I don't really know what to make of Eddie Burks, as I've said before. It makes no sense to me and my prejudices to believe that there can be spirits you can interrogate and then encourage to 'move on'. But yet, he seems to believe very much in what he is doing. We're not really given any particularly interesting anecdotes from the people at the church centre. It looks pretty grim for sure. But that doesn't mean its miserable atmosphere = haunted, surely. Is it relevant that the place is a 'church centre' and full of people slightly more inclined to be thinking about Spiritual Matters? One wonders.
Eddie Burks: I’m experiencing pain across the forehead, and at the base of the neck. Well a discomfort at the base of the neck. It’s got something to do with his death, I think. If I can encourage him to… go back into that remembrance, we shall make progress with him. [Deep breathing] He was walking along the path and saw the two men, and realise that this was dangerous, and something was about to happen. And he turned, and there were two others on the path blocking his… his retreat. This could have been a murder. [Rubs face]
Narrator: This is Eddie Burks, a psychic medium, claiming to be in contact with the ghost of a young man. The common stereotype is that ghosts and hauntings and all that stuff have to do with old and historic locations – graveyards and ruined castles, old abbeys and the like. Nothing could be further from the truth. In our searches across the country it’s clear that the paranormal knows no boundaries. You are as likely to bump into it in an urban semi as you are in a ruined castle. That is also true of the work of psychic mediums – the men that talk to ghosts. They find themselves called in by all sorts of ordinary people, most of whom don’t have the slightest interest or belief in the paranormal. People who need help in dealing with psychic events they’re no longer able to bear. In this programme we tell just such a story, that could easily have happened in a street near you. This is a local church centre in suburban south London. It’s heavily protected against local vandals. But they run all sorts of social events here. It’s all very normal and everyday. And yet for the past five or six years here, things haven’t been quite right. Nothing very specific, just a strange sense of dread and foreboding. The centre is run by Caroline. She didn’t want herself or the centre to be identified. Indeed she was very reluctant to let us film at all here.
Caroline: If you’re sitting in the office you actually get um, coldness around your neck or around your legs. And just generally everyone will say they’ve felt cold or uneasy here today. Things like that. The experience I’ve had ongoing downstairs when I’ve had to go to the boiler room was, immediately as I approached the doors from the upstairs, my stomach actually was churning, turning over, and I was very fearful to actually go downstairs.
Narrator: But Caroline is by no means alone. Over the past few years many people using the centre have experienced inexplicable and strange happenings. But above all, they’ve experienced a strong sense of dread and fear in the basement of the building. The feelings got so bad that they decided to call in some professional ghost hunters.
Anne Spencer, Paranormal Investigator: On the first vigil I was spending in the building, I spent quite a few hours in the bar area. While we were sitting there, I was with my husband, it was quiet, and occasionally I could hear some tapping on the pipes. Well this could have been tapping, someone tapping, so I tried knocking on the pipes to get an answer, nothing came. Um, we later confirmed that no-one was tapping on the pipes at the time. Everyone was being watched by someone. The noises still came, and while we were listening there were two incredibly large bangs from a cupboard right behind me.
John Spencer, Paranormal Investigator: We’ve done three vigils here now, and on each occasion we’ve had some kind of results, particularly sound and light effects. I’ve been present at two of those where we’ve witnessed something where we really are quite curious about – we wouldn’t put too much of a label on them yet, but certainly the investigation hasn’t come up with a good answer for them.
Narrator: But despite all this effort there were no very conclusive or specific results.
Chris Walton, Paranormal Researcher: Three of us settled down for the evening, to see what was going to happen. And we were hearing the occasional noise, the occasional rustling noise towards the end of the gym here. And there was light, seeing the odd light effect. Although you can never rule that out as being caused by the eye, caused by the retina. So we weren’t sure about those. And then after a while we had a build up of the atmosphere – it was almost like being in a thunderstorm. It was just an intense pressure, a very uncomfortable feeling. And then we started to see lights, I started to see lights towards the centre of the room, round about this area here. And the lights coming out from the area, and it started to move towards us. At which point we all shouted ‘now!’ and in true ghostbuster fashion, rushed it.
John Spencer: And it was a very strange experience, and I’m not partic… I’ve never credited myself with being psychic and I’ve had very few experiences of that nature – but certainly my notes will agree with almost everybody else’s in that place, that something had happened.
Narrator: When we heard Caroline’s story, we decided to call in one of this country’s most celebrated ghost hunters – the psychic medium Eddie Burks. A shy, diffident, softly-spoken man who has an international reputation for the quality of his psychic perceptions. We told him nothing about where he was going or what had happened at the centre. When he arrived at the centre, Eddie spent the first half hour or so just walking through all the rooms. During this time he did indeed get an idea of something dark and mysterious in the basement. But it was not for him the main focus of unrest or unease in the centre.
Eddie Burks: Before I came down I was picking up a lot of distress on the floor above, which we may have to return to. I don’t much like the feeling of it down here but I don’t think it’s… it’s the same sort of distress I was picking up upstairs. As far as I’m concerned the centre of the disturbance – although it may not manifest here – the centre is in this room. [He’s now sat down, breathing loudly] I’m making contact with somebody, a man, he’s saying ‘what do these other people want?’ What do they want. It seems he wants to make contact with me… however, that’ll be alright. I’ll reassure him. I want to find out more about him… How he died and why he’s still here… He’s wearing dark trousers, flared, bell-bottom type trousers. I suppose that places him in the 1950s, I’m not sure. If so, I think it would be, no – I can’t be sure of the date at the moment… He’s not very happy at remembering the circumstances of his death, and I think it’ll be a while before I can persuade him to do that… Try and get some feeling of his character. Can’t see him yet… A youngish man, I feel. Died suddenly... Severe blow to the back of the head [he rubs his neck]… This could have been a murder.
Narrator: During the past five years, as the various investigations have gone on at the community centre, the possibility of the disturbing events there being linked in some way to a murder has come up several times.
Caroline: We’ve tried to look into the history. But unfortunately we can’t really find very much out about the centre. We’re aware it might have been used as a mortuary in the war, so I’m not sure if it’s someone who’s not been able to pass on to where they’re going. Um, we have done a Ouija board here, and it came up that it was a young man who died here in 1977.
Narrator: The local community policeman, Paul, was informed about the paranormal investigations, and he was able to search through the records of local events.
Paul, Community Policeman: They had a séance here during one of the ghost watches, and the ghost passed information that he’d been murdered nearby in April of 1977. I wasn’t too happy with this but I thought I’d check it out anyway. I went to the local library and through their archives I found out a murder had occurred in this area, less than a quarter of a mile from where we stand.
Anne Spencer: Well, it’s often thought that a strong emotion will create a recording of a ghost which can then be replayed in some way later. Now there were murders taking place very near here, and of course if the theory is right there will be ghosts created at that time. Whether they’ve moved into the centre is still to be found out really.
Narrator: But Eddie Burks knew nothing of all this. The remarkable sequence that follows took place over a period of three hours in front of our cameras, as Eddie slowly pieced together the anatomy of a murder: the people, the place, the actual experience of the young man who he believes was attacked and brutally killed.
Eddie Burks: Agitation is increasing considerably. I think we’re awakening his recollections… Ah, I just saw, um, railings, like park railings… and a path. I think this took place… in a park setting, or something like a park setting, I can only see railings running one way and at right angles, and a path. … I’m getting very strong impressions of the struggle that took place between him and these two men… This is, I think drug related… I think they thought he was carrying drugs… and the fight started because they demanded drugs and he denied that he was carrying any… Oof. Very nasty. Very nasty feelings about this altogether… I was getting the words ‘You’ve got it all wrong, you’ve got it all wrong’ and I thought it was referring to what I was doing, but I don’t.. .I think this is what he was saying to his assailants – you’ve got it all wrong, you’ve got it all wrong. Because these words keep coming through very forcibly. You’ve got it all wrong… I think there were more than these two men involved. He was walking along the path, and saw the two men and realised this was dangerous and something was about to happen. And then he turned, and there were two others on the path blocking his retreat… [Holds head in hand] I think… they got him on the ground once and he was wrestling with them, and I was seeing this wrestling going on and then I think he got up, and was still engaged with one man, wrestling with him, struggling with him. And then he got the blow at the back of the head and fell.
Narrator: Once he is in contact with the disturbed spirit, in this case the spirit of a young man, Eddie sees his role as finding out the cause of his disturbance. Or as Eddie would put it, why he refuses to pass over into the spirit world.
Eddie Burks: I think a factor in the difficulty we’re having, or I’m having with this man, is again that he… he’s very angry at what happened, he naturally bears a sense of… I think he wants, he would like to avenge himself on these people. As long as he carries that strongly with him, it’s going to be difficult to… to free him. I’ve mentally put the proposition to him, would he like to go on a journey. Erm, out of this place that he’s in. And er, I’m waiting to see what he thinks…
Narrator: Eddie has now come to what he sees as the most important part of his work – actually reasoning with the spirit to persuade him or it to move on, away from the focus of his anger and desire for revenge. For him it is a process of cleansing and exorcism.
Eddie Burks: I see a brook… and a bridge across.. and this has suddenly come into view and I think he can see it as well. And if he steps across this bridge it will be symbolic of him leaving this place – well more than symbolic, it will mark his leaving this place and going on this journey. He will not be able to come back. But that’s ok, I don’t think he’ll ever want to. So it’s now up to him to make that step, it’s got to be his choice to leave… he says now he feels there’s nothing to hold him here… but he says ‘I want to do something about those men, the ones who killed me’ – well he can’t do anything about it where he is now, and he may have a different view if he starts on this journey. In time… But he says ‘thanks mate’ to me, ‘I will go’… [He rubs his forehead]… he has gone across the bridge… I’ve got to come out of it now. Um, I’ve done all I can do and I think all that was necessary at this stage… Oh, I can’t, I’ve probably exhausted my own resources on this one. I’ll have to leave it. Anyway the job is done.
Narrator: At the end of his three hour encounter Eddie Burks was completely exhausted. It was as if he’d actually lived through a series of violent events. When he’d rested we asked him how he felt about the spirits with whom he’d established contact. He gave an extraordinary answer – for him, ghosts are just people.
Eddie Burks: The reason for this sort of phenomena occurring, as I say, banging on radiators, fiddling about, making things disappear and so on- is partly, I think, frustration at the situation they find themselves in. It’s partly erm, to make their plight known. It depends on the personality of the one doing the haunting. After all these are people, we call them ghosts but they are in fact people in a displaced sort of condition. But they remain people with the same personalities as they had before. And if they had a mischievous disposition, they will behave mischievously. If they’re frustrated they’ll show their frustration, if they’re angry they’ll show that they are angry. What you sometimes find is that the haunting will start off fairly placidly and harmlessly, and after a time it begins to get more and more troublesome. And this is understandable because the spirit concerned is getting more exasperated that nobody is doing anything for him. But I probably made contact with that man because he was the most needful. And I think if I came back again I would be able to deal with perhaps one or two others. The place certainly needs some sort of clearing out.