Tag Archives: Ghost Adventures

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


Leave a comment

Filed under Poltergeist Cases

A Poltergeist in Cork? Part One


This story from the Irish Independent (March 19th 2010) has sparked my curiosity…

Family quits Cork home over ‘poltergeist’

Ralph Riegel

Friday March 19 2010

A SHAMAN will perform an exorcism on a council house tonight, amid claims that it is haunted by a poltergeist.

The occupants of the house at Hollyhill on Cork’s northside have fled, saying it is occupied by an evil spirit that is determined to keep them out.

Laura Burke, her partner Ritchie and her son Kyle are terrified to remain after a spate of bizarre occurrences over recent weeks

You can read the rest of the story here – at the Independent.ie

I will offer a few brief first thoughts – but am making enquiries. Firstly, “a shaman”? In Roman Catholic Ireland one might have expected a priest, but a shaman rather surprises me! What is interesting is the family clearly see this as a spiritual problem, and of course back in the 90’s I knew plenty of people who described themselves as Shaman (though they were not the type one reads about in Mircea Eliade’s works; the ones I knew  were prone to experimenting with magic mushrooms, playing the didgeridoo and playing drums in bedsits in Cheltenham! )   The term Shaman was popular in the  ‘Earth Mysteries’ scene in the 90’s for ‘spiritual practitioners’ – today they tend to call themselves mediums or psychics again? Anyway, the shaman was going to drive out a spirit apparently — I’ll see if I can find a follow up on that.

Let’s briefly take a look at the reported phenomena —

Laura said holy pictures were routinely being knocked from the wall, screams were heard in the dead of night and their son was flung from his bed.

Holy pictures? Odd. A family besieged by a poltergeist that targets “holy pictures” apparently called in a “New Age ‘Shaman’  (spirit worker)” to cite the Irish Independent to deal with the issue. There are so many theological questions that arise! ‘Holy’ pictures to me suggests Christian art – they could have been shots of Newgrange and Sheela-Na-Gig but somehow I doubt it. Regardless of the families religious beliefs, plenty of people keep Christian (and New Age, and Hindu and so forth) religious imagery around their houses even if they have nothing much to do with that religion – but I do wonder if the Church was approached (or several churches) and for some reason failed to act.

Also of interest is the targeting of religious iconography. The last Irish poltergeist I read about had a similar emphasis, and it is certainly not uncommon in cases of this nature – religious imagery was I think prominent in Brazilian cases as well, but I would have to ask Guy Lyon Playfair. In the modern USA self-styled demonologists (freelance exorcist/ghosthunters: the demonic paradigm appears dominant there, where as in Britain I think the influence of Most Haunted might lead more people to turn to a medium or psychic, but who knows?) would descend on the house.  However as soon as we see this series of attacks on the ‘holy pictures’ our mind turns to ‘evil spirits’ – but one wonders; plenty of living humans ain’t keen on the churches…

The next bit, “screams were heard in the dead of night” is interesting. I had a friend who at college used to wake up terrified by screaming outside, and call the police till he realised he was on the edge of a ‘breakdown’. (He’s fine and a successful writer these days!) I certainly hear plenty of screams in the night – local teenagers having fun normally, I live near a university campus – and it’s hard to tell sometimes where they are coming from. The family have lived in the house since August – long enough to know the noises, but just six months. The neighbours? I doubt the neighbours hold screaming matches somehow. A parrot? foxes? who knows! Foxes can make the weirdest noises. However given the sparse information we have I will assume the family are reporting screams in the house: one wonders if all three residents heard them?

“Being flung out of bed” is of course not something one can lightly explain away. I guess it’s not sleep paralysis – quite the opposite! I have had muscle cramps, spasmed with fever, but I have never experienced that. I have however seen it in other accounts a few times, and it sounds traumatic. I certainly feel for the family, if that is not clear. I’m just deeply interested in the cause of all this…

Then we get in to the really odd –

The family received their greatest shock when they spotted what they described as “glowing orbs” hovering in mid-air in certain rooms in the house.

Glowing orbs? Orbs? For those who do not follow popular ghosthunting TV, the “orb phenomenon” emerged in the 1990’s and was big in the early 2000’s. Digital photographs show little white orbs, or balls, which appear but were not seen at the time of photographing. This is almost certainly because most are nothing more than light reflected off dust in the air: Andrew Oakley wrote a paper years ago explaining what he thought was the cause, and a few technical papers from camera companies appear to have established it beyond reasonable doubt. When Becky and I worked at Derby Gaol we carried out experiments in sweeping the floor, emptying hoover bags, and sure, dust causes orbs.  Insects and water droplets can do much the same. That is NOT to say that all ‘orbs’ must be such things, but it certainly seems likely almost all are!

What is interesting is what are reported here are not orbs – they are BOLs – balls of light. Such phenomena have been reported for a very long time – glowing lights thought to be candle flames were recorded in the Morton (Cheltenham Ghost) case in SPR Proceedings 8;  1888, and luminous balls of light were reported by an observer near the ceiling of the Blue Room in Borley Rectory if unaided memory serve me well. I was part of a PARASOC investigation when a members parents reported seeing something similar in their bedroom, and such things turn up quite frequently. I’ll have a proper look through the literature later see if I can spot any patterns – and I fully acknowledge there are plenty of possible natural causes for light phenomena of this kind – but this intrigued me.

Mainly it is interesting that Laura uses the word “orbs”. “Orbs” in ghosthunting parlance are not visible: they only appear on camera. I wonder if she learnt the word from the shaman, or if she has been exposed to a lot of paranormal TV? I appeared on an episode of  US show Ghost Adventures shown over here in the UK  last night doing some local history (in a suitably OTT dramatic manner!) and was astonished by the number of my friends who emailed to say they saw me on the cable show. Clearly people do watch these things far more than I realised – and interpret their experiences through that framework…

Certain rooms in the house? That is really interesting, a very simple experiment asking psychic claimants to identify those areas could be conducted and the results tested against a chance distribution.  I have conducted a large number of similar experiments over the years with interesting results, but that must wait for another time. Ignoring the claims of psychics for a moment, why certain rooms? One wonders which rooms, and if they are associated with certain witnesses.

I have to pop out now – expect Part 2 of the discussion later tonight…

2 Comments

Filed under Poltergeist Cases