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Haunted Happenings goes ghost hunting with the Daily Mail
Tuesday 19th April 2022


They source the spookiest sites and aim to give their clients the scariest night of their life. Jo Macfarlane meets the ghost hunters.

It’s the middle of the night in the echoing hallways and darkened cells of 18th-century Shrewsbury Prison. But the place is alive – at least, in a supernatural sense.

On the floor, a selection of pet toys which light up when they are touched are flashing furiously although no one is near, and REM pods (specialist gadgets for paranormal investigation which glow when they detect disturbances in the air) shine like beacons.

Later, a Ouija board will attract a spirit named Fred, a prisoner from B Wing, who comes to talk about his dog Rory.

Among the 30 paying guests on tonight’s ghost hunt is Tristan, 39, a police officer from Norfolk. Standing in the execution chamber (where seven men were hanged for murder before 1961), he feels a sharp tug on his coat. It is pitch black. The tug comes again. ‘That’s it for me,’ Tristan shivers. ‘I don’t mind things moving, tables tipping, stuff lighting up or things contacting us. But touching – that felt way too personal.’

Welcome to ghost-hunt Britain – a rapidly growing industry drawing thousands of people a year to the nation’s most haunted sites. Not content with a midnight stroll around a graveyard, today’s paranormal enthusiasts want something tangible; something which can be measured or detected by the latest tech and gadgetry.

Across the country, professional ‘ghost-hunt facilitators’ are in demand, leading commercial tours around spooky sites from derelict asylums to haunted inns, any night of the week.

There are paranormal investigation societies whose members apply scientific scrutiny to locally reported hauntings. And evening courses that offer to train anyone to become a paranormal investigator are so popular they are massively oversubscribed.

Actress Kristen Stewart and US singer Kesha are set to front supernatural reality shows, while E4’s popular Celebrity Coach Trip transformed itself last October into Celebrity Ghost Trip.

For Haunted Happenings, one of the UK’s largest ghost-hunting organisations, business is booming. Many of its events at locations such as Lincolnshire’s crumbling Revesby Abbey, an abandoned orphanage in Liverpool, and 30 East Drive in Pontefract – an ex-council house and home, it is said, to a powerful poltergeist – regularly sell out and 47 per cent of clients are repeat customers.

‘Interest has soared,’ confirms Hazel Ford, the company’s managing director (and a former psychotherapist). She makes no bones about the fact that Haunted Happenings exists to show people a good night out. ‘We’re an entertainment company so, while we don’t fabricate anything, we can’t profess to be experts on the paranormal. We’ve been putting on more events and running them during the week too,’ says Hazel. ‘Clients come from all walks of life. Two thirds are female and, broadly speaking, want to have a paranormal experience, while the men get really interested in the evidence and the tech.

‘Our hosts introduce guests to the equipment and leave them to it. I’m not interested in having the most experienced ghost hunters on staff. I want enthusiasm and passion – people who can make it an experience. But it’s completely authentic – we don’t set anything up, there’s no fakery.’

Not everything weird that happens on the hunts is supernatural. ‘Once, in the sandstone caves below Nottingham city centre (which date back to the Dark Ages), two guests backed into each other in the dark,’ Hazel says. ‘One swung a punch and hit the other. He wasn’t hurt, just terrified, thinking a ghost had just hit him.’

One of Haunted Happenings’ professional facilitators is Lisa Rawding. The mother-of-three, 51, began conducting tours in 2008 and hosts up to three every weekend. ‘I’ve run thousands of tours now and I still love it because every night is different – you never know what you’re going to get.’

Lisa says that in her experience, activity tends to focus around certain individuals in a group as some people are like magnets for paranormal entities. ‘We’ve had people running out because they’ve been touched, heard someone talking or even a growl. At 30 East Drive, we’ve had people who’ve been scratched. They’ve felt a burning sensation down their back and found fresh scratches.’

Guests are encouraged to bring their own technology but phones must be turned off to avoid triggering the EMF meters, which pick up radiation and electromagnetic frequencies (said to be an indication of a supernatural presence). As both are also emitted by more humdrum electrical items, ‘We have to check that something “spooky” isn’t just a text,’ says Lisa.

Lisa brings her own equipment, including a paranormal music box in the shape of a coffin, which emits a red laser beam. If anything crosses the beam, the music box plays: ‘It’s really creepy and eerie,’ she adds.

The strangest experience she had was at the 750-year-old Ordsall Hall in Salford, where she was welcomed by two ladies. ‘The younger lady asked if I’d brought my kettle,’ Lisa remembers. ‘The older one, with a honey-coloured bob and wearing a red fleece, said that theirs had broken during a daytime event. Later, I realised I hadn’t got their names. When I asked about the older lady, everyone looked puzzled. The younger one insisted she’d been standing there alone.’ Lisa was astonished. ‘Guests who’d arrived at the same time as me backed this up – yet I’d spoken to her. She was as solid as anyone else.’

Still, Lisa welcomes those who don’t believe in ghosts. ‘It’s healthy. There can be hysteria at times, and you need sceptics to bring it back down to earth. It’s not our job to change anyone’s mind but if a sceptic comes and they scream – well, that’s a punch-the-air moment.’

There are no guarantees that customers will experience any supernatural activity. Indeed, Lisa warns everyone they might not. But some, like Tristan, get lucky.

‘I’ve been to six events now and the prison was the best yet,’ he says. ‘People laugh at me for being into this, but as a detective I like investigating and I like answers. My parents have both passed on and I suppose it’s been comforting to me to realise there’s something out there that we can’t explain. I started as a cynic but now I believe there is something beyond our understanding.’

Published by Jo Macfarlane of the Mail Online. The full article can be found here

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