“Expect the unexpected” we were told after volunteering as potential ghost busters on a Red Letter Days overnight ghost hunting experience.
With a long drive ahead to Woodchester Mansion in Gloucestershire, we discussed our views on ghost hunting on the way: Ali, a convert already; Issy, not convinced.
What could possibly go wrong?
Ali takes up the story on arrival:
“The gate is padlocked with a four number combination. I try the year, I try the area dialling code, I try my birthday. Nothing happens. We are locked out. How to open the gate that gets you into the mansion grounds? (the first of many questions to present themselves as the night wore on).
As it happens, the answer is that you drive to the pub and meet the other ghost hunters. The site manager then arrives, opens and locks behind you the gate to Woodchester Mansion and the fun begins.”
Woodchester Mansion, a stunning but unfinished five story grand Gothic house from 1865 duskily looms out of the woods as we approach on a very long and equally unfinished dirt track.
The location for countless movies and featured as a TV Dracula’s Gothic lair for the BBC in 2006, you can imagine how easily it must have passed the audition.
30 intrepid spook-watchers then congregate in the one room that had a fire and furniture. Elsewhere, dust gathers on abandoned tools and slabs of stone, while rotting ladders lead eerily upwards to rooms without doors. Or floors.
The house is empty and has never really been lived in; originally a local millionaire’s vanity project from Victorian times. He ran out of money and the building now falls under the wing of the Woodchester Mansion Trust, who undertake to preserve it in its present form.
Fuelled with the first of many caffeine breaks, an introduction from our Haunted Happenings hosts and then a guided tour, everyone gets stuck in to trying to communicate with the spirits said to inhabit the building.
Getting lost was inevitable in our different groups; stumbling around passageways with torches flickering, shouting cheerily “It’s only me”, as lights and shadows flickered up unfinished plaster walls and footsteps fell on un-carpeted stairs.
Our medium begins to feel the spirits around her and introduces us to James, a former owner who seems to want us out, two WW2 Canadian airmen from Quebec still on duty in an upper corridor, the stable boy preceded by horsey aromas and George, a mason from a bygone age with a fondness for cider.
Most of these spirits, we are told, are older than the house in which we stand.
Conducting various experiments we are onsite until 5am, fuelled by coffee and our own inquisitive natures.
We’ve witnessed tipped tables, lights flickering on and off, odd smells and one member of our little team smacked on the bottom by a frolicsome and invisible hand. We’ve carried folding tables up and down cellar steps powered by adrenaline and jaffa cakes. We’ve squatted in pitch black corridors on trembling knees knocking with cold. We’ve actually addressed a conversation to a flickering torch.
“Frankly by 5am, having spent all night in the cold and dark, downing enough caffeine to make a small army jittery, I still feel there is nothing that cannot be explained away. But can’t deny it’s been fun”.
As we slowly file out, dawn is skimming blue light on the horizon and the birds are starting up. The gate is unlocked and we stream out, brake lights flashing as cars drop into rutted holes on the drive.
Woodchester Mansion recedes into the valley, phone signal returns (one whole bar) and we swing back into the tarmacked reality of the B4406 to Stroud, wondering whether the last few hours had really happened.
Surreal… Thank you Red Letter Days, your experiences never fail to amaze!
Have you ever experienced paranormal happenings?