Caution Ahead: Why Ghost Hunting This Halloween Is Not Child’s Play


Heading out to ghost hunt this Halloween? Veteran paranormal investigator DARREN W. RITSON warns ghost hunting is not for the faint-hearted and far from mere entertainment.

Ghost hunting can be dangerous you're not careful, warns DARREN W. RITSON

It is true to say that being involved in active paranormal research, every now and again you will find yourself in certain situations that could be deemed as ‘dirty your pants’ scary. Anyone who tells you, ‘I don’t get frightened or nervous while investigating the paranormal’ is either a barefaced liar or hasn’t yet experienced genuine, full-on paranormal activity.

At the end of the day, we are all human beings, and those involved in this type of research are dealing with something about which we know very little. It’s only natural that, from time to time, we will lose the plot and run from a ghostly situation. I am being deadly serious when I say paranormal investigating is no joke; it certainly shouldn’t be deemed as ‘entertainment’ and is no laughing matter.

I have been involved in ghost research for the best part of my life and have experienced phenomena that most people would give their right leg to witness. All I can say is, ‘Be careful what you wish for.’

Investigating the now-famous South Shields Poltergeist case back in 2006 put me in good stead for other, more terrifying investigations yet to come. Funnily enough, looking back on that case, I find that most of the phenomena I witnessed at 42 Lock Street were more bewildering than actually frightening, although some aspects of the case were indeed truly terrifying to say the least.

Darren W Ritson
Darren W. Ritson

The point in that investigation when I really felt unnerved was when the poltergeist began issuing death threats via mobile phones. Contagion (an aspect in poltergeist activity when investigators and those close to the principal experiencers begin to experience strange phenomena in their own homes, etc.) played a large part in the South Shields case, and one wondered if those sadistic death threats that Marianne received would come my way. It certainly wasn’t nice to see someone being almost hacked to pieces before your eyes either—by an invisible force that could, if it so desired, do you some serious harm too!

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After South Shields, I have to say that most paranormal investigations I attended were quite frankly a walk in the park. Nothing really compares to Lock Street, but there are a few moments that have come close; one before and one after.

The first incident occurred on an investigation up the Northumberland coast in early March 2005, when I was fortunate enough (or unfortunate, depending on which way you look at it) to encounter one of the Schooner Hotel’s many ghosts. My experience took place down by the kitchens in the back corridor. Although I did not actually see anything, I sure as hell heard strange and distinct footsteps coming from the darkness straight towards me.

The Schooner Hotel in Alnmouth.
The Schooner Hotel in Alnmouth.

At the same time, I felt a foreboding, threatening presence—and it was close by. Although I had ventured down there on my own, I knew I was not alone. As I started to make my retreat, I heard these footfalls once again, only this time they were coming up the stairs right behind me, and now they were even closer—and louder. It was at this point that I lost it and ran like the wind along the dark corridor.

I had only been down in that location for five minutes, and quite frankly, that was enough. Running from ghosts and spooks is really the wrong thing to do; as after all, that was why we were there. But I feel in this case my natural survival instinct took over, and I just needed to get out of there. My all-too-hasty escape resulted in my left wrist being almost broken and gashed open. I stubbed my toes, bumped my head, and smashed my clipboard in half as I ran straight into a wall. In retrospect, it is rather funny, but at the time, I was absolutely terrified to say the least.

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Then there was an incident that will stay with me for the rest of my life during an overnight investigation at Doxford House on 1st December 2008. Doxford House is a magnificent, privately owned stately home in the Silksworth area of Sunderland and is located on land known as the ‘Silksworth manorial lands.’ This amazing old edifice is a spectacular 18th-century mansion that was built by William Johnson between 1775–1780.

Doxford House in Sunderland.
Doxford House in Sunderland.

The house is believed to be haunted by the ghost of a former owner of the house, a certain General Charles Beckwith, whose ghost has been seen on the grand staircase and in the large bedroom upstairs many times since the 1930s. Investigating the building on a number of occasions was an honour and a privilege, for which I have my colleague Drew Bartley to thank.

Had we not been allowed in to carry out our tests, I would have never experienced what I did. My shock came thirty minutes into a vigil, which was taking place on the upper level of the house. I decided to venture forth down a dark and gloomy passageway with my EVP machine in hand after an unexplained male grunt was heard coming from that particular area.

I had taken only three or four steps or so when, suddenly and from nowhere, came this feeling that someone was running a hand across my face. At the same time, I heard a noise that I can only describe as ‘sizzling static,’ followed by two distinct footfalls right in front of me. I thought to myself, ‘Something is coming towards me,’ but before I even had a chance to register this thought, I was overcome with an ice-cold sensation inside my body, which was accompanied by a feeling of absolute terror!

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This whole episode lasted for only a brief second or so before it dissipated, leaving me very shocked, shaken, and surprised, to say the least. As crazy as it sounds, I believe that something, a ghost or spirit perhaps, had just walked through me!

This left me shook up somewhat, as did the Schooner incident, and all that I can say to readers is that I am sure—no, positive—that these experiences were real, and I have had genuinely frightening experiences with something that felt very untoward indeed; what they were, I do not know. I reiterate, paranormal investigation is no joke and is not to be taken lightly.

Remember, many people have to live in haunted houses and face these terrifying situations on a daily basis, so next time you think that ‘you would love to be scared,’ or think ‘ghost hunting would be fun,’ think again. I have always said that if you actively seek the paranormal for long enough, you will have your defining moment on investigations.

By this, I mean an experience so harrowing, so terrifying, so chilling, that it will literally leave you a disturbed, gibbering wreck, and if you have not died with sheer fright first, will make you throw in the towel and say, ‘Never again!’ These aforementioned experiences and others like them have really come close to making me think twice about it all, but yet I still venture out to investigate.

One wonders, after all that’s said and done, just when or indeed what, my defining ‘quit’ moment will be …?

You can buy Darren W. Ritson’s latest book, Poltergeist Parallels and Contagion, at Amazon.

Poltergeist Parallels and Contagion book

Watch Darren W. Ritson discuss Ghost Hunting


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