Andrew Homer discusses his new book, Ghost Hunting in the Black Country and Beyond, with DAVID SAUNDERSON
Interview with Andrew Homer about Ghost Hunting in the Black Country and Beyond
SPOOKY ISLES: Congratulations on your new book, Andrew. What inspired you to write Ghost Hunting in the Black Country and Beyond as a companion to your previous gazetteer guide, Black Country Ghosts and Hauntings?
ANDREW HOMER: It was feedback from readers basically. Many had similar comments wishing that the stories could be covered in more depth. Rather than simply expand on the stories I targeted locations where I had investigated and then whittled those down to where something unusual had actually happened whilst I was there.
You’ve mentioned in the past that paranormal activity is far from reliable. Could you elaborate on how this unpredictability has influenced your investigations and the writing of this book?
Before the prevalence of commercial groups and paranormal tourism the research group I belonged to, Parasearch, would often be invited in to investigate a location because it was active.
Our aim was to investigate as much as possible, knowing that the activity would likely be short lived.
The book records those times when paranormal activity was experienced. Nowadays, locations seem to be investigated due to reputation only, not because they are necessarily currently active.
Ghost Hunting in the Black Country and Beyond chronicles more than 25 years of paranormal investigations. How have methods and technology in the field evolved over that time, and how has this changed your work?
I wouldn’t necessarily agree that techniques and technology have evolved!
For most of my time the main tools were still cameras, low light cameras, audio recorders and environmental recording equipment such as electronic thermometers, calibrated EMF detectors etc.
These days there are any number of phone apps and expensive ghost hunting ‘gadgets’ which are frankly pseudoscience.
Wide range EMF meters are a good case in point. It is impossible to determine what frequency is triggering the lights and mobile phones, unless actually turned off, can do it very effectively!
Among the haunted locations you discuss are Dudley Castle and the Ancient Ram Inn. What makes these places stand out in terms of paranormal activity?
In the case of Dudley Castle, we were called in because very credible witnesses were having very strange experiences. As related in the book some of this activity was also experienced by myself and the team.
The Ram was similar in that two of us had a highly visual experience. My colleague was a serving police officer at the time and a trained observer.
Your book includes QR codes for actual location footage on YouTube. How important do you think this multimedia element is for the reader’s experience?
I think it is important on a number of levels. Firstly, the environment we were in can be seen. Secondly, the readers can make up their own mind as to what might be happening.
Also of course it shows that something did happen – the mighty bang at Drakelow Tunnels is exceptional!
You’re both an active investigator and an author. How do you balance these two roles, and do you find that one informs the other?
I’m not so much the investigator now as I do far more writing. Not just on the paranormal either as many of my books are history books. Of course, it is sometimes possible to combine both which is particularly satisfying for me.
Your previous books have focused on haunted pubs. What is it about these establishments that make them such fertile ground for paranormal phenomena?
It’s interesting. Most pubs will usually claim something if you ask.
Perhaps it is the vast number of people who have shared their various emotions within their walls.
Also, pubs are places where people choose to go. Maybe paranormal phenomena is a manifestation of that same choice!
How challenging was it to find previously unpublished stories for this book, and did any of them particularly surprise you?
Although the book has the stories of haunted locations, it is really my own experiences in investigating them.
From this perspective they are virtually all unpublished! In getting it all down for the book I was surprised at just how much there was!
Could you share an example of how your own investigative experiences have enriched the stories in this book?
It’s not all deadly serious! I have included a chapter called ‘Would you believe it?’. Amongst other experiences is the time I met a mediaeval knight complete with clanking chains one night at Dudley Castle. I don’t know who was more surprised!
Are there any locations or phenomena that you haven’t yet investigated but are on your wish list for future projects?
I have now made the permanent move from the Black Country in the Midlands to Devon so who knows what new projects may lie ahead!
Ghost Hunting in the Black Country and Beyond is available from Amazon.