Spooky Isles interviews Andrew Homer from Coventry Paranormal Investigators about his 20 plus years as a paranormal investigator in and around the West Midlands.
What was your first Paranormal encounter?
Many years ago when I worked for an FE College I was in the building very early one morning to prepare for an important meeting. It was the old part of the building dating back to the 1920s. As I was walking down the long corridor I clearly saw a small, dark suited gentleman walk briskly across in front of me and disappear straight into the special needs base room I was heading for. I recall that he had a very rectangular briefcase which struck me as being quite old fashioned. At the time we had been losing coffee from the kitchen area in the base room and as far as I was concerned here was the culprit! The room had only one double door and so I would have seen if he had come out again. Quietly pushing open the door I went inside to surprise him. Looking around it was immediately obvious that there was no one there and nowhere he could have gone. As luck would have it one of the older engineering technicians recalled the room being used to teach mine engineering in the 1950s. He also recalled the long deceased lecturer who taught there, one Sam Thompson. Apparently he was a slight, smartly dressed chap who always arrived early for work.
Do you believe in ghosts, and if so, what is a ghost?
I think terms like ‘ghost’ and ‘apparition’ are useful because they provide a context which we can all relate to. Personally I prefer terms such as ‘anomalous phenomena’. Whilst I have no personal doubt that people do have such experiences I don’t necessarily think that the experiences themselves provide much of a clue as to the mechanisms behind them. This, for me, is one of the aspects that makes paranormal research so fascinating.
What evidence have you personally uncovered that makes you consider ghosts are real?
The fact is even after so many years and investigations I have uncovered scant evidence of ghosts at all. Yes, there are plenty of anecdotal reports including my own experiences of investigating anomalous phenomena,but from a scientific point of view this would not be regarded as any kind of evidence at all. This is one of the challenges facing those of us who do field research.
Are you skeptical of the claims others make of their findings?
So many seemingly paranormal occurrences are perfectly explainable that I think it would be wrong not be sceptical of the various claims made. However, I think it is equally important to apply the same level of healthy scepticism to my own investigations and experiences.
How do you prepare for a ghost hunt?
I fill a large thermos flask with hot, black coffee!
What tips would you give for someone going on a paranormal investigation for the first time?
See answer above! Try to remain objective and don’t be too influenced by what others may say they are experiencing. Until you have worked with regular team members over a period of time you have no way of knowing how people are likely to react in different situations. I was once invited along to an investigation where a particularly strong personality within the group had her team convinced they could see a figure walking along the top of a castle keep. I saw nothing.
What is your favourite piece of paranormal investigation equipment?
Over the years I have generally stopped using the types of gadgets commonly available for paranormal investigations. The one piece of equipment I do regularly use though is an infrared sensitive, low light head cam. As I wear it the camera can record everything I see and hear and provides recorded evidence of whether any experiences were objective or subjective.
Are you psychic? Do you consider being psychic a help or a hindrance for paranormal investigations.
No, I don’t consider myself to be psychic at all. I have worked with psychics where it is the psychic themselves being investigated. In these circumstances the psychic is given no clue as to where they are going beforehand.
What makes a great haunted location?
For me, it is a location which can be investigated over a period of time and one which yields interesting phenomena on a regular basis. These sorts of locations are few and far between but I have been fortunate in investigating one or two over the years.
If you could investigate any haunted location, where would that be?
I find old aircraft and airfields fascinating. Although I have doubts about the validity of some of the stories I would like to investigate the alleged ‘haunted bomber’ (Avro Lincoln RF398) and hanger at Cosford Aerospace Museum.
What scares you about Ghost Hunting or Paranormal Investigations?
My scariest incident happened during an investigation at Dudley Castle and Zoo in the West Midlands. In the week before the investigation we had received a report that the shadowy figure of a lady had been seen in the shop behind the door to the visitor centre.
The shop itself was in darkness as we started our investigation at 2.00am. Light from the visitor centre was clearly visible below the heavy wooden door. I was sitting behind an infrared camera concentrating on the doorway. After a short while I thought I saw something move in the visitor centre behind the door. At first I thought it was just a trick of the light but as I looked I was sure something was starting to stir. As I watched the movement became more definite. The shadow could be clearly seen moving about silhouetted in the light under the door. As I watched I tried to determine some shape to the silhouette and it was around then that I started to feel decidedly uneasy. Sitting there in the darkness witnessing this I suddenly became very aware that the shop is situated not too far away from where the zoo keeps the spiders; big, poisonous spiders that bite to kill; spiders which can leap great distances and knock small birds out of the sky. Enough was enough. I suddenly panicked and yelled at the others to turn the lights on. Having now abandoned all investigation of ghosts we gingerly turned our attention to the unwelcome visitor. With me leading our intrepid team from behind we very carefully approached the visitor centre door and looked underneath. And there it was staring right back at us. Amid much laughter at my expense, a very small and extremely harmless Naterjack toad was gently lifted up and carried outside to be placed safely in the long grass!
In your opinion, what is the most haunted area in the UK or Ireland?
This can be endlessly debated but I think for the sheer wealth of allegedly haunted locations and ghost stories the Black Country, in the West Midlands, takes some beating!
Read any good paranormal books or watched any good paranormal TV shows/movies recently?
Shameless plug for my latest book here! Haunted Hostelries of Shropshire, Amberley Publishing, offers a fascinating insight into some of Shropshire’s most haunted pubs, inns, hotels and licensed properties.
Tell us about your favourite moment from a paranormal investigation.
There have been many but one particularly memorable incident occurred at the Ancient Ram Inn in Gloucestershire. The Ancient Ram Inn boasts a plethora of ghostly sightings and paranormal activity including, in owner John Humphries’ own words, strange glowing lights. It is rare for investigators to experience reported phenomena first hand for themselves but the Ram proved to be one of those rare occasions for myself and fellow investigator Steve Willis.
It was at the start of the night’s investigation and we were busying ourselves transporting video equipment from the car into the Inn. One of the areas we were keen to investigate was the Bishop’s room upstairs where reputedly few ever stay the whole night. Access to this room was through an area quaintly named the Gentleman’s Kitchen from the days when the Ram was still used as an Inn.
Carrying a large and quite heavy box of infrared video equipment into this darkened room we were both surprised to see a round glowing ball, yellow in colour and about the size of a large round light bulb, moving silently just below the ceiling. It travelled slowly for a few feet across the room and then simply vanished. We both had a clear view of the glowing light so we can at least conclude that it was an objective phenomenon that we experienced that night. Of course, having state of the art low light video recording equipment is of little use if it is still in the box!