A look at the ghostly goings on in Berkshire

PUBLISHED: 11:59 18 October 2016

Reports at Donnington Castle ruins include a vanishing guard in period dress mistaken for a guide, the Green Lady who asks why the gates are closed, and a ghostly white dog running down the hill (Photo: flickr.com/photos/76928444@N03)

Reports at Donnington Castle ruins include a vanishing guard in period dress mistaken for a guide, the Green Lady who asks why the gates are closed, and a ghostly white dog running down the hill (Photo: flickr.com/photos/76928444@N03)


Fancy your very own fright night or spooky weekend? Claire Pitcher introduces us to the ghost hunters of Berkshire

Glowing orbs, creepy voices, the rattling of chains, a face at the window. Most of us think we may have witnessed something chilling during our lifetimes. When we were little we sat in the dark with friends telling terrifying tales of made up axe men or zombies who appear from under your bed. I even remember going with friends to visit the grave of William Palmer the Poisoner at the church in my hometown; just so we could scare ourselves.

But now, as adults, have you ever considered investigating whether or not those terrifying tales could be true? Berkshire and Buckinghamshire are both renowned for their haunted locations. From caves and country houses to prisons and pubs there are now plenty of opportunities to join a ghost hunt to see apparitions first hand.

Black Cat Paranormal often investigate some of West Berkshire’s most haunted places. Founded by Clare Durrant and Emma Thorn, the team regularly takes people on nighttime adventures into the unknown. “When I was young I saw spirits,” says Emma. “I’ve always been interested as a hobby, then five years ago my dad passed away, and I became more serious about contacting him.” She says she’s been able to sense spirits from a very young age – an invaluable skill for her role at Black Cat.

Sending shivers

Friars Walk Shopping Centre in Reading, The Old Lamb in Theale, Donnington Castle and Shaw House in Newbury and Clayfield Copse in Reading have all been investigated by Emma and Clare. “They’re all very haunted and we have gathered a huge amount of evidence,” she says. But the most haunted is Shaw House: “While investigating we were able to make contact with several spirits and caught footage of a woman in white on the stairs.

“We’ve had a lot of contact with an American airman named James in Clayfield Copse, too.”

So what actually happens on a ghost hunt? Emma explains: “We use our senses as much as anything, sitting quietly and calling out, asking for a response.”

The hunting kit - The girls also use a multitude of different technologies to attempt contact. These are just a few:

• A spirit box – this is a device that rapidly scans radio frequencies, producing white noise. The spirits are said to be able to communicate using the noise.

• DVR (digital voice recorder) – This is used to supposedly record spirit voices, which are thought to be on a much higher frequency than the human ear can hear.

• Digital still camera – To capture any paranormal activity.

• Full spectrum night vision camera – This picks up images that the naked eye, or normal cameras cannot detect.

• EMF (Electromagnetic Field Meter) - This picks up fluctuations in the electromagnetic field (spirits are thought to be made up of electrical energy).

• Infra red thermal thermometer – This detects fluctuations in temperature.

• Laser grid – This enables hunters to detect shadows passing through the beam.

• Dousing rods – A Y-shaped branch or L-shaped metal implement believed to reveal energy fields.

• Ouija Board – A board with letters, numbers and other signs around its edge with a pointer which moves to answer questions from people at a séance.

• Spirit Dice – These have letters on them and can be used to receive guidance from the spirts. 

Sceptics welcome

You don’t have to believe in ghosts to join a hunt, as Emma points out: “We have a wide range of guests, some believers, some sceptics, but everyone is interested. I think it’s similar to white knuckle rides in a funfair, or watching horror movies. People like to be scared. Others may be looking for closure following the loss of a loved one.” Indeed, the girls are often asked to conduct private investigations: “We investigate for free, for the love of what we do. We investigated my daughter’s house, as she had been experiencing voices and things being moved. We found that these were simply past residents who were checking in and were no threat.”

Believer or not, the fact remains that ghost hunts in the UK are becoming more and more popular. You can go for an entire weekend, an overnight stay or just for a few hours in the evening. Perhaps you’re like me and will only believe in ghosts if you ever see one and you want that chance? If however, you think there might be something lurking in your loft or gliding round your garden, Emma can assist with some tell tale signs of your home being haunted: “Keep note of any electrical fluctuations. There could also be cold spots, objects moving, or you may just have a feeling of unease, or not being alone.” I know who I’m gonna call…


The Southern Ghost Society

The three founding members of the Southern Ghost Society, Gary, Dan and Lee Marchant, have been interested in the paranormal for more than 10 years. It was in 2010 they decided to form a ghost society. Their mission is to investigate the country’s most haunted spots, including Aldermaston Manor and Hell Fire Caves in West Wycombe, Buckinghamshire. A favourite spot is Shaw House and their ghost hunts there cost £47.50 per person. See southernghostsociety.co.uk for dates.

Shaw House Tales

In the October of 1644 Shaw House witnessed the Second Battle of Newbury and although the house remained unscathed, hundreds of soldiers died in a standoff. Some believe this could explain the ghostly goings on at the estate. Full body apparitions have been reported throughout the many rooms, as well as the sound of battle on the lawns.

The building has four floors to explore, including a basement where people have reported a ghostly voice and an unwelcome presence. The upper floors have rooms containing artefacts from the house. Perhaps it’s this mix of history and key possessions that is responsible for the many ghostly sightings? Look out for the ghostly lady seen waiting on the grand staircase and listen for the cries of battle from the spirits of soldiers still trying to defend the house.

Ghostly Goings On have a hunt there on 14 October, cost £49 per person. Established in 2012 and based in Gloucestershire, Ghostly Goings On has held over 200 public ghost hunting events around the UK. They could be overnight investigations, spooky sleepovers and even private ghost hunting events. From gaols and mansions to castles and asylums, their locations will send shivers down your spine. See ghostlygoingson.com.

Windsor Ghost Walks

Groups can enjoy a spirited walk and tour in the Royal town courtesy of either windsortouristguides.co.uk or windsorwalks.co.uk. Windsor apparently has some pretty famous ghosts in its shady streets – there’s some macabre history to discover.

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