Evidence of hauntings at the Merchant's House - or is it just the wonky walls?
There was a good turn out at St Peter's Church, April 3, to see if ghosts had returned to Marlborough's historic Merchant's House.
Back in the 1970s, when the building was occupied by WHSmith, the live-in manager became fed up with ghostly disturbances and invited his father-in-law - who was a priest - to exorcise the building. Apparently the supernatural entities did not like this turn of affairs and headed next door, which at the time was Dewhurst Butchers.
Ally Stott, a Merchant's House trustee, invited the Newbury-based XRAIS (Xeno Research and Investigative Society) to see if there was paranormal activity left in the building.
Ally knew XRAIS from a previous investigation into the former Greenham Common airbase morgue.
Greg Rudman from XRAIS is an engaging and entertaining speaker who assured his audience that XRAIS was a not-for-profit organisation. "We don't do this for the money," he explained. "We enjoy visiting historic properties and enabling people to feel more confident in them."
Greg described himself as someone who didn't believe in ghosts but had an open mind, and was a debunker rather than a ghost hunter. "We are under no pressure to produce results, therefore there is no need for any of the data collected to be fabricated." He explained that they were not scientists, but used scientific methods to collect the best evidence possible and didn't use mediums, ouija boards or other methods based on human interpretation.
With a range of impressive looking equipment including infrared cameras, digital recorders, an EMF meter, thermometer, a super sonic ear and a laser grid, Greg and his team set their traps in the Merchant's House to see if any hauntings took place overnight, 22-23 February 2014.
Paranormal goings on could include residual (like a recording of a regular everyday occurrence), object (where 'energy' has passed to a loved, old piece of furniture, etc), poltergeist or restoration (where spirits are disturbed by renovations).
Before discussing the results, Greg explained how they debunked many paranormal interpretations of ordinary occurrences: draughts which caused cold spots; external noise filtering through the property from the close street and adjoining buildings; the 'fun house effect' from the disorientation caused from old uneven walls, floors and stairs.
Many an erie presence has been explained by 'a moth landing on their arm' and noises from 'gurgling stomachs.' Hairs standing up on necks can often be attributed to individuals being super-sensitive to electricity, especially when old wiring is present.
Greg and his team collect data overnight, not because it's scarier but because there is less noise pollution, less to discount, and then they watch and listen to all the evidence in 'real time'.
During their stint as philosophical researchers they have spent 400 hours investigating fifteen of the 'greatest locations in the south-east...that's a lot of time in the dark!'
So onto the results. At the start of their visit, a door unlatched itself and, try as they might, they could not make it repeat this feat. This, they thought, discounted the effect of uneven floorboards and walls.
In the top middle bedroom they heard a distant male voice talk and exhale, and heard the sound of a door unlatching several times.
In the main room they heard three high pitched voices.
In the middle room, they heard a female exhaling.
Although the audience could not make out the sounds from the event's audio system, Greg's surprise at the male voice was evident from the visuals on the projection screen.
Greg would like to return for more research, not least because the night of XRAIS's visit was very windy which could have caused the unexplained sounds.
One young man asked Greg for his scariest experience and Greg described his visit to the former St Bartholomew's School in Berkshire. During their usual introduction to potential spirits, Greg heard not one response, but three. Three requests to make their presence known was rewarded with three loud bangs, the second and third right next to the researcher. "It scared me—" said Greg, struggling for a polite word and rewarded with laughter from the knowing audience, "—white."
Their research will be available on www.xrais.co.uk.
And at Marlborough News Online we know of at least one Savernake-based seven year old who'd like XRAIS to debunk his bedroom of witches under the bed, monsters in the wardrobe and ghosts in the creaky walls.