Shenanigans, inappropriateness and people getting injured. It could only be Calamityville Horror. We were invited to spend the entire night at Moira Furnace by our FB friend, Helena and her team, Boleyn Paranormal. Neen was meant to still be working on Galavant, so we decided to go alone. Turned out Galavant finished early. Balls. Anyhoo, we set off Saturday afternoon, later than we intended leaving, which is becoming our trademark. And yet we arrived on time. Yes. On. Time. At half past four exactly. The time we said we’d be there. Then we spent half an hour trying to find a way in. There were only a few places where we could get phone signal – parts of the woods, the loading bay and by the toilet in the engine house. We failed to break in then eventually managed to find phone signal and rang Helena.
Moira Furnace was built in 1789 by Francis Rawdon Hastings, who later became the 2nd Earl of Moira, after he inherited land in Ashby Woulds. He recognised the potential of the area’s coal and iron ore deposits and began developing it. In 1792, a company was formed to build a 30 mile canal to link the Woulds with the main canal network. The first coal mine was sunk in 1804, a lime kiln was built and construction started on the iron-making blast furnace. It was brought to blast in 1806 and closed in 1811, due to some features not being successful as it was a period of blast furnace development.
A foundry making iron castings continued functioning for another 30 years. Moira Furnace was converted into housing for the mining community. In the 1850s there were three families living there. Also in the 1850s, the foundry and lime kilns closed, ending industrial activity, except for coal and clay extraction. The canal was abandoned in the 1940s due to railway competition and mining subsidence and filled in. The last residents moved out of the Furnace buildings in the 1970s and coal mining finally stopped in the 1980s.
The foundry was demolished in the 19th century, but the bridgehouse and engine house were converted to dwellings. By the time the families moved out in the ‘70s, the dwellings had become derelict and the engine house was demolished. The bridgehouse and furnace were scheduled as ancient moments after pressure from Philip Riden and the Leicestershire Industrial Historical Society.
Moira Furnace is one of the few remaining blast furnaces from this period because it was a commercial failure. If it had been successful, it more than likely would have led to the site being developed and the furnace replaced. Documents mention bad management, construction, raw materials and design, but many of the documents were written by people who were trying to deflect blame from themselves. When the furnace was abandoned, its final charge was still inside, partially smelted. A high sulphur count was detected in the raw materials, which may have contributed to the failing, as well as a design fault or operating problem in the chimney, which led it to overheat.
Staff, visitors and paranormal investigators report feeling unwell in certain parts of the building, shadows are seen, people are touched and screams are heard from the bridgeloft. In a book, Shadows on the Water: The Haunted Canals and waterways of Britain by Allan Scott-Davies, he said during the building of Moira Furnace, a number of ghosts were seen. One was a small boy seen crouching in the corner on the upper floor by the mouth of the furnace.
There were a number of accidents during the short run of producing iron. The dangerous job of feeding the furnace fell to women and children. As they tipped the wheelbarrows of iron, ore, coke or limestone into the furnace, it wasn’t uncommon for the weight to pull them to their deaths. They would die from asphyxiation before becoming part of the next batch of cast iron.
There was a fatal explosion in Moira coalmines in the Bath Pit on 9th August 1845. Seven men and boys died of burns from the explosion. Francis Hastings has apparently been spotted in the woodlands surrounding the furnace and apparently someone died from falling off the top of the furnace. Children also are rumoured to move stuff around on the top floor.
We did a quick walk round, dumped our stuff in the kitchen and promptly loaded the fridge with Red Bull and soya milk. In the loading bay, we found children’s dressing up clothes. Cat walked into a cart. When the lights were on. We returned to the engine house and split into two groups of three. Helena, her mum, Liz and stepdad, Nick stayed in the engine house while us and Helena’s husband Alex ventured into the woods. And so began the calamities. There is a reason that word is in our show name! We found a small clearing. Hanging from a tree was a piece of bark with a hole in it for the string. There was also a stick tied in front of it. We have no idea what this means. If anyone can identify it from the photo, please let us know. We’re intrigued. We decided this would be the perfect place for a vigil.
Alex felt a warm spot near him. Cat moved closer and could also feel it. It was about three feet off the ground. Lynx also felt it. We tried pointing the temperature gun at it but the readings went weird. Then we realised by trying to find the warm spot, we may inadvertently be groping a ghost. We hope you enjoyed it, possible spirit person. We moved on. Alex got stuck climbing over a log in his two pairs of trousers then Lynx walked straight into a bog. She thought it was the path, until she started sinking. She made a hasty retreat. Cat then got caught by a tree. It had her hair and camera bracket and refused to release her. We ended up walking in a big circle and returned to the clearing.
After a creepy sounding owl kept contributing to our calling out by imitating someone screaming horrifically, we started hearing voices. Alex called out to them, wondering if they were fleshy people and not spirit people. We hoped they weren’t. We’re here to hunt for ghosts, not perverts. We decided to find where the voices were coming from. Except Alex slipped in the mud, fell to his knees and smacked his face on his camera, cutting his lip. Cat, who was answering a text at the time, quickly checked her camera. Yes, it was pointing at him. We will now be able to watch it in slow motion replay. We look after people on ghost hunts. This is also probably why locations keep asking if we have insurance and a first aider. Nope and like bollocks.
Meanwhile in the furnace, Liz had asked the spirits to imitate her whistle. The three of them heard a whistle in return and it was captured on EVP. It’s really clear. They played it to us over our walkie talkies while we were in the woods. We regrouped for a warmth then we headed out to the loading bay with Helena for a ouija board session. Although the three of us spent most of our time falling over the steps. It’s a wonder none of us fell into the furnace. We got nothing on the ouija board but on the sp7 spirit box, there was this weird noise. Cat thought it was a sheep, Helena thought it was a horse, Lynx thought it sounded like the Gremlins laughing.
We started asking if there was the ghost of a horse present, but it wouldn’t stamp it’s hooves or neigh in response to our questions. Yes, we tried to do an EVP session with a horse. There were some strange bangs, but we couldn’t identify where they were coming from. Moments after we asked the ghosts to push us or push something of ours, Alex radioed to say one of their cameras had fallen off the box it was on. He tried debunking it by shoving the box, but it didn’t tip the camera.
We moved the ouija board to the other end of the room and had swapped the planchette for a candle, which was easier to move. Cat moved outside to the furance chimney for a lone vigil while Lynx and Helena amused themselves by discovering that the thumb of a gardening glove looks a lot like a penis in night vision. They shared their finding with Cat and the vigil was soon abandoned for channeling our inner teenage boys. Lynx poked the tip, which looked decidedly dodgy in night vision then Cat made it dance. Only on Calamityville could an innocent gardening glove lead to inappropriate shenanigans. Alex, Liz and Nick joined us for a group photo at the chimney before we all headed back inside to thaw.
Our next vigil was up in the attic with the sp7. There were some voices coming through, one male voice seemed to be the same person, but we can never understand electronic devices. The SB7 was sweeping in reverse, which hopefully means it wasn’t picking up radio stations. Helena sensed someone on the stairs so went to investigate and felt dizzy. Cat joined her then Alex moved further down the stairs. He felt himself being pulled. Then he tripped climbing the stairs, which was nothing paranormal :D When we returned to the room, Alex found witches hats, so we conducted part of the vigil whilst wearing them and no doubt looking absolutely stylish. The K2 spiked a couple of times but the voices on the SB7 died down. After about an hour, we returned to base camp.
We split up again, with Helena, Liz and Nick staying in the engine house while us and Alex investigated the lime kilns and canal. We could hear distant voices that sounded like they were in the woods. Maybe the perverts had returned, believing they were safe from our cameras. No-one is ever safe. We invited any ghosts in the canal to bob to the surface like creepy corpses but none would oblige. On the furnace are hand prints from people from where the furnace overheated. We called Helena and Liz out for a group photo on the stage bit by the tower.
We retired to bed around 4:40a.m. We slept on the attic floor under the watchful gaze of the Sony (until battery/tape ran out). Got up around 8 and packed up. We lingered to do daytime shots then left at 9:30. And we still didn’t get lost, despite not printing out reverse directions! Our map reading skills are improving. And then we started to run out of petrol. There are no petrol stations along the M50. There’s one before the A40 but we thought we’d be ok. We were wrong. As Pinky dropped to 5 litres then 4 litres then 3 litres, we began to panic. Especially as there’s no petrol stations along the A40/A449. We dropped our speed and drove behind a caravan to reduce the drag. Had one satisfying moment when we overtook a police car though. Made it back to Cardiff with 2.5 litres of petrol. Even when we don’t get lost we can’t drive without some sort of adventure! But we had a fantastic time with Boleyn Paranormal and we’ll be teaming up again on other adventures. In fact, we have our sights set on Italy…