be postponed, due to the bats breeding in the Mansion between March and September.
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Private House, Plumstead, East London
The next case was a private home in Plumstead in London. This was the ground floor flat and had had reports of both poltergeist phenomena and apparitions. Mark and Julie Hunt kindly invited me on to this session and gave some background to the case. It seems that unlike most ghosts, which dissipate in activity when a lot of people are in the vicinity (the "too many cooks..." syndrome noted at Oxford Prison for instance), this one actually thrives on the presence of people! Mark said that on one of his first vigils, a comb that he had placed on the table top was flung against the wall with such force that the teeth of the comb dragged on the vinyl tablecloth making a rasping noise!
The kitchen seems to be one of the foci of the haunting, although rappings had been heard all over the house. In the kitchen, things left on the table have been found on the floor in the morning (the owner hears the crash during the night but is so common, he doesn't even get out of bed to investigate). On one occasion, a glass tank containing stick insects was hurled against the wall!
Red lights, like eyes had been seen in both the back bedroom and a recording studio that the owner had built into the back of the garden. In fact, the ghost plays havoc with the electrical equipment in the studio.
The theory is that the previous owner of the house, now deceased, had a rose garden at the back of the house; it was his "pride and joy". When the current owner moved in, he ripped up the roses and built his studio on the site. Apparently this angered the old man! When the studio was being built, animal bones were unearthed in the ground below.
Once, a quiet session was held in the studio, the house being empty. A tape recorder had been placed in the owner's bedroom. When the tape was played back, to my friends' amazement, there was the sound of a frantic search in the room. Whatever it was seemed to be rifling through papers etc., and there were a couple of loud crashes, as if someone/thing had lifted something up to above head height and than thrown it on to the ground. Needless to say, there was nothing amiss in the room when my friends returned.
So many events have happened in the recording studio that I can only recall three of them: the owner's daughter was playing on the piano, minding her own business when she heard the sound of one of the guitar's strings being plucked. When she turned round, there was no-one there! On another instance, the owner got so "spooked" in the studio that he fled, and as he ran from the door, he quickly turned, took a picture and then bolted. The photograph (which admittedly I haven't seen) apparently shows a misty white shape in the doorway (such shapes, orbs and streaks of light have been seen all over the flat, studio and garden).
On one of the previous vigils, Mark and Julie were sat in the studio, the only source of illumination being a candle. They watched in sheer amazement as the candle got lower and lower (as if it was the flame on a gas cooker, and someone was turning off the supply). After a while, the flame was restored to its natural size and brightness.
On our vigil that night, there was myself, Mark and Julie, Adam Bailey and Mike Lewis. Due to discussions on the UFO phenomena between the Mike, and the owner (who is fascinated by the paranormal anyway), the vigil started somewhat later than planned.
The tone was set for the evening when Julie went to the toilet, passing through the kitchen. As she passed the threshold going from the kitchen, something made her scream. Mark and myself ran to see what had happened. On the floor was a baseball cap, obviously from a nearby set of coat hooks. However, the owner of the house assured us that the caps and coats had been securely pegged on. Additionally, the sound that the cap had made when it hit the floor sounded more like it had been hurled onto the ground, rather than just falling.
If we thought that further things would happen in the kitchen, we would be disappointed. A problem was in the active period of the phenomena: most things happen between 8/9pm and 3am, and we were running out of time.
The recording studio was altogether different. We sat in there, first of all with a candle, and then in the dark. At first, the owner, Mark, Julie and myself were all based in the studio itself. The owner had his back to the mixing room, and he said that he could hear something moving about inside, although we couldn't make out anything at all in there. We had even switched the computer off to ensure that the noise of the fans didn't mask any other sounds.
The temperature dropped noticeably, although the thermometers didn't change to any great extent during this period, and we got a few interesting light effects on the wall behind and above Julie. From where I was sitting, I couldn't see these however.
In the next session in the recording studio, Adam and Julie sat in the mixing booth and the rest of us sat in the studio. I sat where Julie had sat previously, and the owner observed two bright flashes above my head that Adam Bailey also picked up on his video camera. A picture that the owner took shows a dark shape seated to my right, where the drum kit is located. Obviously, no one was actually sat there.
I mentioned that, if everyone was in the same room, the phenomena might return to the mixing room, so Adam and Julie joined us. It was at this point that I smelt an odour of perfume (not Julie's by the way) and we made the connection with the old rose garden story. The smell didn't last long, but a few others picked up on it too. In this final session, all five of us cramped into the small studio, the atmosphere was very different. It wasn't as cold as before, and the atmosphere was lighter too. Evidently, we had passed our 3.00am ghostly curfew! One other things stands out in my mind during this session in near total darkness: despite none of us moving at all, the red LED on the alarm sensor on the wall was blinking occasionally.
Of course, we had placed tape recorders, videos, a burglar alarm and the Trifield meter in the bedroom where the bangs and crashes had been picked up by Mark and Julie last year. The only thing we picked up was the sound of the alarms going off as Julie inadvertently went into the room to change tapes over!
An interesting night, and hopefully a return visit will occur soon enough. The only disconcerting event was the owner saying that the ghost likes to follow people home for a few days! My reaction was quite a strong expletive, and a nervous nights' sleep!
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The Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-under-EdgeNote: if you're reading this because of "Most Haunted's" visit to the Ram Inn, you really should read this website. It catalogues their list of lies and deceit.
Widely regarded as one of the most haunted locations in the UK, I was kindly invited by Mark and Julie Hunt to their 13th vigil at this place, a former public house dating back hundred of years (the 13th/14th century?). The vigil was organised by Mark and Julie as an event separate from ASSAP, under the The Ghost Detectives" umbrella. Sadly, a member of this team, (as well as the Ghost Club) poured water on their involvement by telling Ross Hemsworth, the head of the "Ghost Detectives" that "The Ancient Ram Inn isn't as haunted as it makes out". That, and a worrying, but probably inaccurate report about the electricity supply in the building, forced the detectives out.
Despite all this background politics, the trip was very interesting. The Ram Inn has many stories associated with it, too many to mention here, and the owner, John Humphreys, has kept a visitors book and scrapbooks of newspaper clippings full of reports and stories. For instance, there are reports of strange sensations in the haunted Bishop's Room, which have been connected with incubi and succubi, or sexual demons. There are also stories of babies crying, poltergeist activity etc. Mark and Julie had managed to take their famous picture of the vaguely human shaped vortex on the stair case in 1999 (see below), and had also snapped a "crouching monk" near the dressing table in the Bishops Room. This latter photograph is tinged in an eerie red colour. The staircase photo was taken on their first vigil, and in later excursions with Parasearch, the team has set up a video camera at the head of the stairs to capture ...."whatever".... on tape. When they returned, someone (??) had angled the camera upwards towards the ceiling and nothing was filmed!
The day started off well, with John Humphreys regaling us with some of the many tales: he himself had seen a ghostly "black sheep" in the kitchen earlier that day, which he took as being as portent of some impending ghostly activity. John sleeps in an annex off the main house, above the kitchen, and has dozens of mirrors littering the place - "to ward off the evil". The door from his lounge to the most haunted place is locked. Apparently, one of the ghosts is thought to be that of a teetotal, and there a re numerous bottles of booze around the building to see off the spooks.
Since we had arrived early, we embarked on a tour of the building. The atmosphere inside was dark and gloomy, and very untidy, with reminders of its days as a public house littering the building. It was also very menacing inside, and lacked basic sanitation (no bath, toilet). The building is in a very bad state of disrepair and despite it having listed building status, money is not forthcoming from the council to perform the necessary work. A shame. John has high hopes of the building re-opening as a pub. In fact, considering the number of people who dropped by unannounced to hear of the ghosts (and John gives all of them a tour), he could make a fortune marketing the place. All he asks is a small donation to help the upkeep of the place. Sometimes people leave money; more often than not, they don't.
A few strange things happened during our tour. Whilst investigating the attic, Mark, Julie and myself heard a panting noise on the landing below us, similar to a large dog. Of course, there was nothing there. This happened twice. And, when we got to the Bishop's Room, Mark and myself tried the door handle, but it was stuck fast. Mark pointed out a nearby shepherd's crook and said that you had to bang on the door three times with it, and ask to be let in. Feeling foolish, I tried this, and the door opened first time! I remember being so shocked I took a step back. And then, as I crossed the threshold into the room, I experienced a horrible dizzy spell.
We decided to retire to a nearby pub before starting our evening session. Our friend Wendy Milner from nearby Stroud was also coming later that night, so we couldn't start before 11.00pm anyway. After a few beverages, and possibly some of the worst fish and chips I have ever tolerated, the evening began. It has to be said that during the day, the Ancient Ram is cold, despite the weather. At night, it is freezing. Of course, there is no heating in the building, but this chill was biting. Fortunately, a nearby off-license was on the way back, and we purchased a bottle of very cheap, extremely poor whisky to warm up.
Sadly, the evening was very quiet. Mark and Julie had never experienced anything themselves in their first 12 visits (apart from the photographs) and were optimistic this time round. An interesting event did take place shortly after John Humphreys had let us in and we were talking about spooks over a cup of tea. I had my back to the window, and Mark was sat opposite me, facing me. All of a sudden, he raised his arm and waved out of the window. I turned and looked over my shoulder, but there was nothing there. Mark said that he had seen a non-desript 14 year old boy, dressed in white (like "Randall and Hopkirk deceased") look in at us, wave back at Mark, and then turn left to the main entrance. John rushed to the front door to ask this person about his intrusion into the car park area, Mark and myself followed John, but no-one was there. In the few seconds it took for us to get to the door, no-one could have run out of the car park, and there were few places to hide. John did tell us that he was being pestered by local hooligans who use the car park for their activities, so maybe it was one of these ruffians...?
Wendy arrived at midnight, fresh from her friend's party, and with a handy little hipflask of quality whisky, which we consumed readily. We tried the Ouija board, both in the lounge and the Bishop's Room, but we got gibberish. The only other companions were had were the rats and mice, rustling away in the rubbish on the floor.
At one point, Wendy needed to go to the toilet (basically a bucket!), and Julie agreed to go with her as Wendy was feeling nervous on her own (and I don't blame her). Whilst she was in the toilet, Wendy heard male voices over to her left. Of course, the men were downstairs, and she was very apprehensive. However, Mark and myself were seated in the room directly below, and to the left of where she was. And the next day, I noticed that a small window in the direction of the voices, had been left open overnight. Perhaps this is what she heard...?
While the girls were up there, Mark and myself heard strange noises on the baby monitor which we had set up close to the toilet/Bishops Room. They sounded like someone breathing on the monitor, but it may have been the girls up there. Wendy also confirmed that she had heard this noise (she described it as being like a dragging noise) coming from a gap in the ceiling above and to her left. Julie was outside the toilet at this point, standing on the landing between the toilet and the Bishop's Room.
Even a drowsy session in the Bishops Room failed to arouse the phantoms. We tried the Ouija board. No result. We sat in darkness, waiting for the small light effects (blue/green lights near the fireplace) to appear. We looked in the mirror hoping to see the figure that sometimes appears within. Nothing. We ended up snoozing, with Wendy and myself on the famed "haunted" bed. Wendy eventually had to leave as she was due to be a tour guide at nearby Woodchester Mansion the next day. After she had gone, we all drifted off to sleep again, but I kept the lights on just in case! As the sun rose, I gained the courage to switch the light off. So much for the ghosts!
Next day, Mark and Julie elected to take some photos using their brand new digital cameras. We did a tour of the house with Mark's video camera, and I did a quick survey with the Trifield meter (failing to pick up any anomlies). We did find a cold spot near the Bishop's Room, where a phantom lady is said to disappear.
When it came time to take still digital pictures, and having taken some excellent exterior shots, whenever Julie came inside to take pictures, the cameras only took one picture. We thought it might have something to do with the darkness defeating the camera ability to take pictures, but on closer examination, the batteries had been drained. Funnily enough, Wendy had also said that her camera's batteries had drained the night before. Odd, since I know that Mark and Julie had put brand new batteries in their cameras before going to the Ram!
Left to right: me, John Humphreys (owner) and Mark Hunt. Picture courtesy of Mark and Julie Hunt
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Angel Inn, Pershore
A new case for Parasearch, at the Angel Inn in Pershore, in Worcestshire. This had recently come to light and had been reported in the book "Haunted Holidays" co-written by Parasearch founder and chairman, David Taylor. This case reported a figure seen near the fireplace in the restaurant.
The Angel itself is a fairly old building, and is now a public house and hotel, selling nice (if somewhat pricey) souvenirs. We arrived at about "chucking out time", and, after waiting for the regulars to leave, or guests to retire to bed, we settled down. We interviewed one of the assistant manageresses, and she said that there were a few places that she felt uneasy (including an outside corridor), but we didn't have access to these places. She did say that, during a post-work curry a few nights before, a plate had fallen off a plate holder on the wall (the holder was still in place)!.
We made a few teams and concentrated on a few areas- the reception area fireplace, the restaurant fireplace, and the front bar. This last area provided some amusement from couples wandering by the window, arguing intensely and unaware that we were eavesdropping. Otherwise, the pumps and fridges made strange noises, like human breathing, that alarmed me for a while.
One of the team members was a dowser and produced the usual claims about "energy fields" etc. Yawn. The only thing that was reported that could have been inexplicable was somewhat strange lighting effects in the reception area (by the fireplace and by the ladies toilets' door), but these were very low-key and inocuous. George Gregg, the Parasearch equipment master ("Inspector Gadget") reported a strong EM field in the front bar, but we figures that this may be due to cables beneath the floor, or equipment in the cellar, which was sealed.
A very, very quiet night on the whole. We left about 3 or 4 am, feeling exceptionally bored!
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Beaulieu Abbey, Hampshire
Two views of the Abbey ruins.
A break-away faction from the Ghosts-UK group recently decided to form their own UK investigations group, dedicted to ghost-hunting. The founders were Mike Burden and Heidi Graham from Hertfordshire who have amassed an enormous casebook of 50 vigils for 2003 alone! I was wary of this, and my initial impression was that they were clueless neophytes "out for a good time" was soon confirmed. I had mentioned ASSAP in one forum on ghosts-uk and he had responded by asking what "as soon soon as possible" was. He wasn't joking, and for a supposed serious investigator not to know what a premier research group's name stood for was telling.
We arranged to meet in a local pub close to Lord Montagu's Beaulieu estate (in the New Forest) at about 6.00pm. After initial introductions, which included Heidi's mum, 17 year sister, and two students from a college in Farnborough making a documentary about a ghost hunt, myself and Chris, a very nice man from Wokingham who gave me a lift down, were a bit astounded when Heidi laid the ground rules down - "only one alcoholic drink". I was actually a bit shocked at this and thought the rest of the evening would turn out to be run like a military operation (I was to revise this opinion when I had a chat with Heidi later on and found out that she is seemed to be a very nice lady. I may not agree with all this psy-kookiness, but she is one of the few "psychics" who I felt I could actually respect. Anyway, back to the plot....)
The others had come in two cars, and a big white van (without any windows: it must have been very uncomfortable for the 4 or so people stuck in the back). We decided to go and get some food, so we were told that there was a McDonalds twenty minutes away, or a Tescos two minutes away. We opted for the latter, and, even though Chris and myself took a wrong turning when we lost the van, it still took us 20 minutes to find the place. When we got there, we found out that the others wanted something warm to eat, so we all headed off to McDonalds. Except we couldn't find it. After another 15 minutes (at least) of trundling around the outskirts of Southampton (in other words, back the way we had come!), we thought "sod it!" and went to a fish and chip bar, where they took ages cooking my Haddock. By the time I got to eat it at the Abbey, it was cold!
One very pleasant surprise was to be told that the 15 vigil fee had been waived! Well done to Mike and Heidi for organising this!
So, we got to the Abbey eventually around 8 pm and set up our base in the undercroft/exhibition area (see the picture below), and then went for a tour of the ruins. The Domus ( undercroft/dining area (now a banquetting hall) and adjoining chapel) were in a extremely good state of preservation, but the rest of the Abbey was a ruin, having been demolished by Henry VIIIth during the Disillusion in the Middle Ages. I actually found the whole site very peaceful with no sense of fear at all, except for the very dark areas where you'd expect such feelings.
The undercroft/exhibition area, used as a base by the team.
After our tour, we were split up into teams of two, and I was with Heidi. She established a few rules: no couples (i.e. her sister and boyfriend), all vigils to take place in darkness and in silence (because otherwise "it frightens the ghosts" !!!!) and equipment and bags are to be cleared of an area in the undercroft to allow the ghosts to pass. I was a bit worried about where this investigation was going at this point!
Heidi,a medium in training, picked up the name Brother Moses and said the place was very haunted. One impediment we found was that, although the exhibit lights downstairs and heaters (ha ha - the place was bloody freezing) were working donwstairs, the powerpoints didn't, so everything had to be charged upstairs in the dining area, which was adorned with very beautiful tapestries and had a balcony, the staircase to which was blocked with replica banners and staffs. Also, one camera had mysteriously been drained of power. A couple of cameras and a tape recorder (for EVP experiments) were set up in the dining area and was initially declared out-of-bounds.
We had a couple of group photographs taken, one of which showed an orb between myself and Donna's (Heidi's hairdresser and best friend) head. There was a feeling of ecstasy in the group, but all I could offer were false platitudes. I am convinced that most, if not all orbs are camera malfunctions - a hypothesis shared by my friend Chris. Little did I know what was going to happen later on... oh, the horror, the horror.
Another picture was taken and, on the LCD screen on the back of the camera, the group were slowly convincing themselves that it showed a monk with its hands outstretched walking towards the camera, the sleeve holes making black voids on the picture. Then they realised that it was an out-of-focus view of two people's heads. The phrase "Rorsarch ink blot pattern" sprung to mind.
The usual "trigger objects" were placed upstairs - a crucifix, a coin and 2 sets of five stacked sugar cubes. The crucifix and coin were placed on paper andd had a line drawn round them to indicate movement. Later on, only the coin would register slight movement.
Before the actual sesions started, we had one last reconnoitre. We found an incredible cold spot at the bottom of the stairs leading to the dining room, in the main hallway of the Domus. The room upstairs was out-of-bounds at this point, but we thought we could hear noises coming from above us. It might have been timbers settling, but then again, we did hear the noises all night long. The cold spot was at the foot of the stairs, in front of the door to the undercroft. We quickly eliminated draughts. We could actually feel the air getting colder every 30-60 seconds! A laser thermometer showed a drop of 3-6 degrees in a few seconds. It felt like a breeze, but with no source, and then would warm up again. A digital compass "swung" slightly at this point, and my Trifield meter registered a very small change in the electrical and magnetic fields. Heidi said she saw Brother John in the doorway to the undercroft, just where we were standing. She took a picture of the area and hey presto- an orb appeared! Quel suprise! She also picked up an impression of an accident in the area, but "not a fall". One person, who had opened themselves up to the spirit world, recounted that she had heard that someone had been buried below where we were standing. Heidi also saw a flash of light on the staircase at this point, but I don't recall anyone else seeing this.
So, we started the actual vigil sessions; ours was in the undercroft area. Nothing happened. Heidi was checking on the other groups with her walkie-talkie. She remonstrated with one team for speaking too loudly, and they retorted that her radio was bleeping every few seconds asking for status reports! Heidi's sister Emily got "blessed" (her words) in the chapel area. She felt a finger on her forehead, make its way down her chest, and then tried to "cross" her before she got alarmed and darted out to join us, with her partner. The team in the dining room (which was now open) reported a cold spot that kept following them around. The team outside heard a woman crying in the ruined kitchen/cloister area and then haerd "a lot" of singing outside. Heidi's mum got spooked and refused to go outside.
Session 2 was in the dining area upstairs. Heidi went sniffing on the stairs and said she smelt smoke, then frankinscense and then incense. I should point out two things here: the smokers area was just downstairs in the vestibule, so the whole area stank of tobacco; and, Heidi knew the history of sightings and knew that incense was smelt in this area. Anyway, we settled down in semi darkness, joined by another lad. Heidi took a picture of me and said that I was covered in orbs. Wow, I feel honoured. In fact, her digital camera kept flashing all the bloody time, disrupting my night vision.
Something odd did happen: to my right, and opposite Heidi, the other lad sat on a huge trapdoor against the wall. Suddenly, we heard two bangs. I thought they came from downstairs, from the area of the main doorway - although it was windy, it couldn't have produced such raps. The lad thought it came from below him, under the trapdoor and walked across the room to join Heidi. We also heard on the radio that thing had kicked off downstairs so we aborted this session and went back to the undercroft area.
The team in the undercroft had set up their video camera and had it pointed at the main door, which led upstairs. Things had started to happen when a couple of thuds were heard on the main door to the Domus (this is almost certainly what we heard); one lad rushed out into the hallway to check this and when he came back, they could could see flashes of light on the LCD screen, like mobile orbs, (or comets with trails) to the left of the room and the doorway. These streaks mostly flew horizontal to the ground, bu a few did fly diagonally, in a top right to bottom left trajectory. These streaks were proclaimed as "apparitions", though I thought apparition were supposed to be human-like. They only showed up on night-vision, so they must have been infra red and reminded me of the streaks of light caused by falling rain seen on the Belgrave Hall security video, only these were bigger. Like Belgrave, this camera was a time-lapse, updating the image every second or so. These streaks appeared to a lesser extent on other cameras. A strange undulating dark shadow was seen in the corner of the room, which may, or may not, have been reflections caused by other cameras etc. Could have been anything. Heidi and Mike approached the area and encountered Brothers David and Francis - invisible to us, but not to her, who described htem as solid. She even described them, saying that one had a wart next to his nose. Brother David died in 1362. Heidi got upset by the intensity of the encounter and retired to the rest of the group.
Chris said that, on his LCD screen, a monk appared on the screen in the doorway. Now, I concede that features did appear in the doorway that may have a general human form, but the shape on the screen was about an inch or two high, and seen from a couple of feet away, it could have been anything.
Afterwards, the two film-making students said that similar things had been seen with friends' cameras, when it picked up dust VERY close to the camera, within an inch or so of the lens. There is no perspective on the LCD screen, so the streaks of light may have been close, or far away. It was impossible to tell.
I tried looking at the scene with my hand-held image intensifier. I saw NO orbs, streaks and no monk.
A table-tilting session followed (using a child's red plastic garden table, about two feet high!) , and my attempt at sleep was thwarted by being asked to join in. Initially, there were two teams of four, then one big team of 6 (this was the one that I was in). There was no response at all. The leader kept imploring the ghosts to "move the cross (the trigger object from upstairs that had been retrieved), ring the bell, or move the crystal". These last two had been sellotaped to a plinth holding a model reconstruction of the Abbey, and were left dangling, to move freely. Finally, the presence of a bunch of flowers in the undercroft was obvious, when the table tilting leader begged the ghost to "give a flower to a girl". The only thing that might have happened in this case was a faint female voice and noises form upstairs and in the chapel area behind us, where Emily had been touched, but we were tired and perhaps rpone to making misidentifications.
When the table tilting produced nothing, our last chance, it was announced, was to "see" the procession of monks as they arose and went to the dining room at 5.00am. Heidi was asleep at this point, so Mike took over. We placed cameras in the hallway at the base of the stairs, two in the undercroft, and one in the chapel area. When it becamse clear that Chris's camera (as before) was seeing streaks, all the other cameras were recalled into the undercroft and placed in a line to see this ghostly cavalcade. One other camera was also seeing streaks, but whether it saw the same things as Chris's, or even at the same time, I cannot say. The familiar black shadow appeared, and two members who knew the Lords' Prayer were sent to confront it, and apparently, the shadow moved/grew bigger (I don't know which and I don't care!) when the two said "Amen". This was a last resort for the team as we all knew that the "monks" would speak Latin, or Medieval English , and of course we only know the Lords Prayer in English. Still, it was "heartening" that the black mass/monks/whatever it was responded to "Amen". Mike even asked Brothers Simon and Peter (who were The Black Mass) to shake hands with him and explain what happened after death. I should reiterate that I saw nothing on my image intensifier - no orbs and no black mass. In fact, from where I was sitting, it all looked ridiculous!
It was clear that nothing further was going to happen and, as dawn was breaking, we elected to pack up and leave, but not before a debrief at about 6.30am, where we heard the usual reported tales of chanting, something banging on the doors, keys being rattled, monks being seen, incense being smelt. Usual fayre in fact. Every haunted Abbey should have these in its repertoire!
Heidi (now co-founder of UK Ghost Investigators) has written her own report on the evening's events here.
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Brockett Hall, Hertfordshire
Another great vigil (my 20th so far), this one again organised by Heidi and Mike, of Ghost Investigators UK. And you couldn't have asked for better weather - the day was perfect; warm, with clear skies. Brockett Hall matched this ambience - it was a heat trap all day and night long!
I was a bit surprised when I got to Heidi's House when we were talking about obviously fake psychics. Mike told me that I'd never experience anything paranormal as I was too close minded. Yeah, and I suppose being too open and gullible means the opposite? (Actually it does. Any little thing is construed as paranormal, as you will see later on...)
A group of us got to Brockett Hall in the middle of the afternoon, being transported in Mike's handy white van. We had a few hours to occupy ourselves, so while the committee members held a meeting about various sundry matters, the few of us left behind went for a long, rambling meander round the hall and grounds (stunningly beautiful I must add, with golf courses and a fantastic lake). We found out that we could be expecting approximately 30 people that night, including members of staff who were intrigued by our ...nocturnal behaviour.... After a brief break for something to eat (McDonalds in Welwyn Garden City!), we waited for the outstanding people to turn up. It must have been well after 9.00pm by the time everyone had arrived, and it was getting dark. Heidi and the others were not pleased by the latecomers!
Our lack of pub visit meant that Heidi's "one alcoholic drink" only rule was not enforced. Fortunately, while waiting at Kings Cross station for a train to Stevenage (where Mike and Heidi live), I whiled away the time by having two pints. Can you blame me? It was a hot day!
The entrance foyer
Back to the narrative; while waiting for the others to arrive, Andy, the hall's gardener volunteered to show a few of us around. We were surprised at the celebrity photographs near the billiard room - Kim WIlde, Timothy Dalton, John Thaw, Michael Winner and Ronnie Corbett are a few of the luminaries to have visited the hall. Apparently the place is very popular as a location for period dramas. Apparently Nicole Kidman was a recent visitor, but whilst we were there, no-one was in residence.
Any told us a few of the stories that he had heard about the place. One room has a cold draught, but that may be due to defective window seals. Andy has said that, as far as he knew, none of the V.I.P.s had reported anything untoward..... I mentioned to Andy that one of the paintings (Henry John Temple, Third Viscount Palmeston) had a potrait at the bottom of the servants staircase, next to the conference room, and I said that it felt "odd", as if the picture were going to come to life. Andy said that a few of the paintings do have that same effect. In his spare time, he likes to play the piano in the ballroom, and he often turns round to look over his shoulder at the paintings of King Charles I and Prince Rupert, which seem to be staring at him.
By this time, most of the others had arrived, and we assembled in the foyer. Heidi asked for mobile phones to be switched off (as the "e.m. inhibits activity") and I met up with two other "psychics", Neil and Charloote, who said that something was standing on the staircase's landing looking at us. Of course, nothing was visible, and there wasn't even a coldspot on the staircase when we checked.
Following thus, all of us (and there must have been nearly 40 of us!) congregated to the library where we were assembled into teams. I was placed in Alan's team (for those on the UK Ghost Investigator's forum, he is "ratpac_uk"), and the usual fayre of experiments were introduced; the table tilting, which would use a soft topped stool rather than a small red plastic children's garden table as the pressure indentations of people's hands could be discerned to check for hoaxing (good idea!); crystals and dowsing rods were to be used on the 2nd and 3rd floor; and there would be a round table seance at the end of the evening. EVPs, with digital minidisc recorders, would be attempted, whereby the experimenter would wander round for an hour asking questions into the ether, leaving space on the recording for answers to be recorded. There would be a locked-off room (the conference room, which is a shame as the sweets were very tasty!), with no access allowed. Trigger obkects would be used: crucifixes, pebbles, sugar cubes stacked high and coins. These would also be in the conference room. The foyer was designated as the "safe room" - a place to take refuge if anyone got spooked.
Andy told me during a private conversation that William, 2nd Viscount of Melbourne, died during a rather vigourous sex session in the billiard room (!!!!); his picture hangs on the wall. Amazingly, Heidi picked this up before getting to the hall!. SHe had picked up a message saying that she must go to the billiard room, and I must say, I was impressed by what she had known in advance. Also, before she was crowned queen, Elizabeth 1st had received news of her impending ascendancy to the monarchy while she was either at Brockett or nearby Hatfield Hall. Heidi had also picked up that Elizabeth had a connection with one of these two places.
Each room in Brockett Hall had a slightly different decor. Sme were more plain, but still opulent, and some were very luxurious, with four poster beds, or vaguely oriental themes, with chaise-longues etc.Session 1
This session started at about 10.50pm and our team were due to be stationed on the 2nd and 3rd floor landings. However, I was late getting into position because Heidi was "opening us up" (a meditation technique that didn't work for me), and also because I was placing my tape recorder in position in the family lounge. I spent ages looking on the upstairs floors looking for the rest of the team, but I couldn't find them (though I must admit that I did apprehensively flash my torch down some of the darkened corridors upstairs), despite me calling out to them. So, I abandoned this quest and joined Heidi and Mike at the base of the main staircase, who were avidly listening to a baby monitor set up in the other family room (they were listening for unexplained noise, but only picked up lots of hiss). The baby monitor was sensitive enough to pick up my fiddling with my tape recorder from a distance of more than 20 feet- very impressive! With nothing to do, I retired to the comfortable sofas in the foyer to write my notes, only occasionally interrupted by footsteps from team members moving about, and creaks from the staircase etc. as the timbers settled for the night. By 11.20pm, the first session had finished and people started to converge on the foyer. Moving from group to group. I learned that the "dowsing the crystal" team had picked up nothing at all.
My team were late in returning, so I decided to sit by myself in the billiard room for a while (about 15 minutes). The sofas were especially comfortable, and despite the odd feeling of the faces looming down at you from their portraits, or stags heads mounted on the wall, nothing happened. Eventually, "my" team resurfaced at about 11.45pm
I eventually found out why I couldn't find the others - they had been secreted in a room ("The Prince of Wales" room), rather than in the landings and corridors. They told me that they had experienced strange lights in the window pane, and I asked if they would show me, so we wandered up to the room. They told me that, when one person sat in the window, orange orbs could be seen in that window and adjoining panes. I was also told that if you sat in the window and looked towards the bed, you could see undulating shadows on the wall. Some of us took it in turns to sit in the window and I even sat on the bed and we eventually traced the shadows to the orange flood lights from a distant golf clubhouse filtering through trees, which were moving slightly in the breeze. Emily, one of the team members, and a couple of others, saw orange orbs in the window panes. I saw nothing and I think it was the lights outside! A couple of trigger object experiments were set up on a nearby table (two pens in the shape of a crucifix and a pen standing on end), and one of us implored the ...whatever... to move the pens. Nothing happened!
By 12.15am, the session was over. The only odd thing that happened was, upon leaving the room, there was a strong, but brief smell of perfume on the doorstep. I am sure it did not come from any one in our team. Also, whilst Andy was guiding me around earlier, I noticed the smell of bergamot (think: Earl Grey Tea) in the vicinity of the room with the chaise-longue.Session 2
The ballroom/dining room
We were then stationed in the dining room until about 12.40am. We sat in darkness, with Chopin playing on a tape recorder (the ghost apparently likes his music and makes it "more likely" for an apparition to appear allegedly), and occasional flashes from digital cameras going off, with all manner of wonderful, ubiquitous orbs appearing! Wow! I disobeyed instructions to sit around the edge of the room, preferring instead to sit at the dining table - this might be the only opportunity in my life to do so, after all!
Charlotte said that she could see a little boy between the two chairs at the far end of the room, below the paintings of King Charles I and Prince Rupert. We went to this area, and she and I sat in the chairs. She felt someone touch her side and then her lap (wasn't me!) and she stood up from her chair. After a few minutes, I stood up too (I was bored). I was standing to Charlotte's left, with the video camera having been moved from its place near the piano to just over my left shoulder. Neil was in front of me, to the left, a little distance away. He was taking pictures, when I saw, illuminated in the flash, what I took to be a huge shadow directly in front of me! I couldn't get a sense of height, as there was no perspective, but the figure was very broad-shouldered. I saw it for maybe a fraction of a second, and I exclaimed, having been taken by surprise. Looking back, I think it might have been more apt to describe it as a silhouette; it couldn't have been a shadow as the only source of light was in front of me!
After this, we left to rejoin the team in the library. One EVP tem has picked up a human voice (I heard this) on tape/disc. It was whispered very close to the microphone and was indistinct. It didn't sound like any of the other team members, whose voices were very clear and, by comparison, sounded comparitively distant to the recorder. After this, Alan, our team leader decided to do some of his dowsing and stepped down, Chris Carter taking over for our EVP session in the Library.Session 3
Our session in the library went on from 1.10am to 2.20am. I was very disappointed by this, as Chris Carter, with whom I had had a very long conversation about the bogus nature of orbs on the way down to Beaulieu Abbey, had now become a total orb convert, enthusing about them. Sigh. Most of this session was spent with the minidisc recorder on the table, with members taking it in turns to ask questions into space. Except me. I wasn't going to be a party to this nonsense and besides, I was tired. A little while later, Chris noticed that the battery on the recorder was dead.
Charlotte had a long conversation about "Lucy", a girl about 6 years old with blonde hair. There were also claims of knees being touched, sofas and the table being jogged, as if they were being sat on. The group decided to hold a table tilting/rapping session. I thought this was ludicrous so I decided to feign sleep, only occasionally opening my eyes, so I wouldn't get roped into this tomfoolery. Heidi turned up briefly to participate. There were very VERY faint raps, which to my mind was the building settling, as they occurred all round us (window sills and frames, bookcases etc.), but the others took as messages from beyond. Neil seemed to be running the show at this point, and even had his ankles on the table, to "stop it from moving", but to me he seemed slovenly, treating this piece of antique furniture as a footrest.
A long resume about the biographies of the "spirits" was then recounted by Neil and Charlotte. "Uncle George" was in the room, and the boy (Philip? Brockett??) in the ballroom is Lusy's brother. The "Lady of the House" also popped into occasionally to visit us! Aren't ghosts friendly!!??
One of the odd things that did happen was that the on-off switch on Chris' video camera has been flicked manually to the off position. No-one heard this happen, and no one did it, as we would have seen. It was only noticed towards the end of the session.Session 4
The very last session, again with Alan in charge. This was table tilting in the comfy billiard room. Nothing happened, and the team reported that their arms and hands were warm, but this could be due to them being held prone and in position for a long period of time. Despite repeated requests to "rap, tap, bang on the table", and a comment at the end by the others that it nearly tipped, nothing happened. By this point, I was bored and more than a little tired (probably due to too much beer earlier on and not enough cafffeine), I went for a sleep in the sofa in the room. My reasoning was that ghosts sometimes appear to people when they wake from a slumber and since the billiard room had a reputation for spooky goings-on, I thought this would be as good an opportunity as ever. Besides, the sofa and cushions were soooooo comfy! I WAS woken up however.... ...but only by another team who had set up base in the room and had their cameras set up and were imploring ghosts to appear, while great "great" pictures of orbs.
I was woken up again by Michael Burden who said that a debrief and seance would be taking part in the library. As I walked into the library, half asleep, the others said jokingly that I had missed a full body apparition, to which I replied dead-pan "oh, damn" which brout giggles. Because of the seance, and the fact that we all had to be sat round the table, I was not allowed to sit in the very comfortable arm chair in the window. Don't know why they bothered with such enforcement: nothing happened! I was very disappointed that Alan's "research" into the hauntings in the building amounted to a web search. As everyone should know by now, the internet is a great source of information. A great source of unverified, unmoderated information! Anyone can post anything and no-one checks. The only way to do research is to interview witnesses and dig up important documents from archives (which I have done in the past).
Emily had also had a bit of a kip that night and had had a dream about a necklace...right at the end of the night, she went for a wander to see if she could find the necklace in one of the many portraits in the hall. She did find it, although the shape was slightly differently than she had "seen".
And then it was all over..... I decided to surprise the others with a little treat. I had noticed that bound copies of "Country Life" were to be found in one of the upstairs bookcases, and I went to look for a certain volume. The others were delighted when I turned up with Volume LXXX- page 673, December 26th, 1936....with the ORIGINAL picture of the "Brown Lady of Raynham Hall". Heidi was delighted by this!
Before we left, I had a chance to speak to Andy and Matthew, our tour guides who worked at the hall. They were exhausted and were interested in all the events; but were very sceptical. They said that Lord Brockett, before being exiled for being "naughty" (insurance fiddle for which he was sent to jail and banned from entering the hall again) had expressed the opinion that the Hall wasn't haunted. Andy and Matt also had some problems with aspects of the facts picked up the mediums, although some of it was impressive. One of the problem areas that they thought was way off, was that one of the ghosts picked up was from the building that previously occupied the Brockett Hall site - and yet, she was seen following the corridors and paths of the modern building, even though the layout and even floor levels wouldn't be the same!
At the end of the night, I retrieved my voice activated tape recorder, but nothing was picked up on it. Heidi seemed a bit peeved that Neil had left unannounced, and then it was time to get the 7.05am train back to Woking. For some reason, one of my contact lenses was stinging - probably from being up all night - and had caused me some paint in the last few hours. Back to the blasted glasses for the next few days. Damn.
A great vigil. Brockett Hall is a place where I would definitely live to visit again. But only as a ghost hunter; I couldn't possibly afford the 3000 per night (yes; 3000 PER NIGHT!) tariff! Thank God our access was free of charge...
Heidi's report can be found here.
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Farnham Castle, Surrey
A strange vigil this, in that it promised much but delivered little. It did, however, give me a chance to meet up with my good friends Mark and Julie Hunt who had driven over from Ashford in Kent for this investigation.
In force was a variation on the alcoholic rule - this time, no drinks allowed. How patronising! I do find this rule to be tiresome and insulting. And one black mark against the self-style "UK Ghost Investigators"; the initial publicity said that the venue was free, but, with a few days to go to the vigil, we were told that it would be 15 (probably for the extra security costs). To make matters worse, we were asked to meet at the castle entrance at 9.30pm, but the keys took a long time in arriving, and we didn't get access until 11.10pm when it was raining. We were still asked to fork out 15 though - bloody cheek!
The castle though, was an impressive building, but left me strangely indifferent. The castle ruins are an annex to the conference/hotel facilities next door - and during the night I didn't get a chance to look around inside the keep. A shame. Oh well. The whole building was a maze of rooms, corridors and staircases. It was very easy to lose yourself within its walls. We were joined by Moses, the security guard who seemed to be interested in joining the UKGI (UK Ghost Investigators) group. Also there was a dark skinned, bespectacled stunningly beautiful girl called Wendy (found out later that she was "attached" - darn).
Along with Heidi and Rat_Pak (Alan Smallwood) - but no Mike Burden this time were a few familiar faces, like Heidi's mum, and Chris Carter, showing off a natty little device. While we were setting up, the three "psychics" (Heidi, Helen and Charlotte) went on their usual rounds, and word quickly spread upon their return that one of the chapels (the older, more spartan of the two in the building) was not pleasant. Mark, Julie and myself also went on a wander, and M&J brought their ghostly/anomalous photos to show off to the rest of the group. It was whilst I was helping out in the main area that the first annoying facet of the evening occurred; multiple camera flashes going off all the time, blinding me, taken by camera wielding, ill-informed orb obsessives. How sad!
I was later to learn that the reason for Mike Burden's non-appearance was because, despite him working diligently to secure the massive investigation list for 2003, his partner Heidi was having an affair with Alan. Naturally, he was incensed and caused some problems for the group, resulting in a permanent ban from UK Ghost Investigators.
I had a wander around on my around and found that, whilst certain rooms were OK (the chapels were fine, I thought), certain corridors had odd accoustics that gave the impression that there was someone there with you. Plus, they were pitch black and this might have led to a suggestible mind "filling in the blanks". And the whole building was very hot, but it had been a warm, sticky day and evening anyway....
Talking of corridors, when we were having a wander, Julie did see a white flash at the end of one of the darkened corridors, but this could have been lightning outside, a reflection from a camera flash or anything.
Oh yes! We had a few thunderclaps and lightning flashes and we had hoped that it would keep up all evening and build up an atmosphere. Sadly, the weather improved within an hour.
A few interesting pictures did emerge from the frantic camera flashing. Julie Hunt had taken a picture of the fireplace from one of the balconies in the main reception room, and this picture showed a white streak heading towards the fireplace, with small particles embedded within the plume. I thought at first that it was pollen as there were a few plants in front of the fireplace, but then why should such small "orb-like" blobs appear in such a small localised space. Ripe for further investigation I thought but the enthusiasts will probably stick it in a photo album and label it as "Ghost photos". My God!
Before the main session started, Heidi and the others "opened up" people who wanted to have this mysticism imposed performed upon them. Helen, one of the psychics, trained a video camera on the balcony and said that all she could see were "legs" - presumably phantom ones, invisible to the naked eye or the camera. She at once realised that she shouldn't have said this as it provided a contaminant into the investigation. She then found out that her newly charged battery on her camera was dead, and in fact a few people said that they had battery problems during the night. One man, a newcomer, seemed to be spending all his time in front of a baby monitor, remotely monitoring for sound etc.
The first session was from 12.47 till about 1.30, in the older of the chapels. Because of the "bad atmosphere" in there, all three of the psychics decided to stay together seated in a circle in front of the altar. This meant that we had two teams in there; a total of about 15 people! Once again, people were taking random photos of anything.
Heidi started by asking for names and what year this was. In response to the first question, she got the name "Charlie". In response to the second question, Psychic Charlotte relayed a message from Charlie to Heidi, calling her a "silly old fool". Heidi retorted "You murdered a woman. What does that make you?"
The intrepid trio remarked that the atmosphere was different from the walk around, with it being a lot lighter. Anyway, we did pick up some ambient noises. A very faint sound that some people thought was a woman's scream was heard - but it sounded more like a yawn to me. Other noises could have been an owls or foxes. We did hear occasional whirring noises, which we thought was a lift - but there wasn't one in that part of the building. Another noises was taken to be a scream but - and this is what it sounded like to me - it reminded me of an elephant trumpeting some distance away!
Helen (psychic) had a feeling of coldness and something to her left; that is, near the altar. She piped up "Hello little girl" and Heidi got the name "Suzie". They then started to pick up hymns.
And all the time the cameras were flashing destroying my night vision. And while the above ramble does sound exciting, and was probably thrilling to the threesome huddled in front of the altar, it was deadly boring to me.
Anyway, back to the narrative.....
The Three Who Rule were picking up that there was someone behind the door, so they opened it, and of course, whoever it was, was invisible to us laypeople. And now we had a newcomer - "Brother John", and the psychics implored "him" to touch them to make some sign that he was there. The three then complained of feeling sad, with heavy necks and chests. Heidi found "John" menacing but she resisted his evil presence. Charlotte and Helen picked up the sound of laughter, and the group heard that John thought that women were the "spawn of satan" and "evil bitches".
And that was the end of that. In the end, we ran out of time, and didn't beat a hasty retreat to the safety of our base area in the reception room. Before the next session started, a few of us went on another meander and found the other chapel. An excellent picture was taken of this, which showed a yellow stripe from top center to bottom right, surrounded by a huge red glow. I doubt if it was a torch. If anything it looked like a film fault - light leakage? - but the camera was digital. I must admit it was a truly impressive photograph.
This took place from 1.49-ish to 2.30-ish and we were back in smaller teams now. Heidi's (and my) team went right to the rafters of the castle, where Morley Room no.1 was loacted - the most haunted in the castle. The room was tiny, hot, stuffy with a musty smell. The other team were next door. As soon as we started, Heidi remarked that the Monk has been seen here. Helen picked up the name "Jane" and Heidi remarked that she had heard form "Elizabeth" who was "looking for her son". Then, to cap it all, Brother John returned! Quite a party. A noise was heard outside in the grounds, but this was taken to be a fox, except Helen who pooh-poohed this idea by saying that it was a person.
Due to the constraining size of the room, our team were split into two, with 3 people keeping watch outside, and Alan, Heidi and myself staying inside. Heidi received the name "Lucy" and that she was a little girl, who was spinning round. I was getting a bit disappointed by all this as it all seemed to be the usual cliched psychic-fayre. But stay tuned....
The atmosphere in the room seemed to Heidi as if it were different from her pre-vigil walk around. She said it was no longer depressing but of something being nosey. She also had an impression of something being walled up in the room, which may be possible given that the room is tiny and may conceal a hidden wall partition. Also gleaned during this session was the information that a headless maid was in more than one location, and there was a Colonel in the library, but sadly, this was one area we didn't have access to.
We swapped with the team outside, but our curiosity got the better of us and after sitting prone on the carpet for at least two minutes we decided to explore - and wound up in the cellar, a grim location with old files, chairs, the heating system - and according to Heidi, "lots of screaming men, women and children" linked to a/the war. Anyway, we all congregated together in the reception area, where I compared notes with Mark and Julie, who were in another team. They aid that, during a seance in the chapel, raps were heard to answer queries from Chris Carter, the temperature dropped near a bricked up door -and they heard a woman scream in the ballroom/reception area. Maybe similar to what our team heard? Later on, M&J told me that their video camera was going in and out of focus, as if it was trying to "lock onto" something, but then again they did said that the constant digital camera flash bulbs going off were affecting the camera......
Ooooooh! Excitement! We heard form one group who had gone outside for a smoke that 4 trespassers had been seen in the castle grounds, and would we help Moses corner the miscreants. So, the blokes wandered off and looked around, but didn't find anything. It turned out that the foursome, all students, had hidden in the castle keep, and were told to depart. They tried to picque our interest by providing a feeble story about a ghost they had heard about. Yes. Right. We know what you were up to!
I was getting increasingly bored by this point and elected to nab the nearest comfy sofa for a little rest - turned out this was on a "haunted" balcony, and I eventually dropped off to sleep, despite being woken up a few times by Mark and Julie patrolling past. I was told that the next session would be at 3.15am, so there was time for a little rest (three pints at lunchtime does take it out of you, y'know!). I eventually woke at 5.00am, just as the sun was rising, and I suspect I didn't miss anything! Mark and Julie were also asleep next door in the one of the little rooms off the main staircase.
And then at 5.30, it was all over. No seance, no wrap-up, no debrief session - and, as Heidi admitted, she had done no research on the place, so we had no idea what was supposed to happen. I knew Mark and Julie had looked the place on the internet and asked them what was supposed to be in the place, and they said that there was a monk (of course!), a black amorphouse blob that frightened off a couple of visitors as they drove through the gatehouse and - most interestingly - a little girl, seen dancing round the castle, which ties in well with Heid's description of a girl spinning round. Needless to say, I was very impressed by this!
This will be my last investigation with the UK Ghost Investigators. Not only do this bunch of neophyte ghost hunters treat everyone as if they had been doing if for years and that everyone else are clueless amateurs (p*ssing off those of us off who have been doing it for years!) but they are not what I would call investigations. An investigation should be proving that ghosts exist - and, unless you count orb photos, we can't say that we did. Everyone assumes that ghosts exist, without an attempt at trying to explain what they are, and what causes them. As Janet and Colin Bord say, "Never attempt to explain one mystery by invoking another." The whole group just feeds the committee's egos and should be renamed "The Heidi Graham Show".
In future, I shall settle for fewer, better run and more professional "investigations/vigils" as opposed to more frequent, poor quality ones. It seems that, after 21 vigils/investigations, I have become cynical; but I can no longer be a party to such asinine nonsense.
Addendum: The above account has provoked a lot of response from the committee of not only UK Ghost Investigators, who have seen fit to ban me, but also a hostile response from Ghosts-UK. I am not really concerned on either count, but I must counter some of the more ridiculous notions bandied around.
First of all, I attend each vigil/investigation with an open mind, but the above visit to Farnham Castle was atrocious. Badly organised, badly debriefed and with a levy forced upon us very late in the day. Mark and Julie hunt, veterans of dozens of investigations feel the same way as me, that it was patronising and a waste of time. And this really annoys me; the whole fiasco was a waste of time and money. How anyone had the cheek to say that it was an active night is staggering. It might have been an active night for the "psychics", but for the rest of us, it was boring. Camera flashes going off every few seconds, I ask you! UK Ghost Investigators seem to be under the impression that the above memoirs are a formal write-up; sorry, but they aren't, they are there for reference. And yes, the above is accurate since I was taking notes all night long and refused to surrender them for Heidi's forthcoming book. I see no reason to be polite if I think the whole thing was nonsense; read the Ghost Club's Clerkenwell visit for further proof of this.
Did I "victimise" the above investigation? No, only afterwards when I realised just how poor it was. I had no quarrel with UKGI; if you read the Beaulieu account (which Heidi took very well in an email to me), you will see that I thought it was, on the whole, rubbish, but the Brockett Hall case was excellent. Mike Burden leaving/being ousted has no bearing on this at all; I feel very sorry for him and a group of us had grave concerns about the oligarchic, but still peripheral running of the club when Mike left. I mention the above about Mike because it has a direct bearing on the efficiency of the club and its investigations, and for this reason, should be part of my write-up.
In fact, I found the whole attack by UKGI to be astonishing, in that they wanted write-ups/reports to evidently be gushingly flattering regardless of people's opinions - how then could they be a true reflection of what happened?? Even more disturbingly, UKGI sought fit to ignore those parts of my write-up that portrayed them in a good light (such as Heidi picking up the dancing girl unprompted) and tended to focus on those parts they didn't like, labelling the whole report as "libellous".
Heidi's report can be found here.
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The George Hotel, Ashford, Kent
Another great vigil courtesy of Mark and Julie Hunt, who also live in Ashford and found the George Hotel care of a not-very-impressive "Ghost Detectives" investigation. Mark and Julie's vigils turn out to be great social occasions as we are strong adherents of the theory that paranormal activity is most likely when the participants are in a relaxed state... so we just end up chatting, whilst keeping a close eye on the environment, an ear on the baby monitor for remote sensing etc.
The day started off very well, with a few lumchtime pints at the Dering Arms, one of the haunted pubs in Pluckley (also renowned for being one of the most haunted villages in the world), and a few miles up the road from Ashford. We knew that something had been seen there recently, as on a previous visit, Mark and Julie had overheard two people at the bar who had seen a red figure glide past the door in the other bar. However, when questioned, the bar staff didn't know of any recent sighting or dismissed the hauntings completely (although the landlord did seem a bit hostile when the word "ghosts" was mentioned - not surprisingly, the residents of Pluckley, like Borley, must be sick to death of ghost hunters descending upon their town and want to discourage such people).
When we got to the George, it was hot! England was in the middle of a heatwave and the whole pub was a furnace. We had to ask for ice cubes for our drinks of water to cool off during the night! Well at least we didn't notice any cold spots that night!
The earliest mention of the George Hotel was in a will dated 1533, so it obviously older than that. Originally, the hotel/bar was split in two, with an alleyway that connected the front of the building with the stables behind. Today, that corridor is used to connect the two bars with the dining room, kitchen and stairs to the attic and cellar.
The "Ghost Detectives" case was intriguing but sadly not very impressive. The GD representative had the rude habit of drifting away during conversation, his gaze distracted by invisible "little girls" and "men in caps in the front bar". He also left a bit of an unfortunate aftermath when he left the pub, evidently after Mark and Julie had left for the night, and failed to lock the pub up after him. Despite this, a few anomalies were reported: the obligatory orbs were filmed in the attic space. Interestingly, shots taken moments apart show a very bright orb, and then hundreds of them - Mark and Julie argued "if orbs are dust, how can the camera illuminate one dust particle and then you get dozens of them seconds apart." Well, people should know my opinion of orbs by now! Theres probably more to orbs than dust, but I don't really want to state my own beliefs just yet.
During that investigation, Mark and the GD guy were talking in the kitchen when they both saw out of the corner of their eye a black shape flit past the door. When they got to the door, it had gone. This "corner of the eye" effect is very reminiscent of Vic Tandy's work on infrasonics, but even so, Mark and GD's observation should have been seen more than it was. Also, the pub dog, a huge German Shepherd called Khan, kept barking and following something invisible with his eyes.
On a different note, Chris, the landlady reported to us that after that investigation, she was beset by severe headaches for a month afterward. Anyway, after that visit, the GD representative never sent a report to Chris, thus sullying the reputation of ghost-hunters. She was also very sceptical of the details of the ghostly lady provided by GD (for one thing it was too young), and the name "Elspeth" could not be verified due to the extreme age of the death/murder of the girl. However, she was very keen for Mark and Julie to return, as they had sent their own report and had even prepared laminated copies of their orb photos for Chris (who seemed to be very interested in the subject).
Whilst we were talking to Chris she said that a few little things had happened to her, mainly small items going missing and then re-appearing a little while later. Chris also had the feeling that the ghost (a girl) was "around" and could sense her presence, but she didn't want the ghost removed as it "had been there longer than [she] had." Chris also reported an unease in the dining room and tended to avoid the area. She also knew how to catch hoaxers out who had reported seeing ghosts; one man said that he had seen the spook in room 10 - but that part of the hotel is a recent addition and not in the path of the ghost...
The story goes that, in the 17th century, a young serving maid was raped and murdered in her attic room and her body thrown down the servants' stairs. Chris told us that when the murdered was caught, the authorities were unable to determine whether the girl had died of a broken neck from being strangled or from being ejected down the stairs.
The stairs down which the servant girl was thrown.
Chris told us a few of the events that had been encountered over the years. They were very enticing!
First, a bit of a description: the bathroom doubles partially as a kitchen, and there is an old hatch that leads to the disused servants quarters upstairs. A full laundry basket is in front of the hatch, holding it shut. One night, Chris' husband was in the bath when he was attracted by strange noises. As he looked towards the hatch, something was pushing it open from the other side, forcing the laundry basket out of the way! Needless to say, most of the bathwater ended up on the floor in his rush to escape! On our examination of the attic, it is clear that, not only is there a panel at the bottom of the servants stairs (there is another staircase leading up) which made access impossible, but the stairs are extremely delapidated and it would have been dangerous to even mount the first step.
Also, from the window in the bathroom, Chris told us that the cleaning lady reported seeing a cavalier-type figure in one of the upstairs attic windows across the courtyard. We later to verify that access to this part of the attic is impossible.
One night, after Chris had fallen asleep, her husband was in bed watching television, which was mounted on the wall on a bracket. He got up to switch it off, and settled back into bed afterwards. 15 minutes later, he heard a click and the TV turned itself on full blast. Now, the on-off switch for the TV is one where you have to physically press the button in-and-out, meaning that some force was required.
By far the best story was about the hotel guest who had planned to stop for 7 days on a break. He was a large guy (a lorry driver I think?) and was given room 3, near the landing to the stairs to the bar area. He fell asleep, but was woken early in the morning by a figure rifling through his wardrobe. Now, having seen the wardrobe, it makes quite a loud click when it is opened or closed, and yet this didn't wake him. When he went to bed, the wardrobe was shut.
He rushed out of bed in his underpants (!) and ran downstairs, shivering in fright and cold at the bottom of the stairs for hours, until the cook arrived for breakfast duty at 6.00am. The man was terrified and refused to go back into the room. He paid up for the remaining 7 nights - and this was his first night! - and left immediately. He was so scared the hotel staff had to pack his suitcase for him. Sadly, Chris' son was stopping in Room 3, so this ruled out that area. We did have access to nearly every other part of the hotel.
Such are the accounts that great ghost stories are made of! We were very enthusiastic about the venue! We did have one moment of excitement when a foreign couple, obviosuly scatter-brained by booze tried to sneak in the back way at 12.30am looking for a room. The dog, although harmless, launched into a massive barking fit that frightened them off; at one point the woman wound up standing on one of the beer tables outside "like a lady cowering from a mouse in a 1960s sitcom"!!!! Shortly after this, Chris went to bed, leaving us alone downstairs.
We spent some time setting up the video camera in the servants quarters in the attic. It didn't feel that menacing to me, just old and decayed. Debris and junk littered the space and there were cobwebs all over the place, along with broken crockery, a bedspread, and a copy of the magazine "Titbits" from 1953! The room looked like it had been sealed behind a plasterboard partition for decades and had only recently been opened. In fact, I thought the place was remiscent of the decayed rooms in the wreck of the Titanic!
The attic is really split into a few areas; the rear part is used by the family as a storage place for cardboard boxes etc., but the latter, much larger space towards the front, and nearest to the servants room was empty of such paraphernalia. I wonder why? The dog also refused to enter this front section. There is another area at the back where the cleaner saw the figure, but this place is impassable. We placed a baby monitor in the quaters (although we heard nothing from downstairs) and the camera in the doorway. Mark and Julie tried to take some pictures of orbs, and succeeded - after a while. This confirmed a theory of mine, about the surge in the quantity of orb photos recently. It seems that orbists take many pictures of ghostly areas and simply delete the ones that don't show anything. The result? It looks like orbs on every photo taken! The interesting thing is that, as the photos were taken, sparkly bits, like suspended gliiter would illuminate in the camera flash.
The disused servants' quarters, in the attic.
The vigil was quiet, and took place in two areas; first of all, the back bar, near the kitchen where the black shape was seen; the second vigil took place in the dining area. Apart from a few clicks on the baby monitor (certainly caused by unsuppressed motors, such as nearby refridgerators), we heard nothing.
Two unexplained events did happen that night; at 4.40am, whilst we were talking, Mark heard the latch on the back door open (I didn't hear this because I was talking). We then heard creaking floorboards approach us, and then the creaking go upstairs. Even though the ....whatever....was going upstairs, I thought it was Chris seeing how we were. Or it could have been an intruder? I bolted out of my seat in seconds and went into the corridor and then up the stairs to the barstaff flat area. The door was closed, there was no-one about, no floorboards creaking, no shadows of people departing down passages etc. I yelled out "Hello?" and got no response. I didn't feel nervous; I think I just shrugged it off. A similar thing happened at 5.50am, but this time, the floorboards creaked on the way down! I think we were a bit blase about this and didn't bother to check! And guess what? The bloody video camera was upstairs in the loft! Dammit! And the sounds were just outside of visual range, so we didn't see whatever it was going up and down the corridor to the back entrance!
We did have a few makeshift trigger objects (well, empty cans of soft drink), but these didn't move during the night.
The vigil ended shortly after 6.00am, and had been interesting; I agree with Mark that the George is a "gem" of a vigil venue.
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The Ram Inn, 2nd VigilNote: if you're reading this because of "Most Haunted's" visit to the House of Detention, you really should read this website. It catalogues their list of lies and deceit.
An unexpected request from a German film crew to Mark and Julie Hunt heralded a return trip to the famous Ram Inn. Jasmina, a lady with "Loopfilm" was producing a 6 part documentary called "The 5th Dimension", covering topics such as Psi, Telepathy, Near Death Experiences, Reincarnation, Exorcism and Ghosts. Each installment was to be 45-50 minutes long, for ARD (German public television) and, hopefully, an international market too, with a tentative broadcast date of 22nd December. The team had already been to Hampton Court (where they had interviewed guide Ian Franklin and his research on the ghosts - or lack of - at that location), Edinburgh vaults and other areas. They were due to be flying back to German to do some work on the Rosenheim poltergeist, but sadly without the main focus, Anne Marie Schneider, who is lying low these days.
Upon arrival, we met John and some of his locals who were visiting. John seemed a bit frail (but not bad for a 75 year old) - a recent prostrate operation, and a hefty legal bill of 40,000 (regarding a dispute over land ownership with the church) had obviously had a significant effect on him. A great shame. He was also becoming more suspicious of people and was closing the Ram off to anyone but serious research groups, after a series of thefts and vandalism from strangers he had allowed to stay the night. He was also annoyed at the number of groups who turn up and get good pictures and results but don't share their findings with him, and leave only 20p in the restoration collectors box.
Julie had been told to expect the film crew sometime between 3.00pm and late afternoon. We decided to wander off and get something to eat - a difficult task since Wotton seems to have a siesta in the afternoon (and don't let "All day breakfast" fool you- its only up to and including lunchtime!). We found a kebab shop and had a few pints of the wonderful beer, BOB. A strange experience, to have a kebab BEFORE beer!
Anyway, the film crew arrived just before 7.00pm (!) and set up their impressive Digital Betacam, crane, lighting system etc. It seemed that they had been stuck in traffic near London for ages, and although we bemoaned our wasted afternoon (if you can count beer as wasted!), the setting sun did provide better camera footage.
The crew wanted to interview John for a few hours and take a tour of the Ram, so we decided to have a break for a few hours. But not before we were asked to do some establishing "arrival" shots of Mark, Julie and myself wandering across the carpark to be greeted by John Humphreys. We had to do four takes to get the camera angles right. Quite why John greeted me as "Tom" is beyond me!
Anyway, we wandered off into town for some more food and beer, and found that one pub, the Star, had a talented guitarist in that night, so we stayed in until about 10.45pm, when we anticipated that the interview with John would draw to a close. When we got back to the Ram, he was still chattering away, his tongue having been loosened with Stella!
We were finally ready to start at about midnight, having waited for the camera etc. to be moved to the Bishop's room to film us doing the ghost hunt. We filmed a lot of footage of us setting up our equipment, waiting for "things to happen", doing a ouija board session etc. A handheld camera was there to film close-ups of us in the Beaufort room and the dingy attic space, where there was no light (so the film crew have asked Mark for a copy of his night-shot camera footage!). Olliver, the director was a very friendly bloke and very keen on the subject; in fact, the whole crew were friendly and professional, sot e final results should be very good, even if our interviews (Julie's famous staircase picture, me talking about the ouija board and Mark discussing ASSAP) are edited down to 5 minutes - or nothing at all!
Sorry about the quality - this is the film crew that accompanied us that night. Olliver is wearing a white pullover and is seated in front of the camera.
Nothing seriously paranormal happened that night, but we did get some exciting results with the ouija board. I was overjoyed to get something tangiable from the board, as you may see when the final programme is shown (God, how embarrasing!)
We got in touch with "Peter Stubs", who was born in 1538 and died in 1597. We asked "his" age as a check and he said "38". I can't take ghosts seriously if they can't spell or possess decent numeracy skills. Still, this was the middle ages (!?)
Peter was murdered, hung by an unknown assailant in the Ram, and wanted us to "make him pay". When asked who, "Peter" said "him", so not enough "he" knew who had murdered him! But, it seemd that Peter was murdered for money. Peter was a farmer; he and his wife, Abby, had 6 children, the eldest being Will. The three of us thought about checking the gravestones in nearby St.Mary's church when we left Wotton, but we didn't bother, as we thought that any tombstone's markers would have been eroded over the centuries. It would be great to know if any surviving parish records make mention of him.
At times, Peter would grow quiet, but returned with "I am with you". Sometimes, the movement of the planchette on the board was so strong, it nearly left our fingers behind. However, discussion about Peter's wife and children seem to have upset him. He spelt out "go away" and then moved to goodbye.
With this success under our belt (and with the film crew elsewhere), we decided to try something a little more personal. Julie's father had died recently, and she was keen to see if we could make contact. She was overjoyed when the name spelt out "Len" (her father's name), before spelling out 1923 and 79 - the year of his birth and his age when he passed away. Julie asked if "Len" had a message, and he produced two: "Love you" and "Look after Phillis" - Julie's mother's name! Len then said "must go now" and the board went dead (pardon the pun). She was thrilled by this, but was a bit suspicious that her "father" didn't know any of her sisters names. I must say that whilst we were on the board, the room became noticeably colder, although the temperature sensor on the fireplace of the Bishop's room (perhaps 6 feet away?) showed no change. Perhaps it was a purely psychological reaction?
The crew stayed until 4.10, and Mark, Julie and myself sat around talking for a while and finishing off a bottle of good cider that we had bought. We intended to carry on with the ouija board in the attic, but tiredness had got a grip, and we feel asleep (with lights on!). We woke up shortly before 11.00am and left before the film crew were due to arrive from their hotel for more filming. But - it is odd how the menace of the Ram dissipates in daylight....
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Maes Artro Village, Wales
Maes Artro Village was an RAF base in World War 2, housing crew members and equipment. Today, it is a museum, although there is a (soon to be defunct) air base nearby.
We paid our 20, which got us a notepad and temperamental pens, unlimited coffee and a great breakfast in the morning. So, not bad value for money. We found out very little about what is supposed to be at the Village, other than feelings, or sightings of a man with a disfigured face. One of the team told us that a workman had put his workbelt down during recent refurbishment, and found that it had vanished when he turned to collect it a few seconds later. It turned up eventually, in a different part of the building.
For the first hour or so, Steve (BigS) gave a really good presentation on investigative procedures, research and interview practises, use - and misuse - of equipment. Some of his talk seemed to be a bit dubious to me (about salt being a good, if temporary protection agent, and how ouija boards can be dangerous), but we knew that there would be things that we wouldn't agree on. He spoke with some authority and humour and implored us to respect each others beliefs. He did seem to take a few gentle swipes at scientists - mainly myself, but Jeff, a chemist, also bore some flak. Anyway, it was light-hearted and, in general, a very good talk, even if I was forbidden from availing myself of the nice beers on display in the bar area! Booo! Anyhow, it was good to put names to faces, like Steve Paton, Tim Bowers and David Vee, all good people. And the ever lovely Littel Angel (Caroline) was there too!
After this, we were split into teams, and were given a guided tour of the site. I was in Steve Paton's team, along with his girlfriend Michelle, Lee (who worked at the Village), Jeff, Steve and a few others. Our first port of call was the RAF museum at 10.00pm. It housed two aircraft, a prototype Avro ANSON T21 VS562, which made its maiden flight on 6/8/48. The main fuselage was in the museum, the wings remaining outside (looking at the information boards inside the hangar, they had to remove the roof, and the aircraft barely fitted inside!). In the rear section of the hangar was a more recent aircraft - a red Jindivik UAV (Unmanned Ariel Vehicle, or drone), which are still in use for surveillance and target practise. The remainder of the building was occupied by examples of RAF uniforms, and an engine testing room at the very back of the building.
This session lasted from 10.00pm till 11.35pm. Steve Paton and Michelle told us that during a previous trip to the Village, whilst in the Avro hangar, footsteps had been heard in the deserted Jindivik section. Later, then the team moved into this latter location, the footsteps moved next door, seemingly on a wooden platform at the back of the hangar, outside of visual range. We spent the first 20 minutes of our session in darkness, save for our torches, in the Avro section. I elected to sit by myself to ensure that as much of the room was covered as possible.
Steve decided to try a bit of table tilting, using a conveniently purloined bar stool from the bar area. Steve Paton and another guy (Lee I think?) took up the challenge of communication. There were 5 minutes of silence before Steve implored the "ghosts" to use their collective energy to touch people, move the stool etc. Just as Steve said this, a rather loud noise was heard! Probably a pipe clicking or the building settling we though. Steve asked for "a sign" - and the light on the video camera went off! Coincidence, I feel (!?)
After this, Steve abandoned the attempt and told us that the stool felt like it wanted it move, but conceded that this might have been him and/or his colleague subconsciously putting pressure on the chair. About this time, the room seemed to be getting colder, and Michelle was taking constant temperature readings with her laser guided thermometer. Some of the coldness can be attributed to a door being left open in the vicinity.
We may have picked up occasional stamps, or footsteps in the Jindivik room, but we were not certain of this. Some thought the noises were close to the door, but I thought they were further back, near the engine test room at the rear. Tests I did later made me feel that this was a likely location, but that the noises could have been anything. Almost certainly mundane, probably.
We moved the team to the Jindivik room, and tried more table tilting there. We were shocked a few minutes later to feel a cold draught that glazed over everything at a noticeably slow pace. Until we realised a door had been left open! Anyway, we started the tilting session and someone (Steve P?) asked for sign. Just as he said this, the radio microphone (to keep in touch with the other teams) crackled on! And a few minutes later, we thought that it was our lucky night when we heard a distant door open and footsteps move towards us.....only to reveal Steve (BigS) and Colin (another bloke) emerge asking "did you call us on the radio?"....it looks like they thought that we had asked for their assistance. Anyway, BigS seemed happy. He had been making coffee, tea and had been ensconced at the base camp all night and needed a change of scenery!
Anyway, nothing, not even a foursome or a threesome could get the bar stool to tilt. Michelle had the feeling that "there is someone missing" - obviously not one of us, just an impression that she got. Lee, who worked at the Village told us that the Museum hangar was the only area that he didn't really like. He sometimes felt that sometimes someone was right behind him, usually when locking and unlocking the building. One time, he heard the sound of a broom being dropped - complete with the sound that the handle makes when it bounces on the floor, but there was nothing there, and then he saw something out of the corner of his eye. The Village dog doesn't like to go in that hangar. But, as Lee said, the building didn't feel oppressive whilst we were in it.
After warming up with a coffee or two, we retired for the next session; the disused Aquarium, from 12.10am - 1.25am. Now, when we were given a guided tour earlier on, we didn't really feel nervous about this building. However, we were told later that, in the early stages of its life, it was a morgue. Funnily, this gave some of us a feeling of apprehension. Strange how being told something of the history of a place can fuel the expectations.
Nothing much happened in there, apart from some clicking noises, probably the building settling. We did hear a strange "brrrr brrrr brrrr brrrrr" noise, which some put down to someone walking about outside the fire escape, whereas I thought it was either wind in the trees, rustling on the roof, or perhaps the numerous bats outside?
Steve Paton put a few coins and a candle in the back room as trigger objects, and later on it was found that the coins had moved. We tried a few seance sessions, but got nothing, except from tired arms from holding them prone for long periods whilst holding hands with my neighbours.
At one point, we ended up outside the fire escape, trying to determine what the strange noises were, and we saw torch flashes through the trees. I volunteered to meet our visitors, but it seems that the torches were back at base camp, and were shone in our direction simply to see what our cameras were flashing for. I was met by Caroline (Little Angel) and her team. They were very excited by their session at one of the two air-raid shelters (the second's location is now lost).
They informed me that there had been the sound of footsteps, the tin roof rattling and the emergency escape ladder shaking. They had also heard aircraft and siren noises from the direction of the RAF museum, where we were earlier. (Incidentally, I must mention that one of our team allegedly heard a distant siren when we left the Aquarium for the base camp area). Colin, a team member, had clambered on top of the shelter and had tried to duplicate the sounds by stamping on the earth above it, but with no effect.
Whilst there, I got my TriField meter to see if it would register during our second seance session. It didn't! So, we rambled back to the base. I didn't tell the others much of what Caroline's team had encountered so as to prevent "contamination" of our perceptions. I needn't have bothered; plenty of people were talking about it during the coffee break!!!
During our coffee break, me and Lee went to the Village gatehouse so that he could upload his orb pictures from his camera to his PC. I tried to act excited by orbs but, I really think they're bunkum! He didn't say much about experiences at the Village, probably for two reasons: firstly, he was too tired to say much and secondly, I felt that he didn't know much of anything paranormal there, except for one lady visitor's dog being unable to enter the RAF museum. He did give another anecdote about that hangar: he said that, once, he heard a banging noise coming from a closed hatch in the roof. As he watched, the banging became louder and faster. When he got a ladder and looked inside rather than finding a trapped bird, there was nothing in there, apart from an empty milk bottle (!)
Lee and myself left the gatehouse and tried to find the rest of the team. We were told that they were in one building, but we couldn't find them! We eventually located them back in the base area. We were all very eager to try the air-raid shelter and trudged over there.
We got to the shelter at 2.30am, expecting great things. We sat in darkness, sometimes lit by candles, sometimes not, for ages. We only had the odd click, and a gurgling noise caused by one of our team's stomach (!!!). A seance was tried, amd I ducked out of this as my arms were still cramped from the previous sessions in the Aquarium. We were told by Steve Paton that someone had picked up on a gentleman who didn't like taking orders. I suggested to the seance team that a touch approach might get results, so they gently asked the spook to come forward. I thought this was a bit weak, so I erupted with something like "show yourself, you lily livered white weather waving coward." Well, nothing happened then EITHER and I'm not sure how I'd have reacted if something did happen (Tim Bowers was hovering around with a video camera and he caught my outburst on tape, embarrasingly, so I stuck my tongue out at him/the camera!).
By 3.35am, we had finished and everyone congregated back at the camp. It was noted that Caroline's team had the most results, another team had a little, and we had none. Someone suggested breaking the teams up to give everyone the chance to experience something. Caroline's team was against this, but they would allow others to join in.
I had had enough. Sleep had caught up with me and I thought that a quick sleep would recharge me. I had found a comfy sofa, cushion and blanket, and by 4.45, I was asleep. I did wake up at about 5.15, but I looked out the window, thought "sod that" and snuggled down to sleep again. It seems I missed nothing when I woke at 8.00am. Michelle later described how, when she and the others holding an outdoor seance outside the Aquarium, they were surrounded by men (probably not real ones as the screaming would have woken me up)...and one of them had a disfigured face. On a downbeat note, a friend had taken part in Caroline's active team in the air-raid shelter and found that, a lot of the time, the crescendo of noises was simply due to the team feeding off each other, fuelling their own perceptions. (To be fair, Little Angel denies this and its possible that my contact was referring to another team, possible "his" team, during the session at the back of the acquarium/morgue).
Anyway, I didn't miss the good breakfast and I got the chance to tease BigS about my good night's sleep (he had eyes like poached eggs!). The only downside was the lack of debrief describing other people's experiences at the Village, although we did discuss our own feelings. Everyone enjoyed it, and quite rightly too.
No wonder these all-night ghost hunts give us symptoms like jet-lag!
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In this case, I had notched up a quarter of a century of ghost hunts, and it seemed appropriate that the evening would be spent in one of the most haunted locations in the UK: Wymering Manor in Portsmouth. Portions of the manor date back 600 years but now, it is a youth hostel, run by David Scanlon, the head of the Hampshire Ghost Club. I had arranged a vigil with Dave at short notice (after a previous team had pulled out due to a bereavement), at 20 a head. Sadly, I could get no enthusiasm apart from Richard Jacklin (who runs Spectral Electronics and his assistant, Jon. Together, the two of them make high quality EMF and sonic detectors to assist in paranormal investigations.
We had arranged to meet David at the Manor at 7.30pm that Saturday. I had told my friends that I had done no research to prevent this from colouring my perception that night. However, as the evening wore on, and David gave us an excellent tour of the building (its smaller than it looks!) he couldn't resist imparting some tales attached to the place. There is too much to tell, and I have difficulty remembering all the details, but suffice to say that he reckons that there are 16 ghosts infetsing the place. Some of these seem to appear malevolent (the figure seen hanging from the beams) but were harmless. On the contrary, he said that on some occasions, he had come home to the Manor to feel welcomed by the ....whatever it is that also "lives" there!
The staircases and balcony seemed to be good "haunts" (groan) for the ghosts; David showed us a picture of a shadowy silhouette peering down from the balcony, and many people have seen figures, or heard footsteps (and even taken pictures of disembodied heads - inverted - ) on the staircase. He even saw a dark figure peering over his children's Christmas presents at the top of the landing as he retrived them from their hiding place in his office one December 24th.
One witness even saw a ghost of what seemed to be a cowboy-like figure leaning against a wall in the foyer area. This ghost was a "one-off", never seen before or since.
As stated, I can't recall all the stories, but David has prepared a CD-ROM ebook detailing his research, and interested readers are encouraged to invest in a copy.
As soon as David had gone to bed, and the equipment unpacked from Richard's car, we proceeded to ...partake in a beverage or two (alright, Fosters) that Richard had brought with him; after all, paranormal things seem to happen when in a relaxed - but not totally wasted! - frame of mind! The main foyer would be our base. Jon was occasionally using the Canum (ultrasound unit), but seemed to pick up faint, imperceptible hum from the lights etc.
We were told by David that a cowled figure was seen in room 7 at about 10.15pm, but when seen, it ducks behind the curtain. With such a firm schedule of spookiness, we decided to set up that room as our first base. Richard set up his infrasound equipment and EMF meter (next to a walkie talkie so that we could hear downstairs if it registered). Well, it didn't, and after a while we decided to see if we could catch the spook in the act of peering out of the window. So, we sneaked upstairs and burst in and....nothing was there. Jon reached round the door and aimed his digital camera in the far corner behind the door. On the small LC display was what seemed to be a face, looking to the right, towards the door. It seemed to have dark hair and a parting. Jon seemed to think that this was a ghost, or at least a face, but subsequent pictures from similar angles showed a similar object, but fainter. It looked to me like simulacra; where natural objects, such as streaks in the cupboard window (where the face had appeared) looking like something discernable.
Sadly, one of the most active rooms (the common room) was sealed for repairs, but there were plenty of rooms left to explore. Room 6 was next door to room 7, and the story is that a recording-type ghost wanders from this room, into room 7 and then follows the room adjacent to the balcony before vanishing. In the cupboard of room 6 was a priest hole, and Richard got the fright of his life when he went in and felt something prod him... it turned out to be a coat hanger! But stil, he was right that it felt claustrophobic in there, and I felt as if someone had (non-physically) squashed my temples, making me feel a bit dizzy....the power of suggestion?
We decided to relocate the infrasonic equipment to this room, only coming back to check on it from time to time. Two rooms that we didn't explore, but were shown were room 2 (where a phantom child had been seen, if I recall), and room 4 (??) downstairs, to the right of the main entrance. Room 1, above the common room, was sealed, for repairs.
Room "4" was the source of two very intriguing stories. The first occurred over New Years. The lady in the room complained the next day of noisy teenagers in the room directly above, making noise as they crashed around, larking about. It was pointed out that this was impossible as the only people in the manor at the time were the guests, and the room above was the ladies toilet! When we wenty into the ladies toilet (to do a recce of course), we found that someone had turned the light on. The other odd story is one that was told to David that very day. On the wall is a picture of, presumably, part of the mansion. It is a nice black and white picture, but she was taken by the figure of the lady in the doorway. However, when she woke up the next day, she was perplexed to find that there was no longer a woman in the picture!
We decided to alternate from room to room, getting progressively more and more bored and desperate as time went. We did a mild spot of goading the spooks to appear and when this didn't work, we wound up telling somewhat filthy jokes. We tried the room near to the resident's kitchen; this had been the source of unexplained music. However, it was also the place where foreign visitors had decided to punch holes in the wall, as evidenced by sheets of wood all over the place. Despite Richard seeing a few sparkly things on the bunk directly above where I lay, nothing happened.
So, we tried room 3, with no effect. And then, we went back to room 6, where the genesis of a infrasonic peak at 9 Hz. Then, as Richard tried to save the graph on his laptop to disk, the machine died! It sounded like the hard drive had expired, so we got no results at all. We decided to do another "sit in the dark" session, but apart form a few more sparklies in front of him, near the door, nothing happened. This stunning status quo of absolute nothingness was not broken when we decided to do the last session in room 7 next door, where we all managed to get a bit of sleep, before deciding that nothing was going to happen and leaving at 5am-ish.
A shame that nothing happened, but the place is certainly intriguing enough to merit a return visit. hopefully in January with a large entourage from ASSAP...if I can rouse them from their lethargy NEXT time.
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The Edinburgh Vaults
The day started off quite interestingly. My fiancee, Carly wanted to show me off from Heathrow for my flight to Edinburgh: incidentally, this was the most expensive ghost hunt ever, witht he flight at 100, and the fee for the vigil of 30! Why did I decide to fly? Because I couldn't stomach a 10+hour coach drive or a slightly shorter, expensive, train journey to Scotland.
And then it all went wrong. Carly and myself arrived at Heathrow in plenty of time, but with less than an hour to the flight, she succumbed to a massive asthma attack. BMI were wonderful, booking me on a later flight, and contacting a team of parademics who took us to hospital for Carly to be checked over. By some strange quirk of life, a film crew from the BBC show "Airport" was working with the paramedics, and we were constantly trailed (we may be in the next series - series 7). Carly grunted a "yes" when asked if the was OK with this, but was in no fit state to do anything at the time...something she now regrets! Anyway, Carly was given the all clear, and we got to Heathrow in time for the 8.50 flight, where I was left at the X-ray machines, the customs people being very interested in my torch with the red filter (and at that moment, the battery decided to die...not bad after 7 years!) and my two disposal cameras. Anyway, despite waiting on the transfer bus for 35 minutes while the flight crew arrived form Manchester, I was soon off.
I arrived shortly after 10.00pm and got a bus to Edinburgh Waverley BR station, just a few minutes walk from the vaults. Whilst admiring the stunning architecture (the illuminated castle on the hill etc.), I was struck by the smell! As we passed the Haymarket, the smell of Spam filled the air! This got worse until there was a smell of urine in the air! (Later on, the smell of mushy peas was also mixed in with the aroma creating a truly sickening miasma!).
Tim Bowers, Mark Webb and others from Ghosts-UK met me at the station and we headed off. Tim informed me that the chosen rendezvous pub ("Bannermans") had to be abandoned after a fight broke out in the pub mere minutes after arriving! We met up with the others at their cars (one of which had a "Ghosts-UK" adhesive banner stuck to the back window, It was great to meet up with people with whom I had only conversed on-line, such as Faeden (real name: Barry). There were a couple of others whose names I didn't catch. It was great to catch up with Steve Paton of the British Paranormal Alliance , and his girlfriend Michelle, who I had both met at Maes Artro a year go.
Once inside the main building on Blair Street, we met our guide, a tall red-headed bloke (and very pleasant!) bloke called Gary fromMercat Tours. He gave us a tour of the two lower levels of the building, the lowest being the famous vaults. When I asked, he advised caution when dealing with some aspects of a book that I had read previously!
Our group, including Steve Paton decided to start with a session in the lowest vaults, where, according to Gary, vault 5 had been active "in the last few weeks". Despite sitting patiently, including a session illuminated only by candles, nothing of any great significance happened. However, the silence was very rudely shattered - not by any cackling ghoul, or chain clanking phantom, but by a very noisy nightclub in one of the adjoining vaults! We were told that the club closed at 3.00am - and the time was now only 12.50am. The thought "it's going to be a loooooong night" couldn't help but bob into my mind.
So, we whiled away the time by using dowsing rods, to little or no effect. The place was very dusty, so we couldn't really use cameras down there. One of the vaults had a soot-caked ceiling, as we told that a group of German tourists had accidentally set fire to it some time ago (!).
Myself, I found the most nervous part was walking down the tunnel that linked the stairs to the main entrance and the rear fire escape. This involved walking past some pitch black vaults that had been used a wine cellars, complete with broken bottles. It was probably pyschological, but it felt unpleasant in that area of the vault. I was fine everywhere else. Probably something to do with the lack of light...?
As our time in the vault drew to a close, and the disco music echoing very loudly around the walls, the teams circulated, moving back to the main safe room. Tony, Gary and myself chatted area in the area where I had expressed discomfort. Even Gary said the cold felt unusual, and there was a very cold draught in that area. Now this might have been from the stairs or the back fire escape, but it rarely made the candles flicker. It just felt unnaturally cold. I must also add here that, for the most part, the vaults were actually quite warm, to the point where it felt warm enough to wander around in a shirt. This may, of course, be due to the different cooling rates of the vault walls etc.
Before heading up, we couldn't help but ask about "Most Haunted"'s visit to the vault. He was upset about some of the "facts" presented in the show. As we headed upstairs, a few people expressed extreme skepticism whether the vaults wree indeed haunted.
Due to a fault in the drains, the nearest toilet was in a similar building a few streets away - again, with similar arched vaults, and part of an old bridge. Thses stank and felt awful! After leaving this building to head back to Blair Street, others endeavoured to get snacks of chips etc. Back in the base room, there was a moment when someone piped up that she smell incense. A spooky smell? No, Tony (aka miracleman) admitted to having some garlic mayonnaise!
This was followed by an excellent experimental session involving a technique that some team members had tried the night below as they camped out. It involves the trick of getting someone to sit on a chair, and then, on a cue, others standing around, lift them up with only their fingers tucked into the armpits and knee joints. It sounds stupid, but I knew it could work. The "ringleader" was Steve, from Margate (whose nickname was MargateSteve surprise surprise and looked like Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings director), who thought it was entirely psychological. Being sceptical, I agreed with him, and we tried a variety of subjects, and lifters. Naturally, I was one of these and was absolutely amazed when a team of four people managed to lift me (14 1/2 stone) about 7 feet into the air! It felt great, like flying, but not weightless. It seemed that the "key" to getting it to work was placing your hands in a stack above the sitter's head, before removing them and hoisting them into the air, but further experimentation shows that it was the act before this (rubbing your hands very vigourously together) that was the trigger for hoist. I have no idea how it works, but it is very interesting. (This should satisfy Tim who wanted to know what I would write about it!)
These sessions did leave horrible purple bruises on the underside of my arms, just below the armpits. These were the areas that did hurt the most whilst being lifted.
Back to our vigil: our team now headed to a room directly below, and despite imploring the spooks to make a sound, all that was picked up (by Kelly) was a smell of soap. We then moved back upstairs, being careful not to trigger the motion sensors in the doorway. We went to the history room, with no result, apart from a few loud clicks next door, in our base room, some of which were identified as leaking water falling onto polystyrene chip boxes. Kelly also had a multitude of voices - she had heard them in the room below. It could be the other team, as there was a gap in the floor at the back that led to a twenty foot drop into the vaults themselves, where our other colleagues were located.
The blasted drone of nightclub music had now died away so we decided to go back to vault 6 for a pot of ghost-baiting. Mark Webb had done this many times, most recently for the "Haunted Homes" TV series. Basically, it involves antagonising the ghost into acting physically, a technique that has seen results in the past. Mark was the main instigator, but Steve Marshall (Stevepm), MargateSteve, Kelly and myself did do a little bit too. We heard the usual noises in adjoining rooms - coughs, barks, sneezes etc. which may have been us misinterpreting usual sounds. The mian target of Mark's baiting was someone the staff called "Boots", which Gary said had been linked to the name "Eddie" (the only two spooks had been given the nicknames Gray and Hare). Mark knew, like me, that women were most prone to ...whatever... down there and used this to goad the phantom into acting. Again, we heard the usual sounds - double taps (too loud for water), and, most embarrasingly, a strange whooshing noise, "like a balloon's air escaping" which turned out to be my stomach. The shame!
Kelly saw a figure through an iron grate that led to a nearby function room. but by the time we looked, there was nothing there. Michelle picked up the name "Annabella", a girl with red hair and a white dress. Gary couldn't verify the clothing but said that a medium had picked up on the name "Isobella" perviously. The only odd thing that happened down there was that a girl I was sitting next to got prodded in the side (and when she stood up, a lump of rock was found in her lap!), Kelly felt pushed into a back-and-forth rocking motion, and her camera malfunctioned.
A seance took place, Steve Marshall's speciality, and despite me being sceptical, I decided to take part, but nothing happened. I should also mention that, all the while this, and the ghost-baiting was taking place, there were occasional icy gusts that would enter the vault. A candle placed near the doorways hardly flickered though. Faeden was shaking a lot during this, but not from the cold.
While the rest of us went upstairs for a sleep, others elected to stay below. When they returned, we had stories of an orange flash and red lights being seen in the vaults. Interesting, but having been on the go for most of the day and having been to hospital, I was too tired to care!
Steve and I managed to grab a very uncomfortable sleep in the history room. I glanced over at Steve and he was sleeping face down on the floor!
The session came to any end about 7.00am, and Gary gave us a quick resume of the history of the vaults. I was too tired to ask any questions (which Tim was surprised about), as I only wanted to go to sleep (and only 5 hours to my flight home). We made our goodbyes and headed home. A little bonus was seeing a couple of old blue Scottish police boxes (not Doctor Who style alas!) as I walked back to the bus stop.
To summarise; a great evening, but very quite - disappointingly so considering the distance that we had come, but it was nice to meet some old - and new- friends.
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The Newcastle Keep
Note: if you're reading this because of "Most Haunted's" visit to the Newcastle Keep, you really should read this website. It catalogues their list of lies and deceit.
I was picked up in Woking by Steve Marshall, of Ghosts-UK, who was also ferrying Kev to our latest escapade: the Castle Keep in Newcastle (Kev and Steve had been to the previous case in Edinburgh). After a hard day (!!) in the office, I slept most of the way to our half-way point in Conisborough where we met David Vee, also of Ghosts-UK, in a McDonalds. To do the journey to Newcastle in one go was a bit silly, so we stopped overnight at Tim Bowers' parents house, which we reached at about 11.00pm. I had a great chat with David about some convincing EVPs and photographs that he had recorded at a local haunt (groan) of his, but sadly I canot mention the name of the place due to legal reasons.
Anyway, a few JD's and coke later, and I was off again, with not much warning to the place I was going to spend the night- Tony and Kim Webb's place in nearby Doncaster. We stayed up chatting until 3am, taking the piss out of the very poor production standards of Richard Felix's videos, which Ghosts-UK were planning to use as a competition prize at one point (yeah right; the booby prize, I imagine). I got a good nights sleep despite being the centre of attention for the Webb's dogs, and inadvertenly sleeping in a room where a light anomaly (an orb? wow) had been seen.
After rendezvousing at Tim's place the next afternoon, (where Tim treated us to a video taken during the filming of the awful "Most Haunted" where a 25,000 thermal imaging camera was being used to analyse Derek's farts) we set off in our small convoy, and after briefly stopping in Pontefract to pick up Kelly, Tim's girlfriend, we all arrived in Newcastle at the Keep at about 6.00pm, where Tim and his pals were somewhat horrified to find Tony, Kim and myself relaxing in a pub across from the keep. Of course, the hallowed mantra of "no alcohol" was repeatedly uttered, which annoyed my immensely as it made me feel like a school kid. For 30, I would hope to have some free reign of what I did.
We stopped off for an excellent Chinese buffet in the city (no alcohol allowed again!) and the others decided to get some sleep in their car before the night's events (apparently David Vee had kept them up till 5am!), Kim, Tony and myself having a great time in the pub over a few beers. Again, stern faces when we met up again.
We were finally let into the place at 11.00pm (until 6am) by a curator at the Keep, which is an exceptionally well preserved structure. He gave us a brief history and a tour of the place. He wouldn't tell us what to expect at first, but did let on about some locations were orbs had been seen. In a dusty castle (you could see the dust in our torch beams!), who'd have believed it. One of the display stands in the entrance hall had photos taken during a recent ghost hunt, by a group called Avalon Skies. My God, they seem like a bunch of "Most Haunted" wannabees; i.e. orb enthusiasts. There were loads of pictures of orbs! The text seemed to indicate that "since we have encountered some orbs that can't be dust, all our orbs must be paranormal." It was quite annoying to think how many people have been misled by such logic.
After stopping for a toilet break at 12.20, we started to set up our equipment. Tim and myself bought a book which purported to detail the ghosts of the North-East by Tony Lidell. The book was full of orb pictures. Tim was disappointed by this, but all I wanted was to get rid of the book a.s.a.p.; but no-one offered to buy the book off me, and as I write (a week later), the book is sitting at the bottom of my bag, gathering dust.
Our first place to investigate was the Garrison, in the basement of the keep. There had, apparently, been some activity in there. One team was sat around the huge column in the centre of the room (which also doubled as a well for water to be drawn up) holding hands and doing seancey-things. One member felt ill and got up breaking the circle. An EMF meter placed on the vacant seat went off the scale. Apparently. However, the only places I felt uneasy in the whole castle were (a) the spiral staircases - this is pyschological, because, as stated in the Manor House case, above, I couldn't see what lurked around the corner, building up the tension and (b) the upper gallery of the great hall, but this is due to vertigo - this would be somewhere about 60 feet up.
So, at 1.00am, and having a cup of tea, we sat in darkness in the Garrison; well, near darkness. There were candles placed around the column, and a few cameras. Kelly picked up a few light anomalies on her viewfinder on her camera. And there were the usual blinding flashes of cameras desperate to pick up those sodding orbs. Kelly thought she saw someone peering round the corner which led to another room, so we picked our way up the stairs, without setting off Steve's beam-trip alarm system. Once in the room, we attempted a seance. I normally don't like taking part in these, as they feel especially foolish, imploring the spooks, in a loud voice, to show themselves. However, whils in there, those of us near the door felt an unexplained coldness. It didn't seem to be a draught, because we checked. The only other source of possible air was to a storeroom at the back, but the cold draught didn't penetrate more than a few feet into our room. I could feel the hairs on my arms standing up, and our breathe became noticeable. However, a temperature meter indicated that the room was slightly warmer than the Garrison room below us. A check of the chamber below us, partitioned off with a wooden floor and accessible via a ladder, revealed no source of the coldness. The people below did get covered in orbs, er, I mean dust.
The first bit of hilarity occurred when everyone had returned to the upstairs portion of the room. At that point, I broke wind, silently. Tim got a bit excited and was asking "Can you smell that? A bit like burning?" before I owned up. He picked up his hand held tape recorder and noted that "the smell was from [Paul's] arse!"
At 2.00am, we all trooped to the next room on the lower floor, the chapel. Again, extremely cold in there. By this point, the nightclubs in Newcastle were kicking people out, and one lad decided to relieve his full bladder against the outside door leading to the carpark outside the Keep. Tim sneaked up on the other side of the door and banged. The drunk replied "Come in" (!). As the flow of urine entered our room, the drunk whispered "Sorry for peeing against your house, God", to which Tim replied, in a very hoarse gravelly voice, "You ugly c**t". The poor drunk must have broken the sound barrier escaping!
Kelly decided to leave us for a while to get some more sleep, so the remaining 6 of us did a session in semi darkness in the Great Hall, where nothing happened apart from a fit of giggles from us (strangely, when we went out for our toilet breaks, we "sobered up"). I fell asleep briefly, and then we woke we went to the other centre of ghostly activity, the Kings Chamber. In this room were fascinating archaeological finds of a pub that used to exist just outside the keep but which had been knocked down to make way for the railway viaduct. Anyway, we sat there and waited...and waited. And got bored. We then asked Tony to do a bit of ghost baiting, but we didn't have any names to taunt! So we looked at the names carved on the wall by condemned prisoners (the room was also used as a cell a few hundred years ago). Nothing happened, but coindentally (or was it?) after asking for two people to join us, I farted. Twice. Loudly. The second one got a reply from Tim, "..and he's brought his friend with him!" That was it. Whatever discipline we once had had gone for good. We couldn't keep a straight face after that.
The ice being well and truly broken, the others started packing up, but Tim, Kev and myself decided to try a session in the room under the Queen's Chamber, where some interesting light effects had been seen: Kim and Tony went back to their car for a sleep.
The room below the Queen's Chamber once led into the Garrison, but this door was now blocked up, leaving an alcove. Tim set up his camera in there facing in my general direction (I was sat on a windowsill); Kev's camera was facing Tim, who stood against the far wall, and opposite him, sat Kev on the stairs. We talked about a lot of things, usually problem people on Ghosts-UK.net (no names mentioned here!). Tim's camera ran out, leaving Kev's camera light as the only source of illumination. I spotted something behind and above Tim, dancing around near the ceilling. It looked like a faint white-blue circle, about the size of a 2 coin, and was visible for about 5 seconds. If I had been thinking straight, I would have rushed forward and tried to grab it. As it was, I simply stood there and nonchalantly said "Oh. Did you see that?" Tim couldn't as it was above him and Kev didn't either. Paranormal or what? Don't know- but I certainly wasn't veyr excited or impressed by it! I think it was a moth caught in the light of Kev's camera.
So that was it. Nothing really spectral, just lots of giggles and a great time as usual. Tony, Kim and myself had packed up shortly after 5.00m and left to go back to Doncaster for some sleep. When we met up at Tim's that afternoon, we found he had had an argument with his driveway and now had a nasty gash on the palm of his hand. Paranormal? You decide.... ;-)
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On February 21st, 2005 my membership of Ghosts-UK, after over 2 years of loyal membership,
making some (I thought) good friends on the committee and nearly 1000 posts, came to an end.
I had become very disatissfied with the pricing arrangements within Ghosts-UK. The fee for
subscription members is 25 per investigation, or 30 per free member, regardless of the actual
cost of admittance due to averaging out of fees etc. throughout the year. This on the top of the
membership fee, struck me as unfair as people coulc conceivable be overcharged, or indeed, undercharged. Better
to pay what is owed, I feel. Indeed, in 2004, John Humphreys of the Ram Inn elected to more than double the
price of admission, but Ghosts-UK decided to cancel rather than make up the difference (though to be fair,
the price increase was extortionate).
I did inform Tim Bowers,
head of development of Ghosts-UK of my feelings before the Newcastle Keep vigil in 2004.
I contacted various upcoming Ghosts-UK locations and inquired about the costs.
For 14 people attending the Black Swan,
this meant a total cost of 180. I was appalled by this markup (especailly as Ghosts-UK decided to put up
a "donate to the site"
over Christmas, rather than appeal for the Tsunami fund, which they did after I remonstrated on the site).
I put my concerns on investigation markup on the website, only for my debate to be summarily deleted.
Tony Webb, the invests
co-ordinator cast doubt on my figures until I mentioned that I had been in contact witht the venues and
he said, "If you don't like the fee, don't attend" and quoting
rule 5 of "Ghosts-UK" which amounts to "I can do what I damn well please". This is the same guy who called
a member a "Tellytubby" and another one "full of s**t".
All this for merely contacting the locations involved - I might merely have been finding costs simply
for my own group vigil. However, Tony does have a habit of deleting posts that might cast doubt on
Ghosts-UK's professionalism. For instance, criticisms over the team that were filmed for ITV's "Haunted
Homes" were removed from the forum.
In a fit of pique, I said that I wished
to have nothing more to do with Ghosts-UK after I had attended a vigil at the Red Lion that weekend,
something I had been looking forward to for ages. I received the following email from Tony:
"Due to certain recent events conducted on the forum boards in regards to costing between locations and
I feel that this has no resemblence with your affairs within ghosts-uk.
You have stated that after the red lion " I won't be going on anymore invests with G-UK or indeed get involved
with G-UK again".
I feel that you are NOT to attend this investigation as i wish not to have any ill feelings between us.
www.ghosts-uk.net will return your fee to you in the first instance."
Seems some groups can't take criticism, as I am now banned from
the group simply for determining the costing practise. Mark Webb, the chief
investigator and star of ITV's "Haunted Homes", left the group shortly after he found
out that Ghosts-UK were making a lrage profit from their activities:
he is now a member of The British Paranormal Alliance. However, the most sickening thing
of all was Tim Bowers, the "devloper" at G-UK, accusing me of exploiting the death of his father to
discredit Ghosts-UK. What kind of human being says such a thing? I was so sickened
that I sought email address from a litigation lawyer and I sent an email to Ghosts-UK
from my work email (foolishly). Sickeningly, Ghosts-UK are now threatening my
company with legal action.
When G-UK decided to issue a "Press Release" on their news page, complete with lies
about me, I asked a mate to post a follow-up to correct the rumours. Sadly, this
process requires a moderator to OK this...and my "right to reply" was denied.
As one friend says "You have the right to your opinion...as long as its the same
as Ghosts-UK." I don't know how they can sleep at night.
It has taught me a lesson: in the world of the paranormal,
most groups teeter between greed and charlantry. There isn't much else.
I am still waiting for my fee to be returned, nearly a year on.
I had become very disatissfied with the pricing arrangements within Ghosts-UK. The fee for subscription members is 25 per investigation, or 30 per free member, regardless of the actual cost of admittance due to averaging out of fees etc. throughout the year. This on the top of the membership fee, struck me as unfair as people coulc conceivable be overcharged, or indeed, undercharged. Better to pay what is owed, I feel. Indeed, in 2004, John Humphreys of the Ram Inn elected to more than double the price of admission, but Ghosts-UK decided to cancel rather than make up the difference (though to be fair, the price increase was extortionate).
I did inform Tim Bowers, head of development of Ghosts-UK of my feelings before the Newcastle Keep vigil in 2004.
I contacted various upcoming Ghosts-UK locations and inquired about the costs.
For 14 people attending the Black Swan, this meant a total cost of 180. I was appalled by this markup (especailly as Ghosts-UK decided to put up a "donate to the site" over Christmas, rather than appeal for the Tsunami fund, which they did after I remonstrated on the site). I put my concerns on investigation markup on the website, only for my debate to be summarily deleted. Tony Webb, the invests co-ordinator cast doubt on my figures until I mentioned that I had been in contact witht the venues and he said, "If you don't like the fee, don't attend" and quoting rule 5 of "Ghosts-UK" which amounts to "I can do what I damn well please". This is the same guy who called a member a "Tellytubby" and another one "full of s**t".
All this for merely contacting the locations involved - I might merely have been finding costs simply for my own group vigil. However, Tony does have a habit of deleting posts that might cast doubt on Ghosts-UK's professionalism. For instance, criticisms over the team that were filmed for ITV's "Haunted Homes" were removed from the forum.
In a fit of pique, I said that I wished to have nothing more to do with Ghosts-UK after I had attended a vigil at the Red Lion that weekend, something I had been looking forward to for ages. I received the following email from Tony:
"Due to certain recent events conducted on the forum boards in regards to costing between locations and www.ghosts-uk.net. I feel that this has no resemblence with your affairs within ghosts-uk. You have stated that after the red lion " I won't be going on anymore invests with G-UK or indeed get involved with G-UK again". I feel that you are NOT to attend this investigation as i wish not to have any ill feelings between us. www.ghosts-uk.net will return your fee to you in the first instance."
Seems some groups can't take criticism, as I am now banned from the group simply for determining the costing practise. Mark Webb, the chief investigator and star of ITV's "Haunted Homes", left the group shortly after he found out that Ghosts-UK were making a lrage profit from their activities: he is now a member of The British Paranormal Alliance. However, the most sickening thing of all was Tim Bowers, the "devloper" at G-UK, accusing me of exploiting the death of his father to discredit Ghosts-UK. What kind of human being says such a thing? I was so sickened that I sought email address from a litigation lawyer and I sent an email to Ghosts-UK from my work email (foolishly). Sickeningly, Ghosts-UK are now threatening my company with legal action.
When G-UK decided to issue a "Press Release" on their news page, complete with lies about me, I asked a mate to post a follow-up to correct the rumours. Sadly, this process requires a moderator to OK this...and my "right to reply" was denied. As one friend says "You have the right to your opinion...as long as its the same as Ghosts-UK." I don't know how they can sleep at night.
It has taught me a lesson: in the world of the paranormal, most groups teeter between greed and charlantry. There isn't much else.
I am still waiting for my fee to be returned, nearly a year on.
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Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem, Nottingham
A slight case of coincidence (or psychic awareness, take your pick) preceeded this vigil. At the start of March, I happened to be interviewed by a Russian journalist who was researching a piece on the paranormal for her newspaper. She mentioned "Ye Olde Trip To Jerusalem", a place of which I had heard a little bit, and the fact that it had a model of a cursed galleon in the bar; anyone touching it was fated to die. The galleon is now "safely" sealed behind glass (if you believe the story that is).
I was somewhat astonished to be emailed by my good friend Steve Paton, of the now defunct British Paranormal Alliance asking if I wanted to attend a vigil which, although of extremely short notice, was so attractive that I agreed.
I couldn't help but do some research into the hauntings attached to the building, so I delved into some of my haunted pub book, such as the ones by Marc Alexander and Guy Lyon Playfair. There didn't seem much activity to be honest - just a tale of a voice heard by a US solder in World War 2. However, to be fair, the books I used were at least a few decades old, so things may have kicked off in the intervening years...but I was a bit surprised that, for a pub purported to be the oldest in England, if not the World, there weren't more stories (though I did find a website which listed a few tales connected to the Olde Trip, but I didn't read this to prevent any further colouring of judgement that might happen).
After a near three hour coach journey from London Victoria to Nottingham and arriving just after 9.00pm (and paying 2.40 for a taxi fare when the pub was, unknown to me, about ten minutes walk away), I met up with the British Paranormal Alliance gang - and sadly, apart from Steve and his girlfriend Michelle, and a lady called Helen, I never did learn the other people's names (or I can't remember - sorry!). After a few beverages we indulged in some light hearted banter and shared some scurrilous gossip in the museum room, on the 1st floor of the pub. Yes, the galleon was there, behind glass, and I was informed that a medium had claimed to have lifted the "curse", only to die in a car crash a few weeks later!
The pub itself was a labyrinth of rooms and corridors, most of which had been cut into the rock, above which Nottingham castle was located.
After the pub had been vacated at about 11.30, and the equipment had been ferried from various cars, our guide for the evening (a nice barman called Simon) gave us a tour and pointed out some areas of activity, but without telling us anything of what to expect.
Steve rigged up his DVD recorder to a quad video unit, enabling him to record from three different cameras at once, an excellent idea - one he had borrowed from Ghosts equipment guru Mr.Birdz.
Above: The team, setting up.
Above: The front, downstairs bar.
Above: The front, downstairs bar.
The first session, with three of us, lasted from 1.10am - 2.05am-ish. We were based in the front bar, where there was an infuriatingly difficult game bolted to the wall. The aim was to swing a ring from a distance of about 6 feet onto a hook on the wall. Steve managed to get this on his first go, and the rest of us took turns that night. Anyway...back to the spooks....
One of our team decided to leave to play with his laptop, and the two of us rapidly got so bored that we had a few minutes sleep to recharge. I had my TriField meter and apart from a few buzzes when someone moved nearby, it was quiet. Following this, we all returned from our respective locations to our base - the back bar. One of our team was playing an alledged alien interrogation video on his laptop. On the video feed we saw a few orbs drift by (dust obviously).
Above: The museum room.
Above: The museum room.The next session (starting at 2.40am) was the two of us, plus Simon in the museum room. We sat in the darkness for a while and Simon asked if we could see moving shadows under a sealed fire escape in the room - he had asked us to keep an eye on this door early on the evening. He wasn't sure whether what he was seeing was a genuine shadow of something, or just a trick of the light, so I got down on my hands and knees and looked under the door. There was nothing there. Just a trick of the light.
I decided to ask Simon about some of the phenomena associated with the pub. He mentioned loads of tales! He said that, in the cellars, there is a staircase leading to a storeroom where the crisps are kept. It turned out that people don't like going up there. At the top of the stairs there is a grille in the ceiling leading to a disused room. One member of staff saw an arm poking through this grille at one time! He/she screamed, fled and left the pub the next day.
One group had set up audio recorders in the museum room and in the nearby galleon room. One recorder picked up the sound of a woman's scream, and the other picked up the sound of furniture being moved. Simon is unsure as to whether a check revealed whether any furniture had indeed been moved.
As for the other spectres: a Victorian girl had been seen in the snug; an old man had been seen in the back bar standing next to the fireplace on three occasions, but when a member of staff approached him, he got the inkling that the person "wasn't really there". With regards to other members of staff, the cleaner had seen many, many things in the pub.
One especially frightening incident happened when a member of staff was staying overnight. He/she was in bed and heard footsteps and then a jangling of keys approach the bedroom door. The staff member sat up, terrified, all night.
The chef had heard a door latch on one of the resident's doors lift, and when he turned round, the door had indeed opened....but there was no-one there!
At this point, all three of us were distracted by a flash near the corridor that led out of the room. We ambled over and were quite excited...until we saw Helen below us through a glass panel taking pictures with her camera and flash!
Simon was aware that he was sometimes "accosted" by a ghost, which he called John. The symptoms were a severe headache, which the other team member mentioned at this point. Simon goaded John into doing something, and it did seem to get colder - I could feel it on my nose and around my legs. However, the atmosphere soon lifted again.
Simon left us and Michelle joined us. She was interested in Simon's ghost, but before we could mention his name, she asked if he was called Philip and had a limp - this is what she seemed to pick up in the cellar. Her camcorder battery, showing 79 minutes remaining before going down there dropped to zero shortly afterwards.
Simon returned and I asked him about any other phenomena. He said that he had actually seen an orb in the bar area- the chef was with him, and although he didn't see it, they both heard the "zip!" noise as it whooshed past. It was a shoulder height, white, and about 2 millimetres across. Ths happened fairly recently, about two investigations ago.
Finally, at 4.20am, the session finished and we returned downstairs to the back bar for a welcome cup of coffee.
This started at 4.50am, and there were three of us (including Simon) in the cellar, part of which formed a prison cell and condemned cell many centuries ago. Simon said that footsteps had been heard down there on occasion. He showed us the staircase leading to the crisp storeroom and the grille in the ceiling. The atmosphere felt very odd down there, probably due to the intense cold. It was as if something was about to happen, but never did. Whilst we sat at the bottom of the crisp storeroom staircase, we could discern ... something... halfway up. Not anything significant, just little things that attracted the attention and then vanished. Insects maybe?
I think we had all agreed that nothing was going to happen, so we enquired about a few more stories. Simon told us that Jack and Emily, both children, had been seen in the Snug, and that there was the sound a body tumbling down the stairs in that very same room. Also, a dog that was sometimes on the premises had the odd habit of barking at an empty wall in the kitchen.
Despite the odd feeling that something was going to happen, nothing did, we finished off at 5.50 and I was glad to get out of there. One last mini-vigil, in the museum room to goad John into doing something didn't quite work when the participants collapsed into fits of giggles and rude joke telling due to the fatigue that was eating into our reserves of energy.
And then, at about 6.30am, it was all over! Time to pack up, and then venture into the freezing cold morning. We all said our goodbyes amd agreed it had been a great time.
I was dropped off at the coach station shortly after 7.00am, meaning I had 3 hours to wait till my coach arrived. Fortunately McDonalds came to my rescue with an eggy breakfast and lots of coffee.
To summarise: an excellent time, and after the nastiness I encountered with Ghosts-UK, this has made me feel better about excursions into the paranormal world. Perhaps the best compliment was by Simon - this was the most fun he'd ever had on a vigil, and he had been on many (of varying quality)!
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The Ghosthouse, Nottinghamshire
Shortly after this location (proper name: Hermeston Hall) was featured on Living TV's "Most Haunted", the owners were subject to criticism from various fans of the show, paranormal enthusiasts, and critics of the paranormal. Basically, the charges levelled were that, whilst the owners desired no publicity, they were quite happy to charge people to view webcams, which it was hoped would capture paranormal activity (it is alledged that these webcams hardly worked though). Also, the owners of the Hall were prepared to impose a 100 fee for enthusiasts to access their home, in return for a meal, a tour by pretend historian Richard Felix as well as a demonstration of the usual medium routines. Amist accusations of profiteering and exploitation, the message boards on various forums were ripe with criticism
A girl called Nicky, from "Most Haunted Researched" negotiated access to the Ghosthouse for her friends, both fans and foes of Most Haunted. As I was told by Jane, the owner's partner, upon arrival, they decided to open the doors to allow people to see what it was like.
I arrived in Worksop at about 9.10pm and, after a quick detour for a huge pyramid of chips (for 1.50!), I was picked up by Nicky's partner and a friend, who were stopping at a nearby hotel - they wouldn't go to the Ghosthouse. My original lift, Karen, had phoned me and had confessed to having driven around lost for 5 hours! The majority of people seemed to have already arrived at the location, and we were given a drink when we got there (I opted for Stella Artois), and there was a cold spread in the Billiard Room. One couple, seemingly not connected to our group, tried to gatecrash our spook chase when they arrived at the adjoining building, occupied by another couple and who didn't know the Hall was supposed to be haunted - they must have been bemused when they were asked about the Ghost Hunt!
The owner of the building, a record producer by the name of Tim Bristow, was not available when we arrived, so we were given a quick tout of the Hall. In attendance were friends of the owners, Paul and Rachel, and I was enthusiastically told that the house contained 26 phantoms, although the lady of the house (Jane) hadn't encountered one!
Whilst touring, some of the paranormal enthusiasts were already in place in a few of the rooms, taking pictures, trying to capture those orbs. My heart sank- a foreboding of "things to come"; however, some of the Most Haunted lot were cautious, one saying that he had taken a picture downstairs and had filmed orbs - but he was sitting next to a fireplace, and he thought the orbs were just ash and dust. I admit that I was expecting the Most Haunted lot to get loads of spirit contacts, and then congratulate themselves, saying something like "...looks like Derek [Acorah] was right after all!!". However, I never saw this happen once: the closest I got was in the Chinese room, where a man with a video camera said that he saw three orbs, and someone asked "How many children are supposed to be in this room?", the answer, if you believe in this kind of thing, being 5.
So, no sign of people making fools of themselves yet, but what I did see were the famous webcams, connected up to the server room next to the kitchen. They seemed to be working.
I was later given a private tour of the Hall by Paul and he told some very interesting stories about the building. He said that, last November, around dusk, he had seen a coach and 4 houses in the driveway. He was so frightened, he didn't stop long, but it left a lasting impression. He could recall the breath from the horses and the cape of the horseman. He has since found out from a local friend that a garage on the estate used to hold a coach! There have also been reported on more than one occasion of Roman soldiers on the driveway.
Paul knew a lot about the history of the building and said that a lot of the information shown during Most Haunted was wrong. He thought that a lot of the mediums that had visited the hall were delusional, one even describing a duel on the staircase; a fantasy. He also wasn't impressed by Richard Felix, who didn't know the nature of the three taps on the baths in the house (labelled "Hot", "Hard" and "Soft") and made a collosal mistake in one room. Near the back staircase was a room, painted entirely in red, and now a recording studio. Felix walked in and said "I smell blood". He noticed the hooks on the ceiling - about 12 feet up (remember this is a Victorian mansion house, with tall ceilings!) and announced that it was an abbatoir. Paul, using some choice words, begged to differ. The room was used to hang up people's cloaks and boots when they had been out hunting in the rain to allow them to dry. If the room was an abbatoir, the animals would have to be driven up steps into the hallway and then well into the house to be slaughtered! Ridiculous!
Paul also told me that the Bishop's room probably never had a Bishop stop in there; that servants bells had been known to ring on their own (rats, maybe he thought, but he never saw the wires in the ceiling oscillating as he expected); that there was a story of a crippled boy in the attic room (probably a load of rubbish he admitted, though the atmosphere wasn't very nice in there). Indeed, in this last room, he told the tale of a man who was up there alone with his video camera. Everything went fine until he saw his breath condensing into clouds of mist through his viewfinder. He didn't stay there long!
Paul had also seen 4 orbs rush past him whilst he was in the kitchen, and had heard the piano play three notes by itself. But what we did agree on was that single night stays were very unproductive - "you need to go back 30-40 times" to see something he said. This is a tactic employed by Dr.Jason Braithwaite during his ten year tenure at Muncaster Castle.
Noticing the number of dogs in the Hall (indeed, Jane runs a dog charity, Dogs Lost) I asked if they had ever sensed anything. Paul told me of one occasion when he was in the kitchen, and one of the dogs ran in from the lounge, in fright. Paul took this as meaning that "it was time to go home for the night". Indeed, he says that, in an instant, the atmosphere of the whole Hall changes and becomes unwelcoming. He and Rachel don't stop long after that.
By far, the most frightening thing that happened to him, to my mind, was when he and Rachel (and his child too I recall?) were stopping at the Hall. They were in the room between the Bishop's Room and the Chinese Room, and Paul got up during the night to go to the toilet. When he was on the landing, he could hear muffled men's voices coming from a room below, as if they were in a room with a closed door. He couldn't make out what was being said. He spent the whole night awake in his room.
And then it was time for Paul and Rachel to leave; they wouldn't stop overnight in the hall. When I admitted that I had brought a Ouija board with me, Rachel scowled a bit and said they weren't allowed. A few more stories were regaled: the Most Haunted researcher was so impressed by "activity" in the house that she wanted the team in that very night! And, during their filming, one of the crew told Jane excitedly that they had got "it [?] on camera". And David Wells, during a walk around, said that "the whole family" was still in the house. These clips never made it into the finished programme.
When I got back, after about an hour or so away, I finally met up with Nicky but we didn't have much chance for conversation that night. In fact, until about 1.00am, I was in conversation with Tim and one of his daughters in the lounge about the Hall, orbs, ghosts, science etc. Tim, who was a little put-out that I was so dismissive of orbs (especially when I told him that I had done what few people had done before; that is, talk to the experts) admitted that he didn't have much of an interest in the supernatural but would like the profits from the webcams to go into ghost research etc. He showed a home-made DVD of screen grabs from webcams, some of which showed some very interesting images, as well as off-air recordings of shows like "Kilroy", where Dave Wharmby trotted out the holy, but unproven mantra that "orbs are the first stage of a spirit manifestation". Professor Chris French rubbished this bunkum very effectively. The DVD also had a home movie made by Rachel where, as she walked up the main staircase, the piano, just visible in camera shot seconds before, could be heard faintly to play a chord.
The first time Tim had seen a ghost was when he was working in his office and was distracted by something out of the corner of his eye, and turned round just in time to see the bottom of a brown dress glide past him quickly.
I made my farewells and left them in the lounge (with a flatulent French Bulldog) as I hadn't done any of the vigil. In the kitchen I met Karen - finally - and her partner Ian. They had stopped off for a quick pint and something to eat enroute. Tim's camera battery had died, and we sat around talking. A few others joined us, and Karen asked a few of us to enter the larder, a dark and depressing room, in which she sensed a man. Despite feelings of cold, it seemed the same temperature as the rest of the room. She "followed" this "man" to the Kitchen doorway, announcing that it liked women, but hated men.
It was at this moment, that the most "exciting" thing happened. There was a crash from behind me, and I spun round, yelling a choice four letter word, just in time to see a teacup go crashing onto the draining board by the sink. Ian announced that something had just grabbed the back of his neck and he dropped the cup in surprise. When we calmed down, the three of us went for a wander, and Karen traced the "man" to the back hallway (where Felix's animals would have to be driven!!!). At about 1.00am, we joined the others, who had already done a succession of small vigils in the rooms.
In the Bishop's room, I was amused to see a semi-circle of Most Haunted enthusiasts holding hands, while a man standing on the bed in the corner, was following an orb with his video camera on night-vision. He seemed to be directing the group to trap the orb in their semicircle (!) and then they all imploring it to bang on the wardrobe or communicate when it had been isolated. Despite calling the "ghost" some mild insults, nothing happened. Then we retired a few rooms down the corridor to the Chinese Room. The only noteworthy thing was that some people admitted that you had to be careful with orbs as they "could" be due to dust.
Some people were convinced that the temperature dropped but others dismissed this - the window was open after all. A "psychic" by the name of Angie, sitting on the bed, said that a little girl with dark hair was whispering "come play with me" in her ear, and then a little boy mentioned something about new shoes. The boy was perhaps called Jacob.
After a debate on when it was written, including the apocryphal belief that it was written about the Great Plague of 1665 and therefore, recognisable to 19th century children, the whole entourage then sang out "Ring-a-ring-a-rosie" [sic] in the hope that the ghostly children could be enticed to come out and play. This had no effect whatsoever, surprise surprise. In fact, it was ridiculous. One girl (Nicky I think) voiced the opinion that the house wasn't haunted at all and some agreed with her. After spending less than ten minutes in the room, we departed.
We had a cup of tea and then I decided to go to the attic alone. When I got there, Karen and someone else had already made themselves comfortable. We stayed for only a few minutes, not because of the bad atmosphere (which had gone), but because we were bored and tired.
Ian, Karen and myself crashed out on the lounge sofas at about 3.30am, and I woke just in time to get my coach back to London at 10.10am. In retrospect, the Ghosthouse is an interesting location, and one that I would like to visit again. I can't say that it is haunted - no ghosts showed up, but after 28 ghost hunts, I have come to expect this, but the inhabitant's stories were intriguing.
The Ghosthouse website can be found at this link.
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Margam Castle, Wales
ASSAP's 2005 training day took place at the partially derelict shell of Margam Castle, near Port Talbot in South Wales.
I elected to miss the actual training day (since I had already undertaken one at Charlton House many years before), and only attend the evening vigil. It cost 46 and took nearly 4 hours to get there. Whether that shows dedication or stupidly is up to the reader to decide. The journey down went well, and there were a few Rugby supporters on the train to Cardiff - the match between Wales and South Africa was that evening. Before I headed off to the Castle, I imbibed myself with a few pints while watching the last 70 minutes of the Rugby, which Wales lost; even so, the atmosphere in the pub was good natured and friendly.
The taxi took me to the Castle and dropped me off on the side of the castle furthest from the vigil location. Of course, I walked the long way round to get to the ASSAP venue. This could have been quite dangerous as I found out later.
Escaping from the biting cold, it was time to re-acquaint myself with my ASSAP friends, and make some new ones (people I had only communicated with by email- Dylan Jones and later, Mark Cave, and a new friends and fellow Doctor Who fan, David Tee, who asked me about my articles on the missing episodes of the series - see here and here), and also help myself to some much needed nourishment in the shape of the leftover sandwiches from the meal provided to would-be investigators.
The castle is separated into two sections; the ASSAP training took place in a few rooms that had been converted into classrooms, teaching children ecology and environmental matters. ASSAP used one of these rooms as a training room, and the other as a base, for people to store equipment, sleep etc. The rest of the castle, thanks to a fire in the 1970s that ravaged the interior, is now a shell, devoid of furniture, paintings, carpets and the like. And of course, it was freezing! The castle is now home to a colony of bats, like Woodchester Mansion.
We were treated to a tour of the castle by the warden. The way he talked, you'd think every brick in the castle was saturated with spirits. He constantly used the words "extremely active" though he wouldn't give any details to tip off the "psychics". He did give us enough hints at various locations to colour our judgements. Well, in my opinion, he did.
Some areas of the castle were closed to the public for insurance and safety reasons; one of the staircase landings, and the wooden stairs leading up to the turret and down to the basement. He also told us that the nearby Abbey ruins were haunted, but told us not to go near them as it could be dangerous because the deer in the park were rutting and could attack. As we left the ruined portion of the castle at one point, we caught site of a herd of deer in the distance.
In one of the rooms in the downstairs, derelict part of the castle, (I think it was the dining room), Mike White, head of ASSAP and a psychic called Stefan was asked to stand in opposite corners of the room. They experienced nothing - at least, not what the guide expected. Stefan did ask if anyone had clicked their fingers to his left while he stood on his spot, but no-one had.
Upstairs, the guide told us that the nursery contained an evil presence that didn't like women. Also in the room were supposed to be the spirits of two children who would tug at clothes to entice people to play hide and seek with them. The guide wouldn't tell us their names in case anyone picked up on them.
Stefan told me shortly afterwards that he felt a tug on his pockets before he was told this story.
Also of interest: our guide told us that people had experienced a feeling of being pushed on the stairs. He also said that US Soldiers that were to be sent to Normandy for the D-Day landings were based at the Castle - and "it was thought" that many of them came to Wales when they died.
After this, we headed to the renovated portion of the castle. As we stood outside and chatted, Stefan asked about the turret - "The Needle Room", where the ladies would wait whilst the head of the household was off hunting. The guide was the only person allowed up there, and on occasion he had heard a knock at the door at the room. He has also experienced other phenomena. While we talked, members of ASSAP set up their ORBIT experiment - this was a project devised to see if orbs have a two or three dimensional nature using two video cameras and comparing recordings using a synchronised timing method (alright, a clock). Personally, I think orbs are a load of rubbish but others think not - and as Mike White told us, at the previous years training day, someone complained that "ASSAP didn't take orbs seriously". No names mentioned, but I think I can guess who said that!
The vigils started off at about 11.15pm, 15 minutes late. The head of our team was a lad called Simon, and I was due to take over from him when he and his partner were due to go home at 2.00am. I didn't in the end, due to fatigue. We started off in the nursery. It did take a while to find out which team I was stationed with for reasons that I am still unsure about.
The 6 or 7 of us positioned ourselves in various alcoves and against windows and walls, and one of our number was asked by our guide to stand by a door, looking into the distance past the master bedroom and where the most active room was ("the low beamed room", which was once two rooms but is now one big chamber). She (Wendy?) patiently stood there for 20 minutes, but saw nothing! During this time, the lights were still on downstairs, and the light coming up through cracks in the flooring disturbed our attempts to hold a vigil. Plus, the sound of our footsteps echoed throughout the whole building, making the situation very unsatisfactory.
The session finished at 11.45 and we went to warm up before our next session, which started at midnight in the "low beamed room". Again, nothing happened, and I dropped off to sleep at one point (allegedly) snoring. One thing of interest did happen on the way to the room, which I didn't mention because first of all, I didn't want to alarm anyone and secondly, because it could have been a trick of the light. I was bringing up the rear, and was the last one to leave the nursery to get to the low beamed room. As we entering the next room, I flashed my torch back into the nursery. It happened to pick up something light coloured, about the size of a height, and taller than me. I exclaimed "s**t!" and hurried on with the others, not looking back. I tried to make sure I wasn't the last one after that and was a bit apprehensive going back into the area to get a chair! Thinking back, I'm not sure what I saw (it was only for a split second), but there was nothing in that room that matched my description.
I was rapidly losing my fight with fatigue and resolved to make the next session my last one. This was on the staircase and of course nothing happened. I was starting to hallucinate as my eyes pricked due to tiredness. The session finished at 1.45am
Back at base, where I fumbled with seat covers and cushions to manufacture a makeshift bed, I happened to overhear another group. They had been in the low beamed room and had taken a picture of an orb. What was interesting about this was that it had a long orange tail, and looked as if it was moving erratically. I happened to glance over their shoulder and saw this picture on the mini LCD screen on their camera. I don't know if they saw this and took a picture or whether the image turned up gratuitously. They also said that they heard a bang in the room which sounded like a metal chair - or metal chair legs - being kicked. They took this as a sign to get out, which they did! Later on, a male member of the group claimed that it was his chair that had been kicked. This kick/noise was preceeded by some form of light anomaly in the room.
At about 2.00am, I drifted off to sleep and was woken at about 2.45am (?) by the same time, who had entered the sleeping area in a state of excitement. They had just come back from the library and had experienced cold spots (how? The WHOLE castle was deathly cold!) and had seen three orbs with their naked eye.
Following this, I managed to get some sleep. Sort of.
Of course, the heating had by this stage gone off, and the ASSAP base was now hovering about freezing point. Foolishly thinking that we would be assured of warmth, I had only come in a shirt, with a scarf, gloves and long woolen coat. I woke up at 5am to have a toilet break and found a pile of large tea towels and cloths which I borrowed and fashioned into a crude blanket, which kept me "warm". I didn't get full feeling back in my legs and toes for another 12 hours. That, and a nice journey back thanks to engineering works on the railways served to make this a weekend one to either remember - or forget.
Of the few people left in the morning, no-one had experienced anything, except for the low beamed room/library team mentioned above. Stefan had been in the former location and was sat in the corner when he had, from what I could gather, started scribbling notes furiously. He got something like "It wasn't me who killed her" and "she wasn't pushed - she fell"...apparently details that tally with the historical record (someone was tried for the murder of a lady pushed from a window). He also got the names of the two children in the nursery and information about someone who fell to their death on the stairway. I wish I had managed to awaken in time for the debriefing as it sounds like the highlight of the evening!
Bridgnorth Theatre On The Steps, Shropshire
I first heard of this case, at a theatre in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, at the 2000 Fortean Times Unconvention, where David Taylor and Andrew Homer of Parasearch gave a lecture on the collected evidence of ghosts, entitled "Shades and Shadows". Sadly, they ran out of time to present the Theatre ghost data due to an overrunning previous lecture, and it wasn't until they gave the same talk at a Ghost Club meeting in London in early 2001 that we got to hear it.
It turns out that the most compelling eyewitness data they had collected was as follows: a shaft of light, captured on more than one occasion in the foyer of the theatre. More information can be found here, in the Riverside Theatre section. The shaft looks like a door opening, beyond which is a bright room, and seems to be suspended in air. The shaft appears for one video frame (1/2th of a second). Sceptics might think that this shaft of light was a simple malfunction of the video camera, except for one thing: a still camera click was caught on the audio track. Someone had seen this shaft of light, hanging in the air, so it must have evidently been a real effect, seen by the camera and human eye.
2006 was a terrible year for me, and this was my chance to get "back into" ghost vigils. A previous opportunity, an extended training day run by ASSAP at Bisham Abbey provded abortive for me due to the distance, so I thought this would be a good chance to see my old friends at Parasearch again.
The theatre, an hour's drive away from Birmingham in Bridgnorth, Shropshire, is a converted church. The town itself is beautiful, overlooking a valley through which the river Severn runs, and is full of intriguing antiques and curiosity shops. The theatre is down a set of steps, on either side of which are very tall stone walls, and on either side of this passageway runs an inclined railway that takes people down to the valley floor.
Upon arrival, we were given a guided tour and told roughly where to expect phenomenon to occur, without actually describing what was seen. One area that seemed to be associated with activity was one of the boarded up stained glass windows, both on the lower and upper auditorium levels.
In the car with David, Carolyn and myself was a nice man named Frank who came equipped with boxes and bags of audio equipment. I don't know much about Frank, but he seemed to be an academic type.
We had a total of 13 people, some of whom were guests from nearby groups. I was in Andy Homer's group, and our first session was in the upstairs Green Room, although we were allowed to sit in the upstairs auditorium, adjacent to the Room. The session started at 9.30pm. I elected to sit in the auditorium with another member of our team. I sat in the back row, a few feet to the right of one of the sealed windows where phenomena had been reported. I saw nothing.
Frank had set up his audio equipment (amplifier, signal generator and oscilloscope) on the stage, and he ran through the range 150 to 1000 Hz. I was intrigued as to the reasons behind this, and I would find out the reasons later on. One girl, seated in the area below, when asked by Frank, noted that she had seen something out of the corner of her eye, moving really fast, but no one else experienced anything, just the usual "physiological effects", presumably feelings of discomfort induced by the volume and frequency. The sound frequence was increased to 5000 Hz (a horrible, piercing whine!), and one man piped up that he had seen a flash towards the corner of the stage. Frank investigated but it was felt that this was probably just a torch being shone. One lady (Lynn) noted a definite change in her vision. The sound was increased to 6000 Hz, leaving a temporary ringing in the ears after the equipment was turned off. It was asked if the equipment could produce infrasound, of about 20 Hz (probably remembering the late Vic Tandy's infrasound experiments whilst at Coventry University), but Frank said that we wouldn't hear it and the experiment was not tried.
Ten o'clock came and went without incident, and apart from a large crash downstairs at this time, from someone dropping something, and motion sensors going off a few minutes later as people left ther session to return to the Green Room for a drink and snack, nothing else happened.
We had our break from 10.15 to 10.30, and then onto our next session - the Foyer, where the light shaft had been seen. Of course, all the cameras were pointed in the direction of the beam, but nothing was seen. Fortunately, we all resisted the temptation to attribute those misty white balls on the night shot camera as "ghosts" - if anything, the orbs made us remark, laughingly, that perhaps a better cleaner was needed! And, apart from some drunken horseplay by some girls outside the theatre at 11.16, nothing at all happened. The next session was in the auditorium, and after a little delay caused by us searching for the light switch, Frank started his sound experiments again. One lady (Kelly) was sensitive to the noise and felt unwell, but no one else was affected. In total, 3 or 4 people out of 13 felt something during the sonic experiments (and not just illness caused by the sound and volume). It turns out that the genesis of these experiments was at Dudley Castle not so long back. Some psychics claimed heightened abilities, or unusual experiences at certain frequencies, and Frank's experiment was an attempt to duplicate these results.
I elected to get some sleep after this, along with Carolyn and one other member for whom fatigue had been unkind. It was hoped that sleeping in a haunted location might trigger some interesting dreams, but no such luck. Carolyn and myself couldn't remember our dreams. The vigil finally came to an end at about 3.00am, just as the sky was brightening as the sun rose over the town. For some, however, there was a moment of heart-stopping excitement: a strange shadow was seen on the stairs in a monitor showing night vision. Thoughts that "evidence" had been found were foundered when Andy Homer admitted that he had put his hand over a light source, and this had been picked up by the sensitive camera!
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Last updated: Monday, June 4th 2007
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