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  • Writer's pictureElizabeth McCafferty


Updated: Mar 15, 2022

By Elizabeth McCafferty

All cards on the table, I’ve been obsessed with the supernatural ever since I can remember. Do I believe in ghosts? No. That being said, when the opportunity arose to go on a paranormal investigation, I felt it was my chance to finally try and capture proof that ghosts are ‘real’. In one evening, my paranormal scepticism could be shattered with irrefutable evidence… This was an opportunity I couldn’t pass on. My hope for the evening was for it to be filled with hours-worth of unexplained occurrences. My dream was that it would leave me running out of the building, screaming in terror.

After becoming trapped in a rabbit hole one evening, googling various buzz words: ‘ghosts’, ‘ghosts in London’, ‘scariest ghost captured on video’…I came across a paranormal investigating couple, Martin and Susan*. They sounded like the ultimate power couple and I was so ready to be the third wheel on their next mystical date.

Having completed a diploma in parapsychology (don’t ask), I felt pretty tooled up to debunk the shit out of ghostly encounters.

After getting in touch with the duo, I was able to come along to their next event in Englefield Green Social Hall in Surrey. I’d bought a mini microphone for my phone to maximise any potential opportunity to capture evidence. Having watched a lot of ‘Most Haunted’, it seemed apparent that in order to achieve the ultimate results, my best bet was to aggressively provoke the ghosts in order for them to display angry protest behaviour. I’ve also been warned that doing this can be irresponsible and is asking for a possession, so naturally this sounded like the most appropriate tactic.

“Tap once for yes, twice for no.” I practiced into my phone. I needed to get the tone exactly right; authoritative but not vulnerable enough for the spirts to take advantage. It’s sort of like what my therapist advises me on ‘stating boundaries’… calm but strong.

‘Calm but strong’ lasted all of 5 minutes upon arrival. I had dragged my ‘bestie’ with me, as my friends often respond to my solo adventures with concern and question how I’m still alive.

Clambering out of the car, I immediately saw a pair of men loitering outside the backdoor of this seemingly normal looking building. Trying not to look too bemused, I wandered over and casually asked:

“You here for the….”

“…Yes” he nodded abruptly, saving unnecessary embarrassment from both parties.

I tentatively creaked open the door, immediately losing all composure when I saw the mountain of excellent crisp and biscuit selections they had provided for the break. I tried to remain composed and professional in the presence of Susan and Martin but in reality, I was fangirling so hard that my friend told me I needed to ‘calm down’. I wanted to create the ‘I’m not a tourist’ illusion like people do on holiday, but I was fooling no one.

There were about 8 people here for the ‘hunt’. Each seemed like a seasoned pro, unpacking cases of their own equipment and putting on their personalised t-shirts. “Do you at least have a torch?” one asked. Rookie error number one. My friend and I sat in amongst this army of pros, questioning whether we should have got pissed first.

The hunt started very promptly with the following warning from Susan: “We have a strict no alcohol or drugs policy, just to make you all aware you will be asked to leave if we suspect anything.” My friend glared at me as we silently kicked ourselves for sounding like crazed party animals in a very sober environment.

The lights were turned off and we were all asked to stand in a circle and hold hands to create a stronger energy for ‘the spirits to use’. It’s safe to say the spirits did not use our energy. They didn’t use our energy for about 2.5 hours. There were lots of little taps and bangs that everyone apart from me and my friend seemed to hear. As the night went on, I was getting a serious case of FOMO.

After having a fifteen-minute break and eating precisely 3 packets of crisps and about 9 biscuits, we were back in the game. It was now time for the Ouija board, which was what I was most excited for.

“The board has been blessed.” I was informed. Initially, when we started the board (circling the planchette three times clockwise), there was a free-for-all frenzy of us pleading with the ‘spirits’ to come forward. After many failed attempts, Susan took the reins and showed us how it’s really done.

“Who do you want to speak to spirit?” the planchette shot towards me. There was a gasp. “The spirit wants to speak to you! Say something!” they all nudged me with eager eyes, encouraging me to talk. I gathered up the authoritative voice I’d been practicing in the car, this was my moment…

“Err…hello? Do I know you?” The planchette slowly moved to no. “What is your name spirit?” I span around immediately after, trying to catch out any ghosts dawdling behind me that might be out of eyesight. The planchette slowly crept around the board, spelling out ‘William’. Baffled, I asked what he wanted to talk to me about. He eventually spelt out ‘Mum’ and that ‘Rachel’ wanted to say hi. (Spoiler alert, I casually mentioned this to my Mum the next day… she confirmed that no, she did not know either).

“Thank you for coming through spirit.” everyone chanted in chorus.

I hate to sound hard to please, but this was far from the juicy content I was expecting from the board, surely there was someone more interesting we could speak to now we had opened the portal to the other side. Elvis? Marylin Monroe?

“Do any other spirits want to come through?” said Susan.

“Yes” moved the planchette.

“Who do you want to speak to?” she said. The planchette shot towards me again. I became obsessed by the adrenaline this board was giving me.

“WHO ARE YOU” I said confidently.

“Derek” it replied.

“DEREK” I boomed, “WHAT MESSAGE DO YOU WANT TO TELL ME DEREK?” I was delighted to be so at one with the spirits. I eagerly called out the letters as the planchette moved around the board spelling out…’Smile’.

I am very opposed to people telling me to smile but keen to rekindle our now dwindling new friendship I added… “anything else Derek?” The planchette shuffled around the board spelling out bizarre combinations of words and letters that made no sense. “Move the planchette, please Derek, please communicate?” I begged, desperate to go home with the irrefutable evidence I was longing for…but he was gone.

“Thank you Derek.”

I’ll be honest, I was disappointed. So instead, my friend and I ran off with the Ouija board and headed into another room to conduct our own private investigation. The board did nothing. William and Derek had officially ghosted me. Another member from the group came to join us but after 30 minutes we all politely chanted “thank you spirits” and stopped the board, secretly bitter about the lack of communication.

Having shuffled sadly back through the building to find the others, we were invited round the table for another go at the Ouija board.

It was time for Susan to work her magic again. “Who’s there?” The planchette hesitantly moved around the board. “What is your name?” I called out, getting a little over these pesky spirits.

The planchette slowly crept around the board…

“F…U…C…K OFF.”

Well that’s more like it. “THAT IS NOT NICE SPIRIT” snapped Susan, irritated. “We will not be playing with you if you’re going to behave like that.”

“F…u…c…” It teased.

“GOODBYE.” said Susan. I was impressed with her no bullshit boundaries but also gutted, we were getting closer to the juicy content I was so desperate for.

“Who else is there?” She asked.

“DUCHESS” it spelt.

There was quite a reaction from this name… lots of ‘oh god’ and ‘evil spirit’ warnings.

“Hello Duchess,” I said delightedly.

Suddenly, with absolutely no build up to such a forward question, one of the pros roared “DID YOU MURDER SOMEONE HERE DUCHESS?”. “Yes” it spelt, and if I was to assume…proudly? “Stab…stab…stab” it continued to spell. There was lots of nervous fidgeting round the table. “Who? Who did you stab?” Martin called out. “fifty-seven…children.” Spelt the Duchess.

I don’t in any way want to belittle the Duchesses ‘achievements’. But let’s be honest, claiming to have stabbed 57 children seems to be getting a little silly now.

Miraculously, according to the board… only a few of these fifty-seven tragic stab victims ‘died’. I was perplexed by the entire thing and of course immediately googled it on the journey home. After trailing the internet for precisely 5 minutes, it was pretty apparent that none of this was ever documented in history. So did the ‘Duchess’ just own up to a heinous, undiscovered crime? Or was this all just a scam to add drama into a pretty tame evening?

The board was closed hastily by everyone saying ‘goodbyes’ and ‘thankyous’ to the spirits. Why we were closing the board at such a scandalous insight into the duchess’s history I don’t know, but if ‘Most Haunted’ taught me anything, it was that 99% of team members will get too scared and stop the investigation as soon as anything actually happens.

I loved meeting Susan, Martin and the Duchess. Who knows what happened that night? Did the experience make me a believer? Absolutely not. I feel a lot of people will be calling it a scam, but actually not for one moment was I suspicious of that. Science says that the body can make natural involuntary movements due to having your finger held still in a certain way, which is the closest explanation I can think of as to why the glass moves without anyone consciously doing it.

Regardless of whether I believed it or not, what I did get from the experience was a strong sense of community; built upon years of traditions, stories, history and memory making. That in itself makes it pretty obvious to me why people dedicate their lives to investigating the paranormal. It’s the thrill of the chase, the shared experiences, the adrenaline and the hope that one day, you’ll capture that piece of irrefutable evidence and it will all be worth it. What the irrefutable evidence is however…well that ball is very much in your own subjective court.

*Names have been changed.

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