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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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Not much happening in the paranormal realm, folks. Not in these parts, anyway. It’s almost as if ghosts don’t exist or something. Weird.

With very little spookiness being reported in the national press recently, allow us to regurgitate some tawdry nonsense from a few months ago about police looking for ghosts in Scotland. Yeah, we know. It really has come to this.

In an article which does the Scottish Police force’s PR department absolutely no favours, STV reports that a recent Freedom of Information request has revealed numerous cases of police being called out to investigate paranormal activity, including UFO and ghost sightings.

Given this is Scotland we’re talking about, you’d think that officers would have better things to do than scurry about looking for ghouls like some kind of poorly-assembled Scooby Doo unit, but no. This is exactly what they’re doing, every single one of them, whilst citizens lie dying in the gutter. Probably.

Police help a man who had been attacked by a will-o'-the-wisp

STV explains that Tayside Police were contacted by one person claiming they were being “attacked by ghosts in their Dundee house” (no, that’s not a euphemism), but when officers arrived it was found that the “victim” was simply hallucinating. Which is probably just as well, because it must be pretty hard to arrest a ghost. The handcuffs would keep dropping onto the floor for a start.

The article goes on to talk about tedious and improbable UFO sightings, making a few hilarious Mulder and Scully references along the way, but the whole thing is such a yawning non-story that the fact that we’ve had to resort to writing about it is embarrassing for us. If anyone is still reading this, we apologise.

Actually, this whole debacle is summed up nicely by the following sentence: “… April 27, 2010, a Dundee resident reported a sighting of lights in the sky over the city, believed by the caller to be either UFOs or daybreak.”

That’s right: daybreak. Someone actually called the police because they saw the sun come up. Probably not something the Scottish Tourist Board want to draw too much attention to, but that’s the reality of living in Dundee.

 Please, for the love of all things ghostly, let something vaguely interesting happen soon. The absolute dearth of decent paranormal material out there is really testing our faith.

After a quiet few months in the paranormal world, thank goodness we can rely on the Metro for ensuring ghosts remain in the public interest. Although a newspaper typically so tedious that it makes you feel like you’ve been ripped off despite the fact that it’s free, the London commuter’s rag of choice deserves special praise for publishing two equally preposterous ghost stories in quick succession.

Following the Texas child abuse story from last week, the Metro has now reported that a retired printer from Wales is being taught new songs (dramatic pause) by the ghost of John Lennon. We understand if you need to take a few moments to marvel at the sheer integrity and passion for hard news which must overwhelm the Metro’s newsroom.

Having recorded 50 of these songs, 56 year-old Mike Powell is planning on sending them to (God help us) Yoko Ono. Quite what she’s supposed to do with them we’re not sure, but considering she’s always looking for new and inventive ways to destroy the Beatles’ legacy she’s bound to think of something.

John Lennon as he might look as a ghost.

The problem we have is that it’s difficult to know where to begin picking holes in this story. Even presuming John Lennon’s ghost does exist (for most of us a gargantuan task in its own right), why on earth would he select someone with no musical ability to showcase his work from beyond the grave? Surely his son would have been a far better candidate or, at a push, Sir Paul McCartney. And if he was going to choose a musical novice as his representative on earth, he may as well have appeared to Ringo.

The real joke is that Mr Powell wasn’t even a fan of Lennon’s. He didn’t even like the Beatles. He wasn’t from Liverpool. This man had absolutely no connection to John Lennon, or the music industry in general, in any way. This story is so farcical that the Metro may as well have printed a summary of the plot of Scooby Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed as if it were a true series of events.

Anyway, we know what you’re all thinking: do the songs hold up? Has he managed to top Imagine? Decide for yourselves by listening to Yoko I Love You.

Personally, we prefer his earlier work. You know, from when he was alive and not having his name kicked through the dirt by desperate charlatans and fame-hungry maniacs like Mr Powell. And Yoko.

If running this blog has taught us anything, it’s that there is a certain stigma attached to being a paranormal enthusiast. As a topic most people take about as seriously as Morris Dancing, telling people you have even a fleeting interest in ghosts immediately invokes looks of pity or contempt. Either way, you’ll probably find yourself invited to far fewer parties. With your social status diminished to a low you never imagined possible, you might as well have told your friends you were a child molester.

One of the many problems we imagine paranormal enthusiasts often encounter is the lack of evidence to support their beliefs. “If ghosts exist,” many will scoff, “show me the evidence.” And then when you do try to show them some form of evidence, they’ll simply refute it with reasoning and logic. And, most likely, punch you in the face.

Frankly, when stories like this surface, it’s difficult to feel much sympathy.

This report from the expertly written and definitely not racist Daily Mail claims that a young family from Coventry (I know, but bear with us) have “fled their house in terror” after capturing poltergeist activity on video. Seriously, the Daily Mail again? We know it’s always looking for new and inventive ways to scare the life out of people, but it’s fast becoming the paranormal rag of choice. Who’s the Editor over there these days; Derek Acorah?

The Mannings, pictured here looking terrified.

Anyway, the story drones on about phantom footsteps, doors slamming, lights flickering – the usual generic ghostly crap. Read it here if you’re interested; it’s far too dull to talk about at any length. Except for the bit about a dog flinging itself down the stairs. That was fairly amusing.

One thing you must do, however, is watch the accompanying video. This is the “evidence” the paranormal world has apparently been crying out for, and it takes the form of shaky video footage of a chair being pulled across a room on a piece of string.

“It’s like living in a scary movie,” wails Lisa Manning, mother of the family, although as a resident of Coventry this is presumably a sentence she’s uttered many times before.

Perhaps that’s the problem: knowing that this event took place in Coventry reduces the story’s credibility by approximately 98%. The other 2% is reduced by the canine suicide.

I think we can all agree that if, one day, irrefutable proof of ghosts does surface and there is to be a world-wide media storm,  it isn’t going to happen in the Midlands.

 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.

Want to hear something really stupid? Of course you do. Why else would you be reading a paranormal blog?

We’ll be the first to admit that Looking For Ghosts has featured some ridiculous stories on occasion. There’s been a ghost bus. Even a ghost chicken. But this next report is so laughably insane that it makes both of those stories seem like Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpieces of monumental integrity.

In an article which even Derek Acorah would probably describe as “utter bullshit”, a paranormal expert in Britain has claimed that ghosts are contacting the living through mobile phones, with the number of mystery calls attributed to them rising by 43 percent in the last four years.

Phil Hayes, a spectre investigator from Paranormal Research UK, claims that a third of all haunting are now through mobile phones.

“There is evidence to suggest that ghosts can use phones to communicate, with reports of people receiving phone calls from deceased relatives,” Hayes is quoted as saying. Although exactly what type of “evidence” he is referring to is unclear; presumably it’s not the kind of evidence that you can see. Or hear. Or exists.

He goes on to explain that the calls feature heavy static with a “faint and distant voice”, with the caller ID often showing as “withheld number” or “000000000000”.

Definitely sounds like ghosts to us. What else could it be? Apart from telemarketing companies, of course. Or a fault with the line. Or just about anything else.

In a study which was, bizarrely, conducted by Tesco Mobile, it has been revealed that there is a 70 percent rise in paranormal evidence in the last year due to people using their phones. Again, “evidence” in this context appears to be based entirely of listening to the stories their customers have made up. Worse still, they seem to be actively encouraging this absurdity.

“We’d recommend those brave enough to capture any spooky sightings should MMS or email their pics to the paranormal society for investigation,”  says Lance Batchelor, CEO of Tesco Mobile, common sense and logic seemingly having abandoned him completely.

“Keep your camera phone on the highest quality resolution setting and use the recorder to capture the noise of any spectral sounds,” he adds.

Perhaps it would be more responsible to advise their customers not to confuse basic technical glitches with paranormal activity, whilst also seeking to reassure them that the souls of the dead are not trying to get in touch. But, far from trying to distance themselves from this lunacy, Tesco appear to be keen to establish itself as the network of choice for spirits and ghouls.

And if you can’t trust the nation’s biggest supermarket chain to keep a level head, then what chance have the rest of us got? On the strength of this story, we are a nation in decline.

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.

You may have seen our top ten paranormal films that we compiled a few months back. Lingering just outside that list was Burnt Offerings, a tour de force of paranormal cinematography.

Reed with romantic clinch in Burnt Offerings

For those of you who aren’t acquainted with the film, here’s a short synopsis:

Oliver Reed goes spastic and acts his socks off when an a haunted mansion sends him and his man-beast of a wife ga-ga. Here’s a sneak preview.

It’s great. Reed’s quality shines through and some chilling moments of genuine suspense (check out the swimming pool scene and the final minutes of the film). A slightly wonky support cast, including Bette Davis and Karen Black, add to the slightly peculiar feel of the movie.

The film works because you don’t actually see any ghosts. Just Oliver Reed and his family slowly deteriorating into a violent, bloody mess. Brillo.

However, Burnt Offerings didn’t quite make it into the Looking For Ghosts top ten paranormal films because it lacks inventiveness. Its storyline is a bit weak; bog-standard ghoul fare really. And, at times, it fells like a vehicle for Reed’s fantastic acting (which, incidentally, isn’t such a bad thing).

*MOVIE TRIVIA* The house used in Burnt Offerings is the same one that’s in So, I Married an Axe Murderer.

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.

A few months ago, we launched the Looking For Ghosts Grand Ghost Poll to find out if our readership believed in our paranormal pals. You have voted in your multitudes and, although the poll is ongoing, a trend has already emerged.

It seems, unbelievably, that 63% of you believe in ghosts, while 25% of you have seen sense and voted “no”. An unfortunate 12% of readers didn’t know if they were coming or going.

Looking For Ghosts asks you, dear 63%, what’s wrong with you? Where is your evidence? Please let us know. Have you seen a ghost yourself? If so, please tell us all about it on our “Your Stories” page.

Meanwhile, our poll will continue (it’s down the left-hand side of this page). The outcome could still all change.

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.

Inspired by the current football World Cup, Looking For Ghosts has been researching paranormal occurences in the world’s favourite sport.  

The first story that we came across is that of the Ivory Coast, who are currently competing in the World Cup. When the team won the Africa Cup of Nations in 1992 after a marathon penalty shoot-out against Ghana, the supporters credited the victory to the witch doctors who had been employed by the country’s Ministry of Sport to aid the team. However, these witch doctors said that their services had never been paid for, thus cursing the Ivory Coast team. Error.  

Didier Drogba levitating

From then on the Ivory Coast won jot all. A decade later, the country’s defense minister apologised to the witch doctors and offered them $2,000 and asked them to work for the team again. Since then, obviously, the Ivory Coast have won… nothing. If anything, their luck has got worse; they lost the final of the 2006 Africa Cup of Nations to Egypt on penalties. 

However, most of the cases of ghosts linked to the sport come from England, where it has been played for hundreds of years. For instance, the main stand at Crystal Palace’s ground Selhurst Park is reportedly haunted by Billy Callender, a popular goalkeeper for the London club. Callender was deeply affected by the death of his wife from polio and he supposedly hung himself from a crossbar in 1932. His ghost has been seen in the stands and his presence felt in the staff room. 

Selhurst Park itself is supposedly built on an orchard cursed by gypsies. In 1977, then manager and fedora fan Malcolm Allison employed celebrity psychic Romark to lift the curse and subsequently the club’s luck. However, an argument about money ensued and Romark put another curse on Palace. The curse may, or may not, exist to this day. Any excuse for their crap form last season… 

Big Mal

Curses are also rumoured to have hindered performances at Preston North End, Leeds United and Turkish team Fenerbache.  

A boggart is supposed to be a malevolent fairy that follows a family and causes things to disappear, milk to sour, and dogs to go lame etc. Boggarts a quite common in folklore in the North of England and, legend has it, that before Burnley’s Turf Moor ground was built, the Bee Hole Boggart kidnapped and murdered people. The skin of one victim – an old woman – was found in a rose bush. Maybe he was the world’s first football hooligan.  

You may well ask which team Looking For Ghosts support. Well, isn’t it obvious? The Ghosts of course! Formed in 1884, Fakenham Town play in the Eastern Counties League and are nicknamed The Ghosts. However, we’re unsure of why they have gained this moniker. Anyone out there that can shed some light on the subject, please let us know.

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.

After compiling our list of top ten paranormal films, Looking For Ghosts were moved to remember a forgotten gem from the past; Ghostwatch.

Little known outside of the UK (and, by all accounts, not even that well known in the UK) Ghostwatch was a hoax documentary which the BBC aired on Halloween in 1992.

The premise was simple; a family in Northolt, West London were purported to be experiencing strange poltergeist activity in their house. This activity included unexplained noises, stuff moving around and phantom scratches appearing on their faces; the standard ghostly crap. The family, consisting of an exasperated mother and her two young daughters, were driven to distraction by all of this so naturally they called in a TV crew to help. The lack of a father is all too ominous; presumably he legged it when the banging started.

Ostensibly dated by today’s standards, at the time Ghostwatch put the spooks up any children who were allowed to stay up to watch it and was regarded as one of the most controversial television programmes of its time. The BBC switchboard registered 30,000 calls in the first hour alone, presumably all of which were complaints from angry parents.

Billed as a live investigation, the programme featured chat show legend Michael Parkinson from the comfort of the studio, with Sarah Greene and detestable scouser Craig Charles as the roving reporters at the scene.

The Ghostwatch team were there to discover the source of the activity and to try and make it stop, although exactly what Craig Charles is supposed to do in a situation like this is anyone’s guess. He spent the entire 90 minutes stood outside in the garden looking thoroughly disinterested, whilst Greene was given the unenviable task of spending the evening cowering with the terrified family inside the house.

In fact Charles’ only significant contribution comes near the end when the sight of a police car approaching the scene almost sends him into anaphylactic shock as, we suspect, he momentarily forgets he’s on TV.

The chemistry between the broadcasting team in general was hilariously poor; Greene being far too simpering and easily convinced, whilst cynical old Parky sat in the studio saying insightful things like “absolute nonsense” every time something vaguely paranormal occurs. If only he was this candid when he was interviewing, say, Bono about his latest album.

However, the main problem with Ghostwatch was the family themselves: a more charmless bunch of morons you’d struggle to assemble. Instantly irritating, they manage to make it almost impossible for a viewer to feel any hint of sympathy for them. Watching them try and act their way through an hour and a half of supposedly live coverage was as comfortable as watching a kitten being kicked around a room by someone wearing an iron boot. At times the dialogue was so forced and unnatural it felt like they were hostages being forced to read aloud a ransom note by some unseen kidnapper, lurking just out of shot with a revolver.

Anyway, after a quiet 45 minutes to lull you into a false sense of security, the ghostly events start coming thick and fast before reaching a conclusion of near apocalyptic proportions. Even Parky is forced to rethink his own set of beliefs and it is his final delivery to the camera, as he stands alone in the deserted studio, which remains one of the most chilling moments in TV history.

With woeful acting, tedious plot-twists and characters so unlikeable you’d happily crawl through a vat of molten faeces just to avoid them, Ghostwatch simply shouldn’t work. Yet somehow it does; its flaws only adding to its charm and character. And the fact that so many people believed it was real only goes to cement its status as one of the finest cult TV shows of all time.

Luckily for you, the whole show is available to watch for free online so you won’t have to spend hours painstakingly trying to track down the DVD like we did a few years back. Bastards.

Oh, this post contains spoilers by the way. Too late. It doesn’t matter anyway, it really does have to be seen to be believed. Or not believed. Whichever.

We here at Looking For Ghosts like a good practical joke. However, none of our pranks register on the same scale as ferryman John Overs, whose ingenious stunt not only resulted in him getting his skull mashed to pulp but also has a hand in a quirky ghost story. Thus, resulting in much paranormal mirth for us.

Mr Overs was reportedly a real-life Ebeneezer Scrooge. He treated his servants badly and prevented his daughter Mary from marrying the love of her life by refusing to cough up.

Southwark Cathedral

Now, in his infinite wisdom, Mr Overs pretended to be dead for a day, so that his servants would mourn. The ensuing fasting would save his house from paying for a day’s worth of food. Yeah, we know, what a tit.

What was running through the old miser’s head as he lay in a coffin, as his servants had a massive party, we will never know. But we should think it was something along he lines of “bollocks”, for as he raised out of the coffin in anger, one of his employees beat him to death, thinking he was a raised spirit.

Mary, free from her father’s clutches, sent for her lover so they could be wed. Unfortunately, Mary didn’t have much luck with the men in her life, as lover boy was chucked off his horse to his doom whilst he was hurrying to her.

Obviously frustrated with the ineptitude of the male race, Mary founded he priory of St Mary Overies. Today, the priory is named Southwark Cathedral.

And, for any sticklers out there, the cathedral retains the alternative name The Cathedral and Collegiate Church of St Saviour and St Mary Overie. We say sticklers, we mean losers.

Admittedly, there isn’t actually a ghost in this story but its contents were so bizarre it intrigued us greatly. It seems that if the ferryman’s servants hadn’t believed in ghosts then the cathedral in Southwark would not exist.

Needless to say, this lack of genuine paranormal evidence was getting us down. So Looking For Ghosts retreated to a place where ghouls and ghosts are plentiful… the local film rental shop!

We rented out some old favourites and delved into our film collection for a night or three of unparalleled horror. As we watched film after film of wooden acting, hilarious make-up and stupefying plot twists, it became clear to us that the best horror films are the ones that remain scary, even after numerous watches.

This can be said of The Blair Witch Project. Its realism scared the living daylights out of us as under-age patrons in the cinema and, eleven years later, its effect still remains. Also, did anyone know it’s based on a true story…

Blair Witch Project: quite bloody scary

More recently, we’ve enjoyed REC, The Orphanage and Paranormal Activity. In addition to this we also cowered from The Ring and The Tale of Two Sisters, both efforts from Eastern cinema.

However, some of our favourites paranormal movies come from an era where special effects were not available. This, in fact, works in some films’ favour, giving them a believable quality. The Innocents and Whistle and I’ll Come To You fall into this category.

Here are Looking For Ghosts current top ten paranormal films:

2.4 Children: a fun-loving comedy for all the family

1. The Blair Witch Project

2. The Exorcist

3. Ringu ( リング)

4. REC

5. The Shining

6. Paranormal Activity

7. A Tale of Two Sisters (장화, 홍련)

8. The Orphanage

9. Whistle and I’ll Come To You

10. The Innocents

So there it is; our top ten. Just missing the cut was Nutty Professor Two: the Klumps and also Three Men and a Baby, possible one of the only movies ever to capture a ghost on film. No, not the ghost of Ted Danson’s career… look a little closer.

Nevertheless, we are far from horror film aficionados. We would like to hear from you what your favourite spooky films are. Be it old or new, a box office hit or an undiscovered gem. Please leave your comments.

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?

So far, in our grand search for ghouls, we’ve not had much luck. We wouldn’t complain so much but it seems that there are people out there getting spooked all the time.

It looks like you might be more likely to come across a ghost while just minding your own business. Here, Looking For Ghosts highlights some of the lucky sods that have made the news around the world with their paranormal experiences.

We start with a case of ghosts fresh off the wires today. In a day centre in Wales, flying objects and over-excited printers have given workers the heeby-jeebies. A standard paranormal story? We’re just getting started.

For those of you who are not au fait with the model called Jordan, let us tell you now, she’s isn’t well known for her ghost hunting. Which makes it even more annoying that the orange-faced bint has been haunted by the apparition of a nurse. This story is replete with a terrifying picture of psychic blimp Russell Grant looking like a demented vicar.

She's seen a ghost and we haven't. Life isn't fair...

In this tale of utter toss, we learn how a paranormal piece of rock was propelled at TV tosser Piers Morgan.

Not only are we subjected to a daft ghost story but we learn that the judges on X-Factor “asked for hot water bottles to keep their bums warm”. Thanks for that.

Finally, we pop over to New Zealand, where apparently an old building has been making strange noises. Well I never.

This story is made all the better by the picture of two gormless ghost hunters. The bloke on the right looks to be tackling the spooks with some sort of electrical kitchen appliance. What a tit. We all know all you need to catch a ghost is a butterfly net.

In conclusion, we’re moving to Wales, getting 34DD boob implants, keeping an eye out for rocks that move and stocking up on electric whisks.

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.)

Most people may know that the UK faces a crucial vote next week in the general election. However, what a lot of you may not know, is that there is an even more crucial vote that is taking place right now.

Yes, that’s right, the Looking For Ghosts Grand Ghost Poll, is a mere click away. Scroll down to find the most intense and rigorous paranormal poll that humankind has seen.

We intend to enter the results from the poll into a big computer to aid our long-suffering, and so far futile, search for ghouls.

Please vote. It’s below on the left. Ta.

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.

A lot of people like to drink alcohol. A lot of people like to get drunk. And a fair few people claim to have seen ghosts. See where we’re going with this?  

Humans + alcohol = loads of bloody ghosts (H+A=GGGGGGGGGG!!)  

Looking For Ghosts put this finely equated scientific formula to the test by taking ourselves on a “research expedition” around some of Hampstead’s finest drinking dens.  

We began at The Spaniard’s Inn at the peak of Hampstead Heath. Reputedly the home of highwayman Dick Turpin, customers have seen a shadowy figure striding around the pub in a domineering fashion. Black Bess’ haunted hoof beats are heard in the car park, while ghostly tugs at sleeves have been felt in Turpin’s bar.  

While it is a fantastic pub, which no doubt has seen a lot of history in its 500+ years, it’s hard to be spooked by it when it’s packed to the rafters with tourists, clumsy waiters and whining children.  

We plodded over Hampstead Heath, making sure to avoid any ghostly horsemen and found ourselves in Hampstead village. We recovered from our trek across the heath in The Flask Tavern. This pub is haunted by Monty, a former landlord who likes to pay the occasional visit to his pride and joy. In 1997, some definitely-not-pissed customers saw Monty moving tables and chairs around due to his annoyance at a recent refurbishment. We didn’t see Monty unfortunately, probably because we didn’t stay for long.  

The pub benefits from an idyllic location and attractive interior, but on a negative point, all the customers seemed to know each other from a recent bank robbery they’d committed. Monty would not approve.  

The William IV in Hampstead

We re-located to the William IV. Legend has it that a doctor murdered his wife here and concealed her corpse in the pub’s cellar. Her ghost has ever since been a-haunting here. Obviously gagging for a pint. Although, we didn’t see here; she must have had a hangover. We stayed for a few more pints here, waiting for the second of the pub’s spooks to arrive.  

The spectre of a young girl in a white shroud has been seen looking up at the pub from the high street. She is supposed to be a suicide victim that killed herself after some particularly atrocious dental treatment in a cunning tactic to avoid her next appointment. Maybe her ghost stands on the pavement thinking “bugger, maybe I should have just got battered here before having my molar done”. We raised a glass or two to her.  

A bit of bush 

We then stumbled through the back streets of Hampstead to the Holly Bush Inn. We trekked through graveyards, deserted streets and winding alleys, up and down the area’s hilly terrain. The secluded nature of Hampstead really reveals itself when wandering the sparse streets at night.  

A good time was had by all

We finished our night with a few at the Holly Bush Inn, which is frequented by a phantom waitress. She didn’t serve us.  

Let’s cut to the chase. We had quite a few drinksssh a we didn’t shee a sshingle bloody ghossshht.  

That’ssh becausshhe they don’t exisssht. Right? I’ll tell you another thing, hic… I jusht felt shomething on me leg… What wassh that? Oh no, forget it… I pisshed meshelf again.   

Sadly, we ended the day ghost-less. Half cut we flagged down the nearest ghost bus, paid the spectral driver and headed back to LFG HQ to hold each other’s hair as we vomited the night away. 

After the disappointment of the Tree of Death, we at Looking For Ghosts were feeling despondent and disillusioned with the paranormal world. Why couldn’t someone throw us a ghost or two? Even the ghost of Rod Hull would have been a start. At this point we’re really not being fussy.

Trudging over from Green Park to neighbouring St James’s Park we were reminded of a tale involving the seemingly serene lake that tourists so gleefully flock to.

St James's Park. Not the one in Newcastle, although horrific apparitions are frequently seen there too.

Little do they know, however, that the lake is an important aspect of a ghost story apparently so convincing that even the authorities seem to accept that it’s true.

In the 15th Century, so the story goes, a Sergeant in the military murdered his wife and to avoid her being identified he hacked her head off. As he was in the process of dumping the rest of the corpse in the lake he was disturbed by two soldiers returning to the nearby barracks. To this day, The Red Lady of St James’s Park is frequently spotted in a blood-stained smock, sometimes with the stump of her neck spurting blood, sauntering around the park looking for her head or, terrifyingly, rising slowly from the murky water.

In 1972 a motorist driving in the area crashed his car after seeing the apparition, only to be acquitted of dangerous driving after the court believed his tale. All of this leads us to ask why more misdemeanours aren’t blamed on ghosts? If only John Terry had been that creative with his excuses then England might still have a half-decent captain for the World Cup.

Try it yourselves. Late for work again? A poltergeist flung your alarm clock against the wall. Caught staring at a checkout girl’s chest? You were possessed by ZOZO. That hideous noise coming from your bedroom at night? Banshees. Help us fill the world with implausible ghost stories; if nothing else it will keep this blog in material for a lot longer.

Ever had the feeling you’ve been cheated? 

When Johnny Rotten said this, we here at Looking For Ghosts know exactly how he felt. 

A tree. It's not haunted.

For this is how we also felt when, on hearing about a haunted tree in Green Park, we were sorely let down by a thoroughly unspooky quest to find said frightening foliage. Imagine our chagrin when we discovered not one, but hundreds of trees in the royal park. All with branches. Gnarled branches. 

The Tree of Death (whichever one it may be) is said to emanate a woeful feeling of melancholy. It has reputedly been the site of many suicides and, to add to an impressive list of questionable paranormal accolades, it is the source of a low unexplained gurgle and is avoided by even the parks animal residents. 

Oh, and standard ghost-hunting fare; a shadow figure has been seen darting behind it on occasion. 

We can report to you EXCLUSIVELY that none of these things happened while we prodded and inspected every bloody tree in the park. Seems like ghosts still don’t exist. What nonsense next? A ghost bus? Never mind the bollocks, here’s the ghost hunters.

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…

Now, there’s nothing we like better here at Looking For Ghosts than some spine-chilling ghost stories. Especially, if they claim to be true. So, imagine our unbound glee when we espied True Ghost Stories by George Finch in the library.

We were especially cock-a-hoop because of the book’s spooky front cover (below). A black cat with red eyes and some sort of phantasmal miasma surrounding it. Brilliant!

George Finch. Shakespeare he is not.

Now, we don’t profess to have read every ghost story compendium in the world BUT… this has to rank as one of the scariest ever. The monotonous prose, lack of coherent punctuation and absence of any bloody ghosts scared the living daylights out of us.

George Finch’s bid for Booker Prize is not helped by the fact that he’s a gibbering goon with an ever so slight grip on reality. The gist of these true stories is that George’s dead mother is following him around in spirit guise causing all sorts of mundane occurences.

Pigeon noises, erratic household appliances, spilt milk and funny noises. These are just some of the terror-inducing issues that George tackles in his brief, yet boring, accounts.

Wind-up merchant

The book is full of astute observations such as: “We all know when you buy a wind-up clock, you wind it up and leave it to do its job; tell the time.”

Yep, that’s the harrowing tale of when George bought a clock that didn’t work and blamed his dead mother for cursing his failing luck in telling the time.

We all have days when things go wrong, but mine was forever going on, like when I was transferring milk from a cardboard box from the Co-op into a bottle; I made sure everything was as it should be. I cleaned the place ready, and a nice clean bottle, then I opened the carton – somehow the milk was on the floor. How it happened, I just do not know.”

He transferring milk from a cardboard carton into a bottle? And the milk went on the floor? Eh? Didn’t he just drop the milk? And why does he need to clean everything beforehand? Does he have history of dropping milk cartons and blaming ghosts? Most confusing.

Milk, a poltergeist's best friend

This goes on. And on. And on. With vacuum cleaners, radios, electric blankets, more milk. The Co-op does feature quite a bit, as do exotic locations such as Rotherham, Croydon and Bournemouth.

In its defence, the book is quaintly old-fashioned and charmingly English – “Flipping income tax!”.

But some of the chapters are nigh on unreadable. Confusing stories, peppered with phantom commas which appear in the middle of nowhere and are absent from where they’re supposed to be.

Great entertainment

However, it is great entertainment reading the stories. Not because they’re ghost stories but because they’re just so rubbish.

In conclusion, if you want to read a book by some clumsy oaf who thinks his spirit mother is the root of all his mishaps, then this book is perfect for you. Actually, the joke’s on us; George got a book published and we’re doing this blog for free.

We’ll let George have the final nonsensical word:

There’s one thing good about ghosts. If there are ghosts, then it proves for once and for always, that nobody dies. We either get buried in a grave, or lots of people get cremated – burnt. That’s what happens when you get cremated; only ashes are left of the body, that was once a body.

If we were all to die, there would be no ghosts, but we do not, our souls live on as spirits in spirit“.

Still in West London, Looking For Ghosts ventured along Cambridge Gardens in fashionable Notting Hill.

Now, when we set out to investigate the paranormal we accepted that we would have our beliefs stretched, often to breaking point, on a semi-regular basis. However nothing quite prepared us for the tale we heard about a ghost bus. Yes, you read that right: a ghost bus.

Typically, the ghost bus was late.

There have been several sightings of the phantom no.7 throughout the decade, sometimes causing startled drivers to swerve out of the way to avoid the speeding double-decker. Witnesses would later deny there was any such vehicle in on the road (presumably because there wasn’t).

We did see a no. 7 bus, but it seemed pretty real to us. Not that we’ve ever used public transport; with a chartered jet to fly us to and from LFG Towers we have the luxury of arriving in style to all of our gruesome destinations.

To conclude, the very notion of ghost buses existing is so laughable that if you entertain the idea, even for a nano-second, then you may as well claim that Lord of the Rings is a documentary and live the rest of your life wrapped in tin foil in your bedroom claiming that Aliens are coming to get you.

Next on our ongoing search for paranormal friends, Looking For Ghosts visited Eaton Place in Belgravia. Sandwiched between the dim opulence of Knightsbridge and the gormless splendour of Sloane Square, it is no surprise that the ghoul that haunts this grand terrace is a posh div. 

Admiral Tryon. No, sorry, it's Sean Connery. No, I was right the first time around; it's Admiral Tryon.

In 1893, Admiral Sir George Tryon was floating about in his boat Victoria off the coast of Syria. Our hero gave orders for his ship and the nearby Camperdown to sail merrily into each other. Clever move George.

Four hundred men died, including the loopy Admiral himself. Apparently, his last words were: “Oh bugger”.  

Luckily for us, George lived on. All in the name of ghost-dom.   

At the exact time of his comeuppance, his spectre was seen by a room of party-goers at his home in Eaton Place. Preposterous really isn’t it? At the exact time we read this tale of idiocy on the high seas, we felt this spooky sensation of nauseous disbelief. 

A load of old poop-deck. 

More recently, Eaton Square has been home to more famous names: sexy food botherer Nigella Lawson and her husband Charles ‘artoholic’ Saatchi; professional eyebrow-raiser Roger Moore, Scarlett O’Hara (or Vivien Leigh to her friends), Roman Abramovich, Lord Boothby (he of questionable acquaintances), Neville Chamberlain, Jose Mourinho and last but not least, Sean Connery.

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.

The City is the oldest quarter of London, yet now houses some the most modern skyscrapers in the metropolis. Old churches, pubs and cobbled streets are hidden from view by these new, towering structures, giving their existence a strange, off-kilter existence. 

The spire at St Botolph's

One of these older structures is St Botolph’s Without Bishopsgate, which sits behind Liverpool Street station and lies just opposite London’s newest skyscraper Heron Tower. 

We visited St Botolph’s, hoping to catch a glimpse of this ghost.  

Top right. On the balcony. Yeah, trust us. That’s supposed to be a ghost. That “ghost” was taken by Chris Brackley in 1982 while his was photographing a church that he says was only inhabited by him and his wife. Which begs the questions… Is his wife see-through? 

Allegedly, a few years later, coffins were found in the wall of crypt revealing a preserved corpse of a woman who bore some sort of resemblance to the figure in the picture. Details are sketchy and wholly unconvincing.

So, Looking For Ghosts searched for this wispy madame but, unfortunately, did not find her. Probably because it was a smudge on the lens or, for want of a better word, bollocks.

Formerly a gothic church, the ruined gardens situated between the Old Bailey and St Paul’s Cathedral are allegedly the home to some feisty female ghosts.

The tower at Greyfriars' ruined churchyard is a surviving monument to the Blitz

This site was the last resting place of Isabella of France – the wife of Edward II and the mother of Edward III – who was given the dubious moniker of ‘She-wolf of France’. The conniving Queen consort plotted to depose her husband and, one night in September 1327, the King met with a death most foul. According to a rather teeth-clenching account, the monarch met his maker by way of ‘a kind of horn or funnel…thrust into his fundament through which a red hot spit was run up his bowels’. Hot stuff indeed.

Isabella was imprisoned by her son and died incarcerated. She was buried in her wedding dress at Greyfriars with the heart of Edward II on her chest. Lucky she was dead; red stains are a bugger to get out of white.

Apparently, Isabella’s beautiful but angry ghost can be seen at twilight still clutching her old man’s beating heart. Hell hath fury…

If one paranormal pin-up wasn’t enough for you, then maybe Lady Alice Hungerford will satisfy your needs. Alice, considered a great beauty of the Tudor Age – a time when false teeth and small pox scars were de rigueur among many high-class women.

The gardens that now fill the churchyard

Alice, like Isabella, was in a murderous mood. In 1523, she bumped off her husband with a dose of poison. She was put to death by boiling, which, even though it was nearly 500 years ago, seems like a ludicrous punishment. She too was interred at Greyfriars and she too spooks the graveyard.

Now this is were it gets saucy. Many years later, during the reign of Old Queen Vic, the spectral stunners were seen to be catfighting by a night-watchman. Ladies please. Let me loosen my tie.

So, when the Looking For Ghosts team turned up at Greyfriars in our dinner jackets, armed with red roses and Belgian chocolates, we were disappointed not to catch the slightest glimpse of these nocturnal nymphs.

Whilst we were in the City, we continued our search for ghouls by walking the short distance from Cornhill to Threadneedle Street and the Bank of England.

Standing outside these imposing metal doors many questions were racing through our minds. What dark secrets lie within? What of the strange, cryptic symbols emblazed on the doors? What time do you open? I’ve got a cheque to pay in.

A door which guards many secrets. Possibly.

The Bank of England houses one of the most famous London ghost stories of all time, that of the Lady in Black (or Black Nun) Sarah Whitehead.

We were confident of catching a glimpse, with us being something of a hit with the ladies and all…

In 1812 Philip Whitehead, a clerk at the bank, was found guilty of forgery and hanged. His sister, Sarah, was not informed of her brother’s execution until one day she turned up at the bank to ask of his whereabouts.

The news left Sarah devastated and she refused to accept his death, opting instead to turn up at the bank every day dressed in funeral attire to ask staff where her brother was. Eventually, the bank got so tired of her daily visits that they offered her a large sum of money to go away and never return.

Does Sarah Whitehead parole these streets, still hopelessly searching for her brother after all these years? Probably not.

 A woman of principles, Sarah kept her promise. However, in death she was not so virtuous.

For several years after she died, late night city workers regularly encountered a lady, dressed in black robes, on Threadneedle Street or by Bank station always asking the same sorrowful question: “Have you seen my brother?”

Predictably, we didn’t see her. Either she was immune to our charms or, more plausibly, she never existed. Either way, our ghost count still stands at a paltry zero.

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! 

Catharine Arnold’s grimly fantastic book Necropolis: London and it Dead states that London is “above, a city thriving with life. Beneath, a city filled with the dead”.

Which is lucky, as the Looking For Ghosts crew – all two of us – happen to live in this very Necropolis. Spooks aplenty surely?

The coming posts will explore London’s most haunted buildings and areas. And, hopefully, we will be able to strecth our budget to reach further into the UK’s haunted regions.

Before we began our spooky search for the existence of ghosts, we referenced another book to find out what equipment we might need to help us catch sight of our intended targets.

How to be a Ghost Hunter by Richard Southall claims that a good ghost-hunting kit should include:

Cameras

Tape Recorder

Microwave Radiation or Electromagnetic Detectors – oh yeah just happened to have them in my bedroom

Pad of Paper and Pen

Compass

Watch or Stopwatch

Laptop Computer - Mr Southall obviously wants us to be prime mugging targets

Flour - to bake a cake for any hungry ghosts?

Thread - for extra jumpers in case of inclement weather?

We studied this list and decided that our eyeballs and and a couple of cameras are the most useful tools at our disposal. Don’t expect any terrifying photgraphs of ectoplasm-dripping phantoms but we’ll try. Oh, and if we get bored we might chuck a bag of flour at a ghoul or two.

Just so we know what we’re searching for, here’s the official definition of the word ghost. Gratefully pilfered from an online dictionary.

ghost (gōst)

noun

  1. The spirit or soul: now only in give up the ghost (to die) and in Holy Ghost
  2. Folklore a dead person’s disembodied spirit, esp. when thought of as appearing to the living as a pale, shadowy apparition
  3. A haunting memory
    1. A faint, shadowy semblance; inkling
    2. A slight trace not a ghost of a chance

Etymology: altered (prob. after Fl gheest) < ME goste < OE gast, soul, spirit, demon, akin to Ger geist < IE base *gheizd-, to be excited, frightened > Sans hēḋ-, to be angry

Got that? Let’s go a-searching then…

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