Monday, August 7, 2006

Ghost Hunting at Warwick Castle

Note (July 15, 2007): I used to be the English Culture editor at BellaOnline, a position I held from Feb. 2006 to April 2007, and then left when I was offered a steady and challenging long-term writing project. Although being an editor there is mostly a labor of love (and hence, another reason why I left...I'm actually making money now), it did have some perks. I was invited to preview a ghost hunt at Warwick Castle, which was hosted by Fright Nights, a paranormal tour company in the UK. It was their first hunt in Warwick Castle, and I was among a team of journalists who attended. I was the only American there, and I was welcomed with open arms and some curiosity.

I felt that since this experience was such a departure from anything else I have ever done, it deserved its own post. I wrote about it for BellaOnline, as that was my "payment" for the free ticket (something that usually costs around $200, by the way), but that article was very condensed, since my limit was 400-600 words. The post I made below was transcribed from the rough notes I took at my hotel immediately after the experience. I believe that I remembered everything, even though I was trying to recall the entire night without having any sleep.

Fright Nights – Warwick Castle
August 4/5 2006 9 pm – 5am

The small group participating in the ghost hunts met in the castle’s cafeteria. We were introduced to the Fright Nights team and got an explanation of what they do, and what we should expect from the ghost hunt.

After this brief introduction, we got a tour of Warwick Castle – the grounds, Gate House, Dungeon, and the Ghost Tower. During this tour, the history of the castle was explained to us. At certain points, the Fright Nights guides paused to tell us that they were feeling certain spirits around, but most of the participants couldn’t see/feel/hear anything, except for one particular person in the group who had a very strong sense of the ghosts that were in each room.

After the initial orientation of the castle, we met back at our base of operations – the café. The tour leaders pass out ghost hunting equipment: various thermometers and electro-magnetic field detectors, and give us all a brief tutorial on how to use them. Then we are allowed to go off on our own private tour of the castle. Being reluctant to do this on my own, I paired up with another woman who was also there on her own. I had a thermometer and she had an electro-magnetic reader. We decided to explore the Gate House, but our equipment detected nothing. Supposedly, the Gate House contains the spirits of dead soldiers who tried to invade the castle, as well as a witch, and various other spirits.

After this, we all reconvened at the café to meet up with our medium, Michael. We all start introducing ourselves to each other, and two men (a gay couple…this will be important later, which is why I’m mentioning it) strike up a conversation with me, and I pretty much stick with them the rest of the evening.

As a group, we go out with Michael to tour the castle again. Immediately, he picked up the presence of ghosts: Roman soldiers marching in the courtyard, a man who had been trampled after being pushed to the ground, a drummer boy standing by a doorway who was sad because he lost his drum, a mother carrying a baby who is standing outside the castle gates, begging to be let in. Inside the dungeon, he sees the torture master, who doesn’t want us there. On the ceiling hangs an Iron Maiden. He sees a woman hanging in it. In the Gate House, he sees various other ghosts. At one point, he sees a ghost named Guy, a member of the Knights Templar, who was standing right next to me. The room was hot and stuffy, but my right side, next to where he is standing, is freezing cold.

In various rooms, depending on how spirits had died in them, people were complaining of correlating body aches: terrible headaches if the person died of a stroke, stomach aches if the ghost died from being stabbed in the stomach, etc. There was one room in particular where the air kept getting sucked out of my lungs and I was gasping for breath, and it happened to other people at the same time. There were also a few rooms where we smelled random scents like lavender or mint, when there was nothing in the room that should have been causing that scent.

In the Ghost Tower, which was left pretty much the way it was when its resident, Sir Greville, lived there, Michael picks up on a ghost in the first room named Brooke (last name), who tells him that he’s Sir G’s servant. Michael starts feeling a heavy pressure in his body, and he said it was due to the pervasive sadness in the room. Brooke was not just Sir G’s servant, but also his lover, and he stabbed Sir G. to death in a fit of passion, and then killed himself. Michael was relating all this to us, as he was communicating with Brooke, and it was consistent with the history of the castle, which Michael said he did not study prior to coming.

In Sir G’s bedroom, Michael describes Sir G’s ghost, and then begins to feel very uneasy. The other men in the room note some odd sensations, but the women didn’t feel anything. We were all standing in the dark, and we were told beforehand that if we felt like we were in imminent danger, we should turn on our flashlights and run. Well, one of the men did…he suddenly panicked, the flashlight came on, and he ran down the stairs out of Sir G’s room, followed by one of the paranormal experts who was leading the tour. They were down there for several minutes (they apparently picked up on another ghost at the bottom of the stairs) and those of us remaining in Sir G’s bedroom stood very still and quiet, and we heard footsteps actually walking around in the middle of the room. The men downstairs also heard them.

We eventually followed the men that were already downstairs, which led into a very narrow room. This is where the medium started panicking and freaking out. There was the presence of what is called an elemental, or animal spirit, and several people picked up on it being a wolf or a dog. At any rate, Michael, who has had contact with ghosts his entire life, told us that he had never felt more scared and freaked out in his life, and we had to strongly convince him not to flee from the building. At this point, for me personally, I had heard the footsteps, but besides that, had no convincing case that ghosts existed. I didn’t feel this panicky/dangerous vibe that several other people were picking up on.

After this intense scene in the Ghost Tower, we head back to the café, where we are split up into two teams. One team went with Michael to the Gate House and Dungeon to do a vigil for ghosts. My team joined the two other guides to go into the Ghost Tower. We started out on the first floor…one of the ladies in the group said that she felt a very playful spirit in the room, something akin to a court jester. We stood in a circle, holding hands. People were saying that they could feel the presence of the ghost behind them as it was walking around the room…it would lightly touch people. One of the guides said that she’s feeling that the ghost was walking in a very comical manner. One lady in the room gets a random fit of the giggles. I still feel/hear/see nothing.

We go up one floor, back to Sir G’s bedroom. All flashlights off, and we stand in a circle holding hands. Suddenly, we hear hissing sounds coming from various parts of the room. Some people say that the hissing is directly in their ears. Then we hear screaming and flashlights come on. Several women, particularly the ones standing by the stairs, were being shoved around very hard. The ones who felt this ended up moving to another point of the circle. Once we calmed down, we rejoined hands and the flashlights all went out again. The guides were asking, “If you’re here, give us a sign. Make a noise. Touch someone. Let us know you’re here” (they repeated this several times throughout the night). There is more pushing, screaming, flashlights coming on…people in abject terror. Lights go out again, holding hands again…I hear a shout coming from one of the men in the group. It is one of the gay guys that I was hanging out with, and he said that someone was trying to pull up the back of his shirt (remember, Sir G. was homosexual)…he explained that he was gay, so perhaps the ghost could sense that. We got settled back into our circle, lights out…one of the guides had gone and sat on Sir G’s bed. One woman suddenly exclaims that she sees a bright flash of light moving onto the bed. The guide announces that Sir G. is sitting next to him on the bed. We hear a sudden sound coming from downstairs. The guide on the bed shouts, “We know you’re down there, come up and join us.” In a minute, he tells us, “the elemental has joined me on the bed.” Despite all this going on, I still hear/see/feel nothing. Just about everyone else in the room is panicky and scared and nearly crying with absolute horror, and I was feeling a bit disappointed because I wasn’t experiencing anything.

At this point, we trade places…and our group joins Michael in the Gate House and the dungeon. Michael should have gone to the Ghost Tower, but he refused to step foot back in there again. We went to the dungeon first, which was, in my opinion, the creepiest room in the entire castle. All lights out. Instead of standing in a circle and holding hands, we just sat around the room very quietly. I was sitting off in a little alcove in the room, next to a trapdoor that led to a hole where they would throw some of the prisoners. I figured that surely I would feel something there, but I felt absolutely nothing. We sat there in silence for awhile, and the medium finally announced that nothing was there, so we moved on to the Gate House.

At the Gate House, nothing seemed to be going on there either. In one of the rooms, Michael said that he could see ghosts moving in and out, but none of them were staying. He said he would let us know if anything started to happen. Well, nothing did. We sat there for a really long time. My legs were starting to fall asleep. One of the guys in our group fell asleep and actually started snoring. Two of the women in the group finally got up, announcing that they had to go to the restroom, so I followed them out. We went to the restroom and then sat in the café for a bit, talking about how disappointing this was. Nothing we had seen had truly convinced us.

After a short while, everyone else joined us in the café. Michael arrived first, a minute or two before the others, and he was shaking and telling us that he was absolutely terrified of going back in the Ghost Tower. But he had to go, so he was fortifying himself with coffee. The rest of the group joined us, and we went back into the Ghost Tower and got into a circle, holding hands. All flashlights off, and the only light in the room was a tiny red dot coming from the tape recorder. Michael is sitting apart from us in a corner. I got a very odd sensation at this moment…the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and I got this hot flash. One of our guides announced that Michael was currently in a trance. He is a transmedium, and ghosts can enter his body and speak through him. At that moment, we felt a whoosh of cold air, and Michael’s breathing became really shallow. He started moaning. So the guides begin asking him questions, and slowly he starts to talk. He says that his name is Guy, and that he lived right after the Crusades, in a place not far from the castle. He told us that he didn’t want us in the room, but he agreed to answer some questions on the condition that we promised to leave. He said that his wife lived in the castle…she was the daughter of an earl, and that she jumped into the Avon River and drowned at the age of 25 because she was possessed by demons. He explained that he lived his life as a recluse until he died at age 50. We felt another burst of air as he was talking about his wife, and he said, “She’s here.” The guides determined that his wife had entered the room. In a minute, we felt another rush of air and heard footsteps leaving the room, and the spirits were gone. Michael was sputtering and choking on the floor, and had to be helped out by one of the guides.

After that, a large chair was brought out and placed in the middle of the room, a wine glass placed upside down on top of it. Three people volunteer to place their fingers lightly on the base of the glass (like an Ouija board). One of them asked questions:

“If there is a spirit in the room, please move the glass.”

The glass moved, just a bit.

Through a series of other questions, we determined that the ghost moving the glass was once again, Sir G. Suddenly, the guides started suggesting questions for the volunteer to ask the ghost, but the ghost began responding directly to the guides instead.

“Do you know there is an elemental in the room?”

The glass moved so hard and fast that it nearly crashed off the chair.

“Can you move the glass in the direction where the elemental is located?”

The glass moved toward the stairway, where this wolf/dog spirit was first encountered.

A series of other questions were asked, and then the wine glass just stopped moving. After several minutes, we concluded that Sir G. was tired of playing with us, and he left. And so concluded our ghost hunt.

Back at the café for closing remarks, Michael is slumped in a chair, complaining that his body is burning. One woman touches his arm, and says that that his skin is boiling hot. It looked like blisters/boils were popping up on his skin, although I can’t be sure of that…I did see some wounds though and he was pointing them out.

The last hour was perhaps the most convincing for me, but I still haven’t quite wrapped my brain around it. Whether it was a bunch of smoke and mirrors, or whether it was real, it was a very cool experience, and I was happy to have access to the castle at night, which few people before me have ever had the chance to do.


Anonymous said...

i have to say that youe sight is very good but i like to go on these trips but i would like to take children not small children i would say 13 years and over i think it would be a real experince for them 2 see and not only that she looks on the website and looks at the terms and conditions and it always says 18 and above and she has looked everywhere but she cant fine any one for her age group i no that it scary and i no u cover that but would she be able to go if we went as a private booking i hope you understand what i am saying from rachel

Karyn said...

If you want to go on a ghost hunt with your daughter, all you need to do is contact the company through which you want to book, and ask them if it's acceptable for you to take your kids.

This can be a very traumatic and even terrifying experience, even for adults, and there are certainly safety concerns. But it never hurts to ask the company if it's okay. If you accompany her, they might find that acceptable. But I can't guarantee anything.

Good luck.

DW WEST MIDS said...

I see spirits on many occasions, suppose its a natural gift i have since i was around 13/14. Anyway visited the castle with my family during the day 31/7/08 i took some pictures around the castle during the day and of any areas i felt presence of a spirit. Four of the photos which was taken contained orbs and one photo displayed images of two faces in the wall. Anyone who wishs to see leave your email and ill be happy to forward.