Category Archives: Poltergeist Cases

Who ya gonna call? A Pembrokeshire Haunting….


We have a new answer to that long established question “Who ya gonna call?”

Pembrokeshire County Council  it seems!

Pembrokeshire County Council to investigate ghostly events at Wintern Day Centre, Fishguard

3:04pm Wednesday 5th May 2010

Mischievous ghosts are said to be spooking staff at a Pembrokeshire day centre.

Strange activity has been experienced at the Wintern Day Centre, in Fishguard, run by Pembrokeshire County Council. The problem has got so bad staff are believed to be afraid of working there after hours.

Firstly, I can see why PCC are concerned. This is a staffing issue, and they have to take it seriously. Secondly, I’m mildly curious as to what they find!

Unexplained events include printers printing when not plugged in, keyboards turning upside down overnight, furniture being moved, items flying off walls and a haunting smell of bluebells wafting through the rooms.

OK, when a printer prints and it IS plugged in I regard that as a minor miracle. However, my issues with IT aside, that is an odd phenomena, but I can imagine a printer retaining charge after it is unplugged. There must be ways this could occur – I’m not sure by “Not plugged in” if it means not plugged in to the mains (like Cath’s hairdresser in the Cheltenham case)  or not plugged in to the pc, which would be much less mysterious I think.  I suspect many printers possess some kind of “buffer”, and after receiving a command to print can continue to do so, at some later point when powered up again. Mine does it when I turn my pc back on (or simply remember to put some paper in it) and interrupted print jobs I had forgotten about come shooting out throwing paper all over the floor.  However without more details as to the precise nature of the issue it is probably fruitless to speculate further. The problem may however be uncanny — a brief Google search for “printer working while not plugged in” provides no hits on Google.  However “haunted printer” returns 515 hits —

http://www.google.co.uk/search?hl=en&client=firefox-a&hs=X1q&rls=org.mozilla%3Aen-GB%3Aofficial&channel=s&q=%22haunted+printer%22&aq=f&aqi=&aql=&oq=&gs_rfai=

— and i do not have time this morning to check them all to see if any are similar problems. 🙂

“keyboards turning upside down overnight” again does not sound all that mysterious to me, if by this it means that workers enter the building in the morning to find that their pc keyboards are upside down.  It seems to baffle many office workers to realise that things move overnight — because they are so used to being the sole occupants of their workspace they forget that while they are at home, or safely in bed, a team of cleaners come in and clean the office?  As they never see these people, or very rarely, they may well fail to consider the option a cleaner has simply sprayed and wiped the desk, then forgotten to flip the keyboard back properly.  I can’t prove that was what was happening here, but I would start my enquiries with the office cleaners. “Was it Henry the mild-manner Janitor? — could be!”

“furniture being moved” is something every reader of this blog must be familiar with as a recurring phenomena by now. The problem however is the frustrating lack of details — if again, it simply comes down to workers coming in in the morning and finding furniture is not where it should be, then late working staff, people using the building unofficially after close to access the net, or  most likely of all those ‘invisible’ cleaners are my prime suspects.

“items flying off walls” — interesting, but incredibly vague. I suspect the author of this piece, Anwen Humfrey would have given more details if possible — so either this happened a while ago, or the witnesses are not speaking, or its simply a very common occurrence. “Flying off” is intriguing, but “items falling off walls” may be closer to the truth – while I desperately want to know distances, trajectories etc, sadly no details are available (though I will email Anwen of course, just in case!)

More intriguing is “and a haunting smell of bluebells wafting through the rooms.” The Coates case saw me searching the house and handbag and clothing (and let’s face it I’d probably have gone for a full body cavity search if decency permitted) of a mediumistic claimant after a strong floral smell pervaded the property after she did her “clearing”.  We could all smell it, it was not a delicate scent, and I never did locate the source.  I’d be useless here though – I live near a very beautiful bluebell wood, but I can not bring to mind the smell of bluebells. Of course I could invent hundreds of reasons for a phantom smell, but just for once I’ll resist the temptation. So why bluebells?

Rumour suggests the building is haunted by the spirits of two maids who lived in the attic. It is understood the girls hanged themselves after both became pregnant. The tragedy is said to have happened when the bluebells bloomed, and the building now smells eerily of the flowers.

I’m pretty sure this romantic tale has grown up recently (perhaps from a psychic claimants utterances) in response to the smell, not vice versa. I could of course be totally wrong, I usually am. I would love to know if there is any written record, or indeed older resident of the area, who can recall hearing the story in the past. “Wronged pregnant maidservants” are a staple of Victorian scandal and modern psychic’s claims, but whenever I hear of a “ruined” girl and these tragedies, I am reminded of Thomas Hardy’s wonderful poem The Ruined Maid. Do have a look, it’s not what you might expect from Hardy! 🙂

One source who has been researching the building, said: “It’s quite true, it’s a very scary situation, staff are not willing to work there at night at all. “It’s worse now than ever. Over the years when they used to light fires there, they would go out with a bang for no reason. It must be especially frightening for someone new starting work there.”

An anonymous source? Presumably someone connected with the workplace, but OK,  they tell us a couple of very interesting facts. I don’t know if the fires are gas, coal or electric, so I can’t speculate in that — but I’d get a fire safety officer round, or a GasSafe plumber, or an electrician as appropriate.  However this has been going on for years at a low level?  Yet only recently have the other phenomena started based on this – but I am speculating beyond the facts, and would need t know much more before I could be confident in that assertion, it’s just a possibility based on what I infer from this…

Shaun Sable, of paranormal investigation team Pembrokeshire Beyond, said: “It would be quite exciting to go down there and see what’s happening.” The Western Telegraph understands that Pembrokeshire County Council is investigating, and despite calls for an exorcist, is looking for other explanations before considering that course of action.A Pembrokeshire County Council spokesman said: “Members of staff at the centre have reported some strange activity and unusual noises. Although there have been no further reports in the past month, the council has arranged for the building to be inspected in order to reassure the staff working there.”

It’s interesting the phenomena apparently ceased quite quickly. Again I wish I knew more…

Anyway part 2 to follow.

cj x

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Britain’s got Poltergeists?


I hardly know what to make of this story!

Britain’s Got Talent bosses were apparently left spooked after ghostly happenings at a Newcastle audition.

Piers Morgan was hit by a mysterious flying rock coming from the direction of an empty stage and the theatre temperature dropped so low that he and fellow judges Amanda Holden and Simon Cowell had to get hot water bottles.

Hosts Ant and Dec were also unnerved by the events in the Newcastle theatre, where they once performed as lads.

A show insider told The Sun: “Piers felt something hit him in the head. He picked it up and it was a small rock.

“He asked if anyone threw something and the answer was ‘no’. It seemed to come from the stage area, where no one was. Then the room suddenly became really cold and you could see your breath. The judges asked for hot water bottles to keep their bums warm.”

Ant and Dec worked backstage at the Tyne Journal Theatre when they were youngsters and played munchkins in The Wizard Of Oz.

from  http://www.digitalspy.co.uk/tv/s107/britains-got-talent/news/a217715/talent-audition-attracts-ghostly-entry.html

I’d like to see more details, but if Piers Morgan was struck by a rock it may have been thrown by anyone upset by their dismal performance being criticised I guess.  Still, if i knew more about the incident I would comment, but this seems to come from an unattributed source, and I expect Piers Morgan is a bit busy to worry about answering my email!

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Reports from a Firestation in Virginia


OK, this one caught my attention this morning —

Crews report ghostly happenings at Va firehouse

By LAETITIA CLAYTON Northern Virginia Daily

April 11, 2010

TOMS BROOK, Va. – Things do go bump at Toms Brook Fire Hall, and not just in the night.

There don’t seem to be certain times or circumstances that prompt the strange happenings, such as lights turning on and off, doors opening and closing and pots and pans flying off of shelves. But several people can attest to the fact that these things do happen–and they attribute them to a ghost they call George.

It’s been a quiet few days, or maybe i have just been so busy I have not picked up on any cases that made the press, but this one is quite interesting. Lights turning on and off always to me suggests an urgent check on the wiring: but I assume a Fire Department knows a thing or two about electrical safety. Doors opening and closing, pots and pans flying off shelves? Interesting, and obviously compatible with a “polt” interpretation – but also possibly with a wooden building being shaken violently somehow? I don’t know the building is wooden btw, I’m just wondering of there might be some structural problem. Tony Cornell’s fascinating experiments with shaking buildings apart were conducted on brick built Cambridgeshire houses as I recall: it could be all the above has sensible explanations. Still let’s look further…

Richard Funkhouser, who was fire chief at Toms Brook for 14 years, says he has seen George twice. “But there’s been a couple of other people that have actually seen him, and we all describe him the same way,” he says. “Floppy hat, little square glasses, with a riding coat.”

There is something about the apparitions dress sense that appeals to me – that may be a description of something 18th or 19th century – I’m no expert in the history of fashion — but it is clearly unusual!   I respect the chap for sharing his story, must be hard when you were a fire chief to go public with something like this — but sounds like he has retired now. The wording is a little odd “a couple of other people have actually seen him” seems to suggest that Richard has not — but he has twice, unless that was somehow ‘psychically’? I suspect this is down to my unfamiliarity with how Americans phrase things, or just the way the interview was written up.

George has been around awhile, too, Funkhouser says, as there were some sightings at the old fire hall, which was built in the early 1900s. Funkhouser believes George followed them to the new facility when it was built in 1983–and so does the Virginia Independent Paranormal Society, a local team of paranormal investigators who are very familiar with the Toms Brook Fire Hall.

So the ghost “moved house” with the firemen? I know that the Cheltenham ghost has occasionally been reported in buildings across the road, but even in the classic apparitional phase of that case she was seen all over the house and grounds.  A ghost that follows you about is usually considered a person-centred ghost, that is often a polt — though I have read enough accounts to not entirely dismiss the idea of haunted objects. Could the ghost be “anchored” to something that was taken from one building to the other? Is the ghost some sort of “totem” of the firemen, moving with them? Are the earlier and later sightings completely unrelated? Still this is interesting.

Shenandoah County-based Vips was formed in 1996 by Toms Brook residents Rusty Edmondson and his wife, Sharon, and their friend, Wade Ross, of Edinburg. All three are Civil War re-enactors and historians. They believe that George and many of the other ghosts they’ve encountered were Civil War soldiers.

I can see why given the dress of the apparition, makes perfect sense I guess. The team report their results from visits…

During their investigation of the fire hall last year, Vips found some mists, orbs and energy balls, Edmondson says, referring to terms used in the paranormal world to describe images and the like that are detected using various equipment. In one picture, they captured “almost the form of a body getting ready to go up the steps,” he says, and they picked up some “energy streaks in the bathroom.”

“He has a fetish for the bathroom,” Edmondson says of George.  “This ghost likes water,” Funkhouser agrees.

Not sure what to make of this. However with the next bit I am back on familiar territory —

When he was fire chief, Funkhouser says he had several volunteers leave the building and not come back until the next day after strange things occurred when they were sleeping there overnight.  “A lot of them are scared to death,” he says. “One of them, it likes to mess with him in the bathroom. It shakes the stall door.”

This sounds pretty typical – people get spooked when in the most isolated, er, vulnerable places. This does however to me sound an awful lot like a workplace prank, a ghostly tradition used to scare the new boys on the fire brigade. Just typical humour for firefighters, to sneak in and rattle the loo door while someone is using it, having primed the pump with ghost stories? Yet I did in the Gloucester case deal with a haunted loo, which was a central part of the manifestations, and indeed witnessed “in action” – the toilet seat rising and falling – by the CPRG team there.

Funkhouser got a call from one of the volunteers one night, he recalls, who said, “Some creepy stuff is going on down here.”  A soda pop fell out of the machine and onto the floor, the fire hall’s office door opened and closed, and the door to the radio room, which Funkhouser says takes a lot of force to open, was opened on its own.  “I’m getting the hell out of here,” Funkhouser says the volunteer told him, and he did–even leaving his coat behind.

This sounds less like normal hoaxing to me. Where is the fun in it? And how do you make the soda machine dispense like that? OK it may have just been broken, and if the chap in question was trying to buy a soda when it fell out it sounds a lot less mysterious: insufficient data. Still doors opening and closing might unnerve one…

And then there was Christmas night three years ago. Edmondson says he was in the fire hall waiting for his wife to pick him up when he heard the commode flush. He thought someone else was there, but couldn’t find a soul. Lights proceeded to turn on and off and doors slammed. Edmondson says he had finally had enough.  “I said, ‘That’s it pal. If you don’t want me to be here, I’ll leave.

Well I don’t know how familiar Edmondson is with the building. Given he is a psychical researcher, it is not hard to believe he could have been hoaxed by a sceptical fun loving fireman – but Christmas night is an odd time to play tricks like this, and again we see the doors slamming. Lights being turned on and off? Well thats possible from the fuses I guess, but… it certainly sounds spooky enough!

The rest of the article is about ViPs – I seem to recall seeing Edmondson on a CBS Reality Unexplained Mysteries segment about Gettysburg ghosts — but I look forward to hearing more of the ghost. Firestations often seem to have ghost stories though – the old Bond Street I believe in Ipswich firestation was reputedly haunted, and also the old Bury St Edmunds firestation, down by the Mermaid Pits — now demolished. Still, more of a haunt than a poltergeist this one. 🙂

cj x

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South Yorkshire Tyre Depot Poltergeist – part 4


OK, moving on. Having established that people I know and trust are looking at this one, I’m still reading the press – the news story has appeared from Canada to India now – but I’m increasingly intrigued by trying to work out what is actually going on. Readers of the previous parts (and if you have not read them have a look at part 3 and the associated newspaper article at least to get the idea of what I am talking about) will recall my realisation yesterday that in fact all we have in the 2010 incident seems to be, based on the press release, a couple of old pennies turning up. The interest in the story is because in 2003 there was a lot of activity of different types — and it could be this marks the beginning of that again I suppose, in a recurring haunt with phenomena over many years, as was the case with Syderstone Parsonage and, ostensibly, Borley Rectory.

If I am correct in this assumption, and i’ not going to muddy the waters by bothering Nick White as he has plenty of other interest from the print media I’m sure, and a business to run, and other highly qualified investigators are looking in to the matter, then we have the mystery of these two potential “apports”.  So where did they come from?  Disappointingly the answer may be very prosaic.

All of the news stories were credited to “Staff Reporter” or similar, which means they were written up from a press release. If you go through all the stories – Telegraph, Express, Mail, Star, etc, the wording and information content is pretty similar. The Express gave the most detailed coverage — however it it the Daily Star which in a short piece may provide us with the essential clue – a clue omitted from the other journalists working from the same press release as far as I can make out?

Let’s look at the Daily Star article, or rather the relevant piece. It’s almost verbatim the same as the other articles – with one vital piece of information at the end the others chose not to present…

Previous owner Nigel Lee even asked a vicar to do an exorcism.Nick added: “Nigel told me all about the strange things that had been happening.

“Some of it was incredible – with tyres stacking themselves up and being moved around when the place was locked up at night.

“Customers even witnessed small change and stones coming out of nowhere and flying here and there – even hitting the staff sometimes.

“Tyres had also been known to jump from the racks on the walls and roll along the floor of the workshop in front of the office.

“When I took over there was a load of old coins piled up on the back of all tyre racks – and nobody could ever explain how they got there.”

http://www.dailystar.co.uk/posts/view/129278

Note the section in bold. Now it could be the coins stacked there were paranormal – or it could be that someone in the moving out of the previous tenant (Nigel Lee) found an old tin of pennies, and knocked them over, and just stacked them up on the tyre rack. I think the latter is rather more likely somehow… However I don’t know enough about this incident to actually really pass comment — it could be it was all much more mysterious than it sounds.   What I do know now from the Daily Star coverage that I did not know before is that there were at one point a lot of old coins on the property. That a couple, maybe more, should have strayed and then been noticed back in February and March hardly defies rational explanation to my mind.

There are technical issues we could bring to the problem – “perfect placement” is a common feature of polt phenomena, and without interviewing or investigating further I can only speculate, but while it might seem unlikely for three years old coins could be kicked around a garage unnoticed (and we don’t know the coins found on the tyre racks were of the same type: they could have been more recent I guess, though they are described as “old” )  it strikes me as entirely possible that a couple of coins have in fact been kicking around the garage since 2007 – notice one, and you are more likely to spot another. The first thing investigators might want to do is to check that there are no other coins hidden in the depot, concealed under dirt or grime, and run a metal detector over any gravel or mud outside.

Now it’s easy to be an armchair expert – I have been on enough investigations over the years to know just how annoying it is to have ill founded speculation by people who have never spoken to the witnesses come up with exciting sceptical “debunks” — but clearly this possibility needs to be taken very seriously.

I will note one other thing – while I am still planning to find the accounts of the 2003 incident, if I can, the Star‘s reporting contains a few other items of interest — starting with stacking phenomena. Coins stacked, tyres stacked. I had similar reported to me by staff  in The Dolphin, Thetford case in the mid 1990’s . (In case readers are not aware I have been actively investigating with interviews and physical visits to the properties these phenomena for well over twenty years now). In the Dolphin case it was bizarrely stacked chairs — here tyres and coins… One immediately thinks of a line from Ghostbusters

“Symmetrical book stacking. Just like the Philadelphia mass turbulence of 1947.

Now I suspect stacking of objects has a long and respectable history in polt cases – but now for a shameful admission: I have never watched the film Poltergeist, or any of its sequels.  I do wonder if this phenomena might feature in that film, and be part of the popular culture view of what a poltergeist should do. As it happens I have mislaid my copy of Gauld and Cornell’s Poltergeists, so I can’t check, and it’s no reason to be suspicious – popular culture often reflects actual occurrences after all – but I am curious.

Every weekend when Becky drives down she brings the DVD of the film Poltergeist for me to watch., and every weekend I fail. We have seen The Exorcist, endless ghost hunting shows, and I read everything from Chat to Take A Break to try and get a  handle on popular culture representations of my field, yet somehow I have missed Poltergeist! I think it’s time for another one of my little experiments….

Anyway, all these reports are Nick White telling us what Nigel Lee experienced seven years ago.  I was interested by

Tyres had also been known to jump from the racks on the walls and roll along the floor of the workshop in front of the office.

Well tyres roll, and I figured if you squeezed them in a rack, and the temperature changed enough this might happen naturally. However a moments thought has made me doubt this: tyres experience a lot of heat from friction in gripping road surfaces, and speeding up and slowing down must experience rather more temperature change than is likely to occur in the tyre depot. I guess they do not expand or contract much, or they would be not suited to purpose. There may be other ways they could leave the racks though I suspect, like if not properly placed on them. Hard to say, but I have a garage round the corner from my house, and I shall go see if they do tyres and ask them if there tyres ever roll off the racks. Seems a sensible way to proceed?

Customers even witnessed small change and stones coming out of nowhere and flying here and there – even hitting the staff sometimes.

And here is the bit where I really wish I knew more. It happened seven years ago now, and I suspect the staff will have forgotten most of what happened – (see Becky & my Accidental Census research for why I assume this; will try and get it published this year sometime, but there is a short summary of the relevant part on my other blog). I have mentioned before my surprise at the objects striking the staff – it is now clear they actually did, assuming Nick is remembering correctly – but there is one detail I would very much like to know.

So what do I think of the Doncaster poltergeist? Well whatever happened in 2003, I think the coins appearing can be explained mundanely. It may well be there is much more to this case, but only the conflation of the 2003 and 2010 incidents by the press allows the story to be as interesting as it is. What is alarming however, assuming the Daily Star did not conduct an additional interview, is how the journalist in almost all the sources withheld the information about the old coins Nick provided: probably because they immediately jumped to the same conclusion as me, that it was suggestive of a normal non-paranormal explanation.

When I interviewed Janice Wright about the Cheshire Poltergeist I was surprised to find the press stories were pretty accurate – well they missed an incident, and seem to have invented one tiny bit – I hope to write more on this case this week — but it was well handled by the local journalist. In this case it was only my sheer determination to read all the coverage that meant I finally noticed that little bit in the Daily Star.

So is the Doncaster tyre depot still haunted? No idea. Insufficient data: but the press coverage is not suggestive of a poltergeist outbreak of any intensity at his time, and coins rolling around in the dirt strikes me as a probably cause.

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South Yorkshire Tyre Depot Poltergeist – part 3


OK, back to the ‘ Doncaster Poltergeist’ — and the Daily Mail coverage this time

The ghost in my garage: Riddle of the tyre depot phantom whose calling card is a pre-war penny

Gothic castles, deserted mansions, ivy-covered old houses  –  all of them perfect haunts for a ghost.

But how about something as modern and mundane as a tyre depot in sensible South Yorkshire?

According to owner Nick White, a supernatural visitor has been running riot at his garage, which was originally a chapel and also served as a makeshift mortuary during the Second World War.

So reads the Daily Mail’s opening paragraph on the current case we are looking at.  We learn one new fact — the location was also a chapel in the past.  I was able to locate the name, address (Central Doncaster) and a few positive reviews – it’s a good garage, I doubt they need to advertise – for the company – interestingly neither the Express or the Mail chose to directly reveal this information.

The uninvited guest has thrown stones and coins at staff, and stacked up piles of tyres and moved them around the building while it was locked up overnight.

Hey, we are back on very familair territory – good old fashioned stone throwing, reported throughout history. One wonders if a polt whatever that may be can differentiate between a stone and a coin? It’s interesting that the Express piece did not mention this classic phenomena in their write up…

The ghostly figure, which materialised from time to time dressed in the style of the 1940s, is said to have first made its presence felt in 2003 but vanished (so to speak) after Mr White took over the business three years ago.

OK, so now we have new and interesting information. The ghost was seen before – nothing here suggests that the apparition has been seen since the 2003 outbreak — and after Nick White takes over, he seemingly a sensible kind of bloke, it all stops. Did that earlier phase which appears to be associated with apparitions – well one apparition of a chap in “1940’s” clothing — feature similar physical phenomena of objects moving and being thrown? Actually, yes it did.Yet the new phase seems fairly low key in comparison…

The obvious thing to do is to link the two episodes as one “haunting” — but anyone who has read my JSPR piece The Poverty of Theory: Some Notes On Investigation of Spontaneous Cases will understand why I hesitate to do so.  In this case I think they may well be linked – but not as directly as may at first appear. I will explain my thinking on this in a later piece…

Now, however, the odd goings on have started again, with pre-war coins turning up mysteriously on the garage floor in two strange incidents a month apart. Mr White found the first of the old penny pieces, dated 1936 and bearing the image of George VI, when he arrived for work one day in February. The second copper coin, dated 1938, was lying in almost the same spot when Mr White, 35, and one of his mechanics turned up at the depot in Doncaster last week.

OK, I think I had best try to talk to Mr White. Perhaps I have the wrong end of the stick: from this it sounds like the coin incidents are the only things that have happened, and these are interpreted as spooky because of the 2003 episode. Clearly I need to find out more about the earlier incident – in case you have not gathered by now my modus operandi is to read each news story and comment in succession, trying to get as much information as possible, then work out a theory based on the reported facts and follow it up with phone calls and emails. Reading the stories one at a time produces an odd effect of me misinterpreting – I had assumed the tyres moving and coins pelting staff were recent events, clearly not – but I find it useful as I develop an analysis methodologically, without trying to piece it all together too quickly…

Mr White said: ‘I took all the strange stories with a big pinch of salt when I bought the place. But I wouldn’t like to say it’s not true any more. There’s no logical explanation for the two old pennies turning up like they did. I wish there was. ‘It’s a little bit scary knowing that there’s something happening while the place is locked up at night.’ Previous owner Nigel Lee once called in a clergyman to perform an exorcism.

We get a picture of a sensible straight forward bloke here. I wonder who the other mechanic was, and whether he worked for Nigel Lee, the previous owner? I doubt there was an “exorcism” as such: a blessing seems more likely. AGain all these events will be reported in the press of the time, I just need to find the stories.

Mr White added: ‘Nigel told me all about the tyres being moved around when the place was locked up at night and customers witnessing small change and stones coming out of nowhere and flying here and there.

Interesting. Well I will comment fully tonight!

‘It’s all right being sceptical about these things, but I’m the owner of two very old pennies now, and I’d love to know where they came from.’

The story is from : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1263755/The-ghost-garage-Riddle-tyre-depot-phantom-calling-card-pre-war-penny.html#ixzz0kKZ1Kh0c

Part four to follow!

cj x

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South Yorkshire Tyre Depot Part 2


OK, let’s start with the Daily Express coverage of this event – which it seems is happening in Doncaster. I will then return to the Daily Mail story.  Firstly, thanks to David Sivier for the tip-off which led me to this story today.

RIDDLE OF THE PENNY PHANTOM

A PHANTOM has left a tyre depot boss spooked after 70-year-old King George VI penny coins were left on the floor at the dead of night.

So begins the story. In itself I find this fascinating: during the Accidental Census of Hallucinations conducted by Becky Smith and myself  we had a wonderful account of a Canadian poltergeist case where coins being moved and left on the floor were a key phenomena. Money also featured heavily in the Cardiff Responsive Poltergeist investigated by Prof. David Fontana, and in many other cases over the years. Immediately a question arises – why are coins (and less frequently banknotes – one wonders when mysterious Paypal transactions and credit cards will start to feature!) so important in these cases?

British Pennies

King George VI penny (top) - from Wikipedia commons. They are about the size of a modern two pence piece.

So seriously, why coins? One reason may be that coins provide a date, and set a “cause” for event in context. We are all used to archaeologists dating sites by coin finds, while coins remain in circulation for sometimes decades after they are minted, and sometimes much longer, the latest coin found can sometimes provide an important clue to the latest date of a site being inhabited.  However, in this kind of case the date of the coins is clearly pointing to a time period — but immediately something strikes me as very unusual. As far as I recall off the top of my head, in Cardiff and other cases I have looked at like the Canadian one the coinage that was moved or appeared was modern – contemporary money. In fact I seem to recall fivers appearing in the Cardiff case.

Ancient coins may feature in some cases – I have vague memories of such, and would welcome being pointed to references – but I can only think of the artefacts produced by the Scole Group, some of  which such as a newspaper were again of approximately World War 2 vintage (though later shown to be a later souvenir reproduction copy as I recall?), and the Borley Medallions which were 18th or 19th century French religious medallions. It might be interesting to do an analysis of the age of the items in such cases as the time of the discovery, rather than the date they come from, and see if there was any pattern –but oddly the very fact these coins are so clearly old makes me wonder if we could be looking at a hoax?

George VI pennies are not rare – at home in Suffolk I have a small box with a couple of hundred of them, and other old coins going all the way back to Queen Victoria. It’s about forty years since they were legal tender, but I assume that millions of them were in circulation, and many readers elderly relatives may still have some in their homes, based on my grandmother Alice having given me hers she never got round to changing in to new money at decimalization. Only two coins have been found so far, so not hard to fake if you wanted to.

The coins being left on the floor are however interesting – I would have thought a hoaxer would have thrown them, or placed them in some more interesting and eerie location. In the Canadian case,  the witness reports coins being taken form a glass jar and placed on top of the TV, the floor by the bedroom door, and the coffee table. A similar, equally ‘pointless’ manifestation – except in that case the coins were modern.

So why money? Is this indicative of a “dead” or “living” agent for the ‘haunt’? As I note using commonly available old coins seems to be an obvious tactic for a hoaxer — and if you are going to lob something in a hoax coins are a great choice, easily available, make a nice ringing noise on impact and people are wired to be impressed by money – but equally the psychological power of money and coinage as a symbol might be just as important if unconscious psi from a living agent was responsible. And if a discarnate “dead guy” was responsible, well maybe we can see this as a very definite demonstrations of the “ghosts” time era….

Google and the Single Poltergeist

However, I am by nature suspicious. Those who do not own a blog may not be aware but while we receive no information on WHO is googling our sites, blog owners can see what search terms bring people to the site from Google and other search engines.  In recent weeks I have noticed a pattern on my other blog – And Sometimes He’s So Nameless – and on this new blog. The search terms “Cardiff poltergeist +Fontana” & similar turn up just three hits on this site (April 1st to 3rd) – and the same period reveals a number of hits (12) on my other blog on this subject. Now in fact Becky’s essay and my passing references say nothing about coins, and I know that at least one individual was writing a piece on the Cardiff  case — so perhaps my suspicions are ill founded. I suspect the most likely reason for the interest in the Cardiff Case in early April was that the old Ghosthunters (William Woolard) show aired somewhere in the internet using world, as a similar pattern emerged of searches for “Ancient Ram Inn” after the Ghost Adventures episode based there aired first in the US and then in the UK.  I therefore think that it is unlikely, but not impossible someone could have been using Google to find out about polts to fake one: it is far more likely given the large number of recent cases reported that an investigator or interested party was casually browsing!

Apparitional Encounters…

Let us return to the Daily Express story —

The ghostly figure, said to materialise from time to time in 1940s clothing, has previously pelted staff with coins by day and moved tyres around the locked building overnight.

Curious. Several things stand out here. Firstly, an apparition has been seen – a “polterghost case”. That is of course not that uncommon as I have pointed out before, and I will write something on polterghosts in the future.  The figure is seen in 1940’s clothing – hence the coins are clearly appropriate. Yet, one wonders — the journalist does not seem to have an interview or direct quote about the figure being seen. One wonders how long ago the ghost was seen, and if an old ghost inspired the 40’s coins… I don’t know why, maybe I’m just unusually cynical today. Perhaps it’s the fact I find the story in the national press, rather than the local press as with the other stories.

Secondly, we see the staff have in fact been “pelted” with coins. Readers of my blog will realise why I find that interesting and puzzling. Did the coins hit them? Were they modern coins, or more George VI pennies? Probably the former, as only two George VI pennies have been found, and they were both on the floor.  Why George VI pennies? I would have imagined a chap in say 1942 would have in his loose change coins from George V, and other monarchs.  George VI only came to the throne in 1936 (December 11th), so coinage issued would only go back 14 years at the end of the forties – if I had any money I would check the dates, but I would not be surprised to find coins dating from the 1980’s and 1990’s in my pockets (well I would, but only because the life of a paranormal investigator means I hardly ever have any coins in my pockets – time to add a donate button to the blog!) So far only two old coins have been recovered – why I postulate above that the other coins staff were “pelted with” are modern – so I guess that implies some time in the 1940’s when they were the most common coins in circulation.

In the spirit of investigation I found my coat with a handful of change in – the coins were dated as follows 1980 (1):  1989 (1): 1996 (1) : 1997 (1) : 2001 (3) : 2007 (1): 2009 (2).   So while we only have two King George VI (coins struck 1937-1952) coins to work with, it would be dangerous to draw too many conclusions  from that – I have a thirty year two pence piece in my pocket!  Becky checked her purse, and her oldest coin was 1982 – as old as she is…

Still, we are also back to the traditional poltergeist activity – people having coins thrown at them, and tires moving around. But wait —

“and moved tyres around the locked building overnight.”

OK. So tires move when no one is present. I have seen plenty of cases where this kind of thing is supposed to occur – movement when no one present in the building. Off the top of my head that was the case in a couple of incidents in The Bromley Poltergeist investigated by the late Manfred Cassirer. However it clashes with William Roll’s cases, where  human living agent was almost always present in the vicinity when events occurred, and the “vortex” theory, where a swirling field of “energy” around a living agent shoots objects off at a tangent, like dried peas off a record turntable…

I find this mildly suspicious. Why should the movement not occur during the day? Sure night time is the traditional time for spooks, but in fact it seems coins were thrown in the day time: even a shy poltergeist could have moved tires when everyone was distracted surely? If this has only happened once, I can see it — it would be strong evidence for “battery” theories of the poltergeist, or “dead guys” —  but it just seems odd somehow. Could someone be hoaxing Nick the owner? Has any former worker from the business got a key? When were the locks changed? As usual I have more questions than answers…

Father-of-four Nick White, who bought it in 2007, said: “I took all the strange stories with a very big pinch of salt. It seemed so far-fetched. But this is scary. The place is locked at night.”

I’m starting to see a possible explanation, but it may be far fetched (it will have to wait for Part 3 though). The building already has a reputation for being haunted in 2007 when Nick buys it. In fact we learn —

Psychic researchers now plan to spend a night at the depot, once named by The Rough Guide To Unexplained Phenomena as one of the spookiest places in Britain.

Interesting. Wonder who is going in to look? I would have thought conducting detailed interviews with all the staff and former tenants of the building would have been a more productive mode of investigation, but still be fascinating to stay there overnight, and I hope to see the report from the group when it’s written up.  What I find particularly fascinating here is that The Rough Guide To Unexplained Phenomena which was published in August 2007 features the location. There may also be earlier newspaper stories then in the local press archives, and earlier witness reports from before Nick arrived.  With the limited resources at my disposal I will try and track these down, but if anyone has a copy of the Rough Guide I would love to hear what it says about the place. Can anyone help?As you may have gathered I can’t afford to buy books! 😦

What is very clear here is that the case is a “haunting”: it appears to have gone on for at least a  few years, and to be place-centred rather than person centred. Whether this is necessarily the case or not I will discuss when I suggest my own ideas in Part 3, but I need to actually go do some real life stuff now, so Part 3 will be late tonight or this afternoon if I can find the time.

I will sign off with a final spooky quote from the article which I will discuss in depth later —

The depot in Doncaster, South Yorks, is a former chapel that served as a war-time morgue.

CJ x


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South Yorkshire Tyre Depot


Here we go again.. no rest for the wicked; the wicked in question being me, CJ!

Today we are in the kind of location I find spookiest – a modern, quite prosaic one. Somehow I doubt ghost companies will be queuing up to take punters round ye olde haunted garage! This write up reminds me immediately of the Cardiff Responsive Poltergeist in the lawnmower workshop David Fontana and others looked at in the early 90’s. I’d rather like to see Fontana go look at this one: I’d go myself if I thought I could actually get there. Usually I quote extensively from stories, and then write comments as I go, but the Daily Mail has blocked cut and past, so in the interest of getting this one out as quickly as possible in the hope someone from the SPR Spontaneous Cases Committee or other experienced researcher can get on the case before it turns in to a major  press event I’ll just post his now, and then go and look for more news items before offering a part 2 analysis later today.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1263755/The-ghost-garage-Riddle-tyre-depot-phantom-calling-card-pre-war-penny.html

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Cheshire Poltergeist in Picture Pose?


Poltergeists are like buses — You wait ages for them, then they all turn up at once; or so it would seem. Well of course I have not been waiting ages — this blog is only a couple of weeks old, and already we have looked at Cork (last week) and York (earlier today). I am slightly annoyed with the paranormal-powers-that-be that they have no provided another case, published just two hours ago in a Cheshire newspaper.  Any of my readers in the Stockport area?

OK, I will try and give this one the love and attention it deserves, but a chap can only comment on so many cases in once day! It seems ironic I signed off my last piece on the York poltergeist just an hour or two ago saying people ask “where are the poltergeists today?” and stating that the answer was no one was looking — well I think this proves my point. I shall certainly send a message to the SPR Spontaneous Cases Committee drawing attention to this blog, and then they can proceed as they see fit with each of these cases. Becky and I would love to follow them up — but I simply do not have the money to do so (Indeed I  simply do not have any money at all, as readers of my personal blog will appreciate!).

Ghostbusters called in to pub after party pic terror

March 31, 2010

A landlady has called in a team of ghostbusters after things went bump in the night at her pub.

The ghostly happenings came to a head when Janice Wright held her 45th birthday party at the Stock Dove in Romiley.

An unidentified figure appeared in photos taken at the bash, held on Saturday, March 20.

Now she has called in paranormal researchers Club Zero Ghost Group to investigate.

Mrs Wright said: “I could not believe it when I saw the pictures – it is really freaky. We seem to have a resident ghost. We have heard whistling, screaming and crying and been tapped on the shoulder. My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

So immediately this one is different: the emphasis is very clearly on a traditional “ghost” interpretation, and the landlady has chosen to call in a local group (never heard of Club Zero Ghost Group but nice website,  but will have to get in touch with them, I’m friends with a bewildering number of paranormal groups!), but in this case the ghost appears to have been photographed. Best take this  bit at a time…

An unidentified figure appeared in photos taken at the bash, held on Saturday, March 20.

Sadly the photo is not reproduced anywhere in the article, which is a puzzling oversight. One wonders if the mystery guest might just be a gatecrasher? I’d be curious to see it, but obviously with photos with extra people in them like this the usual explanation is that someone else was present, and simply not identifiable by the photographer afterwards. I must say I have seen photos of me in which I am unrecognisable to me! I will make some enquiries, but I am really unsure what to say about this until I have actually seen the images.  However Mrs Wright is unnerved by the photo – but could that be because of the other phenomena?

We seem to have a resident ghost. We have heard whistling, screaming and crying and been tapped on the shoulder. My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

There is an awful lot of phenomena packed in to that short sentence. What is interesting is the differences to what we saw reported at York and Cork.  “Whistling, screaming, crying”… The whistling sets an icy tingle down my spine, not least because the motif is used in William Hope Hodgson’s supernatural fiction,  but because whistling has been a feature of a number of cases. Screaming and crying? One wonders when this will resolve in to voices — and if a voice does emerge, I really want to know more. I am not going to speculate further here on this simply because I am making predictions about what would happen and the nature of the voice if that did occur — I’m hoping for something more like the Rougham Poltergeist in Suffolk in the 1980’s than the questionable voices of Enfield.

Janice Wright (c) Stockport News 2010

Janice Wright (c) Stockport News 2010

I’m Always Touched by Your Presence, Dear…

Now Becky is about to do a major study (well she has started) for her Ph.D on apparitional experiences, funded by the SPR and supervised by Dr Ian Hume at Coventry University. Before she began Becky and I conducted a piece of research we call the Accidental Census of Hallucinations, which we hope to publish an article based upon in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.  Drawing on the work of the SPR in the 1880’s and 1890’s and Dr Donald West’s fascinating studies later, the details are not important here but we closely analysed (using a methodology called Grounded Theory) sixty accounts of unusual experiences. (I’m sure we will write much more on this topic in the future, so I’m passing quickly over it here.)

In that sample 21.3% reported a tactile hallucination, that is a  feeling of being touched, as Ian did. 53.8% of those who did reported other phenomena: in 46.2% it was the sole experience reported.  In 69.2% of those who claimed tactile hallucinations it only happened once: the remainder had multiple experiences of this sort.  In only one case  it is  an ongoing experience, that happens semi-regularly. There was nothing unusual about the gender or age of the people having the experience compared with other anomalous experiences (such as say seeing apparitions) – two thirds of those reporting the experience were female. 32% of the reports mention specifically being touched on the shoulder.

So what does this tell us? Actually, not much, apart from the fact one can have the distinct impression of being touched with out any other “ghostly” experiences. I therefore make the following suggestion: the sense of being touched may be a relatively common physiological or neurological phenomenon – a somatosensory hallucination. In fact it may be about as common as hearing someone call your name, but there not being anyone there. Now the account is not clear how many times this has happened, or to whom, but if it has only happened once or twice then it may just be a coincidence of a trivial but not uncommon experience, and maybe then suggestion.

The problem with my hypothesis is that in about half the cases Becky and I found the experience of being touched was linked to other phenomena. While my idea is that these cases are recalled precisely BECAUSE of the other phenomena, I am not convinced that can necessarily account for such a high correlation. I have tried a little experiment on Facebook, and asked

If you read this can you answer yes or NO (and I do want negative replies) as a comment, please! I’m trying to do a really quick rough and ready straw poll. The question is “have you in the last month had the feeling of being touched by an invisible person?” Don’t worry it does not mean you are mad or ill – I’m just …curious about this fairly common experience…

I received over a day 37 responses: 12 positive.  I think this strongly supports my hypothesis the experience is extremely common, but under normal circumstances simply ignored and forgotten?

The Usual…

Moving on we get to the really interesting (to me) bit —

“My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

Bedrooms again, furniture moving again (these poltergeists should get in to the Removals business: might need someone to drive the truck though!) Are we seeing a pattern yet folks? Now of course it could just be that everyone from York to Stockport to Cork reports similar experiences because actually they are all drawing on the same films, TV, or popular culture motifs. Yet somehow, I find this unlikely — the experiences seem (to me anyway) rather trivial compared with the ones you see on the TV.

The Stock Dove

The Stock Dove - cliick for the pub website

Wayne from the Bury St Edmund’s research group messaged me earlier and said he was wondering when we would see another Enfield poltergeist but you know what? I suspect that any of these cases could be as big, if the SPR got hold of them and sent Guy Lyon Playfair and Mary Rose Barrington  or Tom Ruffles or whoever over.  Enfield just got a blaze of press attention (did the story break in the August “silly season” when news is slow  by any chance?), and has had much discussion, writing and books on it. Most of these little cases I am chronicling here strike me as having very bit as much interest — but I doubt in 20 years time people will be referencing them…

There is another curious parallel with the Cork case – the timings —

Janice reopened the pub with her business partner last August after it had been closed for 11 months.

Now thinking back to Cork, the family moved in last August, after the house had been empty for a while. I can not see any reason to think this is more than coincidence, but I think we should watch out just in case any patterns emerge, and we can find hypotheses we can test.  As I said in the Cork case, one would expect people to mistake ordinary noises and house settling, pipes etc,  for something weird in the first weeks after moving in. Here as in Cork the family had settled in for maybe eight months.

Janice Wright seems to take a very level headed view of the phenomena —

She said: “I think we must have disturbed the ghost. I have been told stories by some of the customers about how a girl came for a stay here when it was a coach house and was murdered, and it is thought she is moving things in my son’s room as that is where it happened. I can’t wait for Club Zero to come in to see what they can find out.”

So once again a dead guy – or in this case a dead gal – is to blame? Was the Stock Dove ever a coaching inn? I have no idea, but if I saw the building I could probably make a good guess. No for the story to make sense the murder must have been discovered, and most murders leave written records, so perhaps some local historian will be able to confirm the truth of this one.  It sounds like folklore to me, or people inventing explanations, but I wonder — I have been wrong on this before, most notably on the Old Bell, Dursley Case. I will keep an open mind for now.

The rest of the article simply deals with the impending visit of Club Zero –

Club Zero Ghost Group was founded in Stockport by Chris Andrews in 2003. It will visit the pub in April. Carole Webster, 56, the club’s events manager, said: “We are looking forward to going in to do an investigation. We will take along our equipment including EMS, an infrared system and a video camera. We will then put together a report and a DVD. There will also be a medium present.” For more information see clubzero.co.uk .

I assume EMF meter is intended by EMS, but I could be wrong – this look like a journalistic typo, and I wonder if a DVD is standard for ghost groups now. Seems sensible to keep a record fo the investigation anyway. Well I will do some digging and see what I find out, but for now I’ll call it a day.

cj x

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Disturbances in York


Well no news from Cork, and indeed no replies from any of the individuals I emailed trying to follow up the story. Visits to this blog have tailed off to almost nothing, and I am tempted to abandon the project, owing to almost complete lack of interest. I’ll give it a month though and see if things pick up?  Still from Cork, Eire, let us turn our attention to York, England, and a much more low key story from The Press, a local York paper…

“York family plagued by ghostly goings-on

10:01am Saturday 27th March 2010

A MOTHER has called in a vicar to bless her York home after she and her daughter were spooked by what they say are ghostly noises and apparitions.

Tracey Glen and her daughter Tasha Kennedy, 14, told yesterday how their home in [road name removed for usual reasons], Clifton, had been hit by a series of bizarre incidents over the past four years. They have been told by a local resident that there was a death in the house many years ago.”

Again, purported ghostly goings on are immediately linked with a death of a former resident. Something I don’t think I ever mentioned in my previous commentary on the Cork case was that one intelligent commentator on an Irish web forum answered one of my questions about the clairvoyants information there. You may recall that in my commentary on that case I pondered if the alleged suicide of a young man said to be responsible for the hauntings necessarily took place in the house? Well the answer is apparently no: presumably in the radio coverage, the clairvoyant said he died elsewhere. This renders the claim pretty much unfalsifiable: if one can die anywhere and go haunting, then I guess most girls college dorms are haunted by randy teenage male spooks who travel there from the site of their demise – guess that explains Phantom hitch-hikers? 🙂

Now in this case we have a local resident saying there was a death in the house years ago. That would not really surprise me: I guess most old houses have seen at least one death, and probably many, though I expect post-1948 a lot more people die in or on their way to hospital. A quick search reveals that only 20% of Americans die at home, and 50% die in hospital, and if anything I think the figures will be much higher for hospital/care home deaths here in the UK, though that is pure guesswork. (We have a National Health Service, and a high rate of the elderly entering care homes, so that is my underlying thinking, not that the NHS kills people off!)

Still one other interesting fact emerges from the opening of Mike Laycock’s story — the disturbances have been going on for four years. My received wisdom on the matter suggests that poltergeists are short and sharp, lasting normally no more than a few months, and usually only a few weeks. However I do wonder: it could be the period when disturbances are regular and violent, the climax of the activity might meet that description – from my own and Becky’s work we are seeing a pattern emerge of low key activity that seems to last for decades in many instances. This particularly fascinates me: the time scale of the so-called poltergeist needs real work, and hey if no one else is going to gather the data and try, I guess I will…

Let’s move on with the story —

Tracey said the incidents included twice being woken in the middle of the night by a loud bang downstairs. On the first occasion, they rushed downstairs and found a mug tree lying on its side on a work surface, with mugs scattered all around it.

“There was no animal in the house or any draught that could have caused that to happen,” she said.

Interesting that she rules out animals. I frequently hear loud bands in the middle of the night: the cat knocking something over. Feline grace seems to be missing in every mog I share my home with. Still loud bangs in themselves seem to be a VERY weak evidence for alleged paranormal activity, there being probably hundreds of better explanations than “the ghost did it”.  Still, all too easy to be cynical – I spot a possible pattern, well little more than a hunch. Remember in the Cork case there was movement of furniture upstairs? So the loud bangs always emanate from somewhere where the witnesses aren’t. Logic suggests

i) it could well be that if the witnesses were present when the door slammed, or the car backfired, or whatever, they would identify the cause. Therefore alleged paranormal noises will follow this pattern

or

ii) poltergeists are shy, and prefer to bang on stuff out of sight. If the bangs really are paranormal then this seems to argue against a living agent (Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis – RSPK) – as following  Roll and others one would expect objects to move in the vicinity of the poltergeist agent. It would however be possible with Colin Wilson’s battery theory I guess.

Still, in the incidents we have an actual cause – the mug tree laying on its side, mugs scattered around. We need to know far more though to know if their could be down to some normal cause (was it top heavy somehow, or badly designed so having mugs on one side made it fall? How far had it moved? Was the surface it stood on wet?, etc) – but I would not have thought it would make a very loud band if it just toppled over. So this does interest me – readers of the Cork analysis will recall that I suspect that the noise made by these “movements” does not reflect the usual acoustic properties one would associate with an object of this weight and size falling, but instead slight movements can generate much louder noises? Perhaps that happened in this case?

Last year Becky and I attended SPR Study Day No.58 on Poltergeists, where Dr. Barrie Colvin talked on the acoustic properties of anomalous percussive rapping in this kind of case.   I know some of the details now of the purported “signature” of a poltergeist related noise — I would dearly love a recording of the sound events to send to Dr. Colvin for analysis, and I would  myself be able to check it with fairly simple software. Unfortunately I only know half of Dr Colvin’s research ( I don’t know the associated frequencies and I am not going to share what I do now on a public forum, as that would simply make it too easy for people to manufacture fake “paranormal” noises with these attributes. Anyone who really wants to know can buy a recording of the Poltergeist Study Day from the SPR for a very reasonable price!

The second bang again appears to emanate from the haunted mug tree (one wonders where they acquired it from?)

The next time they ran downstairs to find the mug tree still upright, but one of the mugs on the kitchen floor, standing upright.

OK,  that’s pretty much classic polt type activity.  Again it’s frustrating to not know how far the mug had moved, etc, etc.  Again, I don’t know if a mug landing on the floor unbroken can really be expected to cause a “loud bang” likely to make someone run down stairs to investigate, so logically

i) I am right and the noise is not proportionate to the likely forces involved if the mug moved naturally

or

ii) the noise and the mugs are unrelated. I think this entirely possible. Imagine a tired CJ drinks his coffee, and in a typical CJ manner knocks over the mug tree. He goes to bed, not noticing he has toppled it over. In the night there is a loud bang – maybe a neighbour slamming a garage door. Being of  nervous disposition I run downstairs, find the mug tree, and put two and two together. We can not necessarily assume that the movement of the objects and the noise are related. I keep trying to teach people this on investigations, because it is a dangerous, but perfectly natural assumption…

So is there any strong evidence for paranormality? So far the case s very suggestive, but now things get a bit more interesting…

She said other strange happenings included:

*A drawer in a bedroom cupboard flying open for no reason, when people were in the room

A drawer? Interesting. I would bounce like a heffalump all over the floorboards seeing if I could cause this to happen somehow, and with a wardrobe door might expect to succeed, but a drawer sounds unlikely. The mention of other witnesses – people present – is interesting – who were they? Who was present when it happened? What was going on? The psychological background may well be key, whether a poltergeist is involved or not, but journalist can’t really pry in to these things I guess. Still I’d like to see actual witness testimony. Again bedroom furniture is involved – one case I researched many years ago involved a toilet seat slamming up and down and a bed head board smashing in to a wall –poltergeists are very prosaic and domestic in their choice of objects to play with it seems. (Interesting that in the Cork case we had “holy pictures” and strong religious overtones – this polt seems to lack any religious or anti-religious enthusiasm, maybe reflecting the religious indifferentism of much of England compared to Eire?)

*The entry hatch to the loft mysteriously opening up, with the board left cracked and a strange piece of pipe left on the floor below

I know events are supposed to have been going on for four years, but I really wish we had some kind of timetable, and especially a date  for this  incident.  I wonder if it happened towards the end of 2009? I also wonder if Tasha, maybe with her friend Sammy, went to see the film Paranormal Activity? ( I review the film from my own unusual perspective here  on my blog.)  One atmospheric sequence in that film involves the couple plagued by the beastie having to explore the loft, which proves an important plot development; an old photograph is found within, which links back to an earlier outbreak in this (fictional) narrative.  Of course lofts feature in plenty of real cases – they are classic “occulted spaces”, an idea I developed in an essay entitled Corridors: their role in purported hauntings – back in the early 90’s, and in the Roman Road case of  1995 I crawled in to a loft (and as Matt will doubtless comment came shooting out again pretty quick!) I seem to recall that Alan Gauld and Tony Cornell spent a lot of time in aloft in the Abbey House (I think) case, and Mary Rose Barrington related a loft related incident at the aforementioned SPR Study Day, from the strangely titled Case of the Flying Thermometer. Just because a popular film happens to include a loft sequence should not really raise any eyebrows, but I note it, just in case relevant.

A strange piece of pipe? Well maybe it is a paranormally delivered object (an apport) but it might just as well have fallen. I am now thinking of Peter Underwood’s explanation of the Morton Case (The Cheltenham Ghost) – could a real person have been concealed in the house, or have hidden in the attic? A real physical person present on the property, with or without the connivance of some of the residents, but unknown to others,  could have easily caused the mug incidents, the loud bangs (and could the loud bangs have been someone dropping the attic trapdoor in to place as they slipped back in to their hidey hole?), but does not explain the drawer incident – unless that claim was invented to cover up the presence of a real person? Again it would seem vital to know exactly who saw what and when.

Now if the people involved are reading this they are doubtless cursing me and calling me every name and the sun, and thinking I am some dire sceptic who would rather come up with far fetched and insulting silly ideas than accept the beastie and their story at face value. Far from it: I actually do believe them, I just like to logically explore every single possibility I can think of. If the incidents took place over four years the idea of someone hiding in the attic (I assume the attic does not directly open up in to the neighbours attics as in a few British terraced houses) becomes utterly ludicrous. Still I try to look at all possible explanations.

Either way, assuming the “mysterious” pipe was household plumbing or similar, rather than a piece of a pipe one puts tobacco in, the most likely scenario appears that it came from the attic, and like the not replaced board this strongly suggests some perfectly physical person entered the attic, perhaps to fetch something. (Burglars do not to the best of my knowledge ransack attics generally, so we would have to look for a more mundane explanation, like someone in the family or a relative going up to look for something?)

One more word of caution though – I have lived in this house for a couple of years now, and the other day I noticed that the attic trapdoor in my bedroom was no longer on straight, as if someone had entered the loft. They haven’t – you would need a step ladder at least, and no one has been in or out of their since I moved in.  I found it spooky and unsettling at the time, but the most likely explanation is that it has been exactly like that since the day I moved in. I wonder if likewise the attic board had been like this for  long while in this case, but the discovery of the piece of pipe on the floor simply attracted attention to it? All odd, I admit, but not necessarily spooky! Before I end the discussion of the loft incident I have to remind readers of the children’s show Rentaghost, whose full theme included the lyrics —

Heavy footsteps in your attic means a spectre telepathic
 is descending just to spirit you away (Yay!). :)

(you can click here to hear the Phantom of the Opera sing a haunting melody!)

OK, back to the phenomena…

*Knocking noises on a wall between the bathroom and bedroom.

Obviously one immediately thinks of the water pipes, though this is classic poltergeist activity. Still without some degree of investigation or further information it’s hard to judge how sound that hypothesis is.

And then it all gets really interesting! Tasha reports seeing an apparition. Now classic modern poltergeist theory tends to separate apparitional experiences and poltergeists; poltergeists and hauntings are seen as two conceptually different categories. From personal investigative experience (Offchurch, Coates and Gloucester cases) I know that poltergeists can actually quite often include apparitional encounters — a category I call “polterghosts”. These cases, the third category with features of both hauntings and poltergeists discussed in Gauld and Cornell’s 1979 classic Poltergeists are often cited as evidence for the “poltergeist as the dead” hypothesis, as opposed to RSPK (  a living  agent causes the events by uncontrolled psychic energy). I often a mixed model in my JSPR article The Poverty of Theory: Some Notes on the investigation of Spontaneous Cases (1996), where I suggest that believing a house to be haunted could in theory generate psi-de effects : the belief enables RSPK by allowing the ghost to be blamed for the disturbance, overcoming psi-inhibition.

Anyway, back to the article —

*Tasha seeing the apparition of a woman with long straggly hair and a limp

The obvious thing here is the apparition is grotesque, like a traditional picture of a witch (not the wiccan goth chick type, the old crone of stereotype). Straggly hair? That might mean “scary” today; a limp is a physical imperfection that somehow is supposed to be sinister I think — yes I know this is horrible stigmatising of the afflicted, and I certainly don’t mean it’s right – but have you ever noticed how ghosts in folklore are often either described as “stunningly beautiful” or in some way stereotypically deformed or grotesque? I am interested in this — but it is just as possible this is actually a description of a (once) real person, physical imperfections being normal in real people after all?

I will wrap up with a description of how ye olde ghost was laid. From The Press article

Tracey said: “It’s really been spooking Tasha out so we decided to ask the vicar to help.

“We like living here, but would like all this to stop.”

Understandable, and that is in itself interesting. One wonders what the mothers attitude to it all was? She does not admit to being personally worried at all. I would love to interview her. The Church were called upon, probably the Church of England –

She said the Reverend David Casswell, the vicar of Clifton, went to the house on Wednesday and said a prayer, and then blessed the bedroom and also the garden. Since then, they had not seen or heard any more strange happenings.

Mr Casswell said vicars and priests were sometimes asked to go and pray in houses where there had been “disturbances” to bring peace to the home.

“We don’t make a great song and dance about it, but say quiet, gentle prayers for the houses to be blessed.”

The Rev. Casswell’s comments reflect my understanding of the deliverance ministry of the CofE. Interestingly in this case all sees well, unlike Cork where the Church intervention did not help,  though this leads to another question. If the blessing was on the Wednesday, and this article appeared on the Saturday, then presumably barring some other factor events must have increased in frequency to the extent that the absence of activity from Wednesday to Saturday is marked enough to note? This just goes to highlight the desperate need we have here for a detailed timeline of events to understand the case. There are certainly academics active in parapsychology at York Uni: if any of them are interested in doing some follow up enquiries, as York is a very long way from me (and actually quite a distance from Becky, surprisingly enough) I would be happy to talk them through what I think might be useful.

Still, one question one often hears nowadays is “where have all the poltergeist cases gone?” Unless March 2010 was somehow anomalous, they haven’t gone anywhere. The press have reported on two this month, Cork and York,and I am sure many more are being dealt with by local ghost groups, mediums, the churches, or the family just move, and no one gets to hear of them. I think this highlights the importance of my little blog project — someone needs to be looking at this, as it is just not reaching the ears of the parapsychological establishment. Becky, Balders, and we will do our best to find cases and provide some kind of comment…

cj x

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A Cheltenham Poltergeist Investigated


I have only the vaguest recollection of this case now! From the mid-90’s…

A Local Poltergeist?

Tonight I have been privileged to investigate a possible poltergeist case, albeit of a minor nature, which has been troubling a personal friend. I was informed of the case some two weeks ago but owing to other commitments was unable to give it much attention until tonight. I will use a fairly self-explanatory structure in this report, which unfortunately must use pseudonyms.

Persons Present

The Garden (basement) flat (above ground level in the main, from the rear of the house) is home to two students. Cathy, aged 22ish is a English student, and Tom, about the same age is a mathematics- and science-orientated teacher trainee. They share the kitchen of their flat with Simon, who is also a student and does bar work at a local pub, but who has a room in the main (upstairs) part of the house which is occupied by the [[ B]] family. The [[B]] are a couple in their fifties, who live upstairs with their 18 year old daughter who Cath describes as a “sporty type”, quite happy and pleasant enough. The events are as far as we are aware confined to the downstairs flat, Cath having not broached the subject with her landlords.

Cath has been resident in the flat since September ’93, and after a troubled relationship with another girl, who left the flat in February ’94, lived there alone until September ’94 when Tom moved into the house. Relations between Tom and Cath are very good, the couple enjoying a strong platonic relationship. Simon is not communicative with Tom, while not hostile. Apparently he got on better with Cath before Tom moved in.

Layout

The flat consists of four rooms: kitchen, Cath’s room, bathroom, Tom’s room. The kitchen is shared with Simon. All of the rooms connect via Cath’s room, and during the daytime Simon must walk through first Tom’s and then Cath’s room to get to the kitchen, and Tom must pass through Cath’s room to leave the house or enter the kitchen or bathroom. At night Simon walks around the outside of the house to use the kitchen. All the same Cath must get very little privacy, although she does not seem to overly resent this.

The “Haunting”

When Cath first moved into the flat Simon (already resident upstairs) said that he could feel a presence in her room, sitting in a chair. He later admitted this was only to tease and frighten her, in which he succeeded, Cath being fairly timid about such things.

No futher mention was made of the “ghost” until Cath had a schizophrenic friend called Mary come to stay. While Cath was in the toilet and Mary was on the bed in Cath’s room Daphne, Cath’s then flatmate wandered through to the kitchen. On her return she looked startled and asked Mary if she had been on the bed all the time, insisting she had looked and failed to see her there on her way to the kitchen. This amazingly trivial incident seemed full of psychical significance to Mary and Cath who discussed it at great length. I would say it was evidently a perfectly normal case of misperception.

From this point nothing occurred until the Christmas vacation ’93/’94. The next incident was related to Cath and Tom by Simon. Tom and Cath were away, and the [[B]]’s were leaving so Simon would be alone in the house. The building has a burglar alarm which is set and turned off by a key, although the [[B]]’s own two copies. Just before they left they discovered one key was missing.

On New Year’s Eve Simon was working at the pub. On his return in the early hours of New Year morning he was astonished to see the missing key on a table with the container which held the other one, in plain sight. He was sure it was not there when he went out, but he was the only inhabitant in Cheltenham at the time.

At the risk of casting Simon as villain in this suburban melodrama, there is a perfectly rational explanation. Simon is, as we shall hear again, prone to fiddle with things and distractedly carry them about. Is it not likely that he was carrying the other key all the time, having forgot to replace it? He may have been too embarrassed to admit to the family he was still carrying it, but as they asked him to look around for it in their absence he did not need to invent such an extraordinary story. “It was down the back of the sofa!” would have done just as well. Then again, conscious deceit is far from necessary. He could easily have used it to disarm the system without thinking, and then noticed two, not one keys, in front of him. I don’t think I’m too harsh if I say barmen are not renowned for their sobriety in the early hours of New Year’s Day. Then again perhaps this really was Small Object Displacement.

On January 9th Tom and Cath both returned back to the flat. Tom immediately noticed that his set of three juggling balls was missing from it’s usual place on top of the piano. He assumed that Simon had borrowed them and absent mindedly forgotten to return them; Cath also noticed evidence that Simon had entered her room and played some of her music tapes. Two of the balls have since been located; one appeared in the kitchen, and the other on Tom’s bedroom floor. Both were placed in plain sight. Cath believes this piecemeal return makes Simon’s involvement unlikely; he would just have returned them all. Tom is not convinced.

The spot where the balls normally “live” in plain sight is marked with a J on the sketch map. They are just to the right of Tom’s door through which Simon must pass to reach the kitchen, and on top of the upright-style piano are at roughly chest height. The compulsive twiddler Simon probably picked them up absently as he wandered in and out. I have a theory that Simon is not sneakily returning them but simply playing with them as he wanders down to the kitchen and discarding them en route, without thinking. I suspect the missing ball will be returned or another vanish soon. This theory is strengthened by the fact that Cath and Tom have not liked to ask Simon if he’s seen them!

Poltergeist Effects?

The case however, even if we discard the apparent Small Object Displacement must surely be proven or disproven in the two most dramatic incidents, which share several things in common. Both objects apparently moved, both were items of personal significance to Cath and both were in Cath’s room at the time.

The first object may be presumed to have moved during Cath’s absence during the vacation. The item which moved was a photograph of Cath’s mother, which was in a relatively inaccessible postion on a shelf some 6′ off the ground and standing behind two other photo’s which were untouched.

The photograph weighs the 3g and moved about 6″ upwards and 6″ to the left. Although Simon had apparently entered her room and played tapes, etc, etc, during the vacation Cath finds it highly unlikely that he would move a photo of her mother. If he wished to consult the photo albums it is unlikely that he would move the photo; this was simply unecessary. However, I would like to suggest that this explanation, while highly improbable, could be seen as less improbable than invoking poltergeist activity!!!

The relationship between Cath and her mother is at the moment very good, and is generally amiable. Cath noticed the photo had moved shortly after her return, and believes it probably moved during the vacation. Cath is unable to state if she noticed the occurrence on the day of her return or the next day.

The photo (which resides in a cardboard frame) could not have fallen to the face down position in which it was found without having:-

1. Previously been moved to the top of the albums, and then fallen. Cath denies she did this, and that seems reasonable enough.
2. Been physically picked up and moved, presumably by Tom, Simon or Cath. There are no cats or other pets to confuse the issue!
3. Performed a strange and “paranormal” flight!

I personally have to come down in favour of option (b) but do acknowledge that option (c) is interesting. If (c) is the case then I would suggest two further immediate possibilities, being (1) PKE (or psycho-kinetic energy, whatever that may be) generated by a human agent, or (2) a disembodied spirit. Before we consider these options let us look at the two further incidents of “haunting” reported to me.

Perhaps one or two nights after her return Cath was startled awake at 4 a.m. by feeling something falling on her bed. She was frightened by this, not unreasonably, and on turning on the light to investigate found it was a plastic cow wristband which makes a “moo!” sound when a button is depressed. This novelty item was given to Cath just before her return, and was sitting on her bookshelf. It weighs exactly 1 oz and had travelled some twenty inches, in a downward curve (I estimate 8″ horizontally, 12″ down).

The bookcase is open at the back, more of a shelving unit really, and is relatively stable. I bounced up and down all over the floorboards without disturbing anything on it! The “moo-er” had been sitting on a pile of books, and Cath demonstrated that if it had slipped off naturally it would have fallen on the floor. By experiment we discovered the “paranormal” flight could be replicated by pushing it hard from the other side. If this was done the “ghost” would then have had to dash into Tom’s room (door closed), the bathroom (door closed) or the kitchen. In any of these eventualities Cath would have noticed as she was startled awake.

The cow-thing incident is hard to explain, but it is possible that the object merely slipped and that the flight path was more natural than myself or Cath realised. I wouldn’t like to rule out a natural or paranormal explanation for this one….

The next incident is undoubtably the most curious, and pushes back my personal boggle threshold another millimeter or two. On Thursday, 12th January Cath was suicidal. Her depression is rooted in stress of college work and uncertainty as to her direction in life more than any problem with her personal relationships, although she had just chosen to end a relationship with a chap she had been seeing as a “partner”, although neither particularly emotionally or sexually entangled with the aforesaid male. Presumably she had washed her hair, for she was drying her hair when she noticed something extremely odd. The hairdryer was plugged in but the switch was at the off position. The hairdryer continued to function when she unplugged it, completely isolating it from the power supply. She eventually turned the device off, puzzled. Despite many attempts she has never managed to repeat this.

What happened? Well two possibilities immediately spring to mind. One; the incident never happened except in Cath’s mind. Her depression caused her to hallucinate the episode in some way, and this false memory provided a stimulus and mystery which eventually helped jolt her from her ennui and depression. It is of course possible Cath was lying; I have only her testimony for almost all the events although Tom certainly doesn’t believe this to be the case, and neither do I. I think we can rule out conscious falsehood, if only because most of the incidents were of such a trivial character and Cath remains interested in getting to the bottom of them.

That leaves option two; that the hairdryer was operating while disconnected from any obvious electrical current. Rational explanations do not spring readily to mind. Was there a secondary power supply based on batteries, which ran flat before her second attempt? I only briefly examined the offending device, but could find no battery port. Does the hairdryer have capacitors or backup power supply internally? I can’t say but if so would expect Cath to suceed in her attempts to reproduce the effect. Could Cath have been in contact with an exposed wire and powering the hairdryer herself? She should have noticed a continual 240V shock, to say the least! No obvious source for such a “live” wire (literally!) theory could be found….

This does not necessarily invalidate the idea of a (nonlocal) power source. My stereo when sitting idle though plugged in frequently comes to life with taxi cab radio messages. While extremely unlikely, I can not rule out a remote power source.

So what are the possibilities of PKE being behind the events? Cath returned from her vacation on January 9th. She had been staying with a penpal (male) with whom she has a warm relationship via mail, although she finds it harder to communicate in person. The penpal’s home is over one hundred miles from Cheltenham, so if Cath was creating PKE effects during the vacation then the energy decay curve for psycho-kinesis is to say the least interesting! [Roll, 1977 is probably the best authority for this; under his theory this is an impossible action]. There is some evidence that a PKE-field or battery can be created and discharge itself when the focus is no longer present. If forced we could invoke this; however there is no proof that the object moved during the vacation. It could have occurred before Cath left or since she returned.

Now let us consider the well known agent theory for poltergeist activity for a moment. There seem to be three immediately obvious agents for a poltergeist focus, but if the “paranormal” hypothesis is correct who is it?

Is it a) Tom, the mild-mannered flatmate?

If Tom was at the centre of the occurence then why did Cath’s objects move? If he is unconsciously using PKE to apport or SOD objects he is unaware of this latent gift. Tom is highly intelligent, sociable and shows signs of diverse tastes in his reading matter, amidst which I was happy to note H.H. Munro (Saki) and M.R. James. He is scientifically inclined and puts the “haunting” down to Simon fiddling with things. He stated that he was under no particular stress at the moment, though he has been helping Cath through her bad patch.

So what about b) Cath, the sweet student eco-guerilla?

Cath is also highly intelligent, and has a strong interest in things occultish and paranormal. Before you ask, attention seeking can be safely ruled out; I can only offer my personal testimony on this but feel I am the last person Cath would try to demonstrate preternatural abilities to, being well known to her for my cynicism and scepticism. She takes a rational stand on matters paranormal, although she does possess a crystal ball and tarot cards. She is amused by how unpsychic she seems to be, and perhaps a little disappointed.

She offered me the chance to investigate in casual conversation, and in the two weeks before I contacted her made no attempt to raise the subject again. She was happy to participate in the study, and did not seem at all miffed by the fact I remained dubious of paranormality in this instance. She is furthermore a friend of my girlfriend and previous partner and very much part of my social “scene”, and took a risk of ridicule by allowing the investigation to occur at all from these two formidably sceptical ladies.

Cath was following the vacation in a state of deep depression, and college stress was undoubtably partly to blame. She has reached a kind of intellectualised nihilism in which all meanings are negated, and on the day of the hairdryer incident was suicidal. Tom talked her out of this mood. Following this her mood has fortunately improved drastically. She believes that her mental unbalance and depression may underlie the “poltergeist”, and is amused and interested by this.

I have frequently referred to poltergeist activity as a “nervous breakdown taking place outside of the head”, and Cath thinks this is the most likely cause. I am disinclined to agree simply because Simon seems such a perfect villain, but am willing to accept this as a possible cause.

So what of c) the villainous Simon?

Does Simon act as a poltergeist agent? I feel not, although he does certainly have a habit of fiddling with things. I myself have observed Simon pick up and play with small objects as he moves around the flat, and on one occasion he moved a “Cuddly frog” toy from Cath’s bedroom to the kitchen while wandering through. This and other “SOD”, “JOTTLE” or apport type events were ascribed to Simon because he was seen doing it. However Simon was the only person present throughout the time when the purportedly paranormal events, and if we are going to invoke the agent theory of the PKE poltergeist then we really must consider Simon as a primary suspect.

What about the other possibility? It is of course possible that a disincarnate spirit or “ghost” is behind the events. I personally feel it unlikely and offer the following points against:-

1. There is no evidence of an attempt at communication on the part of the ghost, unless it’s mind is totally alien to us.
2. There is no known legend of the house being “haunted” until the comparatively recent events, exceptions noted above.
3. No easy identity can be provided for the apparition, and there is no known person who may wish to haunt the property.
4. There are no sightings of, or sounds of, a “disincarnate” visitor.

I admit that the above is largely negative evidence, and I may well be proved wrong. The “haunting” at first glance seems to be focussed on Cath, but events have also happened to Tom and Simon. I personally believe that it is unlikely that all the events are misperceptions, Simon or other normal causes. It is however extraordinary unlikely that a poltergeist is involved – so I must favour the former. I leave the individual reader to judge for themselves and would welcome comments.

cj x

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