Mansion in the Woods

Wandering the woods, interviewing sheep and scaring fellow guests. Ghost hunting the Calamityville way. It’s not like you see on TV.Woodchester Mansion

Last night was the second horror night at Woodchester Mansion with Team Impact. We didn’t think it could get better than last time. We were wrong. Even though we were at the last horror night, we were excited. One, because we were looking forwards to meeting Team Impact again, and two, because they promised something special to test our bravery. Paul had threatened to blindfold us and leave us in the cellar or mortuary but then told us they had changed their minds. They had something better. We asked if it was being used as human Ouija boards. Apparently, it was worse. With thoughts of being human wickermen, we were intrigued. We reminded them the gods would not be happy with us as an offering. We’re more the bargain basement types of offering that gives your enemy incurable toothache, rather than the grand offerings that get you a good harvest and allows the sun to rise each day. We were even more excited when Paul admitted they were nervous about it. Now we were thinking they were planning to strap meat to us and leave us for the panther that has been spotted in the valley. We’re fast, but we’re not ‘escape a hungry panther’ fast. And we’d probably become horror clichés by falling flat on our faces in the mud, our dignity scattering with our cameras.

Woodchester MansionIt threatened to be a very quiet episode as Cat has spent the last few days suffering with a bad throat. By ‘bad’, we mean acid reflux has sent stomach acid to her throat, which caused acidic burns and ulcers in her throat and mouth, resulting in 3 sleepless nights on the settee watching Monsters and Mysteries on Pick. Our mum and sister kept telling her not to go as she looked so awful. But our belief is, “if we’re not dead, we’re going.” So for last night, she disobeyed doctor’s orders and spent the event downing Ibuprofen, Gaviscon and using a throat spray which tastes like perfume. It meant she could talk, eat and drink without the need for interpretive dance.

Woodchester Mansion

the library

The adventure started badly when we left 45 minutes later than planned then realised we’d forgotten our cameras and had to go back for them. We’re filming a ghost hunting show and we forget the most important pieces of equipment! As soon as eBay start selling memories, we’re upgrading, because our storage capacity is clearly full and has started deleting files. Like Sky Plus does when we record too many programmes and don’t watch them. Then we reached the M5 junction and couldn’t remember whether we went north or south. *Refers you to the sentence about our memories deleting files* We went south. We were wrong. We decided to give Helen another chance, even though the last three times we’ve used her, she abandoned us in Cornwall, sent us to the far end of Wollaton Hall, and sent us on a roundabout route through Bute Park when we were only a hundred feet from our destination. But we figured, everyone makes mistakes, she could redeem herself. Everyone is always telling us to get satnav and we’ve resisted because we don’t trust technology. We’ve heard the horror stories of satnavs directing people to the rough parts of towns where they’re then murdered. Or was that an episode of CSI? Helen repaid our trust by diverting from the AA route planner. When we reached a roundabout we definitely didn’t recognise, we typed the postcode in. And lost service. When we needed Helen the most, she was silent.

We were lost.

Woodchester Mansion

library ceiling

Sensible people would have turned around and retraced their route to the point where it diverted. But this is Calamityville. Being sensible gets you from A to B. We wing it and hope for the best. That gets you stories. One long country road later, we were beginning to think we should give this ‘being sensible’ thing a try and turn around. But there was nowhere to turn around. So we kept going. Our theory is, we would eventually end up somewhere with a road sign. It worked. The sign pointed to Nympsfield. A few minutes later, we spotted the gates to Woodchester. We had somehow circled around and come from the other side. Screw you, Helen, we don’t need you and your unreliability.

Paul, Dave and Chris were already at the gate. We followed them down. A storm was meant to hit so we tried convincing them to do a rain dance. Dave did a couple of moves. Then we heard rustling in the trees. Rain was coming. Then the clouds’ stomachs burst open and rain escaped like baby face huggers. We leapt back in General Pinkinton, cursing Dave’s rain dance. That’ll teach us to mess with Mother Nature.

Woodchester MansionOnce we’d dumped our stuff in the tea room, we were given free rein to explore. Never ones to turn down a chance to explore, we set off while they got ready for the event. There’s a ladies’ WC on a windowsill part way up the stairs. They must’ve been really tall back then ‘cos Cat struggled to get up to sit on it, then her feet were dangling about a foot off the floor. Tony arrived while we were skulking in the laundry. We’ve never been in the laundry before. We remembered to offer around our dinosaur and ghost shortbread biscuits that we’d promised them last time in exchange for cellar time. We got cellar time then robbed them of their biscuits. We decided to make up for that by making more biscuits. We don’t like breaking promises.

Woodchester Mansion

the shop

When the other guests were arriving, Chris couldn’t find us. We were on the first floor trying to convince the children to dance with us. Chris “quick, you need to get pick of the seats.” We dashed down the stairs, with Lynx running into the drawing room where the cinema set up was and Cat ran to our equipment and food. It wouldn’t have looked good if we’d elbowed people out the way. Fortunately, Lynx had managed to claim the whole first row. It’s not just spirits we repel 😀 Then she realised we should’ve switched places – Cat still couldn’t find her way round the mansion.

Chris took everyone on a history tour of the mansion. For once, we weren’t the ones getting left behind. Future ghost hunt teams, if you want us to behave and stop us wandering off, let us explore first and satisfy our curiosity, then we’ll give you our full attention instead of getting distracted by shinies.

Woodchester MansionAfter the tour, it was time for The Exorcist. We haven’t seen this film for at least ten years, so it was like watching it for the first time – that is a plus side to having bad memories. Paul introduced us to the other guests as ‘horror book writers and horror comedy ghost hunting producers who make great dinosaur biscuits.’ That makes us sound far more professional than our ‘idiots with a camera.’ We should hire him for our PR. Then it was time for the ghost hunt. Paul then revealed their dastardly plan: we were going to go into the woods with Chris while everyone was doing their group vigils. We don’t know what Chris did to deserve being stuck with us for the first part of the night, but it must’ve been bad 😀 They weren’t sure if we wanted to do it, because it was now raining. But we donned our hoodies (which were damp from the previous downpour and slightly smelly from being stuffed in our rucksacks) and were eager to go. We’re Welsh. If we didn’t like the rain, we’d be stuck indoors for 11 months of the year.

Woodchester Mansion

the laundry

Some dog walkers have stopped walking their dogs in Woodchester’s woods, as they find them too eerie. We love woodlands – we walk Bandit in woods every day – so we were excited. Our excitement grew when Chris admitted that he doesn’t like being in them. And he likes woods. We set off to the old stable block in the woods. Now we knew why people find the woods eerie – they were quiet.  Normally, woodlands are full of noise – rustling, animals, etc. At night, you should be able to hear the nocturnal creatures. There was nothing. It was although there was nothing in the woods but us. Naturally, Stormborn (our phone. Tesco made us name him) picked this moment to blast our Silent Hill notification alarm. Yes, Stormborn, because the woods weren’t creepy enough. And we were too far from the chapel to run to safety.

Woodchester Mansion

stable block

We reached the old stable block and Chris found some steps. He’d never climbed them. Naturally, we encouraged climbing them. Weirdly, they led behind the stable block, but nowhere else and a wall blocked them off. Although we had torches with us, we had our hands full with our cameras and IR lights, so when Chris’s torch was facing the other way, it was blacker than the devil’s soul. And yet we didn’t trip once. Clearly it’s our vision that hinders us. We ventured deeper into the woods and still there were no sounds. Where were the foxes, owls, and insomniac birds? Then we came across a random log pyramid that was bolted together. Was this a panther trap? Then we found a log see-saw. It was a shame it was wet, because we really wanted to test it out.

Woodchester MansionBy now, everyone else would be starting the second vigil. We were halfway to the lakes where the soldiers drowned during a training exercise for the D-Day landings. We could go back, or we could go on. We chose to go on. Once we were out of the top section of woods, the woods came alive. We encountered the resident sheep, crickets were communicating via their secret code and owls were shouting at us from the skies. Where the hell were they a few minutes ago? The first lake we reached was the one where the soldiers drowned. The lake was odd. The raindrops that fell didn’t leave ripples. They bounced off the surface and turned into bubbles. The water also appeared to be thicker than regular lake water. Clearly someone has been messing with it. We’ve all seen the films where the government dump chemicals. Swamp Shark, anyone? Oh wait, swamp shark only ate the jerks, like some kind of moral hero. Carry on, government. We heard a lot of splashing. Was that one of the soldiers, recreating his watery death? Or a duck having a midnight swim? We’ll never know. But due to possible chemical contamination, that duck may start eating people. Stay safe, lake goers.

Woodchester MansionWe took the long route back, as they were still doing the vigils and stumbled across a car near one of the lakes. It was parked too well to be dumped, but we hadn’t seen anyone. We were tempted to peek inside but were worried at what we’d find: chopped up body parts, dogging, someone guiltily watching The Only Way is Essex. We stopped to interview the sheep about the panther, which is actually a panther cross lynx. The sheep weren’t keen to talk to us. Some even fled. We’re not sure whether they were more scared of us or the beast. Our egos are hoping for the beast. But we solved the mystery – the beast is none other than a black sheep. One of them even admitted this and backed it up with evidence while the black sheep nonchalantly ate grass, as though trying to convince us she was not in fact a carnivore. We might be rubbish at ghost hunting, but we have nailed cryptozoology. Then we spotted a black sheep with horns. She denied any accusations of being the devil, though she looked the type who would enjoy being worshipped.

Woodchester Mansion

the lake

We got back to the mansion while everyone was on a break. They hadn’t had the third vigil yet, because the guests wanted a break between the first two. We told Dave and Tony about solving the mystery of the beast. Not sure they were convinced, but the confession is on camera for experts to analyse and claim we faked it. Other guests wanted to go into the woods, so Chris had to trek back out. We decided to continue doing lone vigils and headed for the sacristy. We’d brought blindfolds with us, (skull bandanas,) so Cat blindfolded herself and we did some calling out. All we achieved was scaring passing guests. They’d look into the room, see us and either jump or shriek. We were just standing there! Paul had laid out trigger objects of a wooden cross and old coins, so we asked the spirits to throw the cross, as homage to The Exorcist. They clearly weren’t fans of the film, as they didn’t oblige.

Woodchester MansionWe moved into the chapel, where Lynx donned the blindfold. We scared a couple more people with our mere presence. Now we know why Monstrous Productions wanted us to be the snake twins. We really have got this ‘standing there and being creepy’ vibe. We didn’t do a vigil in the mortuary last time, we so we headed there. The mortuary was actually a Victorian cold storage room, but it got its name because the soldiers who drowned were placed in here. So we replicated it and lay on the floor. We invited the soldiers to join us by singing Snow Patrol’s Chasing Cars. They declined. They wouldn’t get in the bath with us last time and now they won’t lie on the floor with us. It’s a good job being writers has prepared us for a lifetime of rejection. What’s scarier than goth twins standing around being creepy? Goth twins lying on the mortuary floor, looking creepy and at some point, doing death poses. After scaring a group, we heard a woman asking “where’s the mortuary?” In an effort to be helpful, Cat instinctively answered “in here.” The woman shrieked. We laughed. And yet, despite now finding the room she was looking for, she didn’t join us.

Deciding we’d frightened enough people for one night, we made our way to the bathroom. Cat tried to get one of the soldiers to dance with her, but to no avail. Doing the Cha Cha Cha alone should be depressing, but we don’t need partners to dance. Damn it, soldiers, you’ve been dead 70 odd years, you can’t afford to be picky! If we’re willing to overlook the fact that you’re dead, you can overlook the fact that we’re…well…we see your point.

Woodchester MansionWe went to the top floor to contact James the builder, but he was on a tea break. Then the mansion went very quiet. Like everyone had sneaked out when we weren’t paying attention. We tried to get the ghosts to communicate through the bats’ squeaks then gave up and interviewed the bats. We asked for a ‘squeak once for yes, twice for no’ and on two separate occasions, the bat answered ‘no’ to our questions. They didn’t admit to knowing anything about the ghosts. What is it with animals and refusing to discuss the paranormal?

As the silence continued, we figured we should return to base camp. Everyone was already assembled for the debrief. We snuck to our seats at the front. Not that’s possible to sneak when laden down with equipment and our necklaces jangling like bells of doom. Last time, the mansion was really quiet on the paranormal front. Last night, it woke up. When we left to explore the woods. And stopped when we returned. Damn it ghosts, stop trying to make us look unpopular! We can manage that ourselves. In the cellar, all the guests were holding hands and a stone was thrown into the circle. Everyone’s positions could be accounted for as they were all linked. Coins were also thrown. On the top floor corridor, one of Dave’s EVP recorders stopped working and just emitted static, but the static would respond to their questions. Coins were also thrown in the corridor outside the cell witnessed by Dave and by the kitchen, witnessed by Tony.

Woodchester MansionWe went down to the cellar as we hadn’t had a chance to visit there. We invited the ghosts to throw things at us. The living seem to enjoy this sporting activity, so we hoped the dead would too. Footsteps clumped down the steps. We lurked in our separate rooms, ready to terrify the ghost back into life. It was Tony and Dave. Dave hasn’t been in the cellar for four years, after he had an unpleasant experience. So we ‘encouraged’ him to go into the room where the experience happened. Face your fear and all that jazz. Lynx even went in first to dispel any bad spirits (we’re Spirit Blockers, remember?) Luckily, nothing got him this time. Paul joined us, then as Dave was tidying up, the rest of us legged it out of the cellar and hid around the corner, cameras poised for screaming. Dave wasn’t far behind 😀 We ended up leaving at 5:30 again and followed Tony and Dave back to Wales. At one point General Pinkinton overtook them. Proud moment. Tony overtook us a bit later and us and Dave waved to each other as they passed. We were separated at the bridge ‘cos the twatapus in front of us took ages to find his money.

Woodchester MansionWe had a fantastic night, with the added bonus of seeing the lakes. We’ve wanted to visit them since we first went to the mansion. What we love about Team Impact is that they’re fun and unlike some paranormal investigators, they don’t have big egos. In the paranormal world, there is a lot of bitching, back biting, and teams trying to prove they’re the ‘real ones’ by calling everyone else fakers. We can’t stand that bullshit and it’s stuff like that that gives the paranormal world a bad name. So it’s refreshing to find a team that takes it seriously, but knows how to have fun with it.

Tony suggested a Team Impact/Calamityville Horror team up, possibly at Tintern Abbey. We love Tintern Abbey and revealed we once fake married Red Bull at the Abbey, even making little top hats for the cans and our cuddly sheep, Marvin and Mini Marvin, who were to act as our witnesses. Not sure Tony and Paul were really expecting that response. It’s not every day someone tells you on your second meeting that they fake married a can of Red Bull. We sound crazy. When we do these random things, we don’t think we’re crazy. Maybe this is why the ghosts avoid us…

Woodchester Mansion

Team Impact l-r Paul, Chris, Tony, Dave

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