Ghost Hunters: Ghost hunters at work

The way the first story is reported leaves me with lots of questions. Not least because it was Colin's honeymoon and now he's divorced. Plus he says the bizarre thing that the portrait he was shown matched the ghostly figure he saw from the nose up. One wonders how much suggestion was involved - especially once he told the management. Alan the pottery teacher seems wholly convincing in his delivery. His story is exactly the reason why I love this series so much. But for me, Trish Robertson is the epitome of the non-scientific investigator, stuffed with her own preconceptions about what a haunting is and what it requires to be explained. She wants some sort of historical story that she can pin the phenomena to - and why should it be like that at all? It's more interesting that the occurence with the glaze buckets mirrors Alan's specialist knowledge and intentions. That surely points to something more intriguing than the usual 'person murdered, needs the help of a medium to be returned to their rightful place in the afterlife' type explanation that these people usually like to put forward. It's also nice that Tony Cornell seems to have a more rational approach.

Narrator: Tony Cornell is a dedicated and committed psychic investigator: a ghost hunter. He is one of several hundred such people in this country who spend a great deal of their time researching into the details of psychic events. They come from all walks of life, and many of the professions: there are historians and doctors, scientists and lawyers. They are searching in a sense for the holy grail: the paranormal event that will prove beyond doubt the reality of another existence. On the way they investigate all kinds of events in all kinds of situations, to lift the veil, however briefly, on that other world. For Tony Cornell, one of his most fascinating stories is the ghost at the Bell Inn. It involves Colin and his wife on their honeymoon.

Colin: I never did believe in ghosts whatsoever. I had no interest, no… no thought about them whatsoever. I definitely do now, there’s no two ways in my mind.

Tony Cornell, Paranomal Investigator: It seemed to start with that he got just about everything that you’d have in a case, and that seemed in a way exceptional. And the case is fascinating from the point of view that there’s thirty seven different events occurring over those three days over there, to two people who didn’t believe in ghosts, who’d never had any experience like this before. But the more I looked at it, the more I heard his account, there’s no doubt whatever that he had had a genuine experience.

Colin: This is the actual room in the Bell Hotel at Thetford where myself and my previous wife spent our honeymoon. The bed in the corner is the actual bed that I slept in when most of the occurrences  took place over the three days we were here [a four-poster bed is shown]. We arrived on the Friday evening, came up to the room, and there was a cold spot outside the door. As I unlocked the door and went to open it, I felt as if something pushed against the door from the other side. I didn’t really take much notice of it, just thought oh perhaps it’s an old door, whathaveyou. Um, came into the room, got changed, went down for dinner, came back up – same thing again. Cold spot outside the door, um, door hard to open. Came in, went to bed. Um, we both heard footsteps outside the door in the corridor, going up and down, up and down. Then they were inside the room, as though somebody was pacing across the floor. There was a glow appeared in the corner of the mural [mirror?] which we both saw. Um, and I sort of dropped off to sleep. I even thought it was perhaps a reflection from something. Round about three to four in the morning I woke up, and a young girl was stood in the middle of the room. Um – for a start I thought it was somebody who shouldn’t have been in the room, a maid or whatever. She walked across the room and vanished near the window.  She was not transparent, as if the ghost in a story book, where they come in and you can see the fireplace behind them. She was solid, um – so real and so lifelike that you actually mistook her for a real person.

Narrator: The Bell Inn goes back a long way, around three hundred years, and it’s linked with all kinds of stories. Both guests and staff have had many unexplained experiences here. But undoubtedly one of the most persistent stories concerns the ghostly woman in room number ten. In fact she’s known to the staff as ‘Betty’.

Terry: I’ve seen something in both of the rooms, eight and room six, and both times the experiences were very similar. I’d be in there making the bed, and suddenly I’d have this weird feeling that somebody was watching me, and I would turn round, and there’d be nobody there but there was this – it was like a white haze. It wasn’t menacing or frightening or anything, it was just there and it just sort of floated past me and went through the wall. And that happened in both those rooms. My first experience of seeing the ghost in room ten was when I was in there making the bed with one of the other girls, and we were having a bit of a laugh and joke, and we asked Betty if she’d been a good girl and whether she’d let our guests get a good night’s sleep. And with that, the room went terribly cold, and we had this funny sensation of getting goosebumps all over. It was just like every hair on our bodies stood on end. We sort of both looked at each other and both ran out of the room.

Narrator: On the second night of the honeymoon, the ghost of the young girl came again.

Colin: The apparition actually appeared in front of the settee. She walked from there, acrossed a straight path, and disappeared just before she reached the small chest of drawers that is in front of the window, which overlooks the church yard. It was if she was looking out of the window, towards, in that direction. She was twelve to thirteen years of age, fair hair, long white gown, garland around her head, um, puffed out sleeves. She was almost self-illuminating, even though it was dark you could see her clearly. That morning I was taken downstairs by the manager, I think it was the assistant manager. And he showed me a portrait which hangs downstairs, and I was slightly, um… taken aback. The actual portrait, from the nose upwards, was an older version of the girl’s face, who was actually in the room the previous night.

Narrator: ‘Betty’ is Betty Radcliffe. She was the wife of an owner of the Bell Inn, and eventually inherited the Inn herself. She died in 1829. There is a legend of a tragic affair with one of the servants of the inn, that led to her death. But Tony Cornell is loathe to accept a story for which he can find no historical verification.

Tony: Many of the stories which we do investigate have suffered from embellishment and adding and whatnot. It seems in some ways I think that we humans like a mystery, and having found a good mystery we can’t leave it alone, we add to it. I don’t think that applies to the case we’re dealing with at the moment.

Narrator: On the third night Colin did his best to keep awake. He wasn’t frightened but he was deeply intrigued by what was going on.

Colin: I lay on the bed the other way around to what you normally would. I’d like got my head on my hands, watching the television. And I heard a tapping noise – it was as if the noise a radiator makes when it’s got an airlock, a constant tap. I looked across to the wardrobe, and the actual handle was moving up and down on its own. It was actually tapping against the wardrobe. I then looked back to the television, and the television picture was flickering. I thought for a minute perhaps it was interference, something like that, and then I looked down behind at an angle, and you could actually see the wire, the actual aerial lead being moved in a whipping fashion, as if somebody had got hold of the end and whipped. My ex-wife was not too happy at this point, she was getting rather worried about the whole thing. On previous nights I’d slept on the right hand side of the bed, nearest the wall. This last night I slept on the left hand side of the bed, and the lamp was left on. Again during the night there was the running up and down the hall, there was the footsteps inside the room, and the glowing light seemed this time to appear on the other side of the mirral [mirror?]. During the night, the footsteps again in the room. And it was just about daylight, it was getting daylight, and I was laying asleep in bed. I woke up and the girl was sitting on the edge of the bed, literally at my feet. But she wasn’t looking away, she was actually looking at me. She slowly got up, and all the time she was looking at me as she went around the bed. So she looked, she kept her focus on me as she got up, went round the bed, she walked slowly towards the window. And it was actually a physical thing, because the bed lifted as she got off the bed, you could feel the mattress rise. She actually turned and walked towards the window, and disappeared again.

Narrator: The professional ghost hunters see their main role to dig out the truth about a story – to separate fact from imagination, legend from historical accuracy. What, for example, is there in the historical record to establish some kind of historical verification? How reliable are the witnesses?

Tony Cornell: My view and my attitude is that it’s one of the most important cases that we’ve had from the point of view of truth and actual phenomena, for quite a number of years. Because of the fact that we got into the investigation so early. The questions I put to Colin, they all tie up, it all comes up as truth. He doesn’t slip anywhere, and particularly as he’s a man who knew nothing about it, neither did his wife, weren’t interested in the subject – thought it was all junk – what they’ve come out with are the genuine facts you come out with in a real live (dead, if you like) ghost story.

Narrator: What do you do if you have a ghostly experience? It’s not an easy question to answer. You may believe it will never confront you. But from our researches up and down the country it’s a question that many more people than you would expect are faced with. And people react in very different ways. Some, for example, just refuse to talk about it. Some turn to their doctor, others to a priest. But eventually many of them end up talking to a professional ghost hunter. That was the case with our second story, which comes from Paisley in Scotland. A series of unexplained events in, of all places, the art department of the local college.

Alan, Pottery Teacher: It was in early February, an afternoon, somewhere between four and five in the afternoon, when I had been working down here in the pottery. I’d been throwing and dressing a big pot on the wheel, and my workshop steward Peter was with me. Now to enable us to have peace to work on this because it was quite a delicate job, and it being a quiet afternoon, we locked the outer doors, and the classroom door, and the glazing room was also locked. So that everything was absolutely locked fast. I had just finished a particularly delicate section of the pot when, much to our surprise, we heard the door open. First we heard the key turn in the lock, and then the door opened and shut. And the sound of a heavy foot on the stone step. This then changed into the sound of the heavy feet walking on the wooden floor – heavy treads, somewhere about ten in all. Not… forgetting actually that the room had been locked, I said to Peter – Check, see who that is. And he looked, and as soon as he looked, the footsteps stopped. We looked at each other, we were quite surprised at this. Um, checked the door was locked, everything was as it was – no-one in the building at all. So back to the pot, and continued working on it. And within less than half an hour this happened another, twice. Exactly the same thing: door opening, shutting. Heavy feet on the stone step, changing to the muffled echo of the feet on the, on the wooden planks. And stopped again, instantly, when we looked round the door to see what was what. No-one was there, the doors were all locked, no-one in the building at all.

Phyllis: About quarter past six when we went to have a cup of tea, the doors were all locked, we had done our work. There was nobody in the building, and we locked the doors because we were isolated here. So we went into the staff room, which is here [indicates]. I was sitting facing the door, Betty was to the side. And we heard this door opening, from down the bottom end. The footsteps coming up and coming up, and as they go up to the door I just let out a scream and jumped in Betty’s lap!

Betty: So I went to the staff room door, and I come out and I shouted ‘Is anybody there?’ and there was no answer. So I looked in that room, the next and then the other room, and I just come back up and said to Phyllis, there’s nobody there. And she goes ‘Well who was it, who was it?’ I said ‘I don’t know.’ She said ‘Come on..’

Phyllis: We never heard any footsteps going away. You know they just stopped at the door, that was it.

Betty: There was nobody there, so we just went away. Got our coats and…

Phyllis: – Ran!

Narrator: Footsteps, voices, whisperings behind the door. The unexplained events became more numerous. But on one notable occasion there was a clear demonstration of immense strength. Alan came into his studio to find that not only had it been completely rearranged, but that three heavy pots, each weighing two or three hundredweight, had been lifted up onto the bench. An extreme example of what ghost hunters call an ‘apport’.

Alan: One of the strangest incidents was concerned with the moving of glaze bins. Now these bins are full of actual glaze, which is to be put on actual bisque-fired pots. Now one would normally lay out all the pots ready for firing prior to glaze. On this particular morning all the pots had been moved. They’d been moved from the normal storage areas, which were in some cases locked in cupboards elsewhere in the building, and had been systematically laid out on the tables using the same procedure as I would normally have used prior to glazing. The only difference was, that these big glaze bins were up on the actual tables. Now it took three of us to lift these back down again, such is the weight. Now not a drop of glaze had been spilt. No pots had been glazed, but er, the whole place was laid out just ready for glazing to begin. Now I couldn’t explain this.

Narrator: Most of the happenings in the studio were known to only one or two people. But late one evening there was an event that involved a whole class of students.

Alan: We had fourteen, fifteen people in the pottery working all evening. And the temperature  as very high, somewhere in the seventies or eighties. On finishing we locked the door and I went for my jacket. One of the students ran down the corridor and said, ‘You’ve locked someone in.’ I said, ‘It can’t be, it’s a Yale lock, people can open it from the inside.’ And the door was vibrating violently. [Pauses]. Again and again and again. Um, I took the key and opened the door, somewhat, er… with trepidation, shall we say! And I was met by a rush of icy cold air. The temperature in the actual room, in the pottery was freezing, it was like walking into a winter’s night. Now this has all happened within five minutes, ten minutes. All the doors were shut, and the place was all securely locked.

Narrator: Eventually the story reached the ears of a local paranormal investigator, Trish Robertson.

Trish Robertson, Paranormal Investigator: It’s undoubtable that in this particular college the sound phenomena is absolutely amazing. I mean many witnesses have witnessed the footsteps coming along stone stairs, going onto wooden floors, onto stone stairs again – and just nobody there. Absolutely amazing and it’s been witnessed by so many people that it’s undoubtedly happened. The feeling of people being behind people, someone behind you, look behind you all the time, is always there with a lot of people. They cannot put their finger on that. One of the cleaners heard whispering in a supposedly locked room, to discover no-one there again. These things are once again not uncommon. Now in this particular college we cannot get to the bottom of why this should be so. We don’t have enough history of the place at the moment to find out just what’s going on.

Narrator: Professional paranormal investigators, notably the Society for Psychical Research, have been around for well over one hundred years. They have amassed a quite remarkable archive that includes every conceivable kind of paranormal and psychical events, eyewitness accounts, historical researches and so on. It is quite an extraordinary record. When they’re called into a case they can rarely if ever offer and explanation. What they can do is offer some kind of reassurance by putting the events into some kind of context, placing them in the paranormal world. But they have not achieved that for which they were established in the first place, namely scientific proof of the paranormal.

Tony Cornell: I’m inclined to think that over the years it’s become a too difficult subject to explain for science. But I’m also inclined to think that perhaps a scientist might produce in time, perhaps a little bit of the jigsaw puzzle that I’m trying to fit together, and that’ll help us answer all the many questions that we still have. We don’t know really what we’re dealing with. We know that these things happen, there’s no doubt whatever that there are such things as poltergeists, there are such things as ghosts. Too many sane and sensible people, I’ve met, at any rate, have seen these things and experienced things. And I myself, I think I hope I’ve got my feet on the ground – I’ve seen some seven very violent poltergeist cases. Now if these things are happening, science has got to come up with an answer.

David Fontana, Prof. of Psychology: I think personally that there’s a great danger in imagining that we’re always progressing. Sometimes we can learn more if we look back across the centuries and find what people were saying or doing then, than looking forward into the future. And also by looking at other cultures and seeing how they react, we can learn more than by looking at our own. My own hope is that science would be able to understand this, and my own prediction would be in fact we would see that mind and brain are not the same, and that the non-locality theory, which is now achieving quite a lot of attention among scientists, and that is that the mind is separate from the brain but is normally operating through it, that this would perhaps be established within science, and that we would find that it is indeed direct contact between mind and mind that allows for these phenomena like telepathy to actually happen.

Archie Roy, Prof. of Astronomy: The whole body of the psychic phenomenon is an indication that there are, to quote one of the communicators, there are seas to be explored. And we’ve only been on the shore of that ocean, and a whole sea of truth is before us. And we deny it, we ignore it, at our peril, because quite frankly unless we understand human personality and what it is all about, we’re going to go into the 21stcentury and the human situation will be immeasurably worse than it is today. But if we can understand human personality and the drives that come to it and makes it tick, then hopefully the 21stcentury will be immeasurably better.