Lockdown at the Lockup

Castle House, Carmarthen

Castle House

Friday 13th. Full moon. There was only one thing to do: ghost hunting. Those who follow our ghost hunting exploits on our Calamityville Horror Twitter and Facebook pages know we’ve been trying to get permission for an overnight location. But the prices are so high we only had two options to pay for it – gambling or bank robbing. We tried gambling. By ‘try’, we mean we bought a scratchcard. It didn’t work. And if we attempted bank robbing, we’d somehow get lost inside the bank. We can’t help thinking these people have heard of us and set their prices high to dissuade us. They also talked about public liability insurance. How did they know we’re a public liability? But we eventually found a location we could afford. No, it wasn’t the sewers. It was Carmarthen’s old lockup, Castle House. And they let us have it on Friday 13th.

We picked Neen up and set off, choosing jail-related songs on our MP3 Players to set the mood. Only for them to close one of the lanes on the A40, leaving us stuck in traffic for over half an hour while each passing minute cranked up our stress levels. This felt like spite on the council’s part. Just ONCE we would like to arrive early for something. We phoned the head of Tourism, Lowri Jones and explained we were going to be late. Luckily we weren’t actually that late. We’re testing the theory if you drive fast enough, the speed cameras can’t see your number plate. If our mum doesn’t get a letter in a fortnight, it works 😀

Castle House, Carmarthen

Cell 1

There has been a gaol in Carmarthen since 1532. There was also a debtor’s gaol, East Gate, also known as Prisoner Gate, between King Street and Nott Square. When the penal reformer, John Howard visited Carmarthen in 1774, he found both prisons were in terrible structural shape. The cells were damp and muddy, there was no furniture, fuel for fires, or drinking water. Men, women and children were incarcerated together, but when rape became too frequent, they separated them, but left the doors unlocked. He returned in 1788, conditions had worsened.

Carmarthen Castle

Carmarthen Castle

He ordered that both prisons be destroyed and one new one built. Architect John Nash, who later became famous for Buckingham Palace, Marble Arch, Regent Street Garden and street and Brighton Pavilion, started work inside the castle walls in 1789 and finished in 1792. A new town gaol, the Roundhouse was built in 1810 on the Old Bowling Green, where John Street is now. Carmarthen Gaol was eventually closed in 1922 and demolished in 1938. The council offices now stand on the site, still partially behind the gaol walls. County executions used to take place on Babel Hill in Pensarn, while town executions happened on the Royal Oak Common. From 1817, a gallows was built inside and above the front wall of the gaol, facing Spilman Street.

Castle House, Carmarthen


Lowri took us on a tour of the lockup. It was built in 1860 on the site of the old gaol infirmary, inside the castle’s curtain walls. It was used to temporarily hold prisoners on their way to trial before becoming a police substation for Carmarthen’s Borough and County Constabulary. It was eventually abandoned in 1947. There are two cells, a tiny exercise yard, a gallows, stocks, and best of all, mannequins. We gave them knowing smiles as we passed. We knew the mannequins would end up regretting our visit. We were given the keys then Lowri left. We had not only the lockup, but the castle grounds all to ourselves until 3 a.m. We couldn’t believe they were trusting us! Clearly they’d never heard of Calamityville.

Castle House, Carmarthen

Hang ’em High

It was then we spotted the gallows behind a gate. We became so excited we could barely speak. And Cat had spied some rope behind the desk in the gift shop that had been fashioned into a noose. It was time for some gallows humour. There was a screw in the noose, presumably to stop idiots like us accidentally hanging themselves. We took turns wearing the noose and pretending to hang each other. It was the perfect spot for us to talk about the executions that had taken place in Carmarthen over the years. Then we put ourselves in the stocks. Two teenage boys wandered onto the grounds but bizarrely, they refused our offer to put them on the gallows or in the stocks. Teenagers these days, just don’t find fake hanging their friends funny.

Castle House

desk job

We left to fetch alcohol and returned to start our lockdown at 10 p.m. We slapped our handcuffs on then found 2 police coats and a cloak so dressed up, borrowing plastic hats from the gift shop then paraded the lockup pretending to be police officers. Don’t think anyone was fooled. We love dressing up. We’d been tempted to bring our own police outfits from home but there’s no way in hell anyone would believe they were authentic police wear 😀 The coats were men’s so Neen and Cat looked like children playing dress up while Lynx cut a dashing figure in the 19th century cloak. We posed with the harassed looking police sergeant mannequin at the book-in desk. We have no idea what his name is, but he looks like a Steve. He didn’t seem to want to join in.

Castle House, Carmarthen

corridor outside the cells

We got to test our our new motion sensor lights for the first time and stationed one in the corridor outside the cells and one in Cell 1. We set the JVC up in the upstairs corridor as a static camera, pointed towards the doors where 2 staff members saw a shadow figure then we headed downstairs. We started with an EVP session in Cell 1, which is currently filled with boxes containing leaflets. The K2 spiked to 1 and remained there until leaving the cell. It stayed at 0.5 through the rest of the lockup and when we returned to Cell 1 later, it was down on zero.

Then we split up. Neen did her very first lone vigil in Cell 2, with the mannequins she named Bob and Gerald. Whether her decision was a result of bravery or the big bottle of blue WKD she’d just consumed, we don’t know. Cat stayed in Cell 1 and Lynx went into what would’ve been the living room when it was a policeman’s house. It’s now the gift shop. All was quiet on the ghostly front, though apparently the mannequins were a bit frisky with Neen. She then moved upstairs to where the bedrooms were when her disk ran out, so Cat took Cell 2. The mannequins looked really creepy in night vision, with their fixed, glassy stares and groping hands. There are images of people’s faces on the cell wall taken from the felon’s register and put at the criminals’ actual height. They were the same size as us! The tallest prisoner recorded was 5’9″. Clearly we belong in the 1800s. We thought we were built for going down the mines, but we were built for criminal activities. In night vision, the faces almost seem like they’re coming out of the wall. Deliciously creepy. Cat heard a thud on the wall between the cells but there was nobody else in that area. We all kept hearing voices, however the lockup is very close to the pubs and bars and there were a lot of drunks wandering the streets so any voices we heard we would have to say were the drunks.

Castle House, Carmarthen

Bob and Gerald in Cell 2

After half an hour, we regrouped for prisoner shortbread and alcohol. We set the JVC up pointing down the corridor outside the cells so it could capture if the motion sensor light was activated. This time Lynx took Cell 2, Neen sat in the gift shop and Cat had the entrance passage where criminals were brought in. The desk sergeant claimed she was brought in for murder. But he had no evidence for this spurious claim. Then she heard running footsteps. They sounded like they were on the other side of the gaol wall. Neen didn’t hear them. Although the other side of the wall is the council building’s car park, again we have to assume it was a random passing drunk. Cat moved to Cell 1 and tried convincing any ghosts to possess the mannequins while Lynx was in with them. Sadly the only time the mannequins moved was when we tried to dance with them.

We regrouped again after another half an hour then did a joint vigil in the upstairs corridor. We used the crystal but got nothing. Then we heard the kettle switch on and start boiling in the staffroom. We were sat outside the staffroom. We all looked at each other, excited at the thought of a tea-making ghost. Eventually we got up to investigate, hoping we had finally captured something truly paranormal. It was the boiler switching on. Sighing, we trooped downstairs to do a joint vigil in Cell 2. By joint vigil, we mean zumba dancing. It wouldn’t be a Calamityville episode without dancing. We tried getting the mannequins involved but they claimed they’d pull a muscle as they hadn’t done their stretches. They were obviously embarrassed that we outclassed them in the dancing department.

We left at 2 a.m. as we were getting tired and there wasn’t any activity. Plus we had a 90 minute journey home. Is Castle House haunted? We’d have to say no. But it is a fantastic location and definitely worth a visit. By now we suspect Bob and Gerald are in therapy, muttering about dancing, wig stealing and mannequin shenanigans.

Castle House

mannequin shenanigans

Recent Visits

Sorry, it’s been a while, *sings Stain’d* but we’ve been out of ideas on what to blog about and rather than bore you with tumbleweed, we’ve been lurking under bridges with butterfly nets trying to kidnap ideas that dare cross our bridge. We’ve also been visiting other people’s blogs, like evil Santas delivering presents of doom.

First up is Sarah Kitsinis’s great new blog, The M.I.C. which stands for Mindful, Informed, Conscious, all about issues affecting the world today that maybe people don’t think too much about. It’s about learning about subjects you’re perhaps not aware of, or don’t know much about. The first post is about blurred gender lines and how not everyone fits into the gender they were born with, or even either gender. Sarah asked us to write a couple of posts for it on animal cruelty and bullying – two issues which shaped our lives. We were thrilled to be asked. The blog feels like a mini revolution and we’re all for revolution. So we started to write about animal cruelty, which ended up focusing on factory farming and how we became vegan at 14. Read the post, Food for Thought here. Don’t worry, it’s not a preach condemning meat eaters, it’s simply pointing out what happens behind farm doors and how it affects the world, not just animals. It was a refreshing change to write about a subject which means a lot to us. It probably seems a strange paradox – horror writers who are vegan. After all, our characters regularly rip out people’s hearts or do creative things with their bones 😀

Second up is our article, Duchesses of York  that we wrote for Oapschat. It’s about our trip to York and the ghosts that haunt it. Oapschat is a website set up by author Janice Rosser for the over-50s, but it has many great articles that are relevant for all ages – we’re fans of the website on Facebook and it’s really interesting. In fact, Janice was recently named in the Top 100 people who make others happy, all down to Oapschat. So check out the rest of the website while you’re there.

In the meantime, we’ve been submitting – The Malignant Dead, our plague doctor novella, has been submitted to the Yeovil prize and Jonathan Cape publishers, who have an open submission month for the whole of June. Bleeding Empire has had another redraft and has also gone to Jonathan Cape. We’ve started writing a new short story, untitled at the moment, about a 16 year old girl who summons a poltergeist in the wake of her best friend’s suicide. We haven’t written much YA, but we wanted to try something different other than the usual supernatural love triangle which seems to dominate YA. We also didn’t want to write about the typical YA heroine, who is the new girl in town, is instantly well-liked and gets the hottest guy in school. High school wasn’t like that for us and it’s not like that for many kids. We want to show high school in its ugly, painful reality. When we were teenagers, we would never have read a romance book or even a supernatural story with a romance element, so we’re not going to write them. We’re going to turn it into a novella, along with another short story, The Slender Man. You never know, we could be the new cause of teenagers’ nightmares 😀 The hardest part will be appealing to teenagers. We didn’t appeal to teenagers when we were their age!

And we’re also about to release Season 3 of Calamityville Horror. The first episode, Greyfriars Kirkyard will air on Wednesday. So get ready for more meltdowns, more getting lost and more dancing than ever before. There might even be some paranormal activity captured too. We know – paranormal activity on a ghost hunting show. It shocked us too. Why not subscribe to our YouTube channel so you don’t miss it! We’ve already started filming Season 4 and in August we’ll be spending the night locked inside Newsham Park Hospital, a former orphanage and asylum in Liverpool. We are so excited we keep breaking into random dancing. We plan to lock ourselves in the naughty cupboards and the morgue fridge. But we’ll have to check for spiders. We’ll get inside the fridge with ghosts, maybe even a corpse at a push but if there is a spider in there, no way. We’ve all seen Arachnophobia.