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Having subjected you to some pretty tedious stuff for the past few months, I felt I owed it to you to post something worthwhile. Well, technically I don’t owe you anything but you know what I mean.

I’ll admit that I lost some of my enthusiasm for the paranormal and perhaps my cynicism had turned to exasperation, but I’m keen to get things back to how they used to be. You remember the good times, don’t you?  Please don’t leave me for another ghost blog. You belong here, with me.

So, in order to prove to you that I’m still serious about Looking For Ghosts, I decided to pack my bags and head off to Pluckley with an (unwilling) accomplice.

If you have even the slightest interest in ghosts, the chances are that you’ve already heard of Pluckley. Nestled deep in the Kent countryside, it is often said to be Britain’s most haunted village and even has an entry in the Guinness Book of Records to cement this dubious claim. This is totally absurd when you consider that hauntings are an entirely unquantifiable concept, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of eager ghost hunters flocking to Pluckley every year to try and get their spook on.

And if you’re thinking of doing the same, I seriously wouldn’t bother.

Arriving in the glorious sunshine one Saturday lunchtime, Pluckley seemed to us just like any other village; quiet, picturesque and, frankly, a little bit dull. There were a couple of pubs and some houses, but not much else. What do people do here?  Doesn’t even have a Pret A Manger. It’s practically barbaric.

Having tried and failed to book a Bed and Breakfast for the evening thanks to a wedding party occupying all available rooms, Dering Woods (or The Screaming Woods as they are commonly known) would have be our home for the evening. After lugging our bags for what felt like an eternity along winding country roads, the unrelenting heat rendering our journey only marginally more pleasant than diving headlong into a burning mound of faeces, we finally arrived.

On first impression the woods were fairly underwhelming, but then it’s difficult to know exactly what we were expecting during the middle of the day. Ghouls flying about between the branches? Piercing screams echoing through the trees? Obviously not, but I couldn’t help but feel that Pluckley’s reputation was letting it down slightly. It actually seemed quite pretty.

Living in London and therefore knowing nothing about camping or the countryside, this trip was never likely to be a smooth operation but nevertheless we exuded the inexplicable complacency befitting hardened city dwellers when faced with a seemingly easy task. Camping? Isn’t that something children do? Piece of piss.

Several arguments later, and with our tempers almost as frayed as the material on flimsy groundsheet, we finally managed to pitch our tent in a small clearing and dump our equipment before heading back into the village to explore. When I say equipment, I mean toilet roll, sleeping bags and a tube of Pringles. And when I say explore, I mean just briefly look at stuff.

Worrying that we wouldn’t be able to find our tent again in the dark, we left a small packet of Bombay Mix on a tree near the entrance to act as a marker. Note to future campers: This does not work.

The Black Horse pub was our first stop, where I was able to purchase a ghost book that was being advertised on a poster on the door. Asking the barmaid for that book was probably the single most shameful experience of my life; it would have been far less embarrassing to ask for haemorrhoid cream, or some violent pornography. I tried to make out that I was only buying it for the map inside, but I could tell she wasn’t convinced. My eyes must have given me away. My companion actually refused to be seen with me whilst I was holding it, such is the repelling nature of the paranormal enthusiast.

The pub itself was alright. It had a nice beer garden where two dogs had a fight and everyone watched intently. We reflected that this was potentially the highlight of the trip.

We also looked around the church and graveyard, where a red lady is supposed to wander mournfully looking for her buried baby. We didn’t see her. We had a bit more a poke around the village, consulting the book intermittently when we were sure we were out of view of other people.

When that became tedious (after 45 minutes or so) we headed to The Dering Arms which was to be our base for the evening. A charming, rustic gastro pub with some excellent local ales on tap, it was a stark reminder of the luxury and comfort we would soon be giving up to sleep in the woods.

As a former hunting lodge, deer heads and antlers hung ominously from pretty much every wall in the Dering Arms and my companion’s request for a vegetarian option was met with blind panic by our waitress. However, after consulting with the chef, she did kindly offer to whip up an omelette for £14 which was good of her.

After a few more ales, we stumbled back to the woods and somehow managed to find our tent, forgetting all about the Bombay Mix which we suspected had probably choked some poor badger to death some hours ago.

Granted, the woods were much more eerie at night but then that’s hardly surprising. It was very dark, very quiet and very isolated; anywhere in those circumstances are going to make you feel uneasy. Somewhere overhead a bird would make a noise, or an animal would rustle some branches, but certainly nothing that couldn’t be easily explained.

Also, annoyingly, we could hear other people in the woods. Whether it was local kids bored out of their minds or other ghost hunters on the prowl, the distant sound of shouting and whooping didn’t exactly add to the spooky atmosphere we were so looking forward to. Suddenly the fear was not of ghosts but of the possibility of having to interact with other people, or of our tent being kicked to pieces by the cast of Skins.

Exhausted from the day’s excursions and full of beer and food, we felt very little during the night except for sleepy, bloated and, to be honest, a little bit bored. Here are some edited highlights:

  • 11:08pm: An owl made a noise.
  • 11:15pm: Tried to name 100 Beatles songs from memory. Managed 86.
  • 12:13am: Some wind made a noise (outside the tent, thankfully).
  • 01:27am: Sick into a hedge.
  • 01:43am: Ticket to Ride! 87.
  • 01:56am: Sleep.

The following morning we packed everything away and headed to the station, just as it started to rain which seemed a fitting end to a pretty uneventful trip.

I don’t want to be too down on Pluckley; others may have had horrifying ghostly encounters here, and there are many videos on  YouTube of people getting themselves worked up into a frenzy in the Screaming Woods, but I can’t say I’m convinced. The simple fact is that any wood anywhere in the world is going to be full of things that make noise: animals, birds, people, wind. When you’re scared and your senses are on high alert it’s easy to see how these sounds could be mistaken for something else but, in reality, there is nothing in these woods except wildlife and the only screaming came from bored teenagers.

Besides, on the same night we were in Pluckley, Bob Dylan was playing at the Hop Farm Festival in nearby Paddock Wood. So, even if we had heard a terrifying ghoul making horrible wailing sounds I think we all know where it would have been coming from.

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Pete Doherty has to say some pretty demented things to keep himself in the news these days. Whereas once he would simply have to break wind to cause unbridled tabloid frenzy, now Doherty could probably soil himself live on Daybreak and no one would bat an eyelid. With the possible exception of Adrian Chiles, whose job it would be to clean it up.

Now that he’s not dating Kate Moss or creating music of any worth, Doherty’s star has faded so badly that even the NME, whose Journalists once queued up to give him blowjobs, no longer seem to care. Evidently Pete’s not even fashionable enough to appeal to the bovine readership of a magazine aimed squarely at people with an appalling taste in music, despite once being their poster boy. He’s so washed up even he isn’t sure who he is anymore.

Pete Doherty, seen here booking his Eurostar ticket.

Anyway, the former Libertine and hawker of shit music has apparently seen the ghost of his former friend Amy Winehouse, according to several newspaper reports.

The Sun claim that Doherty has fled to Paris after the ghost of Winehouse appeared to him at his Camden flat and is “too frightened to return”. A friend added that “he is utterly convinced that he has seen her ghost.” 

 “A lot of people will think his visions are probably drug-induced,” they added, accurately summing up the mood of absolutely everyone who reads the story, “but he claims he is clean.” Of course he does. But then again he once forced his cat to smoke from a crack pipe, so forgive us if we don’t take everything he says at face value.

Still, it comes to something if Pete Doherty has seen more ghosts than us. After all, he’s not even trying.

The problem we have here is that this story is simply too absurd to mock. It mocks itself. It’s just Pete’s junkie friends making up cheap stories, with scant regard for the grieving family of a much-loved singer. Doherty, and anyone who knows him, should be forced to move to Paris permanently and be beaten to death by burly Customs Officers should they ever try to return.  

Anyone who has been subjected to the laughably self-indulgent second Libertines album will agree that punishment is more than fair.

Note: It was tempting to end this entry with a joke about how Pete Doherty had seen the sallow, haunting figure of a once talented musician in his flat, but then realised he was looking in a mirror. But we decided not to. We’re better than that.

We may spend a disproportionate amount of our time in pursuit of ghosts, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fingers firmly on the pulse of popular culture. In an effort to keep this blog as topical as we can, this post is dedicated to Glastonbury Festival, which takes place later this week.

For those of you lucky enough to have avoided the obligatory hype, Glastonbury is a festival of “music and performing arts” which takes place on a farm in Somerset every year. And, contrary to what people may tell you, it’s totally, unequivocally rubbish.

We hate Glastonbury Festival. We hate Glastonbury Festival without even having been to Glastonbury Festival. Anyone who goes to Glastonbury Festival, or even thinks about going to Glastonbury Festival, or who even says the words Glastobury Festival, or who writes a blog entry in which the words Glastonbury Festival are repeated ad nauseum, is an imbecile of towering proportions.

Just remember, you've PAID MONEY to do this...

What started many years ago as a laid back, hippie-influenced love-fest has now evolved into a corporate, money-grabbing business empire with all the soul and atmosphere of a three-day marketing conference, where a man in a grey suit talks endlessly about sales targets and quarterly reviews.

Whereas many years ago pleasure-seeking locals could simply hop over the fence (or burrow beneath it) to avoid paying the extortionate entry fee, “Glasto” (as it’s affectionately called by utter morons) now has a multi-million pound security system which makes Alcatraz look positively welcoming. The parameters are patrolled by stormtroopers, who are programmed to shoot any revellers who try to gain unlawful access squarely in the back of the head without a hint of remorse. Even if they were probably just walking past.

Things aren’t much better even if you manage to successfully negotiate the Kafka-esque ticketing process and get in, where you’ll be charged roughly £4,800 for a pint of diluted lager whilst a group of insufferable public-school types (probably called Josh, or Toby, or Izzy) will try and hug you and inform you of what a “spiritual” time you’re all having. Anyone with a shred of intelligence or human empathy will have killed themselves by the end of the first day.

As we said, we know all of this without even having been to Glastonbury Festival.

Considering that spending three days in a muddy field listening to Coldplay seems about as enjoyable as spending three days repeatedly smashing your own forehead against a rusty nail, we don’t know why all the security is necessary.  Most of the bands on this year’s line-up are so terrible that they should, to our minds, act as a deterrent to anyone who was planning on heading to Somerset during that period.

And if you’re thinking that this blog entry is just an excuse to spout anti-Glastonbury propaganda, you’re wrong. There is a ghost link, albeit it a very tenuous one:

The town of Glastonbury, according to reports which are definitely true and in no way made up by the pot-smoking, aromatherapy-admiring locals, is haunted. However, rather than a spectre that has been seen, this ghost takes the form of a smell which moves freely around the town centre.

Two words, people: Bob. Geldof.

 Looking For Ghosts is always pleased when a ghost story is reported in the national press. Not because it lends credibility to the paranormal community (it doesn’t) but largely because it forces professional Journalists to write earnest features about orbs and use phrases like “things that go bump in the night” without a hint of irony. It’s probably not the Pulitzer-winning breakthrough story they dreamt of when they first joined the news desk as a fresh-faced, eager young graduate. As the article shuffles from one dubious eye-witness account to the next, the sense of the writer’s disappointment in their own work is almost palpable. It may as well have been written in tears.

Inevitably, by the time the article is complete, the transformation into a bitter, degraded old hack, scrambling around for tedious stories like a pig in the dirt, is complete. If the author in question is a Daily Mail Journalist, this makes the process all the more enjoyable. It’s like watching someone have a bucket of misery poured all over their dreams. Ha!

This is precisely what the newswire has thrown up at us today, as we’re fed this load of utter horse shit about a French couple who have spent over £3,000 on hotel bills after being run out of their home in Frodsham, Cheshire, by poltergeists.

The article explains how musician Jean Marc Mariole and his wife Charlotte are regularly forced to check into the local Holiday Inn during the early hours because of “stamping noises, flying blobs and even levitating bed sheets.” All of which sounds perfectly plausible, as long as you’re prepared to have your beliefs stretched to breaking point and the bit of your brain that filters out logic and common sense surgically removed.

According to the Mail, the couple have already invested £18,000 in decorating their “dream home”, which seems to consist of a rented flat above a butcher’s shop. It seems unlikely that this would ever be someone’s dream home; a flat above a butcher’s shop is not even the dream home of the Butcher in question. What were they living in before, a sewer? Also, as someone rightly points out in the comments section, why on earth would anyone invest £18,000 in decorating a rented flat? For that money, not to mention the £3,000 in hotel bills, they would have been much better off just moving somewhere else.

With the rationality of this couple looking decidedly fragile already, their ghost stories become increasingly hard to believe.

“It’s terrifying. We see black silhouettes on the walls and hear screams at night. Sometimes it sounds like a grown man crying,” explains Jean-Marc. Perhaps they live next door to a Daily Mail Journalist?

“The noise is very distressing – it’s like something out of a horror movie and does not help our sex life.” Thanks. That’s good to know. We were all wondering…

Anyway, read the whole story here if you want to be further repulsed by an old French couple rutting away like a couple of sweaty, grunting boars.

Don’t forget to inundate the Mail’s message board with hateful obscenities!

If you’re looking for an example of the paranormal being treated with far too much importance, then look no further than Thorpe Park. The UK’s 614th most popular Theme Park may be a disease-ridden Mecca for the poorly educated, neglected and unwashed but it evidently takes ghosts very seriously, having just moved one of its rides for fear it may have been built on an ancient burial ground.

Construction workers building the new Storm Surge water ride claim to have experienced several ghost sightings, including a headless monk, prompting managers at the park to rethink their plans.

According to London’s Evening Standard: “a paranormal detection agency was called in to carry out tests and found that an ancient burial ground or settlement could have been disturbed.”

Could have been disturbed. Possibly. Although probably not. But maybe. If this is the sort of detailed analysis you can expect from a paranormal detection agency, Thorpe Park would have been better off asking a Magic 8-Ball what they should do. It would have saved them a lot of money and probably made more sense.

Storm Surge: headless monks not pictured. Obviously. They don't exist.

Mike Vallis, divisional Director of Thorpe Park claims: “Staff reports of eerie goings-on shot up and the only physical change in the park, at that time, was the beginning of ground preparation work for the new ride.”

“As employees were getting freaked out, we decided to call on an expert to see whether there was anything to report but had no idea of the dramatic effects.”

And what dramatic effects would these be, exactly? Some crackpot team of charlatans feeding you a load of bullshit about burial grounds? Is it not far more likely that the staff, as upstanding and principled as they almost certainly are NOT, are just…lying? You can’t call out the Ghostbusters every time someone thinks they see a shadow move. What kind of company policy is that?  

Anyway, presumably concluding that a load of ghosts wandering around would be bad for park business, bosses have ordered the 64ft structure to be moved to a new location so that customers won’t be harassed by the undead. This seems reasonable; who in the right mind would want to see a ghost?

The truth is they really needn’t have bothered.  As a place where thick people go to have fun, Thorpe Park is already an unabashed wasteland of misery and despair; a few headless monks haunting the place would be a welcome relief from the hoards of tracksuit wearing Neanderthals shoving candyfloss into the faces of their fat children.

For the benefit of society as a whole, just pull the whole thing down and let the ghosts run amok.

We’ll be the first to admit that when it comes to Ghost Hunting, our approach is casual at best. For a start, we’ve not left the UK. We’ve barely even left London. We haven’t invested in any equipment. Our “research” largely consists of half-baked internet searches and our expeditions involve sitting in supposedly haunted pubs. And we haven’t seen a single ghost in the year this blog has been live. Readers, we stand before you today as FRAUDS.

As the laughing stock of the paranormal community (an impressive feat in itself given the shear abundance of horseshit out there) it isn’t hard to make us look languid and lazy. But this week we stumbled upon something that made us look so humiliatingly incompetent that we might as well pack up our belongings and shuffle off into the abyss. If we could be bothered.

Whilst our work ethic will barely allow us to walk to the end of our road for a spooky fix, a team of researchers from the US are planning to travel 960 miles off the coast of New York to find evidence of the paranormal. Under the sea. Yes, they’re going to look for ghosts on the Titanic.

RMS Titanic in happier times

The unit, ominously titled Society of DEAD (Direct Evidence After Death), includes Matthew “Sandman” Kelley, a retired truck driver, and William Brower, a self-taught (ie self-proclaimed) Titanic expert whose preparation for this trip is apparently limited to watching films about the famous wreck. What could possibly go wrong? Apart from absolutely everything, obviously.

The team hopes to find evidence of Electronic Voice Phenomena, or EVP, to prove that people who died on that night in 1912 left a psychic impression in the area. And how do they intend to do this?

“We will re-create the atmosphere by eating the exact meal that was served the night the ship crashed, and we will play the same music heard that night,” Kelley explains.

Let us be the first to go on record and say that this WILL DEFINITELY WORK.

Matthew Kelley, the brains of the operation...

However, not everyone is as convinced as we are. Paranormal writer Terra King believes that carrying out research at places of extreme disaster is “disrespectful and unethical”.

“Too many groups who are searching for the voices of those who have died are downright ghoulish,” King explains, possibly chuckling at her own amusing pun. “This expedition falls within this category. Trolling the North Atlantic for EVPs is ridiculous.”

Ridiculous it may be, but you can’t fault their blind optimism in the face of such ill preparation. Good luck, guys. You’re almost certainly going to need it.

Fancy living in a Haunted House? No, didn’t think so.

Nor, it seems, does anyone. Wymering Manor, reportedly the most haunted manor house in the UK, was recently up for auction for £375,000 but failed to sell. Perhaps buyers were put off by the fact that this Grade 2 listed building needs roughly £150,000 worth of restoration work to stop it from crumbling down around them. Or perhaps it’s because it’s located in Portsmouth, Britain’s answer to Chernobyl.

But mainly, we suspect, it’s because it’s chock-full of ghosts. Around 20-30 of the bastards according to “investigators of the paranormal” (or “peddlers of bullshit” as they are known to everyone else).

Wymering Manor: "Fairly spooky", supposedly.

As you’d expect with any house which is purportedly haunted, Wymering Manor comes complete with sudden drops in temperature, the sound of “children laughing and whispering” and  “a host of unseen hands which reach out to touch those passing by.” Cryptically, it also lists “a ghostly choir of nuns who scuttle across the hall” as one of its features. God only knows what that must look like.

The former monastery, featured in the 1086 Domesday Book , boasts two “priest holes” (unfortunately not nearly as rude as it sounds) where Catholics hid to escape persecution. In Portsmouth, this could have been as recently as 2003.

Hilariously, security guards who patrol the manor have also attested that there is something “fairly spooky” going on, which is about as conclusive as it’s possible to get without actually seeing anything paranormal happen. Which we never will.

Priest Hole: priest, sadly, not pictured.

Amazingly, this absolute gem of a property is still on the market. Chartered surveyor Jeremy Lamb remains upbeat: “It’s certainly a unique selling point…” he offers hopefully.

So if you’ve got half a million to spare and fancy living in a decaying wreck with a load of ghouls whilst you question your own worthless existence, why not make a bid?

Alternatively, why not make your own haunted house? Follow these easy steps:

  1. Remain in your current house
  2. Turn the heating down
  3. Make up some stuff

Congratulations! You now live in Britain’s most haunted house. Why not call in some paranormal “experts” to agree with your laughable stories, nodding their heads in admiration as you tell them that your bathroom was built on an ancient burial ground? No one can disprove anything, you’ll be fine. You might even make the national news!

This story was brought to our attention by the ever-ludicrous Daily Mail, by the way. Read it in full here.

It has been a difficult few months for England Manager Fabio Capello.

Aside from England’s dreadful performance and subsequent early exit from the World Cup, the Italian was also left with egg on his face when his involvement with the controversial Capello Index was exposed. Both events prompted a fierce media backlash, with the press openly questioning his selection policy, tactics and more crucially, his integrity. After such a promising start, the cracks have started to appear.

Add to this the number of off-field issues he has been forced to address with his philandering players and he could be forgiven for simply giving up. John Terry’s unwillingness to keep “Terry Jnr” in his trousers, Ashley Cole’s abject refusal to honour his wedding vows (culminating in a very public divorce) and most recently Wayne Rooney’s penchant for visiting prostitutes must have tested Capello’s resolve to breaking point. Who was he coaching here, the England football team or the cast of Fatal Attraction? Things couldn’t get much worse for the under-pressure manager.

And then someone releases a story that you believe in ghosts. Great.

Yes, Chelsea manager Carlo Ancelotti has claimed in his autobiography that compatriot Capello used to be spooked by a presence in the coach’s room at Milanello, AC Milan’s training complex, during his time with the Italian club.

Ancelotti revealed: “The first time I walked into that room, I had a distinct impression. I could see an array of presences. I was sleeping in the bed that had belonged to Nereo Rocco, Arrigo Sacchi and Fabio Capello.

“In the old days, Capello – under the influence, I believe, of the director of the sports centre, Antore Peloso – used to claim that there was a ghost, wandering freely down the hallway, especially after sunset.”

Wow. Fabio is undoubtedly delighted that this story has surfaced. It’s probably just what he needs; an already-critical nation questioning his mental health.  But Ancelotti isn’t done yet:

“I never understood which was crazier, Don Fabio or that ghost, who had decided to pick on him of all people. It really got to be a problem.”

Quite a problem indeed; an improbable presence occasionally wafting up a corridor at night. Sounds inconvenient to say the least. However did they cope? Carlo tells us:

“I can still see Capello, shoulders thrown back, chest swelling with righteous indignation: ‘Be gone, go **** yourself, evil spirit. This is not a team of dead men’.”

Fabio Capello, seen here talking to a ghost

So say what you will about Capello’s ability to manage a football team, but may his powers of exorcism never be called into question.

Searching through some online audio clips recently, which is nowhere near as much fun as it probably sounds, Looking For Ghosts discovered an interesting debate on an American radio show from a few years ago. It featured Most Haunted’s Yvette Fielding, who had agreed to take part in a phone interview with the guys from US TV programme Ghost Hunters.

Fielding was, presumably, entering into what she thought would be an amicable discussion about the paranormal, a mutual interest of both parties. However, despite the two shows having an almost identical format, what followed was an astonishing attack on Fielding and the credibility of her beloved Most Haunted. You can hear it in all its punishing glory here.

Who finds the best ghosts?

Not wishing to take sides, or start an Anglo-American slanging match (after all, both shows are ostensibly bullshit), we couldn’t help but find this exchange a little unfair. As Fielding herself was keen to point out, when she wasn’t busy trying to defend herself from a verbal mauling, both shows share the same problem: they both address a subject matter that most people don’t take seriously. Transatlantic rivals they may be, but rather than squabbling, she reasoned, they should show some solidarity and work together to bring ghost hunting to “the masses”.

Despite making some salient points, Fielding didn’t come out of the debate very well. Clearly frustrated by the hostility shown towards her, she eventually lost her cool and resorted to personal attacks, hilariously retaliating that some of the Ghost Hunters team used to be plumbers. They gave her enough rope and, by rising to the bait, she duly hung herself.

Granted, she was outnumbered by two to one and she evidently came unprepared for such an argument (perhaps highlighting her own naivety), but the result was clear.  In the end, she was a broken woman being mercilessly picked apart by her American counterparts.

But who is the real winner? And, more importantly, is there any value whatsoever in ghost hunting shows like these?

Disrepute

Most Haunted has more than its fair share of critics, with people seemingly queuing up to bring it into disrepute. This won’t have been helped by numerous tabloid reports that some aspects of the show are faked, including revelations by one of the show’s former stars, Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe, that viewers are being misled by “showmanship and dramatics.” He also makes the epoch-shattering claim that the show’s resident medium, Derek Acorah, can’t really talk to dead people. Hold the front page!

Derek Acorah is easily the least convincing medium on the planet. His thick Liverpudlian accent makes any spirits he’s supposed to be “channelling” sound like a deranged Ringo Starr, so he was never fooling anyone anyway. His only real purpose was to act as a comic interlude to break up the monotony of the rest of the show, which consists of some people standing in dark rooms listening very hard. He might as well have dressed up as a hotdog for all of the integrity he added to proceedings.

Derek Acorah, seen here talking to the ghost of his career.

But all of this is irrelevant. No one watches Most Haunted because they believe what they are being shown is real, unless they are criminally stupid. You would have to have had several lobotomies to give any credence at all to the notion that any of the knocks or bangs captured on tape are caused by anything more than shuffling cameramen or warping floorboards.

What Most Haunted is, primarily, is entertainment. The “showmanship and dramatics” that O’Keefe is so eager to lament is actually what draws viewers in. And it obviously works: you don’t get to series number 14 without doing something right.

No Clean Hands

The tabloid negativity that Most Haunted has faced is evidently what fuelled the Ghost Hunters team when launching their assault on Fielding, but they too have been accused of exactly the same thing. Search for “Ghost Hunters fake” on YouTube and you will be shown hours of footage highlighting details of their own embellishments. There are no clean hands here.

They claim to approach the paranormal from a “scientific” angle, even though a ghost hunt is about as far away from a scientific experiment as it’s possible to get without actually living in a different galaxy from one altogether. Watching their team pratting about with scarcely-believable electrical gizmos is almost painfully embarrassing at times and only serves to make them look far too worthy and righteous for their own good. At least Most Haunted doesn’t take itself too seriously.

Ghost Hunters apply one of their many "scientific" techniques to push a wall on a ghost.

But Ghost Hunters also pulls in a big audience, so who cares? The common ground Fielding was alluding to is that both shows are in the business of making good television; whether you choose to use pseudo-science or theatrics in order to achieve this is surely immaterial.

By laying into Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters look like they’ve missed the point entirely. The point being that they are both peddlers of absolute garbage and they should just sit back and enjoy the spoils.

What do you think? Whether you agree or disagree, or even want to leave us some abuse we can masturbate to, we encourage you to leave your comments.

In fact we insist.

After rubbing shoulders with dead celebrities on our London Cemetery jaunt, Looking for Ghosts realised that if there is one thing we love more than ghosts, it is ghosts of famous people. And we have a certified A-lister for you here, folks!

Whilst William Terriss isn’t exactly a household name now, back in the 19th Century he was one of the UK’s most celebrated actors. Sort of like a Victorian Jude Law with the possible distinction that Terriss was, presumably, a good actor.

William Terriss, taken from Heat Magazine 1896

A regular at London’s Adelphi, Lyceum and Prince of Wales theatres, Terriss achieved fame after his energetic performance in Robin Hood, as well Othello and Romeo and Juliet, earned him rave reviews. He became the darling of Theatreland and when he married fellow actress Jessie Millward, his female lead in The Harbour Lights, they became a popular power couple. They toured Britain and America extensively, increasing their international appeal. Sort of like a Victorian Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie with the possible distinction that Terriss and Millward were, presumably, fairly interesting people.

However, it seemed not everyone was so smitten with this acting colossus. On 16th December 1897 Terriss was murdered by hapless, struggling actor Richard Archer Prince. Sort of like a Victorian Ralf Little, with the possible distinction that…actually, no; that’s pretty much accurate.

As Terriss was entering the Adelphi for the evening performance of Secret Service, fomer Terriss protégé Prince lay in wait and stabbed his old friend in a bitter act of jealousy and resentment.

As a result, the ghost of Terriss is often seen in Covent Garden, particularly in and around his favoured Adelphi Theatre and, strangely, the tube station. Many witnesses claim to have seen a gentleman dressed in old fashioned clothes who disappears before their eyes, later identifying Terriss as the man they had seen when shown a photograph. This could possibly be because all Victorian gentlemen look exactly the same or perhaps, more likely, many of these witnesses were simply mental.

The plaque outside the Adelphi

After spending an afternoon elbowing tourists out of the way in Covent Garden, Looking For Ghosts are disappointed to report that we didn’t even catch a glimpse of this spectral thespian who, we suspect, is currently treading the boards of the great theatre in the sky. Possibly in Mamma Mia.

Visiting London’s ‘Magnificent Seven’ cemeteries was supposed to a haunting experience for Looking For Ghosts. Many tales of ghouls and spirits have surfaced from old burial grounds and we were anticipating myriad spook sightings.

In fact, we had quite the opposite experience. If anything, these wondrous spectacles of monuments and mausoleums serve as a reminder that, arguably, the only life after death is experienced in the messages on the weather-beaten gravestones that have survived for numerous years. Seeing rows upon rows of graves was a stark reminder of how ludicrous the concept of ghosts really does seem.

Brompton Cemetery

In Highgate Cemetery, we vaguely searched for the Highgate Vampire but, as it dawned on us that the story was so stupefyingly idiotic, we immediately halted and absorbed Highgate’s fantastic gothic architecture.

For those of you not familiar with Highgate’s most famous nocturnal character, we’ll explain what happened. Someone saw a goth visiting his granny’s grave. Case closed.

Similarly, Nunhead Cemetery features in the spooky tale of a “tall dark stranger”.

The peaceful surroundings and impressive architecture at the cemeteries in Highgate, Brompton and Kensal Green left a particular impression on us. Especially the detail and importance that the Victorian era placed on preserving the memory of the buried and entombed.

However, despite our belief in ghosts diminishing, we still scoured the cemeteries in search of nefarious spirits.

Kensal Green Cemetery

But there seems to be a lack of ghouls living in London’s cemeteries, even those we expected to be overwhelmed by spirits. The most interesting aspect of visiting the cemeteries was discovering who was buried where.

Abney Park: Salvation Army founder William Booth, the daughter of African slavery emancipator Olaudah Equiano, Joanna Vassa.

Brompton: founder of the V&A, the Royal Albert Hall, the 1851 Great Exhibition and inventor of the Crimbo card, Henry Cole, actor Brian Glover, leading suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst and anaesthetist John Snow.

Highgate: sci-fi author Douglas Adams, novelist Beryl Bainbridge, dog fan Charles Cruft, George Eliot, Michael Faraday, Alexander Litvinenko, Karl Marx, original punk Malcolm McLaren, comedian Max Wall and artist Felix Topolski.

Kensal Green: original computer nerd Charles Babbage, tightrope expert Charles Blondin, Isambard Kingdom Brunel and his father Marc Isambard Brunel, author Wilkie Collins, playwright Harold Pinter and novelist Anthony Trollope.

Nunhead: Um…

Tower Hamlets: Ahh…

West Norwood: Sir Henry Tate of gallery fame, CW Alcock, founder of test cricket and the FA cup.

Tower Hamlets Cemetery

Nevertheless, while visiting and researching these seven cemeteries and London’s other countless used and dis-used burial grounds, we began to understand that the city truly is necropolis – a home for the dead. The architecture and lay-out of London succumbs to the needs of the dead.

And, while searching Brompton Cemetery, we found a group of graves that were too worn to read. Among these half-submerged memorial lay the resting place of William Charles James Lewin, a murdered actor better known as William Terriss. It is the ghostly stories that suggest that Terriss does not, in fact, rest here but wanders the streets of London, that sent Looking For Ghosts to London’s theatreland in search of a glimpse of his ghoul.

As a result of the heat wave currently engulfing most of the UK, Looking For Ghosts felt an almost unnatural urge to get outside and get some sun on our faces. With our sallow complexions currently resembling custard as the closest colour match, it’s about bloody time.

So we headed for Highgate, a leafy, affluent North London suburb and, somewhat fortuitously, a haven for ghostly activity. How much fear we’d experience on a sunny Saturday lunchtime was unclear, but we figured it would be somewhere between “very little fear” and “no fear whatsoever”.

We noticed our first point of interest minutes after leaving the station. Ascending a steep pathway, stopping halfway up to peer through the foliage, we observed an abandoned train station in the mid-distance. This was originally built as part of London Underground’s Northern Heights project, but development was cancelled during the Second World War. Now the station stands empty, barely visible amidst mounds of twisting bracken, but there are several reports of a “ghost train” steaming along the tracks after dark. However, considering that no actual trains ever used this line makes this story about as credible as a Jeffrey Archer testimony.

"The Ghost Train is experiencing severe delays, please use the replacement bus service..."

Moving on we found ourselves in The Flask, another of London’s haunted pubs. Only slightly concerned that it was still technically morning, we sat down to ponder the pub’s history over a pint of something intoxicating and delicious. It is claimed a maidservant, who took her own life when an illicit romance turned sour, still frequents the pub and announces her presence with a sudden drop in temperature before going berserk with the lights and moving glasses along the bar. Yawn. Why can’t ghosts ever do anything more interesting than that? Flip the odd table over, maybe. Or put the Beastie Boys on the jukebox for four hours.

However, the Flask is an endearing pub with excellent food and even comes complete with a local lunatic who insisted on talking to us, for what seemed like an eternity, about soup. Perhaps he was a ghost? Frankly, we were too bored to check.

Leaving the pub we passed Pond Square, known in paranormal circles for being the site of a rather unusual haunting; the ghost of a chicken. No, we are not making this up. According to Walking Haunted London: In 1943, one Terence Long was crossing Pond Square late at night when he heard the sound of horses hooves accompanied by the low rumble of carriage wheels. Suddenly, a loud raucous shriek, split the silence, and the ghostly chicken appeared before him and proceeded to race frantically around, before vanishing into thin air.” Alarmingly, this spectre has been seen several times since. Give us strength.

Chicken Payback

As laughable as the ghost chicken story undoubtedly is, at least it’s original. After all, if you’re going to make something up, make it interesting and faintly ridiculous rather than some vague and generic account of a jilted lover who slams doors and sometimes makes the air a bit chilly. Come on; get creative with your lies!

Slightly underwhelmed with Highgate’s supernatural offerings so far, we concluded our soirée by visiting somewhere ghouls were bound to be in abundance; Highgate Cemetery. Home to such luminaries as Karl Marx, George Eliot and, erm, Jeremy Beadle, surely this place would be alive (pardon the expression) with famous ghosts, swirling around the place with unbridled glee? Yes?

Well, what do you reckon? You’ll have to wait until our next post to find out…

Believe it or not, even a ghost hunter needs a holiday. But even when Looking For Ghosts were trundling down the runway at Heathrow, set for our week in the sun, we were still right near another reported spot of ghoulish activity. 

On March 3rd 1948, a Sabena Douglas DC3 Dakota OO-AWH aircraft crashed in fog at the airport. Of the 22 passengers, 19 died. The ghost of one of the victims is said to roam Runway 1. 

A Douglas DC3 aircraft in 1947

 

It is alleged that, in 1970, radar showed someone walking on this runway. Police were directed to the exact spot found nothing and were told they were driving through the blip on the radar monitor. A curious tale but surely one that can be attributed to a technology error. 

However, the ghost has also been seen by human eyes. He is said to be tall, wearing a bowler hat and cavalry trousers. According to reports, shortly after the crash occurred, officials involved in the rescue of the passengers were approached by a man fitting this description, who then asked if they had found his briefcase. He disappeared before they could reply and was later found among the corpses that were retrieved from the wreckage. 

This Pathé newsreel shows the wreckage. The flickering images of figures searching through the debris and torn metal are haunting enough without the thought that someone was already looking over their shoulders. 

A chilling story for a mundane piece of tarmac. 

However, why has this ghost only been witnessed by a handful of the millions of people that pass through Heathrow each year? 

PS. Heathrow is also supposed to be haunted by the ghost of ex-Sex Pistol and ex-punk twat Sid Vicious after his mother accidently dropped his ashes on the runway. So also keep your eyes peeled for a talentless, drug-addled murderer whilst you’re ascending.

With all due respect, you should all be deeply ashamed of yourselves. With the varied readership Looking For Ghosts attracts, surely some of you have had a ghostly experience? But still our Your Stories section sits emptier than a Ramones reunion gig. It’s embarrassing. Make something up if necessary; we don’t care.

Still, if the mountain won’t come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain. In order to counteract this massive disappointment we have once again been sifting through the internet’s oozing pile of waste for the best, or worst, reader-submitted ghost stories. All for your morbid amusement. We’re too good to you, we really are.

Have you experienced anything as scary as this? Let us know!

The Entity Kept Kissing Me: If you read no other ghost stories this year, we implore you to read this one. It really does beggar belief. There is simply nothing else we can write here that will be funnier than the story itself. Enjoy (although not as much as the guy in the story, please…)

Shadow Wears A Hat: This story starts with a startling claim of “Sixth Sense” proportions although, as the author is keen to point out a number of times, he really isn’t too bothered about it. Until he sees a shadow. Wearing a hat. And then vomits.

A Toast To Grandma: This family cannot seem to come up with a logical explanation for why a wine glass might shatter of its own accord. Probably best to assume a dead old lady did it. That’s what most people would do.

The Glowing Skeleton: Pretty dull, this one. Only included because we were intrigued as to what a “calm” scream would sound like.

My Strange Experience: These girls have a pretty casual approach to conducting a Ouija Board and manage to piss off an entity called Jacob. They couldn’t even “be bothered” to cleanse the house properly afterwards, demonstrating alarming nonchalance in the face of paranormal mayhem.

My Poor Cats: This woman lives in a  trailer-park and her cats started going berserk. Even smearing her home with herbs didn’t help. Who would have thought?

Need Advice On Dealing With Ghosts: The title of this story suggested it was an advert for people who need help coping with problematic spirits, but sadly it isn’t. This is a girl who needs YOUR help. She’s been hearing “jingling” from an early age, and sometimes feels cold. Sounds awful, being that sensitive to the elements. Oh, and she predicts things in dreams to a 90% level of accuracy. She’s only 14, so probably making it up for attention. Teenagers are like that. The best advice we can give her is to stop lying.

Ta-da! It’s the second installment of our regular perusal through the news for recent paranormal japes. Last time we gave you Jordan and Piers Morgan… but this time the celebrity thermometer is hitting boiling point with the world’s favourite transvestite, a bloated rock corpse, an ex-Blue Peter presenter and a famous film with actors nobody has heard of in it. Enjoy. 

Lady GaGa is great isn’t he/she? No? Oh dear. Well, like it or loathe it, GaGa has seen a bloody ghost, so we have to feature it. According to well-loved British lie machine The Mirror, pop-tart GaGa spent three grand on ghoul catching equipment recently to rid its back-stage area (ohh err!) of bad spirits. 

Aieeee! It's hideous...

GaGa has a history with ghosts. Earlier this year, it claimed the ghost of its dead aunt saved it from coke addiction

In other news, the lizard king himself Jim Morrison apparently haunts the toilet in a Santa Monica restaurant according to this entirely not-made-up report. The bog used to be the recording booth where the ex-Doors frontman recorded he vocals for the band’s hit LA Woman in 1970. Office manager Christine Chilcote steals the show by suggesting: “Funky things happen all the time we can’t explain.” 

In many ways, customers could say they were pissing on the ghost of the Doors, which unfortunately, Ray Manzarek’s “tribute band”, The Doors of the 21st Century, have been doing for some time. 

In news that has shook the ghost-hunting community to its very core, Yvette Fielding left her role as presenter of Most Haunted. Fielding, who also created Most Haunted, presented the “serious” ghost catching programme since 2002 but now, the future of the hilarious show hangs in the balance. We at Looking For Ghosts feel we must start a campaign to keep the programme going because of its monumentally high levels of entertainment. But we won’t. 

Maybe Lady GaGa could replace her. 

Also, good news for fans of scary films… the new trailer for Paranormal Activity 2 has been released into cinemas,earning a prompt ban in Texas for being too scary. Great stuff. Hopefully the film will be as good as the original, which came in at number 6 in our top ten paranormal films of all time.

Sometimes Looking For Ghosts have to search far and wide to get our paranormal thrills, whilst other times they seem to fall straight into our lap. I Believe In Ghosts: Joe Swash is one such example.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Joe Swash’s work, he’s an ex-soap star and recent winner of reality TV jungle shitfest, I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here. Inexplicably, he’s become a household name in the UK, but carries the international gravitas of a parsnip.

With the greatest of respects to Mr Swash, we’re sure he’d be the first to admit that he isn’t exactly an authority on the paranormal. In fact, it’s doubtful that he’s really an authority on anything except gelling his hair into laughably abominable shapes, or wearing an expression that always looks like he’s concentrating hard not to swallow his own tongue.

Still, he’s likeable enough and his affable, cheeky shtick was enough to win the hearts of the Great British Public who voted him King of the Jungle so who are we to argue? Good luck to him, we say.

However, when we heard he had made a documentary about ghosts, naturally we rubbed our hands with malevolent glee. Regular readers of the blog will know that we take glib delight in mocking other people’s efforts, so surely poor Joe Swash would be like a sitting duck as we prepare for a brutal character assassination, right?

Wrong.

Annoyingly, I Believe In Ghosts is actually rather good. Not enough to convince hardened cynics like ourselves admittedly, but pretty insightful nonetheless.

Far from being the credulous simpleton he’s often portrayed as, Swash actually keeps a level head throughout the whole process and refuses to jump to any radical conclusions despite having “evidence” thrust in front of him from various dubious sources. He seems to have a genuine desire to uncover some sort of truth and asks all the right questions along the way, albeit in a voice which is so high it makes him sound like his balls are being perpetually gripped in a vice and every so often struck with a hammer. All of this makes giving him a famous Looking For Ghosts kicking pretty difficult.

Plus, he spends the night alone in some fairly horrific places without too much hysteria, which is more than we can say for the entire cast and crew of Most Haunted (UK) or Ghost Hunters (USA).

He meets some physics, mediums and general believers on his epic quest and does well to prevent himself from laughing aloud at their farcical conclusions, opting instead to sit and nod politely as his mind, presumably, begins to wander. He even watches The Exorcist in the name of research and the image of him clearly straining to understand the plot is endearing. Perhaps he was under the impression it was a documentary.

The highlight, however, comes when he’s asked to spend the night in Edinburgh’s South Bridge vaults, reportedly one of the most active places in the UK for ghostly activity. There is a touching moment when, after a guide shows him around the vaults prior to him bedding down for the night, he lets his guard slip and risks tarnishing his “nice guy” image. Clearly on edge (and understandably so) he almost explodes with angst as he cries: “you’re fucking kidding me, I’m not walking around down here” before he turns to the crew and, with his comical voice cracking with nerves, asks: “I can’t seriously sleep down here on my own…can I?”

He bloody does, though.

It is during this tour that he becomes the unlikely voice of reason, asking his guide why there is a sledgehammer stored in a room which is supposedly swarming with poltergeists. “They’re not that strong,” she offers feebly, “although they have been known to throw rocks.”  Suitably reassured, Joe climbs into a sleeping bag and bids the crew goodnight, fully expecting to wake up with his head caved in and bits of his brain plastered all over the walls.

The documentary ends with a sound engineer analysing the footage of his night underground and concluding, rather soberly, that there is a voice on the tape that he can’t explain. Amazingly, the voice in question doesn’t belong to Joe Swash.

Preconceptions aside, Swash gives a very good account of himself and I Believe In Ghosts is an entertaining watch for fair-weather fans of the paranormal, or die-hard fans of Joe Swash. Your minds may not be blown, but your hearts will probably be won.

Slightly underwhelmed by the famous South Bridge vaults, Looking For Ghosts decided to cheer ourselves up with a drink. After all, where better to look for ghosts than at the bottom of a bottle? With this in mind, we headed to Whistlebinkies Live Music Bar on the South Bridge to drown our sorrows.

However, to our utter delight, we discovered that Whistlebinkies is a frequent haunt (pun very much intended) of some rather unearthly guests.

Built into the South Bridge vaults, the bar is an underground venue with claustrophobic rooms and cellars which occupy a fair amount of these sinister caverns.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the pub is said to experience some strange activity from not one but TWO resident ghouls. We could hardly believe our luck; we only went in for a couple of white wine spritzers, we weren’t expecting paranormal nirvana!

The first ghost, The Imp, is an unseen but often mischievous entity who apparently likes to wind up the staff. Locking them in cellars, moving stuff around, stopping clocks – this ghost seems like a right laugh. Hilarious stuff! Not at all annoying, we imagine.

Possibly the best trick The Imp has performed is peeling a barmaid’s orange when her back was turned which, if true, is actually quite helpful rather than impish. He should probably be haunting the Del Monte factory, not a pub.

The second entity is menacingly called The Watcher. Less inclined to interact with people than The Imp, the Watcher simply…watches people. With long hair and 17th Century clothing, he’s often seen at Whistelbinkies by staff and customers but he’s also been spotted in other areas of the vaults too. He was even mistaken for a tour guide on one occasion, which was presumably a pretty confusing hour and a half for one group of tourists.

Despite our initial joy, it soon became apparent that neither of these two spectral figures were going to show themselves to us, probably on account of us being English and therefore on the wrong side of the border.

In fact, the scariest thing we encountered at Whistlebinkies was the jukebox, which seemed to alternate between melancholic indie pop one minute to aggressive, American metal the next. Making our excuses, we left with the disappointing impression that much of Edinburgh’s ghoulish past is embellished to dupe suggestible visitors.

We’ve not had much luck searching for spooks in London, so we cast our nets further afield to North of the border. Edinburgh to be more precise. Said to be one of the most haunted cities going.

Whilst in Edinburgh, Looking For Ghosts visited the dreaded South Bridge Vaults. We had previously seen videos featuring such luminaries as Boyzone and Joe Swash visiting the vaults for a right old spookfest and we were intrigued enough to visit ourselves.

Entrance to the Edinburgh Vaults

We were able to visit the vaults as part of the many ghost tours that are available in the city. A host of ghouls inhabit the vaults; the most prominent being Mr Boots, a bawdy ghost that has been heard swearing and is known to pull and tug at visitors.

Other residents of the vaults are numerous. Every source we checked (our tour guide, books, internet sites, YouTube videos) all seemed to have different stories. This made us wonder how many had been made up for the sake of making the vaults just that little more scary. The ghosts of children suffocating in a fire, the spectre of a jealous woman who only touches females, a spooky hound, the ghost of Chevy Chase’s career. Every paranormal aspect is down in the vaults. And it’s very hard to believe any of it.

One, very plausible, explanation for the amount of paranormal activity here, is the steady stream of traffic that flows above the vaults into the city centre. Vibrations from the roads above leak into the rooms below giving off strange sensations and sounds.

Lighting in the cavernous rooms is just right to make you feel like you’ve just caught a shadow moving in the corner of your eye. While sudden drips from the ceiling and noises in the distance are briefly alarming. However, despite the best theatrical efforts of our guide and the squeamishness of some of the other members of our tour, it was hard to find the vaults spooky. After all, it is a tourist attraction and the tour, however interesting it may be, does feel sterile. The amount of ghost stories told down there by the tour guide also become a bit overwhelming. Ghost overkill, if you like.

We’d like to say we broke back into the vaults later that night and were chased around by Mr Boots et al, but no, at Edinburgh Vaults you can only be spooked on appointment courtesy of an offical tour.

Let it never be said that Looking For Ghosts are afraid to address the big issues. So far, we’ve tackled the controversial ZOZO debate and attempted to debunk numerous myths and stories, but today we scale new heights. We are going to talk about the persecution of Jews. We are on uncomfortable ground indeed.

Amazingly, we’re not going to mention the holocaust (apart from just then, obviously) but something far closer to home than many Brits would care to remember. We have to cast our minds back to 1290, a time when the internet was powered by horses and dinosaurs roamed London’s gas lit streets.

At this time, before Hitler and the Nazis had their wicked way, Jews were being run out of Britain. Presumably not in the most reasonable and orderly fashion either.

According to one ancient account, a boat due to transport Jewish families from London to Poland was moored on a small island in the middle of the Thames, leaving the ship and its passengers stranded. After evacuating the ship, the captain and crew managed to free the vessel and retreat back to the shore, leaving hundreds of Jews stranded in the middle of the river. As the tide rose, they inevitably drowned and it is said that their anguished cries can still be heard under London Bridge to this day.

Call us cynical, but a few things about this story don’t quite add up. Firstly, how is it possible for anyone to beat a hasty retreat in a gigantic passenger ship? It’s not like it’s a speedboat. Surely they didn’t just stand there looking at the ship slowly lumbering away?  “It’s alright, they’ll be back. They’ve probably just forgotten about us. Boy, are they going to be embarrassed when they realise!”

Also, at the risk of sounding callous, if they were stranded in the middle of the Thames then they weren’t actually that far from the river’s banks. Couldn’t they have just swam for it? We’re not suggesting it would have been the most pleasant dip they would ever have, but if their lives depended on it (which evidently they did) then it must have been worth a try.  Realistically, only about 30 metres of rancid water separated them from safety.

We’re not intending to sound facetious or disrespectful, but this whole scenario just seems far too elaborate and cumbersome a process to carry out a mass murder.

More likely is that the ship simply sank, probably nowhere near London Bridge, but this wouldn’t have been quite interesting enough. Besides, why let the facts get in the way of a good story?

Another account reveals that the anguished screams are more likely to be from the souls who were beheaded at nearby Traitors Gate and whose heads were flung into the Thames. Yes, that seems far more likely.

Suffice to say that we didn’t hear any anguished cries under the bridge, although the fact that 720 years have passed since this event would suggest that their spirits have probably grown tired of all that screaming and are now resigned to their rather dubious fate.

Having rediscovered our ghost-hunting form, we continued our jaunt around haunted London.

The last couple of posts about churches may have been fairly interesting (mainly to us, we suspect) but were they really that scary? No. Standing atop a mound of buried bodies at Priory Church was fairly unsettling, but we wanted more than that. We wanted to soil ourselves with frightened glee.

With this in mind, our next stop would surely not disappoint; the most haunted house in London. Yes, you read that correctly – do not adjust your eyes. We really were going to the most haunted house. In London.

Arriving at 50 Berkeley Square on a drizzly Sunday afternoon, we were initially quite underwhelmed. On the face of it, it was just a normal house in snooty Mayfair. We couldn’t even go inside.

But the stories about this place are plentiful, each one more horrifying than the last.

In the late 19th Century, a nobleman apparently unconvinced by the ghoulish stories associated with the place agreed to spend a night alone in the most haunted room in the house. It was arranged that if he encountered any trouble he would ring the servant’s bell and his friends downstairs would come to the rescue.

Sometime around midnight they heard a faint ringing of the bell, which got louder and louder until it was almost deafening. By the time they had got upstairs and burst into the room, their disbelieving companion was sprawled on the floor with his face contorted in horror, eyes almost bulging from their sockets. He couldn’t speak to explain what filled him with such fright, but he was dead within the hour.

Blimey, if this place has got it in for cynics then we could be in serious trouble.

A photograph, taken at the time, proves this event happened.

Understandably, 50 Berkeley Square was uninhabited for a long while after this with seemingly no one in London brave enough to house-share with a violent ghost.

Standing empty, the house still attracted reports of strange lights flickering in the windows, “disembodied screams” and, perhaps most chilling of all, the sound of a body being dragged down the stairs.

Eventually, two drunken sailors on shore leave stumbled upon the vacant house and, needing a dry place to rest, decided to break in. Not long after bedding down for the night they were awoken by heavy footsteps creeping up the wooden stairs, before a “hideous, shapeless, oozing mass” (no, not Chris Moyles) began to fill the room. One sailor managed to escape, but when he returned to the house with a policeman found his friend impaled on the metal railings outside the house with his face frozen with the familiar look of terror.

Fascinating stories but sadly, we suspect, stories nonetheless.

Why the house is haunted, no one knows. Theories range from the romantic (a jilted lover lived his remaining days in the house wandering around by candle light before, heartbroken, he took his own life) to the macabre (a Doctor locked his violent, lunatic brother in the attic until he died).

Whatever the reason, the house is famous amongst paranormal investigators for having a sinister and disturbing atmosphere, which is about as far away from scientific proof as it’s possible to get.

We noticed no such atmosphere and, despite pressing our faces against the front door, we noticed no significant feeling of despair or woe. No more than we normally carry, anyhow.

To contemplate our visit, Looking For Ghosts headed to Guy Ritchie’s nearby Punchbowl for a couple of ales where we encountered, no lie, an aging Clint Eastwood enjoying a meal with his family. By far the closest we’ve come to seeing a ghost so far.

Despondent from a lack of mummies at St Garlickhythe, we limped away to another church in the City of London. At the Priory Church of St Bartholomew-the-Great, near Smithfield market, we were met with an altogether different experience. 

Now, if like us, you like to frequent graveyards in the darkness, you’ll realise that they are generally all quite spooky. However, Priory Church’s small graveyard is made all the more haunting when its grisly past is revealed. 

Never has a monk spooked us so much...

Entering the churchyard at night is an experience in itself; old Tudor buildings border a shallow decline to the front of the church which is shrouded in deep shadow, away from electric light and the hubbub of the main street. To the left is the graveyard, which is much higher than the rest of the churchyard because of the extent of bodies piled up inside it. 

The church is haunted by the eerie tunes of a phantom organist and by the ghost of its founder, a monk named Rahere. This spook is particularly miffed that one is sandals was nicked off is foot post-death. 

However, even without the tales of ghosts, Priory Church is an unsettling place when the sun goes down. Unlike Looking For Ghosts‘ other favourite haunting churchyards – Christ Church Greyfriars and the Parish Church of St John in Hampstead - Priory Church is cut off from the rest of London by steep walls giving it a secluded yet deathly feel. 

So, we’ve actually had a spooky experience! Praise be! Although, it didn’t actually feature a ghost. Still, it’s a start.

And so, after studying numerous photographs, reading myriad charmless celebrity ghost stories and conducting extra research on our paranormal friends, we set out again in our never-ceasing search.

Looking For Ghosts travelled to the grand Apsley House on the corner of Hyde Park. Here, one of Britain’s biggest bastards has been seen as an apparition. And, for once, the person who saw the ghost isn’t some blithering eejit; it was our noble and forthright prime minister!

The peasants are revolting: Apsley House

Arthur Wellesley was Tory Prime Minister (topical!) in 1832 when he caused outrage after opposing a Reform Bill. An enraged mob had gathered at Apsley House when, suddenly, the PM performed a U-turn and accepted the bill.

Why? Because of a ghost of course! Oliver Cromwell’s ghost obviously.

Legend has it that Cromwell appeared to Wellesley and cast his disapproving finger at the mob. Wellesley being quite the detective, deduced that this meant that he was making the wrong decision and thus, he gave an unexpected thumbs up to the bill.

Most probably the old Prime Minister didn’t want to be lynched by a revolting gang of ne’erdowells. What a wuss.

Unfortunately, we were far to eager in our ghost-gathering; we turned up too early to the house and it was closed. We will have to return another day to see the spot where Oliver Cromwell didn’t appear.

Footnote: Arthur Wellesley was the 1st Duke of Wellington who gave his name to the Wellington boot. Now, dear readers could a man with such sensible footwear really be mad enough to make up a ghost?

As we welcome the start of another glorious week, Looking For Ghosts brings you another instalment of our Ghost Photography series.

Ghost Child in Cemetery may sound like the title of a long forgotten Morrissey song, but it’s actually a “famous” ghost picture that has been doing the paranormal rounds for several decades.

Take a look. Horrifying, isn’t it? Go on, admit it; you almost soiled yourself when you saw it.

That’s okay. It’s not every day you see a huge, translucent baby sitting in a graveyard. Unless you spent your formative years doing mind-altering drugs, in which case ghosts are probably fairly low down on your list of problems.

According to legend, a woman named Mrs. Andrews was visiting the grave of her daughter who died at the ripe old age of 17. She saw nothing unusual when she took this photo, but when the film was developed she was astonished to see the image of a small child (whom she did not recognise) sitting happily at her daughter’s grave. Eerie!

Trouble is, the disproportion between the child and its surroundings coupled with the calm and playful expression on its cute little face would indicate nothing more than an unfortunate case of double exposure.

One internet account hilariously attempts to claim that “the ghost child seems to be aware of Mrs. Andrews since he or she is looking directly into the camera”.

Ghosts don’t pose for photographs!

This confirms what Looking For Ghosts have suspected for a long time: some people will believe any old shit.

Here at Looking For Ghosts, we are committed to researching all aspects of the paranormal world in order to bring you, our loyal readers, the most varied spectrum of information as possible. Whether we’re visiting famous haunted locations, trawling the internet for hysterical supernatural encounters or sitting in a dusty library with our noses stuck in spooky books, we make sure no stone is left unturned in our quest to find a ghost.

With this in mind, we will now turn our attention to a popular, if not slightly dubious, corner of the paranormal community; ghost photography. No, not photographs taken by ghosts. Photographs of ghosts. Well, possibly. But most likely not.

This week, we will specifically be looking at orbs. Big, round, beautiful, bouncy orbs. Behold!

Phwoar! Check out the orbs on that!

Insects

Rain

But what are they? Ask most paranormal enthusiasts and they will probably mutter something about orbs being spirits caught on camera or balls of energy that will leave you scratching your head and regretting that you asked in the first place.

In reality, orbs are caused by the flash from the camera reflecting on dust particles, insects or drops of moisture in the air. All perfectly normal and utterly unmysterious. If anyone ever tries to tell you any different, simply find the nearest stick and beat them with it until they are a whimpering, sorry mess. Only stop when they tell you, between terrified screams of anguish, that they were wrong and that orbs are not scary, thus surrendering any tiny atom of respect you might have once had for them.

Once this is done, you will have to locate your nearest police station and turn yourself in. Don’t worry; there isn’t a court in the land that will convict you.

(Note: Looking For Ghosts does NOT condone the use of violence, even against orb enthusiasts.)

If Looking For Ghosts has learned one thing from the whole ZOZO debacle it’s that the internet is awash with stupidity. For the most part,  paranormal websites and forums tend to be frequented by people who are only a whisper away from being sectioned.  These people, convinced they’ve seen a ghost, simply cannot wait to publish their scarcely believable accounts on the internet, often in near incomprehensible prose and with an enthusiasm which borders on manic.

The Looking For Ghosts Christmas party was always a hoot...

It’s easy to sneer at other people’s efforts, but what a lot of people don’t realise is that it’s also a lot of fun too. So for your own amusement we have decided to link to our favourite worst stories here. Click on the story title to be transported to a land where logic, rational thought and basic grammar do not apply. Reader beware; the unquantifiable, half-baked theories and reactionary opinions within these accounts may cause you to have an aneurysm.

 

A visitor from France: This guy is being haunted by what we can only assume is some kind of electrical appliance. Observe how he describes, in unrelenting detail, the alterations in octave and pitch of the noise he heard with all the charisma of a record producer tirelessly describing the complexities of how he mixed Coldplay’s album. Comically boring.

 Oh my, what the ….???!!!!??!: Never has a title so succinctly summed up the reader’s reaction. If you can work out what is happening here, then we’ll send you one of our famous Looking For Ghosts goody bags, consisting of a marmite sandwich and a Travelcard (zones 1-3 only). Frankly, we don’t have a clue.

A Visitor From England: This one is strangely brilliant. Be warned, there are no full stops so you’ll need to take a deep breath before attempting to read it.  At first this story seems to consist of someone seeing a cat (not very scary), until the end when it takes a sinister, and frankly implausible, turn. Enjoy her pensive conclusion, as well.

There is a Ghost in my Room: Some nice butt-touching in this one. Perhaps the ghost of a serial pervert? Also, note how she clarifies that posters can’t talk. Thanks for that.

My Two Homes in England: As well as having an excellent opening line, this story features something far scarier than any ghost: Enya. A lot of the incidents in this story seem to draw from memories the author had when they were under the age of three, so perhaps take it with a large pinch (or an industrial-sized shovel) of salt.  

The Shuffling Slippers: This story is unique in that it’s actually written by somebody with a faint grasp of the English language. In fact he obviously fancies himself as a bit of a wordsmith. This turns out to be his downfall, as he tries to be too clever and ends up looking a berk: “I frowned puzzledly ” is one such example. Still the best title of a ghost story we’ve ever seen.

Bedsit: Featuring glamorous Guildford, this story is actually strangely chilling. Two girls move in together (saucy) and soon all manner of paranormal hell breaks loose. Sort of. To be fair the clues where there when they first viewed the place, what with all the crucifixes lying around and such. 

But don’t let our sneering pomposity stop you from posting your own ghost stories on this blog. We could always do with a laugh.

There’s not many things more terrifying than Dick van Dyke. Luckily for Looking For Ghosts, the world’s worst cockney wasn’t gracing the boards at Wimbledon Theatre in the latest interpretation of the flying car classic.

In fact we visited the theatre to seek the Grey Lady. This cackling head and torso appeared in one of the bedrooms of the theatre and has been accused of setting off the sprinkler system at the venue.

Another paranormal presence at the theatre is J B Mulholland, the original manager from 1910 who likes to return to the stalls to watch the new favourites.

We witnessed neither. However, we did hear some hideous wailing from the stage. We hope for the punters sake that it was a ghost and not rehearsals for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Between boozing sessions in Hampstead’s antiquated pubs, we had to venture across the Heath. Reportedly used as a cruising ground for George Michael, Hampstead Heath is also one of North London’s most popular attractions.

Nearly 800 acres of woodland, lakes and rugged gorse make this space the perfect activity centre for a hot summer’s day. Swimming, rambling, cycling, bird-watching and cottaging are just some of the things that the thousands of Londoners who flock here every day can expect to enjoy. Why not take a Frisbee? Or enjoy a picnic whilst being tugged off by a senior Tory MP? The choices really are limitless.

Hampstead Heath, where people outnumber ghosts by a devastating margin.

We at Looking For Ghosts had other things on our minds, though. We were doing a different kind of cruising altogether: cruising for ghosts.

Back when Hampstead was a village on the outskirts of London, Highwaymen and robbers would hide out on the Heath to target the carriages of luminaries travelling in and out of the City. The tall, imposing trees and vast thickets made the perfect cover for sinister “Gentlemen of the road”.

Even to this day it isn’t considered unusual to be charged at by a phantom robber on horseback emerging from the trees, the hooves hitting the earth in silence even in full gallop.

So convinced was one lady she was about to be trampled, she threw herself to the ground and braced herself for the inevitable impact only to open her eyes several seconds later to find herself alone in the clearing.

"Give me your iPhone, you twat."

All of this sounded promising, until we turned up one Saturday afternoon to discover that, even when cloudy and miserable, the Heath is one of the most populated places in the capital. There was even a marathon going on. In fact, there couldn’t have been more people on the Heath that day if they had been holding a nationwide People’s Convention, with extra bloody people. We literally couldn’t move for people.

All of which made for the least scary investigation we’ve done so far, with no sign at all of ghostly apparitions, wraiths or even Tree Spirits for that matter.

We did, however, talk to a very friendly gentleman who kindly informed us that if we were to come back at night, we’d find all manner of bandit just waiting to cover us in “ectoplasm”.

Sounds like a promising lead, we’ll keep you posted…

Annoyingly, our paranormal quests often lead us into one of London’s many haunted pubs. Sometimes, if there are two or three haunted boozers in one area, the whole investigation can take on the form of a spectral pub-crawl; hour upon hour spent getting rat-arsed on flagons of ale and leering at attractive barmaids. The things we do for ghosts…

Newgate Prison cells: plush!

Returning to the City we settled in to the Viaduct Tavern in St Pauls, one of the last remaining examples of a Victorian London Gin Palace. Opposite the Old Bailey court house, the pub’s cellars still contain prison cells from the now demolished Newgate Prison. It is also supposedly home to some pretty frightening poltergeist activity.

Many staff members over the years have been disturbed by a particularly malevolent ghost, including the landlord in 1996 who, when stocking up on supplies, was locked in the cellar after the door slammed shut. Hearing his panicked shouts, his wife came down to let him out and found that the door, impossible to budge from the inside, could be easily opened from the outside. “Ha! Men…” She might have chuckled as her useless husband struggled upstairs with the Bacardi Breezers.

Ghost Hunters are welcome at the Viaduct Tavern

Add to that numerous tales of moving objects and terrified workmen and the Viaduct Tavern has built quite a reputation as one of London’s prime haunted sites.

To find out more Looking For Ghosts accosted a barman, who we figured would be thrilled to have his busy Friday night interrupted by a couple of half-cut ghost hunters.

As he led us down into the cells we were casually informed, with a mixture of sympathy and disdain, that tours of the cells are regularly requested by paranormal enthusiasts. With our social status diminished to the level usually reserved for those with leprosy, our doting guide ushered us inside. But had he ever experienced anything strange down here himself?

“No.”

Oh.

Easily the most unsettling place we’ve been so far, these cold, musty cells remain completely unused by anything other than cobwebs and damp. The eerie atmosphere is a huge contrast from the bustling City pub upstairs and provided us with a macabre insight into London’s grim Judiciary system.

Staggering outside after last orders we felt satisfied that our search for ghosts had taken us one step closer. But then again we always get emotional after a couple of Bombay Sapphires…

Churches, churches, churches. You can’t move for churches in London. So it was a relief when we stumbled upon The Old Red Cow; a haunted building in the City that isn’t a bloody church. 

Despite the picture above, smoking is prohibited in The Old Red Cow.

Rumour has it that the Barbican pub’s former owner, Dick O’Shea, can be seen in his rocking chair on the establishment’s balcony. 

Nothing strange about that surely? Ah, but he died in 1981. 

It’s a cosy pub with a suspiciously free jukebox and welcoming staff. 

Unfortunately, Dick chose not to appear while we were there. So The Old Red Cow loses points on the hospitality front. 

Still, the pub is located in part of London that is spookily quiet at weekends when the financial district is at its quietest. Located nearby are Smithfield market, several weathered graveyards and countless other ancient pubs, giving you a true sense of London’s history.

Now that we were suitably prepared, it was time for the Looking For Ghosts team to embark on our first hunt. We figured that a promising starting point would be the City of London itself, known as the “Square Mile”, whose grim and lurid past surely means that thousands of ghosts from centuries past spill out of every church, crypt and alleyway hidden away among the capital’s financial district. 

The oldest Christian church in Britain? Possibly. Haunted? No.

With this in mind we stumbled across St Peter upon Cornhill, an ancient church curiously nestled between modern city buildings and designer boutiques, and soon discovered it boasts an interesting history. 

According to an inscription in the churchyard, it is the oldest Christian church in Britain, with the original site founded by King Lucius in 187 AD.

Even if this is not the case (several churches in the UK have stated similar claims) the building, re-designed by Christopher Wren in 1687 after the original building was destroyed by the great fire, houses a more provocative tale. 

The Cornhill Devils - Picture © Knowledge of London. Visit the excellent knowledgeoflondon.com, well worth a look for similar quirky London tales.

In the nineteenth century, a vicar at this church noticed that plans for a building next door encroached on to church territory by a slight margin.

A bitter legal dispute ensued, with the architect forced to re-draw his plans. By way of revenge, he added three sinister stone gargoyles to the building to sneer down upon the churchgoers below.

The intimidating devil looming over the church door is said to be created in the image of the fastidious vicar (who by all accounts got just what he deserved for being such a kill-joy). 

Verdict: whilst this building is of some historical significance (and the gargoyles are an unsettling sight on a gloomy Sunday afternoon in a largely deserted city), it’s no more haunted than your average branch of HMV. Ghost count so far stands at a pitiful zero. But we shall continue! 

Looking For Ghosts

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