Dressing up, falling over and booty shaking with mannequins. It’s the Calamityville Horror Season 4 finale. This might be our favourite season so far! It’s got everything: cool locations, getting lost, even more dancing and mannequin shenanigans. And ghost hunting. Sometimes when we find an awesome location, we forget why we’re actually there. This is a ghost hunting show! Sometimes…
It started off well. By well, Neen missed the junction on route to Bristol. Cat was supposed to be navigating but got distracted. Lynx knew which junction we needed but was in the back getting confused by which order they came in. We all blamed each other. Neen knew the junction and pointed it out as we sailed past it. Luckily, Neen’s a native Bristolian and knew the way. So we tossed our directions aside and followed the brown tourist signs. To the SS Great Britain! *Points dramatically*
She was launched 19th July 1843, with Prince Albert in attendance. Designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steam Ship company, she was originally intended as a paddle steamer but due to her advanced technology of screw propulsion, her design was changed and her engines were converted to power a 16 foot iron propeller. When she was launched, she was 100 metres in length, making her the largest ship in the world. She was the first screw-propelled, ocean-going wrought iron ship. She was designed for the Trans-Atlantic luxury passenger trade but this wasn’t a great financial success and after she was damaged in Northern Ireland in 1846, she was sold to Gibbs Bright & Co, who turned her into an emigrant carrier. Over the next 24 years, she carried 16,000 passengers on 32 trips and became known as the ‘Greyhound of the Seas’. She also carried the first English cricket team to contest the ashes and when they were practising in the saloon, the bat flew out of the batsman’s hands, striking a passenger in the face. During the Crimean War, she served as a troop carrier, carrying 44,000 troops.
She was the first iron steamer to journey to the Atlantic in 1845 and worked until 1933. After 1881, she carried Welsh coal to San Francisco. In 1886, she was badly damaged in a storm so was sold to the Falkland Islands Company and used as a floating warehouse for 47 years until 1937, when she was towed to Sparrow Cove, holed and sunk. In 1969, Navel architect Ewan Corlett decided to rescue her. Divers repaired her hull with mattresses and timber donated by Falkland islanders and she was floated onto the pontoon Mulus III and towed the 8000 miles back to Bristol by Varius II. Cracks in her hull were repaired with steel and she floated up the docks by herself, 127 years to the day since she was launched. Prince Philip was there to welcome her.
But we were there for the ghosts. The ship’s most famous phantom is Captain John Gray. He was captain for 18 years and very well liked by the crew and passengers. He would climb every mast once a week to keep fit and once interrupted a voyage to Australia to claim the unoccupied island of St Martin for the Empire. In the 1870s, he started suffering from kidney disease, which led to depression. A few years before, his son died and his cousin was swept overboard to his death. In On 26th November 1872, Captain Gray disappeared. One of the windows was open. It had been screwed shut in the night. Captain Gray was never found. Some say he was murdered for his gold, others that he committed suicide. His hobnail boots are still heard on the ship.
There were other deaths on board. A 13 year old boy fell from the rigging and died in front of his father. A 17 year old bride, Mrs Cohen, died on board and was pickled in vinegar so she could be taken home and buried. Some elderly passengers, children and babies were swept overboard during two voyages. The same fate befell the ship’s doctor’s steward. A German passenger disappeared one night and was suspected to have jumped overboard.
In 1992, a 17 year old work experience boy saw a man sitting on a beam in the bowels of the ship. He had a white collared shirt, was broad shouldered and had a white/grey beard. It’s believed to be Captain Gray. In 1999, a consultant in the Forward Hold heard footsteps descend into the Crew’s Quarters. Workers saw a lady on the Promenade deck but when they approached her, she disappeared. A steward who’d worked on board for 23 years said during a wedding, the piano on the Promenade deck started playing. The lid was closed. A man who played Brunel during events heard footsteps behind him and doors opening and closing. He saw ghosts of a woman and child in the family cabin and saw a pair of legs disappear into the captain’s state room. In 2008, a member of staff reportedly saw a child’s face in the steerage compartment. A security guard witnessed doors moving back and forth, heard locked doors slamming in the captain’s cabin and watched a door handle turn. When he tried to open the door, it was locked.
We were joined again by Calamityville favourites Tom and Amy. While we were in the gift shop, Lynx remembered we hadn’t paid for the car park. We got away with one parking ticket but decided not to push our luck so Lynx and Neen returned to pay. Neen returned alone. Lynx was soon found – she’d leaned down behind a car to pick up her rucksack then found herself alone in the car park. Cue the creepy music and horror movie bad guy lurking in the shadows.
While Neen, Tom and Amy were still in the gift shop, we decided to head out and film some information pieces beneath this grand ship. Like true professionals. Only to be interrupted by some twatapus who started hurling abuse at us as he walked past. We couldn’t actually understand most of what he said as he didn’t stop to insult us face to face. They never do. Funny how they’re so brave to insult us when they’re far away from us, but won’t stand face to face with us, even though we’re only 5’1 and have trouble staying upright in strong winds. But some words escaped his grunts and snorts. Him *incoherent mutterings of troglodytes* “Get a grip.” Lynx: “Bite me.” Yes, we know most people when filming act professionally and ignore comments, but remember, we are not professionals. Twatapus *more mumblings as he walked further away* Lynx: *giving him the finger* “I don’t want to waste my breath talking to you, so bugger off.” Twatapus: “You’re freaks of nature!” he hollered from halfway down the ship. Because of course, abusing people for being Goths is apparently a perfectly normal thing to do. There were people on the ship right above our heads, enjoying this free, impromptu performance. We really should sell tickets. Cat *loudly* “You’re the freak of nature, Wankenstein!” He continued shouting abuse as he got further away. Cat “This is going on YouTube, you prick!” He strangely fell silent and didn’t bother us again. He probably doesn’t want people knowing what a wanker blossom he is. But if you don’t want people knowing you’re a wanker blossom, don’t be one. And yes, it is going on YouTube. He clearly wanted to get on our show, so we’ll be granting his wish. Season 4, episode 9. Watch out for it.
We visited the ship’s hull, which is in a dry dock. Students at Cardiff uni (Go team Cardiff!) discovered metal kept at 20% humidity, doesn’t rust. So there’s special de-humidifiers maintaining the ship’s delicate hull. We need these for our Renault 4s. You get to go below the glass floor which has a shallow covering of water, which is really cool. As we were leaving the area, Cat walked into the stair rail but luckily, no-one was filming. We then went through the museum where we discovered dressing up clothes! You know how much we love dressing up on this show. Neen, Amy and Cat donned fancy dresses, which proved to be way long for us pixies, and also dangerous, as Cat tripped over her dress then stood on it and slipped into a photo with Neen. Tom and Lynx donned fancy jackets and top hats then we persuaded Tom to wear Neen’s dress. It actually fit him much better and he also looked a lot better in a dress than we did. The families that were there seemed rather amused by our antics.
We eventually made it onto the ship and explored the upper deck. We passed on recreating the famous Titanic pose at the bow. Our chances of falling off the ship would be quite high. When we were at the ship’s wheel at the stern, Neen spotted a boat with a shark’s face painted on it. We missed it, so Lynx ran to almost the bow to film it. Though wearing a fishtail skirt meant she had to scuttle really fast. Think penguin in race.
We then headed down to the Promenade deck and loitered around the haunted piano. But no ghost seemed willing to bash out a jaunty tune. Maybe it only happens at weddings. We moved on towards a tiny cabin and Cat started feeling dizzy. The ‘fishtank feeling’ we often describe. Maybe because the floor here was slightly sloped. There was a mannequin puking into a bowl, and as the most travel sick member of the team, Lynx was elected to pose with her. We then explored the rest of the corridor. While Lynx, Tom and Amy were messing around in the kitchen, Neen and Cat discovered another tiny cabin. Neen: “how can anyone fit on that bunk?” Cat: “I could fit on that bunk.” Neen: “Go on then.” It was difficult manoeuvring past the desk in a long fishtail skirt that is designed for style and not practical things like walking and misbehaving on ships. But she managed it and fitted perfectly in the bunk. Seems we were designed for ship’s voyages. We’ve always wanted to be pirates…They then interviewed some more mannequins, who were very unforthcoming with information.
We all met up in the kitchen, where again Cat was struck by ‘fishtank feeling’. Then we got separated. Neen, Tom and Amy headed down to a lower deck while we explored more cabins and tormented a robotic voice on the toilet. Cat pushed the door and the voice called out “This lavatory is occupied!” So she did it again. “Would you mind? This one is occupied.” So she did it again. And again. Each time, he said something different. Continuously pushing the door without letting it close resulted in the voice blurting out phrases like a stuck record. “Would you would you wouldyouwouldyouwouldwould.” Simple things 😀
We stopped pissing about before the voice had a meltdown and met up with the rest of our team on the storage deck. We entered the luxurious dining room and had a pretend feast, which ended in a pretend food fight. Some people have no idea how to behave in first class. We then gathered around a female mannequin for a photo, with Cat holding a knife to her throat and Tom doing bunny ears above her head. There were musical instruments at the end of the dining hall, but sadly they were fixed down. We were disappointed we didn’t get to do a Calamityville band photo. It would have been our one chance to look vaguely talented.
We made our way back upstairs and found our way to the sickbay. Quite frankly, with the amount of injuries we’ve had on this show, it’s a wonder a doctor isn’t in every episode. The surgeon and his patient didn’t know anything about the ghosts, but luckily, a volunteer worker did and told us a ghost story about wine that was being drunk when nobody was around. He said we were allowed on the bunks, so Amy was elected to test one out while we tested the firmness of the surgeon’s posterior. He must do a lot of squats. Neen and Cat took the opportunity to put into practise the new booty shake routine we’ve learned in zumba as they flanked the now harassed-looking surgeon.
Brunel was sitting reading the paper, so we crowded around him for a photo. He wasn’t very talktative, but his real life impersonator was. Neen, Tom and Lynx followed him to the captain’s quarters while Cat and Amy explored the family cabin and interview the mannequins. Sadly, the only woman and child in there were mannequins, not ghosts. Cat was again struck by a brief dizzy spell that didn’t return when we later all visited the cabin. The Brunel impersonator pointed out which windows Gray had jumped from and told us something we didn’t know – a lantern beside the window had been extinguished. Gray was very fire-safety conscious (not like us then) so extinguishing the lantern before jumping was entirely within his character. Shortly before his disappearance, a steward had seen Gray furiously scribbling letters. But when he disappeared, so did his letters. Either they’re still floating in bottles, waiting to be discovered, or the first person to search his cabin, hid the letters to cover up a suicide note.
We returned to the windows to an EVP session. Sadly Gray didn’t join us. Tom discovered he could open one of the trap doors in the floor, so Cat switched her night vision on and had a peek, hoping to solve Gray’s disappearance by finding his skeleton. It wasn’t hiding there like the longest game of hide and seek. But we were starting to suspect something. Gray was 6 ft. So is Tom. Gray had a beard. So does Tom. Gray had a deep voice. So does Tom. Although Gray came from Unst in the Shetland Isles and Tom’s from Gloucester. Gray was well liked by everyone. As is Tom. We’re not suggesting Tom is the immortal Captain Gray, we’re just saying no-one has seen them together.
While we were doing a filming piece in another cabin, as Cat was lying on the bunk, she heard a woman singing in an operatic voice. Only a few words, then it fell silent. We have no idea what this is. There was a deck above us so maybe someone upstairs was singing. We were all hungry, so ended our adventure in the Cottage Inn. Despite Tom accompanying us on 3 episodes and Amy on 2, this was the first time they had joined us in the pub. Our standards are slipping. We had a fantastic day and luckily, our tickets allow us to return to the ship as many times as we like. Think it’s time the ship had some stowaways…