After months of Spiritualist training I decided it was time to experience a practical test of my new ‘abilities’. The best way to do this was to recreate the paranormal experiences of Victorian ghost investigators by joining in with a modern day equivalent. I made contact with Marsden Vale Paranormal group and joined them for a night vigil at Wolverton Hall, Milton Keynes.
My objectives for the evening involved presenting myself as a spiritualist investigator and to be accepted by the group as such. I was in part helped in this aim by one member of the ghost team, Dannie, who was also a member of the same spiritualist training group I’d been attending. As I’d already proven my skills during the classes she was happy to invite me to join her and her colleagues on an investigation, passing on my details to the chair of the group.
Research on ‘TV Ghost Investigator mediums’ revealed they always dressed in smart clothing despite the derelict conditions of the building they were exploring. To ensure my status as an ‘Investigator Medium’ went without question, I dressed accordingly. My ‘costume’ looked similar to Matt Smith’s ‘Doctor Who’, with frock coat, scarf, waistcoat trousers and boots, subliminally suggesting an authority figure. This approach appeared to work as I was cross questioned about my theories on ghosts by the other members of the team and not once treated like a novice.
This report is an account of the experience using the language and terminology used by the paranormal group and is not a psychological analysis of human behaviour. The thoughts and views presented are as the evening progressed, with the close analysis of the encounters and reviewing of footage carried out the next day.
The group made me feel most welcome and as we assembled in the upper floor of this old mansion house, the nights vigil began. The ground floor of the extended building is a modern day ‘carvery’ restaurant. The upper two floors are part derelict and mainly used for storage. Once the customers and staff had left we had the run of the entire building.
The group set up 4 night vision CCTV cameras in four of the rooms in which they felt paranormal activity might take place. They were cabled to one room on the upper floor and to a split screen monitor so all rooms could be seen at once. This enabled the ‘control room’ operator to view the rooms remotely in night vision which recorded the view clearly, despite absolute darkness.
The aim of the CCTV cameras was to record the movements of the team as they moved around the building and of course anything else that appeared…. As such the investigation team naturally divided themselves into two approach groups – ‘Believer’ and ‘Sceptic/Believer’. The former were mainly spiritualists and were content to wander the empty rooms without any equipment. The latter were looking for hard ‘recordable’ evidence to support their beliefs. I aligned myself with neither group but I did take a video camera and an audio recorder to record myself.
One of the first phenomena to be picked up by the cameras were the ‘infamous’ orbs. Dust particles floating in the air are illuminated by the infra red lamps and slowly drift in and out of view. This primarily shows air movement in the room and is a good indication of a change in environmental conditions.
I set up my night vision video camera on a tripod in one corner of the ‘Severn’ room on a wide view. The weak ‘built in’ IR (infra red) lamp was enhanced with a camera mounted IR video lamp. This meant everything in the dark room could be seen. I sat opposite the camera so I was always in view. My club colleague sat opposite and out of view of the video camera.
Next to me I set my digital voice recorder, to ensure a good audio of my voice was recorded. I also took a sketch book and pencil to make any notes a hand held digital thermometer to note any temperature changes and a stills camera set to 3200 ISO, removing the need for a flash. My last piece of ghost investigating equipment was a crystal on a chain. This is used as a communication tool in a similar way to dowsing. (Some mediums use dowsing rods as a communication device, if the rods stay open when a question is asked by the medium, it means ‘no’. If the rods cross it means ‘yes’).
A walkie talkie completed the kit and enabled me to talk to other members in the building.
The noise of the radio and the other members moving around the house disturbed the atmosphere to start with but in my minds eye I felt we were joined in the room by a male spirit.
The method used by mediums is quite simple. They do not accept that all the images in your mind are created by you and that some are messages from those that have passed over. If you’re looking at an empty room, your eyes may see just that, but in your ‘third eye’ (your minds eye) you might see the same room plus additional ‘unseen’ visitors. Looking across the room I had an image of a male in my mind. Focussing on the vision and letting my sub conscious take over I used the pencil and sketch pad in a technique called psychic drawing in an attempt to visualise him. My reasoning was simple, if others believed they sensed the same entity my drawing would help to verify it was the same spirit.
Questions to spirits can be voiced or asked in your mind. When you do this the first words that appear in your mind, mediums believe, is the spirit answering your question. Asking the question to my ghostly visitor ‘What is your name?’ gave the answer ‘William’.
Sensing a ‘spiritual’presence can be accompanied by a perceived drop in temperature. Thermometers rarely pick up on this as it can be a fleeting drop which most devices have trouble registering. The cold feeling generally appears on the right side of the body which science states is a purely biological phenomena. When a person is faced with a tense and frightening situation their body releases chemical compounds into the blood to prepare the body for ‘fight or flight’. As blood circulates around the body from right to left the right side will feel the effect first. A side effect of the chemical rush is a cooling of the skin, hence the cold feeling. What intrigues me though is what triggers the chemical rush. Sitting in the room, relaxed and calm I still get the cold feeling when I sense spirits suggesting perhaps there is more going on than just a fight or flight response and that my subconscious, sensing danger, has triggered the chemical release.
Another more aggressive spirit I will call Mary, although I’m not sure that’s her name, appeared to me in the same room. She was possibly a governess from the past when the building was used as a school, such was her air of authority. Her drawing, with her large wide eyes, was accompanied by feelings of stress, frustration and anger. The date 1892 was also given in a message from her.
As the evening progressed I also drew a small 12 year old boy, (Jake or James) a round faced man wearing glasses and another image of ‘William’ this time recorded in the loft rooms on the 2nd floor. The group concluded that the building also had a number of spiritual children who liked to play outside and that the relationship between them and ‘William’ revolves around some form of tragedy, possibly a drowning involving a frozen lake and an unsuccessful rescue attempt.
A review of the footage and audio recordings revealed the paranormal group themselves were the most prevalent thing recorded. Noisy footsteps, loud voices and radio chatter dominating the evenings crop of recorded material.
Their technique for communicating with ghosts were similar to many other TV ghost teams, a blend of spiritualist methods, crystal dowsing, cameras and audio recordings but they missed out on gathering EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena) and any detailed accounts which are gathered during formal seances, which were precisely the events I wanted to record.
They have another investigation in April which may offer another opportunity.
In the meantime I am compiling a short video of the experience and reviewing a number of art methods that could be used to create some art related pieces drawing on the investigation as a source.
The ‘Severn’ Room, Wolverton House
An analysis of the investigation recordings was made the next day, as was my research into the building. To ensure authenticity to my investigation notes and recordings, no prior research had been carried out as this would ‘prime’ my mind with facts.
Facts on the building were scarce but two articles did provide some corroboration.
Wolverton House Investigation 26/2/16
Below are extracts from websites that are about Wolverton House. The bold highlights are the matches to information gained during our investigation, the bracketed comments are the clarification.
There had probably always been a farm house on this site or hereabouts but in 1784 Thomas Harrison, land agent for the Radcliffe Trust and also a farmer, decided to build a substantial house at a cost of £1,800. Besides farming over 400 acres here Harrison had some significant industrial interests in an iron works in Staffordshire. I do not know much about it at present and will cover this in another post, but suffice to say that Thomas Harrison was a man of means with an income far above the £100 per annum he was paid for managing the Trust’s affairs in Wolverton.
The house was completed in 1784 and occupied by the Harrison family. After his death in 1809 his son Richard continued to occupy the house with his widowed mother and own family and after Richard died, his widow and son Spencer remained as tenants until 1892, when Grace Harrison died and Spencer and his family retired to the south coast. (The date 1892 was obtained during my spirit communication with ‘William’ in the Severn room (first floor). A comment was made by me at the time that his posture in the room indicated someone reviewing a room on ‘moving day’)
Wolverton House was now separated from the farm and let to suitable tenants. Amongst them in the 20th century was Dr Habgood, a Stony Stratford medical practitioner. His son John, who later became Archbishop of York, spent some of his boyhood in what he remembers as a very draughty house in Winter.
After the war it was rented to Buckinghamshire County Council, who used it as a residence for Grammar School pupils whose parents were working overseas. They also used some of the buildings as offices and sometimes the house was used for residential courses.
Today it is used as a pub/restaurant.
http://wolvertonpast.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/wolverton-house.html (accessed Feb 2016)
Richard Harrison’s first wife Agnes died in 1809. There was apparently no issue of the marriage. He remained a bachelor for the next 30 years until he married Grace Hall Nibbs, the daughter of a Tortuga plantation owner in 1840. In the next decade they had five children, three of whom, Spencer, Isabella and Thomas survived infancy. (In other words two children died in the house which matches the encounter in the downstairs room)
http://wolvertonpast.blogspot.co.uk/2011/06/richard-harrison-correction.html (accessed Feb 2016)
Ghostbusters search Wolverton House for unwanted ghouls – Posted: April 11, 2007
When staff at Wolverton House began whispering about things going bump in the night, the speculation quickly reached the ears of Milton Keynes’ band of paranormal experts.
MK Spookologists decided to investigate and MK NEWS reporter ROB GIBSON joined them for a word with the folk on ‘the other side’.Four years ago a group of friends got together and formed a club called MK Spookologists.
They shared a common interest in all things paranormal but none of them could have foreseen how serious their gatherings would become.
They now meet fortnightly to investigate and search for paranormal activity in Milton Keynes.
Investigations have lasted up to nine hours and involve the use of sophisticated thermal cameras.
The group have searched for spirits at places such as Bletchley Park and the Black Horse pub in Great Linford but the latest expedition took them to Wolverton House.
As the group ventured inside the old house, founder Karen Parker told me: “Some of the team are ‘sensitive’ so they can hear or feel spirits in the room – that’s how they help us.
“Other people can act as a medium to contact the spirits.” Disappointingly the Spookologists do not wear proton packs or have their own catchy theme tune.
These are working professionals, including the director of a local recruitment company, and they carry torches and cameras.
The investigation began at the top of the historical house and the main objective was to see if the team could collate information to prove that there is something else out there.
The team consists of a couple of mediums, a Reiki Master and sensitives.
As we walked through the rooms they talked of the invisible spirits they were communicating with.
Staff at Wolverton House cautiously confess that sometimes they feel very uncomfortable when closing up at the end of the day.
A number of them have heard noises, seen glasses move and even witnessed ghostly forms.
But Karen warned: “When we go out to some places there’s nothing there.
“Even if you go in you have to have the understanding that it could be fake.
“We find out what it is rather than saying it’s paranormal straight away. It could be a fox and not a Banshee.” It did not take long for the former occupants and workers of Wolverton House to get in touch, as team members immediately reported the presence of spirits in the house.
Karen picked up on one who she described as a greasy looking, large man who was pacing up and down around us. (Picked up during transfiguration exercise)
On a more scary note, someone detected a child who was apparently sitting in another room, hiding their head in their hands so that no one could see them. (Child in the corridor outside the Severn Room)
Karen and fellow member Karen Relfy also picked up on a young man who was malnourished and was asking for our help as he felt lost.
The team established that his name was Michael, he was about 13-years-old and used to work on the premises as a stable boy. (Picked up by me and another member in the Severn room)
They said he was unaware of any other spirits in the building and had ‘passed over’ due to the plague.
Information such as this was backed up by a researcher who confirmed that the dates, names and occupations were correct.
A woman called Paula doublechecked the evidence using a set of dowsing rods and crystal.
The team decided to communicate with any spirits in the lower half of the house using a glass and although there was little movement, they were given the name of James Newton and the year 1664, a time which is associated with the plague in this area. (Name suggested by a member of the team)
As the night drew to a close and the spirits sank away there was a feeling of satisfaction among the team that their work was done.
Karen said they will rally again to explore the rest of the house and grounds but this glimpse has been enough for a beginner.
Video and audio
The video footage contained moving orbs especially the sequences shot in the Severn Room and one sequence (downstairs) contains a flying insect. No other anomalous events were seen.
The Video footage does show the team in action and the independent audio recordings ensures all words spoken are clear. No EVP’s (electronic voice phenomena) were detected.
The investigation established me with the team and some of the best results for the evening appeared to be centred around me and led to me being invited to join them on the next investigation.
For the next investigation I wanted to experiment with a seance with the possibly of using this as my main FMP piece.