Derek Acorah’s Ghost Towns
Derek Acorah’s Ghost Towns
Derek Acorah’s Ghost Towns
The enormous black-and-silver Ghost Truck rolled into town. This was the start of a whole new journey for me. Where would it lead? I felt very excited. I was taking my own show on the road, going out to meet people the length and breadth of the country and using my mediumship to investigate their Ghost Towns…
Getting the show on the road
How did it all start? Since 2001 I had been working on the highly successful Most Haunted television show, but after five series and over 100 investigations I felt it was time to move on. I was asked to stay for one more series and when that was over I was ready for something different. When LIVINGtv offered me the chance to host my own show in a new format, I was delighted.
Richard Woolfe, then director of television for LIVINGtv, and Paul Flexton, managing director of Ruggie Media, who had worked with me on LIVINGtv’s Loose Lips and I’m Famous and Frightened, had a great idea: putting a show on the road – literally. We would go out to the public and investigate their stories. That meant we would investigate shops, offices, pubs, hotels, houses – anywhere in fact where paranormal activity had been reported. Anything could happen – and probably would. I was only too happy to take part.
‘Derek loved the idea. He was ready for a new challenge. He was really excited about the show and he’s loved it ever since. And we’re delighted to be working with the best medium in the country.’
Paul Flexton, executive producer
The show was commissioned in the middle of June 2005 and we had to get moving, as the first series was to go out in October.
The Ghost Towns family
Joining me on my journeys around the country would be Danniella Westbrook and Angus Purden. I first met Danniella on Granada Breeze’s Psychic Livetime, though I knew of her work as an actress and, later, as a programme presenter. She had been intrigued by the paranormal ever since she had seen a ghost in her own home and had described presenting a programme on the paranormal as her ‘dream job’, so when the show was put together her name was top of the list.
Strangely enough, Angus also worked as a presenter, was interested in the paranormal and had seen a ghost. As a child he had lived in a house on a hill surrounded by trees, and once he had looked out of his bedroom window and seen a ghostly shape silhouetted there. Later on he had felt guided by his deceased grandmother and had had an accurate psychic reading, but he still didn’t accept everything uncritically.
‘I have always been fascinated by everything from déjà vu to reincarnation, but I’ve always had a certain amount of scepticism too – a healthy scepticism, if you like! I’ve always had to analyse and question everything.’
When I met him we got on very well and I knew that his open-minded approach would be an asset to the show. And in spite of a few scares along the way, he is loving it!
‘A mad, crazy job that involved working through the night – I had to do it. And it is great fun!’
Angus and Danniella had never met before, but they also hit it off straightaway and now they enjoy spending time together talking, drinking coffee and going shopping. I have heard a rumour that Danniella has bought clothes in every town so far. She and Angus have even started shopping for colour-coordinated outfits for the show. As we’re usually filming with night-vision cameras, unfortunately the viewing public don’t often get the full benefit!
‘Danniella and I investigate ghosts by night and shops by day. To be honest, I was hoping that I’d be her pet poodle and she’d buy me lots of clothes, but it hasn’t worked out that way!’
We also work with a very professional and enthusiastic crew. Normally in the fast-paced television world people move on fairly rapidly, but we have the same great team working with us now as at the very beginning, and that’s evidence of the cameraderie that has built up on the show.
My tour manager, Ray, is always with us too, and helps everyone out in so many ways – thank you again, Ray!
In fact we all get on so well that I refer to us as ‘the Ghost Towns family’.
How does it work?
We could go anywhere of course, but so far the towns have been chosen in a number of ways. For the first series it was very much up to the producers where they chose to film. They wanted a variety of settings, not just historic towns but also more modern ones. The only requirements were that there had to be enough people to tell their stories and enough room to get the Ghost Truck in! (This did prove something of a problem in Bedford.) Later on, people started contacting the television company to put forward their own towns. Now we have quite a long list of places to go to…
‘We don’t make any claims. It’s for people to make up their own minds. But we’ve had a huge positive response to the show and a lot of people would just love it to come to their town.’
The Ghost Truck spends two days in each town. On the day before we start filming we arrive at a hotel. It may be in the town we are filming in, but it may not. I have no idea where the investigation itself is to take place and the team takes great care not to tell me anything about it in advance. The next morning the Ghost Truck rolls into town and collects people’s stories, but I don’t go there until the evening, and it’s not until I get in the ‘Ghost Car’ and am driven to the venue that I find out what sort of place we are investigating.
‘It’s not difficult to keep details of the investigation away from Derek. Some people think he’s told everything in advance, but there’s no way that could happen – or that he could remember it, as he has the most appalling memory. It even takes a while before he can remember the names of the people he’s working with! Until he arrives at the location he has no idea where he’s going at all.’
During the day, as people are relating their stories at the Ghost Truck, our researchers are busy checking them out as far as possible. Angus, Danniella and I do have some opportunity to explore the local area (or go shopping), but the crew are busy meeting local people, hearing their ghost sotries, conducting research and preparing for the shoot.
‘With hauntings at a private home, we’re not able to run independent checks, but we do try to find out more about more public places, just to make sure that we’re not going off on a wild goose chase or that people aren’t just seeking publicity. As well as ensuring that the reports are genuine, we try to follow up those sightings where there may be a real story to uncover – as with Hayley Murton’s house in Northampton, for example. And if there have been several reports of paranormal activity at a site, particularly over a period of time, it’s definitely going to be well worth further investigation!’
Natalie Ralston, series producer
We film at night for several reasons – in some cases that’s when spirits have made themselves known, often to people who are closing up shops and other premises, and of course an investigation would be impossible in pubs, bus stations, shopping centres and other busy areas when they were open to the public. Spirit communication may come in the form of a gentle breeze or a slight tapping, so we also need to eliminate as much outside interference as we can. This isn’t always possible – in the case of a pub on a busy main road, for example – but we do our best. During an investigation, if one of the crew inadvertently makes a noise they always let me know as quickly as possible. Sometimes it’s difficult to avoid banging into something when you are in a strange place in the dark, or seven or eight people are all crammed together in a toilet!
Although I don’t know anything about the location in advance, Angus and Danniella are briefed on the background of the site and the paranormal activity that has been reported there. This is so they can help things along during the course of the investigation if the person who has called us in forgets something that might be relevant or even freezes on camera or under the stress of the investigation. Both Angus and Danniella are experienced presenters and I am always grateful for their help.
The notes they are given also help them to work out who is going on which investigation, though in most cases it is the series producer who makes the decision. If either Angus or Danniella is intrigued by a particular location, however, they can choose to go there. Danniella always accompanies me on the doorstep divinations. Angus just loves the idea of objects moving or lights going on or off, so he checks out those cases whenever possible.
At the end of the day we all go back to the hotel and are usually so tired that we just have a hot drink before going to bed. It’s always nice to relax after all the excitement…
What exactly happens in the Ghost Truck?
‘The show’s become a juggernaut – literally, in fact, in the case of the Ghost Truck.’
Basically, the Ghost Truck is a big empty oblong truck. As well as being home to the team gathering people’s stories, it also has an area where people can talk to camera, a ‘History Corner’ for the local historian helping us with our investigations, and a seating area where Angus and Danniella can work on their notes or have a cup of coffee.
The truck is very distinctive – and large – and hundreds of people have visited it, sometimes even in one day! Some have stories to tell, others just want to find out what’s happening, meet us and maybe discover a little bit more about their town. One thing’s for certain – it gets people talking…
‘The doorstep divination is my favourite part of the show. As a producer, I’m very proud of it, as it’s taking Derek to the people in a way that’s never been done before.’
How strange it must be to open the door one night and find a medium and a camera crew on your doorstep. I would be surprised if it happened to me! But if I feel a psychic pull towards a house, I know that there is a message from spirit for someone there and that we should try to deliver it if we can.
We do try to be respectful. We never knock after ten o’clock and usually it’s before nine. I know that people, particularly the elderly, may not be keen on letting strangers into their home, and that’s fine. It’s up to them. The message is there, but if they don’t wish to receive it at that time, that’s their choice and I respect that. A person did once refuse on religious grounds, but most people do agree and get something of value from the reading.
‘We do make sure before the reading that the person hasn’t just lost someone the night before, that they aren’t suffering from a heart problem or a mental illness, and also that they understand what a psychic reading is. We need to ensure that they know what’s going to happen and that they aren’t going to be traumatized by it.’
‘Doorstep divination is a real test for Derek – nothing’s prepared, he’s going in cold and yet he comes up with so much information, it’s unbelievable.’
Now we have taken doorstep divination a step further and done it live! I was so excited to be part of it.
‘The best thing is doing the doorstep divination live – we have no control over it at all. It’s the most stomach-churning thing, because it’s all on live TV and you just don’t know who’s going to answer the door.’
Our first live show was in York in January 2006 – and we certainly weren’t disappointed!
Where are we now?
‘In less than eight months since the show has been commissioned, we’ve completed two series and two live shows, and the third series is about to start … It’s an exciting journey we’re all on and it’s been an amazing adventure for all of us.’
At the time of writing, I have just completed the second live show, which took place in Halifax. The second series is on air and a third series is underway. The show is going from strength to strength and I’m loving every moment of it!
Wherever we’ve been, we’ve had fun, had fascinating experiences and, I hope, helped people to understand the world of spirit. Our ‘open-minded sceptic’ has certainly had a lot of food for thought.
‘It’s hard to be sceptical, because Derek can often prove you wrong. And in a way it’s easy to dismiss things and it’s often more difficult to believe, because then you have to work out why something’s happening and what it means.’
But where next? My mediumship has already taken me to America, Canada and New Zealand, and I would love to take this show there too – and even further afield. It has already been sold to Canada, the United States and Iceland.
‘Ghost Towns is a roller-coaster ride of a show and the fun’s only just begun … Our aim is to take Derek to the world – and beyond! – and to keep the Ghost Truck rolling.’
As for the future, we’ll see. But now, let’s go back to the very first series that went out on air…
‘I’d heard that Faversham had a lot of stories, a lot of spiritual activity. I was expecting something. I wasn’t quite expecting this much.’
As I arrived at Faversham, I wondered what spirits still haunted these old streets. The ancient Kentish town lies between the Downs and the sea. One of the famous Cinque Ports, it has a picturesque market square, a traditional brewery and many fine historic houses. But what else would we find there?
The Ghost Truck arrived at about nine in the morning and it wasn’t long before it was packed with residents telling stories of strange phenomena and ghostly sightings. By midday we had hundreds of reports. There were many haunted places to choose from for our investigation, but when the Ghost Towns team heard the legend of a local pub, the Shipwright’s Arms, they knew we had to start there.
‘I felt really privileged to be part of that, with that activity going on.’
Neil Cole, who lives at the Shipwright’s Arms, and Honda Rye and Trisha Philpot, who work there, told the Ghost Towns team that there had been many strange events in the old pub. A customer had disappeared right in front of the barmaid’s eyes, a gas lamp had flown across the room, mysterious phone calls had been made from the pub when no one was there – it just went on and on. The level of activity had been constant over a long period of time and had been witnessed by many people.
Even as we were in the Ghost Car travelling to the pub I found I was picking up energy. It often happens that as I approach a property I am able to start sensing the energies present. If there is negative energy there, I feel a kind of anxiety or depression and know I have to prepare myself. In this case, I could feel a pull of psychic energy and I knew we were going to encounter spiritual activity.
Once we had arrived at the pub and been made welcome, we decided the easiest way to find out what was happening would be to hold a séance.
The word séance is French for a ‘sitting’. A séance is when a group of people gather together to make contact with a spirit or spirits. It is not absolutely necessary for an experienced medium to be present, but I always consider it to be advisable. The people taking part in the séance arrange themselves in a circle, often around a table, place both feet on the floor and either hold hands or, if a table is being used, place their hands palms down upon it with the little finger of each hand touching the little finger of their neighbour on either side to form a chain of energy.
It is often a good idea to place a lighted candle in the centre of the table, as the flickering of the flame can indicate a spirit’s movement through the atmosphere.
Everyone then closes their eyes and empties their mind of all thoughts, whilst the medium recites a prayer of invocation and protection for both themselves and the people taking part in the séance. Protection is highly important, as it is impossible to predict what sort of spirit or spirits will come to the group. Before I start any kind of psychic work I always perform an ‘opening up’ meditation to ask for protection from any negative energies. I call this my‘spiritual waterfall’ and I visualize white light cascading down on me and protecting me from any negative energies.
During a séance, once contact with the spirit world has been made it is no longer absolutely necessary to maintain physical contact with the neighbouring person and people may rest their hands on their lap or on the tabletop if they wish, palms upwards to keep the energy field of the physical body open.
Although the medium leads the communication with the spirit or spirits, anyone can talk to them or ask questions of them. Participants are also encouraged to say how they are feeling at any time and to just go with the experience.
A séance should end with the medium ‘closing the circle down’ by thanking the spirits for their presence and offering a prayer of thanks and protection to help them to return to the spirit realms.
Séances can be a very useful way of getting in touch with the spirits who are present in a certain place and finding out more about them. At the Shipwright’s Arms, this certainly proved to be the case.
We sat around a table in the oldest part of the pub, lit a candle and all held hands. Once we had opened the circle, it wasn’t long before I made contact with a spirit presence. I just wanted to scream out, ‘Splice the main brace!’ I took a deep breath and asked my spirit guide Sam to help him to step back. He was an angry spirit.
At that point I became aware of a strong smell of tobacco. ‘He’s got boxes and boxes and boxes of tobacco,’ I said. ‘He’s piling it up. That’s what he did.’
Who was he? I knew he was a strong man, but a weary man. He was a man of the sea. The reason he kept coming back to the pub was that he resented the way he’d lost his life. Sam told me that he’d barely made it this far. His ship had gone down, but he had not perished with it. He had got out of the water, but after that he had been walking blindly. He had had no idea where he was going.
The smell of tobacco was overwhelming. I had to ask Sam to back it off. I couldn’t believe that no one else could smell it.
Then I caught a whiff of another smell.
‘Ugh!’ I wrinkled my nose.
‘That’s amazing,’ said Angus, who was sitting on my right. ‘That’s horrible!’
‘Can you smell it now?’ I asked.
‘I can smell it,’ he said.
It was the smell of tar. It began wafting around the room and soon everyone started to smell it.
‘When I first smelled the smells I just thought, “Oh, it’s probably all in the mind,” but it was really, really strong. I could really smell the tar. It was just like roads being laid.’
‘That happens all the time,’ Neil said, ‘and it’s always around this area.’
Then I got a name: Frederick Symes. ‘That’s his name,’ I stated.
‘My favourite part of this investigation was actually putting a name to the sailor.’
Hardly had I said the words than Angus looked puzzled and asked,‘What’s started swinging?’
Everyone looked up, startled. A lamp that was hanging above the bookshelf behind us was rocking back and forth. Its moving shadow was what had caught Angus’s attention.
‘That’s got to be phenomena,‘I explained.’ No one’s touched it. ‘I felt really pleased that we were getting such a good response.‘Come on,’I said encouragingly,‘give it a really good swing!’
Suddenly Danniella exclaimed,‘That’s moving, that one, that’s moving as well!‘She and Angus both pointed at once. A miner’s lamp which was hanging near the other lamp was also swinging gently. The spirit man was responding to us.
‘When we saw the lamps moving, we all stopped in our tracks.’
There was no window, no draught, no breeze, no physical reason why the lamps should be moving, and the wonderful thing about it was the way that the momentum kept up. There was no one near the lamps anyway, but if they had been physically pushed, sooner or later they would have slowed down and come to a stop, but the pace remained the same for six or seven minutes.
While we were still gazing at the swinging lamps, there was a sudden thud near the bookcase. Angus jumped and turned towards the noise. ‘Did you hear that?’ he said. ‘Like a thud on the floor.’ Everyone had heard it.
Danniella was still looking at the miner’s lamp, screwing her eyes up. ‘That really is moving, isn’t it? It’s not just me, is it?’
We could all see the base of the miner’s lamp moving slowly from side to side.
Then Trisha noticed something else. ‘That book, that’s just moved out as well.’
‘It has!’ I cried. ‘It has! You are right!’
A book on the top shelf had moved forward, just as if a hand had pulled it towards the edge of the shelf.
‘That was totally unexpected. You don’t expect books to move out of line when they’ve all been in a perfect line… Yeah, that was strange, very strange.’
‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘Thank you for doing that.’ The old sailor was really showing us that he was still around!
All this time the lamps were still moving. The first lamp was now moving randomly round and back again rather than swinging from side to side.
‘I just had to smile. I knew that the old captain, as I call him, was going to show that he was still around.’
Danniella was curious. ‘Neil, how does that make you feel? You live here.’
Neil wasn’t bothered by it. ‘It’s fine,’ he said. He smiled and shrugged. ‘He’s never done anything to me.’
I knew he never would.
Having succeeded in communicating with the spirit, we decided to finish the séance. I thanked everyone for their participation and closed the circle down.
When we looked up again, the lamps had stopped moving.
I was thrilled. In all my years I had never been in an investigation where I had got three responses like that in a matter of minutes. And, as Danniella said, the fact that the phenomena stopped once the séance was over was also interesting, as it showed that the energy had just backed right away.
Neil was amazed at what had happened in his pub. ‘It was totally unexpected, because I’ve lived here for so long now and nothing’s ever happened like that, ever, and it was amazing. I couldn’t believe it.’
I found out afterwards that according to local legend, one Christmas Eve the captain of an old Dutch barge had been taken ill and had come banging on the door of the Shipwright’s Arms. The bar manager at the time had thought it was a punter trying to get back into the pub and hadn’t opened the door. When he did open it the following morning, he found the captain’s body lying there. He had frozen to death during the night.
‘We can tell them the real story now,’ Trisha said, laughing.
The parapsychologist’s view
Dr Simon Sherwood from the University of Northampton has been examining our results from a scientific perspective.
‘There was no question that the lantern was definitely moving from side to side. One possible explanation is that the wooden beam that the lantern was suspended on was contracting due to the temperature cooling down and this may have caused it to move from side to side. So that’s something that we would need to rule out. I actually measured the temperature along the beam that it was suspended on and found that there was indeed a temperature difference along it.’
‘As for the book, I spoke to the landlord earlier and he said that very often when he goes to bed at night and locks the place up everything’s in order and he comes down in the morning and finds that some of the books have been taken off the shelves and arranged in particular formations on the table. So it’s interesting that that happened on the same shelf. I don’t have a definite explanation.’
The local historian’s view
‘When we are doing our initial research into a town we will always come across the name of a noted local historian, and usually they are glad to help. We try to get the main local authority if we can, or if not, someone they have recommended. They come from a variety of backgrounds – they can be people who run museums, retired academics, and so on – but their local knowledge is always invaluable to us.’
In the case of Faversham, the local historian was a gentleman called Dr Arthur Percival. He told us:
‘The building was opened by a shipwright who had a yard there building sailing barges and, partly for his workforce and partly for people living in the area, he decided to open a beer house. Undoubtedly he did a very good trade with seafarers of various kinds and therefore it’s possible that somebody, some seafarer, turned up and was turned away. You know, it’s a feasible thing, certainly.’
‘My name’s Jo and I live in Faversham. And I believe our house is haunted.’
Mother and daughter Janet and Jo Crouch are part of a local Spiritualist circle, so are familiar with spirits – they even have several at home! They told us their house was haunted by a little girl and three boys. ‘Tommy’s a bit mischievous,’ Janet explained, ‘and he runs up and down stairs and shakes stepladders.’
‘And their father’s there as well,’ Jo went on, ‘and there’s a lady in the bathroom. She’s rather strict sometimes.’ This definitely seemed a place worth investigating!
We met Janet and Jo in their dolls’ house shop and as they led Danniella and me through to their home, I was hit by the atmosphere. A whole congregation of energies was coming in! We went up the stairs to the first floor and as we paused outside the bathroom I was aware that a lot of psychic activity had been going on there.
As the ladies themselves were so sensitive to spirit, Danniella suggested that we went straight into a circle to see what we could pick up. I thought that was an excellent idea. There were so many spiritual energies there that someone was bound to communicate in one way or another.
The spirit world is on a much faster vibration than ours – that’s why most people can’t pick spirits up. A medium has learned how to slow these vibrations down so that they can see and hear spirits more clearly. Spirits, too, have to learn how to slow down their vibrations in order to communicate. Those who have recently passed may not have learned how to do it yet and in these cases Sam passes their messages to me.
Spirits who are not able to communicate directly for one reason or another may be able to show their presence by a particular smell, perhaps a favourite perfume or the smell of something they were associated with – such as the tobacco and tar of Frederick Symes at the Shipwright’s Arms – or by sending a ‘psychic breeze’ swirling past.
Some spirits can only pass on odd phrases. These can sound like snatches of conversation and you have to try to piece them together. Others can’t express themselves in words at all, so they pass on emotions and sensations instead. Sometimes these can be highly unpleasant, especially if the spirit is showing how they died, but they all have a purpose, and that is to communicate with the living.
At the Crouchs’home, the first spirit that came through made himself known initially by a tight feeling across my chest. It was really painful. Then I saw him working with a hammer and metal. He was a proud and hardworking man, a strong man with thick-set arms.
‘I had a strong vision of barrels, so we’re pretty sure he must have worked in the brewery at some point.’
He had passed to spirit after a sudden heart attack at work. The pain I had felt was his way of showing me what had happened. I knew he was at the Crouchs’ home regularly but he was a spirit in visitation, not a grounded spirit.
Spirits in visitation
Some spirits aren’t in this world all the time but just pop in now and again for a visit. They often come to see loved ones or to visit places that were important to them in life.
Grounded or ‘earthbound’ spirits are those who stay on Earth after they have left their physical bodies rather than move on to the spirit realms.
There are many reasons why this can happen. Sometimes spirits don’t realize they have passed. They may have died very suddenly, perhaps in an accident, and not understand what has happened to them. They may be very young and confused and so they don’t go into the light. They remain here, often in a very bewildered state. They can’t understand why people aren’t taking any notice of them, so they make noises or move objects and try to draw attention to themselves.
Other spirits know they have passed over but are afraid to move on because they have performed wicked deeds and they know they will go to the lowest of the seven spirit realms. This isn’t a nice place. It isn’t the Christian idea of hell, with fire and brimstone, but it is a place where they will receive the justice they may have escaped on Earth. So they prefer to stay where they are.
Other spirits may have suffered some injustice in their lives and want to stay to see justice done. Sometimes justice has been done but they are not aware of it and they remain in a state of limbo.
Suicide is another reason why a spirit might not move on. Some people believe they will be punished if they take their own life, so again they are afraid to go into the light when they pass. In fact suicides are helped towards understanding and healing in the spirit realms – this may be a painful process, but it is not meant as a punishment.
Whatever reason has led to a spirit being grounded, if they wish to move on, I can help them to do so. This is a very important part of my work as a medium. During the Ghost Towns investigations, if I find that a spirit is trapped I will always help it to move on. The cameras may not always show this, but it is always done.
‘My name is Alice, my name is Alice.’ It was a quiet spirit voice in my ear.
‘Who are you, Alice?’ I asked.
‘Oh, I feel so weird,’ Janet said suddenly. ‘Really sad.’ She was breathing heavily, almost breaking into sobs.
‘Is it a lady?’ Danniella asked.
‘Yes, it’s a lady.’ After a while Janet gathered herself together and went on, ‘She can’t leave. In her life she couldn’t leave. She was confined here. She’s so sad…’
‘What’s the reason for her sadness?’Danniella was concerned.
‘They won’t let her out.’
‘It’s her family.’
Then the spirit stepped back. That was all she could communicate for now.
The next moment we all heard a knock. Spirit activity was coming thick and fast now. Jo heard whispering in her ear and was aware of spirit energies swirling around her. She had talent as a medium and I encouraged her to develop this further in a safe and disciplined way. Janet assured me that that was what they had been doing.
We closed the circle, pleased with the results of our combined efforts. The effects of the energy were still being felt. Danniella felt as though she had a spider crawling down her neck, while Janet was really hot. She wiped her brow.
‘Your hands are really hot,’ Danniella told her.
She nodded. ‘The amount of energy that’s coming – it’s just enormous.’
‘The best part of the investigation for me was confirming things that we already felt and saw. Derek’s just confirmed what we already felt, but his energy was so strong and he came through with much more detail than we picked up before. So that was good.’
‘It was a great opportunity for three mediums, of different levels, to work together.’
‘As soon as I opened the door, I thought it was a wind up.’
As we were on our way back from the Crouchs’ home to the Ghost Truck, I felt a sudden pull towards a property. As we carried on down the road, the feeling lessened. ‘Can we turn around?’ I asked.
‘You got a feeling, you gotta go with it!’ said Danniella.
We got out and went up to the house. It was a former pub. This was our very first doorstep divination. Someone was about to get a big surprise!
‘With the doorstep divination what amazes me is people’s reactions. They have no idea we are coming and yet most of them are so calm – and they let us in. Why would you just let an unknown group of people into your house – with cameras?’
A pleasant-looking middle-aged man opened the door. He was casually dressed and had probably been enjoying a quiet evening at home. Danniella quickly explained who we were and asked if I could do a reading. Looking rather shocked, the man said, ‘Hang on a minute,’ and motioned for us to stay on the doorstep while he stepped back into the house.
After a brief pause he returned with his wife, a slender brown-haired lady. She was polite but not too keen to get involved. ‘Well, I’ll stay out of it but you can do it,’ she said to her husband. Rather cautiously, he agreed.
‘To start with I was not too sure, because I’m extremely sceptical. But I thought, well, it wasn’t going to hurt.’
Sitting on a sofa with Barry in the couple’s elegant home, with Danniella looking on, I had the very strong impression that Barry was entering a phase of redirection – not spiritually, but in his day-to-day life. ‘It could be in your business affairs,’ I told him. ‘I know it’s been very tiring and it seems as though you can’t find much time for relaxation.’
Barry blinked at me from behind his round glasses, looking rather bemused.
A man from the world of spirit was drawing close to us. Sam told me it was Barry’s uncle. This gentleman had suffered problems with his heart. But did any of it mean anything to Barry?
‘Alarmingly, quite a lot!’ He was smiling, but was obviously quite surprised at what was taking place. He shook his head in amazement.
‘He didn’t know anything about me, didn’t know what I do – and still doesn’t – but there were certain things there that only somebody who knows me and knows what I do should know.’
‘Who’s Peter?’ I continued. ‘Not in spirit, I’m talking about business, people you know.’
Barry thought for a minute. ‘There is a Peter I know,’ he confirmed.
The spirits were telling me that Peter would have unbelievable news for Barry in the next couple of days. ‘Watch for the telephone connection!’ I told him. A little unsure, he smiled and nodded.
A woman in spirit was making herself known, someone who had suffered a great loss of body weight before her passing. ‘There was somebody, yes,’ Barry agreed.
This woman was pouring out feelings of affection and motherly love towards Barry. Along with the other souls gathered there, she had come because he had felt he had had the world on his shoulders and was battling on alone. Now I understood why I had been drawn to this house. I had to show Barry that there were people in the spirit world who were behind him, supporting him through this difficult time.
The spirit people had been listening in on conversations about having to rearrange a youngster’s education. I had Barry’s full attention now. His bright brown eyes rarely left my face. He smiled rather ruefully as he accepted what I was saying. ‘Oh God!’ He ran his fingers through his hair.
The spirit people were pleased with what he had done. ‘You’ve done very well there,’ I told him.
‘I hope so!’ he replied with a grin. Though he was smiling, I was aware that it had been a serious matter and of great concern to him.
‘Mentioning education was a bit of a sore point. We’re going through some interesting stages with my son and we’ve had some issues that we’ve had to deal with with his education – which are now dealt with. And that was the second lot of goosebumps, I think, because that was very recent.’
‘Is there someone known to you called Susan?’ I asked.
‘Well, yes,’ Barry replied. ‘My wife’s name is Susan.’
A lovely spirit lady had come to me, wanting to connect with Susan. She told me that she had been talking about getting involved in a course or some study linked with a course of some kind, but there had been hold-ups and she hadn’t been able to move forward with her plans. I was pleased to be able to say that the obstacle would soon be removed.
Moving on to his home, the spirit people told me Barry had been having trouble with some pipework and had got quite frustrated with it – well, irate in fact!
He chuckled. ‘There’s something I can’t find the source of,’ he said quietly.
The spirits were telling me they could.
‘Can they tell me, because I need to know!’ Barry said, laughing.
Then I was shown a picture of the source. I explained to Barry where to look. I knew things were soon going to fall into place for him and that he had support from a lovely group of people in the spirit world.
‘It’s amazing,’ he said as the reading came to an end. ‘I mean, there’s a lot there that I’ve been able to associate with. There was enough there to make the goosebumps rise!’
‘Was there?’ I was delighted that our first doorstep divination had been such a resounding success.
‘I’m very pleased he came and did it. It’s easy to say no to these things, but it was intriguing!’
Later I found out what happened next. Very soon after our visit Barry had gone on holiday to America for two weeks and when he returned, to his amazement, he had a water bill which ran into thousands of pounds. The pipework problem was proving no joke, but following the spirits’ directions Barry soon found the source of the problem and it even turned out to be the fault of the water board.
‘I’m even more pleased that Derek came now,’ he said, ‘because he’s saved me so much money!’
‘There’s been a dark energy that’s quite negative round there. We’re sort of… a bit frightened of it.’
Via Mystica is an alternative health shop that may once have been part of a medieval great hall. Mandy, Carol, Carol and Jean, a group of friendly mature women who all work there, told us about the Roman soldiers with no eyes who drifted through the wall, the shadowy figure that rushed by, the customers who had seen ghosts, the ley line that ran through the back of the shop to the toilet…
‘The experiences that people had in the shop were all quite different. There were Roman soldiers, there was a lady in white, there were dark forces. And we thought, “Well, how can all these things be in this one shop?”’
Angus and I went to investigate.
In the shop we were welcomed by the staff. Straightaway Sam told me to go to the back of the shop, where there was a portal, a vortex. This is a place where spirits enter and exit this world. To us, it is a spot which can feel either hot or cold.
We went out of the back of the shop and down a corridor into a small room where stock and other items were stored on shelves. ‘This is it!’ I said excitedly. ‘This is the room where energy is coming in and going out. The vortex is so, so, so strong here.’
We were all standing packed together in the small room and I was picking up information about a spirit man who came in visitation. I explained that he would probably cause the sensation of a person rushing past as he went in and out of the portal. However, the stooped shadowy figure that had often been seen in the area, rushing by at speed, was a different spirit, one that went back to a different time frame.
‘Was this ever part of an inn?’ I asked. I was seeing wooden tables and stools and smelling ale. It was the 1400s. This was the period in which the shadowy figure had lived. She was a lady whose life had been taken from her in the cruellest way. I could see it all in front of me. I turned away in horror. ‘Take that picture, take it away from me!’ I said to Sam. I could see the woman being cut up, virtually dismembered, during a ceremony, while a group of people stood there chanting. I could also pick up on all her feelings as this despicable act was being carried out. It was horrific. I knew it had happened nearby and when her spirit had left her body it had rushed back to the spot where the shop now stood. Despite her traumatic death, the lady had moved on to the spiritual realms, but she still came back and relived her sadness, because she had never forgiven the perpetrators of that terrible deed and was still searching for them, seeking for justice.
‘Sam,’ I said, ‘try to explain to her that revenge is not the way! She’s tormented!’
Angus told me then that four witches had been killed publicly in Faversham in some kind of horrid ceremony.
I knew just how awful it had been. ‘They bled her,’ I explained’they slit her and bled her to death and then did despicable things afterwards to her physical body and she’s coming through wanting justice.’
I knew that by now the evil souls involved would have received their just reward, but their victim wouldn’t have been aware of this and wouldn’t have been able to find them in the spirit world because they wouldn’t be in the same realm. Such evil people would have gone straight to the lowest spirit realm and might still be there, because until they repented of their deeds they wouldn’t be able to progress. I asked that they would one day see the error of their ways and that this poor soul would be helped to let go of the past and find peace.
‘I was being prodded in the back all the time this was going on and I didn’t like to say anything, as I didn’t want to disturb Derek… I thought it was the cameraman, to tell me to move, then I realized that he was standing on the wrong side of me, so it couldn’t possibly have been him.’
This experience had been harrowing to me as a medium, but I left Via Mystica knowing that although terrible things had happened nearby in the past, the shop itself was a peaceful place. It will always have spirits there, moving in and out of the vortex, but most of them will be lovely souls just passing through.
‘When Derek came to the shop it was a wonderful experience… We were very, very impressed by what he found for us.’
‘The brewery is definitely haunted and from the stories I’ve been told and the feelings I get I think the ghosts are definitely malevolent. I think they’re quite nasty.’
Faversham Brewery is a important part of the town. Built on the site of a former monastery, over the years it has been a major employer, but many people came to the Ghost Truck to tell us that they would not set foot in it because of the dark spirits said to lurk there.
One current employee, Mark, a down-to-earth man with flowing locks, offered to show us around. Danniella, Angus and I couldn’t wait.
‘Faversham’s famous for its brewery and loads of people coming to the truck were telling us about the experiences that they had had there, but they were too scared to go back and investigate, so we were thrilled when Mark said that he would.’
As we were in the Ghost Car travelling towards the brewery, I started to get a feeling of apprehension. By the time we arrived, it had turned to dread.
At the brewery we met up with Mark and as we made our way through the twisting brick corridors to the malt kiln, I was immediately aware of a group of monks walking four or five deep. Sam told me that they were Benedictines. These spirits were roaming all over the brewery, concerned about a lost soul.
The local historian’s view
‘There was a Faversham Abbey, of course, which was a Benedictine abbey. He was spot on there.’
Dr Arthur Percival
At that point Danniella decided that as the brewery was so large it might be a good idea to leave Angus in the malt kiln and take me to a different part of the brewery to see if I could pick up the story better elsewhere.
‘Am I on my own here?’asked Angus nervously. ‘Just don’t close the door then!’
We told him all he had to do was holler and we would come back to him. Danniella left him with a camera and we walked off.
‘I’m not very keen on being in the dark – which is something I wasn’t really that aware of until I started working with Derek. But in the dark I just lose my coordination. I suffer from claustrophobia too. And though the night-vision cameras show quite clearly what’s happening, we really can’t see at all.’
‘The malt kiln room, the room we left Angus in, was horrible. It was dark, it was dense, it was wet, it was horrible – just a horrible room! Very, very dark-you couldn’t see a thing in front of you. It didn’t have a good feeling to it at all.’
But it wasn’t long before Danniella was having her own problems. As we followed Mark through the brewery and across an area where bags of grain were piled up, she asked worriedly, ‘This isn’t the place with the rats, is it?’
‘No,’ he reassured her, ‘it’s just the place with the mice.’
‘Oh no, don’t say that!’
As we carried on walking, I saw something. ‘Oh yes, there are a few of them here, a couple just ran across there, look!’
‘Shut up!’ Danniella wailed. She stood stock still.
‘Look, there were only a couple of them, Danniella, a couple of them just ran across.’
‘No! I’m goin’! I’m out of here!’
‘They were just running, they weren’t jumping.’
‘No, I’m out of here! Honestly! I don’t do mice! Or rats!’
She turned away and wouldn’t go on.
‘Derek, please, you go.’
‘Look, you just hold my hand…’
‘No, you go, just go.’ She stood still and wouldn’t move. ‘I don’t do mice!’ she repeated. She put her hands up to her face. ‘I can’t, I can’t do it.’
It took quite a lot of persuading before she finally allowed me to take her hand and lead her forward. Huddling in her coat, with her eyes firmly shut, her head down and her other hand over her eyes, she followed me through the area with the grain and into the malt silos, where we were safe from mice. I did feel sorry for her, but I couldn’t help but feel just a tiny bit amused that in a brewery full of spirits, what bothered Danniella was a couple of small furry animals!
In the malt silo I was soon picking up the energies of a spirit man. I could feel that he was being engulfed by something and was having problems with his breathing, but I didn’t know what was around him at first – it wasn’t water, but what was it? Something was raining down on him from above, suffocating him. I tried to understand what was happening to this man. One thing I knew for sure was that he wasn’t in visitation: he was trapped.
I asked him to come forward and tell us who he was.
Almost straightaway Sam gave me his name: Edward Stimpson.
Then we asked his age. Sam told me that he was 26 years old. Then I knew what had happened! He had been testing the grain when he had slipped, overbalanced and fallen in.
As I related this to Mark and Danniella, we heard a plopping sound in an area behind us. I asked whether it could be some kind of machinery, but Mark said no, there was nothing there. Was it Edward Stimpson communicating with us? We decided to move towards the area where we’d heard the noise.
I reminded the spirit that we were his friends and respected him. Then I suggested he make a noise above us.
‘There you go!’ said Danniella at once. She had heard a noise at the end of the hall.
She asked Mark to talk to the spirit. He too asked Edward to make a noise.
We all waited in anticipation. Then there came a distinct couple of raps, much louder than before.
‘Hear that bang?’ I said to Mark. ‘That was heavy. Ask him again.’
At that moment, unbeknown to us, in the dark back in the malt kiln Angus heard a scraping sound.
‘What the hell was that?’ Startled, he looked down to his left.
It came again and then seemed to come from the other side of him. Angus looked round in alarm. ‘What the hell was that noise?’he whispered.
We were also hearing noises – bangs and thumps and what sounded like a creaking door that suddenly slammed. Each sound was getting closer to us. It seemed that the spirit trapped in the brewery was responding to Mark’s requests.
‘Tell him to come closer,’ I said.
Mark did so and once more we waited with baited breath.
Then there was a tap.
The spirit was continuing to respond.
‘Come closer, come closer to Derek. Keep making the noise,’ said Mark.
The parapsychologist’s view
‘Yes, there were noises. I don’t think there was any evidence there to suggest that they were paranormal.’
Dr Simon Sherwood
Then I felt the energy swirling around me. I swayed and closed my eyes. Once more I asked the spirit to come closer. I had a feeling at the back of my shoulders. Then with a shiver I was channelling the man who had died in the grain silo.
Channelling is a way of allowing a spirit to communicate by entering the auric field of a medium. Our auric field surrounds our physical body, protecting us. A spirit person cannot penetrate it unless we give them permission. In Faversham Brewery I had repeatedly asked the spirit to come close to me, but if I had said no, he couldn’t have jumped in. I make my own decisions on when to channel a spirit and follow Sam’s advice about whether a spirit is trustworthy or not. Having said this, once or twice I’ve misjudged the situation and a cunning spirit has leapt in and taken advantage of the opportunity. Fortunately, this doesn’t happen often.
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