We teamed up again with Jack and Laura from Jack and Laura’s Ghost Series. Check them out here: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube. They regularly attend ghost hunts with South Bristol Paranormal and they invited us to Drakelow Tunnels. This place has become a huge hit recently with ghost hunters and we were more excited than Jason Vorhees on Thursday the 12th. Then everything started to go wrong. Badly wrong. In fact, this was the most disastrous episode in Calamityville history. And not a single damn bit of it was filmed. Our standards have really slipped. No, wait, that implies the show had standards to begin with. We were running late. Neen’s hairdressing appointment ended up taking 3 hours as her usual hairdresser was away. Then we had to get petrol for her campervan, Tallulah, who has ferried us to a few locations now. Then we got lost trying to find Laura’s house.
And so it began. We approached a roundabout and Neen pulled into the right lane. A guy in a black Fiesta blasted his horn, even though she’d indicated. He drove around us, still blasting his horn like a deranged clown who’s just discovered his comedy nose. He cut us up on the roundabout. And slammed his brakes on. Tallulah went straight into the back of him. What the hell did he think would happen? We could not believe his idiocy. In 15 years of driving, we’ve never experienced this. The whole fiasco made us even later. Neen had nothing to write the insurance details on so Cat fetched the card sleeve from one of her camera tapes. Luckily a guy behind witnessed it all and stopped to give us his details. We’ve never had a crash on Calamityville. Was this Fate’s way of trying to finish us off? We eventually picked Jack and Laura up and set off.
Only to get lost. Cat was navigating and still isn’t entirely sure what happened. The signs on her directions didn’t match the roads. It went like this: Neen: “Where are we? Which way do we go?” Cat *shrugs* “No idea. Try that road.” In the end, Neen switched her SatNav on. Then the lens cap on Lynx’s Canon camera, our main filming camera, jammed on while Cat was using it. Again, she had no idea how this happened. It’s usually jammed down, thanks to a sand dune sledging adventure, but on route, decided to attempt to close itself. And got stuck. We couldn’t use it. We finally arrived at Drakelow tunnels (after Cat got us lost numerous times) half an hour later than we were told to be there, but five minutes before the investigation started. We’re calling that a win. Then Cat tripped over in the van. She put her Panasonic camera down in the car park and when she picked it up, found a hole in the back screen. It still works fine, but that’s 2 cameras broken on one journey. And the adventure wasn’t over yet.
Seven deaths have occurred in Drakelow Tunnels. In Tunnel 1 on 31st October 1941, three men (one called Harry Depper, the other two are unknown) were killed when the ceiling collapsed on them when they were blasting. Mary Ann Brettel was the next to die when she was hit by a dump truck owned by John Cochrane and Sons on the grounds of the complex. Two construction workers were killed during the construction of conveyor belts that were used to take loose rock out. They rode the belt, but got tangled in the machinery and mangled. The last person to die was Eric Harold Newman, a security guard for Goods In & Out. As he left the complex on his motorbike, he was hit by a coach driven by Mr Wilkes, who transported workers to the tunnels.
Late in 1993, the caretaker was inspecting the kitchen in the old RSG side of the complex. He heard 1940s music that seemed to be coming from the old Rover Shadow Factory side. Thinking someone had left a radio on, he went to check. The music got louder when he approached Tunnel 1, but as he entered the tunnel, it stopped. He couldn’t find a radio . As he reached the old time office at the end of the tunnel, the music started again. After a 6 hour search of the entire complex, he failed to find the radio. The only equipment that was capable of playing music was the WW2 tannoy system that hasn’t worked since the ‘50s.
In 1996, the resident caretaker and his 2 German Shepherds were locking the complex one winter evening, after people had been in repairing electrical wiring. While the caretaker was securing the GPO telephone exchange in the RGHQ, his dogs went into the next room. They began barking, so the caretaker rushed in. They dogs were staring at the wall, barking. He calmed them, put them on their leads, and continued his rounds. When they entered Tunnel 4, the dogs stopped and growled, fixated on the top of the tunnel. The caretaker tried to see what they were looking at, but couldn’t. The dogs fell silent and the caretaker saw a mist at the top of the tunnel, floating towards him. The dogs fled through the RGHQ. Thinking there was a fire, the caretaker followed and found them barking and scratching the Blast Door at Adit A. He opened the doors and they ran to his car outside.
Inside the tunnels was cold and darker than the devil’s armpits. We found the toilets but stupidly didn’t take lights with us, so were navigating using the glow from the screens of our flip phones. Torch apps don’t exist on the Motorola V5. Lynx then got attacked by the toilet door. She closed it, not realising it wasn’t attached. It fell on her, crushing her earring into her ear and giving her a nice cauliflower ear. Had Fate had a tantrum we’d escaped the accident unscathed and tried to take her out with a toilet door? The same door later attacked Laura, hurting her thumb.
We were all given maps and split into groups, ours consisting of Jack and Laura and us. After Cat’s woeful navigation, we gave Neen the map. Neen’s got us through Edinburgh and York with her map reading skills so she gets lumbered with the responsibility of us. It’s not an easy job and nobody else wants it. We were all told to stick together for the walk through. That was never going to happen. We see a doorway, we’ll go through it. We see stuff, we’ll go investigate it. We may never come across it again. As it happened, the areas we’d wandered off to, we didn’t come across again, so it’s just as well we explored them. Neen regularly threatens to put us on those straps children wear on school trips to stop them wandering off. She describes going anywhere with us ‘like herding kittens’.
Bearing in mind how dark it was, you’d assume we’d have torches. Nope. None of ours work properly. We had to rely on the night vision/full spectrum screens of our cameras. Cat walked into a chair. And a wall. And some string blocking a doorway, even though Neen held it up. After the walk through, we were allowed to go off in our groups. We were given Tunnel 1 and the areas off it. We found scaffolding leading up to a big hole in the wall. Our theory is, if they didn’t want people climbing up to the hole, they should move the scaffolding. Us, Neen and Jack climbed it. Laura decided her clumsiness meant she’d be safer staying at the bottom. Think she was actually the bravest, as she was left in the dark by herself! We found some machinery and a doorway. Cat went through first, announcing, “There’s a shaft! It’s slippery!” as she struggled to stay upright.
Many shaft jokes ensued. We’d found ourselves in a ventilation tunnel. Three curved tunnels led away from the giant fan, getting smaller the closer to the end we got. Neen and Jack had a light and went in the first tunnel. Lynx had a light clipped to her belt and entered the middle tunnel. Cat had no light and entered the last tunnel, finding her way through the night vision camera. The tunnels led to a sudden drop, which was covered. Cat’s end was fully open and had the others not shouted a warning, she may have ended up haunting the tunnels. The slippery shaft made leaving that area tricky, as it was lower than the door. When we got back to the scaffolding, our fear of us heights reminded us this might not have been such a good idea. We managed to climb back down the scaffolding and continued exploring.
We found a guard’s station, or office room, so did a vigil in there. We kept hearing voices so Cat ventured down the tunnel to find the source. Turns out, the tunnels’ grid system and acoustics means noise carries a great distance. Even though we were nowhere near the other groups, we could hear them, even if they weren’t being loud. So we’re attributing any voices we heard to the others. Some parts of the tunnels involved us crawling through small holes. One led into toilets then out into Tunnel 4. We seemed to find our way into random toilets. It was like playing Slender: Eight Pages in real life, but minus a rusty pickup truck and losing our sanity.
After a break, we were sent to Tunnel 4. The mist is only seen in the winter, which leads us to believe it’s down to condensation in the chilly air, rather than anything paranormal. We did a vigil in another guard station and again could hear the other groups. While Neen took a photo of the four of us in the station, she heard a noise further up the tunnel. We explored the room next to the medical centre and found a cupboard filled with chart rolls, like the type you get in ECG machines. If the lines are to be believed, the patients flatlined for a long time. Another cupboard contained wages envelopes which had spilled onto the floor, and more chart rolls. Again, the patients flatlined. We did another vigil and heard what sounded like a tap or footstep. Lynx and Laura stood in the corridor outside the room, but nothing happened. We headed to the medical centre for some more calling out. Jack saw mist in front of Laura, but we got no responses. When we asked for a name, the Ghost Radar said ‘Smith.’ A guard called Albert Smith who worked there. To be honest, the Ghost Radar sprouts nonsense more than it says accurate things so we don’t fully trust it, but it is fun.
We heard more voices further down a tunnel, so went to investigate. It turned out to be Karin’s group. As we’d got nothing, we joined them for a vigil. We were in a crossroads. Karin, Colin, Ginny and Lee sat in the centre. Neen and Jack ventured down one tunnel, Cat down another and Lynx retreated down the tunnel we’d come down. Again, nothing. We really are the enemies of paranormal activity. You know how when the bad guy walks into a bar and everyone falls silent? That’s what happens when we walk into a haunted area. The spirits all fall silent, put down their cards and nervously touch their guns.
During the break, we joined Karin on the ouija board in the break room. We got the silent treatment, so tried the planchette with Adrian. It didn’t move. We joined two groups for some table tipping in the operating theatre. We haven’t been convinced on the legitimacy of table tipping since the Victorians were doing it, so we never participate unless it’s with people we know and trust. We’re pretty sure someone was manipulating the table. Colin saw a doctor in one of the rooms in the sick bay, so we wandered off with our laser pen (we’d forgotten to use it so far) and tried to make contact. Well, Lynx tried to get him to kick Cat’s bad knee, but it counts. The doctor gave us the silent treatment. Colin told us to call out for Dr James. We burst into an impromptu version of Aqua’s ‘Dr Jones’. Some people are really unprofessional.
We joined Karin, Colin, Ginny and Lee for a session with the Kinnect. It’s from the xbox and it maps your movements, so you appear on screen as an outline with a stick figure inside. Laura was positioned in front of it and spirits were encouraged to stand beside her. Jack joined her, but the spirits didn’t. Neen and Ginny were the next guinea pigs, and although Neen danced for the spirits, they refused to show their appreciation. Colin and Lee went next, but the spirits weren’t interested. We danced our way through the experiment, but even our zumba moves weren’t enough to encourage the spirits to come anywhere near us. We even performed the newly-learnt Uptown Funk routine. Karin was the final one to stand in front of the Kinnect, but she also got nothing, despite mooning the camera.
It was now half two in the morning and we all headed back to base camp. Neen and Jack called it quits and headed back to the van. The rest of the groups also decided to leave, so while they were packing up, us and Laura snuck off for one final vigil. We made it to Tunnel 4 through a hole in the toilet wall and called out. We could hear voices at the far end of the tunnel, which we think belonged to one missing group. Then we heard a bang on the blast doors down the end. Two people came looking for the group, so we sent them to the end, too late realising we may be sacrificing them to the tunnel monster. They came back without the group, so were clearly not needed for pleasing the tunnel gods. We continued our vigil, but could still hear the others, even though the two hadn’t found them (they were later discovered outside, smoking). The two people asked us how to get back to basecamp. We directed them to a dead end. Then Lynx showed them the right way. Laura asked for tapping and tapped her foot three times on the floor. She got a response. Two taps. We’re not entirely sure whether it was the group pissing about and pretending to be the spirit, or a genuine response. We decided to find them and set off down the tunnel. It suddenly went very quiet. The feeling in the tunnel changed. It went from being a comfortable place to feeling very eerie. It was clear we were now completely alone.
After several more attempts, we got no response, so headed back to base camp (without getting lost). On the way, we joked about everyone buggering off and leaving us in the tunnels. We got back to base camp. Everyone had buggered off and left us alone. We gathered our gear and headed out to the van to sleep.
In the morning, we were woken by the comforting sounds of gunfire. The tunnels are used for Airsoft and the shooters were already in. We photographed the tunnels, as we hadn’t done it on the way in. The door was unlocked, so we all wandered in. The place was completely lit, which gave it a different atmosphere. We didn’t venture far in, because we were convinced we’d be shot in the face with pellets, but we got a couple of photos before leaving. And getting lost. We dropped Jack and Laura off and headed home. And got lost.