From hair-raising first-hand accounts of unexplained sightings and paranormal phenomena to the search for evidence of ghosts, this eerie and richly illustrated tour around the historic town of Spalding and the surrounding area features many chilling stories of ghostly encounters. Amongst the spooky tales included are a pub where a resident ghost was so determined to make his presence known that he hurled a beer bottle at a member of staff, a hotel where a mischievous spirit sits on the beds and leaves ghostly handprints on a mirror, a sports club where cheeky spirits make their presence felt literally, and the chilling story of an evil spirit so intent on harassing a local family that it could only be removed by exorcism. Also featured are exclusive and intriguing findings from the first ever paranormal investigation at the fifteenth-century Ayscoughfee Hall & Museum in search of the legendary White Lady.
About the Author
Gemma King has studied the supernatural in great detail and investigates various locations as part of a team called SPI (Spalding Paranormal Investigations), on a quest to find irrefutable evidence of the paranormal. Gemma lives in Spalding.
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By Gemma King
The History PressCopyright © 2012 Gemma King
All rights reserved.
Preparation and Equipment
When my team carry out investigations we use various tools, technology and techniques in order to maximise the possibility of capturing evidence of paranormal activity. We vary our equipment according to the place in question and the kind of activity taking place. In this chapter, I will describe the general investigation process; I hope that this will provide insight for anyone unfamiliar with how the process works.
Night-Vision Camcorder – We investigate in the dark whenever possible (with the use of torches) as doing this opens up our other senses, making us more aware of unusual smells, movement and sounds. It is also noteworthy that night-vision cameras pick up anomalies such as floating orbs/mists particularly well. Thermal-imaging cameras are also fantastic in that they clearly show specific areas of cold or hot energy, and have been known to pick up ghostly figures in this way. Sadly, they are very expensive, so our team does not currently have one.
EMF (Electromagnetic Field) Detector – Also known as the KII, this tracks levels of electromagnetic energy. The theory is that spirits use electromagnetic energy to manifest and this is why phenomena such as dipping/flickering lights are associated with ghostly manifestation – because the spirits are draining power from the lights as their energy source. In an ideal investigation, upon encountering this phenomenon you would find an isolated cold spot in the room and, upon holding the EMF meter in that spot, it would light up, showing a higher reading than everywhere else. This is a widely accepted theory in the field of paranormal investigation. That said, random EMF hits which occur during an investigation should be considered objectively, taking into account possible increases in EMF from external sources. A good way to validate EMF hits is to use the meter as a communication tool, inviting the spirits present to come over and touch it (making it clear, of course, that the gadgets you are using cannot hurt them and will simply enable them to communicate). If the machine lights up from green to orange, invite them to take it up to red and keep it on red. Then, when it has been flickering on red for a few seconds, ask them to step away from the machine – it should then go back to green. If you get to this stage, it is highly possible that you are communicating with an 'intelligent' spirit and you can continue to use the tool to seek further proof – perhaps even inviting them to interact with the machine, to answer 'yes' or 'no' to your questions.
EMF meters are also a good tool for debunking theories of paranormal activity, and this is because they were originally used by building contractors/engineers to locate dangerously high levels of energy in buildings; if cables are not properly insulated or there are too many strong sources of the energy in one place, dangerous levels of EMF are emitted, creating what is sometimes referred to as a 'fear cage'. When exposed to the area in question for prolonged periods of time, a person may suffer symptoms such as feelings of paranoia and anxiety, visual and aural hallucinations, nausea, or even skin irritation – all of which are frequently associated with paranormal activity. In other words, a person could think that they have a resident ghost when they don't. Many people would seek comfort in the knowledge that the solution to their 'paranormal activity' merely involves insulating cables or moving household appliances to minimise their exposure to the EMF!
Thermometer – This picks up random hot or cold spots. There are two types of thermometer that can be used on investigations: laser thermometers (which measure surface temperatures) or air thermometers (which are good for investigating cold spots). Sometimes an investigator will invite spirits to drop the temperature by a specified number of degrees. This is helpful when looking for evidence of intellectual spirit energies – especially when reviewed in conjunction with other evidence, such as EMF hits and EVP (electronic voice phenomena).
Digital Voice Recorder – This is my favourite piece of equipment as it records sounds undetectable to the human ear, known as EVP. The theory is that spirit voices can only be heard on a very low frequency – a frequency only detectable to certain animals – and it is often the case that you investigate a place that seems quite inactive at the time but when you play back the audio recording it will tell a different story, picking up voices and sounds. The original voice recorders were not digital; this has caused much debate over the years as it was frequently alleged by sceptics that the voices heard were not spirit voices but radio interference. Of course, this was always strongly refuted by believers in the phenomenon, given that the voices recorded often belonged to children or the elderly – not the kind of voices that you would expect to hear on a radio. Also, the voices picked up would often be responding to specific questions asked by the investigator. Thankfully, the progression to digital technology in recent years has greatly reduced white noise, meaning that interference from radio waves is now highly unlikely. When recording EVP, it is important to minimise noise contamination from the environment; it is always surprising how loud people's footsteps sound on playback, and I have often found that heavy footsteps can make suspected EVP recordings difficult to decipher!
Environment Meter – This device takes 'base readings' around the investigation site, showing the humidity, sound levels and the level of electromagnetic energy naturally present in the environment. This means that once we begin the investigation we can easily see anomalies/remote fluctuations that occur, such as sudden temperature drops or high levels of electromagnetic energy in specific areas.
Digital Camera – Cameras are very good at picking up orbs, mists and shadows in photographs. I always explain my equipment during usage to make sure that spirits do not feel threatened by it and, in respect of the camera, I invite them to appear in my photographs. This can produce some very strange anomalies. Whilst orbs are not generally accepted as ghost images (because they commonly appear in photographs and do not take human form), they are still widely regarded as a sign of spirit manifestation. It is said to take a lot of energy for a spirit to manifest in full human form, so revealing themselves as an orb might be the easiest way of making themselves visible to us. Sceptics would argue that orbs are simply dust particles; however, even though I am very objective in my investigative thought processes, I struggle to find an explanation for orbs which are clearly too big or bright to be 'dust' – and they seem to appear in front of the camera upon request! Large, bright orbs have also been caught on film. Some orbs, if examined very closely on photographs, appear to have faces in them and I find this most intriguing. Although my ultimate photography objective is to capture a full body apparition, I will continue to explore the orb phenomenon with much interest. Another theory which suggests that orbs are spiritual beings has derived from accounts of near-death experiences, where people claim to have become an orb of light upon leaving their physical body and been greeted by other orbs of light (recognisable to them as family members). So could there be some truth in the orb theory? No one has the answer, but it will always be an interesting debate.
Torch – This is essential, as paranormal investigations usually take place at night. Torches which have a button on the back are useful, because you can place them in the middle of the floor and invite spirits to turn them off.
Trigger Objects – I use trigger objects (items which would be of interest to the spirit) to encourage interaction during the investigation. For example, if I am trying to engage with children I use toys, for a spirit that leaves a cigar smell I use a cigar, and for a monk I use a cross. After placing the trigger objects on a piece of paper and drawing round them, you invite the spirits to take them. In the case of the toys (usually lightweight things that can easily be moved, such as a rolling ball) I invite the children to play with them. If any trigger objects are moved during an investigation, and this is caught on camera, it is fantastic evidence of paranormal activity – as long as you can prove it was not just a draught!
Motion Sensors – It is intriguing if trigger objects are interfered with but the motion sensors do not react. Of course, it is also exciting if they do react to movement when there is no one in that room.
Walkie-Talkies – These are useful when investigating a large area where the team splits into pairs to do separate vigils. It is worth mentioning that I don't believe people should investigate on their own – not only because it's unsafe fumbling around an unfamiliar place in the dark, but also because it is better for validation purposes if at least two people have the same paranormal experience simultaneously.
Flour/Talc – If there is an area where footsteps are frequently heard, then flour or talc can be used to capture footprints. The flour should be isolated so as not to be contaminated by other footprints, although prints from anyone present at the investigation can easily be dismissed. I recently investigated a location where handprints were mysteriously appearing on one particular mirror – I used talc in that case to try to capture some evidence.
I do not have any psychic ability, and investigate by using technology to try to capture hard evidence of paranormal activity. However, the team I work with do conduct séances using a board and glass and, since participating myself, I have become truly intrigued by them.
What I like most about the séances is that they do not seem to have any scientific explanation. One theory suggests that it is the power of the mind that moves the glass to spell words. However, even if this was possible, in instances where no one around the table knows anyone else, I cannot see how this could be the case – given the very specific information that comes through, directed at just one person.
What I also love is the fact that séances can be pretty accurate, and everybody can see and feel the experience. The direct communication with spirit entities means that séances can provide answers on the paranormal activity in people's homes or places of work, and can also help resolve situations where unhappy spirits are making the occupants of a building feel uncomfortable. One such case springs to mind, where a resident spirit child came through to talk to the owner of a place we were investigating. It transpired that she had been trying to get their attention because she did not like the loud chimes on the clocks, which she found scary. The owner had many clocks and they covered the walls in one particular room. He agreed to turn some off, which provided a resolution and a positive outcome for everyone concerned.
On some occasions during a séance, we encounter a spirit that asks for our help because they are grounded – i.e. unable to move on – and this can happen for a number of different reasons. Through careful questioning, we are often able to work out the reason and assist them in moving on. I do not know how this works, but it does work, and the feeling when it happens is immensely comforting and emotional for everyone. It is good to know that through séances we are seemingly able to assist trapped energies. Scientific though I am, I do believe in séances and the possibility that we can help people, here and in spirit, which reinforces my passion and belief in this investigative tool.
Whilst the use of the Ouija board is controversial, I feel this negative perception is often based on movies or television programmes, where their use invariably lends itself to some kind of horrific drama. It could also partly be due to the experiences of individuals who used them in previous decades, when the boards were sold in shops as a recreational toy. I have no doubt that many people who have used the Ouija board over the years have not fully understood or respected the seriousness of this method of communication with spirits, and as such may not have conducted themselves appropriately. The séances that are conducted by my paranormal investigation team are protected by an opening and closing-down prayer; no one under the influence of alcohol is ever allowed to participate; and anyone that does take part must remain respectful to any spirit energies that come through.
Members of my team have been conducting séances for many years and have never had a negative experience. That said, it is crucial that people know how to respond appropriately to the unpredictable spirit communications during a séance. It is not something to partake in lightly and I would certainly not recommend anyone doing it unless they are with an experienced individual.CHAPTER 2
Cley Hall Hotel, High Street
Cley Hall was built as a family home in 1754 by Theophilus Buckworth. It was inherited by his grandson, Theophilus Fairfax Johnson, son of Revd Maurice Johnson of Ayscoughfee Hall. The hall remained in the Buckworth/Johnson family until sometime after 1835 and, whilst details of ownership immediately after this are unclear, records do show that a farmer by the name of Walpole Allen was the registered owner in 1861. He resided at the house with his mother initially, then later his wife Emma. In 1964 a new owner wanted to demolish the building to make way for a new building project – however, its future was saved by a preservation order in 1968, and it was lovingly restored and transformed into an art gallery. In 1974, new owners opened it as a restaurant and bar, then in 1980 it finally became a hotel.
The most notable ghostly sighting occurred a few years prior to the writing of this book. The gentleman concerned began by telling me that he had never previously been a believer in ghosts, but his experience at Cley Hall had completely changed that. He had been employed as a decorator to carry out some work on the premises and had been working by himself in the front lounge for a week or so. On the day in question, he was doing some panel work and, having removed the large gilded mirror from the wall above the fireplace and closed both lounge doors, he set about working on one of the panels. Suddenly, he became aware of a movement in the room. Looking up, he saw a man with curly white hair, aged between fifty and sixty, dressed in a red waist-length jacket, a white ruffled shirt, breeches and shiny black shoes with silver buckles. The man seemingly appeared from one of the wall panels; the decorator watched, rather stunned, as the man from the past briskly walked through the room, disappearing through the panel in the opposite wall. On the other side of this wall is the hallway, and the contractor left the room to follow him. He watched, a bit shocked, as the mysterious figure walked through a closed door and then disappeared, without a trace.
He knew that he had not imagined this event and was not only baffled but slightly shaken by it, although not frightened. He said that the gentleman, whilst pale in appearance, was not transparent. When he walked through the room there was no sound at all – no rustle of clothing or sound of footsteps. Also, the gentleman seemed unaware of the decorator's presence, neither looking at nor acknowledging him.
With the current owner of Cley Hall Hotel, I retraced the route taken by the ghostly gentleman. In the place where the apparition walked through the wall, there are remnants of a former door frame. There is no sign of the door frame on the lounge side of the wall, but in the hallway the door frame is visible all the way down to ground level. Records show that there was indeed previously a door there which was subsequently blocked off.
I was very keen to research this story and find other testimonies of paranormal activity connected with the building. However, when I spoke with the current owner of Cley Hall Hotel, and also a lady called Margaret Johnson (who resided at Cley Hall for many years when it was her family home), neither was able to offer any further insight into this strange event. They had not experienced or been informed of any similar occurrences during their time in the building. However, I did speak with another lady, who informed me that when she had worked at Cley Hall Hotel in previous years, a shadowy figure had been seen by staff downstairs in the bar area. She also informed me that when working upstairs she would often hear the sound of disembodied footsteps. When hearing these sounds she was usually alone in the building and therefore could never find an explanation for them. It was widely accepted by staff that the building was haunted, although the ghosts never interacted with anyone.
Excerpted from Haunted Spalding by Gemma King. Copyright © 2012 Gemma King. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
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Table of Contents
one Paranormal Investigations,
two Spalding Town,
three Bridge Street and the Priory,
four Ayscoughfee Hall Museum,
five The Horrific Ordeal of a Spalding Family,
six Outside Spalding,
About the Author,