30 East Drive

When the chance to investigate ‘Europe’s Most Haunted House’ comes up, who is going to say no?

30 East DriveThis is the first time we’ve ghost hunted since 2016, mostly due to lack of time, money, and places not emailing us back. We’ve missed it. And what a way to return by spending the entire night in a famous location. 30 East Drive in Pontefract is known as the ‘poltergeist house’. It’s even listed as that on Google Maps. In recent years, it’s come to the attention of ghost hunters and lots of groups investigate there. In Most Haunted, they had marbles and knives thrown at them and Karl was famously dragged up the stairs by a poltergeist, but the white rope attached to his belt points to a less paranormal explanation. Mind you, Most Haunted could make a rabbit hutch look like a terrifyingly scary location.

Does 30 East Drive deserve its spooky reputation?30 East Drive

In August 1966, the Pritchard family – Jean, Joe, 15 year old Philip and 12 year old Diane – moved into the house. Not long after, Philip and his grandmother saw chalk dust fall from below head height. They summoned Philip’s aunt, Mrs Kelly, to come see it. She went to the kitchen to fetch cleaning stuff when she slipped in a pool of water that had mysteriously appeared. As she tried mopping it up, more water appeared.

30 East DriveOver the years there were several strange incidents: green foam coming from taps and the toilet even after the water was switched off; the tea dispenser being activated and spilling tea over the worktops (clearly a British spirit); lights turning on and off; plants leaping out of their pots and landing on the stairs; cupboards shaking; photos being slashed; and numerous objects levitating or being thrown, including a solid oak sideboard.

30 East DriveIn 1968, the press dubbed the poltergeist Mr Nobody. The Pritchards called him Fred. During exorcisms, walls seeped holy water (not sure how they knew it was holy. Did it recite the Lord’s Prayer?), people had their faces slapped or were pushed down stairs and when christian songs were sung, Fred’s hands appeared to conduct them, wearing women’s fur gloves. We find that detail a little odd. Why women’s gloves? Did they make his hands look more shapely? He also poured a jug of milk over a sceptical aunt’s head. Diane was the focus of the haunting, so many of the scrapes and bruises happened to her. At night, he’d rip off her bedclothes, pull her hair and slap her face. As she neared the end of adolescence, Diane’s hair stood on end and she was dragged up the stairs, with visible finger marks on her throat.

30 East DriveWe’re not sure when the family left, but there doesn’t seem to be any reports of poltergeist activity after Diane’s teenage years. And nothing in the following years until 2012, when a film was made. Neighbours said the house wasn’t haunted. One even said “my house is more haunted than that one.” Clearly, we picked the wrong house to visit. We should have split up and gone to visit the neighbours instead. We might have had a more active evening, sitting with them, watching soaps. Until one of us ends up at the local murderer’s house.

30 East DriveIn 2012, a film, When the Lights Went Out, based on the Black Monk of Pontefract was released. It’s directed by Jean’s nephew, Pat Holden. The producer, Bill Bungay, bought the house and still owns it. He had a photo taken on his iphone of him and the film’s two starlets. His phone died, even though it had 75% battery and the photo wasn’t in his library. Weeks later, it reappeared. We don’t class this as paranormal – this happens with Cat’s phone on several occasions. It’s very annoying. Bill’s photo is blurry. Again, not paranormal. Whenever Cat gives her phone to someone else to take a photo, it’s always blurry because they don’t wait for it to focus. During the filming of a documentary, the kettle would switch on and off, the thermostat would go missing and the researcher was pinned to the bed in Diane’s room. The producer’s keys went missing and nobody could find them until someone opened the hoover they’d brought to dress the place. The keys were inside. We suspect this was probably a prank.

30 East DriveOn Valentine’s Day 2016, Bill was washing up and had the urge to turn around. A domino levitated from the dining room table and launched at him, narrowly missing him. After that, others objects were launched at him, each time, narrowly missing. These were a marble thrown from the ceiling that chipped the varnish off the piano board, two screws thrown from the ceiling, and a red ball.

30 East DriveAnother time he closed the side gate, blocking it with a concrete block. People ran out through the kitchen door, saying the keys had gone missing. He turned around to see the gate was open, the block pushed aside.

30 East DriveThe legend attached to the house is that it’s haunted by the Black Monk. He allegedly raped and strangled several girls in the 16th C, cutting out their tongues so they couldn’t scream. That is a plot taken from Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus where Lavinia is raped and has her tongue cut out and her hands cut off so she can’t identify her attackers. The monk was apparently hanged on gallows on the top of the hill and his body thrown into a well, which the house was supposedly built on. A neighbouring house was having damp work done and a stone well was discovered under the buttress. No mention of any bones though. We’ve researched executions many times and not once does it ever mention people’s bodies being tossed down wells like January’s Christmas trees. Pontefract Friary once stood where the hospital now is, 0.7 miles from the house. It housed the Blackfriar monks, who wore black. But there is no evidence to support the theory that he haunts the house.

30 East DriveThere is no mention of a monk during the time the Pritchards lived there. They witnessed the hauntings. They never said it was a monk. Think people have come to this conclusion based on shadow photographs taken by visitors. Though one looks suspiciously like a finger. We did a Google search for old maps and information on a gallows being in the area and could find nothing. We couldn’t even find the hill on Google Street View. The immediate area is flat. That’s not to say a hill doesn’t exist, but if it does, it’s not as close as paranormal sites claim it is.

We drove the 215 mile trip to 30 East Drive full of expectation – that this was overhyped and we’d spend our evening sitting in a council house, bored. Well slap a crystal ball in front of us and call us Mystic Meg because our prediction came true. We arrived at 7:30 p.m. an hour and a half after our fellow investigators – Jack, Laura and James from The Spirit Diaries and Helena, Alex and Liz from Boleyn Paranormal, along with guest, horror writer Ian Sputnik. In our defence, our mum wasn’t home and we couldn’t leave until the iguana had had his bath.

30 East DriveWe set up and started investigating in one of the bedrooms. After we’d finished riding the rocking pony that is. We’d brought a plasma ball with us, as we’d seen it used in Cross Hands Cinema and it seems like a cool idea, if it works. After 45 minutes of nothing happening, we went into Diane’s room. Whilst we’re young looking for our age, the poltergeist clearly wasn’t fooled into thinking we were teenage girls and left us alone. There was no knocks, no taps, no creepy breaths, not even a Barbie doll was flung with malevolent force. We went downstairs for some Red Bull and vegan chocolate coins then headed into the living room with Ian.

Cat rifled through the record collection, dismayed at the taste in music. The she noticed her trousers were covered in what appeared to be talcum powder. Someone had coated The Carpenter’s record sleeve in talc. Presumably for use as a trigger object and hadn’t bothered to clean it. For shame, previous investigators. Luckily her trousers were PVC so wiped clean.

30 East Drive

this started the album cover photos

Cat and Laura went into the coal cupboard and amused the ghost by reading out a joke on a Penguin wrapper. The only peculiar thing that happened was the motion sensor light going off in the living room. We all ignored it, thinking Jack had set it off. Minutes later, Jack was moving and the light wasn’t going off. It wasn’t him. We kept testing by having different people wave their arms but no one triggered it. Helena suggested the phone in front of it might have set it off, so Lynx texted it, to see if the vibration from the notification set it off. It didn’t.

We returned upstairs to the master bedroom, hoping things picked up, as it was now 1 a.m. As the ghost refused to show, we set the camera on a tripod and took a photo of the five of us lounging in the room, bored. Cat commented that it looked like an album cover and suddenly, the night improved. We spent the next half an hour going into every room and posing for album covers. The photos got more random with every room. It’s hard to be creative with minimal props but we made it work.

One bedroom had a poster of the poster of The Osmonds. Five of them, five of us. We recreated it but without the terrible hairstyles and fashion sense. We didn’t have enough people to recreate The Beatles’ St Pepper’s Lonely Heart Club poster. Those photos were the highlight of the whole night and it energised us into trying Diane’s room one more time. We played monks chanting and a christian hymn – Lord of the Dance – hoping for Fred’s gloved hands to join in. He didn’t. At 2:15 a.m. we called it quits and all slept in the master bedroom.

30 East Drive

recreating the Osmonds poster

See the theory with poltergeists is, they’re generally attached to one person – usually a teenage girl, so if that person isn’t there, neither is the poltergeist. Nobody lives in the house, so there’s nobody for it to attach itself to. In our opinion, it’s overhyped and overpriced. We’re glad we went because we can say it’s not as haunted as people claim it is. Supermarkets are more haunted than 30 East Drive – things randomly fly off the shelves when you’re nowhere near them and the self-scan checkouts think ghostly items are in the bagging area. Paying to sit in a council house in Yorkshire is not worth it. Most haunted house in Europe? The scariest thing about it was the carpets and wallpaper.30 East Drive

Seeking Asylum

Talgarth AsylumHiding from vans, crawling under fences and getting covered in anti-vandal paint. Our urb ex adventure to Talgarth Asylum was…challenging.

Talgarth Asylum opened March 18th 1903 for 352 patients at a cost of £126,000. There was a public ceremony to celebrate its opening. It was built with a compact arrow design so two points could be reached quickly. Originally known as the Brecon and Radnor joint counties asylum, it became Mid Wales Hospital in 1932.Talgarth Asylum

During WWI, many soldiers were admitted after suffering shell shock, and prisoners of war were also patients. During WWII, 67 male patients and 48 female patients were transferred there from Cardiff City Mental Hospital (now known as Whitchurch Hospital, where we go for therapy), which had become a war hospital. In July 1940, they decided to make Talgarth a military hospital and civilian patients were transferred to other mental hospitals in Wales. It returned to being a civilian hospital in 1947.

Talgarth AsylumBy 1955, two extra wards were added and in 1965, a treatment ward was built. It started closing in the mid ’90s and finally closed in 1999. The grounds house the hospital buildings, five family homes, a tennis court, cricket pitch and a chapel. Like most asylums of the era, it was self-sufficient, with its own water, heating and sewerage system. Patients grew the hospital’s food on the farm. Inside there was a recreation hall, dining room, kitchens and workshops, such a tailor’s, baker’s, shoe-makers , printing shop and 8 market gardens. Patients worked there as part of their rehabilitation.Talgarth Asylum

In 1948, it became a NHS hospital, where they introduced art and occupational therapy and integrated the sexes. Some buildings were used for the Mid Wales College for Nursing and Midwifery and the Powys Drug and Alcohol Council. They also provided care for the elderly mentally ill, rehabilitation and continuing care, day care, reflexology, physiotherapy, ECT, chiropody and psychiatry. After its closure, patients were transferred to Bronllys hospital, which was previously known as the South Wales Sanitarium.

Talgarth AsylumIt was sold to the former chief medical officer for £227,000 and several buildings were sold off and converted to become Black Mountains Business Park. Due to the isolated location, this failed. In 2009, it was put up for sale. Most of the slate, which was worth £1 million, was stolen from the roofs and the gatehouse was sold.

Talgarth AsylumWe’ve wanted to explore Talgarth for years. After our failures at Denbigh Asylum, Talgarth became top of our list. But rumours of asbestos and tight security had always put us off. Then we started urb ex and became a bit more confident. We found people who had explored it recently and suddenly the cameras, security guard, guard dogs, fences and anti-vandal paint seemed a lot less challenging.Talgarth Asylum

The trip started badly when halfway there, Cat realised she’d left the action cam at home. The camera DESIGNED for urb ex. She was furious with herself. The hospital is easy to find, with big pillars stating Black Mountains Business Park. There’s no gate. We parked much further up the road in a nature reserve and walked. That way, if anyone saw our car, they’d think we were in the woods. We even cemented that deceit by venturing into the woods until the family parked by us left. James Bond could learn a thing or two from our techniques. MI5 if you’re reading this, we are available for casual spy work.

Talgarth AsylumWe headed up a driveway and found ourselves in someone’s farm surrounded by ponies. They watched us, like they knew why we were there. Big signs on the fence stated NO ACCESS TO HOSPITAL. We were convinced they were lying but turned around anyway. We didn’t fancy being shot in the arse by an irate farmer as we scaled his fence and made getaways on the tiny ponies. We continued down the road and discovered the pillars further down.Talgarth Asylum

Then we encountered our second obstacle: workmen RIGHT BY the goddamn pillars. We casually strolled past while a Range Rover drove through the pillars. We loitered, looking highly suspicious while we debated what to do: fetch the car and drive in or walk. Both ways meant walking past the workmen. And the Range Rover was yet to come out. We decided to use a tactic that has never failed: act like you’re supposed to be there and nobody stops you. It served us well in Las Vegas hotels, we were confident it would work well here.

Talgarth AsylumWe walked past the workmen and up the private road. This was daring. There were witnesses. We lamented our lack of chloroform and other knockout gasses. James Bond would’ve been prepared. The hospital greeted us like a stonework Tantalus as it stood smugly behind its palisade fencing topped with barbed wire. The Range Rover was parked beside the chapel, opposite the main entrance. It was empty. We doubted security or urb exers would have a Range Rover – they’re usually used for school runs. We walked past. The main entrance has no doors but does have palisade fencing. We continued on. Then heard a van. We darted behind a bush but Jack and Laura weren’t as quick and were convinced they’d been spotted. We hid until the van drove away. We’d barely begun and our nerves were getting shredded!Talgarth Asylum

We toured around the hospital. There was absolutely no way in. Every wall, roof and fence had coiled barbed wire. The main hospital was more secure than a bank vault. But we don’t give up. To quote Fallout Boy, we don’t know how to quit. Then another van drove in, with dogs in the back. Again, we darted behind another bush. Jack definitely got spotted. The van stopped. We stayed very still, hearts pounding. Was our adventure over before it had begun? Then Cat saw he was looking straight at us. He’d stopped just past the bush. We now looked very suspicious. We were trapped. He could see us standing behind the bush looking dodgy. Cat took photos of the building behind us. The longer we stayed, the worse this looked. We had no choice. We had to leave the bush. So we strolled out, taking photos and filming, acting like we hadn’t seen him and employing our ever faithful ‘act like you’re supposed to be there and no-one stops you’ rule.Talgarth Asylum

The van driver called out. “Excuse me, what are you doing?” Lynx “Just having a look around.” Cat “Our relative was a patient here many years ago so we wanted to see this place.” Lynx “We’re doing our family history and wanted to see where they were held.” We already have done our family history. Jack had come up with the relative story earlier. It was the perfect cover. The van driver drove off. Was that the security everyone was so worried about? It seemed too easy. Did he believe us or was he going to fetch the police? Maybe our D&D roleplay is proving useful in real life. Well, it went better than our D&D roleplay, which usually ends up with us being arrested.

Talgarth AsylumThen we found a way in to one of the outer buildings. This one was right by someone’s farm. We donned our asbestos masks and crawled through the base of the door. And were immediately hit by an eye-watering stench. Was that faeces or our hopes of access rotting? Jack thought people put the stink there deliberately to keep people out. It almost worked but if this was the only building we could get in, we had to brave it.

Turned out we were in one of the additional ward buildings, as we found a ward office upstairs. Every floor was coated in moss. This was one of the safest buildings, which says a lot about the dilapidated state of Talgarth. As is our rule, we explored upstairs first. A small Care Bear toy sat on the stairs. Didn’t think Care Bears were the urb ex type, as they’re against rule breaking.Talgarth Asylum

There wasn’t much to see in the ward building, just empty rooms with the carpets and curtains left behind. As we left, we realised were covered in black anti-vandal paint. Us and Jack had it all over our hands and it stained Jack’s grey hoody. We didn’t see the paint and there was no signs warning it was there. It’s around every window, board and doorway. Another van passed us. We didn’t even attempt to hide and he didn’t stop. The Range Rover woman returned to her car. She’d been walking her dog.

Talgarth AsylumWe wandered around looking for a way in to the main building. There was a wooden flap that said oil. Cat was doubtful and wondered if it was a way in. The flap was right. She was now standing in oil. Then she went down steps to what turned out to be a storage room and for the first time, we didn’t have torches. So she took photos using her camera flash to guide her way around and make sure she didn’t imitate Laura by falling through a hole in the floor.

Talgarth AsylumWe found another building and circled it. Rooms were filled with junk furniture. The base of the windows were open but smeared with anti vandal paint. And the gaps were roughly one foot high. We decided to use our skinniness to our advantage. Cat found a table in the undergrowth and put it below the window before climbing up. Anti-vandal paint was everywhere, but this is why we wear PVC for urb ex. She slipped through the gap easily. Lynx followed. We’re like tiny gothic ninjas. Jack and Laura didn’t want to attempt it so stayed outside while we explored.Talgarth Asylum

We found a social room and cartoons drawn on one of the walls. There were large laundry containers, unused syringes still in their packets and lots of furniture. All the doors at the back of this building were wide open. We found what looked like air raid hangars filled with junk. Toys, filing cabinets, a VHS player, cassette tapes and a child’s bike. We explored around the back of the building and found a fence to the main building. With a gap underneath. It’s what looks like an old stream bed or drainage channel. It had concrete slabs in but after a brief check, we realised if we could shift the slabs, we could crawl under. Never mind urb ex, this was more like a prison break. Step aside Schofield, there are new tattooed prison breakers in town.

Talgarth AsylumWe returned to Jack and Laura and relayed our plan. But we needed to find another way around, rather than through the windows. We climbed out and headed for the main entrance to see if we could squeeze under the fence. Bear in mind, we were standing in full view of the hospital, discussing how to break in. Yet nobody threw us out or called the police. Cat got her head and shoulders under the fence in the main entrance but there is one major issue with being female urb exers – boobs. They get in the way of crawling under low fences. She squiggled out and stood up. She was filthy. Again, this is why PVC is perfect for urb ex as it wipes clean.

We tried the church. No way in. We returned to the building with the narrow windows. This was our only hope. Then Cat discovered that the green metal fence that blocked off the building, went into a hedge. And there was a small gap. We battled the holly bushes and all squeezed through. We shifted the concrete blocks and by lying flat and belly crawling, managed to wriggle under the fence and into the gardens. We hoped there was no guard dog here as there was no way to make a swift exit and our pride would never recover from being dragged out of the hole by dogs as we’re wriggling free.Talgarth Asylum

Then we found a low open window. This was the easiest part of the whole adventure. We were in the main building! We’d gone to Talgarth expecting to be thrown out by security, chased by the guard dog or arrested. And yet we were standing inside the main building. As long as you get past the fences, there is no problem accessing the main buildings.

And then we saw why they’ve gone to such lengths to keep people out. It’s dangerous. We kept our masks on the whole time we were inside the buildings due to the asbestos risks. There are signs warning of it all around the hospital. We’ve seen people online who’ve gone in without masks. It’s not worth it. We bought a bulk box so they worked out at less than £1 each. We’d rather look a little ridiculous than get cancer.

Talgarth AsylumDownstairs the buildings aren’t so bad except for a few holes in the floor and some side walls missing. But upstairs, every single room has fallen through to the one below. At one point we walked along a corridor and every room either side of us no longer existed. We left that bit. We explored another corridor that had half collapsed and the moment we felt the floor sink, we bid a hasty retreat.

In one building we couldn’t even get upstairs as the roofs had collapsed on every stairway. For some reason, we felt really uneasy in the main buildings. Normally once we’re inside, we feel safe, knowing no-one can see us. Outside is where you’re in danger of being caught. And there was no way anyone could see us in here. But we didn’t particularly like being in there. We felt really nervous. Heart poundingly nervous. We’ve never experienced this in any location we’ve been in, not even when we’re ghost hunting. And we’ve slept in haunted jails!

Talgarth Asylum

chapel

We explored a bit more and found the enormous dining hall with the stage! This is what we mostly wanted to see. The stage is pretty much intact and the skeletons of chandeliers hang from the ceilings like gibbet cages. Weirdly, there’s hardly any graffiti in Talgarth. Probably due to the difficulty of getting inside.

We didn’t explore all of the main buildings. We’d been at Talgarth for three hours and seen maybe half of it. But we were felt we were starting to push our luck. We’d already been seen a few times and questioned once. While we wanted to explore the rest of it, we felt it was best to leave before we were thrown out. And now we know how to get in, we can always make a return trip. Providing the security people don’t read this and block up our bolt holes.

Talgarth AsylumWe left without encountering anyone. Which is just as well considering how dirty and paint covered we were, there was no way we could hide what we’d been doing. We strolled casually back past the workmen and returned to our car. We’d heard that locals deflate urb exers’ tyres at Talgarth so we took a foot pump with us but our tyres were left alone. Probably because we were parked nowhere near the hospital. We left victorious. Talgarth was one of the toughest locations in urb ex and we conquered it. Now we’re unstoppable…

Oh and anti-vandal paint comes off in the bath.Talgarth Asylum

Urban Foxes

Climbing in morgue fridges, falling down holes and getting spotted by a suspicious man with a garden strimmer. We went urb exing again. And it went well.

Mountain Ash HospitalAfter our successful Red Dress Manor adventure, the urb ex bug had bitten us hard and we wanted to go out again. We haven’t been ghost hunting since April and are having trouble finding places we can afford or places that don’t require Public Liability Insurance. Most places don’t even bother replying to our emails, so our planned summer of ghost hunting has turned into our summer of urb exing. We’d heard about Mountain Ash Hospital a few months ago and now we were going to explore it.

Mountain Ash HospitalThis time, we were prepared. As usual, we check with urb exing forums to see how recently people got in and if they had difficulty. We then scoped out the hospital on Google Earth, (which we didn’t do with Red Dress Manor) looking for places to park. Unfortunately, Goggle Earth was from 2009 – when the hospital was still open – but there was an orange Mini Cooper convertible in the car park. It’s like the hospital was expecting us. An urb exer had taken photos showing the road to the hospital was blocked, but Google Earth showed us what looked like a path from the roadside through some trees.

Mountain Ash HospitalOriginally built in 1910 as Mountain Ash Cottage Hospital, it opened as a General Hospital in 1924, with a grand opening ceremony that saw marching bands and hundreds of people. It seemed everyone from Mountain Ash had attended. It closed in 2011 when Ysbyty Cwm Cynon opened. Five years later, Mountain Ash General Hospital lies ruined. Ease of access has meant people have completely trashed the place. Windows are smashed, graffiti covers the peeling walls and not a single room is intact. There’s no indication of it being a hospital – no equipment, no wall signs, no rusting stretchers, no paperwork. Nothing that is usually found in abandoned hospitals. Even the copper pipes from inside the walls and the roofing tiles have been stolen. It’s a shame because half the fun is seeing the history of a place. Red Dress Manor wouldn’t have been the same without the insurance documents and exercise books. Plus places look creepier if they’re left intact. The Marie Celeste wouldn’t have been as famous had it been trashed.

Mountain Ash HospitalLaura saw on Twitter that in July, police mentioned there were neighbourhood patrols of the hospital. Considering how easy Red Dress Manor was, this worried us. We don’t exactly blend in. We wouldn’t have it so easy twice in a row. Whenever we have good luck, several bouts of bad luck always follow. Fate doesn’t like us having nice things. But we had a plan – pretend one of us was injured and we were looking for a hospital. Considering the regularity with which we’re injured, this was plausible. Or we could dress as doctors/nurses/patients and act natural. We considered dressing as Silent Hill nurses but we’d have trouble seeing and would probably get hurt. Plus, the way they move (awkwardly and only when hearing noises) would hinder our exploring.

Mountain Ash HospitalOur SatNav, Helen, directed us the wrong way. She said “turn right” as we approached a right turn. So we did. Only to end up on the A470 heading back to Cardiff. It turned out, she meant a right turn further down the road. Listen Helen, we take things literally. You tell us to turn right, we’ll turn right. Don’t tell us to turn right, if you don’t mean it. This is where misunderstandings and falling outs happen. Our brains weren’t wired for subtext and mind reading.

Mountain Ash HospitalWe turned around in Pontypridd and headed back up the A470. She’d cost us three miles then randomly spoke to us, saying “did you say something? I didn’t catch that,” indicating she may now be sentient. She sounded a little sarcastic, like we’d insulted her under our breaths so she was doing the whole ‘I’ll pretend I didn’t hear it, see if you say something different’ thing. After the tempestuous relationship we had with AA route planner, Helen seemed so different. Perfect, almost. Now we seem to be arguing all the time. She’s stroppy, she sulks, she blames us if we take her directions literally, if we go a different route to the one she suggests, or if we stop off for the toilet, she refuses to speak to us. We’re not sure these relationships are worth the hassle.

Mountain Ash HospitalAfter the slight mishap, we reached Mountain Ash Hospital no problem. We parked in a bay on the side of the road then continued on foot, heading up through the gap in the trees we’d seen on Google Earth. Though dressed in PVC (it wipes clean so is perfect for urb ex) and armed with cameras, it was clear we weren’t in the area for a casual stroll. The original road up to the hospital has corrugated steel gates with ‘private property, keep out’ graffitied on them. We knew we were in the right place. There was no-one around. We reached the top of the wooded slope and there it was.

Mountain Ash HospitalAll the doors and windows are open or smashed. There’s no climbing, no fences, no barbed wire, you just walk in. So we did. We couldn’t believe our luck. We were finally inside an abandoned hospital. Then Laura fell down a hole in the floor. Lynx had called a warning as she went on ahead. A door partially covered the hole and as Cat was saying the warning, Laura plummeted, like a hanging victim through a trapdoor. It was hilarious. Only one leg went down luckily as the door covered the rest of the hole. She didn’t even cry out or swear during her descent. Jack was helpless with laughter, Lynx missed it as she was ahead but the moment Laura fell, Cat’s hero instinct kicked in and she dashed to save her, pulling her out of the hole and brushing her down. Laura had somehow managed to keep hold of her phone, which was impressive. And the whole thing was caught on camera.

Mountain Ash HospitalWe’d only been inside about two minutes. It was one of the funniest things that has ever happened on our adventures. And we’d left our first aid kit in the car. Tom had owned the crown of ‘worst accident on Calamityville’ after receiving a blood injury in Monmouth Shire Hall, (and is the reason we now carry a first aid kit) but Laura is the new wearer of that crown. We then covered the hole completely with the door to stop other explorers coming to any harm. We’re becoming responsible in our old age.

Mountain Ash HospitalWe headed upstairs, thinking if someone came, at least we’d explored up there. The roof has completely gone and most of the walls are missing. People had sprayed ‘Trump for Prez’, which shows the mentality of the taggers. There was also UKIP graffiti, which again, shows that the people who trashed the place operate on a subhuman level. One lot of graffiti read ‘I’ll be a better man today’. Not entirely sure graffitiing a hospital counts as an act of self-improvement but at least he seems willing to change.

Mountain Ash HospitalMore stairs led up to an attic area and we actually accessed the roof. We didn’t stay up there too long because we’d easily be spotted parading around on the roof of an old hospital and we didn’t want people with air rifles taking pop shots at us. It’s not a working hospital so being shot in the arse with a pellet would really sour the adventure. Our first aid kit doesn’t contain tweezers. (Note to selves – add tweezers.)

Mountain Ash HospitalThe main building wasn’t as big as we expected. There weren’t any large wards that you’d expect from an old hospital. As Cat and Jack were in a small room, a man walked past with a strimmer slung over his shoulder. He stared at them almost in acknowledgement of fellow rule breakers. Cat quickly turned away, applying the ‘if I can’t see him, he can’t see me’ method of hiding used by small children and kittens. Jack didn’t see him. Lynx had spotted the small boy with him but not the man. We thought he might have been part of the neighbourhood patrol we’d heard about, but he didn’t call out or tell us to leave so he was obviously exploring the place like us.

Mountain Ash HospitalBut we kept a closer eye on the windows after that. We left the main building and headed to the other buildings. We always feel exposed outside. We can be seen much easier and have nowhere to hide. And with our cameras, excitement and fabulous dress sense, there’s no way we can pretend we’re there to act as security to keep out pesky kids. There was no hint of what the other buildings were, as again, they’d been stripped bare. One housed the rusting generator. Then the final building was the one we’d most been looking forward to.

The morgue.

Mountain Ash HospitalIt looked nothing like a morgue. Only the fridge was still there, though the door had gone. Who would steal a morgue fridge door? How would you get that home? There’s no way to nonchalantly walk down the street lugging a fridge door. Graffiti on the side of the fridge read ‘dead as fuck’, which is at least true. Well, you’d hope people put in the fridge were dead. We took a photo then in true goth style, took turns to get inside and lie on the rollers. Mountain Ash HospitalSadly, unlike in Newsham Park hospital, there are no slabs to lie comfortably on. And the rollers made manoeuvring around inside a tad tricky. But if we see a morgue fridge, we have to get inside it. The way we have to pat every cute animal we see. As Oscar Wilde said “I can resist everything except temptation.”

Mountain Ash HospitalWe wandered around the outside of the hospital and luckily, the man with the kid had vanished. Maybe it wasn’t a strimmer he was carrying. Maybe it was a chainsaw, and a group of horny youths were about to meet a grisly end. Though we’re not sure Mountain Ash Chainsaw Massacre would be a hit. Hoping he wouldn’t return with the police and some angry neighbours, we headed back inside the main building to find our way out. Mountain Ash HospitalWe’d taken some ghost hunting equipment with us but our K2 battery died and we’re always so paranoid we’ll get caught that we don’t like staying longer than necessary. We like to explore every single part in case we’re asked to leave, whereas when ghost hunting, you need to stay in one place for EVP sessions and calling out. Though we did ask for any doctors to come and take a look at Laura’s leg. None responded so maybe any ghost doctors don’t work weekends.

Mountain Ash HospitalWe still can’t believe it was so easy. We half expected the police to be waiting for us when we reached the road. You’d think that two successful urb exing attempts would give us confidence. But it makes us suspicious. Fate must have something nasty planned for the next adventure. Maybe we’ll be eaten by a guard dog, or worse – the Wrong Turn cannibalistic hillbillies. Maybe we’ll be thrown in jail and be Big Nora’s bitches before lights out. The possibilities are endless.

Cat and Jack reached the road first and hid behind trees when cars came. We waited for all cars to go then casually strolled out and returned to the Mini. There was no letter on our windscreen and no angry man with a mallet threatening us. Now for our next adventure. If you don’t hear from us again, we were mistaken for horny youths…Mountain Ash Hospital

Lady in Red

Red Dress ManorBeing half naked in the back seat of a car while a man with a mallet threatens you sounds like the start of a teen slasher film. It was the end of our urban exploring adventure. It was going so well.

Red Dress Manor

living room

Over a year ago, Wales Online published an article about Calcott Hall, aka, Red Dress Manor. The once working farm was built in 1725 and was abandoned in the ’90s. Online articles say it was abandoned in the ’70s when owner Ellen Jones fell ill. Red Dress ManorHowever we found medicine bottles for a Francis Jones dated 1994 and a letter to Francis dated 1997. We had to go. This place was calling to us, whispering that it wanted us to explore inside it. And like sailors lured to their deaths by sirens, we obeyed. We kept our excitement in check by reminding ourselves that previous urb exing adventures never went well. We always got caught or failed to get in. Bit like the rest of our lives really – one adventurous failure after another, all packaged in hilarious stories to hide our misery. If we want to urb ex, we always check forums to see if anyone’s been there recently. They had. This was looking good.Red Dress Manor

We met our partners in crime, Laura, Jack and James, who join us on most adventures now and set off. We’d refreshed our rusty law knowledge and went satisfied that we weren’t breaking any laws. Trespassing is a civil offence and as long as you don’t damage the property or commit any crimes while there, you’re fine. If someone asks you to leave, just leave. We said to our mum “You didn’t try to stop us, tell us it was a bad idea or warn us to be careful.” Mum “I’ve given up now.” When we told our uncle about our adventure, he said “Hopefully one day you’ll get hit by the normality cloud.” Luckily we’re fast and have the motto “if you keep running, it can’t get you.”

Red Dress Manor

kitchen

It was all going so well. Except our SatNav, Helen, wanted us to take a left road. We were following James, who went straight ahead. Helen kept trying to make us do a U-Turn. When we disobeyed, she switched off data connection and sulked. She does this a lot when we ignore her. We should take her to meet our therapist, as she clearly has issues. Mid Wales is mostly mountains so internet signal isn’t great. Then Lynx (who has kidney issues) really needed a wee. There were no services. There hadn’t been any toilets for miles. She was desperate enough to go at the side of the road at this point but having recently had bad experiences at being semi naked in a public place, it was unadvised. Red Dress ManorWe eventually found a pub and pulled in, losing James and Jack. Toilets were for paying customers only. Cat had to pay £1.20 for a lemonade just so Lynx’s kidneys wouldn’t explode. We enjoyed our unnecessary drink slightly enraged. Though the cheerful barman seemed thrilled to have the three of us there. We were the only customers. Maybe everybody else was peeing in the bushes out the back. While we were there, Helen, realising we needed her help, switched data connection back on. We hit the road. To find services with toilets half a mile later. We met up with the guys in a petrol station further down the road and continued.Red Dress Manor

As we neared our destination, the road was closed. The only route around it meant going quite far out of our way to loop back around. Helen kept insisting we make a u-turn and drive through the road closure. Maybe she wanted to experience an action film lifestyle where we crash through barriers without scratching our paintwork.Red Dress Manor

We’d seen on a forum that tips for finding the house was ‘find the village, find the house.’ Kind of like ‘save the cheerleader, save the world’. We doubted this simplicity. Nothing in life is that easy. We were wrong.Red Dress Manor

Domgay in Llanymynech isn’t a village. It’s a long road with farms and a funeral director’s off it. We travelled the road. And found the house. It’s easily visible from the road. It’s stunning in its decay. We found a lane around the other side and pulled in. But there were gates and cows so we couldn’t park there. This was going to be a problem. Trying to hide an orange Mini Cooper convertible and a blue Ford Street Ka was not going to go well. We drove around then spotted a visitors’ car park. We parked there and went on foot to the house. One problem – we stick out. With a group of five people, including twin goths with orange hair and none of us dressed like country people, it was clear we didn’t belong here. Luckily there was no-one around.

Red Dress Manor

attic room

Cat found a gate blocked by stinging nettles that were nearly face high. No-one was keen on this. James then found a low fence topped with barbed wire. We’d pick barbed wire over stinging nettles any day. Cat ducked under the wire then held it up for James. He removed the loose top plank, making access easier. We crossed the field to the house. Red Dress ManorThe front door was boarded up but Cat spotted an open window. Six feet off the ground. We’re 5’1″. There was a ledge at our waist height, just wide enough for toes. At this point, she regretted her tight PVC trousers but luckily, our hyper mobility means we can get our feet to waist height. She climbed up, pulling herself up with the stable part of the window frame. We didn’t come dressed for climbing! James and Laura hate climbing so we were impressed they were willing to get in this way. Cat pulled them up then Lynx climbed up, followed by Jack. We’d actually made it inside.

Red Dress Manor

medicine bottle dated 1994

Normally, when things go well, we get suspicious. If we have a run of good luck, it usually means something horrible is about to happen. You can blame it on us being paranoid and having trust issues (both of which are true) but nothing ever goes well without being countered by something bad. Weirdly, it never happens the other way around.

We found ourselves in the living room. It was mostly intact, apart from papers and receipts scattered everywhere. This was a theme. Previous explorers have ransacked the place, tossing fifty years’ worth of paperwork (we’re not kidding – there was an exercise book from 1949) and clothing all over the floors.

Red Dress Manor

our entrance/exit

It was such a shame. The house would have had a far creepier atmosphere had everything been left as it was when the Jones family lived there. A photo from a girls’ grammar school sits on the fireplace. We ventured further inside, keen to keep away from the window so we wouldn’t be seen. There were two further living rooms. Both had massive holes in the floor and trees growing inside them. We didn’t enter them. The kitchen was safe. Here we found the letter to Francis and the medicine bottles. There was also a car insurance certificate dated 1973 for a Morris Marina. There are two in the garages. A green one and an orange one. We had three Marinas growing up so have a soft spot for them.Red Dress Manor

An old Aga cooker sits in the kitchen. The doorway leads down to an outhouse and a basement, which has several other rooms leading off it and stairs heading up to the bathroom. Up there was unused farm medicine and a bathtub that was in serious danger of falling through the floor. Do not stand on that floor. You will get hurt. There was an old record player with a record still on it: The World of Winnifred Attwell from 1969. We left the basement and headed upstairs, keeping to the sides of the stairs just in case. While we’re a skinny bunch, we’re still heavy enough to plummet through stairs and cause ourselves mischief. Weirdly, the house didn’t have a creepy atmosphere. It still felt like a home and we didn’t once feel uneasy or feel like we shouldn’t be there.Red Dress Manor

On the next level are five bedrooms. The one has the wardrobe where the famous red dress used to hang (hence the manor house’s nickname). Unfortunately, the dress is no longer there and neither is the photo of the woman wearing it (believed to be Ellen, though we found no evidence of an Ellen living there). Instead, there is a knitted replica of the dress and photos of some guy wearing it. It looks like photos taken from a horror film. Another bedroom leads off this one, with random shoes, clothes and more paperwork covering the floor. All the paperwork is addressed to Mr William Jones and Miss Francis Jones. Father and daughter probably. And there are trees growing up through the floor. Nature seems to be reclaiming the house. One of the other bedrooms has rotting suitcases on the beautiful bed and more paperwork over the floor. Tax bills mostly. The other bedroom had a Geography exercise book on the bed, with the name William Jones on it from 1949.

Red Dress Manor

bathroom

The next level up was the attic rooms. These really weren’t safe, with holes in the floor and ceilings. One of these seemed to be a children’s room, with an old dartboard, skipping rope and doll’s house furniture. And more tax bills. There were also old newspapers with Jack’s birthday on them but many years before he was born. One of the rooms had a hole right by the doorway and most of the way across so we didn’t venture in there. Wooden steps led up to another level but the bottom two had rotted off and the rest didn’t look that stable. Cat climbed onto the third step but it didn’t feel very secure so she didn’t risk venturing up.

Red Dress Manor

outhouse

We returned to explore the lower levels then left, after an hour in the house. James and Cat heard a car as we reached the window so ducked back. A Jeep drove past as Cat was half out the window. We headed around the house to look at the cars. However between us and the green Marina were cows. And they were eating, which meant the farmer couldn’t be that far away and if we walked past, they might start mooing and alert him to our presence. Being arrested because we were betrayed by cows would be a low point in lives that haven’t seen many highs. We reluctantly left the car unexplored then found the orange one in a locked garage. As we neared the hedge, another car approached so we ducked down like ninjas before climbing back out over the fence and replacing the plank we’d taken down.Red Dress Manor

Our first successful urban exploring adventure! We couldn’t believe our luck. Finally, after over a year, we got to explore it. We didn’t fall through floors, get Tetanus or get marched out in handcuffs. Things never go this well for us. There had to be something lurking around the corner…

We returned to the cars to find large notes on the windscreens – Please do not park here again. Fair enough, though it was a visitors’ car park and it said you park there at your own risk. It was now boiling so Cat decided to remove the lace jumper she was wearing under her vest top. She’d just stripped off her layers when a man approached with a mallet. He was the type of guy you would cross the road to avoid. Face of Crimewatch. Cursing, Cat ducked down just as he reached the car. Another incident of being half naked in public not ending well. Red Dress ManorHe knocked on the window with the handle of the mallet then said “if you park here again, I’ll phone the police.” Bit harsh, it’s a public car park. Lynx “Sorry, we didn’t realise.” Mallet Man “It’s not that, I know where you’ve been.” Umm…is that supposed to be a threat? You know where we’ve been? So do we. And it was awesome! We weren’t committing an offence. We noticed although he’d spoken to James and Jack, he didn’t threaten them with the police or say he knew where they’d been. Clearly he enjoyed threatening those of a female variety. Nice try. We don’t scare easily. A Mini Cooper trumps a mallet in the weapons stakes.

We had no SatNav now so drove around for ages looking for a pub. Every pub we found was closed. We eventually found one and logged on to the WiFi while pub dog Holly joined us at our table for the duration of our drinks. We now have a taste for urban exploring and already have our next location planned. Let’s just hope men with mallets aren’t lurking nearby.Red Dress Manor

Theatre of Screams

Cross Hands cinemaDancing, entering forbidden areas and taking part in shenanigans. It can only mean one thing: we were back on the road ghost hunting for the start of season 6 of Calamityville Horror. We’ve always wanted to investigate an old theatre so when Gareth Mates of RIP Paranormal invited us to Cross Hands public hall and cinema, we couldn’t say no. And this was after he’d watched the show…

Cross Hands cinemaWe left early and arrived at the Travelodge exactly when we were supposed to. Is that what being an adult feels like? For the first time ever, Travelodge let us down – they didn’t have a fridge! Luckily we’d brought extra ice packs for our soya milk and Red Bull. Having warm milk for breakfast would be bad enough but no-one should have to suffer a warm Red Bull. Life is cruel enough. As we loitered outside Starbucks, stealing their WiFi, Laura joined us and we made our way to the cinema. It was about two minutes down the road but we have to lug a lot of equipment and we didn’t fancy the trek back at 4 a.m. We got to the cinema early. What’s with this? Being responsible doesn’t sit well with us. Jack and James arrived a few minutes later then the natural order of things was restored when we got locked out. We knocked on the front door. No answer. We ventured to the side door and Jack knocked. Nothing. Jack continuously knocked. The lights were on but there was no-one home. This was more like the Calamityville we know and love. Eventually, Gareth heard us and let us in.

Cross Hands cinemaEveryone else was due to arrive at 9:30 for the 10 p.m. start but we got there at 8 cos we wanted the place to ourselves for a bit. That and we like to get settled in before a load of people come. We feel more comfortable with people arriving after than us arriving with a crowd. After claiming the table in the furthest corner, the five of us then hid in the library, stealing the WiFi. Such sociable beings.

Cross Hands cinemaWhen RIP Paranormal had finished fiddling with their cables, Gareth took us on a tour and told us about the ghostly goings on. The manager heard someone knocking on the wall in the day room which was base camp. The knocks travelled across the wall then the door opened. In the library, books have been found on the floor. Knocks are heard from under the stage but although we were allowed to open the access door, we weren’t allowed to go under there. Shadowy figures have been spotted in the projection booth and in the main theatre, a little girl haunts the aisle and tugs on people’s clothing.

Cross Hands cinemaBuilt in 1906 as a public hall to improve the community’s quality of the life. One of the stonemasons was Eddie Wilkins, a gifted stonemason who was involved with many of the better stonework buildings around Cross Hands and the Gwendraeth Valley. Miners contributed 1p a week from their wages to help with the hall’s upkeep. In 1932 it was extended, incorporating many ancillary centres at the rear of the building. The hall’s French façade design once graced the auditorium ceiling, but it no longer exists.

Cross Hands cinemaThe hall was one of the finest in south Wales with top actors and orchestras. It was the main attraction in the area. The combination of the coal industry’s demise and the popularity of TV contributed to the hall’s decline. It fell into disrepair and closed in 1984. In 1991, the Deputy Mayor, Councillor Bryn Davies fought to keep the hall open, eventually securing a £640,000 grant from the Welsh Office, Llanelli Borough Council and Carmarthenshire District Council to restore the hall. It reopened on 26th April 1996. It is run by volunteers from the community and is now mostly used as a cinema.

Cross Hands cinemaWe then waited for everyone else to arrive. It was meant to be a public event but in the end, it was only going to be investigators. We were a little relieved. We’ve had our fill of public events now and prefer exploring alone. There’s always one person in a public event who winds us up. By 10 p.m., only one investigator, Tim, had arrived. We waited. And waited. And waited. By 11, it was clear the others weren’t coming. Eager to get going, we could’ve contemplated the meaning of life but instead, the five of us amused ourselves by sending each other photos of our cats in a group message. Despite all sitting at the same table. Socialising at its best. To be fair, between the 5 of us, we have a LOT of fabulous cats. 8 of the furry beasts. 5 are ours.

Cross Hands cinemaJust as we were about to start napping, we were allowed to investigate. We chose to have the theatre first. Even though the other rooms had activity, we get bored investigating rooms that look like ordinary rooms. We can sit in those anytime. Plus one room had comfy chairs and if we sat in them, we didn’t rate our chances of staying awake. We entered the theatre and the lights went out. The performance was about to begin. Jack and James returned for a memory card. Before you could say ‘opening credits’, us and Laura were under the stage. The boys returned to find the theatre empty. They soon found us and joined us for selfies and exploring, rather than proper investigating. But hey, knocks are heard from under the stage, so maybe this is where the ghosts were hiding, like spectral trolls. We were the only two short enough to stand upright, providing we stood between the beams, which looked creepy when Cat’s head disappeared from view.

Cross Hands cinemaAfter ten minutes into our allotted hour, we crawled out and made our way to the projection booth to hunt for the shadowy figures. They didn’t show. We tried encouraging the ghosts to put on a film for us, but maybe the new technology baffled them. We know how they feel. We took our seats in the front row of the balcony and awaited the ghosts’ performance. They clearly missed their curtain call, although we did hear a couple of taps. Two came after Lynx asked if the spirits could name the performance they were in. Cross Hands cinemaCat and Laura ventured down to sit on the stage while Lynx, James and Jack stayed on the balcony. After a few minutes, Cat went to stand in the aisle to encourage the little girl ghost, but like all children, she gave Cat a wide berth. As the other three left the balcony, the motion sensor light was on. It was at the top of the steps, so they hadn’t triggered it and one of the seats in the front row was down. These seats automatically flip up when you stand. None of us remembered it being down when we entered the front row, but we’ll have to double check our cameras. The stills camera shows the seat up on the walk around. What makes this stranger is, we asked the ghosts to lower one of the seats. It didn’t happen again for the rest of the night. And no, it wasn’t filmed.

Cross Hands cinemaIt was time for a break and a switch. We took the day room downstairs, but nothing happened. Gareth mentioned the team in the theatre, consisting of Tim, Hana and Lewis, had contacted a demon on the Ouija board. Not just any demon. Satan himself. You’d think he’d have people to screen his calls. Curious that Satan would take a Saturday evening off to chat, we abandoned our vigil and gathered on the stage to watch. The ‘demon’ apparently turned out to be a serial killer called Frank, who wanted to kill Hana. Among other things. He spelled her name right, despite it not being the common spelling. We were tempted to see if it could spell our real names, which also have unusual spellings, but we don’t like interrupting other people’s vigils. After several minutes of watching, we left them alone and headed up to the library and spent our time looking for funny book titles. We weren’t disappointed.

Cross Hands cinemaConsidering the Ouija board had been so active, we decided to have a go in the hope that the spirits would finally answer us. Our Saint’s Row Wee-Ja board doesn’t seem to work, so maybe someone else’s would. All we got was a hang up tone. Gareth came to watch so got to witness the truth behind when we say “we get bugger all,” we really do get bugger all. As massive serial killer… ‘enthusiasts’ seems so wrong….we felt if anyone should make contact with one, it should be us. But the board was as a quiet as a duct-taped monk in a sponsored silence. We asked if our group’s fabulous sense of style (let’s be honest, we are the most stylish ghost hunters out there) angered them. We took their lack of communication as a yes.

Cross Hands cinemaAs the balcony had proved to be the most interesting area so far, we returned there and again waited for the ghosts to perform. The performance had been cancelled. Cold and tired, we ventured into the ground floor of the theatre and took different rows in the hope a ghost would sit with at least one of us. Not even the offer of applause convinced them to give us something other than the silent treatment. It’s always disappointing when you pay to go to the theatre to watch a performance and the actors decide they have somewhere better to be.

Cross Hands cinemaAfter returning to base camp and sharing more cat photos, Jack and James headed off as they were driving home. Us and Laura decided to give it one last try and as RIP Paranormal were packing up, the three of us headed for the stage. There was only way to end the night – dancing. All week we’ve been promising that we’ll get up on stage and either perform a play or dance. Our Complete Works of Shakespeare could help a Mob victim sleep with the fishes, and improv would’ve been impossible at that time of night so we opted for dancing. Unfortunately, we could only get internet by the library so couldn’t access any music on our phones. Our flip phones saved the day. Cat blasted Muse’s ‘Hysteria’ followed by Culture Club’s ‘Karma Chameleon’ and we danced our way to the end of the night. Forgetting RIP’s cameras were trained right on us…

The ghosts didn’t even applaud.Cross Hands cinema

Going Nuclear

Hack Green nuclear bunker

L-R Anthony, Lynx, Cat, Tom, James, Jack, Laura, Elaine, Dave

Inappropriateness, mannequins and squealing over puppies. Calamityville were on the road again.

We hired Hack Green nuclear bunker in Nantwich and this was a big team up. Jack and Laura from Jack and Laura Ghost Series were again joining us, along with Jack’s boyfriend, James. We were also joined by Anthony and Dave from Team Impact, (you may remember them from our Woodchester Mansion shenanigans) Elaine (Neen’s mum who joined us in Redcliffe Caves) and Tom, who was standing in for Neen (who’s just moved house).Hack Green nuclear bunker

It started well – we fetched Tom and headed to Nandos to meet Dave and Anthony for a pre-hunt foraging mission. Anthony got stuck in traffic so they were late. Then Lynx lost the car keys and spent several minutes hunting for them, much to the amusement of Tom and the woman in the car next to us. Keys found, Lynx and Tom headed off to pick up Elaine and Laura while Cat travelled with Anthony and Dave, making a detour back to Casa Raven as she’d left our new action cam behind. Hack Green nuclear bunkerDespite visiting Elaine’s only a week before, Lynx forgot where she lived and drove around the estate until she found it. She then misplaced her glasses. How old do you have to be to take one of those dementia tests? The road from Laura’s to the A449 was closed, leading them to explore country lanes. Our SatNav, Helen, kept switching to her American voice, who Tom has named Tanya. Team CAD reached the services before Team TELL had even reached the M50. Team CAD’s journey was filled with inappropriateness, which continued in the cafe as they waited for the others. And continued every time Cat was in that car, leading them to blame her for starting all the shenanigans. Their evidence was clearly lacking.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

Lynx in the shelter

We then switched drivers, with Cat joining Laura and Elaine, and Lynx and Tom accompanying Anthony and Dave. We reached the Travelodge much earlier than anticipated, which surprised us all. And we didn’t get lost. Ok, we had to circle the roundabout as we missed Travelodge’s entrance, but that’s how we roll with Travelodge. Jack and James were already there. We booked in then hung out in our rooms until it was time to leave.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

theatre

Despite being at the Travelodge early, we were still late to the bunker, which was 25 minutes away. The secret bunker was well sign posted so we didn’t get lost. That kind of defeats the object of it being a secret bunker. As we arrived, Cat realised she’d left her warm coat in Travelodge. Anthony, Dave and Tom all offered up their coats, like true gentleman but she decided to brave it, rather than spend the night looking like a child playing dress up. Even worse, Lynx left the shortbread behind.Hack Green nuclear bunker

The Home Officer Emergency Planning Division bought Hack Green from the MOD in 1976 for use as a protected seat of government for Home Defence Region 10:2. Hack Green’s nuclear bunker was regional Government Headquarters, with 140 officials working there during times of nuclear threat. In the 1980s, it cost £32 million to rebuild it. It had decontamination facilities, its own power station and water supplies, air conditioning and life support, radio communications and telephone exchanges and nuclear fallout filter rooms. It was built in secret and the public had no knowledge of it until its declassification in 1993. In 1998, it opened for the first time in over 50 years.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

this system was decommissioned in 2002

There have been many TV and radio investigations at the bunker, including Most Haunted. The Hack Green site has been the site of many battles and deaths for over 500 years. From the Great Fire of Nantwich, Civil War and two world wars.

Officials from the Air Ministry wanted a site to put their Radio Detection and Direction Finding (RDF) equipment. It was later known as radar. The southern and eastern coasts already had a chain of radar stations to face enemy bombers and fighters that threatened Britain. As radar was in its early stages, it had difficulty locating enemy aircraft, so in late 1940, a system of radar installations, called Ground Controlled Intercept Stations were developed. In 1941, Hack Green was chosen to become RAF Hack Green and its new role was to protect the area between Birmingham and Liverpool from attack. It had previously been a bombing decoy site for the main railway centre at Crewe.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

stairs where a W.A.A.F apparently jumped to her death

Hack Green was one of 21 radar stations and one of 12 equipped with searchlights and fighter aircraft control. After WW2, it was discovered that existing radar defence wouldn’t cope with the threat from fast jet aircraft or nuclear missiles. A Top Secret plan, codename: Rotor was devised to replace the Ground Controlled Intercept Stations and place 1620 radar screens into bunkers. Hack Green joined Group 12 to protect Britain against the Soviet threat of conventional and nuclear war. With a new long range radar, it could alert officers to Russian bombers’ approach, which would enable the RAF to intercept them, using fighter aircraft or Bloodhound ground to air missiles. Early warning would enable the Victor V Force bombers to launch and retaliate.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

female dorm

As a Rotar station, Hack Green had 18 officers, 26 NCOs, 224 corporals and aircraftsmen. In 1958, Hack Green became part of the United Kingdom Air Traffic Control System, making it one of four joint civil/military air traffic control units. The station closed in 1966 when its role was transferred to RAF Lindholme in South Yorkshire.

People have witnessed a full apparition of a uniformed man in the main corridor, along with two other apparitions. Staff report feeling menacing energy and people have fainted. In room 9, the telecommunications area, people have seen an apparition of an attractive woman working at her desk. Several groups claimed to have made contact with an aggressive male spirit here. The phones apparently ring, despite being disconnected. The most active area is the theatre. People have apparently been touched and pushed and moans and bangs are heard. Probably people sneaking off for some touching and moaning. Sudden feelings of illness is brought on, with one person having to call an ambulance.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

sick bay

According to Most Haunted’s Brian Shepherd, the bunker is haunted by Joan, a W.A.A.F (women’s auxiliary air force), who apparently committed suicide in the 1950s over her relationship with another woman, by throwing herself off the top of the main yellow staircase. He said she was depressed and had someone on her mind. Sometimes she stands there, looking as though she wants to say something. Lesley Smith, the historian, confirmed a W.A.A.F died from falling off the stairs. Some say she was murdered.  She’d had a lesbian relationship, but Lesley didn’t confirm her name. Stuart from MH got punched in the stomach in the theatre. He seems to get punched a lot. Quite frankly, we don’t blame the ghosts. In the theatre, Karl went down – he claimed his leg was grabbed and lifted up. MH saw a figure and had violent poltergeist activity.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

doing a ouija board in the theatre

The main communications room has a ghost of a woman seen walking through and out the door. A dark ghostly figure is seen and makes the temperature drop. Body parts are seen sticking up out of the ground by the radar control sign. Some believe the ground was used to dispose of bodies they’d murdered for sinister purposes. In the civil war, it was an encampment for royalist and Cromwellian forces. A battle was fought around the area. Cavaliers are seen wandering the grounds. There are rumours of Cold War interrogations being carried out in Hack Green, with torture and dismemberment taking place and apparently a container of acid was found. However, the government and MOD have denied the existence of the container.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

Alfie

Newspapers on 4th Dec 1943 state that two were killed and 16 airmen and W.A.A.Fs were injured when a goods train crashed into a bus at Hack Green level crossing the day before. In Nantwich is ‘the airman’s grave’. On Jan 14th 1944, 23 year old 1st Lieutenant Arthur L Brown, from United States Army Air Force, crashed. He was suffering from anoxia (insufficient oxygen in body tissues) due to the height he was flying at, and lost consciousness before crashing. It’s not known whether he consciously flew away from the residential area.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

Morris

The bunker is fantastic. Lucy, the curator, took us on a walk around. The lights were off everywhere except in the canteen upstairs. Mannequins leered at us from behind their barriers and glass cases, relishing the fact we couldn’t get to them. To think we’d set aside time for mannequin shenanigans! We and Laura were very disappointed. But our disappointment was soon forgotten as Lucy was puppy sitting. She had her two year old Pomeranian, Alfie and his 12 week son, Morris. Ghost hunting was soon abandoned for fluffy cuteness.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

corridor vigil

In one of the rooms, there was a sign for bikini alert. We cursed the fact none of us thought to bring bikinis on a ghost hunt. In Raiders of the Lost Shark, all the women had bikinis under their clothes. To think, we’d mocked them! Lucy warned us not to go anywhere alone, as lots of people get lost. And our personal SatNav, Neen, was 150 miles away. After the walk round, the two of us did a quick tour to take photos then we split into groups.

Hack Green nuclear bunkerJack, Laura, James and Elaine went to the shelter. Anthony and Dave went to do EVPs in the BBC communication room so Tom and Lynx headed down to put a camera in the theatre. As they left, a beam of light shone out from the theatre, hitting the wall in the corridor. Tom saw it then a few moments later, they both saw it again. There was no-one else there. Cat did a lone vigil in the female dorm then went looking for Tom and Lynx. We met up with Laura, Jack, James and Elaine and all heard what sounded like a man coughing. Cat and James went in search of Anthony and Dave to ask if it was them, but failed to find them. Team TLC returned upstairs to the female dorm and lounged on the beds, where our vigil took an inappropriate turn. Seeing as male ghosts never take up our offer of touching, Cat asked the females. Again, she was shunned. Ghosts obviously like to avoid us as much as the living. Cat *spread her arms* “I’m lonely, Joan!” Joan didn’t care. Tom “Do you like that there’s a male in the female quarters? Would you like a male in your female quarters?”Hack Green nuclear bunker

Tom and Lynx started feeling a cold patch between them. Lynx felt a breeze on her face. It’s a nuclear bunker. There are no breezes because there are no windows. Tom felt the cold patch on his knees. Cat asked for it to make his right knee colder. It did go colder. We cursed leaving our temperature gun in the canteen. Cat and Tom then switched places. The ghosts ignored Cat. Tom “the ghosts clearly don’t fancy you.” Cat “you’re not the first, entity.” Lynx went to fetch the temperature gun. So we told the ghosts we had something to measure them with and to slap it on the beds. We’re beginning to see why the living and the dead avoid us. The gun didn’t pick up on the cold patches on people’s legs, but it did reveal something we’d suspected for a while – Tom’s heart was cold and dead. It was a chilly 12C compared to his 23C knees. Tom was able to stretch his long arms over the barrier and grab some coats that were hanging up so we could indulge in a favourite Calamityville past time – dressing up. Tom, as usual, looked rather dapper. We looked…fetching.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

bunks in the female dorm

We then teamed up with Anthony and Dave and headed for the shelter. 40 minutes of possibly our most innuendo-filled vigil ever ensued. It’s for the best that we don’t type it up. This was our first proper ghost hunt with them and we have to say, they fit in perfectly. At one point, after we talked about bodies being dissolved in the acid vats, we all heard what sounded like a small thud or footstep. Lynx’s bubbling throat contributed a lot to that vigil. We encouraged the ghosts to possess us but they refused to oblige. We figured after all this time, maybe the ghosts were lonely and would enjoy male company so offered up the guys, particularly Dave because he didn’t want to be offered up. We requested punches, slaps and scratches if they didn’t like us and hickeys if they did. They clearly didn’t like us but obviously refrained from leaving physical marks. Dave kept hearing a high pitched bleeping which no-one else heard. After a lot of giggling and inappropriateness, we split up.

Hack Green nuclear bunker

BBC communications room

Lynx and Tom headed for the stairs, where the W.A.A.F, Joan, apparently jumped to her death. We tried finding service records for her but records are only available for up to 1911. Tom noticed a door at the bottom of the stairs had a gap so Lynx stuck her camera under the door and discovered a child mannequin wearing a skirt and tie. Cat wanted to go to the theatre so Anthony and Dave joined her. This is apparently the most active area but we didn’t experience anything. Laura, Jack, James and Elaine joined them in the theatre. Cat encouraged the ghosts to misbehave with Anthony, who was sitting in the back row.

Hack Green nuclear bunkerEveryone headed back upstairs for a refreshment break. Cat went to the sick bay and was joined by Anthony. Lynx and Tom went to the BBC communications room. It was cold in the sick bay. One mannequin lay on a stretcher dying from radiation sickness while a nurse mannequin hovered nearby. A suspicious looking doctor wearing pink lipstick and with one hand stuffed in his trouser pocket, sat at a desk. Fainting is a common problem at Hack Green, so Cat requested the ghosts make her pass out. Nothing happened. Anthony got hungry and left. Cat got unbearably cold when she was alone, but as the room was cold to begin with, this isn’t paranormal. Tom and Lynx reappeared so we all headed to the canteen for refreshments.

Hack Green nuclear bunkerWhen everyone was in the canteen, Cat went to do a lone vigil at the top of the stairs where Joan apparently jumped from. She made sure to stay a few steps back from the bannister. Being turfed over the edge by a lovelorn ghost wasn’t how she wanted her night to end. Anthony and Dave joined her so they spread out, with Anthony going to the bottom of the stairs, Cat halfway up and Dave at the top. Cat requested Joan recreate her death for them but she refused. After a bit, Cat wandered off to find the BBC room and got lost, setting off a sound recording in one room. Everyone else went into the room beside the canteen with four creepy mannequins and several disembodied heads in display cases. There wasn’t much ghost hunting going on, just talk on the creepiness of the mannequins and James trying to find all the spy mice. They went into the next room along and James continued his hunt for the mice. They all decided to head downstairs and track down Cat. After searching several communications rooms, they found her wandering the corridors, lost. Tom reminded her that’s why Lucy said not to go off alone. We decided to do a ouija board session in the theatre, lying RAF medals on the board to encourage activity. In true form, nothing happened. Cat then returned upstairs for snacks and discovered she was completely alone up there again, so went wandering.Hack Green nuclear bunker

Lucy had suggested the corridor would be a great place to do a vigil so we gathered on the stairs. By this point we were all tired, the stairs were cold to sit on and we’d run out of things to say. We did hear humming, but that turned out to be Cat accidentally setting off the voice recording in the decontamination room when she went upstairs. We returned upstairs, had more cuddles with the puppy then called it a night at 3:20 a.m. Whilst the paranormal activity was low, the fun levels were high. It’s an interesting place and well worth a visit. We’d like to return in the day too. Lucy was really nice and there were fluffy dogs to cwtch. We’re looking forwards to our next team up. Will there be ghosts? Unlikely. Will there be fun and inappropriate behaviour? Most definitely.Hack Green nuclear bunker

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