Nicola Kirk: Author and Collector of Paranormal Stories and Other Strange Encounters

Archive for the ‘Urban Exploration’ Category


Hey, Where Did Everybody Go?

I’m not all ‘paranormal paranormal, ghostie ghostie’.  Well, not all the time anyway, sometimes you do have to have a break from it all.  Having spent a few days in the lovely seaside town of Le Touquet, France, I have come to the conclusion that all those years I spent learning French was a waste of time.  I went over there and thought to myself, well, here we are in France, surrounded by French personages, I will speak French to them!  But no:

“Je voudrais deux cappuchinos, s’il vous plait!” I announced proudly in one restaurant, hoping my hubby would be seriously impressed by the fluency of my French and ignoring the confused look my son was giving me.

“Two cappuchinos?  Okay, anything else?” the waitress replied with a smile.

What?  What’s this?  Is my French so terrible, the waitress wants to spare my blushes by making me speak English?  Perhaps it’s my accent?  English with a hint of Australian (according to some people, although I’ve never been to Australia in my life.  Well, not in this life anyway.)

“Uh… no, that’s everything, thanks a lot.”  Pah.  All those years of slaving over a hot French dictionary and they insist on speaking my own language to me.  Well, at least they aren’t just looking at me blankly as they did with my poor pa when he once ordered ‘trois bieres‘ and held up four fingers.

Show Me The Money!

Le Touquet is a beautiful place during the summer months, but when you visit out of season, as we did, it’s a ghost town.  The seafront becomes a desolate place with a slightly menacing feel to it due to the lack of life.  Of any kind.  I’m sure we didn’t even see a seagull while we were there.  The sky was grey, the wind was a bit overexcited and the place had the air of a deserted fairground: you knew some fun had been had there, but it was a long time ago and all that remained were the echoes.  It was wonderfully eerie; I rather liked it.  It set my imagination running off down all sorts of avenues.  We drove around the tree-lined boulevards around the apartment where we were staying and stared at the huge houses that had been shuttered up for the winter.  It appears that many of the homes there are owned by super rich people who only use them in the summer months and then shut them up for the winter.  Cafes and shops seemed more closed than open and it wasn’t until we trundled off to Boulogne Sur Mer to see the Nausicaa aquarium and Amiens to see the lovely little zoo there that we found life again.  But that deserted seafront at Le Touquet is haunting me – I think it needs a short story or something written about it.

Le Touquet may not be exactly rife with ghost stories, in fact, I’ve struggled to find reference to anything weird there, but driving down the deserted roads certainly gave me food for thought.  All those shuttered up mansions and lifeless windows – who knows what could be lurking in there?

On a completely different subject, have a look at this:

Who says Pagans don’t have  a sense of humour…

See you later.

©Nicola Kirk and 2013



Waddesdon Manor – Not Your Usual Stuffy Stately Pad

Old houses.  I love them.  The squeaky old stairs, the inch thick dust bunny population thriving under ancient chairs that haven’t seen a pair of buttocks since the owner died seventy years ago, the slightly disapproving expressions of long dead nobility staring down at you from grubby paintings on faded silk covered walls… so it’s a curious thing that even though Waddesdon Manor isn’t like that in the slightest, I’ve completely fallen head over heels in love with the place.  But then Waddesdon isn’t your usual ‘run of the mill’ stately home.

One bright September morning, I set out under the watchful eye of the SatNav God on a mission to navigate my way to Waddesdon Manor near Aylesbury.  Aylesbury, I soon discovered, is one big roundabout (I was sure the satnav had developed a fault when it kept insisting I should ‘enter the roundabout and take the second exit’ every two hundred yards), but after a few miles I pulled up outside the giant black and gold wrought iron gates of the Waddesdon estate.  All 3,000 acres of it.  Waddesdon Manor was built between 1874 and 1889 for Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild and the last Rothschild to own it was James de Rothschild who passed away in 1957.  As James didn’t have any children to pass the estate on to, and the last thing he wanted was for the treasures he and his family had spent so many years collecting to be dispersed to random museums or other private collections, he bequeathed the Manor, its contents and 165 acres of land to the National Trust.  And it’s because of that decision that I found myself standing at the foot of the interminably long driveway staring wide-eyed at the vast French Renaissance-style Chateau.  Because that’s all you find you can do when you first set eyes on the Manor: stare.  It’s vast, beautiful but also curiously homely.  It pulls you in by the eyeballs and invites you to explore treasures that most of us would never normally get to see.


When You Haven’t Got Any Lego, Cards Have To Do

Purchasing a timed ticket to get into the house means only a few people at a time go in and you’re not herded around like cattle, en masse.  You can wander at your own pace and examine marvels up close, such as the mechanical elephant in the East Gallery which can play four tunes when it’s wound up (although the warden was quite sure that the theme tune to Eastenders wasn’t one of them).  Beautiful paintings litter the Manor and I spent a fair bit of time gazing at the latest acquisition, Chardin’s ‘boy building a house of cards,’ painted in 1735. I suppose the modern-day equivalent of this painting would be a photo of a kid in a hoodie building a Lego house.  Refreshingly, the paintings aren’t tucked away behind sheets of glass and endless red velvet ropes (although I wouldn’t advise touching any of the antiques at Waddesdon unless you want security to rugby tackle you to the floor…).

A word of advice here – Waddesdon is a huge estate, so ladies (and guys, depending on what you’re in to) you’re not going to have a fun day if you arrive wearing stiletto heels.  Apart from leaving with a new bunion, you’ll find yourself being issued with a pair of Waddesdon Specials (funky looking slippers) in order to protect the hardwood floors and you’ll have people like me wandering past you stifling giggles while you sit there complaining that you would have painted your toenails if you’d known and asking, “tell me, are these slippers clean…?’ (they are, of course).

I have to take my hat off to the wardens that are stationed in each room.  They are founts of knowledge about the works of art and little treasures they look after (including the beautiful grand piano in the Grey Drawing Room that I must have asked a million questions about, was itching to play but sadly was not allowed to).  The wardens exhibit endless patience when faced with bizarre questions from the public (of which there are many, I’m sure):

Visitor: “So, that painting over there – why’s it here?”

Warden: “Ah, yes, that particular painting was brought over from Ireland…”

Visitor: “So what’s it doing here then?”

Warden: “It’s… uh… well, it’s part of the Rothschild’s collection.”

Visitor: “Yeah, but what does it bring to the house?  Why have it up on the wall?”

At a loss for words, the warden smiled politely as the man wandered off grumbling under his breath…


‘The Duet’ by Ter Borch

A respectful hush lies over Waddesdon Manor like a comforting blanket and the pretty blinds in each room are kept drawn to protect the valuable silks and textiles which will quickly become faded and fragile if exposed to sunlight for prolonged periods.  The rooms are sumptuous and packed full of things to look at, from family photos belonging to the Rothschilds, personal nick knacks on bedroom dressing tables, tapestries that must have taken a lifetime to complete (I speak from experience here seeing as I’ve been known to spend months – okay, years –  tackling a counted cross stitch project) and beautifully lifelike paintings, such as ‘The Duet’ by Ter Borch where the woman’s dress is so finely painted I’m convinced the canvas itself would feel like silk if I were to touch it (again, please don’t try to, security will frown most heavily in your direction).  Walking around from room to room on the plush red carpets, it’s almost as if the Manor is still inhabited by Ferdinand de Rothschild and he is only just in the next room.

Generally I don’t like to write posts that are too lengthy as I believe short and sweet is best, but Waddesdon deserves more than the usual blog post.  There’s just so much there.  They host various exhibitions throughout the year (details of which can always be found on their website) and when I went they were showing works by Joan Sallas called “Folded Beauty: Masterpieces in Linen”.  What Mr Sallas can’t do with a square of linen and a blob of starch isn’t worth worrying about.   A gigantic linen lion and unicorn with manes of raw silk guard a little water fountain, a symbol of life, on the Dining Room table and other pieces of Sallas’ work can be seen throughout the Manor.


Just Look At All That Ironing…

The staff at Waddesdon Manor are helpful to the extreme.  Security staff were more than happy to recommend specific areas of interest, such as the converted stable block where artist Bruce Munro has an ‘Exhibition of Light’ at the moment (it’s beautiful, you’ve got to see it to believe it) and even though the impressive cellars housing the Rothschild’s personal wine collection were about to close for a private event when I got there, the delightful Godfrey was kind enough to let me in for a brief look around before the wine tasting party got started.  With six glasses of wine for each person to get through (and no spittoons in sight), I’d love to have been a fly on the wall to see the state of people by the end.


The Truth About Wine Tasting

If you find that you’ve wandered around the estate until you’ve lost feeling in your feet, you can always take a buzz around on the Land Train – a Land Rover that pulls a couple of carriages behind it – which will take you to the shops at the Stable Block and then down to the garden centre on the outskirts of the estate before looping back to Manor once again.  There’s even a woodland playground where the kids can run riot for a bit.  They’ve thought of pretty much everything at Waddesdon.

A pair of Mallards feed side by side in Anchorage

Hide, Mavis – Here Comes The Chef!

Of course, if you’re anything like me, after all that investigating and exploring, you’re going to need something to eat, so don’t forget to drop into the café/restaurant located at the front of the Manor where they serve a mean latte (accompanied by charming smiles and conversation) and delicious food.  Even if you have an aversion to eating cute little duckies… I can highly recommend the confit leg and rare roast breast of Aylesbury duckling.  Being a connoisseur of fine cuisine (I’ve seen my fair share of Master Chef) I couldn’t help but be impressed with the standard of the food – it had posh bits of red cress dotted all over it and all sorts.

Everything at Waddesdon invites you in, from the happy sound of ticking clocks in the beautiful bedrooms to the gorgeous gardens that are replanted with different plants every year.  Take it from me, one visit just won’t be enough.  As one visitor said to me: “This place knocks Versailles into a cocked hat!”

To find out more about visiting Waddesdon, click here to visit their website.


©Nicola Kirk and 2013



There have been some updates regarding the availability of my novels of late and I am delighted to announce that Tiennador and Skaran are now available for Kindles/ e-readers on Amazon and the rest of my novels will also be available on there shortly.

Thanks for your continued support!

Nicola Kirk


Drive Carefully: Because if you crash and burn, there’s nowhere left in Pluckley for you to haunt.

Pluckley… oh, Pluckley!  Surely this place has got to be the ghost hunter’s Valhalla.  Often reported as being the most haunted village in England, such is its reputation even the car show, Top Gear, felt the need to visit and spend the night there whilst finding out what it would be like to live in a car for 24 hours (you can view this encounter from 6:26 of the attached You Tube link – Richard Hammond being stalked by a pizza delivery guy has got to be worth a watch):

Will Top Gear Survive The Night In Pluckley?

So, what makes Pluckley such a scary place to live?  The number of ghosts terrorising the population varies, but the most popular ones are listed below:

  • The spectre of the highwayman Robert Du Bois speared to a tree at Fright Corner (even though the tree is now gone);
  • The pub “The Horse Inn” is haunted at night when you can hear the screams from inside of the lady of duke.
  • A phantom coach and horses, allegedly manifesting in the vicinity of Maltman’s Hill;
  • The ghost of a Gypsy woman who burned to death in her sleep;
  • The black ghost of a miller haunting the ruins of a windmill near “The Pinnocks”;
  • The hanging body of a schoolmaster in Dicky Buss’s Lane;
  • A colonel who hanged himself in Park Wood;
  • The screaming ghost of a man being smothered by a wall of clay at the brickworks;
  • The Lady of Rose Court, who is said to have eaten poisoned berries in despair over a love triangle;
  • The Phantom Monk of “Greystones”, a house built in 1863. There is a suggestion he may have been the unrequited love object of the Lady of Rose Court;
  • The White Lady of Dering, a young woman apparently buried inside 7 coffins and an oak sarcophagus who haunts the churchyard of St Nicholas’ Church – knocking has been heard coming from beneath the church at night – is the White Lady trying to escape from her coffins?;
  • The Red Lady, reputedly an earlier member of the same ancient Dering Family who also haunts St Nicholas’. The legend of the Red and White Ladies seem to overlap. A third ghost has apparently also been reported in the same place.
  • The Screaming Woods (Dering Wood), an area of forest outside of town supposedly haunted by the ghosts of many who became lost in the woods. It was given its name because you can supposedly still hear their screams from inside the forest at night.
  • Three other buildings in the village are also said to be haunted.

(List of ghosts courtesy of Wikipedia)

Knocking Heard Coming From Beneath St Nicholas’ Church, Pluckley:

 Is The White Lady Trying To Escape From Her Numerous Coffins?

Quite a list, I’m sure you will agree!  The Dering Family star quite heavily in the history of Pluckley; they even have their own chapel in Pluckley’s Church of St. Nicholas and the ghosts of various women from the Dering family appear to find it impossible to leave the village and head off into the spiritual sunset.

A bit of logical thinking (something I am occasionally capable of if I’ve had enough chocolate) helps to dispel a couple of the ghost stories; take, for example, the mystery of the Screaming Woods.  Let’s not kid about here: the alleged screaming that can be heard at night is probably a fox.  When those little sods start barking of a night, it sounds like someone’s shut their fingers in a car door.  Sure, some die hard believers out there will frown at this explanation, but I remember the first time I heard a fox scream.  It was the early hours of the morning and the unearthly screeching I heard quite convinced me that a woman being murdered in our back garden.  But, as ever, people hear what they want to hear and logic be damned.

Phantom Fare: Are you going my way?

Another story that popped up while I was nosing about was that of a taxi driver who picked up a fare on an ‘unnamed road’ in Pluckley village.  The man climbed into the back of the taxi but when the driver turned to ask where he wanted to go, the back seat was empty.  Alas, this story is the stuff of urban legends.  There are countless tales from all over the world reporting similar encounters.  Are there fleets of ghosts out there who fancy a quick ride around in the back of a taxi or a good Samaritan’s car, or is it just another urban myth created to keep the ghost hunters entertained?

If finding the time to head to Pluckley for a nose about proves to be hard to come by, you can always have a look at the following link, which takes you on a ‘walking tour’ of the village and regales you with interesting tales of what you might find there:

Apparently the tour is about four miles long in total if you walk it, so take your oxygen tent…


©Nicola Kirk and 2011


I See Dead People!

On Friday 15th October, I arrived at 7pm with my husband and Sally, the museum curator, arrived with her other half, Keith, and a friend, Kelly.   Flossie from Almost Haunted, looked a little horrified that there were so many of us.  Perhaps she thought we were going to run riot around the museum and steal their digital cameras.  As it goes, I thought we were all very well behaved, quietly settling down in one corner of the museum with some of Sally’s best coffee (I love the chewable quality of Coffee Mate) while Almost Haunted set up their equipment.  Then came… ‘the talk’.

One of the first things that Flossie came out with is that we should not, under any circumstances, touch the medium (i.e. her).  Apparently doing so would result in ‘a smack in the mouth’.  I glanced around at my husband and friends and was pleased to see that no one from our little group looked remotely interested in molesting the medium.  I thought back to various programmes of ‘Most Haunted’ where mediums who were well away with the faeries were frequently caught up in bear hugs by one of their team members whilst people shouted ‘come forward!  Come forward!‘ at them.  Their team members always managed to walk away with all their teeth after touching the medium, I wondered why Flossie was so different…

Flossie also insisted that there was to be no whispering (as apparently hearing whispering on tape caused their sound technician no end of orgasms until he discovered that it wasn’t the spirit world trying to get into contact but people discussing a film they’d been to see).   It’s very difficult not to whisper in a museum, especially under those circumstances, because your initial reaction is to keep your voice down .

Dowsing Rods:  No Batteries Required…Thank Goodness

Flossie then asked us if we minded if she cast a circle of protection around us all – I thought it was rather nice of her to ask first, rather than just going ahead and doing it (not that we would have known either way).  While I was admiring the latest additions to Sally’s museum displays, out came the dowsing rods.   Flossie’s dowsing rods were traditional bits of wire bent over at right angles, but instead of just holding them in her hands, she had little loose-fitting sleeves over the handles which meant the slightest movement made them swing around with carefree abandon.  Watching Flossie’s hands, I was a little bemused to see that she was moving her hands back and forth an awful lot, the end result being that the dowsing rods were flying around like helicopter blades.  She moved over to where I was sitting and declared that my energy was causing some disturbance to her readings because I was pregnant and was carrying a ‘new soul’ (and yes, being 8 months pregnant at the time, this was something I and everyone else was well aware of; no news from the paranormal world was coming through there).   The base line tests were quite interesting to watch too, especially when there was a buzz of excitement as an EMF meter began to click away excitedly.  Was something trying to manifest?  No – the technician was standing in front of a television which was turned on.  Then there was a problem with the voice recorder.  Strangely enough, even with fresh batteries it didn’t want to work… perhaps a spirit was draining the energy!? Oh, no, wait a moment… they’d put the batteries in back to front.  Oh my…

When the lights were turned out for the first vigil, Flossie said that she could sense two children in the museum, one of whom was rather mischievous.  One child was quickly forgotten about while Flossie focussed on the naughty child.  His name was apparently Peter or Paul (or Percy or Boris – Heaven only knows what happened to Robert: see part 1 of this post) and he had died of consumption when he was seven years old.  Unfortunately, Peter/Paul wasn’t in the mood to stop for a chat; he quickly got bored and ‘wandered off’.  Flossie said that she could see some orbs around me (presumably these ones were pretty glow in the dark ones that she alone was able to see) and she said I wasn’t to be frightened, they were only curious because… I was pregnant.  This would be a reoccurring theme for the evening: “The spirits are angry/don’t want to talk to me/have all gone on strike because… Nicola is pregnant!”

Once the vigil in the museum was finished, we went for a brief walk around the grounds where there were some old buildings where ‘people of importance’ used to live before they turned the buildings into offices.  The most interesting thing we came across was a fat old hedgehog ambling across the lawns.   Flossie said she could see, in her mind’s eye, that there had been some sort of mini riot beneath an archway just across from where we were standing.  She said that she could see an old carriage and a man wearing evening dress.  He was most upset over the fact that he had to get out of the carriage to sort out the problem.  The people that Flossie saw involved in the riot were apparently all sporting ‘big moustaches’ and her description reminded me of a posh rugby scrum.   As the evening progressed, I couldn’t help but think Flossie was just coming out with things that couldn’t really be checked up on too easily and were rather generalised.

The New Must Have: Sod iPhones – Get A Red Indian Spirit Guide!

When we were back indoors, I asked Flossie about her psychic abilities.  I went for the politely curious approach, rather successfully, I thought, masking my scepticism.  I asked if she was able to turn her psychicness on and off at will – how did it work for her?  She said that she had guides who helped her, but she only spoke with them on her terms.  I desperately wanted to ask if one of her guides was a red Indian (well, every medium worth their salt seems to have one these days) but I resisted the temptation.  Flossie said that her guides weren’t allowed to hassle her night and day and they were most definitely not allowed in the bathroom.

Over at ‘the Store’, Flossie said Room 1 and the room directly above that, Room 5, left her feeling nauseous and she didn’t like them.  Upstairs in Room 5, we left Almost Haunted to do their investigating and when they were finished I asked Flossie what she had found.  She said that she was in touch with a spirit called Edward Banks who was 48.  Flossie said Edward looked older than his years and had greying hair, a pinched face and wore round glasses.  He had allegedly worked for the police and had died around 1910 but he didn’t want to tell her what he had died of, for some reason.  She said that he had a terrible stutter which made communication rather difficult and that he dealt with accounts and figures and was autistic.  She said when he was asked too many questions he began to get distressed and would rock back and forth.  “It’s like upsetting a seven-year old,” Flossie declared, “I don’t like doing it.”

Pride of the Police Force:

Edward Banks, We Salute You!

Flossie said Edward was on a ‘loop’, constantly doing his accounts.  A few things struck me as odd with this information.  Firstly, it seems highly doubtful that back in the 1900s the police would have employed someone with autism to do their accounts work.  Seeing as the police have always been rather strict about the health of their employees, it didn’t seem feasible.  The other thing I wondered was, if Edward was autistic, wouldn’t his peers have had him forcibly installed in an institution somewhere – wouldn’t they have classed Edward’s autism as a form of insanity?  The other thing that didn’t ring true was when I asked Sally how long the store had been on the site, she advised me that the house had only been built in the 1920s, a decade after Edward had apparently died, and that the only thing that was there before then was gravel pits.  Also, the house had never been used as an office and where Edward was apparently sitting at his desk had only ever been someone’s bedroom before the house became a store for artefacts.   It appeared that Flossie’s ‘spook radar’ was also in need of a change of batteries…  Anyway, Almost Haunted locked off a camera near the desk and left it to film for a bit.

Bare Fist Fighter: Was Biff Just A Big Pussy?

So.  Room 1 of the store.  This is apparently where all the fun took place.  Flossie said she didn’t want me to go into Room 1 whilst they conducted their experiments (despite the fact I’ve been in there before) because there was the spirit of a particularly nasty individual in there who had a nickname that sounded like ‘Buster’ or ‘Biff’ (or Bill or James or Derek…).  She said he was a bully and always tried to upset women although he was a bit more wary around the men, especially if there were a few of them.  Flossie’s concern was rather touching, although I would have preferred it if I could have just sat down in the corner somewhere and observed the experiment like everyone else.  After all, if a spook was that desperate to come and get me in particular, I’m sure there would be nothing to stop him leaving Room 1 if he wanted to.  Flossie said the mean spirit was some sort of street fighter from the 1890’s and had a nose that had been broken on many an occasion.  He had apparently been jailed for getting into a fight; he had punched a man who had fallen over, hit his head and died.

My Precious! – Will Biff Ever Find His Ring?

Flossie told me that ‘Biff’ wore a distinctive gold ring with a sort of skull and crossbones motif on it.  Later she described it as having a flat face to it and then it was more like a sovereign ring or was perhaps something that a Hell’s Angel would wear.  I soon began to lose count of how many different types of rings ‘Biff’ was supposedly in possession of.  The ring, Flossie declared, would have left a distinct impression on his victim’s faces.  She said ‘Biff’ was a big chap with next to no teeth and looked as if he’d had a hard life.  Apparently the children who haunted the museum were scared off by him and the spirit liked to stand behind women and other lone individuals and give them a ‘spiritual beating’, until they were left with headaches and a general feeling of poor health.  So, I stood out in the hallway to keep Flossie happy as she said she wouldn’t be able to protect me from ‘Biff’ if he started getting feisty.

DJ Death:  It’s Not A Ghost – It’s A Bloody DJ!

During their investigation of Room 1, Almost Haunted brought out a detuned radio as part of a new experiment.  Fortunately I’ve seen this sort of thing before so I knew what they were up to.  I got the impression that they were trying to keep this new experiment top secret for some reason.  They set the radio so it constantly flicked through the various radio stations from one end of the gauge to the other, picking up snippets of people talking, and then… they start asking questions.  I understand that the idea of the detuned radio is that the spirit trying to make contact will pick words out from radio broadcasts that make an appropriate answer, however some people are more of the opinion that it is the spirit itself talking through the radio.  You have to listen really hard because of the static and I can’t help but think people generally hear what they want to hear with this sort of experiment. Anyway, Almost Haunted didn’t have long to wait until they started getting responses from someone they called ‘William’.  Perhaps this was ‘Biff’s’ real name. Here’s how the questioning went (where I haven’t written anything after the question means there was no response – at least not a recognisable one):

Q.  Are you being vain?

A.  Might be.

Q.  How did you die?

Q.  Are you a bad man?

Q.  Tell me about the ring.

Q.  Have you hurt anyone?

Q. Who took your ring? (A faint response but we couldn’t hear.)

Almost Haunted then decided to change the radio setting from FM to AM instead to see if that made a difference.   They tried again:

Q.  Do you have a problem with women?  You seem to frighten women.

Q.  Who took the ring?  I know you don’t want to talk.  Did they take the ring after they hung you?

Flossie then told us that William/Biff was using offensive language and that the ring was somewhere in the store house.  The questioning continued:

Q.  Are you from Scotland?

Q.  Where are you from?

A.  Scotland.

Almost Haunted thought they heard the word ‘Perth’ in amongst the static but someone else in the group said they heard ‘no’ instead.  One of the members of Almost Haunted said he kept hearing the same voice coming through on the radio.  This comment made me close my eyes and count to ten.  I found it hard to believe that Almost Haunted couldn’t see that as the radio was constantly flicking through the same radio stations over and over again, they would of course be picking up the same DJs over and over again.  I sighed and continued to listen in…

Q.  William, were in Scotland are you from?

Q. (From Flossie) Why are you calling the boys Jessies?

Q.  What ring are you here for?

Q.  Is the ring connected to the crime?

A.  No.

Q. Who was killed?

Q.  How many people were killed?

Flossie declared that ‘William’ had been hung for murder although these days it would be classed as manslaughter because the person he had attacked had fallen, hit their head and died.

Q.  What is your nickname?  Biff, Buff, Biffer?

Flossie told us that ‘Biff’/ William was mainly in the store at night  looking for his ring and that if they were to leave his ring out one night, it wouldn’t be there the next morning.  Eventually Flossie knocked the session on the head saying that William was horrid and to just leave him alone.  Someone said they heard the word ‘sure’ come through on the detuned radio at that point.  The rest of us could make nothing much out of the roar of static.

“I’m getting a surname,” Flossie said mysteriously just as she was about to leave the room.  “Possibly be McGrowly.”  McGrowly?  What, really? How Scottish and relevant to William’s nasty personality…

Later that night I asked Sally what she had thought of the experiment.  She said that no items of jewellery whatsoever were kept in the store.  She said there were a few knuckledusters there and harboured suspicions that Flossie had seen the display in the museum where Sally had laid out some of the more interesting looking knuckledusters and that may well have been what Flossie was trying to describe.  Whether Flossie had subconsciously noticed these knuckledusters in the museum or not is difficult to say.  Perhaps she assumed that because there were some in the museum there were more kept in the store and had hoped Sally might have made the connection.

Upstairs in Room 5, Almost Haunted tried a similar experiment with the lights off (of course).  Once again, I stood out on the landing and listened, scribbling copious notes as I did so.  Flossie then began to talk to Edward Banks, the autistic spirit. Once again, she said that he was in a loop, sitting at his desk doing his accounts work.

“It’s figures all the time with him,” she said with a scowl.  “He doesn’t realise he’s dead and that he was killed in an accident.”  She asked Sally if she would try and ask Edward some questions while the detuned radio fizzled and squeaked away to itself:

Q.  How did you die?

Q.  Why are you still here?

Q.  Do you know you are dead?

A.  He knows.

Flossie pounced on those two garbled words with relish.

“Having worked with some autistic people, they sometimes refer to themselves in the third person,” she told us smugly.  “Edward is quite sweet but he’s getting agitated.  He’s started rocking.”   Again, I found myself asking why the police would have employed someone so mentally unstable?  The medium said Edward was always sitting at his desk in his time, and there was also another desk and an armchair in the room with him, too.  Someone commented that they were getting a different voice through on the detuned radio to the one they had downstairs – and, again, I found myself cringing at the fact that these people didn’t seem to realise they were just picking up different DJs.

Sally asked if Edward knew her and apparently Almost Haunted heard a faint ‘yes’ on the radio.  The rest of us heard nothing but static.

Q.  Are you aware of Sally?  Are you aware of anyone else who comes here?

Q.  Do you know Bob Smith (name changed)? (Apparently Bob visited the store on his own twice a week).

Q.  Tell us what you do.  Do you work for the police?

At this point Flossie decided it was time to leave Edward alone.  She said she didn’t feel much in the other rooms.  At this point, we were all starving and fortunately Almost Haunted decided it was a good time to wind up their investigations.

It will be interesting to hear what, if anything, they found on their recordings.

No, Really, I’m Sure It Is… Somewhere…

Follow up:

I have been in touch with Sally since this investigation.  Sadly, nothing paranormal came to light after Almost Haunted went through the photographs they took, other than some of the faintest orbs you could imagine that had to be massively highlighted  by the team – dust or spooks, the ‘great orb debate’ lives on.   Personally, I can’t help but feel if you have to look that hard for the evidence, chances are it’s not there to begin with.

Flossie also confessed to Sally that she had a terrible memory – perhaps that’s the reason why the mischievous little boy from the museum had a few name changes – she couldn’t quite remember what she had named him during the pre-investigation.

Speaking of pre-investigations, I am not sure why Almost Haunted felt the need to do one.  The sceptical side of me wonders if it just gave the team time to have a nose around, get an idea of what the place was all about, and then weave some suitable stories in preparation for the official investigation.   Who knows?

Meanwhile, Sally and I will keep our eyes and ears peeled for any paranormal evidence at the museum… but we won’t be holding our breath.


©Nicola Kirk and 2010




Ghost Busting: Alas, it’s never like the films…

The other week I was fortunate enough to be invited to a paranormal investigation, purely as an observer, but it was a treat nonetheless – these events generally are.  I have changed the names of people and places to respect their privacy (and so they can’t hunt me down and lob rotten vegetables at me) but, at the end of the day, it is the experience itself that matters, isn’t it?  And for this particular experience, if I was to play some theme music to it, the Benny Hill theme would suit it down to the ground.

My good friend, Sally, is the curator of a rather nice museum and she had been approached by a paranormal group, let’s call them… Almost Haunted, and was asked if they could investigate.  Sally agreed that they could.  A few weeks before the actual investigation, Almost Haunted‘s medium, (ummm, let’s call her Flossie) and one of her technical chaps had popped along for a pre-investigation investigation.  During this pre-investigation, Flossie and her colleague had a brief wander around the museum while it was still daylight and the medium declared she was in touch with the spirit of a young boy of about six years old called Robert.  She said Robert particularly liked the area of the museum that was full of 1970s artefacts but he was annoyed that Sally had recently moved a clock that had been sitting on top of a television there.  Why that particular item being moved would bother a child considering that the contents of the museum are changed and swapped around on a regular basis, I don’t know.  However, Sally was a little surprised by this piece of information because she had indeed moved the clock.  When she was alone, Sally had a closer inspection of the area around the clock to see if there were any tell-tale dust marks that might have indicated to Flossie that the clock had been moved, but she couldn’t see anything.  A lucky guess, perhaps?  Who knows?

Where’s Casper when you need him?  At least he was chatty…

Another spirit that Flossie picked up on at the museum was  a Victorian looking woman called Emily who was apparently stuck on what Flossie referred to as a ‘loop’, meaning she was carrying out the same task again and again.  Flossie said that the woman was ‘extremely busy’ and didn’t have time to stop and talk because she had people to feed.  Furthermore, there was also a rather unpleasant spirit  called George who was dressed as a farrier.  George was not keen on the little boy, Robert, perhaps because Robert sounded like a bit of a brat.

As well as running the museum, Sally also has the use of an old house nearby where she keeps excess artefacts.  She refers to the house as ‘the store’.  I’ve been to the store myself a few times, and although it does have a bit of a musty smell to it, no carpets and an air of long disuse, there’s nothing particularly horrible about it, but I suppose the sheer fact that a house is unlived in is sometimes enough to give it an uncomfortable atmosphere and Sally particularly hates having to go in there alone.  She told me that she was once downstairs working away in what was once the living room when she heard distinct footsteps coming from the room above her.  She was completely alone at the time.   Yup, feel those hairs rising on the back of your neck, ladies and gentlemen…

During the brief tour around the store in August, Flossie said that she didn’t like Room 1, which is just on the left as you walk in (the old living room).  In Room 2, just behind Room 1, which is currently full of old uniforms and tunics, the medium said she sensed a man called Ted who was dressed in what she thought was some kind of railway uniform.  Upstairs, she found a little girl who liked to play with Robert at times – Robert had apparently followed Flossie and Sally over from the museum to the store, and the little girl liked to watch Sally and her colleagues working sometimes – not creepy at all…

Ghostly Footsteps: Who was stalking Sally at ‘the store’?

Moving  upstairs to Room 5, Flossie discovered the spirit of a chap called Edward who was also on a ‘loop’, sitting at a desk, busy slaving over some accounts.  Now, is it just me, or does there seem to be an incredible abundance of ghosts running amok in the museum and store?  It seems to be packed to the rafters with all things dead and who are too busy to stop and chat.

Flossie’s technical assistant took some photos while they were there but unfortunately they failed to show anything of interest, and the EVP recordings (electronic voice phenomena) were sadly blank too.  Again, I find myself wondering that if there were that many ghosts/spirits/whatever you want to call them, all floating around the place, surely one of them might be a little bit interested in making an appearance on film or voice recorder? But no, not so much as a peep from mischievous little Robert or the ever busy Emily.  It would appear that, mediums aside, no matter how many spooks are allegedly crammed into your abode, getting them to appear or stop for a chat is a mission impossible.  You’d have thought the dead would relish the chance to scare the pants off the living.  I know I would, but then I’m a bit evil like that.

During an EVP session the voice recorder turned off after about 30 minutes and Flossie declared that the batteries had been mysteriously ‘drained’, although Sally suspected the batteries may have just died of natural causes because she had overheard Flossie asking one of her technical chaps earlier if they had remembered their voice recorder – possibly because Flossie’s batteries weren’t very fresh to begin with and she was worried they might die during the preliminary investigation.  Which they did.

Why doesn’t it work? Try new batteries…

At this point my imagination was beginning to run riot over what the actual investigation in October was going to be like…

But I’ll have to tell you all about the official investigation in the second part of this post.


©Nicola Kirk and 2010


Prison Hell: Room Without A View

Newgate Prison once stood on the corner of Newgate Street andOld Bailey, and was originally built in 1188.  The prison was originally one of the seven gates of London Wall (six of which date back to Roman times) and it was extended and rebuilt many times during the course of its long (and somewhat grotty) life before it finally closed for business in 1902.

Temple Of Doom – Newgate Prison

In 1782, the prison was redesigned in the hope of instilling terror into the hearts of would-be villains.  The authorities hoped the prison’s new look would deter people from committing crimes.  The bleak, soot-stained (from burning people at the stake outside the prison) almost windowless walls loomed over the residents as an ever-present reminder of where they would end up if they misbehaved.

Lemme Out!

Life inside the prison was a harsh affair.  Considering there were over 350 crimes that warranted the death sentence, it was unlikely that your stay in prison would be a long one.  Justice was nothing more than a myth in times gone by.  If you refused to plead then you could be left in prison until you changed your mind or died, whichever came first.  When too many people were dying rather than pleading (if you managed to avoid admitting guilt then the crown couldn’t get its grubby mitts on your estate) the justice system tried an alternative method of getting a confession out of you i.e. tying you to the floor with a board on your chest and slowly adding weights until you gave in and confessed… or died.

Depending on how well off you were, imprisonment at Newgate ranged from being a mild inconvenience to absolute hell.  The prison was privately run, which meant you had to pay for the privilege of languishing within its cold stone walls.  Being a gaoler at Newgate was good work if you could get it because keeping the gaoler sweet meant an easier ride for you as a prisoner.  If you had enough money you could afford the luxury of having your heavy, ill-fitting manacles removed, have a private cell with someone to clean it and, if you were feeling a bit frisky, they would even sort out a prostitute to visit you too.  If you were, on the other hand, sadly lacking in funds, then the best you could expect was a lice infested cell, nothing to sleep on but the dirty floor and very little in the way of clothing to keep you warm.  If you were one of the poor unfortunates awaiting execution, chances were gaol fever (Typhus) would claim your wretched life long before the gallows did.

Dancing The Tyburn Jig

Alas, even in death you couldn’t be free of Newgate prison because a ‘departure fee’ had to be paid before the corpse was allowed to be taken away by relatives for burial.

In 1793 the infamous gallows at Tyburn was moved to Newgate.  The Sunday before the condemned were due to die, they were forced to listen to a tedious sermon at Newgate Chapel.  To add insult to injury, some bright spark thought it would be a nice touch to have the doomed convicts’ coffins sitting alongside them during the sermon as a somewhat unnecessary reminder of their impending doom.

Every Monday morning the condemned were forced to endure the humiliation of being dragged out in front of an enormous crowd so they could be executed.  Hangmen of old weren’t well-known for their customer relation skills and they rarely bothered to calculate the correct drop which would cleanly break the condemned person’s neck.  Instead, many people suffered the indignity and horror of slowly strangling to death.  The last execution at Newgate Prison was carried out in May 1902.

Newgate’s Finest: Jack Sheppard

Famous inmates of Newgate prison included Jack Sheppard.  Jack, who showed promise of being a very good carpenter, only had about a year of his apprenticeship left to do before he took to a life of crime.  He was arrested and imprisoned at Newgate no less than five times but he managed to escape time and again.  Alas, justice finally caught up with poor old Jack and a fifth escape from Newgate never happened.  He was hanged at Tyburn on Monday 16th November 1724.  Jack made such a name for himself during the course of his short crime spree that even Bram Stoker refers to him in his famous novel ‘Dracula’. When describing the unfortunate Renfield he says:

“He is safe now, at any rate.  Jack Sheppard himself couldn’t get free from the straight waistcoat that keeps him restrained, and he’s chained to the wall in the padded room.”

Sadly for historians (but fortunately for criminals), there is nothing left of Newgate prison these days.  Or is there?  The Old Bailey that stands on the site of Newgate prison today was built using as much stone from the old prison as possible.  Perhaps the horrors that took place within the walls of Newgate are now deeply embedded into the walls of The Old Bailey instead.


©Nicola Kirk and 2010




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