Author Damien O’Dell talks to Spooky Isles about his latest book, a ghostly history of Chicksands Priory, a top-secret UK Intelligence centre in Bedfordshire.
Due to its location in the “Golden Triangle” with Woburn Abbey and Bletchley Park (famous for its role in the Enigma Machine’s code-breaking), Chicksands has made a legendary contribution to intelligence gathering. O’Dell has extensive knowledge of Chicksands from his many years of service there as a guide. O’Dell investigates the truth and stories of the Priory’s numerous hauntings over the course of the prior 1,000 years, spurred on by his paranormal investigations and rigorous research.
Damien says: “When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991 the Cold War ended. It was plain to see for the Clinton administration, that the time was right for the withdrawal from Europe of some of America’s tactical resources. These were scattered throughout the Continent.
“At the same time new communications technologies for relaying signals via communications satellites became available and were inexpensive. Signals intercepted by human operators could be collected as effectively by operators in the U.S., at much lower cost.
“Teams of radio operators, analysts and telecoms specialists were seen as obsolete and comparatively expensive to maintain at Chicksands Priory.
“The writing was on the wall for RAF Chicksands as an American base. At the same time the Priory’s role was dwindling, to bi-weekly guided tours hosted by the Friends of Chicksands, who also organised occasional musical evenings. The Chapel was used for the happiest of occasions – the weddings of some young men and and women of the USAF.
“Inevitably the base would be closed. In 1993 and again in 1994 the 450th Intelligence Squadron was listed to be ‘inactivated’ – but it was reprieved. The drawdown on the defence budget was remorseless. The ‘Chixers’, as the Americans called themselves, would be returning home in 1995.
“Paranormal phenomena continued to be witnessed, both inside the Priory and outside, within its environs. The local press, sensing a good story, obtained permission to conduct their own ghost hunt. They would not be disappointed. They gained first-hand experience of unexplained events inside this haunted house. Inevitably the national press, The Sunday Times no less, began to take an interest.”
Alan Murdie, Chairman of the London-based Ghost Club, writes in the Foreword: “The positive enthusiasm for research and interest in recording events at this location shines throughout. Whatever view one may take on ghostly experiences, all those interested in this topic will surely be impressed by the amount of fascinating material shared in these pages concerning this unique location.”
Damien O’Dell, born in West Kensington, London, has been interested in the unexplained since childhood. He has authored a series of paranormal books including Ghostly Bedfordshire Reinvestigated, Paranormal Bedfordshire, Paranormal Cambridgeshire and Paranormal Hertfordshire. You can find out more at www.damienodell.com
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