Sunday, 20 March 2016

Peterborough Museum, Cambridgeshire

Back in the day, when Laura and I first started to work together, one of the things that we decided to do was to take a different approach to what we had previously done as individuals previously and cast our net wide to widen our experience, including participating in a couple of organised ghost hunt events. Please don’t judge us on this.


Background
One such event that attracted my attention was held at Peterborough Museum, in Cambridgeshire. Whilst now relatively well known as a ‘paranormal venue’ on the well-trodden event circuit, originally, at that time, had a far lesser reputation.

It appeared to offer an exciting nights experience. It allegedly was haunted by at least four ghosts, probably the best known of which was that of a young Australian Soldier, from the First World War, Sergeant Thomas Hunter.

Hunter passed away at the building, which was being used as a hospital at the time, having succumbed to serious injuries, incurred whilst fighting on the Western Front.

However, as this was an event situation as opposed to a proper investigation, I didn’t bother to research the history of the building, paranormal or otherwise, so we could enjoy the evening for what it was, as well as observed how such events were organised.

Laura, as always, knew nothing about the building, other than it was in Peterborough.

And it was a Museum.

The Museum had only just recently made itself available for hire overnight, thanks mainly to a sympathetic liaison officer in Stuart Orme and its stock was rising on the paranormal event circuit, with mainly positive feedback.

In addition, as a bonus, it also represented a relatively short drive for us so, with our immediate schedule relatively free, we found ourselves on the road heading towards deepest Cambridgeshire, with hopefully an interesting evening ahead.


Arrival
We arrived at the museum at around 8pm, fashionably late as always, only to find that all the other guests had already arrived and were settled inside the building.

Announcing our arrival by knocking loudly on the main doors, we were quickly guided to a group of 25 people or so that were gathered in a large room, where the briefing had already started.
Being the last to arrive really felt just like back at school and arriving late for morning assembly.

This room was a large room (or a small hall) that was being used as the hub for the investigation. Somewhere where we could stow our belongings and act a meeting point between sessions.

After about 10 minutes or so, where a short resume of the history of the building was given (and perhaps priming the expectations of the assembled ‘ghosthunters’), we were told that before we commenced the ‘investigation’, we would tour the building first with Stuart, who obviously had a wealth of knowledge of the location.

At this point, Laura commented to me that the group was larger than she had expected and didn’t think that she would be able to pick anything up tonight as she found such a large gathering of people distracting and off-putting.

Strange how things turn out.

A few minutes later, without any warning and, having just said that she felt the size of the group unsettling, Laura whispered to me that a guy a couple of rows in front of us, in a red t-shirt (who we subsequently learnt was Marq English, of MEV Productions / Spiral Paranormal), “had something" – implying some kind of psychic skill, although she wasn’t sure what.

Laura felt that it was possibly healing, but left it at that and thought no more about it.

We then left the hall for our tour of the building, which, despite the exhibits, had the feel of a large family home rather than the Museum that it now was.

In the former operating theatre later in the evening. Whilst everyone's
attention is focused on the glass, one sneaky team member decided to rummage
through the contents of Laura's bag....



















The Tour
During the tour, we quietly listened to Stuart as he told us about the history of the building, its original purpose as a large family home, to its subsequent uses as a hospital, offices and now, in its role as Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery, that it had served since 1931.

Our tour stopped in the cellar, where we stood in the dim light listening to Stuart winding up his narrative.

To access the cellar we had to leave the building and go down a flight of stone steps outside the Museum. At the foot of the stairs we were greeted by a wooden door, which allowed entry to the cellar, which was really a complex of small storage rooms, arranged along a single passageway.

As we shuffled around the side rooms forming the cellar, whilst in the room at the far end opposite the entrance staircase, Laura told me that she thought that there used to be a tunnel leading from the cellar to a local Church. She later explained that It appeared to her that the cellar now was just ‘too small’. (1) 

It was at this point that we were stood in the doorway of this room with 1 other person and Stuart, where I made an interesting observation out of the corner of my eye.

I looked across to Laura, who had a distant look in her eyes and not really listening to what Stuart was saying.

As we filed out from the cellar, Laura told me that, as we were stood in the doorway, she had suddenly become distracted by what she could only describe as shadow-like mist, in human form, in the corridor leading back to the entry staircase.

The shadow had moved back towards the stairs, getting smaller as it moved further away.

Laura advised that it could have been her imagination, but it would be interesting to see if we experienced anything further when it was our turn to return to the cellar later during the vigil placements.

Now, I found what Laura had said very interesting, as at the same time as Laura’s sighting, I also thought that I’d observed a shadow of human form where no one was standing at the time, at the end of the entrance corridor. 

This suggested that we had both observed the same phenomena, the only difference being that I saw it more as a misty brown shadow as opposed to a darker version as seen by Laura.

However, the issues for us with this shadow is that, with all the people and stray lights present, was this actually a shadow cast by a real person as to genuine phenomena? (2)


The Fun Begins
Once we had got back to the hall, we had another short debrief, during which Laura pointed out another guest, a female just in front of us, wearing a red and white top. This female, Laura advised would pick up something during the evening.

To explain, as strange and improbable as it seems, Laura has always felt that she could tell from people’s eyes if they had psychic abilities and she had just seen something in the female’s eyes that indicated that she had.

Briefing over, we were split into a couple of small groups by one of the event staff.

Laura and I soon found ourselves in a group of 7 people – ourselves, a father and daughter, two females (one of whom was the female in the red and white top) and Marq English, the guy in the red t-shirt.
Sometimes it’s amusing how things work out.

Laura told me that she felt comfortable with this group of people whilst I just found myself wondering how long it would be until the first coffee break.


1st Vigil – Cellar Dwellers
For the first vigil, we found ourselves back in the cellar, where we spent most of our time in silence, recording and listening for any odd sounds to announce the arrival of an obliging ghost.

Nothing.
Laura, in the cellar.

Towards the end of the vigil Laura picked up upon a Male, a porter, with the first name of ‘Harry’, but nothing else.

For myself, I used the session to sit in quiet contemplation of the potential quality of the coffee available in the forthcoming refreshment break.

The time duly arrived and, when I look back, I like to think that my deep contemplation hastened its arrival. It was most welcome in any case.


2nd Vigil - Ground Floor
We started this vigil in the ‘shop’ at the main entrance area.

Once again, we sat in silence for around twenty minutes or so, with nothing of note occurring, I just hoped that the audio that I was recording was picking up some EVP for us to review later.

Eventually, we all mutually agreed to move to another area.

We walked up the hallway, towards the main staircase, quickly exploring the side rooms as we passed, until we got to the stairs, where a couple of the group sat down, allowing the rest of us to take some photographs.

At this point in the proceedings, Laura starting pacing back and forth before leaving the area and exploring some of the side rooms on her own.

Laura later reported that she felt nothing in the rooms, apart from the kitchen, where she got a smell similar to that you would experience in a butchers, complete with ‘sawdust and everything’.

Laura eventually returned to the group at the foot of the stairs and stood there for a couple of minutes, before stating that she’d heard a someone say, in a female voice, the name ‘Ann’, which she felt was in connection to the stairs.

At this point, the group above on the first floor started to get a little loud, which Laura found distracting and she was unable to pick anything else up.

After several minutes had passed, we all decided to split up and do our own thing and meet back up for the last 30 minutes or so of the session to do something as a group again.


1st Floor
Separating from the others, Laura and I found ourselves in the area set up as little shops, as an illustration of life in Peterborough, in the last century.

We sat there alone for a while, to see if we could experience anything.

After about five minutes we were joined by Marq English, whereupon we tried calling out to see if we could get anything.

This session was commenced by Marq calling out unexpectedly in a broad Australian accent, which Laura found very amusing, to try and extract a response from the Australian Serviceman that was believed to haunt the building.

Once again, we were met with silence.

After a short while, Laura suggested to me that we move to another area. She advised that the only thing that she’d picked up from our time in this area was that it should be more open and that this area of the Museum had been changed structurally.

From here Laura and I moved to what she now refers to as the ‘Children’s Room’. As soon as we entered Laura picked up on the presence of several children in the room with us. (3)

After a short while we were again joined by Marq, whereupon we decided to sit down behind some dividing screens.

Whilst there, Laura advised that she could not get the idea of the children out of her head, even seeing in her mind the image of several children in the room playing.

We tried calling out and asking questions for responses that we hoped we could capture as EVP when we reviewed the audio later, but alas, upon checking the recording later we found that we had received no responses.

Laura then started searching the room and soon returned with a Pritt Stick (a glue stick for the uninitiated), which was the only suitable object that she could find. Laura then proceeded to ask ‘the spirits’ to attempt to move the Pritt Stick for us.

We tried this for a while, with again no response. I can only surmise that the Pritt Stick had stuck to the table, making the object unmovable for the spirits......

We were eventually joined by one of the organisers, who asked if the three of us wanted to join the rest of the group, who were now gathered on the other side of the screens, for a séance, to which we agreed and rejoined with the rest of our group, near the cabinet containing a sword.

We soon learnt that several of the people in our group had never taken part in a séance before, which, upon reflection, should probably not have been a surprise to ourselves.

Having formed a circle, with some of the group linking hands, the séance commenced.

Laura felt that the people that she had picked up upon earlier, in the other areas of the Museum, especially in the cellar area, were connected to the spirits attempting to communicate with us during the séance.

Two females amongst our group came over very emotional throughout the séance, including the female in the red and white top and there were cold and tingly feelings felt by Laura, that was also reported by the others taking part.

Things were starting to become interesting and we wondered how the rest of our evening would map out.


3rd Floor
After a short break for refreshments, we commenced our session of the top floor of the Museum, starting in the room containing a coffin.

Initially, Laura and myself sat alone in this room for a while, as the group had again agreed to split and do their one thing, meeting up later near the end of the session for another group vigil.

Again, from my perspective, I observed nothing of note, although Laura commented at one point that her hair was being played with, along with the word ‘April’.

Laura could not be certain if this was the name of a female, although it was a female that she received the word from, or whether ‘April’ was significant as in an anniversary related to the female herself.


The search for the lost contact lens........
Eventually we were joined by one of the organisers, who sat with us for a while.

During this time Laura continued to attempt to get a connection with the female, but despite endless calling out, she wasn’t able to manage it.

Unlike the other sessions, time seemed to pass quickly and soon the rest of our group rejoined us for the last vigil, seemingly scuppering Laura’s intention to go out onto the stairway to see if she could pick up anything there.

However, the rest of the group threw themselves into a séance, so Laura and I left the room and went out onto the stairway to see what we could observe, if anything, there.

We sat on the stairs for about five minutes, with nothing of interest occurring, so we decided to rejoin the rest of the group back in the room for the end of the session.

As we retraced our steps back up the stairs, with myself leading, Laura suddenly stumbled at the doorway to the coffin room.

Laura later advised that she’d thought that there was another step to climb and started to feel confused, wondering where the step had gone. At the same time she felt as if a male had put his hands around her neck.

Laura continued to explain that then she felt as if she’d taken a blow to her forehead, as if she’d been head butted. This was the only way that she was able to describe it to me. (4)

Laura and my leg, sat on the back staircase.
Entering the room we found that the rest of the group had their séance well under way. I then realised that I’d left my torch back at the staircase, so I immediately left to retrieve it, leaving Laura to join the circle.

Once I’d reached the stairs, I set upon making as much noise as I could by proving that it wasn’t wise to walk around unfamiliar buildings in the pitch black by throwing myself downstairs. Laura later did ask me what I was doing when I went to get the torch.

Dusting myself off, I retrieved the torch and I can confirm that I found it much easier to move around the building by torchlight........

Back at the séance, Laura was starting to pick up on some information relating to former occupants of the Museum that were still in residence.

Drawing the séance to a close, Laura started to summarise what she had picked up to the rest of the group and tried to clarify who she though the occupants were.

For Laura, whilst the séance was interesting, the room never really held any attraction for her.

Once we’d finished, we all made our way down to base camp in the hall on the lower floor, where we took another break before having a final hour of free time where we were able to investigate wherever we liked in the Museum.


Free time
During this time, no organisers were present, as we were pretty much given free rein to do as we pleased for the final session, as promised.

During this time we worked our way through different rooms in the building, over different floors, to try and pick something up, but it was to no avail.

We finished the night up on the top floor, joined by one of the organisers, who we shall refer to as ‘D’, who had joined us earlier whilst we were attempting to make contact with spirit using a glass (glass divination).

When Laura spotted ‘D’, she started to relate to him some of the things that she had picked up upon previously throughout the evening, to see if, maybe, this would help with contact.

Whilst Laura did this, ‘D’ appeared surprised at some of the things that he was being told and asked Laura if she had been to the location before, to which she confirmed that she hadn’t.

‘D’ went on to confirm that most of what Laura had told him was correct, which appeared to pique his interest, so he decided to accompany us for the remainder of the session.

From here, we moved to the back staircase area to try once again with the glass, but as before, no ‘response’ was obtained.

We then all agreed that we would try one last attempt with the glass in the cold fan room, opposite the coffin room.

Once settled, we tried sitting for a short while before attempting the glass divination experiment, to see if perhaps we could build up the ‘energy’ any more.

Again we tried making contact via the glass and nothing happened, although Laura picked up some personal information connected to one of the other members of the group. However, she kept this information to herself, trying to make sense of it.

The excitement of glass divination.....

This was the first time that Laura had ever had been given information to pass onto someone before and she wasn’t what she should do with the information.

She felt that, if she was right, it was all well and good, but she was wrong she could be setting herself up for an embarrassing fall and that at that point Laura didn’t trust myself enough to do so.

Therefore, if Laura did pass on the information and it was wrong, she feared that her trust in whatever information she picked up in the future, would be gone.

With this dilemma, Laura kept going over and over the information in her head, until she finally decided that she needed to pass on the information whatever and simply just see what happens from there.

Approaching the other member of the group when he was alone, Laura passed on the information that she had been given. To her shock, the person accepted all of the information that she gave. Laura was genuinely surprised by this, whilst the person remained silent and looked almost upset.

With time running out, we soon called back to the hall for the final de-brief, effectively bringing our time at the Museum to an end.


Post Investigation
In conversation several days later Laura advised that she thought that the Museum was a great location for many reasons, the main one being that fact that it didn’t feel like a Museum at all during the whole time that she was there, but more of a grand house or home.

Laura appreciated the layout of the building and felt very relaxed there, which was the reason why, she felt, that she managed to open up and obtain some verifiable information during our time there.

With everything that she had experienced at the building, it was the final piece of very personal information that she was able to pass on to the other person that stood out and, with them able to accept this information gave her great confidence going forward and she felt that the location, in the scheme of things, was a key milestone in the development of her ‘sensitive’ abilities, if this was the correct term to use.

Overall, a very interesting evening at historic building that, in addition to what Laura picked up, a lot of which the Museum Liaison Officer, Stuart Orme confirmed was correct on the night, provided us with over six hours of audio for analysis, along with numerous photographs and video footage.
  

Notes:

1.      A tunnel leading from the Cellar to a nearby Church
There were references to local tradition of there being tunnels in the area. However, the Museum Liaison Officer, Stuart Orme, himself has pointed out that this would be most unlikely due to Peterborough being on the edge of the Fens and the geology being totally unsuitable to house any tunnels.

However, checking the ordinance survey maps, the Museum was in close proximity to a Church and the Cathedral and, there was an account from an elderly witness, who allegedly found a tunnel in the vaults of the Cathedral and was even able to explore them for a distance when they were a child.

Was this the tunnel that Laura was referring to?

  
2.      Shadow figure in the Cellar
I quickly found reference to a dark hooded figure that haunted the corridor, although few actual witness accounts. Was this what both Laura and I had witnessed whilst down in the cellar?

It seemed to fit the bill perfectly, but it’s important not to jump to any conclusions.


3.      ‘Children’s Room’
I found that this area was allegedly haunted by a young girl, whilst Laura picked up on several children.


4.      The Back Staircase
This area is not accessible to the public in everyday use and is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a Maid, who was said to have lost her life on the staircase.

It isn’t known if she fell, was pushed or lost her life through some other means, but witnesses have previously reported being pushed from behind by unseen hands.


How did this compare with Laura’s experience of having hands placed around her throat and the sensation of stumbling at the top of the stairs?    

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