Do you believe in ghosts? It’s a question that stirs up strong opinions and sometimes prompts tales of strangely inexplicable events that have left a question mark in people’s psyche, and have never really been fully explored by those that have been affected. Whatever your personal take on the paranormal – any happening that could be defined as ‘beyond the range of normal experience or scientific exploration’ commercial ghost hunts are booming as more and more companies exploit public demand to try out ghost hunting for themselves. A significant amount of those interested have been inspired by the ground breaking and now sadly defunct TV show Most Haunted and transatlantic American imports such as Ghost Adventures remain popular over here. These shows typically investigate a location that is reportedly haunted, by setting up cameras and voice recording equipment and carrying out experiments to try and prompt a response. Mediums are usually on hand to provide more information about which spirits are interacting and to guide events. What better time to see why ghost hunting is described by those who love it as “highly addictive” than at Halloween, the Autumnal time of the year when ‘the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest’?
Whilst I myself, had not had a remarkable experience of the paranormal, apart from the sometimes surreal feelings of déjà vu that strike from time to time, and children’ s toys turning themselves on when no-one is near them (faulty switch I tell myself!) I have always been interested in ghost stories and the paranormal since I was very young, reading classic spine chillers under the bedcovers and relishing any anecdotes of ghost stories that came my way. More recently, I was an avid viewer of Yvette Fielding’s Most Haunted and greatly admired the team’s determination to catch evidence of any paranormal events on camera, their willingness to ‘debunk’ events that could possibly have a rational explanation and revelled in the unexpected nature of what could happen as the investigations progressed. I loved the winning combination of personal stories from the past, beautiful and atmospheric locations and the way that the individuals in the team were all affected in a variety of ways – yes, there was a fair amount of screaming!
Since the programme finished, there was a ghost hunting shaped hole in my life, which was filled when a friend posted on Facebook about a ghost hunt that she had been on, and the rest, as they say, is history…
My first ghost hunt was in the eerily desolate Bicknor Woods, Kent, reached via an orchard that had an ominously murderous backstory. My survival instinct kicked in and prompted me to actively avoid walking at the back of the group (bound to be picked off!) and refraining from answering the call of nature, as I really didn’t fancy the prospect of a solo foray into the bushes for a wee! I stuck to my friend’s side and really enjoyed my introduction to ghost hunting, loving the gadgets that alerted us to a spirit presence being nearby, and really loving the ones that allow you to ask questions, and for the spirits to give you a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer – they really seemed to work! It was great being with a group of like-minded people, as well as Steve Moyle , our Group Leader and Spiritualist Medium, who patiently answered all of our questions about ghost hunting, the equipment being used and what he could pick up from spirits that were present. It did make me feel more ‘safe’ to have an experienced person nearby to intervene if necessary, and to also guide us through the spookily quiet woodland in the dead of night, when most people were tucked up in bed. When we had a séance, my arm and hand were inexplicably raised by some unseen force, other people felt that they were touched, strange anomalies appeared in photos taken, and Steve brought forward the stories of some of the spirits that were present. The ghost hunt addiction was underway…
This was followed by another ghost hunt, this time under cover, at Rye Castle (Ypres Tower), East Sussex. It was a completely different experience again to an investigation in the great outdoors – and there were toilets and tea and coffee-making facilities – even ghost-hunters need to refuel! It was a small venue, set in an extremely picturesque Square opposite a church, and surrounded by cottages decked with flower boxes. By day, the property houses Rye Museum, but in the past it has had several different uses including as a prison. It was interesting on our arrival to hear a potted history of the location from one of the local volunteers named Ted Emson that mans the attraction, and the historical stonework, fixtures and fittings certainly created the ambience of a haunted locale. Ted was a lovely and knowledgeable man, who was there all night and obviously hugely enthusiastic about Rye Castle and all of its fascinating backstory. The promising first impressions continued throughout the night, and I genuinely feel that I experienced paranormal activity firsthand. The most notable of these occurred in the ‘Women’s Tower’ situated apart from the main building. The room where lots of paranormal activity took place was reached by ascending a stone staircase to a circular room which would once have housed the female prisoners, and was stuffy and claustrophobic in feel, no doubt due in no small part to the low ceiling and sparse dimensions. It was a struggle to imagine too many prisoners locked up in this small space, and all too easy to imagine what a horrible punishment it must have been to be cooped up in there for any prolonged time. It was noted that when two people stood a couple of feet in front of a small window set high on one wall, they moved backwards, seemingly involuntarily, so that their backs were literally up against the wall. When asked, they said that they felt that they were pushed backwards by some unseen force. Interestingly, when they returned to their original position the same thing happened time and again. When other people (including myself) stood in a similar place in front of the wall, the scenario repeated again. As I stood there, I willed myself to fight any movement triggered by suggestion, and planted my feet firmly on the ground.
As I stood there, I felt what can only be described as a ball of energy building in my solar plexus, which eventually pushed me backwards (thankfully gently) against the wall, and the same thing happened when I repeated the experiment. Who knows what caused this to happen? No doubt the sceptics would cite many prosaic reasons why this may have happened, but I really felt that there was no logical explanation as the window was shut, nobody (living) touched me, and I actively fought any urge to move backwards. The energy of this historic building (which had just re-opened following building works) intertwined with the history that was apparent in every wall display and artefact, as well as the building itself, seemingly combined to create a truly active night where people (including the ghost hunt staff team themselves) saw things, heard things, felt things, smelt things and were affected by things, that weren’t obviously of this realm. Read more details about the night on the Ghost Hunt Events website.
The most recent ghost hunt that I attended, was one to Fort Horsted in Chatham, Kent. This had a completely different atmosphere and history again, as it had been used for military purposes in the past, and is a vast labyrinth of endless tunnels and semi-derelict rooms that have been uninhabited for many years. It was the largest of five forts designed to defend Chatham and was armed in both the First and Second World Wars. Just the act of entering the Fort was imposing enough, after we made our way across a bridge over the now-empty moat, our group entered en-masse through a heavy wooden door, before it banged shut with an air of finality behind us…
The introductory talk by Paul Coutts-Smith explained that the Fort now houses a business centre and talked about previous paranormal experiences en-site, and really whetted our appetites to get going for ourselves. He also informed us that the ladies toilets was reportedly one of the most paranormally active places in the building, which was interesting to hear! Thankfully, the most alarming thing that we encountered in the toilets was a spider in one of the wash-basins. We hoped that this wasn’t a precursor to more close encounters of the arachnid kind, as we’d also been warned in the talk about the prevalence of cave spiders in some areas. I’m pleased to report that I didn’t see any cave spiders all night, however one vigil was rudely interrupted by a low-flying bat (who soon scarpered, no doubt with the sound of our screams still ringing in its ears!) and it was a curious sight to see lots of butterflies sheltering and resting on the walls and ceilings of some of the tunnels.
We then split into groups and went to different areas of the Fort with different members of staff to investigate what we could find and experience. Again, this ghost hunt gave me the opportunity to try different things that I hadn’t tried before (like using dowsing rods to ask questions, plus using a planchette to record some automatic writing) It was also a bit disconcerting that I felt a definite queasiness in a room where the spirit of a Colour Sergeant with a contempt of women came through, and other women in the group also said that they felt uneasy and angry in that particular place. When I left that room, I returned to feeling fine again. The most notable events of the night for me in particular were in a different room again, where the members of our group placed our fingertips onto a small wooden table (which was in no way wobbly or unusual in any way) and it tipped right up in a number of directions, many times. This kind of phenomenon is called ‘table tippng’ and although I’d seen it before on TV, it was exciting to be part of the circle of energy that provoked it to happen right before my own eyes. We also knocked on the table with our knuckles, and were amazed to hear knocks in response, that seemed to be emanating from within the table itself.
A very notable (and perhaps unexpected) feature of this night, along with the other events too, was the amount of camaraderie and good humour that was evident throughout. It wasn’t that we weren’t taking things seriously, but there was an undercurrent of good humour throughout, and also a sense that we were all supportive of each other, and interested in how other people in the group were feeling and experiencing things. Every individual has a different ghost hunt experience, as people have different reactions and feelings to others, and it is great to support each other and share in the mutual quest to experience the unexplained. Because of the unexpected and unpredictable nature of these events, you never know what to expect and no two ghost hunts will ever be the same because of the differing energies of people doing the hunting, and also the energies within the building.
Even though I was at Fort Horsted from 8pm till 2am in the morning, I still felt that the night had gone really quickly, and it was a disappointment when we had to finish up and leave, even though fatigue was setting in.
It has been really surprising when telling people about my ghost hunt experiences, that so many of the people I’ve talked to have said “I’ve always wanted to do that!” but somehow haven’t made the next step of going on one for themselves. I myself was concerned beforehand that I may find it all too frightening and overwhelming. Although the adrenaline pumps when unexpected things happen, the presence of group leaders leading activities and the professional way things have been organised, has meant that I’ve stayed calm, and more fascinated and excited than anything else. If you’re one of those people who’ve always had an urge to do it for yourself, it’s time to dust off your torch and your sense of adventure, and book up a ghost hunt today….
Do you know of an interesting or haunted venue? If so, email Ghost Hunt Events on firstname.lastname@example.org. They are offering a free ghost hunt ticket to anyone who suggests a venue that subsequently becomes a ghost hunt location.
You can also connect with Ghost Hunt Events on:
their website: http://www.ghosthuntevents.co.uk/
on Twitter: @ghosthuntevents
on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/ghosthuntevents