Ghosts without Parole

Gloucester prisonMaking ourselves unpopular, debunking the paranormal and failing to find ghosts. Calamityville Horror are back!

After a long, long LONG hiatus, we were finally back together for a ghost at Gloucester Prison. Neen’s mum Elaine booked it. It’s been over a year since we’ve investigated together so we were excited but also apprehensive as we’re not keen on public events. Usually because stuff is faked or there’s one guest there that really rattles our coconuts. And we went with this company to Newsham Park. You can read our thoughts on them here. Neen and Elaine assured us that on the past two events with this company, everyone was lovely and the team had different members. You’d think that now we’re a lot more socialised, our tolerance for people would have grown. In fact, it’s shrunk. And we now crave solitude.Gloucester prison

Gloucester Prison was a category B men’s prison that was built in 1792, designed by William Blackburn. It was rebuilt in 1840 by Thomas Fuljames, who created the flanking brick wings. In 1971, a new young offenders prison was built there, as was C Wing. A new gate, block and visits centre was added in 1987. In 2003 it was listed as one of the 20 most overcrowded prisons in Britain. The next day, prisoners staged a 3 ½ hour siege by locking themselves in a cell. Really? Climb on the roof like other protesting prisoners. They want you in the cell. In 2007 it was criticised for overcrowding, poor dining provisions and cramped cells. A month later, the ground floor flooded and 100 prisoners were moved to other jails. The following month, it was criticised for its woeful training and education facilities. It finally closed in 2013.

Gloucester prisonThere are over 100 unmarked graves in the grounds, not all of them prisoners. Some executed prisoners were claimed by relatives, but murderers weren’t allowed to be buried in consecrated ground. Before 1792, executions took place in the nearby village of Over (where we helped to build a Halloween attraction), and prisoners were taken there in carts, sitting in their own coffins. Oh that is cold. Why not make them dig their own graves too? Between 1792-1932, 123 prisoners were executed there. After 1792, hangings were carried out using a New Drop style gallows which was erected on the roof of the prison gatehouse in 1826. In the years 1792-1864, 102 prisoners were hanged in public – 94 men and 8 women. There were no executions between William Davis on 20th April 1839 and John Butt in July 1864. The last public execution took place on 27th August 1864 when 55 year old Lewis Gough was executed for murdering Mary Curtis.

The first private hanging took place on a raised scaffold in the prison yard on 8th January 1874 when 20 year old Frederick Jones was executed by William Calcraft (a hangman famed for bungling hangings, resulting in him swinging on the condemneds’ legs) on a raised scaffold in the prison yard. Jones killed his girlfriend, Emily Gardener. On 12th January 1874, the hangman, Robert Anderson, asked for a pit to be dug under the gallows for the triple hanging of Edward Butt, Mary Ann Barry and Edwin Bailey. Butt had killed his girlfriend. Mary and Edwin had poisoned Edwin’s illegitimate baby girl, who they considered a nuisance. Mary was the last woman to suffer the short drop hanging and struggled for three minutes.

A new gallows was built on the end wall of A Wing in 1912. It had double doors that separated it from the condemned cell. 6 people were hanged here, including Herbert Armstrong in 1922. The last hanging was in 1939, but the execution chamber wasn’t demolished until 1966, after the abolition of the death penalty. Herbert was the only solicitor in the UK to be hanged for murder. In May 1919, his wife, Kitty’s health weakened, but her doctor, Thomas Hincks diagnosed her with brachial neuritis. She recovered but in August 1920, her health deteriorated again. Hincks said she showed signs of a mental collapse and admitted her to Barnwood, a private asylum. She improved and was discharged on 22nd January 1921. She became ill and died exactly a month later. All the servants closed the curtains as a sign of respect. Armstrong opened them as soon as he came home.Gloucester prison

On 26th October 1921, Armstrong invited a rival solicitor, Oswald Martin over for tea. They were on opposing sides of a property dispute. As Armstrong handed Martin a scone, he said “excuse fingers.” Later that night, Martin became violently ill. A few weeks before, chocolates had been sent to his home. His sister in law ate some and became violently ill. Martin’s father in law, John Davies, had sold Armstrong arsenic for killing dandelion. Hincks noticed Martin’s symptoms were similar to Kitty’s and warned Martin not to accept gifts from Armstrong. Martin’s urine contained arsenic, yet Armstrong kept inviting him around for tea. Martin found it hard to make up excuses not to go. “Sorry, but I don’t want to be poisoned” would’ve alerted Armstrong that he knew. Kitty was exhumed and they found large amounts of arsenic in her body. Some people believe he was framed, as the prosecution witnesses were his rival and his rival’s father in law. He was found guilty and hanged by John Ellis on 31st May 1922. His last words were “I am innocent of the crimes for which I have been condemned to die.”

Cell 25 in A Wing, landing 3 is haunted by Jenny Godfrey. Furniture in that cell gets moved and pots, pans and books were thrown around the cell. In 1969, the occupant, Robert Gore, made a Ouija board out of scraps of paper and an upturned glass. The glass moved by itself, spelling Jenny’s name. A few days later, a disembodied hand appeared and pointed at Gore. Some say she was held in the cells of the nearby Abbey and now appears in the jail to mock the prisoners. Others say she was killed by an inmate and returns to search for him. Then another story says she was murdered by a drunk man in the 15th C and points to the spot where she died. She spelled out several events that were about to happen. Some prisoners scoffed, but some of them came true. Staff hear knocking and cells doors slamming. In C Wing, shadowy figures have been seen and a sceptical guard was locked in a cell that has no lock on the door.

We set out and parked outside the gates. A man came to tell us that the gates would open at half eight. At 8:50, they finally opened. Our time was spent with all of us moaning about how much we needed to pee. It’s all not all glamour and fun on Calamityville. As soon as the gates were open, we parked up and rushed in to pee. The other guests were more…polite about their need for bladder relievement so they had to queue. Sorry, but it’s a case of speak now or forever hold your pee.

There were about 50 guests and 10 team members. People. Urgh . Just what we don’t want on a ghost hunt. We did a group tour of the prison first. We were told prisoners had scratched their names into the wall of the debtors’ prison, including Fred West. We doubted this. Fred West couldn’t write his name and signed his legal documents with an X. Trust us. Serial killers would be our Mastermind speciality. It’s also said he was held on remand here, but he was held on remand in Birmingham, where he killed himself.

Gloucester prisonThe debtors’ prison was unexciting with empty rooms downstairs. Upstairs there were sort of beds. We were called back but we’d only just got upstairs so ignored the call and kept exploring. As we were prowling the top floor, Cat suddenly found it difficult to breathe. It felt like she was having a panic attack. We started suffering panic attacks twenty years ago so know how they feel and how to control them. But we haven’t had one for a while. We’ve since been told that there is a suicide watch cell upstairs. This feeling continued as we headed into the main wing and worsened when she entered the first cell in B Wing. In this cell, Neen could taste mould. There was mould all over the walls and the smell was quite strong. Lynx gave her a chocolate coin to take the taste away.

We went into the chapel to do a séance and had to imagine the white light going through us. Neen kept changing her light to red. Cat’s kept going out. Lynx couldn’t concentrate because the right side of her face was hurting. Not from anything paranormal, just sinusitis. Then we had to picture ourselves wearing a cloak. We gave ourselves fancy cloaks. When we were told to picture tree roots from our feet grounding us, the temptation to call out “I am Groot” was overwhelming. But we are professionals. Neen thought she saw a small man in the doorway watching us.Gloucester prison

We were split into five groups of ten and our group went to C wing. This was built in the 1970s so visually, was the least interesting part of the prison. We did some calling out in the corridor. Elaine stood in the doorway of cell 13 with us three opposite her. At one point, we all saw a light hovering by her knee. As though someone switched a torch on and directed a ball of light toward her. But no-one had a torch on. Neen switched hers on to try and recreate it but it didn’t. Lynx, Neen and one of the organisers then heard whispering.

The organiser set up a Ouija board so us four and another woman used it. The planchette moved slightly. Were we finally about to have a board actually work for us and let us communicate with a spirit without someone faking it?

Were we bollocks.

Gloucester prisonIt became clear that the woman was moving it. Each time it moved, ours, Neen’s and Elaine’s fingers would come off it or hover just above the planchette. The woman’s fingers remained on it. When they did lift off, it stopped. Cat and Neen tested their suspicions by holding down the planchette. When Cat did it, the woman’s finger strained as she tried to pull it towards herself. When Neen did it, the plachette stopped but the woman’s finger kept moving. Busted. We have no time or tolerance for fakers and refused to participate in a Ouija board after that.

We moved on to an engineering workshop. The team leader put the SB11 spirit box on. Yes. That device that scans through radio stations and only seems to speak when it can get a signal. When Cat had it, it only played music. Cat “are you trying to rap your answer? It’s communicating through the top 40!” The woman who faked the Ouija board was convinced there was a spirit called David around. Next we tried a human pendulum. Cat volunteered Lynx to be the pendulum so we would know it wasn’t faked. Nothing happened. So then Fake It volunteered. Guess what? She was being pushed and pulled like a swinging door. We rolled our eyes so hard they were like the spinning pictures in a fruit machine.Gloucester prison

We had a break then so ranted to the camera about this woman’s fakery. See? We said there would be one person who irritated us. We were right. And we were stuck with her until free time at 2 a.m. The night suddenly seemed like a ten year stretch.

We went into the laundry rooms next and the leader switched on the Banshee Box. We’d not heard of one of these but man this was fun. Apparently, it has words in its database that are broken, so spirits have to put the words back together to speak. Not sure how spirits would know how to do this. We hope that if we become ghosts, we don’t have to do this. We can just about master our MP3 Players. It spat our broken words in a voice that Lynx said sounded suspiciously like the Mysterons. Luckily Lynx was in a burgundy skirt and Cat was wearing a red tartan coat so Captains Scarlet were on hand to fight them. It rambled gibberish in its creepy voice while Fake Away mentioned she sensed someone called David. Cat “half the prison population were probably called Dave.” The leader laughed and said that’s probably true as everyone knows a Dave. Cat “It’s like there was always one called William. I know about five Daves.” We’re related to two. David wasn’t mentioned again. The woman thought it said “zozo”. This thing wasn’t speaking English. It certainly wasn’t spitting out fictional demon names.

Gloucester prisonThere was an interesting response on the rem pod though. It started buzzing and at one point lit up and when the leader asked it to switch out the blue light, switched out. But it wasn’t responsive to other commands and just kept buzzing to itself like an angry mechanical bee.

We were then taken to the kitchens. The two guys in there kept saying how active it had been, how four people got affected, fleeing the kitchen retching and the fifth one had to be removed. Uh huh. Their activity was about to die because the ghost busters (aka Calamityville Horror) showed up. Sure enough, not much happened. There were some light responses on the K2 to people’s questions but the guys kept saying there were people there but they were too scared to come into the circle. Prisoners too scared to enter a circle of women? Three of whom are midget sized? The team kept talking about how active it was with all the other groups. No doubt they would be saying that about our group too. One guy said he could smell sulphur. Fake Off said “don’t say that. First we had Zozo, now sulphur.” Sulphur smells are associated with demonic entities. And landfill sites. The guy asked the significance of the sulphur, but Fake and Bake just said “don’t say that.” Lynx told him it meant demons. The guy asked who was Zozo. Lynx “he’s the latest paranormal craze.” Cat “Think Zak Bagans started it.” The woman said “actually it started with Zeppelin.” But when she tried to explain who Zozo was, she couldn’t and shut up. Yes. Pipe down with your fakery and your demonic bullshit.Gloucester prison

We could hear water dripping but the team said there were no working taps. When we returned to the kitchens alone at the end of the night, we could still hear the dripping. Lynx and Neen went to investigate and found…a leaking tap! Thought they said there were no working taps. This was an easy one to debunk but they didn’t seem interested in that.

We moved to A wing with the medium. Apparently the other teams had doors slamming. And guess what our team got? Bugger all. The other members of our group were now commenting on how our group were getting nothing. We kept quiet about this always happening to us. We’d made ourselves unpopular enough. The medium said there were about five spirits around us and kept going on about a dark negative energy in B wing. We asked if we could go there instead. In the end, she sent Cat there with one of the team. Nothing. Not a door slam, no footsteps, no voices, no evil energy. All we could hear was one of the other groups being incredibly noisy. Way to ruin our vigils!

At 2 a.m we headed back to the break room then at 2:25, set off alone. We went to B wing first. So did a lot of other people. We couldn’t do any vigils due to the noise. So we did a cool silhouette photo against a giant window and selfie on a bunk bed. Then we moved to the kitchens where Lynx and Neen debunked the dripping water. We headed back to C wing to see if the light would return but it didn’t. So we headed to A Wing, where Jenny is supposed to haunt A3 25. You can’t get up to A3 and none of the doors have numbers on. We did a vigil in the corridor and eventually, the other guests started to leave so the prison quietened down. Neen and Elaine retired to the break room at 3:35 so it was just us two left. By now, the other guests had left. We had the entire prison block to ourselves. Finally. But it didn’t feel creepy. Without everyone else there, it was quiet. It was incredibly windy and the building next door had plastic sheeting which made a lot of noise. We suspect the wind was responsible for a lot of noise activity heard through the night. And there were broken windows, which would explain banging noises that sounded like they were coming from upstairs. Or maybe it was Zozo the famous demon running amok and slamming doors because terrorising guests in Gloucester was the best use of his time that night. We may never know.Gloucester prison

 

Not Holding a Grudge

Woodchester Mansion

The cellar

Hiding in the cellar, rescuing a frog and possibly experiencing actual paranormal activity. Last night we returned to Woodchester Mansion for Team Impact’s last Horror Night of the year.

We were torn between going to this or their Halloween party. But the party usually has about 200 guests and we’d end up ghost hunting anyway and getting annoyed when drunk party guests contaminated our EVPs. You know those weirdos who stand in the corner at parties, avoiding eye contact and silently praying they don’t have to engage in awkward small talk? We are the weirdos, mister. Though we were kinda tempted to show up unannounced at the party and stand outside the windows in our plague doctor costumes. But we decided the horror night was the better option. We can mask our social awkwardness much better when ghost hunting. Us “We’ll skip the group stuff and go spend time alone in the dark cellar that everyone hates.” Yep. Totally masking it.Woodchester Mansion

Woodchester MansionWe were meeting up with Tony and Dave beforehand and surprisingly didn’t get lost trying to find Tony’s house! Though we did get stuck in traffic on the M4 and arrived late. But arriving late is kinda what we do. But Dave was also late. We’d envisioned him getting eaten by cows, but this wasn’t the case. Tony gave us all a lift to the mansion then Team Impact set up for Horror Night while we claimed our seats at the front and started setting up our equipment. Most people bring a handbag. We bring all our ghost hunting equipment, tripods and food so pretty much take up half the drawing room by ourselves. People had been told they could bring blankets as the mansion is unfinished and gets very cold. Us “Lightweights” as we shivered our way through the film and threatened to rob Tony of his padded coat.

Woodchester Mansion

Lynx coffin dodger

The night started with a history tour around the mansion. As we’ve been on two horror nights before, Paul let us go down to the cellars alone. We cause less trouble alone. Actually no, we cause more trouble alone, it’s just no one sees it 😀 We had half an hour of getting distracted by the Halloween props and trying to remember to ghost hunt. We also got into a coffin that was down there. We’ve been inside a morgue fridge, so a coffin was next on our list before our Goth badges are revoked. We were still in the cellar when the group ventured down, so we hid in one of the rooms and waited to be found. People came to the doorway and shone their torches in while we lurked in the shadows, trying not to giggle. No one found us. So when everyone was in one room, we joined them briefly then left.

Woodchester Mansion

Cat coffin up

The film for the night was The Grudge. We haven’t seen it in years so it was good to see it again. Then it was time for ghost hunting! We joined in with the group vigil (check us out being sociable) and we all went to the servant’s corridor. We spread out down it, with everyone lining the walls. Except Cat, who was halfway down another corridor by herself. Lynx was standing in an opening to another corridor at the end by Paul and everyone saw a flash of light go across her. Our cameras weren’t on (buggeration), neither were our IR lights and everyone’s torches were off. It was pitch black. There was no light source to cause this. Normally we cause a lot of light anomalies – we wear a lot of jewellery and light reflects off it – but that’s when there’s a light source to reflect. Cat heard female voices in the distance, having a conversation. She thought maybe she was hallucinating or there were people elsewhere in the mansion, but we were all together.

Woodchester Mansion

Lynx in the shadows

Then we moved to do a vigil in the chapel. Everyone was holding hands, except us and Paul, who were standing in the corridor. Again Cat heard the female voices. After the vigil, she mentioned them to Lynx. Lynx heard them too and also thought maybe there were other people around. We told Paul what we’d heard. He’d also heard them. This was our fourth time in the mansion and we’ve never heard them before. Though we then found out that Jack and Laura heard them when they went to the mansion and Neen heard them in the basement during the first horror night.

Woodchester Mansion

Shadow Cat

The group were then split into two, with Team A doing EVP sessions on the top corridor with Tony and Dave and Team B doing vigils in the cellar with Paul. We returned to the servant’s corridor to see if we could recreate the light anomaly and see if we could hear the voices again. We did hear voices, but this time we think they were the other groups. We returned to the chapel but couldn’t hear anything. We also hung out in the mortuary and kitchen, but it was all quiet. Except for this weird ticking noise that seemed to follow us. We thought it was a clock. There are no clocks. Cat checked her watch, but it wasn’t that. It seemed to be around Lynx. After about twenty minutes of moving around, trying to find the source of the noise and praying it wasn’t Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart, we finally found it – one of the batteries in Lynx’s IR battery pack was ticking. Like a bomb. So we ignored it and carried on.

Cat’s camera battery died, despite having an hour left and being fully charged before we’d come. The K2 meter’s battery followed suit. We met back up with Tony, who was fetching new batteries for his equipment that had died. He told us they’d been experiencing things, so we joined his and Dave’s group in the top corridor for an EVP session. Everyone heard a bang coming from the drawing room, where no one else was. Paul kept going to check as they were all hearing noises there too. Dave heard ticking and Lynx mentioned her battery. He checked and that wasn’t the noise he heard. We swapped the battery out. As it was in Lynx’s pocket, she didn’t fancy it detonating and ruining her hoody. People also heard a blast of static, but it wasn’t captured by the recording device.

Woodchester Mansion

Frog rescue

Then it was time for everyone to split up. We frogmarched Dave down to the cellar. He hates it down there as he had a really bad experience there but we made a deal – he comes to the cellar with us and we’ll let him send us photos of him dressed a demon clown for their Halloween party. You know how we feel about clowns. Next thing we know, it’s three clown photos in exchange for cellar time. He drives a hard bargain! But we were determined to get him in the cellar. And he didn’t feel bad down there! We like to think our presence frightened any bad spirits away. We are usually the scariest things in any haunted location. Everyone else was on a mouse hunt. Team Impact had hidden numbered mice all over the mansion and they were worth a prize. Cat to Lynx “You know as soon as we leave this room, we’ll get distracted and forget to look for the mice. ” We got distracted ghost hunting and forgot to search for the mice. Paul reminded us when we left the cellar, so we made a conscious effort to find them. We found a real frog in the mortuary, so took it outside. One of our tweeps told us that might have been Prince Charming. Damn. We set him loose in the woods. Our Prince Charming is probably now in a predator’s digestion tract. Mice! We were meant to be finding mice. We checked all the obscure places we’d hide them – like inside the bathroom taps, up the chimney and under decorations. Turns out, unlike the snake twins we played in Witches Abroad, we are hopeless at finding mice. We should’ve brought our snake, Charlie. At the end of the night, Paul and Chris gave us a mouse each, so we were happy.

Woodchester MansionWe then went with Chris and two other guests back to the lakes. It was actually warmer outside than it was in the mansion! Or maybe our thick coats we’d donned made a difference. The thick coats that we didn’t use to keep ourselves warm during the film. The lakes are so eerie. The water is still. Leaves just sit on top of it. There weren’t many sheep out and they ran when they saw us. It’s ok sheep, we only repel ghosts. And people. You’re safe with us. When we got back, it was 4 a.m and everyone was doing one final vigil in the kitchen. We decided to be sociable again and joined them. Again, another light anomaly flashed across Lynx. This one had a weird blue zig zag line in it. Her camera and IR light were off. Everyone’s torches were off. Cat’s camera was on, but the screen was closed, so it emitted no light and she wasn’t standing beside Lynx when it happened. And she wasn’t pointing in her direction. (Damn blast and even more buggeration.) Again, everyone saw it.

The night finished at 4:15 so while Paul and Chris escorted everyone out of the park, we headed down to the cellar with Tony and Dave to use a ouija board. Cat’s camera battery suddenly died, despite again having plenty of minutes left. So she went back upstairs for a new one. Then her tape ran out. So she went back upstairs with Tony, who also needed new batteries. Ouija never work when we’re on them and once again, the spirits refused to talk to us, despite our brilliant lines of questioning. Maybe they don’t appreciate humour.

Woodchester Mansion

We wanted to sleep here.

We left at 6 and got back to Tony’s around 7 so we could fetch General Pinkinton. We’re very impressed Tony managed to stay awake for the drive back, as we were struggling. He offered us the use of his settees for a few hours so we wouldn’t have to fight to stay awake for the rest of the way home, so we accepted. We can’t die yet – we’re going to Edinburgh next week to launch The Malignant Dead. We have plans, Fate! Plans! Tony’s gorgeous cat, Anoushka, made a massive fuss of us, purring and giving affection. Not like our judgmental cats who demand to know where we’ve been. So this blog post has been written on two and a half hours’ sleep. Which means that either we’re functioning pretty well on two and a half hours’ sleep, or that our regular blog posts seem like they’re written by the sleep deprived.

Woodchester Mansion

L-R Tony, Lynx, Dave, Cat

Mansion in the Woods

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

the library

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

We were lost.

Woodchester Mansion

library ceiling

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

the shop

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

the laundry

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

Woodchester Mansion

stable block

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

the lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

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

Mansion Family

Yesterday we went to Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire for the next episode of C.A.T.S Calamityville Horror. It was a fun day filled with getting lost, Ryan falling over numerous times, a possible spectral sighting, illness and casual nudity in a services car park.

That got your attention didn’t it? 😀 Ryan wanted to take his car and decided to wash some bird’s muck off her. Then, seeing the clean patch he’d created, he gave her a full wash, only for her to become covered in flies when we reached Woodchester. How we laughed. He also kept driving the wrong way, going right when we told him to go left etc and bought yoghurts with him for the trip, forgetting to bring a spoon to eat them with. Then his Sat Nav kept getting us lost.

Haunted sightings of Woodchester include a headless horseman, believed to be Sir Rupert de Lansigny who murdered his cousin and inherited Spring Park, where Woodchester Mansion currently stands; a floating coffin above a lake, believed to belong to a friar who committed suicide; a rider in Civil War clothing and possibly ghosts of other people who were murdered or died accidentally there. A servant girl was murdered there, as was a builder, around 1840. It was mysteriously abandoned during construction in 1868. There were 6 accidental deaths and 1 murder during its construction. A black dog has reputedly been seen inside, coinciding with the deaths of people closely associated with the building. The only dog we saw was an old mongrel called Woody who belonged to one of the workers and loved us giving him a cuddle. There was absolutely no phone signal around the mansion, the park surrounding it or even in the car park, which was a mile away, so if we’d been faced with murderous ghosts, we wouldn’t have been able to phone the Ghostbusters for assistance.

When we finally arrived at the mansion, we were setting up to film an introduction piece. Cat, who was side on to the mansion, saw someone pass by the second floor window, immediately assumed it was a tourist and joked to Ryan and Lynx about seeing someone, hoping to freak them out. It wasn’t until we got home and viewed the footage that we realised there is NO floor by that window. You enter the mansion and look straight up to the roof. It could’ve been a trick of the light, the way we often see things out the corner of our eyes. No-one else saw it and the camera wasn’t trained on that window. Being non believers, we’ll keep trying to find ways to explain what she saw. Maybe it was a case of too much Red Bull.

The mansion is stunning. It will look better when we take it over  and turn it into Casa Raven. But we’ll keep quiet about that for now, so they don’t suspect anything when we show up with a ramraiding party. The K2 meter didn’t respond at all through the mansion, though Lynx did become very ill in the chapel. She has a nasty cold and it was probably the dust, as most of the wood inside looks new, but she was struck by a coughing fit that got worse as we climbed up to a platform overlooking the chapel, leaving her unable to breathe. Once we left the chapel she recovered. We ducked into a little nook and waited for Ryan so we could jump out and frighten him. We waited. And waited. And waited. We accidentally frightened a teenage girl and when Ryan finally did show up, he wasn’t scared when we leapt out at him. We were gutted. His girly shrieks echoing through the mansion would’ve been immensely enjoyable.

The best bit of the entire trip was when Ryan handed his beloved iPhone and Steadicam to Lynx to film while he did a speech at the top of the cellar stairs. He pressed the record button, walked into the shot all professional, turned, and fell down the stairs. Our laughter probably frightened off tourists. He only fell down two steps but it was a classic Ryan moment that is forever immortalised on film. In the cellar itself, he freaked out when something touched his face. We attributed it to a cobweb and scanned him with the K2. There was nothing. So this was en episode that truly lived up to its name of Calamityville, though sadly, not the Horror part.

Watch the epsiode here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ciSYtKMzsVY