Sunday, 7 March 2010

A skeptical view of a sinister haunting

The last few days have been paranormal research focussed because of the event that I took part in yesterday evening that saw me travel to Littledean Jail in Cinderford, Gloucestershire to introduce a group of ten people to paranormal research and the tricks of the 'trade.'

I've only ever been to the jail once before and it was an interesting visit but I didn't come away from the place last time with the belief that it was a haunted location. It has a huge catalogue of things that are supposed to have happened there and things that have been witnessed by people that sound spooky, and as much as I do genuinely believe that these people witnessed what they thought was paranormal activity, I'm not so convinced that it was, but that's simply because I cannot accept just anecdotal evidence as a form of proof. Not because I think the people who witnessed oddities are stupid because I don't think that at all.

The main occurence that was reported to the group I was with, and is also published on the jail's website and across the internet in various places is the visit of another local paranormal investigation team that ended with them apparently running from the building in terror. Why? Well, the jail has a room that is a holocaust exhibit and in one of the display cases is a mock-up of a hanging gallows with four or five small figures hanging from it. Apparently, during this other teams visit they witnessed one of the hanging figures swaying on it's own. This coupled with the lights going off and a strange noise sent them running in fear.

We broke this reported occurence down into three parts. Lights, noises, movement of the figure.

Lights

We believe that the lights going off could have (and probably does have) a rather mundane explanation such as, a power outage, or a technical glitch, a power surge or something similar. It would have been impossible for the team present to rule those explanations out straight away, and as we can't really investigate what could have happened we can only speculate as to what happened. We had the lights on for the majority of our time in that area and nothing odd happened with them.

Noises

We couldn't recall the noises that were reported by this other team, however, as the group all stood in the holocaust exhibit room we did note that the floorboard were all very noisy and some of them were loose because of the age of the location and the general wear and tear. We also heard lots of noises from above us where the family living quarters are which would have been the family moving around, and we also heard noises from the corridor and cell areas outside of the room that were simple groaning noises and clicks that were, quite simply, the building and it's contents settling as the location got colder. Nothing out of the ordinary.

The figure moving

This reported phenomena was easy to explain away because the moment that we moved towards the exhibit where the hanging figures were one of them began to swing. The more we moved around the display case, the more it moved. Our investigation of this phenomena ended with me jumping up and down on a certain floorboard that th display case leg was sitting on. This caused three of the figures to move with quite some force. Simple.

As we got ready to leave the location later on in the evening the owner came down to see how we had fared and we gave her our conclusion about the moving figure but she wasnt convinced. This other paranormal team had seemingly convinced her that the moving figure was caused by some sort of paranormal occurence.

I find that quite sad really that a paranormal team wouldn't rationalise something so simple, something that took us five to ten minutes to explain, and would allow the owner of the location (who also lives at the location) to believe that something paranormal had caused what they witnessed.

It often makes me question just how such people and such teams operate and how desperate they could be to witness something seemingly paranormal even if it means fooling themselves and fooling the people around them. This could potentially have a harmful effect, and it does have many ethical implications that sometimes such teams just don't consider.

It annoys me a bit that teams such as WPR, and the investigators who volunteer their time to help me and my co-founder investigate and study reportings of hauntings from a skeptical and logical stance are often made out to be the bad guys when clearly we are the sort of team who don't have such a negative effect on the location and the people we are dealing with.

I would love to experience something I can't explain, and I have at some locations I've visited but I never leave the location owners or staff thinking something sinister is with them, or that they have a paranormally active location. I always explain that just because I can't explain it doesn't mean it is paranormal or unexplainable. It proves nothing. Does this really make me the bad guy? I don't think it does...

1 comment:

  1. Thinking back to another conversation on a social networking site, this is a good example as to why a paranormal investigation will rarely solve anything in a genuinely scientific manner. You can find a likely, compelling explanation but it's vastly different from a scientific explanation. Not sure why I'm wasting my joints writing this as you already know this!

    I must get to Littledean Jail at some point as I have never been there. However, I have spent a few very depressing (non-ghostie related) evenings in the Littledean House Hotel, also allegedly haunted. Guessing that you got there by turning off the A48 by the Texaco garage at Elton, that junction is also supposedly haunted by the figure of an old woman who crosses the road, walking out in front of cars. In terms of folklore the Forest of Dean is a very magical place.

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