Dirty Forts

Behaving inappropriately in shafts, dancing, dressing up and encouraging debauchery in soldiers’ bunks. Calamityville Horror are back and just as unprofessional as ever.

Fort AmherstWe haven’t had a proper Calamityville adventure since we returned from America. In October. That is a looong time without shenanigans. But we hit the ground running and didn’t stop until we fell asleep. Yesterday was our 33rd birthday. We know. We can’t believe it either. Turns out, sacrificing someone by drowning them in the Fountain of Youth doesn’t stop you ageing. That’s the last time we ask Magic 8 ball for advice. Anyway, we spent our birthday ghost hunting in Fort Amherst in Kent. Helena and Alex from Boleyn Paranormal (you may remember them from our night in Moira Furnace) invited us as it was Helena’s birthday the week before. Ghost hunting on our birthday? No way would we turn that down!

Fort AmherstOur SatNav (Helen) said it would take us 3 hours 19. You were wrong, Helen. 5 and a half hours, Helen. Ok, part of it was our fault – we’ve never been to London and knew nothing of the M25. Or that we’d hit it at rush hour, leaving us stuck in traffic and really needing a wee. Neen’s car died three times, depositing us on the hardshoulder until it decided to work again. We consoled ourselves by eating birthday cake, drinking strawberry daiquiri then joking about it spilling in our laps, which led to very inappropriate comments involving strawberry bushes and daiquiri thatches. We’ve missed Calamityville!

Fort Amherst

Lightning passage

We found Travelodge no problem (there’s a first time for everything), checked in, donned our thermals then headed out to the fort. Which luckily, was just down the road. We rocked up two hours late. Helena and Alex are super organised, having packed everything a week before and written a detail itinerary for the evening. We packed the night before then left our IR floodlight and squash behind. Our planning stretches to: rock up, film, see what happens. This allows for such interruptions as breaking down, eating cake and general misbehaviour.

Fort AmherstThe Fort and surrounding area have been inhabited for over 3000 years. The area contains a Saxon burial ground, a Roman mosaic and the original site of old Chatham, which was demolished to build the fort. In 1708, plans were drawn up to build a fortification to protect the Dockyard from land attacks. In 1714, land was bought for this purpose but work didn’t start ‘til 1755. During the Seven Years’ War (1756-1763) bastions and ditches were built, known as the Chatham lines which were entered via four gateways with bridges. Fort AmherstThe lines were strengthened during the American Revolutionary War (1778-1783) with two redoubts being the design’s strong point. At the northern end was Townsend, at the southern was Amherst Redoubt, which later became Fort Amherst. The Chatham defences were strengthened during the Napoleonic Wars (1803-1815) and further batteries were added. Between 1802-1811, prisoners from St Mary’s Island extended the tunnels and created underground stores and shelters, new magazines, barracks, gun batteries and guardrooms. The last building works took place in 1820. A labyrinth of tunnels was dug into the chalk cliffs for moving ammunition around the fort.

Fort Amherst

plotting room

In 1820, the defences were declared obsolete because of improvements in artillery and greater firing ranges, so the area was used as a training ground. Practice sieges were so popular that they attracted many visitors. Charles Dickens described one of the sieges in his book, Pickwick Papers. It is the most complete Napoleonic fortification in Britain. In the tunnel walls are scratched memorials to miners killed during building work and an angel carved in the chalk. Cornish tin miners were worried about digging down towards the devil, so they carved an angel in the chalk and touched it each time they passed.

Fort Amherst

plotting room

Fort Amherst has been used for several filming locations – the 1986 film The Mission, The Saint, the 2011 film Sherlock Holmes: a Game of Shadows. The 2015 BBC adaptation Agatha Christie’s Partners in Crime. In the 1990s it was used in the television series Sharpe starring Sean Bean. He recently returned to Amherst to join re-enactors making a Battle of Waterloo documentary. And now, it’s starring in Calamityville Horror. What a comedown.

Fort Amherst

grand magazine

Most websites don’t list which ghosts haunt it but one site lists loads: a faceless male ghost in the plotting room dressed in a Victorian long, dark coat and top hat; one woman on a tour group answered a ringing phone in the communications room and was told by a woman on the other end said a bomb had dropped on her house – the phones are props and not connected. An electrician working in the tunnels heard a fire bucket fall behind him. Fort AmherstHe went to investigate and saw it slide across the floor then it moved across the room. A young boy likes to pull young women’s skirts. Perv. There’s also phantom drumming, voices and the sounds of women and children crying and dark shadowy figures. The Lightning shaft is haunted by a young woman nicknamed Lily of the Valley, who wears a Georgian dress and materialises from the white door on the right. Men describe her as being beautiful, women describe her as being ugly. During a wedding on the lower gun floor guests saw a soldier in a red jacket materialise and walk through the bride, groom and guests. Visitors have reported leaving the fort and finding children’s dusty hand prints on their clothes.

Fort AmherstWe started in the tunnels. As usual, we got left behind as we were busy taking photos. We stopped in the lightning passage to do some EVPs. Boleyn Paranormal’s K2 was going off but ours was quieter than a sponsored silence in a graveyard. The door leading out of the lightning passage apparently knocks. We rattled the door to see how it would sound in the wind. The door moved, so wind would be able to knock it, but luckily there was no wind last night. The door remained silent. We moved on, with Cat getting left behind to photograph while Lynx and Neen admired the shafts and enjoyed easy rear access to the privy. Our research said that a ghost haunts the lightning shaft, but the fort named it the lightning passage, which led to a discussion about the importance of differentiating between a shaft and a passage. Older, yes, more mature, no. We also found a large cannon so naturally had to sit on for a photo. Neen straddled it like a pro.

Fort Amherst

Prince William Barracks

Then we found the communications/plotting rooms. This was our favourite area. There were maps, blackboards, phones etc. And helmets. We immediately donned the helmets then Lynx went to man the phones in the communications room while Neen and Cat hung out in the plotting room. Neen demanded a dance performance off Cat, so she strapped her helmet on and busted some zumba moves. We moved on to the bunks. Most teams speak to each other like this: “Do you want to get in a bunk and see if you can sense anything?” We speak to each other like this: “Get in the bunk, bitch.” We each took a bunk, with Neen and Lynx claiming bottom bunks and Cat going on top. We encouraged any soldiers to join us and even asked for birthday kisses but even the dead refused to kiss us on our birthday. We even tried encouraging them in arse slapping. Nothing.

Fort Amherst

area where the handsome man is seen

We returned to the cafe (base camp) for cake, Red Bull and live tweeting. before heading back out at 10:50 to check out other areas. We walked through the tunnels and upstairs. The large empty room provided a great place for an impromptu group zumba dance, which resulted in Lynx smacking Neen in the face and us getting left behind again. We scurried after everyone else and headed outside to the Grand Magazine. This was a large empty room, where apparently wedding parties were held. Neen grabbed Cat and walked her down the aisle before leaving her at the altar. Isn’t it good advice to marry your best friend? We discovered tunnels in the walls either side and explored them. A trapdoor at the end lifted up, allowing access to tunnels under the floor. Despite us wearing fancy long skirts and coats, we were down the trapdoor like Twilight vampires in a glitter sale.

Fort AmherstWe had to walk hunched over to get to the other end, where we discovered a tiny tunnel. It was just wide enough for Cat to fit and so short, she had to duck-walk in. But she got to the other end and managed to turn around. These tunnels are apparently haunted by a boy called Tommy. We tried getting him to interact with us but got no response. We then did an EVP session above ground. We tested out our new H2 zoom audio recorder we acquired off our friend, Anthony (you may remember him from Team Impact’s Horror Nights). It was incredible! With headphones in, you could hear everything. The ghosties can’t hide from us now! While Lynx, Neen, Helena and Helena’s mum Liz did calling out, Cat returned to the trapdoor with the H2 and sat in the tunnel below the floor in the dark. Again, we got nothing.Fort Amherst

Fort Amherst’s ghost guy Clive then took us to the abandoned buildings, where other ghost hunters aren’t permitted to go. We visited what we think might have been barracks. A handsome man is usually seen in one building. A handsome man on our birthday? This sounded too good to be true!

He stood us up.

Fort Amherst

under the floor of the grand magazine

But we had an abandoned building to explore, so weren’t too heartbroken. We’re writers – rejection is part of our daily life. We called out to any soldiers but they didn’t want to come and see us, then we got cold, so stood around the fire Clive had got going outside. Yes. A fire was started and it wasn’t by us. Go us. Helena and Liz wanted to stay in that area, so Clive took us and Neen to the Prince William Barracks. A man is apparently seen pacing between the doorways. He was obviously having a rest tonight. This part was hit by a bomb during the war and is awaiting restoration.

Fort AmherstWe then moved on to the washrooms. Were we about to be rewarded with semi naked soldiers washing? Uhhh…no. There weren’t even the sounds of coiled wet towels snapping against cold bare buttocks. Disappointing. Neen was relieved. By now we were freezing so we returned to base camp for more cake. It was about 1:30 a.m. We then returned to the plotting room to use the dowsing rods our mum bought for our birthday and the planchette Dan (you may remember him our Frightmare video) sent us a week ago. He also sent us a scrying mirror, which needs to be charged under a full moon. Anyone know when that is?

Fort AmherstWe donned the helmets and conducted a planchette/EVP session as the five and half hour journey caught up to us. And the fact we were all up ’til midnight the night before – Neen because she was baking us delicious birthday cakes, us because we were watching a serial killer documentary. Our brains and bodies started to shut down. We put the H2 in the next room by the machines to see what we could get. We then decided to separate for the final part. Lynx stayed in the plotting room, manning the desk should there be an outbreak of war.

Fort Amherst

plotting room

She tried to get the ghosts to communicate, but they wouldn’t play with her rods. Nor did they stop her opening an envelope marked ‘confidential’ and reading its contents. Neen moved to the communications room where the H2 was and spent a long time talking to herself. Cat took the bunks and climbed onto the top bunk. She asked the ghosts to move in front of the motion sensor light that was between the bunks. Nothing. Then she invited one onto the bunk to spoon with her. No takers. Turned out, Neen also told the ghosts to spoon Cat. Feeling more unloved than a decaying corpse in a wedding, she left the bunks and we regrouped. It was now 3:20 a.m and we decided to call it a night.

We headed back to base camp, packed up and drove back to Travelodge. Neen “I’m going to be asleep before you’ve even taken off your pants.” Just what all girls want to hear on their birthdays! And she was right. We were still awake til 4:30. So while we didn’t get any ghostly activity on our birthday, we had a lot of fun. And cake. Everything is better with cake.P1150592

4 Comments

  1. I’d love to say that I already knew all of that fantastic history, seeing as I live in the area, but I didn’t. Or I wasn’t at school that day lol. Looks like a cool place though 🙂

    • LOL! We don’t know the history of our city, so don’t worry! It is a cool place, well worth a visit

      • I’ve added it to my ‘local places to visit’ list lol

      • do it! Well worth it.


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