Not Holding a Grudge

Woodchester Mansion

The cellar

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

Lynx coffin dodger

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

Woodchester Mansion

Cat coffin up

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

Woodchester Mansion

Lynx in the shadows

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

Woodchester Mansion

Shadow Cat

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

Frog rescue

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

We wanted to sleep here.

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

Woodchester Mansion

L-R Tony, Lynx, Dave, Cat

Mansion in the Woods

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

the library

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

We were lost.

Woodchester Mansion

library ceiling

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

the shop

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

the laundry

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

Woodchester Mansion

stable block

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

the lake

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Woodchester Mansion

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

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.

Ghost Writing

Haunted Magazine We are pleased to announce that our very first non-fiction article has been published by Haunted Digital Magazine! Check it out here it’s about Woodchester Mansion, which we visited for the seventh episode of season 1 of Calamityville Horror.  There are tales of a headless horseman, a floating coffin and American soldiers haunting the property. Sadly we didn’t have Johnny Depp helping us to track down this elusive horseman. One day…

We’ve never considered non-fiction as an avenue for our writing. Mostly because we’re not experts in anything (except getting lost and drinking Red Bull). We’ve attempted a couple of articles before that sucked worse than a perforated vacuum cleaner. They were so bad, we didn’t even submit them to the anthologies we’d written them for. They are languishing on the hard drive, never to be opened again. So when Haunted Digital Magazine approached Calamityville Horror and asked us to write four articles based on family hauntings, we panicked. Then we had a great idea – we’d write them as though we were writing a blog post. Our blog is non-fiction and we hope funny, so we figured if we pretended we were writing a blog post, it might turn out ok.

You’ll have to read it for yourself to see if it worked. (Page 116)

To say we were surprised to be offered the articles is an understatement. We thought the only requests we’d get through Calamityville Horror, was to cancel the show, or appear in court over the constant piss-taking of Most Haunted and friend of the show, Derek Acorah *Disclaimer* Derek Acorah has never even heard of the show, let alone befriended it.

So, for the next three issues (crossing talons it goes that well) we’ll bring you articles on family hauntings. Surprisingly, these are quite hard to come by, so we have expanded it into properties that have so many ghosts, they could be classed as a family. In the next issue, due out end of February, we return to the place where this show first began – Ruthin Gaol.

Mansion Family

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

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

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

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

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

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

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