ANDREW HOMER takes a look back at Most Haunted: Woodchester Mansion
Episode Title: Woodchester Mansion
Location: Woodchester, Gloucestershire
Series: 7 Episode Number: 96
Originally broadcast: 2005
Review: Woodchester Mansion is one of those ‘must visit’ places for fans of the paranormal. It comes as no surprise then that the Most Haunted team returned after first filming a live broadcast from the abandoned Victorian Gothic mansion in 2003. There are many stories of hauntings associated with Woodchester and the grounds but in her introduction Yvette Fielding concentrates on the poltergeist type activity experienced during their previous visit together with mention of a hooded monk seen on the first floor, strange light effects, loud bangs and falling masonry.
Woodchester Mansion was abandoned by the builders in 1873, most likely due to the death of the owner, William Leigh. However, Yvette also speculates that a murder may have caused the sudden departure of the workmen, some even leaving their tools behind them. Children’s laughter, a man in uniform and a lady in 18th century costume sobbing inconsolably are also mentioned. The sobbing lady is interesting as Woodchester never became the family home it was intended to be so why should she be there? Richard Felix provides a possible clue here when he mentions the Georgian Spring Park Mansion, a much earlier house which existed on the same site. It is always interesting to hear witness’s accounts at first hand. In this case, Wendy Milner relates how she was staying overnight after a late night event and was awoken at 2.00 am by a disembodied female voice seemingly floating around the building. The voice was repeating over and over, ‘I want to go home’.
Psychics for this investigation include Gordon Smith and David Wells. Parapsychologist, Ciarán O’Keeffe does his best to try and validate what they pick up by getting them to plot where they feel the active areas will be on a floor plan of the building. Gordon Smith picks up on a strong Catholic influence which is confirmed as being associated with the original owner, William Leigh. Both psychics also pick up on the forceful influence of a stonemason in the building and interestingly David Wells senses things being thrown at him which turns out to be foretaste of things to come. Unfortunately, anyone who has tried to work objectively with psychics will know about the possibility of conscious or even unconscious contamination from information already in the public domain. For a well-known location such as Woodchester Mansion this has to be taken into consideration.
The actual investigation starts fairly quietly with the team splitting into three groups covering the cellar, the upper floors and the tool room. Gordon Smith picks up what may be spoken French in the tool room with Yvette and Ciarán. A short table tilting séance in the kitchen has Ciarán speaking French to try and encourage some activity. However it is the next vigil session, which sees Yvette upstairs with Karl Beattie and Stuart Torevell, which provides the most interesting footage from the night. Karl and Stuart both mention hearing footsteps behind them which are not recorded. Shortly after this something is seen on camera to fly through the air past Stuart and is clearly heard to hit the wall of the corridor. The event was recreated on camera almost perfectly by throwing a small piece of stone. Sceptics may well dismiss this as something set up by the crew. However, I have personally investigated Woodchester Mansion a number of times and on one memorable occasion experienced exactly the same type of activity myself, the cause of which was never satisfactorily resolved.
Karl and Stuart decide to do lone vigil sessions in the cellar and on the second floor respectively. Both experience the sounds of doors banging and movement noises. The door to the cellar where Karl is situated shuts suddenly when there is seemingly no-one else down there. Stuart experiences another stone being thrown and hears someone groan in his ear but this is unfortunately not recorded.
Loud bangs, stone throwing and doors opening and closing on their own are of course very simple things to set up. However, from my own investigations at Woodchester I can at least confirm that what they appear to have recorded that night tallies almost exactly with experiences I have had there. Personal recordings of very similar events include unexplained loud bangs and on one occasion a door opening with no-one anywhere near. Ciarán O’Keeffe rounds up the programme by stating that the stone throwing incident recorded on the second floor is their most interesting film footage to date. If it is indeed genuine footage then I would tend to agree.
ANDREW HOMER has been investigating anomalous activity for over 20 years and is a member of Coventry Paranormal Investigators (CPI). He has written extensively on aspects of the paranormal and his books include Beer and Spirits and Haunted Hostelries of Shropshire. Andrew can be contacted at ghostauthor (at) virginmedia.com
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