Hello from the other side: Del Hughes is in High Spirits
So, it’s 9:30pm on a foggy Friday evening, and Jen and I are idling in the Aldi car park, Crosshands. I’ve been flashing my lights at the few cars that have driven in but the only person who’s shown any interest thus far, is a middle-aged lady who stopped to ask if we were ‘signalling for help.’
Of the men who (we hope) are going to give us a night to remember, there is, as yet, no sign.
I know what you’re thinking but, much as I’m up for anything, I doubt I’ll ever pen an article entitled, ‘Del Goes Dogging.’
Mind you, I think I might have, accidentally, dogged once when, parking in a quiet country lane at midnight, an ex and I launched into an impassioned snogging session only to be suddenly torchlit on all sides.
Cue screaming (us), rapping on the windows (them) and me driving away in a spray of gravel and a shower of expletives.
With hindsight, I guess it’s possible they weren’t actually doggers; after all, this happened in Burford, an idyllic, thatched Oxfordshire village with a doddery demographic and an overly zealous Neighbourhood Watch.
But, whether sexual voyeurs or elderly vigilantes, that’s one experience I don’t fancy repeating.
Anyway, back to tonight’s activity which will be, I’ll wager, much more thrilling than any ‘Peeping Tom’ pastimes, because Jen and I are. . . drumroll please. . . going on a ghost hunt! And I can’t wait. Eek!
I’ve got mood music blasting through the car stereo (‘Bad Moon Rising’, ‘Thriller’, ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’ etc.), the heated seats are set to a bum-baking 24°, and we’re ready, willing and waiting to meet the guys from Ghost Watch Wales – Wales’ foremost paranormal explorers.
And we soon spot them, as a spectral hand appears from the depths of a parked car and beckons us over.
Closer, and we see they’re not in anything resembling the iconic Ecto-1, instead driving a rather more prosaic Fiat 500. Oh well, a girl can dream.
Introductions are made; Geraint is the owner of GWW (and lead investigator), and this evening he’s being ably assisted by two further team members, Gethin and Mark.
They tell us to follow them, and we proceed, in solemn two-car convoy, the 10.6 miles to the ‘secret location’, known in the GWW arena as ‘Area 51.’
[Tip #1: Some locations must remain undisclosed, for fear of potential paranormal poachers. The world of psychic exploration is, apparently, a cut-throat business so if you find an ‘active’ spot, keep it to yourself.]
And I’ve got to say that the journey definitely enhanced our anticipation. We threaded through twisting lanes, verges shrouded by thick ribbons of mist, and didn’t encounter another, living, soul.
Eventually we reached a wide driveway, blocked by wrought-iron gates – we had arrived at our final destination. Gulp. It was a single-storey, half-timbered house comprising two dumpy towers, with a front facing gable and a steeply-pitched roof.
Though a fair way removed from the vast country pile we’d been imagining, it certainly looked eerie, sitting squat and vaguely menacing, illuminated only by headlights. . . and just as my playlist switched to ‘Tubular Bells, Pt 1.’ Yikes!
Gethin unlocked the gates and we drove in, parked up and donned coats, scarves, hats and gloves – we’d been warned in advance to wrap up warm since it was a cold night and we’d be there til around 3am. Then we, trepidatiously, followed the ghost gang inside.
[Tip #2: Even on the mildest night, you might still feel a ghostly chill so layers are a must. I also went with tights, leggings, two pairs of thermal socks and a knock-off Oodie from Dunelm, and remained happily toasty for the full five hours.]
As the team trooped back and forth, armed with a variety of intriguing silver suitcases, Geraint got Jen and I settled with a fan heater and a mug of tea in the building’s tiny kitchen, and outlined how the investigation would proceed.
[Tip #3: Set up a temperate base camp, ideally with access to a kettle. Otherwise, take a large flask. And plenty of food too, because you don’t want your blood sugars dropping when you’re a world away from the bright lights of a Co-op, and in a place where no delivery drivers would ever venture.]
Giggling and whispering
There were two zones we were focusing on – the Main Hall (MH), a vast space with high vaulted ceilings and well-preserved parquet flooring, and the Back Room (BR), a more intimate space, currently being used by the property’s owner for storage.
Geraint also filled us in on the ‘ghosts’ that he’d seen/sensed/smelled there on their last visit. The main man was Reg, a Victorian labourer with a dry sense of humour and whose appearance was presaged by an ‘overpowering smell of pig shit.’
Apparently, Reg also possessed a fair knowledge of modern mechanics as he’d been known to restart the cars of those unfortunates who’d broken down outside. Reg sounded like a stand-up guy.
Though, that he’d also been known to appear in the back seats of visitors’ cars changed my opinion somewhat. Note to self: Check car thoroughly before heading home.
Then there were three young women, assumed to be maids from a local manor house. Their passing was due to cleaning arsenic-soaked wallpaper while omitting to keep a window open. Despite such an awful passing, their spirits retained a keen sense of fun and they’d been heard giggling occasionally and whispering between themselves. Uh oh!
And then there was the tragic tale of two children who had been murdered by their mother. It was a heartbreaking story but I really hoped they wouldn’t make an appearance – child ghosts freak me out.
By now, Gethin and Mark had finished lugging in the equipment cases and we were given a quick briefing on some of the paranormal paraphernalia that the team, and we, would be using. Here comes the science bit. . .
The EVP-R (Electronic Voice Phenomenon Recorder) is designed to pick up sounds and voices that might not otherwise be audible. Gethin told us it’s the most frequently used piece of kit during GWW investigations, and has garnered some excellent results. Ooh! Fingers crossed for disembodied voices tonight.
EMF (Electromagnetic Field) Meter is probably the most recognisable device in any ghost hunter’s arsenal. If you’ve watched Ghostbusters, you’d easily identify this small, handheld apparatus. It has coloured lights – green, amber, red – with the whole spectrum lighting up when a ‘spirit force’ turns up.
I’d bought my own, having spotted one on Amazon for £6.99, and I had great fun wandering around our house, testing for the presence of phantoms. Based on my limited research, I can confirm that we’re spectre-free – unless you count the kettle which is clearly haunted as it caused the meter to hit red whenever it boiled.
The Aeroflux II, a bland-looking white box, with an powerful purpose, was making its debut tonight. The guys were very excited about it because it ‘measures temperature deviations and logs air pressure 23 times a second.’ It also indicates any changes via a colour coded LED:
- Green = the device is actively monitoring.
- Amber = fluctuations occurring, so we might notice ‘minor’ events such as small noises, EMF spikes and slight temperature changes.
- Red = it’s kicking off, big time! Expect loud noises, strong EMF spikes and visual anomalies.
I caught Jen’s eye and we silently agreed that if the box flashed red, we’d hightail it out of there and burn rubber down the M4. Call us chickens but red sounded far too intense for fledgling phantom hunters.
Captured a ghost
By now, we’d finished our cuppas and were eager to get started. But not before Gethin had given us our own ‘monitoring devices.’ He handed us each a mobile phone which contained some very special apps.
I got the ‘SLS Camera with Night Vision’ which detects ‘humanoid bodies in your environment’, displaying them as stick figures. It was simple to use so I tested it out and it make stickmen of us all. Great, but I wasn’t sure how I’d react if a stray angular figure popped up on screen. Shudder!
However, Jen’s app was more interesting for she had. . . the ‘Paratek Ovilus.’ No, it’s nothing to do with Harry Potter. It’s an app that holds a databank of words which a passing spirit can dip into and use if they’d like to communicate. Epic! We were good to go.
[Tip #4: You can never have too much kit. But check out the range of apps available before you start splashing the cash.]
En route to the BR zone, I asked if the team had ever captured a ghost on camera and there were nods all round. Gethin handed me his phone, displaying a photo he’d taken at our current location, during a previous visit. ‘Take a look at this and tell me what you see.’
It was blurry, with a yellowish cast and had clearly been snapped with a lower resolution camera than was common these days. But you could make out, what appeared to be, the shadowy figure of a man, with something resembling a noose around his neck. Oo-er! I’ve got chills and they’re definitely multiplying!
Her Ovilus was flashing
Now, suitably scared, Jen and I made sure we chose seats between the guys, based on the irrational assumption that nothing could ‘get’ us if we were in the middle of the herd. Then Gethin pressed record and began the EVP sessions by ‘calling’ the spirits.
It was totally chilling. . . and I don’t mean that pleasurable thrill of fear you get when you’re watching a scary film.
The air felt damp, it was pitch black and all we could hear was question after question being asked of the ether, with pauses for potential answers.
At the same time, Jen began nudging me because her Ovilus was flashing words which were somewhat disturbing – ‘Satan’, ‘Death’, ‘Malevolent’, ‘Hate’, and what really freaked us out, ‘Stay’. Uh oh.
But, in the spirit of scientific honesty, we also got ‘Method’, ‘Nose’, ‘Sausage’, ‘Weather’ and,‘Sandwich’ which caused some silent shoulder shaking and left us feeling more relaxed – though that didn’t last long.
After some time, Gethin decided to play back the recordings for us to hear – he’d noticed ‘spikes’ occurring throughout the sessions and, in almost every one, he’d captured some kind of sound anomaly.
And this was the most terrifying part of the night, listening to those breathy ‘voices’(?) – which had not been audible at the time – whisper, whistle and chuckle beside us. We also heard several muffled bangs and what sounded like the scrape of furniture being moved – maybe across a well-preserved parquet floor? Double Yikes!
At that point I quietly suggested to Jen that we might make an early exit, but her blood was up, the MH zone was next and she really wanted a shot at ‘communing’. So, of course, we stayed. Bloody Jen and her puppy-dog eyes!
During another ‘tea and get warm’ break, Mark arranged five chairs around a small table in the centre of the MH zone and, nervously taking my place, I admit that I felt intensely vulnerable.
Just like the best spies in the business, I prefer sitting with my back against a wall so that any threat comes at me head on – not creep up behind me and place icy hands around my throat. Yep, my imagination was running wild.
Gethin asked if I’d like to have a go at ‘calling’, and I tried, but after a stilted and clichéd start – ‘Hello, I’m Del. . . Is anybody there?’ – which earned a definite corporeal tut from someone, Jen took over and was, surprisingly, excellent.
She kept going for ages, was applauded by the experts on her ‘good rhythm’ and was even rewarded with a few spikey anomalies. Sigh.
[Tip #5 – When ‘calling’, find your flow. Yes, leave pauses for inaudible replies, but keep your questions coming.]
A faint whiff of pig shit
It was around 2:30am, and nearly time take our leave of Area 51, when Geraint, who’d been doing more EVP questioning, gave a wide and welcoming smile.
He then imparted the happy news that, ‘There’s a boy standing there’, and pointed to an empty space just behind my left shoulder. Gulp.
Then he continued: ‘Can you try to affect one of us? Or come and play under the table? You like to play, don’t you?’
Klaxon alert! Shit just got real! I did not want a little boy ghost ‘playing’ anywhere near me. I had visions of a pale, wild-eyed face peeping up from between my thighs and so, on the pretence of a loo stop, I made a swift exit – dragging Jen along to stand guard outside. I’d had enough excitement for one night.
And yes, I realise I’m a big fat scaredy-cat but it was a very unnerving place, and I was glad when the boy ‘disappeared’ and the guys began packing away.
They escorted us back to the car, which I checked thoroughly for any visual, or olfactory, evidence of Reg – thankfully, there was none – and we headed home. It had certainly been a night to remember.
And it might be fanciful (and most likely due to low blood sugars) but, as we drove away, I swear I caught the faint whiff of pig shit, and heard a muffled voice call out, ‘Duh, I could murder a sausage sandwich!’ EEK!
If you fancy experiencing a serious paranormal investigation for yourself, you can find the Ghost Watch Wales group on Facebook, where they post upcoming events and share evidence from their investigations. Next Saturday they have a Swansea-based investigation, so maybe we’ll see you there? (Yep, Jen’s one very persuasive lady. Sigh.)
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