Spooky Isles talks to Steve Potter, who has been a paranormal investigator for 20 years, six of them with Parasearch, He works mainly around West Midlands and surrounding counties, specialising in image, both digital/video and film.
What was your first Paranormal encounter?
In the 1980s, I worked in a very old building which was used as a photographic studio with extensive black and white and colour darkrooms. I would be the first in at around 6am to start the film and paper process up and while working, I heard the two colour darkroom light trap doors opening, I thought,‘blimey, someone’s in early!’Upon looking up to see who it may be, there, instead of a person, was what I can only call a dark amorphous shadow.To say the least I was somewhat surprised and I still don’t know why I called out and walked towards it; this shape proceeded to move through the brick wall! ‘What?!’ I thought;I really could not believe what I had just observed! I pulled myself together and very nervously carried on with my routine, but with heightened awareness to every noise and movement. I decided not to mention this to other members of staff, thinking,‘no Steve, it was an overactive imagination’. But my colleagues sensed something was wrong, eventually I told them but instead of laughing, they all said,“oh, that’s Burt, he won’t hurt you, we’ve all seen him, he’s been here for years!”
Do you believe in ghosts, and if so, what is a ghost?
I’m a skeptical believer, in the sense that evidence of the paranormal has an elusive quality to it; I am a believer because sometimes this paranormal phenomenon occurs hard-edged in our physical world, appearing to fulfill objective, empirical criteria. That’s the million dollar question, what is a ghost?Is it internal or external?
What evidence have you personally uncovered that makes you consider ghosts are real?
As of yet, I do not have any proof–positive cases, but I do have some examples of odd, even inexplicable happenings experienced by witnesses, investigators and myself on occasions.
Are you skeptical of the claims others make of their findings?
Sometimes yes, you need to be skeptical of the claims made, which can be problematic due to the lack of physical evidence and filled with perils, not merely for investigators but the skeptics alike.
How do prepare for a ghost hunt?
Clear my mind, wear warm socks, check the batteries in my trusty red-filtered Maglite torch.
What tips would you give for someone going on a paranormal investigation for the first time?
First, find a good, scientific-based research group like Parasearch, keep an open mind, try to be objective, don’t expect to see or hear anything on your first vigil, unless you’re very lucky and no screaming.
What is your favourite piece of paranormal investigation equipment?
Parasearch and I now regularly use digital, low light, infrared-sensitive head cameras. These cameras record everything investigators observe and hear, providing recorded evidence of any experiences recorded and whether this is objective or subjective.I also use a full-spectrum camera, covering infrared and UV as part of a Parasearch research project.
Are you psychic? Do you consider being psychic a help or a hindrance for paranormal investigations?
I am about as psychic as a brick! No, being psychic is not a hindrance, I have worked with several psychics on investigations with Parasearch;they have been very helpful, surprisingly.
What makes a great haunted location?
Any locations that can be studied over a long period of time (longitudinal study), but finding such locations can be problematic and gaining access difficult. Parasearch are very fortunate to have access to such locations.
If you could investigate any haunted location, where would that be?
That’s a difficult one! There are so many, but Baskerville Hall in Powys, mid Wales, would be a good place to investigate. The Hall is well known for its ghostly hounds, but there’s far more paranormal activity occurring there too, with reported sightings of many spirits including the White Lady. Baskerville Hall was the location in which Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote most of his novel The Hound of the Baskervilles. This magnificent mansion was first built back in 1839.
What scares you about Ghost Hunting or Paranormal Investigations?
I’m not scared at all while on investigations, but I have once been unnerved somewhat! This occurred in the Drakelow nuclear bunker under Kinver, well, in the tunnels of the WW2 shadow factory actually; we were being shown round by the site’s guide in a fairly large group and as we walked round this fascinating site, I slowly became aware that something was following us round the tunnels (sense of presence). This was the first time I’d ever felt an actual presence so strongly;mentioning this to other group members, some of us hung back slightly from the main group to see if we could observe anyone…nothing!At the end of the tour, the guide told stories of ghosts seen in the tunnels;just as he was about to finish, he said,“oh yes, the guys reclaiming the metal in the tunnels are on edge; they don’t like being down in the tunnels by themselves, they say someone’s following them!” We all looked at each other! Strangely, this unnerved feeling followed me home.
In your opinion, what is the most haunted area in the UK or Ireland?
I think this is difficult to say, as the UK is literally the most haunted isle; most areas of the UK have stories of haunting, ghosts and anomalous phenomena,but I’d have to say the West Midlands, because I am from there!
Read any good paranormal books or watched any good paranormal TV shows/movies recently?
Beer and Spirits by our Chairman David Taylor and ex-member Andrew Homer, Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files, on the Syfy channel, a great show with investigators that don’t always proclaim it’s real and use good scientific methods of investigation.
Tell us about your favourite moment from a paranormal investigation.
This was at a charity warehouse in Redditch; the warehouse was quite large and filled with all kinds of furniture. A colleague and I were sitting in the dark on one of the settees; the darkness was pierced by a shaft of light coming from the open door at the far end of the warehouse, which penetrated the gloom a few metres in front of us. The owners of this establishment were watching television in this room! Other members of Parasearch were strategically placed around this large building, with low light cameras and assorted monitoring equipment.
I’m thinking‘what the hell am I doing sitting here, freezing my butt off at God knows what o’clock,’ when my attention was drawn to movement literally at my left shoulder;a shadow (that’s the best way I can describe it) moved across my field of vision: “George,” I asked,“can…”“Yes,” George replied,“I can see it!”
Now, this is the really bizarre thing; this shadow was somehow darker then the surrounding darkness of the warehouse; even more bizarrely, when it passed through the shaft of light, it blocked the light and cast a shadow on the pillar in front of our position, now that, as far as I know, is not possible. I had a camera sitting on my lap, but I was so surprised by this apparition that I never used it;typical! Okay, we started to rationalise this shadow; first we went to the lighted room and asked,“guys, have any of you passed the open door in the last half minute?”“No,” came the reply. “Was it a car passing?”“No,” they replied,“the shadow would have been on the other wall!”To this day, I still have no idea what we saw in the dark in this warehouse!