A horror film in a haunted mansion. That wasn’t an invite we would ever turn down.
We’ve wanted to return to Woodchester Mansion since we visited it in 2012. You can read about our last visit here. But the next time we visited, we wanted it to be overnight. Then Team Impact announced they were hosting a horror night with a screening of The Conjuring followed by a ghost hunt until 4 a.m. Although we’ve seen The Conjuring 4 times, we’ve never seen it in a haunted mansion.
We’ve known about Team Impact since they took part in a TV show in 2010 and they seemed like a fun bunch. We were the first to book tickets and worryingly they knew who we were, even though our Facebook is under our C L Raven name. When people tell us they know of Calamityville, our first thought is to apologise. We’ve been chatting to Paul and Chris since we booked and they asked if we had any requests, seeing as we were experienced in investigating the paranormal. After we finished laughing at the idea of being experienced, which lends an air of respectability, we told them we wanted to do lone vigils in the cellar. They promised to lock us in. Horror film, haunted mansion and locked in a cellar. Careful boys, propositions like that could lead to marriage.
Louise, who joined us for our Borley Rectory misadventure was also going with some friends. This was shaping up to be a great night. On Thursday, we tweeted about making spooky biscuits for the night. Sadly, our one bat cookie cutter rusted and the other melted, so we substituted it for a pterodactyl. Team Impact promised not to tell the bats, but couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t find out. We agreed on a price of three bat biscuits for ten minutes in the cellar.
We set off at 5:45 p.m. to allow us plenty of time for calamities. There were none. Apart from a misunderstanding about ablutions: Cat “I need a wee.” Neen “Want me to pull over?” Cat “What if the van gets hit by a truck?” Lynx “There’s services.” Cat thought Neen planned to pull into a layby. We reached the gates at 7:10 to find two others waiting. We were early. Super early. This never happens. Are we becoming…responsible?
Woodchester Mansion is a beautiful gothic building, complete with bats, gargoyles and vampires. But to complete the Gothic Guide to Buildings sticker set, you need ghosts. One story says the 2nd Earl of Ducie held a lavish party in 1840 to celebrate his new title, when he saw his father’s ghost sitting in his chair at the head of the table. He apparently left the mansion and never returned. We suspect his leaving was more to do with financial problems rather than ghosts.
A headless horseman roams the grounds. He’s believed to be Sir Rupert de Lansigny, who inherited Spring Park after murdering his cousin. Who says crime doesn’t pay? We’ve found no evidence of his existence, so it’s probable he’s a scary legend. Like Prince Charming. So who is the headless horsemen? And why does he haunt Woodchester Mansion?
The strangest apparition hovers above a lake on the vast grounds – a coffin, believed to belong to a Dominican Friar who drowned himself. Though how do people know who it belongs to, unless they’ve seen the name plaque? Also, why would a coffin haunt anywhere? It’s an inanimate object. It’s not sticking around for unfinished business, or to seek vengeance. “Avenge my foul and most unnatural…construction.”
There are also reports of a horseman in civil war clothing on the drive and a black dog that haunts the cellar. His appearance coincides with the death of people closely associated with Woodchester. It wouldn’t be a British ghost story without a black dog. During our last visit, a worker told us a visitor had brought a dog with them and it refused to enter one of the rooms, becoming quite distressed.
There are rumours of Satantic rituals in the chapel but going on lack of evidence and how popular Satanism is with haunted places, we’re discounting it. Soon, abandoned supermarkets will have rumours of hosting Satanic rituals. People have heard a kitchen maid singing an Irish folksong as she works and a young man crouches in a corner, as though hiding from someone. A tall man apparently stands in the kitchen doorway and leans towards where the hiding man is crouched. Visitors have spotted a small man, rumoured to be a stonemason, in the chapel looking at the stained glass windows, and he is suspected of being responsible for small stones being flicked at visitors. Also in the chapel, people report smelling freshly extinguished candles when no candles have been lit. A girl skips up and down the stairs and on the first floor corridor, a young woman has been seen and heard as she stands at the window above the front door watching visitors below. A floating head haunts the bathroom and an old woman apparently grabs visitors. A tall man has been seen near the laundry room. We’re sceptical of this – when was the last time you saw a man doing laundry?
Many people report seeing servicemen around the property. In 1944, American and Canadian troops were stationed there whilst training for the D-Day landings. They used the lakes to train in bridge building for the Europe invasion. Security was very high and rigorously enforced. They stored their equipment in the cellars. During a training exercise, the bridge they were driving over collapsed and more than 20 soldiers drowned in one of Woodchester’s lakes. 1940s music is sometimes heard echoing through the abandoned corridors.
While we waited, we filmed our information piece. The gates were locked. We were tempted to hop out of the van and offer to demonstrate our skill in making burglary tools (yes, we once made a burglary tool), but instead we ate cherries and took the piss out of each other. The gates opened, so we drove in then continued filming. We read about Rupert de Lansigny, the supposedly headless horsemen then discussed how would people identify him without a head. Neen suggested he had wonky nipples. During a lively discussion about how he uses his wonky nipples to navigate the park, we suddenly realised Anthony from Team Impact was standing by the open door, right behind us. Well that’s a first impression we could’ve done without. Anthony said he was waiting to stop gatecrashers showing up. We offered to act as security to scare them off, taser them, or leap on intruders like rabid monkeys. That was a second impression we could’ve done without.
Neen then solved a potential mystery – the bathroom has a floating head. There’s a headless horseman. Perhaps they spend eternity looking for each other like star-crossed body parts.
Paul and Chris soon arrived and everyone drove down to the mansion to park around the back. As Cat climbed into the van, laden down by equipment, she fell and elbowed the horn. Neen “You realise your arse was in the air at that point, and you just drew everyone’s attention to it.” Cat “Balls.” Neen then turned the corner and also accidentally hit the horn. Calamityville are incapable of arriving anywhere in a dignified manner.
After everyone set up in the drawing room, where the screening was to take place, Chris led us on a history tour of the mansion. After he told us the story of a woman who is seen on the staircase, Cat stayed behind to get a photo of the stairs without people. It was the beginning us of us constantly being left behind and wandering off. We’re not sorry. We have form for this. The three of us got distracted by a sink off the stairs. Paul “We have three troublemakers now. That’s the ladies’ toilets.” Neen “it’d fill up pretty quick.” Cat “we’d need a stepladder.” She then tripped going up the stairs, proving Karma doesn’t take kindly to mischief.
Chris mentioned a woman, nicknamed Elizabeth, who is seen in the windows above the front door. Neen told him Cat had seen her. He was pleased, as he didn’t know about that sighting. Also on this floor is a little girl ghost. It’s known that a little girl was playing with her friend, running along the corridor. Her friend stopped at the end, she didn’t and plummeted to her death.
After the tour, we all gathered outside for a group photo. We tried to hide at the back like we do in every group photo, but we were spotted and ordered to the front. We compromised and stood by Louise in the middle. Everyone returned inside, but we’d spotted what looked like a tunnel in a wall, so went to investigate as close as we could. The bats came out to greet us, so we stayed to chat to them for a while. By the time we reached the front door, it was locked. We seem to have a knack for getting locked in and locked out of places we’re investigating. Admitting defeat, we ventured round the back. It was either that or squiggle through a window.
It was time for The Conjuring. We had the front row, as they were the last seats left. And we’re so small, sitting anywhere else would mean us being unable to see. The sound kept failing on the dramatic bits, so the blaring noise cutting to silence was quite effective.
The film finished at midnight and the ghost hunt began. We were split into two groups. We were pleased to find Louise and her friends were in our group. We headed to the top floor with Anthony. Louise volunteered to have a DVR with headphones attached so she could hear live EVPs. We would’ve volunteered, but none of us had spare hands to hold it. We could hear voices of people leaving. Neen “All I can hear is ‘keep coming.'” Cat “That’s what she said.” Ever the professionals. We called out for James, the builder who fell/was pushed to his death. He’s rumoured to throw stones, but he didn’t make an appearance. Builders never turn up when you want them to. Cat asked for pushing, scratching or bite marks. No-one’s captured a ghost hickey. Anthony “You’ve been set a challenge now. Can you rise to it?” Neen “That’s what she said.” We see what they meant about us being troublemakers…
A couple of women kept feeling cold, but the window doesn’t have glass. Anthony’s radio kept bleeping and contacting Chris and Paul, even though he wasn’t touching it. In the end, he gave it to Neen to hold. Cat went to the far end of the corridor to see if she could see or hear anything. Lynx and Anthony tried to get the ghosts to shove Cat then Anthony realised she was right by the barrier leading to a two floor fall. Cat had already moved away, in case they were tempted. Neen lamented her lack of Go Go Gadget Arms. Inspired by The Conjuring, Cat tried to persuade the ghosts to play hide and clap. We all spread out through the corridor, with Cat staying at the far end, Neen in the middle and Lynx staying by the window. Almost immediately, we both heard stones falling. But at that point, the bats were flying around, so they were more than likely the cause.
After half an hour, we joined Paul in the cellar. They had a Kinnect machine facing the corridor, so Lynx joined the two women who were watching it while Cat and Neen joined hands around the pillar with the rest of the group. Nothing appeared on the Kinnect. Louise felt something tickle the top of her head, but other than that, the cellars were quieter than a sponsored silence. Paul asked for someone to stand in the corridor, so Cat volunteered. Cat said nobody else had spoken up. Neen reckoned she was out before Paul finished speaking. Lynx joined Cat in the corridor, but stayed just in front of the Kinnect. Neen had gone in to watch it. Neen “Lynx’s arse has never looked so big! She hasn’t got an arse.” So if you were to ask a Kinnect, “does my bum look big on this?” The answer is yes. Lynx did a booty shake for the Kinnect. We both heard a single footstep. Cat thought it was Lynx, but she hadn’t moved. Paul wondered if it was Chris upstairs, but he was with Cat. On screen, the corridor between us went completely green, but we don’t know what that means. Maybe a ghost exploded. When everyone was in the corridor, Neen felt something stroke her arse. Paul asked where Chris was. Neen wondered if it was a nerve, but said it definitely felt like a stroke. Cat asked the ghost to slap Neen’s arse. Neen slapped Cat’s instead.
We returned to the drawing room for a break. Group 1 joined Anthony in the kitchen with the Ouija board while group 2 went with Paul and Chris to the bathroom to play 1940s music. Paul allowed us to go to the cellar by ourselves while Louise and her friends went to the top floor corridor to conduct a lone vigil. Chris took us down to the cellar, so we insisted he locked us in. Chris “are you sure?” Us “yes.” Chris “I’ll listen for the screaming.” Cat “But don’t let us out until we’re really panicked. That will be more dramatic.” Neen “You’re never panicked.” If a clown was down in the cellars, we’d be panicked.
Lynx filmed Chris locking the padlock. We each took a room while Neen stayed in the corridor. Lynx didn’t realise there was a beam barrier alarm and kept setting it off. As we were too close to call out without contaminating each other’s EVPs, we took it in turns to call out. Unfortunately, we could still hear the other groups and the 1940s music. Cat whistled for the dog that’s seen in the cellar, but it didn’t come. We should’ve brought treats. Cat tried to entice the ghosts with our Uptown Funk zumba dance, but they weren’t interested.
We switched rooms but the ghosts stayed away. Lynx threw a stone to get the ghost to throw it back, but the ghost didn’t oblige. Paul/Chris radioed us to check if we were happy staying in the cellar. When we said we were, he replied we would be in there for a few hours. Neen put in a request for Red Bull for us. Lynx sang The Bangles’ ‘James’ to lure the builder, but he had another job. People passed the cellar and we heard one say “they’ve been padlocked in.” To be fair, locking us in the cellar is the only way to keep us out of mischief. Most mischief.
Sadly, the only things in the cellar were us, so we joined Paul’s group in the bathroom, where they were experimenting with glowing balls. No, not that kind of experimenting. One man, Martin, had his ball pulled from his hand. Cat “were you playing with Martin’s balls?” 1940s music was played, but the servicemen didn’t fancy a dance. The group moved into the corridor, so Paul said we could get in the bath. We didn’t need telling twice. Neen joined the group while we got in the bath and sang ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’. Neen returned and joined us in the bath for a three-person ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’ rendition, complete with rowing action. You don’t get that with many ghost hunters. Soon we will be banned from every public event. We even invited the servicemen into the bath with us, but they declined. We reminded them that being dead, there weren’t going to get a better offer. They clearly believed things were yet to reach that level of desperation.
It was now 3 a.m. so we had half an hour to ourselves before a final group vigil. We made our way to the kitchen to use the Ouija table. Nothing. It was the ghost hunting equivalent to sitting in a restaurant when your blind date sees you and flees. We half expected the ghostly servants to ply us with sympathy alcohol and take bets on how long we’d stay. All night, ghosties.
We called out to the ghost of the kitchen maid, Maria, or Moira, but even singing Blondie’s ‘Maria’ or Hard’-Fi’s ‘Better Do Better’ couldn’t convince her to sing back. We even tried an Irish folksong. Well, Thin Lizzie’s ‘Whisky in the Jar’, if that counts. We sang out of tune and the lines in the wrong order, but damn it, we had the guitar riff down. The kitchen was freezing, as it was near the back door. We even asked the ghosts to smash the porcelain, but they didn’t. Lynx then tripped trying to leave the table. Moira’s revenge for the bad singing, perhaps? We wandered the mansion, still humming the guitar riff and joined Louise and her friends in the organ loft galley. Sadly, it’s not a gallery that displays people’s organs in an artistic way. Louise and her friends hadn’t got any activity either. Perhaps joining us before has tainted her in the ghosts’ eyes.
The final vigil was back in the cellar. Blue blobs kept appearing on the Kinnect on this one woman’s waist. Was this the ghost dwarf trying to rifle through her handbag? Lynx switched off her camcorder and IR lights in case they were causing it, but the blob remained and her lights hadn’t affected the Kinnect before. Cat closed the screen on her camcorder so it was pitch black. One woman saw a light on the back wall, but that was caused by Cat’s viewfinder. The vigil was momentarily interrupted by Cat changing the Sony’s tape. If you’re ever on a ghost hunt with us and you hear beeping, cursing and fumbling in the dark, it’s us messing around with our equipment. Not that equipment.
The night ended at 4 a.m. As we were packing up to leave the cellar, Paul asked if we wanted to stay behind and have the mansion to ourselves for twenty minutes while they escorted everyone else out. That’s like asking if we love Halloween. They were lucky we were too excited to think of building a barricade to prevent anyone getting back in. It’s about time the Welsh conquered English land for a change.
Everyone was given a goody bag for attending, which we loved. And those of us brave enough to do lone vigils were given a DVD as a prize. To be fair, we should’ve given the guys a goody bag for letting us come, despite knowing what they would be letting themselves in for. When everyone had gone, we went to the second floor corridor, as we hadn’t done a lone vigil there. We heard a couple of taps, but that was it. We tried convincing the servicemen to dance with us, and we even held out our hands and did the Cha Cha Cha, but they weren’t willing. We don’t blame them – we dig our heels in when people try to drag us onto the dance floor.
While Paul packed up, we went to the cellars with Chris to ask him about his experiences for the book we’re writing about Calamityville’s adventures. He’s been investigating Woodchester since 2002 and has seen six apparitions. We asked him if any of the ghost stories attached to Woodchester are true. Most of them aren’t. The headless horseman is a variation on the folklore of a headless horse that roams the grounds. The Victorians started that rumour as they didn’t have security guards. The floating coffin was exposed as a hoax. But someone has heard a horse and carriage heard on the drive at 3 a.m.
Team Impact are all members of ASSAP and NPI and Paul has recently completed a Parapsychology course run by Edinburgh University, so we wanted to ask him about that, as we’re intrigued. Most paranormal investigators just give themselves the title, but these guys have actually done training. We don’t refer to ourselves as paranormal investigators. ‘Idiots with a camera’ is the term we mostly use. Though technically it’s ‘idiots with 6 cameras’ but we don’t like to boast.
We had a fantastic night and would definitely go again. Plus we forgot to pay them in bat biscuits for being locked in the cellar and Ravens always pay their debts. No, wait, that’s Lannisters. Team Impact were lovely and we’d be happy if they ran every ghost hunt we attend. We eventually left at 5:30 a.m. and parked in the National Trust car park. There was a picnic area opposite, but Paul warned us it’s popular for dogging. The last thing we wanted was to have perverts peering through the windows when we’re trying to sleep. Though seeing as the spectral servicemen wouldn’t get in the bath with us, it’s unlikely doggers would show an interest.
We never did fulfill our bargain about the biscuits…