Friday, February 11, 2011

A full house full of ghosts?

Jim and I spent an hour scoping out the local Mecca bingo for the Ghost Club. We were both impressed by the place and I think it could be a very interesting investigation. The manager and staff were very welcoming, especially given the fact that Friday night bingo was in full swing. The hall was packed with eager players hoping for a chance of a 25k jackpot, but we had our eyes on a bigger prize - a ghost!

Without wishing to give away too many details of the haunting, the Hall promised lots of variety with at least three ghosts reported. Neighbours of the bingo hall had also complained of the sound of organ music during the night, but no such organ was kept in the building. Were these ghostly sounds an echo from the days when the Bingo Hall was a cinema? D├ęcor from the original Gaumont cinema can still be seen today with the main hall boasting a stylized art deco ceiling 200 of the original cinema seats.

The manager gave us a full tour of the building from the roof to the basement and pointed out the key areas of interest. We also interviewed a couple of staff about their experiences and it seemed several other employees had had strange experiences. The place was like a maze, so we requested access to building plans which would make sorting out and finding key places a lot easier on the night. There were lots of different areas to investigate but I wasn't looking forwarded to exploring the crawl space under the stage that stretched the length of the building.

The only downside was the timing of the investigation - on a Saturday, bingo players would be in the in the building until about 11pm, so any investigation would need to start around midnight. The upside was I lived just down the road from the Hall, so would be able to crawl home and straight into bed. And there was a good incentive to stay for the duration as one of the ghosts was said to appear at 6am.

As usual we looked at the possible hazards that 20 or so investigators of differing ages and mobility would come across. There was a particularly steep looking stairwell that could be treacherous in the dark but apart from that it looked perfect. There with a staff room we could use a base; good access to toilets; near to public transport and free parking. All we needed now was a date and some willing participants.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Ghosts! And I've got the photo to prove it!

Saw a great story recently about a woman who claimed to have taken a photograph which showed the face of a dead relative in the creases of her daughters pink coat.

Why the deceased should choose to appear in this way is open to speculation. Why not just appear in photograph anyway or at least choose a more manly coloured garment upon which to superimpose himself? The question remains is this really a paranormal occurrence. I suspect not.

As with many such photographs I would not expect to find obvious trickery involved or deliberate urge to deceive on the part of the photographer? Rather a strong sense of wishful thinking. After all it is very comforting to believe that relatives are watching from beyond the grave and wish to make their presence known it whatever way they can.

For example, there is the famous photo taken by Mabel Chinnery (see the photo above). After a trip to the cemetary to visit her mother's grave Mabel took a picture of her husband sitting in his car. When the photo was developed she saw the image of her dead mother sitting in the back seat – no doubt also prompting a wave of mother-in-law jokes.

If not wishful thinking on the part of the photographer then often it is merely a trick of the light. The human brain is programmed to see faces in patterns automatically – another of those ancient inbuilt survival mechanisms to spot enemies hiding in the bushes. Along with Orbs – dust, flies, snow, mists, fog and even human breath can transform into all manner of ghostly apparitions in the eyes of an eager ghost hunter – particularly on those nights when nothing else is happening. I myself am guilty of seeing monsters in the shadows but for a split second of believing it always feel like I’m hit the paranormal jackpot.

That said, there are still photos that defy explanation and when you’ve ruled out all of the above normal explanations its worth forwarding them to a paranormal group for closer inspection.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Ghosts on TV

As winter is upon us and staying on the sofa is preferable to braving the dark and the rain I am catching up on my TV viewing with ghostly DVD and YouTube. I am amazed how much ghost footage is available on YouTube with clips from shows I remember watching as a child such as Arthur C Clarke's World of Strange Powers and Michael Aspel's strange but true. Good YouTube channels include Ghostwatching and Superstarstudio1 Both have so many clips it would take me months to view them all, although I've already started on the Discovery Channel's 'A Haunting'.

Personally my favourite ghost programmes are a mixture of interviews and reconstructions like 'A Haunting' which features real people in extraordinary circumstances. Most accounts strike me as genuine although how they would stand up to real scientific analysis remains to be seen. The best programmes bring in independent psychics to verify facts and feature several witnesses to the same phenomena. My least favourite are live investigation programmes like 'Most Haunted' or 'Derek Accorah's Ghost Towns'. While none can deny the entertainment value of these shows I am very sceptical with regard to the investigation results. I am particularly unimpressed by ghosthunting with celebrities. Are members of the pop group 'Girls Aloud' really the most suitable participants to take on a ghosthunt? Do 'Boyzone' really have a serious interest in the paranormal?

Whatever your opinion ghost on TV keep ghosts stories firmly in the public imagination and ensure experiences are published rather than hidden for fear of ridicule. And watching them is healthier than going down the pub.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Cage a prison fit for a witch

Behind on write ups again but getting there! Another investigation, or rather another scouting out trip to darkest Norfolk and a fascinating place called St Osyth will a dark history of the witch burning kind. It was here the famous witch Ursula Kemp met her death and the place we were investigating was the tiny prison where she was incarcerated before she was hung.

Hundreds of years later the cage had been converted into a family home but one where no family had stayed for very long. The current owner had moved out due to the disturbing paranormal events that were occurring as had her tenants and she relayed a series of terrible fates befallen by previous owners include divorce, madness and suicide. She herself had seen or experienced several ghost including a young man, a young boy in a sailor suit and a man she described as an evil jailor who physically attacked her. Certainly the house had atmosphere and paranormal investigators who had visited it were apparently raving about it and there were several impressive looking photographs said to show evil spirits.

My only reservation - the extent of the hauntings sounded almost too good to be true. However it sounded like a psychics would have a field day there and there were plenty of facts that could be corroborated and tested. My only other gripe it was miles away off the dreaded M25 but there would be the opportunity to camp out overnight which was always a bonus so let us see what 2011 brings in terms of an investigation with the Ghost Club.

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