Shepherd Neame Brewery had long been on my list of dream investigation sites. Founded in 1698 the Brewery is the oldest official brewer in the UK,although brewing in the area is said to date back to the 12th Century. When I first joined the Ghost Club in the 1990s I remember listening to stories of the frightening and foreboding atmosphere that investigators had experienced there.
Fast forward 15 years and I was now investigations co-ordinator and had learned that Shepherd Neame were running their own ghost events for Halloween. Another clue of their continued fascination with ghosts was their promotion of the Halloween brew 'Spooks Ale' described as "offering protection to any who drink it against ghosts and ghouls encountered on All Hallows Eve". A letter and a couple of emails later and the Ghost Club was set for a return visit.
As with all investigations, a pre-visit was a must to check the suitability of the venue, scope out areas of alleged activity and discover the nature and history of the hauntings. I discovered that Shepherd Neame staff and visitors had reported a wide variety of phenomena, including a ghost cat; a man in a frock coat; a ghostly figure in the boardroom; the feeling of being watched; the smell of tobacco smoke and the sound of someone running by the fermentation vessels.
It is said that a cleaner resigned after she entered a room in the private flats to find an unseen hand had created a pyramid of chairs and saw a black shape coming towards her. Shortly afterwards the building was exorcised.
A few months later, I returned with eleven other ghost hunters and conducted an evening investigation. We carried out a number of hour long vigils in the reception and spiral staircase area; the boardroom; the Malt Silo and Kiln, and the Brewhouse. We discovered we were following in the footsteps of psychic Derek Acorah and the team from TV's 'Most Haunted'. We heard how Derek had sensed all manner of activity, but this seemed slightly less impressive when we learnt that the programme's researchers had been fully briefed with information about the hauntings prior to his visit.
Nevertheless we found enough activity on the night to keep us interested during the long hours spent sitting in semi darkness.
The highlight of the evening for me happened in the Malt Silos which is pictured in the photo on the right. It is said that here a man had fallen into a Vat of grain and suffocated and in the small utility room at the entrance to the silo, a lady had seen a man staring intently at her who suddenly disappeared into thin air.
Although no figures were spotted there was a pervading sense of sadness and unease about the place and one of the group started feeling very
unwell. The strangest happening was the sound of muffled voices that sounded as if two people were having a conversation in the office above us. The sounds carried on for a couple minutes although we were unable to make out what was being said. At the time we assumed that it voice must belong to the security guards we had spotted earlier. However when we reported it to the Shepherd Neame representative who was supervising us, he said that the guards were in a different part of the building and wouldn't have been in that area at the time. So who was talking above us in the deserted building?
The other strange occurrence happened to another group who were sitting in the boardroom, at one end of the long boardroom table. While they were talk amongst themselves, the trigger object - a coin placed on a piece of paper at the opposite end of the table - suddenly fell onto the floor, along with the end of the tablecloth. No one was near the object at the time and there was no reason for the heavy cloth to suddenly slide off of its own accord. My group also experience a strange cold breeze in one corner of the boardroom which came from nowhere, yet did not register on any of the temperature monitors.
The one thing that evaded us that night was the pervading sense of evil that was reported on the investigation in 1996. This was supposed to be located at the top of the spiral staircase and although strange noises were picked up by our digital recording equipment, there was no feelings of fear or unease reported. It seemed that the earlier exorcism had indeed succeeded in cleansing the building of something rather unpleasant.
However I did take one strange photo at the top of the spiral staircase. This was actually taken on the pre-visit but appears to show some strange light effects. Who knows something may still linger there after all....