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Weekly News reporter tags along with Burnham paranormal investigators
Mediums Lisa Middleton and Rodger Cuddington and Ghost Bustings founders Kirstie and Dave Isom. Photo: Kirsty James.
WHISPERS in the shadows, bumps in the night and spectres in the stairway? Who you gonna call? Ghost Bustings of course.
Ghost Bustings are a team of paranormal investigators from Burnham who explore haunted locations in the South West.
I'm not a 'believer', but what group leader Dave Isom would refer to as 'an open sceptic'; which basically means if a spirit where to jump out and scare the pants off me I would indeed believe.
So when I heard the team were planning an investigation at Woodchester Mansion, a 19th Century Victorian Gothic masterpiece in Stonehouse, Gloucestershire, I went along.
Woodchester Mansion was mysteriously abandoned mid-construction in 1873 and is now a popular visitor attraction. It is also a regular haunt for ghost hunters and was featured on Most Haunted Live in 2003 and 2005, the shows Hauntings and Ghost Hunters International.
During the day, the mansion is full of visitors enjoying its architecture and history. The location dates back to roman times and housed American and Canadian troops during Wold War Two.
But as we arrived at the mansion with other guests at 8.30pm and the light was quickly fading, the building took on a dark and imposing presence.
Dave, who has been running Ghost Bustings for around six years, told me: "You can't tell what's going to happen. You find some people are more sensitive so it's different every time.
"But you don't just believe. We do tests and experiments and let people draw their own conclusions.
"I've been here twice. It's a gorgeous place and we've had some impressive results.
"But in the top corridor we had a horrible experience and an entity asked us to leave. That's why we ensure we have spiritual protection before conducting the investigation."
For this protection, we gathered in an empty room in the pitch black and mediums Lisa Middleton and Rodger Cuddington asked us to imagine a force field of light. We were also asked to try and touch the palms of our hands together, sensing energy in the space between. I felt silly doing this - until I actually felt a strange tingle between my palms, as if there was some invisible force there. I asked my sceptical boyfriend if he could feel anything and he answered a surprised 'yes'.
The group of about 25 people split into two teams to carry out investigations at separate ends of the building. We got the cellar.
The team use devices such as temperature readers, EMF, video surveillance and divining rods. The rods are used to measure an energetic field, such as the human aura or water. The rods had a glow-in-the-dark tip so we could see them in the pitch black, which is how we spent most of the night.
In the cellar the team tried to locate a 'presence' using the rods. Holding a rod steady in each hand, the host, Kirstie Isom, would ask the spirit to move them so they were straight out in front of her. We watched as they moved to her command. You got the sense the rods were moving independently to follow some unseen entity around the room - then again it could have been a mouse.
Whatever it was, it was very interesting, but not enough to put me on edge. That came when some volunteers from our group gathered around a wine glass with a glowing band in it on a table, putting their index finger lightly on the glass. Sure enough the glass moved in answer to our questions. I was fine with this until someone asked the spirit, a nice Roman gent, if there was another spirit with him. The glass started moving frantically to answer 'yes'. It was at this point one of the guests announced she had experienced a strong feeling of someone staring at her from the neighbouring room as we had entered the cellar, which we established was none of us.
Near the end of the evening I crashed out in front of a fire in the main room and chatted with two of the guys who worked at Woodchester Mansion, our chaperones for the evening. I asked the big question - is this place really haunted? - and they told me some bizarre things they had experienced.
One of the most recent was when they were tidying up after a Halloween party at the mansion last October. An hour after the guests had gone home they heard the sound of someone running in the corridors and a crashing noise like something had fallen. They did a full sweep of the building, thinking it may have been a guest who had got lost. But there was no one to be found.
One of the guys said he had five paranormal experiences during the 500 nights he had worked at the mansion, so seeing a ghost was down to being in the right place at the right time.
I finally left the mansion at around 6am the next morning. Despite the night's interesting activities, I did not see a ghost and therefore remain an open sceptic - even if I will be looking over my shoulder a little bit more.
For more information, find GhostBustings on Facebook.
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