Hallowe’en at Haunted – The Write Up & A Good Whinge

Thank you to everybody who sponsored me, I’m sure the Yorkshire Air Ambulance Charity will appreciate the donations.

Weird reflections… I don’t remember taking the photo, and I can’t work out if I was inside or outside of the building at the time it’s so distorted on here. I think outside, but I’m not 100% sure.

Two things I hadn’t anticipated – or not enough – about Hallowe’en night were:

  1. how cold it was going to be, and
  2. how bad my cold was going to be.

I started with the cold at 2am on the morning of October 27, funnily enough at Haunted, where I was working at the time (I’m the night caretaker who allows ghost hunting groups in and out – and locks up after them), and now, just over two weeks later, I still have it. I debated postponing the overnight vigil until I was better but it wouldn’t have been the same doing it on any other night of the year.

Anybody who has been round Haunted will know just how cold it is, I spend enough time in there that I know how cold it is, but normally in the early hours I’m behind the counter cuddling the radiator whilst one of the companies hiring the house is in the main, cold part of the house. When I lock up I’m not around long enough to appreciate just how cold it is and besides I’m constantly moving.

As a mental warm up for the evening, I took part in the National Seance 2012 – not an actual seance, but a group watching of the fabulous Ghostwatch programme. Next year, on the 21st anniversary of the show, find a copy (or a friend with a copy) and join in – search on Facebook for details or follow the blog here.

Cakes supplied by Mysteria and Ian Lawman, bless ’em.

Going from the shop to the Stained Glass Room without a coat was enough for me to be not shivering but shaking with cold, and we’re not going in to how cold the toilets were!

The only really weird thing I can report back, that I cannot put a logical explanation to, was footsteps in the kitchen at the start of the night.

As Mysteria were setting up, I went to speak to Annie, who runs the Softpots Secret Garden, and grab a coffee from our kitchen was at the back of the building, above Annie’s workshop. I’d forgotten she wasn’t in with it being a Wednesday, but the lights were on and doors open as there’s a fire exit accessed through the same doorway.

I walked through and called her name, obviously there wasn’t a reply, but I heard footsteps overhead – at the time, I was directly below the kitchen – so I assumed she was in the kitchen. I ran straight upstairs and of course no sign of her.

So with all this big haunted house to play with, and all my gadgets, which did I use? My favourite one: my brain. To some people this will sound like a wasted opportunity not to have set up traps and cameras with nobody else there to disturb them, but that would also mean there’s nobody there to verify I haven’t faked things.

There were also two other major factors that influenced my decision.

The first one is to do with the reasons for conducting an investigation. A discussion on ASSAP’s Facebook page recently about whether a vigil is a valid form of investigation, I think the majority of people believed it could be a part of one, but wasn’t valid in its own right. This lead me to wonder if we haven’t lost our way a little in the world of paranormal investigations.

  • Q: I’m not saying we abandon science entirely, but why do we investigate a particular building or site?
  • A: Because we’ve been told its haunted.
  • Q: Who by?
  • A: Somebody, usually a person or people not conducting a ghost hunt, saw or experienced something.
  • Q: Do we ever investigate buildings without reputations?
  • A: Rarely, if ever.
  • Q: So why is that initial experience valid enough to prompt an investigation, but a repeat of it in front of an investigator is not valid?

Without other people there with expectations of how an investigation is conducted, I was free to go back to absolute basics: watch and listen.

I have had a conversation with somebody recently who is sceptic but open-minded with it: his exact stance is that he doesn’t dismiss the possibility of ghosts, but won’t actually believe until one comes up and literally slaps him around the face.

He doesn’t go on investigations, but has been in spooky buildings in the past waiting to see what happens, and has used Ouija boards and is again open-minded about them. Like myself, he doesn’t believe they are the source of all evil, they usually say more about the person using them than anything else, but just occasionally something weird does come out of them. Weird, but not dangerous.

He is also in favour of gadgets, as he wants to see a scientific, repeatable result when conducting experiments to prove the existence of ghosts, and so far, nobody has managed that.

It was during a conversation with him about gadgets that the second thing that influenced my decision came up: just what gadgets are valid, and why? And why are they all so expensive?

Has anybody else noticed that you can at least quadruple the price of an instrument if you say it can be used for ghost investigations? These latest ones, ghost boxes, usually priced at £70 and upwards, are modified £15 scanners.

Elitism is taking over ghost investigations.

Without meaning to sound old and cynical (but I know I am going to), I remember the days of small groups conducting private ghost hunts in buildings for free, just as Gaussmeters were becoming popular. Before they became EMF Readers. Before they became discredited. And yes, I still have and use one, but I didn’t need it at Haunted because it would only tell me what I already know: where the electrics are.

A number of things in my big ghost toolbox have long since been put in the category of ‘looking for trickery.’ Tales in the early days of faked results, caused not by the group faking but by one rogue member or even someone at the venue wanting to spice things up, made me wary. Sourcing electrics for audio set-ups was why I kept mine.

I have walked through a venue (the security guards let us sneak in so I’m not at liberty to say where), in broad daylight, and watched as a particular corridor has made everyone, myself included, recoil under the tense atmosphere.

I flung a door open, expecting untold horrors behind it, to find the main electrics for the building. What we had experienced was the charge in the atmosphere – no Gauss/EMF meters with us, it was a ‘now or never’ opportunity with no time to go home to grab kit.

So now we have to pay for venues (ghost tourism, the phrase I first coined ten years ago and now used around the world, is big business – and you can’t expect these venues to run at a loss, they have to make money too), bonds (we’re all paying for a few bad apples), for insurance (a positive step), for mediums if we use them (and why not, they’re working too), snacks and drinks are expected, and then there’s the cost of gadgets on top and as I’ve already said, they don’t come cheap any more.

Small ‘hobby’ groups are being priced out of the market, which I don’t see as a good thing. I miss them. I miss being part of one. My voice doesn’t allow me to run public events any more, and even before it went, I was becoming disillusioned with public investigations: too many people thought it was acceptable to turn up drunk, or stole things, or abused staff members, or each other, or broke things, or on one occasion tried (and failed) to set up a bar tab in my name before the event.

I’d have loved my old team to be with me on Hallowe’en, but then it wouldn’t have been something ‘different’ as a charity event, so I had to go it alone – and without the expensive gadgetry which has replaced all the centuries of ghost stories and folk-lore.

Yes, I am definitely becoming old and cynical. And I plan to stay this way.

One last bizarre photo from Haunted to end with:

Looks about how I was feeling at 2am

Remember: keep your equipment dry, and your coffee strong
Rachel Lacy
Ghost Finder General

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