So, similarly to many a female geek, I have a passion for shows such as X-files and Supernatural. I love so called ‘real paranormal’ shows like the class Strange but True and more recent Paranormal Witness. I also consume horror films on a regular basis including the recent horror film The Quiet Ones, which I talked about on my own blog.
But since I love horror and am a believer in ghosts, I thought the best thing that a supernatural-loving fangirl needs to do is go ghost hunting herself! So it was time to suit up, pack the rock salt and iron, put on my trench coat, grab a flash light and face a real haunted location in the UK. My sister (who is also a horror enthusiast) and I went with a company called Fright Nights and Winchester-style, the Burgess sisters went to Chatham for an overnight ghost hunting expedition.
The haunted location we chose was Fort Horsted in Kent which had been used in an episode of Ghost Adventures which is kind of like a ‘real’ version of Ghostfacers.
It was an odd experience, I must say. I was thinking this was gonna be like Most Haunted: a moving curtain, an over the top medium, and maybe some night vision. We arrived and joined the group of 30 other ghost hunters, most who had done this kind of thing before, with only a few sceptics in the group. The Fort was hard to find; hidden and low lying, it wasn’t the most inviting building. It was cold and dark and thank god we had torches because there were falls, trips and bumps along the way.
The night was divided into three parts, first the whole group was lead to some locations around the Fort. We got to each location and were asked how we felt. We were then instructed to turn our torches off. It was dark and unnerving as our eyes settled. I have to admit that one location did freak me out as there was a sudden drop in temperature and I got the feeling that something really didn’t like us. I was scared and so was my sister. Then there was a whistle from the hall. Now I really can’t explain that one as there was no one out there and without a torch you couldn’t move about because it was pitch black… not an iota of light.
My sister wasn’t sure if she could continue through the night if it got freakier. It was a very unsettling feeling, being watched, strange whistling and sudden temperature drops. We even had our own medium with us telling us about the spirits that were walking around the Fort. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, as I’m not a 100% sold on mediums, especially ones that are trained demonologists.
This guy was no Winchester; maybe too much Supernatural has clouded my brain on what a hunter and demon slayer should look like, but safe to say, this was not our medium. We had renowned medium, Rune master, Paranormal Investigator and Consultant Demonologist Daniel Macdonald to guide us through our paranormal experiences and protect us from untoward spirits. Again, he wasn’t a Winchester but he was a jolly man, even if, by the end of the night, I was less than convinced by his supernatural abilities.
It turns out real ghost hunting is not always that exciting and in true British fashion, as long as I had the promise of a cup of tea, I felt that I could face anything. The Doctor taught us that, and it’s true. Tea and a packet of crisps, which it turns out, are essential to overnight ghost hunting. It also turns out that, like good horror films, less is more.
After the first experience I was scared and unsettled, believing that something was there and that the place was indeed haunted. While I still think that the place is probably haunted, I was less convinced by the behaviour of others on this tour. Subtle noises and temperature changes are freaky, so is being in total darkness and not being sure about what you are seeing as your eyes adjust, or shadows and weird lights appear. But when people start acting like muppets, then all belief gets washed away; when you are no longer scared, but exasperated, by the ‘true believers’ in the group, the effect wears off. I believe in ghosts, no question, but some people take it too far and then all the scary goes and things get silly.
For the second part, we divided into two groups in which we got to play with some ghost equipment, temperature takers, and EKG readers. We were taken back to a place that had some previous activity and got to play with the equipment ourselves. Unfortunately, this was very unexciting as nothing happened, no temperature changes or blips of energy moving around the place. I did play with a dousing device, but it’s not very scientific and you can just make stuff up. We then swapped over with the other group to hang out with our medium and do a séance.
Now, myself and my sister had agreed that while I believe, I’m not about to totally jump on the “I see dead people band wagon”. She’s very open to possibilities, but if Paranormal Activity and most horrors taught us anything, it’s that séances and Ouija boards are out of the question. It’s just too much like tempting fate. We knew that no way in hell were we going near a Ouija board but we may do a séance. Well, turns out we didn’t really have a choice as a séance was on the cards.
Séances aren’t that scary, we all held hands and did some humming. Apparently humming brings energy levels up and attracts spirits, also so does singing “round and round the roses” and playing witch songs about knots. I’m not so sure of the workings of witch craft, my feeling is that magic isn’t bad, people are, so just like some people commit crimes, some witches misuse witchcraft. That said, I didn’t think much of using witch songs to summon spirits.
Not much happened during our séance, apart from our resident ‘true believer’ having a moment that killed things for the Burgess Sisters. During our previous exploring he felt something sitting on his chest, he saw shadows walking about, he knew a dark presence was standing behind him and he began feeling cold and victimised by the spirits. We had ignored this for a bit, but during our séance he got attacked. Apparently the spirits were trying to choke him, he was in pain and couldn’t breathe and a dark presence was trying to force its way in. Dan, our medium, had to take him out and perform an exorcism while we continued to chant in the dark. By this time some of the group were talking about the ‘ghost of imagination’ or the fact that this one guy was blocking the spirits so they weren’t coming to play with us.
I started to wonder, if there really were spirits about, why did we need to be in pitch black? What do they care about that and why when the medium says they are friendly, is one guy getting attacked all the time? It was a bit disappointing because instead of slowly freaking myself out in the dark and cold, I had one guy that was doing the paranormal version of cock-blocking the ghosts so they couldn’t properly get into the circle and mess with us.
This is where it all really went downhill. If I had left with hearing some strange noises, a door that had opened itself, and that weird feeling of being watched, I would have left scared, satisfied and ready to tell everyone that they should also Winchester-up and try a ghost hunt! But alas, things got very silly and in no way scary or proving.
Both groups joined together and we went for the final séance in a dark tunnel that had good activity. Again there was humming and witch songs, things got cold, shapes moved in the darkness and people overreacted and got silly. When 30 people turn off their torches, of course you’re gonna see blobs and lights moving about, that just happens when the eyes have to adjust. Also if you’ve ever been in total darkness then you know it’s not static, things move about. If I wasn’t an intelligent, thinking person, then the black shadows circling me would have freaked me out, but I’ve been in 100% darkness in caves in Asia so I know that darkness moves, ripples and plays. So when a women says a figure is standing in front of her, and it’s black, I think ‘obviously, everything is black. We’re in a non-lit tunnel’.
But the thing that totally ruined the experience is that a couple more of the ‘turned believer’ types said they were being pushed, that the ghosts were trying to shove them and we were told by the medium to go with it. The medium said they were acting as a magnet and people were drawn into the centre of the circle as a bad game of hockey cokey played out. This is when I stopped believing in the medium, as people began to see and experience things, he agreed with all of them.
“Good keep talking about your experience”.
“Is there a dog in the room?”
“Yes, there is”.
“Is someone standing behind me?”
“Is there a dark presence in the room?”
“Yes, but don’t worry, I’m not letting him in”.
And this went on along with the vaguest predictions like, “a young girl is talking to me, she asks if anyone here is having a birthday or had a birthday or that this ghost hunt was a present or gift”. Unsurprisingly, five people were like “Yes”. I myself had bought this as a present for my sister but no, the link was too thin and he was starting to discredit himself by saying yes to everyone.
The get-out clause from the organiser was that apparently the more open you are, and the more you believe in the spirits, the more likely you’ll experience them. This is not really a hard step but as people swayed and felt breaths on their faces, all I could think was we’ve been on our feet for 8 hours and it’s now 2am, no wonder you’re unsteady on your feet and they hurt. That’s not ghosts, that’s common sense. As for feeling breathes, we were all twisted up with the hockey cokey of pushing ghosts, that some people were standing in front of each other and while you couldn’t see them, I certainly could feel people’s breaths.
So while it was a fun night, because it was part freaky and a larger part laughable, it just didn’t feel like a haunting. More like some overzealous people ready to believe a little too easily. I would do it again, try a new location but would hope that the others were like me, a little sceptical. I still believe in the paranormal, but I am definitely a ‘less is more’ type of believer which is true in real life and in my horror TV.
My name is Zoe Burgess, I’m a professional geek! Well that’s the dream I am working towards my Anime PhD and do cosplayer and anime panels. You can find me as @lonedreamer on twitter and as Let Zoe Spoil You on various social networks such as youtube and tumblr. My personal weblog is http://www.lzsy.co.uk/