Television’s Real Ghost Hunters
Article by Craig Hamilton-Parker. This is an account of our ghost hunting with the BBC on a television program we made for Everyman on BBC 2. The full account of our ghost encounters can be found in my book Opening to the Other Side which also shows you how to ghost hunt and become a professional medium or ghost hunter.
Just as the energy of a place can be sensed by a medium with psychometry skills, so too can the energy vibrations retained in buildings. Homes, churches, theaters, and so on all have their own special atmosphere that can be felt by anyone who is clairvoyantly sensitive. My circle can learn a great deal from tuning in to the vibrations associated with buildings, and what better destination for our experimental outings than to visit somewhere that is haunted?
I have received many interesting letters and emails about ghosts and haunted houses through my newspaper columns, but unfortunately most of these relate events that had happened in the past. I was very pleased, therefore, when a reader called to say that poltergeist and other phenomena were active in his home as we spoke. He lived about an hour’s drive from me and, if I hurried, I could experience it first hand. I took his address and got in my car.
The man was intelligent, of reasonable disposition, and convincing. He took me to the upstairs bedroom where he said it was all happening. He explained that the ghosts appeared out of nowhere and looked like tiny manikins, usually only a few inches high and sometimes had an insect-like appearance. “There’s one!” he yelled pointing underneath the bed. Immediately we both fell to the floor and peered beneath the bed. “Can you see them? Look, that one’s playing a tuba. Look, look! There’s a whole band marching. They have uniforms!”
As I lay there on this stranger’s bedroom floor looking for an imaginary brass band I made a decision. Next time I would not be so enthusiastic—and I certainly would learn much more about mental illness. In the majority of paranormal reports there is usually a reasonable explanation for the phenomena or a psychological cause at its heart. Often most supposed “malevolent spirits” or “possessions” can be attributed to the early stages of schizophrenia, and it is understandable that troubled people turn to mediums at the onset of hearing threatening voices. They are unlikely to recognize that these convincing hallucinations are the result of a medical condition. I have read enough psychiatry to recognize schizophrenic behaviour and my wife, Jane, was once a fully trained psychiatric nurse.
I would suggest that before you study ghosts and possession you study a little psychology. In particular read up on latent schizophrenia, narcolepsy, waking dreams, and sleep paralysis, as these conditions are mistakenly believed to have a paranormal cause by amateur ghost hunters. Then if a supposed paranormal case presents itself, you will recognize if it has a psychological cause and know where to direct the person to get qualified help. Be discrete and remember that there is still a great deal of stigma and ignorance associated with mental illness but also that in recent years great advances have been made to treat the condition.
One of my best friends from school was in later years diagnosed as schizophrenic, and I noticed that he had genuine ESP powers and I saw objects around him move when he project mental energy. Personality disorders need treatment by a specialist but it saddens me when real paranormal powers are disregarded. I recall the time a psychiatrist who knew of my interest in these things asked me to go with her to the home of one of her patients to investigate an alleged haunting. When we stepped into the hall a white mist fingered its way across the floor, under our feet, and out the front door. The psychiatrist went as white as a porcelain doll, and I am sure she now listens a little more closely to her patient’s claims.
When I take my circle to investigate haunted places I am careful to select venues where there has been reported activity over a time and not recent activity that surrounds just one person or family. The goal of these outings is to distinguish between residual energy and a conscious spirit. It also serves as important training for the future if ever the students are approached to deal with this type of phenomena.
One of the most exciting expeditions we undertook was with the BBC’s camera crew in tow. They were there to film us tracking ghosts as part of a documentary about my psychic training program. The crew was told the history of the place but we were to be kept in the dark until breakfast on the morning we were to leave. I had hired a mini bus and drove the group to the place, which was told to us only moments before setting off, as a safeguard to prevent any of us from looking up the venue in books or on the Internet.
The map reference we were given took us to a manor house called Athelhampton House in Dorset, England—close to the historic village of Tolpuddle, where the first-ever trade unionists were arrested, tried, and punished. I know now that Athelhampton House has a long and chequered history and that many frightening ghosts are said to haunt it. We were to conduct a séance and stay the night.
Approaching the manor at night made it look like a very scary place, with a dark entrance that looked like a menacing portal to Hell. “That’s your room there,” said the producer, pointing up at a Gothic tower with sinister church widows. It was clearly going to be a disquieting night’s sleep for Jane and me. Christine and her sister, Haley, were the most nervous of our group and one of the crew let it slip that they used to hang people in the room that was to be their bedroom. Although it is my job to reassure people, I couldn’t help adding that my guess was that they probably laid out the corpses exactly where Christine and Haley would be lying. If either sensed a ghost it would most probably feel like the ethereal shell of a rotting corpse superimposed over her own body. (I believe Christine and Haley stayed up all night, because Jane and I heard their blood-curdling screams intermittently during the night.)
A circle can learn from haunted houses about the vibrations and energies that are “recorded” into the environment. To help us with this we conducted a circle in the main hall, in front of a roaring log fire. Our hostess, the mistress of the house, gave us a number of artifacts belonging to former occupants, which we read using our psychometry skills. The owner was able to verify that we were describing a number of dead residents, some of whom were said to still haunt the halls, rooms, and twisting corridors.
With confirmation that we were now linked to the vibrations of the former occupants, we could now extend our sensitivity to include the vibrations of the house in general. What could we discover about its history and occupants? And most importantly for the owners, were there any ghosts that they need worry about?
One area that we were drawn to was the landing that adjoined the wing where we were to sleep. Beneath a painting of an Elizabethan woman I saw and described the gray figure of a woman who, I sensed, moved across the corridor, through our bedroom, and into the small chapel that adjoined our bedroom. This was also sensed by others in the circle and confirmed by our hostess as having been seen many times before. Jane reassured her that these things would not be harmful in any way to her young family. Indeed, Jane gave verifiable and comforting proof from a male relative and child who communicated to reaffirm this.
As the exploration of the house continued our sensitivity to the residual vibrations increased. Wandering through a comparatively modern part of the house I was suddenly and quite forcibly impressed by the image of a raging fire. My throat tightened as I perceived choking smoke—a sensation simultaneously experienced by Darren. Steinar, who was standing with us, stumbled forward, expressing that he felt someone push him. We explained our impressions to our hostess, who confirmed that a fire had started exactly where we said and that sometimes people see a figure standing there—as if giving a warning or raising the alarm. Sometimes people walking through this area had a feeling that an invisible hand is giving them a hard shove.
Ghost Hunting and ORBS
Later that night, while chatting around the fire, Christine asked about orbs and whether our cameras were likely to catch any. Orbs are rings of light that sometimes appear on film and are claimed by some to be photographic proof of the presence of spirit energies. Christine had touched a sore spot. There had been so much silly talk on the website chat rooms about orbs recently that I was now quite dismissive of them. I get sent hundreds of supposed orb pictures via my website and in my opinion it is dust, lens flair, processing flaws, etc. It seemed to me that every blob of light on a flawed camera was interpreted as something supernatural. Soon I was on my high horse and I launched into my usual discourse about what a load of rubbish all this was. We all felt the temperature in the room drop like a stone. Sensing this was an important moment Darren took a photograph. Next to my ear was an orb of light. Time to eat my hat.
Most interesting of all were the secret passageways. We soon used our psychic skills and a bit of knocking on walls to discovered the hidden doors. Darren, Phill, Jane, and I descended the tight spiral stairway into the darkness below. We tuned in. All of us felt that an animal was important and that there was something strange about this animal. We agreed there were a lot of thoughts in the atmosphere here about animals but whether it was a ghost or not was questionable. Our conclusion was that the secret passageway had been the favorite place of the family pet—probably an Alsatian dog—and that over the years this had been exaggerated into a tall tale about the lair of a mysterious animal ghost.
Some clips from the ghost hunters section of our BBC 2 Television Show
A great deal of verified information was picked up from all of us about the residual psychic energy of the building, but despite the spooky appearance of the house we concluded it was not haunted. There were certainly some strange energies sensed, and among us we gave an accurate description of the house’s past and its former occupants, but was it haunted by a ghost? Probably not. We all could sleep easy that night even though all the lights would now have to be dimmed to save power and to adhere to fire regulations. Unfortunately Christine and Haley had already wandered off down the lonely corridor to their bedroom in the other wing of the house before we could explain that we had found no active entities in the house.
At breakfast the next morning Christine and Haley looked bleary-eyed while our host and hostess explained how much we had gotten right. The mistress of the house was impressed because there was clearly no cheating going on. On another occasion, for another TV program called Most Haunted, she was upset to see the medium repeat a number of red herrings from the website, including a yarn about a monkey ghost that had been made up one evening for a joke around the dinner table. It was now stated as fact on their website.