ANDREW HOMER shows us why even the most seasoned paranormal investigator needs to go back to basics and reveals his key ghost hunting equipment.
When I joined a paranormal research group in the early 1990s I had only one piece of equipment. It was a rather large and cumbersome camcorder. I had one battery which was good for about 45 minutes and a new VHS-C tape.
In my innocence, I had the idea that I would set the camera up on its tripod and in order to save both battery and tape only turn it on if something happened. Big mistake. Something did happen.
Our group had been officially invited to investigate strange goings on at Dudley Zoo and Castle. Specifically, the little Round House near to the main entrance had been subject to much recent paranormal activity. Chris Jeans (Bonkers the Clown) had been employed to entertain the children over the summer season and was lodged in the Round House.
He was so disturbed by misty figures on the stairs and in his bedroom together with loud banging noises that he spent many a night sleeping in his car. Around midnight, myself and two other investigators were positioned in the Round House. I was upstairs on my own and my camcorder was downstairs sitting on its tripod.
To this day I have no idea what caused the tremendous bang which came from inside the tiny building. Despite a search nothing had moved or fallen over. If only that camcorder had been switched on and recording!
A salutary lesson which has stayed with me throughout many years of investigating the paranormal.
Over the years I have probably used or at least experienced most items of equipment used for ghost hunting. At one time, my equipment box for investigations needed two people to lift it and plenty of time to set everything up.
You name it and I or one of my fellow investigators most likely had it. I well remember carrying this box with a colleague through the Gentleman’s Kitchen of The Ancient Ram Inn at Wotton-under-Edge.
As we entered the room we both witnessed a ball of light about the size and colour of a large light bulb float slowly across the room just below the ceiling before disappearing.
Having a fully functional low light level camera is of little use if it is still in the box. It does often seem to be the case that something interesting happens whilst setting equipment up or indeed taking it down again at the end of an investigation.
The only time I have ever seen a full colour solid looking figure in good light occurred at the end of an investigation at the Hawthorn Care Home in Stourbridge.
The camcorder covering a downstairs corridor had been switched off and I was carrying it still attached to its tripod back to the lounge to dismantle it.
As I entered the lounge a young man in fairly modern attire and with his back towards me was leaving through the door to the hallway on the opposite side. My sole colleague on the investigation was to my right and unfortunately facing the wrong way.
The only other two people around at the time were two female night-care workers dressed in white uniforms and making drinks in the kitchen at the time.
We had been called in to the care home to investigate different apparitions being seen by staff and residents. One of these figures, according to the owner, was her son who had been tragically killed in a car accident. Again, if only that camcorder had still been switched on.
In recent years, I have gone very much back to basics by replacing the large box of assorted paranormal gadgetry in favour of relatively simple camcorders and a low light sensitive headcam to chronicle any investigation as thoroughly as possible.
In fact, my personal preference is the continuously recording infrared sensitive headcam. This has two distinct advantages. Firstly, anything I see or hear should be recorded providing of course it was an objective event in the first place. Secondly, any footage can be examined closely afterwards and also shared out for others to offer opinions as to what might been recorded.
A classic example of this occurred during an investigation in Drakelow tunnels, near Kinver, in March 2015. Drakelow was a shadow factory during WWII and also converted to a nuclear bomb shelter during the Cold War.
There are some three miles of underground tunnels here and many reports of paranormal activity, some of it associated with the deaths of three men in a roof fall during the construction of the tunnels.
Near the end of the investigation we were all in 1st Avenue, Government Department, near one of the nuclear blast doors. As we got up to leave my headcam recorded some still unexplained footage.
There was no-one anywhere near the area concerned and all of our team were accounted for in the tunnel. There was nobody else in the complex. A thorough search of the area revealed no clue as to what might have caused the tremendous bang we all experienced.
A similar event was captured almost by accident during an investigation in November 2016 at The Bonded Warehouse in Stourbridge. The Bonded Warehouse is a three-storey canal side building dating back to 1799. On the top floor, a series of visible heavy roof trusses create a large open space beneath.
This area is said to be haunted by a little girl who skips and plays together with an old boatman seen up in the rafters. Not quite as bizarre as it sounds as the roof space above the rafters was probably once boarded over and used for storage.
I was not aware that a trigger object had been placed on a chair in the middle of the room. No-one else was in the room at the time as the rest of the group were all in a back room. The trigger object had been there for some considerable time before my headcam recorded some interesting footage.
The trigger object was a ball which had been placed in the middle of a chair much earlier in the evening. Whilst the ball bouncing off the chair can’t be seen the audio recording is unmistakable. Having an additional visual cue is invaluable when trying to isolate recorded sounds.
Woodchester Mansion in Nympsfield, Gloucestershire is the archetypal haunted Gothic mansion with many stories associated with it.
Prior to an investigation here in November 2012, I had been advised that activity had been experienced in the room normally used as the base room. This room is on the ground floor and is one of the few fully glazed areas in the mansion. I set up a camcorder here not really expecting to record anything.
This door can be clearly seen opening with nobody in the room behind. The sound you can hear are the hinges creaking as the heavy door slowly opens seemingly by itself. The door only did this once during the entire night as the camcorder was recording the whole time.
Interestingly, my camcorders and headcam proved to be the only equipment to have recorded these events. What these clips hopefully show is the value of employing straightforward recording equipment to capture as much of an investigation as possible.
Whatever you may make of the clips, and I make no claims whatsoever that these are in any way paranormal, without them the events that occurred would be simply anecdotal.
High tech ghost hunting gadgetry is all very well but basic audio video recording can still yield interesting results. Oh, and don’t forget the large flask of coffee!