OK, it’s been a while since I have updated but various writing commitments and a concentrated spurt of writing articles on Polterwotsit, mainly about the supposed Thorpe Park hauntings, though also about a Cumbrian haunt, has kept me busy. Of course I have been doing many things – I rarely seem to have much free time apart from the hours lost in reading — but yesterday David Sivier came up for our weekly meeting, and we as always went out for lunch. It was at lunch I realised I was becoming increasingly grouchy, and the even worse than usual service began to get to me. I don’t mind people getting my order wrong, but I’d prefer they just admitted it if they say they will change it; normally I’d just consume the wrong order, yesterday I argued my point, got it changed, and refused to accept I was at fault (and I wasn’t). Still, that and a few other minor thing seemed to suddenly induce a murderous rage in me — and given how incredibly unlike me that is, I was a bit concerned, but not as much as Lisa and David.
I’m usually an incredibly mellow person, but since I have given up smoking I have reverted to my old teenage self, where the slightest insult will result in my wiping out my enemies clan to the seventh generation, boiling their bones and giving it as broth to their surviving kinfolk. Well something like that – anyway I was clearly not my usual happy-go-lucky self. Lisa suggested I seek medical advice and pills before I actually slaughtered or sadistically maimed anyone, which seemed a bit over the top. I was merely grumpy, and still far less so than most people get, I’m just more imaginative in expressing my annoyance I think!
So I decided I needed to do something, as giving up smoking is actually really quite nasty in it’s effects on my moods. Its been over eight weeks now, and I have been a bit more irritable than usual, but thought it might be over by now. Two months — how come I’m still grumpy? Lisa claims it is that smoking actually calmed me down, rather than giving up has made me more tense – if she is right, then I’m really stuffed – go back to smoking, or inflict wrath of biblical proportions on those who annoy me – I’ll take smoking every time. I really, really hate confrontation, anger and violence. Besides, no one pays weregeld these days, and so blood feuds just take up far too much of a chaps time!
Anyway the good news is I thought of a compromise between being sedated in the interests of public peace (and to be fair I’m usually pretty mellow when Becky is here), and wreaking horrible vengeance on seven generations of the descendants of those who serve me diet not full fat coke or the wrong meal, or give my change to someone else, or whatever else – all those annoyances were in twenty four hours, and clearly one can see why faced with such provocation was no rational alternative but disembowelling them in a Viking Blood-eagle or hurling them and their kin in to pits of serpents?
I decided I probably needed some exercise, and to not sit around dwelling on the craving for ciggies. So David and I set out in search of a ball.
Now I’m forty one, which remarkably comes as quite a surprise to me. I had the impression I was forty two, I don’t know why, but when I got on a wii fit last night to check my weight (a stone lighter than Christmas 2009, which I think is good, as I have been furiously piling on pounds since I gave up smoking till I resemble a rather corpulent walrus, sans tusks) – anyway it seems I am forty one. I was born in 1969: I will not be forty two till August. I could have sworn I was already forty two, so it was real shock, though I guess not an unwelcome one. It is ironic that I can list every Conservative, Liberal and Labour leader since my birth (despite little interest in politics), tell you the names of the principal advisers of Charlemagne, and discuss in depth neurotransmitters, or the geology of the Cotswolds, or many many other utterly useless subjects – yet I do not actually know how old I am. (actually I rarely know which day it is, and sometimes get confused on months and years, which probably accounts for my vagueness on my own age).
Anyway I’m forty one, and of generous build. Dave is about forty three (I know he is two years older than me, and we share the same birthday so I always know exactly how old Dave is if I know how old I am, which I don’t usually) and I think it is fair to say of equally non-athletic body. We are not going to win any awards as Cheltenham hunks, unless hunk is based on the dictionary definition of “a shapeless gobbet; a roughly torn portion”. Still after discovering that the toy shop on The High Street did not sell footballs – “not in season, they are summer toys” – er, I thought the football season was in the Spring? – well what would I know! we spotted a huge basket of them in SportsDirect, opposite. SportsDirect seems to sell lots of stuff dirt cheap, so we wandered in and found respectable looking balls at two for a fiver (size: Small, but they look football sized to us).
So Dave, sometimes known by his nickname “Beast”, and i bought a football, and proudly wandered, well shambled, through town with it. That alone should end the days of fifty million pound transfer fees – the sight of us two with a football has doubtless sent the style conscious youth of Cheltenham rushing to buy dominoes sets, eat cream puffs and donuts, and swear darkly never to be seen near a football field again. If we play football, it is no longer the beautiful game – it’s now something for the really scary old codgers, not something to admit to a passion for. OK, it might take more than one park kickabout before we kill the game off – but three more sessions and I reckon that will be it, terminally unstylish!
So we then set about texting everyone we knew who was likely to be available, as we had an hour spare, but astonishingly most people claimed they had to work late. Don’t they have windows? Or failing that, something they can quickly cosh the boss unconscious with before scurrying out to freedom? (you can see know why I need exercise or fags!) David and I had been working: now was clearly the time to play football. Luckily Paul Birkett was free, so we made our way to Winston Churchill Memorial Gardens, happy, free, and all to willing to kick a ball around and run amok on a Friday afternoon
On arrival we discovered the first problem; the gardens, once Cheltenham’s cemetry, before it filled up some time in the 1860′s, does not have much space suitable for ball games. Much is given over to the old funeral chapel, now a martial arts dojo as far as I can make out, and flower beds. We chose a patch of ground on the south side of the park – I did not mention to the others that the graves were only grubbed up here fifty years ago, as it seemed a bit grim, and makes me eye the mud on my carpet I trod home with a slightly bleak eye, as I think of the former residents who may be represented in it. It’s a nice park, but in future I think we will to Pittville Park: not only was that never a cemetery, but we can stay further from the children’s play area. Yesterdays Citizen headline was about some pervert monster who abducted a teenage girl being sent down — we definitely got the impression the mothers were very wary of what we were doing a few hundred years away, despite me engaging them in jokes about our ball skills and a rather playful Cocker Spaniel called inevitably “Jarvis”. Eventually I think they realised we were there to have fun, and not to harm their progeny at the far end of the park, and I think laughed at the sight of two fat wheezing old blokes chasing a ball (and the lean and exotically good looking (as the part-Dutch go) Paul, the rat – he still plays hockey and is much younger than Dave and I! – anyway I think the weird spectacle of us trying to get a ball past Paul in goal amused them in the end. By the time we left mothers and children had all departed, and a group of Asian lads who wandered through averted their gaze from the horrific sight.
Winston Churchill Gardens seems to always have a good number of Eastern Europeans enjoying the park, but they generally ignore me, or politely move as I wander through, and they seem to enjoy the gardens. In the summer you get native drunk teenagers and locals in little clusters, and the odd bit of hassle apparently from gangs of feral teens, but I have never had any problems with anyone: I often know a few of them though, and generally laugh and smile when they shout stuff. I used to push Chris around the Park in her wheelchair, and after dark I can imagine it’s a bit scary down there, but it s a nice place to go during the day, and very well kept and heavily used by lot of different communities, a real success for an urban green space. We wandered home tired, sweaty and smelly after an hour of running about, as the Park was swallowed in the evening shadows. By the time we got back to mine, the street lights were on, and night had fallen.
I tried again today, it being a Saturday, to find some people to kick a ball about, but no one was interested, except two mormons on my doorstep who promised to come if I could find any more people for a kickabout. I guess it’s simple really why I want to go back to being ten, as Dave pout it, and play ball in the park – I have no kids, no real reason for exercise nowadays, I don’t even need to keep for for work , and I’m sitting typing most of the time. Giving up the fags means I have put weight on, and I do seem to be getting more irritable, though hopefully that will pass – as I say it seems rare, and associated generally with having just eaten and wanting a cigarette. After two months I hope I’d be beyond all this.
Oh, and photos – yes I took a couple, just to prove Siv and I played football, (rather gently as as he has bad knees at moment) on my phone. But I can’t manage to email them off, so no photos this time. Think yourselves lucky, it’s not a pretty sight! If anyone would like to join us for a future kickabout, drop me a line. Pittville Park next time. Anyway, at least I’m much more relaxed now!
I don’t often go to the cinema – in my whole life I have seen eight films there. The Wizard of Oz (got scared and had to be taken out), Excalibur, Ghostbusters, Mississippi Burning, Dracula, the first Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings part one – The Fellowship of the Ring, Tombraider 2 – where I screamed and Lisa swore she would never go to the cinema with me again! That’s it, every film I have ever seen in my whole life at the cinema, until last night, when I went with Becky to see a film called Paranormal Activity.
I have watched about the same number of films on TV, and maybe the same again on DVD (including Star Wars, The Magnificent Seven, Battleship Potemkin, Oktober, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Producers (original version, never seen the new one) and Dr Strangelove. I have enjoyed all these films, and maybe I should watch more; but I acknowledge that many people watch more films in a month than I have seen in my entire life, so I may be the worst person in the world to review films. However compared with the other films I have seen, let’s get one thing straight — Paranormal Activity, the film I saw last night–was not very good. Or was it? I can’t make my mind up!
So what is the film? It’s pretty simple in concept – hand-held camera home movie of a couple experiencing paranormal activity. The two main characters are called Micah and Katie, a young couple who live in a house I think near LA. Katie experienced “paranormal activity” in her childhood home aged 8, then later at age 13 – though we learn very little about the second bout of activity. Micah is I think a “day trader”, which I assume is some kind of depraved bloodsucking capitalist vampire, or is that a “day walker?” On seeing their house my first thought was people this rich deserve to be haunted, I hope they spontaneously combust. That may just be me though… Actually in many ways the house was a star of the film – I wonder if it belongs to one of the cast? It has that kind of homely feel, and would certainly meet the overall theme of the film. It was almost an exploration of what could be, a house’s neuroses. It was anew house, like the Barnwood poltergeist case I investigated in 95 – it had a very authentic feel in that respect. A weaker film would have used an old house – this was a film which deals with the kind of noises in the night any new tenant has to face. I hope that was the writer’s intentions, because if it was he did a great job.
The plot, in as far as there is one, reads like something I would research or Becky would be studying for her PhD (which in case anyone does not know is on a replication of an 1894 Society for Psychical Research survey). Given we both are active in spontaneous case investigation, and both watched the film from that parapsychological perspective, our perspectives may be warped.
So I’m going to look at the film briefly on a number of levels..
Firstly as a film. It did not move me, certainly did not scare me, it made me laugh out loud a number of times, but in a nice laughing-with-not-at kind of way – Micah Sloat (yes he is actually called Micah, and Katie is played by Katie Featherstone) has some fantastic lines, and both characters are likable and believable. The ending was a bit naff, but overall the film tried for the ambiguity of the classic ghost story – it came closer than most to The Turn of the Screw in this respect, and Henry James’ The Turn of the Screw is the best you can get. I would have ended thsi film a minute earlier, with them just going downstairs after Katie screams – the final shot was really not needed. Still, full marks that the house did not blow up, the thing was never seen, remain an eldritch horror lurking off camera, and I will say the script by Oren Peli shows huge promise.
Was there a script? I should say “idea by Oren Peli” (I hope I got his name right, I tried to remember the actors and writer) because you get the idea that much of this was improvised – it’s the most natural dialogue I have seen since Alan Partridge stayed in a Travelodge outside Norwich, and actually that is really a serious compliment.
It works, and works well. A way in I suddenly whispered to Becky – Dogme 95, and i think she though I was mad, if she heard me. Dogme 95 was a manifesto I associate with Danish genius Lars von Trier (anyone seen Riget? Not Dogme 95, but brilliant – watch the series! ) Hand held camera, classic unity time and place, no budget, shot in colour with natural lighting – all there. This may ironically be the most commercially successful Dogme manifesto film ever – I’m just not sure if that was intentional, and Peili was aiming for that, or he just hit upon the same formula because it works so well for this kind of film. Oddly it seems far closer to Dogme 95 type films that to say it’s obvious parallel, The Blair Witch Project. I tried to sit through a video of Blair Witch once, mainly cos I knew a Cumbrian Witch called Jo Blair and thought it funny, but this film was better. Artistically, intellectually, creatively, an excellent film.
Emotional response; same as any review of a spontaneous case video; more interesting than the hours I have spent watching footage from locked off cameras waiting for the ghost not to show, but at least in those cases it was real. This being fiction made the tedium less acceptable, even if I just had to watch the edited highlights. This made Most Haunted Live look exciting: in fact it made sitting “backstage” at Most Haunted Live chatting to Phil Whyman and David Wells look like a hot night out. :) I was tired and if cinemas were more comfortable might have fallen asleep on Becky’s shoulder, as it was I ate a large bag of popcorn and was mildly entertained. Maybe some people are scared by this film — if so I suggest they do not attempt a career in paranormal TV, or spontaneous case investigation. I was personally more scared by the Muppets take Manhattan.
I was however drawn to Micah’s character – he reacts EXACTLY as I have on occasion – when folks were calling out “is there anybody there?” I have done exactly what he did “What is your Quest?”, “what is your favourite colour?” The Monty Python quip is an obvious one, and the mix of humour and suspense is good throughout, but I laughed a little too loud as I recognised something of myself, not least the absolute frustration that drives Micah to try and make stuff happen, and Katie’s resistance and just wanting the phenomena to go away – the central paradox of psychical research of this type, the people experiencing it want it to end, the investigators want to see more. The film captures that paradox nicely, framing it in the young couples reactions. There is probably something also about the voyeuristic male gaze – why men like porn and pictures, women relationships here, but I won’t explore that lest this become a nightmare essay. Oddly the film does not seem voyeuristic or an intrusion on intimacy to me, but then I was viewing it from the perspective of someone interested in the phenomena, not the relationship – this may be an unusual way to read the film and one my own odd perspective brings ot it. I’ll have to read some reviews later see how others not in this line of work see it.
Now let’s look at it with my “work” hat on. This comes closer to being what the kind of cases i have looked at in reality are actually like than any other film or TV adaptation I have seen. It feels authentic. The psychic was beautifully understated, and the phenomena were entirely believable. I found myself wishing I had a dictaphone to record the rumbling bumping noises and apply Barrie Colvin’s ideas on sound analysis of poltergeist cases h discussed at the recent SPR Study Day on Poltergeists to the sounds, which were disturbing – was infrasound used? Dunno! Only the ouija board scene seemed over the top to me – the recovery of the misplaced photograph was beautifully shot, and i keep trying to recall where I have come across that motif before, as I think through real pyrogeist cases from the literature. It seemed familiar. I thought the footprints of the thing seemed to be like those of a giant chicken – again something I think I have seen in have seen in the literature.
A couple of missed opportunities – having the bead clothes form a simulacra, whole body of face only is in keeping with the reported cases in the literature, I think Amherst, and of course M.R.James fictional Oh Whistle I’ll And Come To You My Lad, and an apparition of a rabbit or white animal, or a talking mongoose called Gef would have added to my pleasure. Actually if there has been a parrot in a cage I think that might have freaked me out and made me think this was a documentary after all, but I won’t explain that just yet – you get the idea I have found pet parrots involved in a rather a lot of poltergeist cases, why I know not! Unlike say Ghostbusters there were no knowing nods to the psychical research literature – and that was good, Katie and Micah are not normal people eschewing (strongly in the case of Micah) so-called “expert” involvement. Again, full marks for authenticity.
Now let’s talk Demons. Yes I know, another Sunday night in with CJ.
In the film the phenomena is interpreted not as RSPK (Recurrent Spontaneous Psychokinesis, or a common or garden lesser spotted Poltergeist to you and I) but as demonic, or perhaps to be more accurate daemonic activity. Actually, nah, let’s face it it was a demon. (A daemon is just a discarnate intelligence – angels, demons fairies, elementals, whatever other psychical bogeyman can be found on a Theosophophist’s shopping list really.) This was a demon – you know one of them satanic, malign, malevolent, evil, insidious beasticles which most cultures have in their cultural history. This is mildly disturbing, but mirrors something going on in real life.
When I first got in to the ghost business my Christian beliefs made me often feel a bit of an outsider – sure in the UK we have the Church Fellowship for Psychical And Spiritual Studies etc, and David Sivier and David Carter-Green. However Ed and Lorraine Warren, demonologists who see paranormal activity through the lens of the demonic were a peculiarly American, and I thought distinctly non-mainstream fringe. However, just as in the UK Most Haunted brought Spiritualism and spontaneous case investigation back together, and made the use of psychics fashionable (at least I’d be playing around with Gertrude Schmeidler’s ideas on Quantitative Assesment of a Haunted House for a good decade before that, and knew the pitfalls) in the USA demonology is now huge.
Ironically, given that I am famous (in some circles) for saying “if it acts like a demon, bites like a demon, stinks like a demon it’s a demon” I’m a bit disturbed by all this It’s not far from the idea that all paranormal event are demonic to seeing them rooted in people’s sins; the victim is once again victimised. Exorcism kills – you know my friend I wanted you to know that, because I am deadly serious. While the churches on the whole have been careful, circumspect and intelligent in requiring psychiatric, medical and natural explanations to be considered, there are now crowds of amateur US ghosthunters who see demons behind every rosebush, in C.S. Lewis’ memorable phrase. This film eschews the spiritualist “dead guy” interpretation of the poltergeist (the shade of Professor Ian Stevenson is no doubt annoyed) and equally rejects the “nervous break down outside the head” living agent hypothesis (and for once, the shade of D Scott Rogo shakes his head glumly in agreement with Stevenson’s spirit.) I am tempted to say it’s like William Roll never happened; it’s actually more like Roll, Gauld, Cornell, Cassirer, and all modern parapsychology never happened. Come ot think of it it’s like the whole 18th century never happened – we are stuck in that milieu Shakespeare lived in, just after the Reformation: ghosts might not be visitors from Purgatory, but instead ‘that damned mole’ may just be a demon masquerading as your father on the battlements of Elsinore Castle.
I have some sympathy with the theology and the analysis, but the ramifications and craziness that may follow as amateur ghosthunters throw away their EMF meters (ya!) and pick up crucifix and holy water terrify me. And i mean that – as I said to Jeff Belanger on the phone earlier this year, this can only end in a tragedy. :( Guys leave the spiritual forces to the devout ministers of God – we really can dabble in things we don’t understand (a point the film makes, through the psychic who is far wiser and more mature than the reality of dealing with such often leads me to expect. Astonishingly for an American film it also avoids religious symbolism, crucifixes, pious cant and much of the craziness – perhaps it’s a Jewish ghost – actually, Oren, Micah, I may be right, and if so I’m glad?)
So all in all, what did I think? I’m glad I saw it; a clever, well shot, intelligent film, not remotely scary but highly enjoyable, with a great cast, marred a little by the Blair Witch style opening and closing “it’s all real” credits. I look forward to seeing more of the actors – Micah Sloat is outstanding, and Oren Peli will doubtless go on to great things, and deserves an even better house than the one used in the film, or to buy that one if it does not belong to one of the cast! Katie Featherstone was very good too I think, and I could completely forget it was a film at times, suspend disbelief an actually get interested in the case.
But it won’t scare you, unless you a bigger wuss than even me, a noted self confessed coward who was terrified by and screamed out loud to Lisa’s horror…
OK, so I’m still recovering from a long weekend of debauchery. Well ok, I drank half a pint on Sunday night!
A good crowd of folks descended on Cheltenham, and some took part in almost everything, and some took part in only one event, and some appeared for five minutes then vanished as swiftly as they arrived! I think most people have come here looking for the infamous Screws of the World game photos though, so I’ll concentrate on posting those…
For those who don’t know, the Screws of the World is just a slang term for a British newspaper, The News of the World, which is actually quite readable and is a weekend paper – the daily is called The Sun, best known for it’s famous Page 3 girls. It’s a tabloid in the British sense, not the American, it reports real news! Anyway as the game was just named after it you don’t have to know any more – the game was invented by Ben Hayes and myself back in 2000 one long hot summer, and we played it then with interesting results, and some of the teams narrowly avoiding arrest…
So for my fortieth I decided to revive the game, and it can be explained simply – nine players were split in to three teams of three each, and given three hours to take photos to illustrate ten of the most outrageous tabloid headlines i could find (not all from the News of the World of course!) They had a total of forty real tabloid headlines to choose from. The photos that follow are some of the “best” of the attempts – team Jez, Martin and Barbie won in the end, their photos being voted the best, but that hardly matters. Here follow the photos, each captioned with the tabloid headline they were trying to illustrate…
I said I’d write something about the weekend, and i guess I should, but for anyone hoping for fantastic proof of the paranormal, look elsewhere! What follows is a short account of a weekend ghost hunt that was notably devoid of actual spooky happenings.
GSUK is a small psychical research group set up by Becky Smith and I after we stopped working for Richard Felix at Derby Gaol. It’s every much a group of friends, and we have a forum where we chat, occasionally talk about the paranormal and plan our low cost little ghost-tourism jaunts, where we go to supposedly haunted locations and stay a night, a lovely way to see the country. I can’t recall exactly how many trips we have done, but we have ranged all over the Midlands and South West of England, and our regulars do try to attend every single event, for which we are very grateful. Perhaps the most interesting thing about GSUK is just how little of a paranormal nature ever seems to happen to us – in all our trips, only on one have I been really convinced something very odd was afoot! So unlike many ghosthunting groups, we are spectacularly unsuccessful in our endeavours.
Another peculiarity of GSUK is the wide range of beliefs that members hold. A year or two back Becky and I got our folks to fill in Michael Thalbourne’s Australian Sheep/Goat survey, an instrument for testing belief in the paranormal. The majority of our members were actually extremely sceptical compared with the British public, and i was the second LEAST sceptical member of the group. Only one member counts as a strong “paranormal believer”. Yet we are convinced that the phenomena are worth investigating, and even Balders (Tony Robinson), our most sceptical member by far, is open minded enough to drive all over the country checking out the evidence for himself.
Even in religious beliefs we are diverse, ranging from Natalie Evans, our Wiccan-Spiritualist believer, through to the passionate atheists and then David Carter Green, David Sivier, Dawn Bedwell and myself, all practicing Christians. No, we don’t burn psychic believers at the stake – though if I could get away with it a few New Agers might make for a great open air barbecue! We are a tolerant bunch, often amused by each others ideas but we are good friends through shared experience I guess, even if the experience is limited to talking on a forum, eating together in nice hotels and wandering around looking for spooks! Anyway a great group of people, and we always welcome new people, as long as they are not loonies.
Anyway there was not even time to advertise this one on Facebook, where GSUK has 60+ fans – we just mentioned it on the forum, and it filled up immediately. We had to turn people away for once, almost unheard of! The plan was simple – make our way to the Old Bell, Long Street, Dursley, and book in, have a meal – the food there is simply wonderful, huge meals very reasonably priced, then drive down to the Ancient Ram Inn, Wotton-Under-Edge, stake it out till the early hours then return to the hotel in Dursley where people could sleep or sit up and look for ghosts as the mood took them. As the Old Bell is very reasonably priced, and we agreed we would give John Humphries owner of the Ram a sensible donation, the weekend was not too expensive, and I think it was worth every penny, even if I say so myself…
Getting There – an adventure in itself!
On Saturday Becky picked me up and we made our way to Dursley, where our intrepid investigators assembled form all over. Many arrived at Cam & Dursley station, or as Tracy calls it after an earlier visit, “Damn and Cursely”. Would be ghosthunters should note it is a few miles up a very steep hill from Dursley, and a couple of miles from that town and Cam. There is a bus route, but folks dropped of by train in what appears to be the middle of the countryside may feel a little hard done by, so arrange lifts or look at bus times in advance! Once we had all arrived at the Old Bell, we had the usual meeting and greeting, the aforementioned excellent meal, and as many of us had been to the Old Bell before, in my case many, many times, a cheerful social afternoon. Any ghosthunters reading this may wish to check out the Old Bell Hotel, a wonderful place to investigate with a genuinely ghosthunter friendly staff (and I’m usually available to show you round with enough notice as well if you want to know my side of the story – I blog about my previous experiences investigating the Old Bell here), but be warned – the hotel rooms are directly above Capone’s Nightclub, which is open till 5am in the morning, and the exuberant youth of Gloucestershire and pounding music are VERY audible all night.
On a previous investigation we ended up parodying Most Haunted, with me shouting “Did You Hear That?” over the sound of dance music, and when an ashtray moved in the dining room on the first floor it was clearly the vibrations from the speakers. You would have thought we were disgruntled, but not a bit – it’s very comfortable and we all I think enjoyed a good nights sleep, except those disturbed by certain member’s almost legendary snoring! However if you are planning to investigate here, do choose a week night.
At seven pm we set off for the Ancient Ram – you need cars to get there across the hills from Dursley, it’s about thirteen miles I think. We set off in convoy but some cars quickly became detached, but most of us went the wrong way in Wotton itself, and when Becky and I took the lead we could find no where to turn round, so we drove some eight miles before we finally managed to turn back, and I managed to get us to the Ram. We arrived in darkness, and pouring rain. I know where it is, I have been many times over the years, most recently being filmed for a US show called Ghost Adventures (Travel Channel, showing this month) just a month or two back, but I can’t find the Ram’s postcode anywhere and so Sat Nav was useless – and owing to some fault Becky’s Sat Nav played up all day.
The Ancient Ram House
I have quite a long association with the Ancient Ram. Back in 1993/94 I conducted a lengthy investigation, including a 72 hour vigil with a team. On another occasion I investigated alongside a team from ASSAP, and with the CPRG made a number of other trips there. I believe Derek and Harry’s report will still be filed at the SPR offices in Marloes Road – I was not actually party to the report, and am not sure what was said therein, but I certainly personally formed the conclusion that there did seem to have been a series of poltergeist type events in the late 1980′s when John’s daughter was resident in a room at the top of the stairwell. My memory, which may be faulty, was at the time we investigated John lived in the area which is now called The Barn, and was sole resident. I don’t actually recall the “ancient grave” which is in the main room downstairs, though I do know it was apparently uncovered in late 1968, so how I missed it I have no idea! The house itself is far more cluttered than it was then, and the upper storey and attic is now no longer reachable, after the staircase collapsed under the weight of some rather large ghosthunting ladies. This has led to some notoriety for John Humphries as he has signs up which inform the public that fat women are not welcome upstairs! If you are at all sensitive about your weight probably best give the Ram a miss – even if you are slim as Becky, who is positively thin, you might be worried the building might collapse about your ears.
The Ghost Adventures episode was not my first time with TV at the Ram – Most Haunted filmed there, though I was not present, in the period I was a researcher for them, and ditto Dave Barrett’s Y Files and of course the episode of Ghost Hunters Spectres of the Severn in which I feature quite prominently talking about fault lines and Gloucestershire hauntings in relation to the geology of the area. The building is definitely picturesque, with features of historical interest, and there has been considerable controversy about the council’s refusal to help the owner John Humphries preserve a grade 2 (star) listed building which is clearly in structural disarray, and at the time of his taking it on in 1968 was actually as I understand it condemned to demolition. I do not really know the ins and outs of the court actions, and the loss of an adjacent area of land ot New Life Church Dursley following another court action, but it is clear that John is struggling to keep his home in a habitable condition and that the property requires massive capital investment if it is to be there for future generations to enjoy. Ghosthunters are one of the ways, along with American tourists brought to the building by a Mayflower connection, that John is able to attempt to fund the restoration.
Arriving finally at the Ram it was already nighttime, and we managed to make John hear and gain admission. He has recently been hospitalised after local kids beat him up after breaking in (he is 82) and he is now very security conscious. He proved, despite many rumours, an excellent host, and we all felt sorry for the sweet old chap, who is little like the more vigorous and opinionated John Humphries of the 90′s. He gave us a lengthy guided tour, in the course of which I noted several features I had not seen before, but mainly I was amazed by how much stuff he had accumulated – almost every room is filled with piles of stuff, from furniture to soft furnishings, stacked high. When Most Haunted was filmed they must have carefully filmed round this, unless the clutter is much more recent.