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

Dirty Forts

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

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

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

Fort Amherst

Lightning passage

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

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

Fort Amherst

plotting room

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

Fort Amherst

plotting room

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

Fort Amherst

grand magazine

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

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

Fort Amherst

Prince William Barracks

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

Fort Amherst

area where the handsome man is seen

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

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

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

He stood us up.

Fort Amherst

under the floor of the grand magazine

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

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

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

Fort Amherst

plotting room

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

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

Smelting Pot

Moira Furnace

front of the engine house

Shenanigans, inappropriateness and people getting injured. It could only be Calamityville Horror. We were invited to spend the entire night at Moira Furnace by our FB friend, Helena and her team, Boleyn Paranormal. Neen was meant to still be working on Galavant, so we decided to go alone. Turned out Galavant finished early. Balls. Anyhoo, we set off Saturday afternoon, later than we intended leaving, which is becoming our trademark. And yet we arrived on time. Yes. On. Time. At half past four exactly. The time we said we’d be there. Then we spent half an hour trying to find a way in. There were only a few places where we could get phone signal – parts of the woods, the loading bay and by the toilet in the engine house. We failed to break in then eventually managed to find phone signal and rang Helena.

Moira Furnace

lime kilns

Moira Furnace was built in 1789 by Francis Rawdon Hastings, who later became the 2nd Earl of Moira, after he inherited land in Ashby Woulds. He recognised the potential of the area’s coal and iron ore deposits and began developing it. In 1792, a company was formed to build a 30 mile canal to link the Woulds with the main canal network. The first coal mine was sunk in 1804, a lime kiln was built and construction started on the iron-making blast furnace. It was brought to blast in 1806 and closed in 1811, due to some features not being successful as it was a period of blast furnace development.

Moira Furnace

engine house

A foundry making iron castings continued functioning for another 30 years. Moira Furnace was converted into housing for the mining community. In the 1850s there were three families living there. Also in the 1850s, the foundry and lime kilns closed, ending industrial activity, except for coal and clay extraction. The canal was abandoned in the 1940s due to railway competition and mining subsidence and filled in. The last residents moved out of the Furnace buildings in the 1970s and coal mining finally stopped in the 1980s.

Moira Furnace

lime kilns

The foundry was demolished in the 19th century, but the bridgehouse and engine house were converted to dwellings. By the time the families moved out in the ‘70s, the dwellings had become derelict and the engine house was demolished. The bridgehouse and furnace were scheduled as ancient moments after pressure from Philip Riden and the Leicestershire Industrial Historical Society.

Moira FurnaceMoira Furnace is one of the few remaining blast furnaces from this period because it was a commercial failure. If it had been successful, it more than likely would have led to the site being developed and the furnace replaced. Documents mention bad management, construction, raw materials and design, but many of the documents were written by people who were trying to deflect blame from themselves. When the furnace was abandoned, its final charge was still inside, partially smelted. A high sulphur count was detected in the raw materials, which may have contributed to the failing, as well as a design fault or operating problem in the chimney, which led it to overheat.

Moira Furnace

engine house

Staff, visitors and paranormal investigators report feeling unwell in certain parts of the building, shadows are seen, people are touched and screams are heard from the bridgeloft. In a book, Shadows on the Water: The Haunted Canals and waterways of Britain by Allan Scott-Davies, he said during the building of Moira Furnace, a number of ghosts were seen. One was a small boy seen crouching in the corner on the upper floor by the mouth of the furnace.

Moira Furnace

furnace where workers fell to their deaths

There were a number of accidents during the short run of producing iron. The dangerous job of feeding the furnace fell to women and children. As they tipped the wheelbarrows of iron, ore, coke or limestone into the furnace, it wasn’t uncommon for the weight to pull them to their deaths. They would die from asphyxiation before becoming part of the next batch of cast iron.

Moira Furnace

attic

There was a fatal explosion in Moira coalmines in the Bath Pit on 9th August 1845. Seven men and boys died of burns from the explosion. Francis Hastings has apparently been spotted in the woodlands surrounding the furnace and apparently someone died from falling off the top of the furnace. Children also are rumoured to move stuff around on the top floor.

Moira Furnace

Mary’s Parlour

We did a quick walk round, dumped our stuff in the kitchen and promptly loaded the fridge with Red Bull and soya milk. In the loading bay, we found children’s dressing up clothes. Cat walked into a cart. When the lights were on. We returned to the engine house and split into two groups of three. Helena, her mum, Liz and stepdad, Nick stayed in the engine house while us and Helena’s husband Alex ventured into the woods. And so began the calamities. There is a reason that word is in our show name! We found a small clearing. Hanging from a tree was a piece of bark with a hole in it for the string. There was also a stick tied in front of it. We have no idea what this means. If anyone can identify it from the photo, please let us know. We’re intrigued. We decided this would be the perfect place for a vigil.

Moira Furnace

unknown object in the woods.

Alex felt a warm spot near him.  Cat moved closer and could also feel it. It was about three feet off the ground. Lynx also felt it. We tried pointing the temperature gun at it but the readings went weird. Then we realised by trying to find the warm spot, we may inadvertently be groping a ghost. We hope you enjoyed it, possible spirit person. We moved on. Alex got stuck climbing over a log in his two pairs of trousers then Lynx walked straight into a bog. She thought it was the path, until she started sinking. She made a hasty retreat. Cat then got caught by a tree. It had her hair and camera bracket and refused to release her. We ended up walking in a big circle and returned to the clearing.

Moira Furnace

us and Alex in the woods

After a creepy sounding owl kept contributing to our calling out by imitating someone screaming horrifically, we started hearing voices. Alex called out to them, wondering if they were fleshy people and not spirit people. We hoped they weren’t. We’re here to hunt for ghosts, not perverts. We decided to find where the voices were coming from. Except Alex slipped in the mud, fell to his knees and smacked his face on his camera, cutting his lip. Cat, who was answering a text at the time, quickly checked her camera. Yes, it was pointing at him. We will now be able to watch it in slow motion replay. We look after people on ghost hunts. This is also probably why locations keep asking if we have insurance and a first aider. Nope and like bollocks.

Moira Furnace

in the loading bay

Meanwhile in the furnace, Liz had asked the spirits to imitate her whistle. The three of them heard a whistle in return and it was captured on EVP. It’s really clear. They played it to us over our walkie talkies while we were in the woods. We regrouped for a warmth then we headed out to the loading bay with Helena for a ouija board session. Although the three of us spent most of our time falling over the steps. It’s a wonder none of us fell into the furnace. We got nothing on the ouija board but on the sp7 spirit box, there was this weird noise. Cat thought it was a sheep, Helena thought it was a horse, Lynx thought it sounded like the Gremlins laughing.

Moira Furnace

lime kilns

We started asking if there was the ghost of a horse present, but it wouldn’t stamp it’s hooves or neigh in response to our questions. Yes, we tried to do an EVP session with a horse. There were some strange bangs, but we couldn’t identify where they were coming from. Moments after we asked the ghosts to push us or push something of ours, Alex radioed to say one of their cameras had fallen off the box it was on. He tried debunking it by shoving the box, but it didn’t tip the camera.

Moira Furnace

romantic candlelit ouija board

We moved the ouija board to the other end of the room and had swapped the planchette for a candle, which was easier to move. Cat moved outside to the furance chimney for a lone vigil while Lynx and Helena amused themselves by discovering that the thumb of a gardening glove looks a lot like a penis in night vision. They shared their finding with Cat and the vigil was soon abandoned for channeling our inner teenage boys. Lynx poked the tip, which looked decidedly dodgy in night vision then Cat made it dance. Only on Calamityville could an innocent gardening glove lead to inappropriate shenanigans. Alex, Liz and Nick joined us for a group photo at the chimney before we all headed back inside to thaw.

Moira Furnace

us doing the ouija board session with Helena

Our next vigil was up in the attic with the sp7. There were some voices coming through, one male voice seemed to be the same person, but we can never understand electronic devices. The SB7 was sweeping in reverse, which hopefully means it wasn’t picking up radio stations. Helena sensed someone on the stairs so went to investigate and felt dizzy. Cat joined her then Alex moved further down the stairs. He felt himself being pulled. Then he tripped climbing the stairs, which was nothing paranormal 😀 When we returned to the room, Alex found witches hats, so we conducted part of the vigil whilst wearing them and no doubt looking absolutely stylish. The K2 spiked a couple of times but the voices on the SB7 died down. After about an hour, we returned to base camp.

Moira Furnace

Roxy being a trigger object in the attic

We split up again, with Helena, Liz and Nick staying in the engine house while us and Alex investigated the lime kilns and canal. We could hear distant voices that sounded like they were in the woods. Maybe the perverts had returned, believing they were safe from our cameras. No-one is ever safe. We invited any ghosts in the canal to bob to the surface like creepy corpses but none would oblige. On the furnace are hand prints from people from where the furnace overheated. We called Helena and Liz out for a group photo on the stage bit by the tower.

Moira FurnaceWe retired to bed around 4:40a.m. We slept on the attic floor under the watchful gaze of the Sony (until battery/tape ran out). Got up around 8 and packed up. We lingered to do daytime shots then left at 9:30. And we still didn’t get lost, despite not printing out reverse directions! Our map reading skills are improving. And then we started to run out of petrol. There are no petrol stations along the M50. There’s one before the A40 but we thought we’d be ok. We were wrong. As Pinky dropped to 5 litres then 4 litres then 3 litres, we began to panic. Especially as there’s no petrol stations along the A40/A449. We dropped our speed and drove behind a caravan to reduce the drag. Had one satisfying moment when we overtook a police car though. Made it back to Cardiff with 2.5 litres of petrol. Even when we don’t get lost we can’t drive without some sort of adventure! But we had a fantastic time with Boleyn Paranormal and we’ll be teaming up again on other adventures. In fact, we have our sights set on Italy…Moira Furnace

Serving Time

For most people, spending the night in jail is their idea of a nightmare. For us, it was a dream come true.Bodmin Jail

Back in February, we decided to finally make a start on a book we’ve been thinking about for a couple of years – a non-fiction ghost book. We always work on numerous projects at one time and our therapist, Jennifer, suggested trying something different. We told her our idea of the book. But we didn’t want it to be like the other ghost books, so she suggested we write one based on our Calamityville adventures. Bodmin JailWe actually spend some sessions discussing paranormal occurrences and debunking methods. Yes, this still counts as therapy. We already had most of the research from our visits and from the articles we write for Haunted Digital Magazine, so we were halfway there. We began by contacting all the places we’d visited for the four seasons of Calamityville, to get staff experiences and see if they’d let us do an overnight investigation for our book. Most didn’t reply. Some gave us the standard price of £600. But Mark Rabin, the resident medium of Bodmin Jail invited us to spend the night.

That was last night.

He’d said in his email back in February that he’d phone us to make sure we were decent people. When he rang, he said “no interviewing sheep or mannequins. And you might want to dress warmer. It gets really cold overnight.” Lynx “You’ve seen the show, haven’t you?” He watched our Bodmin Jail/Bodmin Moor episodes from S2 to see what we were like. And he still let us have the jail. He’s a brave man.

The Museum of WitchcraftLaura Dixon from Jack and Laura’s Ghost Series joined us, along with Neen’s mum, Elaine. You may remember her from our Redcliffe Caves episode. Neen was working so she and Elaine weren’t leaving Cardiff until 6 p.m. We wanted to spend some time in Cornwall so we picked Laura up at 1 p.m. Our route down was peppered with “so glad we’re not on that side of the road.” “Pass the Red Bull.” and “Is that guy peeing in the bushes?” We arrived at 4ish and headed for our first stop – The Museum of Witchcraft in Boscastle. We went there three years ago on our ghost hunting holiday but as the book we’re working on now (The Devil’s Servants) is about the witch trials, we wanted to go again. The last time we went, Cat was robbed of 5p by the pay and display machine and had an argument with it, and Lynx ended up drowning in sun cream. This time, we left the car park with our dignity still intact. We wandered over to the public toilets, only to find we had to pay 20p to use them. Ok, it was to contribute to the upkeep of the toilets, but we still felt aggrieved at having to pay for a basic human right. We decided to hang on until we reached Jamaica Inn. If we’d used our common sense, we would’ve gone in the pub opposite, but common sense divorced us years ago and we’re beyond reconciliation.

The Museum of WitchcraftAs we reached the doors, a family debated about going in. The kids took one look at us and seemed to think we were scarier than the museum and almost backed out, until their parents persuaded them to stay. That and we were behind them, kettling them in, It’s a fascinating place and well worth a visit. There are displays from the early years of witchcraft, such as the Pendle witch trials, all the way up to modern Wicca and even how witches have been portrayed in literature and art. And there are human skulls in cases. Win win. We’d forgotten to bring our Weeja board to the jail, so were tempted to take one off the museum’s walls, but the displays are alarmed and we didn’t fancy our chances of getting away.

Jamaica InnThe next place on our list is perfect for hungry, travelling ghost hunters: Jamaica Inn. We’ve only just starting putting our trust into SatNav and after only a few attempts at this new relationship, SatNav betrayed us. We knew it would happen this way – no signal means no SatNav. That’s why we’ve never trusted them. We had to find our way to Jamaica Inn using our memories and a map. Considering our memories are so bad that when people ask us what we’ve done in the week, we’re unable to answer them, we only made a couple of wrong turns and they weren’t as disastrous as they usually are. We arrived at Jamaica Inn with over two hours to spare until Neen and Elaine were due to arrive. We spent it wisely – having a drink and food. Our chips arrived covered in green stuff. Laura thought they were herbs. Lynx suspected it was grass cuttings, but we were brave and tried them anyway. Luckily whatever the green stuff was, had no smell, taste and was invisible, so it was allowed to stay. It would’ve been a pain to scrape it off. This counts as trying new food, because we never have anything on our chips – no salt, vinegar or ketchup. They are as naked as nature intended.

Jamaica Inn

stocking fillers

With an hour to kill, we visited the Daphne Du Maurier Museum. We wanted to visit the gift shop, but it was closed. It was creepy being the only ones in there, especially as the ceiling was creaking with people walking in the rooms above. We heard a door opening to the toilets then the sound of a toilet lid being lifted. Was this a visitor? Or a toilet ghost? If any show was going to discover a toilet ghost, it would be Calamityville Horror. We then made our way to Joss’s bar to have photo fun with the mannequins and chat to some of the locals about Daphne Du Maurier’s Jamaica Inn. By the time we finished, Neen and Elaine had arrived.

Bodmin JailAs darkness drew in, we left Jamaica Inn and skirted around the moors to Bodmin Jail. To discover the bar was still open and someone was having a disco in the old chapel. We’d been told we’d have the jail from 10 p.m. til 6 a.m. but this disco showed no signs of dying. In hindsight, we should’ve gatecrashed and busted classic Calamityville moves. That would’ve cleared the dance floor. We headed inside and the guy behind the bar guessed we were there for a paranormal investigation. Was it the cameras that gave it away or the crazed-eyes, drool wiping excitement emanating from our every pore? He led us down to meet the medium, Sonia Richards. Mark was away in Essex so couldn’t meet us. Sonia took us in to the crew room, where the old jail kitchens used to be then we headed back outside to get our gear. She said it was ok for us to sleep there so luckily we’d brought our sleeping bags and camping mats just in case. Plus, we didn’t have a backup location, so it was either the jail, our cars or the Moors. We kinda hoped for the Moors. We could get a bit of Beast spotting in. It would be undeniable footage if it were to drag us off in our sleeping bags.

Bodmin JailSonia was lovely and took us on a tour of the jail. It’s changed since we were there three years ago. There are different mannequins, the set ups in the cells are different and some areas have opened up whereas others have closed. The mannequins were like a Tantalus, smirking smugly inside their cells, knowing we couldn’t get to them. Like someone in Witness Protection hiding from the Mob. We were gutted. Molesting mannequins is what we’re best known for! That and getting lost. And being the Worst. Ghost hunters. Ever. Each cell we passed seemed to mock us further, their creepy faces leering at us as they committed their crimes unashamedly before our eyes. We’ll find you in your dreams, mannequins.

execution shed

execution shed

In 1778, an Act allowed the local Justices to build three penal institutions on a new site in Bodmin. Another County Jail, a Debtors’ Jail and a House of Correction. Sir John Call Bart, JP, MP designed them, based on ideals of prison reformer John Howard. Bodmin Gaol was a pioneer in design: light and airy with isolated areas for debtors, felons and those who committed misdemeanors. Men and women were kept separate. The gaol had hot water, under floor heating, a chapel, infirmary and individual sleeping cells. Prisoners were paid for work from profits of the products the governor sold.

Bodmin Jail

Naval Wing

Prison population was low until 1815, the end of the Napoleonic Wars, then cells became occupied by multiple prisoners. After 1820, numbers dropped again until the gaol’s closure. Old buildings were extended and new buildings added until 1850, when they were deemed unfit. Several Acts of Parliament demanded segregation based on prisoners’ offences and gender, resulting in over 20 classes of prisoners who had to be kept separate. In 1850s, a new 220 cell gaol was built, which was too large for the number of prisoners in Cornwall. In 1887, parts of it were transferred to the Royal Navy, becoming HM Royal Navy Prison Bodmin. In 1911, the female prison closed. The male civil gaol wasn’t used after 1916 as prisoners and staff went to war. The Naval prison closed in 1922 and was sold seven years later.

Bodmin Jail

the basement

60 executions took place between 1735 and 1909. Eight were women. Thirty five were murderers. Earlier executions took place on Bodmin Common. Between 1802-1828, a drop gallows was used in the field outside the front of the gaol. Between 1834-1856, a new drop gallows over the main gate was used. When the new gaol was built, the drop was over the main gate, but this was deemed illegal by the Inspector of Prisons, as it wasn’t public enough. The drop was then placed over the south wall, where the crowds could watch the executions from Asylum Hill, otherwise known as Bodmin Highlands. In 1868, a new law was passed demanding executions take place in private. Hangings in 1878 & 1882 took place on the same site, but a canvas shield blocked people’s view. In 1897, an execution shed was constructed in one of the prison yards, which was used for the last two hangings in Cornwall in 1901 and 1909, which were the only actual private ones inside the jail. It’s the only workable example of a Victorian execution shed and gallows in Britain. Sonia told us they have an executioner, Gary, give demonstrations on how the drop gallows work and he even hangs the dummy. We were gutted he wasn’t there last night.

The prison that exists today was built by the prisoners, using granite from Bodmin’s Cuckoo Quarry. But as well as holding prisoners, the jail has also guarded the Crown Jewels. During the First World War, it protected the Doomsday Book and state papers. It closed its doors for good in 1927.Bodmin Jail

Ghost hunters report the most active part as the boiler room in the basement. Really? An old boiler room? Is Freddy Krueger down there? We told Sonia last time we were there, there was a repulsive stench in the basement. It made us feel sick and we nearly had to leave. She said a lot of ghost hunters have reported that same smell. They describe a tramp being down there. We just thought maybe there were sewers nearby. We had no idea the smell was associated with anything potentially paranormal. Typical Calamityville, missing stuff.

Bodmin JailWe reached the chapel where the disco was and Uptown Funk was playing. This is one of our favourite Zumba dances. Neen and Cat broke into simultaneous Uptown Funk dancing outside the cells. Sadly it was the only dancing we did all night. We told Sonia about our crappy super power of being spirit blockers. She was surprised that being Goths, we’re sceptical of the paranormal. We’ve always loved ghosts but we’ve never believed in them. She thought our scepticism might be blocking the spirits, acting as a negative barrier. We know believers are more likely to experience paranormal phenomena, but we attribute this to believers automatically suspecting it’s paranormal whereas sceptics will find a way to debunk it. She suggested we try meditating. Neen still insists we’re dead on the inside and all the Red Bull we drink has caused this, but we don’t listen to her blasphemy.

The disco finally ended at midnight but it was half midnight by the time all the staff left and we had the place to ourselves. By then, we were all tired after our journeys. We began with a walk round with the cameras and K2 while Lynx read some of the jail’s history. Then we decided to try meditating to see if it would work. We used the techniques our multi conversion therapist taught us. We’ve been neglecting her therapy recently but were still able to use our code words to help us relax.

Bodmin Jail

Naval Wing

Then we headed outside to the naval wing. This wing is abandoned and crumbling, with bats hiding among the ivy roof. There are no floors. It’s beautifully creepy. We had our new IR floodlight with us and it made a massive difference to our full spectrum camera, which struggles to see far in the dark. Well worth the £30 we spent on it. And the £5 battery pack. We do ghost hunting on a budget.  We moved into a cell and stood in a circle to do calling out, with Lynx pointing the full spectrum camera out into the main wing. We kept hearing murmured voices but the jail overlooks the town and this wing has open windows so it was probably voices from the town. We also kept hearing stones dropping and rustling so we moved out while Neen, Laura and Elaine stayed in the cell. We couldn’t see anything, but due to the wing being exposed to the elements, we’re putting this down as natural phenomena. There are bats living there. We then separated and took a cell each until Neen legged it out of her cell. She thought she saw a shadowy figure standing in the cell with her and sensed it wanted her to leave. So she did, quickly. Cat, Elaine and Laura entered her cell but they didn’t sense anything. The Naval Wing is haunted by a gay prison officer who apparently used to abuse the prisoners. It’s said he pushes women out of the way and tries to drag men into a cell. We gutted that our two ghost hunting guys (Jack and Tom) couldn’t make it. We’d planned for them to be bait. We hadn’t told them this, as we’d wanted it to be a surprise. Men who appear on our show get special treatment.

Bodmin Jail

Naval Wing

Neen and Elaine headed back inside as they were cold but us and Laura stayed out to try and summon the demon that apparently lurks there. He was created by a coven of witches to stop locals trespassing the gaol. He’s harmless but feeds on your fear to grow stronger. Like Popeye with spinach, only more Hell-bound. He sadly didn’t make an appearance. We’ve never had a demon on the show and were looking forwards to adding him under our ‘special guest’ heading in our end credits. Plus, you never know when a demon might come in handy – hexing your enemies, getting you a throne in a palace downstairs, filing your tax returns…

Cat saw like a torch light on the old steps at the far end, but this could have been a reflection. We returned inside and tracked Neen and Elaine to the third floor, where a bat had fled one of the cells, straight over Neen’s head before disappearing. We ventured up to the top floor where creepy child mannequins loiter in the cells. Elaine threw a stone for a child to throw back but they refused to join in. We asked for any child spirits to trigger our motion sensor lights but again, nothing happened. Laura felt something tickling her hand.

Bodmin JailWe then moved down to the basement and did calling out. There were two mannequins being hanged for crimes against impersonating a human being. We set our motion sensor lights down but again, the spirits refused to co-operate. We demanded rope burn imprints round our necks but they obviously decided we had enough necklaces without them adding to our collection. Neen thought she saw a grey figure in the doorway, but wasn’t sure if it was her imagination. We invited it in to stand by her, stroke her face and caress her hair. She moved. Elaine and Laura’s stomachs participated enthusiastically so we retreated to basecamp for sustenance.

Bodmin Jail

Selina Wadge

Next we went to level three to try and contact Selina Wadge. Selina was twenty eight, unmarried, with two children, Henry (often called Harry) who was two, and John, who was six. She was often forced to enter Launceston Workhouse when she couldn’t find work. Henry was partially crippled, so he couldn’t walk, but her children were cared for. In 1878, she and her children left the workhouse to visit her mother in Altarnum. She claimed to be having a relationship with James Westwood, a solider. He wrote to Selina, asking to meet her in Launceston on Saturday, June 22nd, but later wrote to say he was working. On Friday the 21st, Selina and her children hitched a ride to Launceston with William Holman, a local farmer. She told him she was going to meet her boyfriend. On Saturday, she was seen near Mowbray Park. By midday, she was back at the workhouse, but only had John with her. In front of the workhouse master, Mr Downing, she told her sister, (who was also an inmate) that Henry had died in Altarnum. That night, John told the nurses Selina had put Henry into a pit.

Selina claimed James Westwood had drowned Henry in a well on Friday and threatened to kill her and John. Mr Downing called the police. Superintendent Barrett from Launceston arrived to question Selina. She gave him the same story. Henry’s body was found in three feet of water at the bottom of a well in Mowbray Park. The top of the well was covered, ruling out Henry falling in by accident. There were no signs of violence on his body. Selina was left in Mrs Downing’s care and confessed that she had acted alone, with only John present. When Selina was arrested and taken to Launceston police station, she told a constable that Westwood had promised to marry her if she killed Henry. Her trial began on 27th July 1878, presided over by Mr Justice Denman. The jury took 45 minutes to find her guilty, but asked for mercy because of the way she had previously treated the children, and because there was no evidence of premeditation. She was sentenced to death.Bodmin Jail

She was executed 8 a.m. on Thursday, 15th August 1878. Hers was the first private execution to be held at Bodmin and the first to use the measured drop. There is a mannequin scene in the condemned cell showing her crime and she was executed via the old site only a few feet away. Pregnant woman report experiencing her remorse and often feel emotional on the third and fourth floors. Children have been known to ask who the crying woman is. She is seen as a full torso manifestation. Our cuddly executioner, Ketch, served as a trigger object. Selena didn’t show so we crowded around the execution site and pretended to be hanging for photos before returning to the basement and the boiler room.

Bodmin Jail

Anne Jeffries

Another prisoner said to haunt the jail is Anne Jeffries, who was accused of being a witch. When she denied it, she was apparently left to starve to death. It took her three months to die.

In the old boiler room, Lynx fell down the step, much to everyone’s delight. Yes, Cat was filming her at the time. Again we set out the motion sensor lights, along with our old keys as trigger objects. Lynx moved to the far end of the corridor to encourage the spirits to come to her. After a while, Cat claimed another doorway. Unfortunately, the basement was as active as a sleep clinic, so we retreated upstairs and asked Sonia to do some glass divination with us, to see if she could get the spirits to interact with us.

Bodmin Jail

execution door

We took a table and glass into the long room with the cells and gathered around. Sonia stood a few feet away and called out to the spirits. At times it felt like the glass moved slightly, but none of us could keep still, so our fingers were slipping all over the glass, which could have moved it. We tried for half an hour, but got nothing other than slight vibrations and all of us feeling like we were swaying, which can be explained by the fact it was 4 a.m. and we were all knackered.

We called it a night and bunked down in the crew room for two hours. It’s surprising how comfy a jail floor can be when you’ve been awake most of the night. We napped in services car parks on the way home. like rock stars. Or tramps. Due to the party and needing to sleep, we only had three and a half hours investigation time, which wasn’t long enough in a location that size. We didn’t have time to separate and do paired or lone vigils, as we wanted to explore every area. There’s only one thing for it – we’ll have to get ourselves locked up again.Bodmin Jail

Conjuring Spirits

A horror film in a haunted mansion. That wasn’t an invite we would ever turn down.

We’ve wanted to return to Woodchester Mansion since we visited it in 2012. You can read about our last visit here. But the next time we visited, we wanted it to be overnight. Then Team Impact announced they were hosting a horror night with a screening of The Conjuring followed by a ghost hunt until 4 a.m. Although we’ve seen The Conjuring 4 times, we’ve never seen it in a haunted mansion.Woodchester Mansion

We’ve known about Team Impact since they took part in a TV show in 2010 and they seemed like a fun bunch. We were the first to book tickets and worryingly they knew who we were, even though our Facebook is under our C L Raven name. When people tell us they know of Calamityville, our first thought is to apologise. We’ve been chatting to Paul and Chris since we booked and they asked if we had any requests, seeing as we were experienced in investigating the paranormal. After we finished laughing at the idea of being experienced, which lends an air of respectability, we told them we wanted to do lone vigils in the cellar. They promised to lock us in. Horror film, haunted mansion and locked in a cellar. Careful boys, propositions like that could lead to marriage.

Woodchester Mansion

clock tower

Louise, who joined us for our Borley Rectory misadventure was also going with some friends. This was shaping up to be a great night. On Thursday, we tweeted about making spooky biscuits for the night. Sadly, our one bat cookie cutter rusted and the other melted, so we substituted it for a pterodactyl. Team Impact promised not to tell the bats, but couldn’t guarantee they wouldn’t find out. We agreed on a price of three bat biscuits for ten minutes in the cellar.

We set off at 5:45 p.m. to allow us plenty of time for calamities. There were none. Apart from a misunderstanding about ablutions: Cat “I need a wee.” Neen “Want me to pull over?” Cat “What if the van gets hit by a truck?” Lynx “There’s services.” Cat thought Neen planned to pull into a layby. We reached the gates at 7:10 to find two others waiting. We were early. Super early. This never happens. Are we becoming…responsible?

Woodchester MansionWoodchester Mansion is a beautiful gothic building, complete with bats, gargoyles and vampires. But to complete the Gothic Guide to Buildings sticker set, you need ghosts. One story says the 2nd Earl of Ducie held a lavish party in 1840 to celebrate his new title, when he saw his father’s ghost sitting in his chair at the head of the table. He apparently left the mansion and never returned. We suspect his leaving was more to do with financial problems rather than ghosts.

A headless horseman roams the grounds. He’s believed to be Sir Rupert de Lansigny, who inherited Spring Park after murdering his cousin. Who says crime doesn’t pay? We’ve found no evidence of his existence, so it’s probable he’s a scary legend. Like Prince Charming. So who is the headless horsemen? And why does he haunt Woodchester Mansion?

The strangest apparition hovers above a lake on the vast grounds – a coffin, believed to belong to a Dominican Friar who drowned himself. Though how do people know who it belongs to, unless they’ve seen the name plaque? Also, why would a coffin haunt anywhere? It’s an inanimate object. It’s not sticking around for unfinished business, or to seek vengeance. “Avenge my foul and most unnatural…construction.”

Woodchester MansionThere are also reports of a horseman in civil war clothing on the drive and a black dog that haunts the cellar. His appearance coincides with the death of people closely associated with Woodchester. It wouldn’t be a British ghost story without a black dog. During our last visit, a worker told us a visitor had brought a dog with them and it refused to enter one of the rooms, becoming quite distressed.

There are rumours of Satantic rituals in the chapel but going on lack of evidence and how popular Satanism is with haunted places, we’re discounting it. Soon, abandoned supermarkets will have rumours of hosting Satanic rituals. People have heard a kitchen maid singing an Irish folksong as she works and a young man crouches in a corner, as though hiding from someone. A tall man apparently stands in the kitchen doorway and leans towards where the hiding man is crouched. Visitors have spotted a small man, rumoured to be a stonemason, in the chapel looking at the stained glass windows, and he is suspected of being responsible for small stones being flicked at visitors. Also in the chapel, people report smelling freshly extinguished candles when no candles have been lit. A girl skips up and down the stairs and on the first floor corridor, a young woman has been seen and heard as she stands at the window above the front door watching visitors below. A floating head haunts the bathroom and an old woman apparently grabs visitors. A tall man has been seen near the laundry room. We’re sceptical of this – when was the last time you saw a man doing laundry?

Woodchester MansionMany people report seeing servicemen around the property. In 1944, American and Canadian troops were stationed there whilst training for the D-Day landings. They used the lakes to train in bridge building for the Europe invasion. Security was very high and rigorously enforced. They stored their equipment in the cellars. During a training exercise, the bridge they were driving over collapsed and more than 20 soldiers drowned in one of Woodchester’s lakes. 1940s music is sometimes heard echoing through the abandoned corridors.

While we waited, we filmed our information piece. The gates were locked. We were tempted to hop out of the van and offer to demonstrate our skill in making burglary tools (yes, we once made a burglary tool), but instead we ate cherries and took the piss out of each other. The gates opened, so we drove in then continued filming. We read about Rupert de Lansigny, the supposedly headless horsemen then discussed how would people identify him without a head. Neen suggested he had wonky nipples. During a lively discussion about how he uses his wonky nipples to navigate the park, we suddenly realised Anthony from Team Impact was standing by the open door, right behind us. Well that’s a first impression we could’ve done without. Anthony said he was waiting to stop gatecrashers showing up. We offered to act as security to scare them off, taser them, or leap on intruders like rabid monkeys. That was a second impression we could’ve done without.Woodchester Mansion

Neen then solved a potential mystery – the bathroom has a floating head. There’s a headless horseman. Perhaps they spend eternity looking for each other like star-crossed body parts.

Paul and Chris soon arrived and everyone drove down to the mansion to park around the back. As Cat climbed into the van, laden down by equipment, she fell and elbowed the horn. Neen “You realise your arse was in the air at that point, and you just drew everyone’s attention to it.” Cat “Balls.” Neen then turned the corner and also accidentally hit the horn. Calamityville are incapable of arriving anywhere in a dignified manner.

Woodchester Mansion

drawing room after everyone had left

After everyone set up in the drawing room, where the screening was to take place, Chris led us on a history tour of the mansion. After he told us the story of a woman who is seen on the staircase, Cat stayed behind to get a photo of the stairs without people. It was the beginning us of us constantly being left behind and wandering off. We’re not sorry. We have form for this. The three of us got distracted by a sink off the stairs. Paul “We have three troublemakers now. That’s the ladies’ toilets.” Neen “it’d fill up pretty quick.” Cat “we’d need a stepladder.” She then tripped going up the stairs, proving Karma doesn’t take kindly to mischief.

Woodchester Mansion

windows where Elizabeth is seen

Chris mentioned a woman, nicknamed Elizabeth, who is seen in the windows above the front door. Neen told him Cat had seen her. He was pleased, as he didn’t know about that sighting. Also on this floor is a little girl ghost. It’s known that a little girl was playing with her friend, running along the corridor. Her friend stopped at the end, she didn’t and plummeted to her death.

After the tour, we all gathered outside for a group photo. We tried to hide at the back like we do in every group photo, but we were spotted and ordered to the front. We compromised and stood by Louise in the middle. Everyone returned inside, but we’d spotted what looked like a tunnel in a wall, so went to investigate as close as we could. The bats came out to greet us, so we stayed to chat to them for a while. By the time we reached the front door, it was locked. We seem to have a knack for getting locked in and locked out of places we’re investigating. Admitting defeat, we ventured round the back. It was either that or squiggle through a window.

It was time for The Conjuring. We had the front row, as they were the last seats left. And we’re so small, sitting anywhere else would mean us being unable to see. The sound kept failing on the dramatic bits, so the blaring noise cutting to silence was quite effective.

Woodchester MansionThe film finished at midnight and the ghost hunt began. We were split into two groups. We were pleased to find Louise and her friends were in our group. We headed to the top floor with Anthony. Louise volunteered to have a DVR with headphones attached so she could hear live EVPs. We would’ve volunteered, but none of us had spare hands to hold it. We could hear voices of people leaving. Neen “All I can hear is ‘keep coming.'” Cat “That’s what she said.” Ever the professionals. We called out for James, the builder who fell/was pushed to his death. He’s rumoured to throw stones, but he didn’t make an appearance. Builders never turn up when you want them to. Cat asked for pushing, scratching or bite marks. No-one’s captured a ghost hickey. Anthony “You’ve been set a challenge now. Can you rise to it?” Neen “That’s what she said.” We see what they meant about us being troublemakers…

A couple of women kept feeling cold, but the window doesn’t have glass. Anthony’s radio kept bleeping and contacting Chris and Paul, even though he wasn’t touching it. In the end, he gave it to Neen to hold. Cat went to the far end of the corridor to see if she could see or hear anything. Lynx and Anthony tried to get the ghosts to shove Cat then Anthony realised she was right by the barrier leading to a two floor fall. Cat had already moved away, in case they were tempted. Neen lamented her lack of Go Go Gadget Arms. Inspired by The Conjuring, Cat tried to persuade the ghosts to play hide and clap. We all spread out through the corridor, with Cat staying at the far end, Neen in the middle and Lynx staying by the window. Almost immediately, we both heard stones falling. But at that point, the bats were flying around, so they were more than likely the cause.

Woodchester Mansion

cellars

After half an hour, we joined Paul in the cellar. They had a Kinnect machine facing the corridor, so Lynx joined the two women who were watching it while Cat and Neen joined hands around the pillar with the rest of the group. Nothing appeared on the Kinnect. Louise felt something tickle the top of her head, but other than that, the cellars were quieter than a sponsored silence. Paul asked for someone to stand in the corridor, so Cat volunteered. Cat said nobody else had spoken up. Neen reckoned she was out before Paul finished speaking. Lynx joined Cat in the corridor, but stayed just in front of the Kinnect. Neen had gone in to watch it. Neen “Lynx’s arse has never looked so big! She hasn’t got an arse.” So if you were to ask a Kinnect, “does my bum look big on this?” The answer is yes. Lynx did a booty shake for the Kinnect. We both heard a single footstep. Cat thought it was Lynx, but she hadn’t moved. Paul wondered if it was Chris upstairs, but he was with Cat. On screen, the corridor between us went completely green, but we don’t know what that means. Maybe a ghost exploded. When everyone was in the corridor, Neen felt something stroke her arse. Paul asked where Chris was. Neen wondered if it was a nerve, but said it definitely felt like a stroke. Cat asked the ghost to slap Neen’s arse. Neen slapped Cat’s instead.

We returned to the drawing room for a break. Group 1 joined Anthony in the kitchen with the Ouija board while group 2 went with Paul and Chris to the bathroom to play 1940s music. Paul allowed us to go to the cellar by ourselves while Louise and her friends went to the top floor corridor to conduct a lone vigil.Woodchester Mansion

We each took a room while Neen stayed in the corridor. Lynx didn’t realise there was a beam barrier alarm and kept setting it off. As we were too close to call out without contaminating each other’s EVPs, we took it in turns to call out. Unfortunately, we could still hear the other groups and the 1940s music. Cat whistled for the dog that’s seen in the cellar, but it didn’t come. We should’ve brought treats. Cat tried to entice the ghosts with our Uptown Funk zumba dance, but they weren’t interested.

We switched rooms but the ghosts stayed away. Lynx threw a stone to get the ghost to throw it back, but the ghost didn’t oblige. Paul/Chris radioed us to check if we were happy staying in the cellar. When we said we were, he replied we would be in there for a few hours. Neen put in a request for Red Bull for us. Lynx sang The Bangles’ ‘James’ to lure the builder, but he had another job.

Woodchester MansionSadly, the only things in the cellar were us, so we joined Paul’s group in the bathroom, where they were experimenting with glowing balls. No, not that kind of experimenting. One man, Martin, had his ball pulled from his hand. Cat “were you playing with Martin’s balls?” 1940s music was played, but the servicemen didn’t fancy a dance. The group moved into the corridor, so Paul said we could get in the bath. We didn’t need telling twice. Neen joined the group while we got in the bath and sang ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’. Neen returned and joined us in the bath for a three-person ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’ rendition, complete with rowing action. You don’t get that with many ghost hunters. Soon we will be banned from every public event. We even invited the servicemen into the bath with us, but they declined. We reminded them that being dead, there weren’t going to get a better offer. They clearly believed things were yet to reach that level of desperation.

It was now 3 a.m. so we had half an hour to ourselves before a final group vigil. We made our way to the kitchen to use the Ouija table. Nothing. It was the ghost hunting equivalent to sitting in a restaurant when your blind date sees you and flees. We half expected the ghostly servants to ply us with sympathy alcohol and take bets on how long we’d stay. All night, ghosties.

Woodchester MansionWe called out to the ghost of the kitchen maid, Maria, or Moira, but even singing Blondie’s ‘Maria’ or Hard’-Fi’s ‘Better Do Better’ couldn’t convince her to sing back. We even tried an Irish folksong. Well, Thin Lizzie’s ‘Whisky in the Jar’, if that counts. We sang out of tune and the lines in the wrong order, but damn it, we had the guitar riff down. The kitchen was freezing, as it was near the back door. We even asked the ghosts to smash the porcelain, but they didn’t. Lynx then tripped trying to leave the table. Moira’s revenge for the bad singing, perhaps? We wandered the mansion, still humming the guitar riff and joined Louise and her friends in the organ loft galley. Sadly, it’s not a gallery that displays people’s organs in an artistic way. Louise and her friends hadn’t got any activity either. Perhaps joining us before has tainted her in the ghosts’ eyes.

The final vigil was back in the cellar. Blue blobs kept appearing on the Kinnect on this one woman’s waist. Was this the ghost dwarf trying to rifle through her handbag? Lynx switched off her camcorder and IR lights in case they were causing it, but the blob remained and her lights hadn’t affected the Kinnect before. Cat closed the screen on her camcorder so it was pitch black. One woman saw a light on the back wall, but that was caused by Cat’s viewfinder. The vigil was momentarily interrupted by Cat changing the Sony’s tape. If you’re ever on a ghost hunt with us and you hear beeping, cursing and fumbling in the dark, it’s us messing around with our equipment. Not that equipment.

Woodchester MansionEveryone was given a goody bag for attending, which we loved. And those of us brave enough to do lone vigils were given a DVD as a prize. To be fair, we should’ve given the guys a goody bag for letting us come, despite knowing what they would be letting themselves in for. When everyone had gone, we went to the second floor corridor, as we hadn’t done a lone vigil there. We heard a couple of taps, but that was it. We tried convincing the servicemen to dance with us, and we even held out our hands and did the Cha Cha Cha, but they weren’t willing. We don’t blame them – we dig our heels in when people try to drag us onto the dance floor.Woodchester Mansion

While Paul packed up, we went to the cellars with Chris to ask him about his experiences for the book we’re writing about Calamityville’s adventures. He’s been investigating Woodchester since 2002 and has seen six apparitions. We asked him if any of the ghost stories attached to Woodchester are true. Most of them aren’t. The headless horseman is a variation on the folklore of a headless horse that roams the grounds. The Victorians started that rumour as they didn’t have security guards. The floating coffin was exposed as a hoax. But someone has heard a horse and carriage heard on the drive at 3 a.m.

Woodchester MansionWe grabbed Paul for an interview. He’s so tall, Cat struggled to get him in the frame with Lynx. He suggested we get a chair, or that he could go down on one knee. Lynx “are you going to propose?”

Team Impact are all members of ASSAP and NPI and Paul has recently completed a Parapsychology course run by Edinburgh University, so we wanted to ask him about that, as we’re intrigued. Most paranormal investigators just give themselves the title, but these guys have actually done training. We don’t refer to ourselves as paranormal investigators. ‘Idiots with a camera’ is the term we mostly use. Though technically it’s ‘idiots with 6 cameras’ but we don’t like to boast.

We had a fantastic night and would definitely go again. Plus we forgot to pay them in bat biscuits for being locked in the cellar and Ravens always pay their debts. No, wait, that’s Lannisters. Team Impact were lovely and we’d be happy if they ran every ghost hunt we attend. We eventually left at 5:30 a.m. and parked in the National Trust car park. There was a picnic area opposite, but Paul warned us it’s popular for dogging. The last thing we wanted was to have perverts peering through the windows when we’re trying to sleep. Though seeing as the spectral servicemen wouldn’t get in the bath with us, it’s unlikely doggers would show an interest.

We never did fulfill our bargain about the biscuits…

Follow Team Impact on Twitter here Like their Facebook page and the Woodchester Mansion Paranormal page.

Woodchester Mansion

l-r at front Chris, Paul, Anthony.

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

Court In The Act

Lost on the streets of Monmouth, hosting the tripping championships, dressing in gowns and wigs and getting a stranger to participate in a mock trial can only mean one thing – another episode of Calamityville Horror.

Monmouth Shire Hall

Monmouth Shire Hall

Last night we managed to convince Monmouth Shire Hall to let us hire it out for five hours, so we invited our mates Tom and Amy. Tom had a taster of Calamityville when he joined us at Berkeley castle but Amy has never come out with us before. We were super organised – we even found a free car park and saved a map of it. Using the map, we set off for the Shire Hall, loaded up with rucksacks full of equipment, food and drink and 5 camera cases. Think pack mules. Only to spend ten minutes walking in a circle then trespassing the grounds of a school because Cat thought it looked ‘Shire Hall-esque’. Neen rescued us with her navigation and we found our way to the Shire Hall. When we got there, the worker, Thom, who had volunteered to stay the night, asked where we’d parked. When we told him, he said that was miles away and we could have parked right outside. Thank you Parkapedia, you are joining AA Route Planner on The List. Thom asked if it was just us 5. Yes. Members of the public would not pay to spent the night ghost hunting with us. Our lack of insurance would not cover the injury damages they would sustain.

Monmouth Shire Hall

courtroom 1

Thom gave us the guided tour and warned us about the many steps to trip over. We assured him we would trip anyway. Then we proved it. Repeatedly. The most trips occurred on the steps up to the judge’s seat in court. Either we weren’t looking where we were going, or the ghost of the judge that haunts this place didn’t want clowns in his seat. As we were having the guided tour, the Ghost Radar said “Fire.” We assured Thom we would not burn down the building. He seemed pleased about that.

Monmouth Shire Hall

judge’s chambers

We went into the judge’s chamber where a mannequin of Judge Nicholas Tindal sits, appearing to be graffiting the desk. The K2, which had been quiet, bleeped by Nicholas’s elbow. After setting up base camp in the learning room, we decided to explore. Neen found gowns and wigs in the judge’s chambers for dressing up. In her haste to get to them, Lynx tripped over the platform the judge’s chair was on. It kicked off a night of clumsiness that has surpassed all other episodes. Unfortunately, most weren’t captured on camera. Even Tom and Amy joined in with the calamities, with Amy tripping as much as Lynx and Tom smacking his head in the air raid shelter, hard enough to draw blood. Naturally we did what all good mates do – laughed and took a photo. While we were donning the gowns and wigs, worker Thom came to check on us. We asked him to take a photo. He admitted we were not like any other ghost hunters he’d met. Apparently they’re very serious.Monmouth Shire Hall

The Monmouth Shire Hall is known for holding one of the most famous trials in history – the Chartists’ trial. The Chartists wanted the vote for all men and when leader Henry Vincent was imprisoned and convicted, riots broke out on November 4th 1839, led by John Frost, Zephaniah Williams and William Jones. But William was captured and held inside the Westgate Hotel in Newport. The Chartists gathered outside, demanding he be released.

Monmouth Shire Hall

steps to the cells

There was a riot, a gun was fired and this was seen as an assault on the hotel. 10 Chartists were shot and killed by soldiers inside the hotel. On 31st December, Frost, Williams, Jones and 5 others were put on trial for high treason in courtroom 1 of the Shire Hall. Nicholas Tindal was one of the judges. On 16th January 1840, the men were found guilty and the three leaders were sentenced to be hanged, drawn and quartered but on the day before their execution, Lord Melbourne, under Tindal’s advice, asked Queen Victoria that their sentences be changed to transportation. On 2nd February 1940, they were put on the steamer Usk to Van Diemen’s Land, now Tasmania. In March 1854 they were pardoned conditionally and in 1855 unconditionally. Williams and Jones stayed in Tasmania but Frost returned home to a hero’s welcome.

Monmouth Shire Hall

the cells

We decided to stage a mock trial and had brought one of our gavel pens from Edinburgh Dungeon to use, along with shackles from Oxford Castle. Tom was first in the dock for dogging. The court were shocked. None of us expected that of him. He’s always seemed like such a gentleman. Lord Chief Justice Neen presided with Cat as the prosecutor, Lynx as the jury and Amy as the public. Ketch, our cuddly executioner from Edinburgh Dungeons, sat on the judge’s bench, ready to dispense the Queen’s justice. Next Lynx was on trial for witchcraft. Lord Chief Justice Amy presided, with Cat as the witness, Neen as the jury and Tom as the prosecutor. Then we decided to be a bit professional and did our information spiel about the history of the Shire Hall and it’s supposed ghosts. Turns out, a medium who had previously visited the Shire Hall could smell burning and said a previous building on the site had burned down. The Ghost Radar saying ‘fire’ earlier now seemed relevant. It is also haunted by a family that were hanged for theft, three girls tried for witchcraft, a judge, a woman in white who staff see entering rooms only to disappear. The medium also reported seeing fierce dogs.

Monmouth Shire Hall

this way to the air raid shelter

We began the important business of ghost hunting. After all, it is supposed to be a ghost hunting show. We did group vigils in the cell area and the air raid shelter then had a quick refreshment break and left the JVC  filming the motion sensor lights in courtroom 1 with the Ghost Radar. When we returned, the last word spoken was ‘vote’. This was the courtroom where the Chartists were tried for treason after trying to get every man the vote. We did vigils in courtroom 1 and courtroom 2, where Amy joined us in another Calamityville tradition – dancing. We treated the ghosts to the Monster Mash and the Time Warp. If the ghosts were impressed, they didn’t admit it. Later, in courtroom 1, the K2 bleeped when it was lying on the table. We moved a battery and DVR away from it but it continued to bleep then went silent. We returned to the judge’s chamber but the K2 didn’t respond to Nicholas this time. We set a motion sensor light on the windowsill and part way through our vigil, it lit up. Tom and Lynx thought they might have been responsible so repeated their movements. The motion sensor stayed dark.

Monmouth Shire Hall

courtroom 2

It was time to split up for lone vigils. But first, we needed refreshments. While we were refuelling,  Neen went rummaging in a craft box and found scripts for a trial of Count Dracula. The lone vigils were abandoned in favour of a mock trial. But we needed another participant. Luckily worker Thom is an actor and was more than happy to join in. We donned the gowns and wigs again and assigned parts. Cat was the judge, Amy the usher, Neen the defence barrister, Lynx the prosecution barrister, Tom was Count Dracula and Thom took the witnesses roles – Boris the Bat, Isabella a village girl, Spook the cat and Mr Frank Bolt, complete with different voices for each character. He was also the foreman of the jury.

Monmouth Shire Hall

the air raid shelter

We’re so glad he was the one who volunteered to stay the night. He has to be one of our favourite people we’ve had on the show. It was brilliant. You don’t get this on other ghost hunting shows! Or on public tours. Imagine if Calamityville were in charge of a public tour – we would have had a full jury cast and filled the seats of the public gallery! And this is why people would not pay to join us 😀 Thom asked if we were actors. Clearly our acting skills are better than our ghost hunting ones. We admitted we’re writers, Neen is a scenic artist for TV & film, Tom works for a well known game shop and Amy works with children.

Monmouth Shire HallWe stopped pissing about to finally do our lone vigils. Neen took the air raid shelter, Cat the cells, Tom went to courtroom 2 and Lynx and Amy stayed in courtroom 1, as we only had 4 cameras between the 5 of us. Cat heard footsteps when she was in the cells but thought it may have been Tom. Lynx and Amy spent most of their vigil trying to frighten the locals by flashing their lights out the window at the pub opposite. Not one person looked up. That will change when we have our laser pens! The Ghost Radar chatted to Neen for a while in courtroom 2 before falling silent. Cat moved to the air raid shelter. She asked for footsteps. And got them. But as she was the only one down there, she couldn’t be sure whether it was one of us walking around. We’ll have to sync the cameras to see. Her tape and battery ran out so she returned upstairs for a swap. We then switched places. Neen took courtroom 1, Cat returned to the air raid shelter with Tom and Lynx and Amy squeezed in the cell with Zephaniah Williams. Lynx and Amy heard footsteps marching around above them and presumed it was Neen. When we all regrouped, Neen said she hadn’t moved. Cat took a walkie talkie and went walking in the learning room and court while Lynx returned to the cell. She couldn’t hear Cat when she was in the learning room, but could hear her in the courtroom, but wasn’t sure if the footsteps sounded the same. We’ll have to check the cameras.

Monmouth Shire HallSadly it was time to call it a night. We mobbed poor Nicholas in the chambers, but he got his revenge when Cat got her head stuck under his arm while attempting a headlock pose. It’s the first time a mannequin has ever fought back against us. Well played, Nicholas. We were sad to leave the Shire Hall. It was one of the most fun episodes we have ever filmed. Other locations will find it hard to beat for its sheer fun factor. Where else will we get our friends to join us then put them on trial? Calamityville QC, coming to screens near you.Monmouth Shire Hall