Fears of a Clown

Spending 12-14 hours a day in haunted tunnels, preparing a serial killer’s lair and tying a man to a rusty counter. We were back for another week on Clownface. Read our previous posts about it here and here.

Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface

Mickey at the entrance to Drakelow Tunnels

When Producer Mark messaged us before filming even began months ago, he asked if we knew of any abandoned nuclear bunkers or tunnels that would be perfect for a serial killer’s lair. Naturally, we said yes. Two years ago, we spent a night ghost hunting in Drakelow Tunnels, a huge labyrinth of tunnels built into cliffs of Kidderminster to house the Rover Shadow Factory during the war. People died there and paranormal teams investigate it regularly. You can read our blog post about our visit here. What better place for Clownface to take his victims? Luckily, Mark and the director, Alex, loved it as much as we did and it became Clownface’s lair.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceMonday morning was a 5 a.m start for us as we had to fetch Phil (Clownface) and the mountain of food that his partner, Ella, had cooked and prepared for cast and crew. We took one look at the bags and thought ‘that is not fitting in the Mini.’ Luckily, being Tetris champions and owning a Smartcar meant we fitted everything in then headed up to Kidderminster for a 14 hour day of filming. It was cold in the tunnels. The warmest the tunnels reach is 10 degrees C. And there’s only power for part of it. As the actors would not be wearing much, we brought heat patches with us they could stick under their clothes to provide some warmth. And we brought a portable heater. We loved being back in Drakelow and between shoots and on our lunch break, we went exploring. It was weird seeing it with lights on. When we went, we were told there was no power. That was a lie. Most of the rat holes we used as shortcuts to other tunnels had been bricked up. Mostly we filmed in and around tunnel 4. One of the haunted tunnels. The room which became one of the sets is actually a room we did a vigil in.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceCat assisted the second assistant camera guy, Josh, writing down scene numbers, takes, slates and camera lens for each take. Lynx took behind the scenes photography and we both did set dressing, which is our main job on the film. As again, there were no runners who could drive, Lynx had to fetch two crew members from Wolverhampton. Having a driving licence is actually a requirement for a runners’ job so it was annoying that one of us had to constantly be pulled off set to do this. Unfortunately, there is no phone or internet signal for two miles around the tunnels, so she had to drive for a while until maps came online. Driving new places on our own really heightens our anxiety, but when the only people who can drive are the camera crew, the producer and us, there isn’t a choice. But forcing us to confront our anxiety is a good thing. Later, Lynx accompanied Mark back to the converted barn we were staying in to check in and try to cook the jacket potatoes that wouldn’t cook. We generally only use the microwave to melt our ice cream, and as they were pushed for time, only some of the potatoes cooked.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe finished filming at 11:30 p.m. and that was only because a scene had to be cut due to lack of time. We got back to the barn at midnight, but didn’t get to bed ’til gone 1 a.m. as we had to refrigerate the food and wash out the slow cookers. The barn had separate dorm style bedrooms, so we shared a room with the actress, Hannah, and the makeup artist, Brooke. Ours was a lovely, peaceful room.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceTuesday was a 9 a.m. unit call, so we were up at 7:30 then had to wait for everyone else to get up, so didn’t make it to the tunnels ’til 9:25. Lynx continued photographing behind the scenes then fetched Hannah from the barn at 1, while Cat was Josh’s assistant, and took over the photography and set dressing when Lynx was driving. We also helped the gaffer, Ben, set up lights, rather than just guarding them. We were in a different area today. The owner had added metal beds and bedside cabinets which weren’t there when we visited the tunnels two years ago. Lynx thought she was seeing things at one point when she saw glowing green eyes and a shaggy dog. It turned out to be one of the owner’s gorgeous Spaniels. Not a ghost dog. We finished filming at 10:30 we think but didn’t get to bed til 11:35 after doing all of the washing up, even though off set, it’s not our job.

Jay, the gorgeous Collie at the barn

On Wednesday we got up at the ungodly hour of 4:30 a.m. to be on set by 6 a.m. We did more washing up and cleared away all the crisp packets that had been left outside. Ten feet from the bin. Seriously, even our dog knows how to pick up rubbish. We took Alex to set and were there at 6, ready to start. The owner wasn’t. Neither was anybody else. We had no phone signal to warn the others who arrived by 6:45. The director of photography, Ben T, was blasting My Chemical Romance from his car so we danced outside to pass the time. He kindly cleared his back seat of camera equipment so Alex and we could sit in. We danced to his great music and napped. Somehow, we knew this would be the best part of the day.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceThe owner arrived at 8. We could’ve had an extra two hours in bed! So not only had we been deprived of sleep, we’d also lost two hours of filming time so scenes had to be cut. We were back in Tunnel 4 today and again helped to set up some of the lights. We covered the crash mats in blankets to make a bed but then had to fetch a bed from another room and dress that instead. Lynx went to fetch the actor, Tom, from Kidderminster train station. Most of the day was spent re-dressing the bed and checking continuity. Lynx took Phil back to the barn in the afternoon then took over on sound after the sound guy left at 6 to do a night shift. Cat took over on behind the scenes photography and continued set dressing alone as well as being Josh’s assistant. Ben T reckoned we’re really good at doing sound and that we should go into it ūüôā It’s times like these that having anxiety can be a good thing. We get so anxious about getting things wrong that we channel it into being extra cautious and doing the best job we can.

Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface

exploring with producer, Mark

We got back to the barn at 7 then went to Sainsbury’s to get ice cream. We only got internet and phone signal when we were driving so we took the opportunity to contact our mum and sister while sat in Sainsbury’s car park. We did more washing up before going to bed then Mark took over washing up duties. We swear the washing up breeds when our backs are turned. We should start charging for cleaning duties. Those who refuse to wash up have to pay us ¬£1 per plate and 50p per mug and piece of cutlery. During this week, we could’ve bought our hearse with the proceeds. And had change left over for a coffin.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceThursday we got up at 4:45 but had to wait for gaffer Ben C and Alex, as Ben C had the keys. So at 6 a.m, we were doing flexibility stretches to pass the time. Yoga at 6 a.m. Next we’ll be going on retreats. We moved everything out of the storage cupboards and took the lighting equipment and our prop box to the new set: Clownface’s lair, which was in a rusty industrial kitchen. We were in our element set dressing this with our creepy props and torture tools. That was our favourite part of the entire film. Lynx took over on sound briefly for the afternoon while most of Cat’s time was spent blowing out and relighting the tealights on set. She’d be told to blow them out then relight them almost immediately. This happened a few times and she was tempted to start setting people on fire. People burn longer than tealights, though they’d have to film without sound, as this scene didn’t require agonised screaming. Then she was told to clear the front bench for a killing scene, so she did. Then immediately got told it should’ve been the back bench. So she had to use the continuity photos on her phone to re-dress the front bench exactly how it had been. After rehearsals, they decided it should be the front bench after all. Again, people were lucky they were not set on fire. We had a whole range of torture tools. It is not wise to piss off the props women. Josh was impressed Cat managed to keep up with the note taking whilst constantly dressing the set and tending to the candles.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe got to shackle Clownface and tie him up. He insisted it was done properly. In between takes, we were throwing his dressing gown on him to warm him. We also got to briefly be makeup assistants. Filming finished relatively on time. Our evening was spent doing *drum roll* yes. A shit ton of washing up. Where the fuck does it all come from? There’s 16 people, not 1600! We retired to our room at 9 to do flexibility stretches and hide from any more washing up, but that meant Mark did it in our absence. We’re so glad there’s only 3 humans in our house. And we have a dishwasher. Plus the residents of Casa Raven know how to use water and a sponge.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceOur last day, we got up at 4:45. Unit call was again 6 a.m. We knew no one else would be up early but we also knew there would be yet more washing up to do. We were right. This was despite us doing 3 or 4 sinkfuls the previous night and Mark did more than us. And there were countless beer cans scattered everywhere. Ten feet from the recycling bin. Checkout was at 11, so we couldn’t leave until the barn was clean and tidy. Us and Mark were sick of the constant washing up. Then we discovered someone had drunk our soya milk, leaving us with none for breakfast. That was it. Cat ended up yelling at people after overhearing that we should apparently be doing stuff as everyone was late. Think tiny Welsh Hulk bollocking a room of men. Not even sorry. We should’ve unleashed the Hulk earlier. Lynx then got sympathy hugs from Josh, Alex and Phil. So due to the clean up, Cat was late bringing actress Dani to set. Lynx and Mark stayed behind to clean the barn and throw late risers out. On route, Cat was sent to fetch gaffer tape, only for people to be angry that the actress was¬† late to makeup. Then don’t send the actress’s driver to fetch gaffer tape, knowing the actress was in the car! Lynx yelled at people for that, defending Cat who still wasn’t back. The logical thing would’ve been to get Cat to drop the actress off then send her to fetch gaffer tape. But logic was clearly having a lie-in that morning.

Drakelow Tunnels, ClownfaceWe were back in the original set so moved the bed back in and dressed it. We had to do a lot on continuity and blood clean up between takes. And hold a ladder so Ben T didn’t fall off and die, or more importantly, break his camera. There was enough time to film a scene that got dropped from the previous day. After we loaded the car, a police car drove in. Us and Phil went over to speak to the officer. Apparently it was unusual for the blast door to be open at that time. We told him about the film and assured him that the death scenes and blood were not real. He looked at Clownface’s makeup and asked if he was a victim. We replied “he’s the killer!” You know it’s a proper indie film when the police stop by. We drove Phil home then returned to Casa Raven, regretting that the next day, we would be doing an hour’s polefit lesson, followed by an hour and a half polefit workshop then driving to Hastings for an overnight ghost hunt. Providing we could stay awake.

But despite the rage we unleashed on Friday, we did enjoy working with everyone. Again, we were amazed at how excellent all the actors are in their roles. Their emotion is so so realistic, take after take. We cannot wait to see the finished film.

Oh and we got some good news: our travel article about our misadventures in Paris won second place in Writing Magazine’s travel writing competition and our burlesque ghost story has been shortlisted for an anthology. On Saturday we start working on Dave’s Emoji of Horror film. We’ll not only be crewing it, we’ll also be acting in it. Then in Spring, we start filming our own film! The Black Kiss. A story from our Romance is Dead trilogy. We’ve already written the script and started collecting props. Not that we’re excited or anything. So our writing career has taken a bit of a curve at the moment and we’re thoroughly enjoying the new challenges and experiences. And for these two films, there will no more washing up!Drakelow Tunnels, Clownface

 

Tunnel Vision

Drakelow TunnelsGetting lost, horribly lost, a car crash with a twatapus and misbehaving in tunnels. It can only be Calamityville Horror’s next episode.

We teamed up again with Jack and Laura from Jack and Laura’s Ghost Series.¬†Check them out here: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.¬†They regularly attend ghost hunts with South Bristol Paranormal and they invited us to Drakelow Tunnels. This place has become a huge hit recently with ghost hunters and we were more excited than Jason Vorhees on Thursday the 12th. Drakelow TunnelsThen everything started to go wrong. Badly wrong. In fact, this was the most disastrous episode in Calamityville history. And not a single damn bit of it was filmed. Our standards have really slipped. No, wait, that implies the show had standards to begin with. We were running late. Neen’s hairdressing appointment ended up taking 3 hours as her usual hairdresser was away. Then we had to get petrol for her campervan, Tallulah, who has ferried us to a few locations now. Then we got lost trying to find Laura’s house.

Drakelow Tunnels

these aren’t shadow figures, it’s us with the long exposure

And so it began. We approached a roundabout and Neen pulled into the right lane. A guy in a black Fiesta blasted his horn, even though she’d indicated. He drove around us, still blasting his horn like a deranged clown who’s just discovered his comedy nose. He cut us up on the roundabout. And slammed his brakes on. Tallulah went straight into the back of him. What the hell did he think would happen? We could not believe his idiocy. In 15 years of driving, we’ve never experienced¬†this. The whole fiasco made us even later. Neen had nothing to write the insurance details on so Cat fetched the card sleeve from one of her camera tapes. Luckily a guy behind witnessed it all and stopped to give us his details. We’ve never had a crash on Calamityville. Was this Fate’s way of trying to finish us off? We eventually picked Jack and Laura up and set off.

Drakelow TunnelsOnly to get lost. Cat was navigating and still isn’t entirely sure what happened. The signs on her directions didn’t match the roads. It went like this: Neen: “Where are we? Which way do we go?” Cat *shrugs* “No idea. Try that road.” In the end, Neen switched her SatNav on. Then the lens cap on Lynx’s Canon camera, our main filming camera, jammed on while Cat was using it. Again, she had no idea how this happened. It’s usually jammed down, thanks to a sand dune sledging adventure, but on route, decided to attempt to close itself. And got stuck. We couldn’t use it. We finally arrived at Drakelow tunnels (after Cat got us lost numerous times) half an hour later than we were told to be there, but five minutes before the investigation started. We’re calling that a win. Then Cat tripped over in the van. She put her Panasonic camera down in the car park and when she picked it up, found a hole in the back screen. It still works fine, but that’s 2 cameras broken on one journey. And the adventure wasn’t over yet.Drakelow Tunnels

Seven deaths have occurred in Drakelow Tunnels. In Tunnel 1 on 31st October 1941, three men (one called Harry Depper, the other two are unknown) were killed when the ceiling collapsed on them when they were blasting. Mary Ann Brettel was the next to die when she was hit by a dump truck owned by John Cochrane and Sons on the grounds of the complex. Two construction workers were killed during the construction of conveyor belts that were used to take loose rock out. They rode the belt, but got tangled in the machinery and mangled. The last person to die was Eric Harold Newman, a security guard for Goods In & Out. As he left the complex on his motorbike, he was hit by a coach driven by Mr Wilkes, who transported workers to the tunnels.

Drakelow TunnelsLate in 1993, the caretaker was inspecting the kitchen in the old RSG side of the complex. He heard 1940s music that seemed to be coming from the old Rover Shadow Factory side. Thinking someone had left a radio on, he went to check. The music got louder when he approached Tunnel 1, but as he entered the tunnel, it stopped. He couldn‚Äôt find a radio . As he reached the old time office at the end of the tunnel, the music started again. After a 6 hour search of the entire complex, he failed to find the radio. The only equipment that was capable of playing music was the WW2 tannoy system that hasn‚Äôt worked since the ‚Äė50s.

Drakelow Tunnels

we climbed up here

In 1996, the resident caretaker and his 2 German Shepherds were locking the complex one winter evening, after people had been in repairing electrical wiring. While the caretaker was securing the GPO telephone exchange in the RGHQ, his dogs went into the next room. They began barking, so the caretaker rushed in. They dogs were staring at the wall, barking. He calmed them, put them on their leads, and continued his rounds. When they entered Tunnel 4, the dogs stopped and growled, fixated on the top of the tunnel. The caretaker tried to see what they were looking at, but couldn’t. The dogs fell silent and the caretaker saw a mist at the top of the tunnel, floating towards him. The dogs fled through the RGHQ. Thinking there was a fire, the caretaker followed and found them barking and scratching the Blast Door at Adit A. He opened the doors and they ran to his car outside.Drakelow Tunnels

Inside the tunnels was cold and darker than the devil’s armpits. We found the toilets but stupidly didn’t take lights with us, so were navigating using the glow from the screens of our flip phones. Torch apps don’t exist on the Motorola V5. Lynx then got attacked by the toilet door. She closed it, not realising it wasn’t attached. It fell on her, crushing her earring into her ear and giving her a nice cauliflower ear. Had Fate had a tantrum we’d escaped the accident unscathed and¬†tried to take her out with a toilet door? The same door later attacked Laura, hurting her thumb.

Drakelow Tunnels

the medical centre

We were all given maps and split into groups, ours consisting of Jack and Laura and us. After Cat’s woeful navigation, we gave Neen the map. Neen’s got us through Edinburgh and York with her map reading skills so she gets lumbered with the responsibility of us. It’s not an easy job and nobody else wants it. We were all told to stick together for the walk through. That was never going to happen. We see a doorway, we’ll go through it. We see stuff, we’ll go investigate it. We may never come across it again. As it happened, the areas we’d wandered off to, we didn’t come across again, so it’s just as well we explored them. Neen regularly threatens to put us on those straps children wear on school trips to stop them wandering off. She describes going anywhere with us ‘like herding kittens’.

 

Drakelow Tunnels

what we discovered after climbing the scaffolding

Bearing in mind how dark it was, you’d assume we’d have torches. Nope. None of ours work properly. We had to rely on the night vision/full spectrum screens of our cameras. Cat walked into a chair. And a wall. And some string blocking a doorway, even though Neen held¬†it up. After the walk through, we were allowed to go off in our groups. We were given Tunnel 1¬†and the areas off it. We found scaffolding leading up to a big hole in the wall. Our theory is, if they didn’t want people climbing up to the hole, they should move the scaffolding. Us, Neen and Jack climbed it. Laura decided her clumsiness meant she’d be safer staying¬†at the bottom. Think she was actually the bravest, as she was left in the dark by herself! We found some machinery and a doorway. Cat went through first, announcing, “There’s a shaft! It’s slippery!” as she struggled to stay upright.

Drakelow Tunnels

we shouldn’t be up here

Many shaft jokes ensued. We’d found ourselves in a ventilation tunnel. Three curved tunnels led away from the giant fan, getting smaller the closer to the end we got. Neen and Jack had a light and went in the first tunnel. Lynx had a light clipped to her belt and entered the middle tunnel. Cat had no light and entered the last tunnel, finding her way through the night vision camera. The tunnels led to a sudden drop, which was covered. Cat’s end was fully open and had the others not shouted a warning, she may have ended up haunting the tunnels. The slippery shaft made leaving that area tricky, as it was lower than the door. When we got back to the scaffolding, our fear of us heights reminded us this might not have been such a good idea. We managed to climb back down the scaffolding and continued exploring.

Drakelow Tunnels

in Tunnel 4

We found a¬†guard’s station, or office room,¬†so did a vigil in there. We kept hearing voices so Cat ventured down the tunnel to find the source. Turns out, the tunnels’ grid system and acoustics means noise carries a great distance. Even though we were nowhere near the other groups, we could hear them, even if they weren’t being loud. So we’re attributing any voices we heard to the others. Some parts of the tunnels involved us crawling through small holes. One led into toilets then out into Tunnel 4. We seemed to find our way into random toilets. It was like playing Slender: Eight Pages in real life, but minus a rusty pickup truck and losing our sanity.

Drakelow TunnelsAfter a break, we were sent to Tunnel 4. The mist is only seen in the winter, which leads us to believe it’s down to condensation in the chilly air, rather than anything paranormal. We did a vigil in another guard station and again could hear the other groups. While Neen took a photo of the four of us in the station, she heard a noise further up the tunnel.¬†We explored the room next to the medical centre and found a cupboard¬†filled with chart rolls, like the type you get in ECG machines. If the lines are to be believed, the patients flatlined for a long time. Another cupboard contained wages envelopes which had spilled onto the floor, and more chart rolls. Again, the patients flatlined.¬†We did another vigil and heard what sounded like a tap or footstep. Lynx and Laura stood¬†in the corridor outside the room, but nothing happened. We headed to the medical centre for some more calling out. Jack saw mist in front of Laura, but we got no responses. When we asked for a name, the Ghost Radar said ‘Smith.’ A¬†guard called Albert Smith who worked there. To be honest, the Ghost Radar sprouts nonsense more than it says accurate things so we don’t fully trust it, but it is fun.

Drakelow TunnelsWe heard more voices further down a tunnel, so went to investigate. It turned out to be Karin’s group. As we’d got nothing, we joined them for a vigil. We were in a crossroads. Karin, Colin, Ginny and Lee sat in the centre. Neen and Jack ventured down one tunnel, Cat down another and Lynx retreated¬†down the tunnel we’d come down. Again, nothing. We really are the enemies of paranormal activity. You know how when the bad guy walks into a bar and everyone falls silent? That’s what happens when we walk into a haunted area. The spirits all fall silent, put down their cards and nervously touch their guns.

Drakelow Tunnels

Tunnel 4

During the break, we joined Karin on the ouija board in the break room. We got the silent treatment, so tried the planchette with Adrian. It didn’t move. We joined two groups for some table tipping in the operating theatre. We haven’t been convinced on the legitimacy of table tipping since the Victorians were doing it, so we never participate unless it’s with people we know and trust. We’re pretty sure someone was manipulating the table. Colin saw a doctor in one of the rooms in the sick bay, so we wandered off with our laser pen (we’d forgotten to use it so far) and tried to make contact. Well, Lynx tried to get him to kick Cat’s bad knee, but it counts. The doctor gave us the silent treatment. Colin told us to call out for Dr James. We burst into an impromptu version of Aqua’s ‘Dr Jones’. Some people are really unprofessional.

Drakelow TunnelsWe joined Karin, Colin, Ginny¬†and Lee for a session with the Kinnect. It’s from the xbox and it maps your movements, so you appear on screen as an outline with a stick figure inside. Laura was positioned in front of it and spirits were encouraged to stand beside her. Jack joined her, but the spirits didn’t. Neen and Ginny¬†were the next guinea pigs, and although Neen danced for the spirits, they refused to show their appreciation. Colin and Lee went next, but the spirits weren’t interested. We danced our way through the experiment, but even our zumba moves weren’t enough to encourage the spirits to come anywhere near us. We even performed the newly-learnt Uptown Funk routine. Karin was the final one to stand in front of the Kinnect, but she also got nothing, despite mooning the camera.

Drakelow Tunnels

Last women standing

It was now half two in the morning and we all headed back to base camp. Neen and Jack called it quits and headed back to the van. The rest of the groups also decided to leave, so while they were packing up, us and Laura snuck off for one final vigil. We made it to Tunnel 4 through a hole in the toilet wall and called out. We could hear voices at the far end of the tunnel, which we think belonged to one missing group. Then we heard a bang on the blast doors down the end. Two people came looking for the group, so we sent them to the end, too late realising we may be sacrificing them to the tunnel monster. They came back without the group, so were clearly not needed for pleasing the tunnel gods. We continued our vigil, but could still hear the others, even though the two hadn’t found them (they were later discovered outside, smoking). The two people asked us how to get back to basecamp. We directed them to a dead end. Then Lynx showed them the right way. Laura asked for tapping and tapped her foot three times on the floor. She¬†got a response. Two taps. We’re not entirely sure whether it was the group pissing about and pretending to be the spirit, or a genuine response. We decided to find them and set off down the tunnel. It suddenly went very quiet. The feeling in the tunnel changed. It went from being a comfortable place to feeling very eerie. It was clear we were now completely alone.

Drakelow TunnelsAfter several more attempts, we got no response, so headed back to base camp (without getting lost). On the way, we joked about everyone buggering off and leaving us in the tunnels. We got back to base camp. Everyone had buggered off and left us alone. We gathered our gear and headed out to the van to sleep.

In the morning, we were woken by the comforting sounds of gunfire. The tunnels are used for Airsoft and the shooters were already in. We photographed the tunnels, as we hadn’t done it on the way in. The door was unlocked, so we all wandered in. The place was completely lit, which gave it a different atmosphere. We didn’t venture far in, because we were convinced we’d be shot in the face with pellets, but we got a couple of photos before leaving. And getting lost. We dropped Jack and Laura off and headed home. And got lost.Drakelow Tunnels