I have been interested in all things ‘paranormal’ for as long as I can remember but it wasn’t until February 2012 that I finally took part in a paranormal investigation.
The distinction between spirits and ghosts is quite straightforward, in that spirits are beings with whom it is possible to interact, whereas ghosts simply replay an event in time, rather like the showing of a piece of film, and there is no interaction. I wanted to find out more, for myself, and decided to seek out the opportunity to become involved in a paranormal investigation.
I had seen programmes on television that were centred round ‘ghost hunts’ and, frankly, I wasn’t terribly impressed. More often than not, it seemed to me that the ghost hunters involved were fearful of what they might find, apparently being frightened of every little sound or occurrence regardless of whether or not it had a rational explanation. I felt that the whole subject of ghosts, and other paranormal occurrences, deserved to be treated with respect and conducted in a serious manner, rather than turning the phenomena into something that resembled a circus.
Synchronistically, I had arranged to meet some friends in a coffee shop in town and, to my surprise it transpired that one of the friends was involved with a paranormal investigation group. “There’s an investigation coming up later this month” she told me. “Why don’t you come along?” The investigation was due to take place in a complex of tunnels under an old fort in the Medway Towns. As soon as I returned home, I booked my place, and started to prepare for my first paranormal investigation.
I had been advised to wear warm clothing. It was a particularly cold February night and I knew it was going to be a long one, so I had wrapped up well by wearing a long sleeved top, layered by a thick ‘hoody’, borrowed from my eldest son. I was quite sure it must have looked better on him than it did on me, but this was not a fashion show; more a keen attempt to be as comfortable as possible during the course of the night. I was wearing a thick, warm, hooded coat, also borrowed from my eldest. At least having three sons rather than three daughters, meant that their clothing was altogether more practical for occasions such as this!
As the time for meeting at the fort approached, I felt excited; open to possibilities and hopeful that there would be some paranormal activity. The only anxiety I felt was at the thought of driving home, alone in the darkness, when the investigation was over.
As I stepped out of my car I felt the sudden chill in the air and wished I had remembered to wear some tights under my jeans, as I had intended to. The lights inside the café at the end of the car park were warm and inviting and I was keen to be inside, where I would chat with my fellow investigators for the night, as they arrived in dribs and drabs with varying degrees of nervousness.
After the formality of introductions to members of the team, we were given a short pep-talk, during which we were alerted to the distinctions between a paranormal investigation and a “ghost hunt” at the fort. Apparently, during the ghost hunts, which were often held at Halloween, it was usual for special effects and actors in appropriate costumes to be employed, whereas there were no props, whatsoever, during the paranormal investigations, which were serious attempts to discover evidence of spirit activity within the fort.
It was time for the investigation to begin and we set off, back into the cold air, beyond the car park and into the tunnels that would provide a backdrop for our meeting with those souls who wished to make our acquaintance. Just a little way into the first tunnel, we each paused beside the ‘Angel Stone’; a stone that formed an integral part of the tunnel wall, and was shaped like an angel; in order to touch it, and thank it for the protection we would be given. “If you are right-handed” the medium instructed us, “touch the Angel Stone with your left hand, and if you are left-handed, touch it with your right hand”. In my usual, dyspraxic way, in my head I complicated this instruction, by reminding myself that neither my left hand nor my right hand is dominant. Some tasks are handled quite comfortably and naturally by my right hand, and some by my left. Then I thought about the countless readings I had given in the past using psychometry, and had always found that my left hand felt more natural for holding the objects that had been handed to me. The dilemma had passed and I touched the Angel Stone with my left hand, offering a heart-felt “Thank you”, as I did so.
We were a group of about thirty people being led deep into the tunnels that opened out into a large room. The medium who would be working with us, asked the women to form a large circle and hold hands, before asking the men to form a smaller circle inside ours. I didn’t know what to expect but suspected whatever would come next, might take the form of a séance of some kind. I certainly wasn’t expecting to be asked to think of a nursery rhyme! I don’t believe the men were expecting to be asked to sing “Baa Baa Black Sheep” either, but that is exactly what they were being asked to do.
After a somewhat shaky and self-conscious rendition, the nervous laughter had subsided and given way to the explanation, from the medium, that this exercise was designed to “lighten the mood” and as a means of allowing sounds to attract the spirits. We were asked to notice exactly how we were feeling at that moment, paying particular attention to emotions and temperature, as both of these things could be affected by any encounters that we might have. It was also impressed on us that we should alert the host team member of any changes that we experienced. I was surprised to feel incredibly calm, with a strong sense of belonging. It was as though everyone else in the room could have left me there, alone, and I would have felt completely at home.
We were divided into smaller groups in order to begin the night’s investigation. Our group dutifully followed the medium and his assistant through a tunnel and into another room, lit only by the soft, green glow of the ‘emergency’ lighting. In this room there was a wooden table with an upturned glass in the centre. A dumpy ‘church’ candle was placed on top of the upturned glass and lit, as we stood around the table. We gazed at the flame for a few moments until the candle was extinguished and removed, when we were asked to place a finger lightly on the edge of the glass. The medium took control and instructed the spirit present to move the glass, but the spirit wasn’t having any of it! The glass failed to move even a centimetre. The medium asked the women to step back so that only the men remained around the table with their fingers on the glass. Still nothing happened until I was aware that my calm demeanour was beginning to change and I could feel anger rising in me. It was a powerful anger that I knew did not ‘belong’ to me. “Who are you angry with?” the medium asked me when I reported my observation to him. “All of you!” I replied, struggling to contain the venom with which those words were laced.
Still there was no movement in the glass. The men were asked to step back from the table and the women to return and try again. Immediately, I could feel the anger subside. In spite of its strength, it felt like anger borne out of frustration and resentment, rather than malice. Eventually, we left the table and the glass to the next group of people, and we were led through the tunnels before emerging, once again, into the car park and the cold night air.
Following the patches of light emitted by the torches of the team members, we made our way across the car park and down the steps towards the gatehouse. Inside, the gatehouse consisted of a room, in which there was a selection of crystal pendulums, as well as a cage, a device consisting of four metal bars attached to a base, as in the four corners of an imaginary square, converging at the top, where there was a hook from which the pendulum would be suspended. Four people would each place a finger at the base of one of the bars, and ask questions to which there could only be a “yes” or “no” answer. However, another woman in the group, and I were led, by the team member, through to the sleeping quarters in the gatehouse, in which there were two beds with straw-filled mattresses. We were given a pendulum and asked to see what we could ‘pick up’. We established that there were four spirits present in the room at that time; the first, a young soldier, in his twenties, named George, seemed quite friendly and happy to answer the questions we posed to him.
We had been advised by one of the team that the spirit of a young girl named Claire might be there, so we asked George, who affirmed that she was, and that we could speak to her. He also confirmed that there were two other men present. When we spoke to Claire, the pendulum responses seemed rather reticent, as though she were shy or frightened. We ascertained that she was frightened of her father, but we did not discover why. Next, we spoke to one of the other men. The nature of the pendulum swings changed completely; it began to move furiously and felt very aggressive. It was clear from the responses we had that that particular gentleman did not want us there. I told him that I felt the others did want us there even if he didn’t and, at that moment, it was as though a switch had been flicked; the temperature in the room plummeted and was, instantly, so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingers and was, therefore, unable to continue using the pendulum. By making it impossible for us to continue, our less than welcoming ‘host’ got his own way and we re-joined the rest of our group in the other room before, once again, returning to the main tunnels of the fort.
We were led to a section of tunnel that was closed off at both ends by double doors. It was pointed out to us that there was no draught or breeze and we were invited to check this for ourselves. Along the walls of this part of the tunnel hung several hurricane lamps and, at the end of the tunnel, there was a round wooden table, with which we were about to try ‘table tipping’. We were asked to stand around the table, placing all of our fingertips on the surface of the table, ensuring that our little fingers were in contact with the little fingers of each of our neighbours. This would ensure that any activity with the table could not have been the result of any of us knocking or moving the table ourselves. After a minute or two, there was an unmistakeable knock on the table, causing some of my fellow investigators to ‘jump’. The knock was followed by another, and another and the sounds began to vary in intensity; sometimes sounding similar to the drumming of fingers on the table, and sometimes a gentle tap, with an occasional loud knock. These sounds continued, although there was no movement of the table. There was, however, considerable movement of one of the hurricane lamps hanging from the wall, about three feet away from where I was standing. The lamp began to swing furiously, regardless of the fact that there was no draught and none of the other lamps had moved. The lamp continued to swing for several minutes. I was fascinated by this, very obvious, evidence of spirit activity.
Eventually, it was time for us to make our way to another part of the complex of tunnels, where we were introduced to two more members of the team who had with them a box of dowsing rods. The team member who was looking after this area of the investigation demonstrated how to use the rods; holding one in each hand, by the ‘sleeve’ of the handle and asking for an indication of how the word “yes” would be communicated to us. The rods quickly moved towards each other, spinning in their sleeves and crossing over each other, in front of the team member, who courteously thanked the spirit who was communicating with us. Then she asked for the sign that represented the word “no”. Again the rods moved immediately and unambiguously but this time they parted, so they were both facing outwards. We asked several questions and the spirit with whom we were communicating was very helpful. I noticed that the team member’s manner was light-hearted but respectful throughout, and concluded that this was probably why she had had such a good response.
It was time for us to try using the dowsing rods and, although I had a good response, the movement of the rods appeared tentative. I felt, intuitively, that Claire was, once again, communicating with me. As we were all using the rods at the same time, I began to ask Claire some questions, silently, in my head, and still found that the conversation flowed. I continued conversing with Claire, who seemed to need some reassurance based, mainly, on the fact that she was frightened of her father.
Following this, second, encounter with Claire, we made our way back to the café for a much-needed coffee, tea and toilet break. It was here that we met up with the other groups and had a chance to discuss our findings with each other. I took the opportunity to speak to one of the team members, who had a thorough knowledge of the fort and, apparently, of the spirits residing there. I asked him about Claire who, it seems had been one of a group of children who had camped out in the gatehouse in the nineteen sixties. Having lit a fire, an ember had apparently caused a fire that had killed all of the children. Claire was twelve years old when she died. The team member who told me about this affirmed that Claire was, indeed, frightened of her father, although he was unable to tell me why.
Finally, for the last event of the night, we were all to make our way up the hill to the guard house where, the team reliably informed us, there had been lots of paranormal activity. The guard house consisted of a long room that was furnished with a line of four round tables. We had been divided into four groups and each group was to stand around one of the tables. The table at the far end was to be used for table tipping; one was to be used for ‘automatic writing’ and the remaining two for ‘glass work’. The group I was in had been assigned to one of the tables for glasswork, in which we would, once again, give the spirits the opportunity to move an upturned glass on the table.
This time, we were not disappointed. The glass moved frantically; speeding up, slowing down and changing direction, when requested. The team member who was with us at the table was respectful and encouraging, throughout, using phrases such as “thank you so much” and, “you’re doing really well”. Clearly, this particular spirit was only too pleased to communicate with us by moving the glass. The only complaint I had, was made by my back. Bending, slightly, at the table; trying to keep my finger on the glass that was whizzing around, enthusiastically, for nearly an hour, was a recipe for backache that lasted well into the following day.
At the end of the night, we all returned to the café for a final debriefing session. There were some apologies from the team because the night had been “fairly quiet”. In spite of this, I was intrigued and delighted by my experiences that night and couldn’t help wondering what would need to happen for a night at the tunnels to be described as “active”.