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

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’t 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’t worked since the ‘50s.

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

Courtroom Drama

Old Crown Court BristolAn abandoned court house, acting from a found script and a terrifying dummy called Jean. It could only be the season 5 opening of Calamityville Horror.

You’d think after 4 seasons, the things that have plagued us from the beginning: getting lost, messing around with mannequins and being everything that a ghost hunting show is not, might have improved by now. Well Calamityville fans, worry not, the only things that have improved are our video editing skills.

Old Crown Court BristolThe start of season 5 is a collaboration with fellow Welsh ghost hunters, Jack and Laura from Jack and Laura Ghost series. We went to the Skirrid Inn with them at the end of season 4 and we’re investigating Drakelow Tunnels with them next week. Last night’s adventure was in the old Bristol Crown Court on Bridewell Street. Remembering the fun we had in Monmouth Shire Hall with our mates, Tom and Amy, we didn’t hesitate to accept their invitation. Unfortunately, as we’d been learning to ride motorbikes all day with Neen, she couldn’t leave her wife and kids all night too. Yes, motorbiking was as bad as you’d expect, but that’s for a different blog post. Word of advice: don’t fall off on the day you’re going ghost hunting. It friggin’ hurts.

Old Crown Court BristolHaunted by the navigational disasters of Oxford (may we never speak of it again) and Nottingham, we Goggle Street Viewed the court house, as we know Bristol isn’t the easiest city to drive around. We found on-street parking and a NCP across the road. Confident this would not be an episode involving a meltdown, we set off for Pontypool to fetch Jack and Laura. And got lost. In our defence, Pontypool is quite stingy on the road name signs. And we drove the wrong way through it. After an unnecessary trek through the town centre, we pulled into a bus stop and succumbed to our satnav. We couldn’t get a signal. All we had was a blurry map and a blue blob. Not even roads. Just background. Thanks, technology. Your advances have made our lives so much easier.

Old Crown Court BristolWe found our way back to a roundabout that was mentioned and tried again. As we cruised along a road, Cat’s navigation consisted of: “the blue blob’s getting closer to the red blob.” “The blue blob’s eating the red blob.” “We’ve moved away from the red blob.” We turned around. “We’re nearing the red blob.” “See, now the red blob’s over there.” Satnav, you are a gift from the gods.

It turns out, we’d been on the correct road and should’ve stopped at the scene of the red blob massacre. Luckily we weren’t too late. After picking up Jack and Laura, we set off for Bristol, allowing ourselves an hour and a half for Calamityville cockups. We didn’t have to wait long. As we were merrily trundling along the A4042, Lynx noticed we were heading for Abergavenny. Which is north. We wanted to go east. Cat: “we’re on the right road.” Lynx: “yes, but this road goes both ways.” Cat: “Oh. We’re heading for the Skirrid Inn. Turn around, we’ve already been there.” A u-turn in a parking lay-by soon had us back on course.

We reached Bristol with half an hour to spare and didn’t drive the wrong way down a one-way road at all. Perhaps being responsible for other people made us more into proper adults. And Street View, you lied about that one road of on-street parking. It’s now a bus stop. Thanks for that. It’s no wonder we have trust issues.

Old Crown Court BristolWe found the court, but no way in, despite Cat rattling the chained up doors, so decided to try around the back. After a group of drunken youths complimented us on our hair colour, we met Karrin from South Bristol Paranormal. There were 12 of us in total, which was nice. We don’t like going with 30 or 40 other people. Unlike other locations we’ve visited, our knowledge of Bristol old Crown Court amounted to: it was a crown court; it’s now disused; music events have been held there; there are cells. That’s it. No build date, no architect, no closure date. Not even a Wikipedia page for it.

As soon as we entered the foyer, we wandered off and lost everyone. In our defence – old building, doorways, stuff. There were two foyers with about five doorways leading off each one. By the end of the night, despite having spent eight hours there, we still didn’t know our way around. We don’t hold out much hope for Drakelow Tunnels. We might have to take bread crumbs, or chalk to mark our route. Or maybe the next ghost hunters who go will find our bedraggled selves and lead us out to painfully bright sunshine and freedom. If you don’t see a blog post next Sunday, send help. And biscuits.Old Crown Court Bristol

The night started with a group tour. There are lots of rooms on the ground floor, but only one retains its court room past. Upstairs looks like an abandoned flat, with the cleaning products clearly as unused as the rest of the place. It was more urban exploring than ghost hunting, complete with debris on the stairs and treacherous holes in one floor. We were sadly banned from that area. There was a dummy made of sacks slumped on the stairs. Perhaps it was a reveller that hadn’t gone home and was now trapped in the afterlife of the party. We earmarked him for shenanigans later. But the best part were the cells.

Old Crown Court BristolWe expected a few small holding cells like in Monmouth. Oh no. These were proper prison cells with the gloss white bricks and barred fronts. It was a horror film paradise. And they occupied the entire ground floor. We knew where we wanted to spend the night.

Old Crown Court Bristol

He said he was Father Christmas but he only gives out nightmares.

Luckily we were allowed to go off with Jack and Laura (just as well, considering we’d forgotten everyone’s names the moment they said them), so the four of us began the night in the cells. Cat and Laura returned upstairs to fetch stuff and both got hopelessly lost. So lost, they didn’t even find each other. It was pitch black without the lights. In the family cell, we set up motion sensor lights, had our trusty shackles and keys as trigger objects and our laser pens. We got nothing, apart from an enthusiastic seagull’s participation to our questions. We asked any spirits to blow on our faces and Laura could feel coldness around her. After half an hour, we moved to a smaller cell. Again, nothing. We moved cells and found another sack dummy with a freaky mask. Jack named him Jean and we took turns posing with our new cell mate. Unfortunately, we were summoned for break. We stayed behind to have a quick EVP session with Jean, which mostly resulted in us harassing him for photos.

For our next vigils, we had the entire ground floor, so we started in courtroom one. We thought we should have a group photo where the judge sits. However, we didn’t know how to get to the door that led to that area, so had to vault over the witness box. Not easy when you have a ten second self-timer on your camera. Jack and Laura were put on trial, but the judge refused to pass sentences. While we were there, the Ghost Radar said ‘show’ ‘cold’ ‘blew’ and ‘Harry.’ Our table tipping attempt was as successful as the Titanic’s maiden voyage. But we found a load of guns from the Airsoft events that are held there. We considered wrapping glittery scarves from the courtroom around our faces and rushing into everyone’s vigils wielding the guns, but we’re not insured for heart attacks.Old Crown Court Bristol

As usual, the other groups all experienced activity. Jack reckoned we might be blockers, as none of us ever get activity, despite doing this for a few years now. Ghost hunters who repel ghosts. That would explain our show being as popular as a swarm of bees in a lift. Phew. We thought it was our personalities.

We wandered the other rooms, walking into objects and tripping over stuff. In our final room, Cat found a black book. With a script inside. She and Jack acted out the script which can only be described as ‘bizarre’. One scene involved a magic carpet and assassinating dictators by pushing mammals off the carpet onto them. Does the SAS know about this unique tactic? The BBC clearly hasn’t commissioned this script, but rest assured, part of it shall make its debut on Calamityville. What is it with us finding scripts in courts? Anything after this was going to be anticlimactic.Old Crown Court Bristol

After another break, we were teamed up with Alan, Bev, Daisy and Charlotte who had been having activity in the rooms upstairs. One of them had picked up on the name ‘Harry’. It was about 1 a.m. now and we were already tired, after having a crap night’s sleep and riding motorbikes for several hours. So when nothing happened, Lynx and Jack took the opportunity to nap. Lynx was still filming. Professional, see. We wandered downstairs for photos and a chocolate biscuit. When we regrouped, they told us about the K2 activity they’d been getting upstairs. Lynx “so after we left then?” Yep. Repellents.

Old Crown Court BristolWe returned to the cells for a group vigil. Daisy, Charlotte and Bev were in one area, Alan and Andy were in another, us, Jack, Laura, Karrin and another Alan went to a different area of the cells. The amount of Alans in the small group confused us. We started suspecting every male who appeared there was Alan. Jean joined us, so when Jack was shut in a cell by himself, Cat hung Jean from the bars to keep an eye on him and make sure he didn’t get too scared. Though Jean’s creepy face wedged between the bars probably wasn’t that comforting. We formed an outwards-facing circle and Alan wandered with our keys, trying to stir up the spirits. He was too polite, so Karrin took over. There was some bleeping from the Mel Meter, but we were too far to see which component was bleeping. Cat switched with Jack and took Jean in the cell with her, after he momentarily got his head stuck in the bars. He listened to live EVPs with her while Jack was put in the centre of our circle as bait. It was probably the best night of Jean’s life.Old Crown Court Bristol

We regrouped and two glowing balls were put on the floor. The idea is that if you stare at them long enough, they move. To be honest, this seemed like dodgy science to us. If you stare at anything for long enough, it looks like it’s moving. It’s an optical illusion. They were the only light source in a pitch black area, so that plays tricks on your eyes. Cat asked if anyone had anything to draw around the balls so we could see if they actually moved, but nobody did.

It was now 3:15 a.m. and we were knackered. Everyone headed upstairs for a group vigil with our least favourite piece of equipment – the spirit box. We must be the only ghost hunters who don’t like this piece of equipment and refuse to buy one just because all the ‘cool kids’ have one. One, the static irritates us. Two, the more we see it being used, the more we’re convinced it’s a glorified radio with a hefty price tag. It sweeps FM and AM frequencies and the idea is that spirits communicate through the white noise. We have a £10 portable radio from Argos that we could spin the dial on and it would probably be just as effective. If it’s just about the white noise, why does it have an aerial? The aerial apparently helps pick up voices. Radio stations more like. Also, it’s meant to sweep so fast that you wouldn’t be able to hear a voice. Then why can we hear music? Do the ghosts communicate through the Top 40? Is a DJ their spirit guide?

Old Crown Court BristolThis time, Cat joined Jack and Lynx in their nap. Whilst filming. Multitasking FTW. You see how our levels of professionalism have improved? As she would be driving home, she figured it was safer to nap in the courthouse than in the car. We left the court at 4 a.m. and weaved our way through the drunken clubbers to our car, using Jack’s technique of pretending we were drunk so they’d accept us as their own. Like with zombies. Well, we put failing to go into the paying area of the car park down to our inebriated state. Y’know, in case they were listening.Old Crown Court Bristol

So in terms of ghosts, nothing. In terms of fun, we had plenty. Finding the script was an unexpected highlight and provided much amusement. We didn’t think the place would be as big as it was and the cells were fantastic.

Roll on Drakelow Tunnels.Old Crown Court Bristol

Room at the Inn

The Skirrid InnLurking in the graveyards, going in places we shouldn’t be and frightening other ghost hunters. Yes, it’s another episode of Calamityville Horror. Last night we got to do two things we’ve wanted to do for ages – meet Laura Dixon and Jack Strange from Jack and Laura Ghost Series and spend the entire night in the Skirrid Inn. The last time we were at the Skirrid was October 2012, before Neen joined the team and we spent our time behaving inappropriately towards Fanny Price’s name and dancing. We couldn’t wait to go back.

The Skirrid InnJack and Laura had organised the ghost hunting evening and sleepover and invited us. We arrived early (we know, this never happens) and spent our time wisely: eating and getting a bit wobbly on the vodka. After just the one we had trouble standing. Two more later and navigating the uneven, warped stairs of this beautiful 17th century building while laden down with our equipment proved to be an unwise decision.

The Skirrid InnWhile the patrons continued drinking in the bar, we met up with Jack and Laura and also Karin, Lorraine and Colin for our night of ghost hunting. We dumped our stuff in bedroom one then gathered our equipment and headed out to the graveyard, where us two debated about the location of Fanny’s grave. Trying to find fanny in a graveyard isn’t what they recommend on dating sites. Lynx was right. We soon found it and did an EVP session there. The Mel meter had quite a high reading and when Cat asked Fanny if she remembered us, it bleeped. Either that was in acknowledgement, or the Mel meter was censoring Fanny’s enraged outburst. We used our laser grid pen for the first time, spattering purple dots over the graves but Fanny refused to play shadow puppets. She used to be the landlady of the Skirrid and is rumoured to still haunt it after dying of consumption. Cat was concerned that her camera couldn’t see anything, then after 30 minutes, realised it wasn’t on nightshot mode. *Facepalm*

The Skirrid Inn

Room one

We moved on to the church, where Lorraine picked up on a little girl called Alice. She made herself known to Jack and Laura the last time they visited. Again, the Mel meter spiked and bleeped. Jack discovered the church was open, so in true Calamityville style, we went in. Calamityville’s rule is, if they don’t want us entering, they should lock their doors. Jack and Laura joined us and we did some calling out, praying the person who appeared was not the vicar or the police. Cat was up in the pulpit, so running down the steps in the pitch black to avoid capture would not have been safe. But it would have made great viewing.

The Skirrid Inn

room two

We returned to the Inn and set up in bedroom 2. Cat’s Sony night vision camera lost 20 minutes off its battery. This has never happened. Colin’s REMpod started bleeping by the bathroom door even though no-one was near it. Neen moved into the doorway and when she later left, somehow managed to stab herself in the eye on the REMpod’s aerial. This takes a special kind of skill. This was after she hurt her knee getting on the bed. The Skirrid InnWe returned to room one for a break then took turns going into the downstairs adjoining bathroom in pairs. Laura saw strange flashing white lights at the top of the stairs and when we were in there, there was a thud on the ceiling, but as it’s the roof, this was probably a bird outside. The Mel meter emitted a high pitched noise and didn’t stop, despite numerous requests for the spirit to move away. When Lynx shouted “Oi! Move away!” the meter immediately fell silent. Coming from a family of teachers is useful when dealing with unruly spirts.

The Skirrid InnWe headed downstairs and Cat said to Lynx, “don’t fall, my camera isn’t on.” Lynx fell down the next step, but managed to save herself before crashing headfirst into the zombie butler. As Cat laughed, her camera tipped off the tripod, bruising her finger. Karma. We moved to the bar and attempted to contact the spirits using the Saints Row ‘Gat out of Hell’ Wee-Ja board that Tom got us (thanks Tom, you’re ace) but the spirits didn’t want to come and play. We can’t help thinking that spirits screen their ouija board calls and when they know we’re on the line, they won’t answer. The Skirrid InnColin removed the tankard from above the fireplace, as this apparently angers one male spirit. Cat pretended to drink out of the tankard to see if she could get a reaction but regretted it after inhaling the mouldy liquid inside it. Then Neen called “Alice” in a really creepy way. Colin flew off his stool, nearly hitting the floor while the rest of us laughed so hard our stomachs hurt. Lorraine and Karin had an ovilus and though we mostly can’t understand what oviluses are saying we all heard two words: “Fuck off.” This is the first time a device has sworn at us. That was a proud moment.

The Skirrid Inn

room three

We returned upstairs for another break then did a seance in room 3, which is Fanny Price’s room. Neen lay on the bed while we all formed a circle around her, looking more like an exorcism group then ghost hunters. Sadly Neen did not start levitating and swearing in Latin. Karin, Lorraine and Colin went downstairs while the rest of us stayed in room 3, but got no activity. We moved to room one’s bathroom, where a lady once ran out claiming a woman tried to drown her in the bath. Lynx was volunteered to sit in the bath.The Skirrid Inn

Karin, Lorraine and Colin left about 4 ish so we moved down to the dining room with the Wee-Ja board. We kept hearing distant voices. We’d heard them when we were upstairs, like people talking, but we were the only 5 people in the Inn.

The Skirrid Inn

room one bathroom

We eventually retired to bed at 4:45, with Jack and Laura taking room 3 and us lot taking room one. We set up the night vision camera to watch us sleep in a really creepy manner.

The Skirrid Inn

breakfast in the dining room

In the morning, the landlord, Geoff served everyone breakfast then agreed to be interviewed. He told us one woman fled her room, and another couple left a note with the money, saying they couldn’t stay but would return one day with friends. He’s owned the inn for ten years and many years ago, used to own a pub which is just down the road from us! In fact, we held the wake for our grampy there. Small world. He’s invited us back and even said we were professional. Calamityville Horror, professional? Next we’ll be behaving like grown ups and getting permission before entering buildings.

We had a fantastic night. It was great to finally meet Jack and Laura and hopefully we’ll team up again. Though we feel they didn’t get the full Calamityville experience. We were a bit quiet and didn’t misbehave. Next time though…The Skirrid Inn

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