Paranormal

Why 100 Ghost Hunts At The UK’s Most Haunted Locations Left Me Skeptical

I’ve been ghost hunting on and off for over 20 years. Since I started running this website full-time about a decade ago, I’ve been on more than 100 ghost hunts at 71 different locations across the country. You can read about many of them here. Additionally, I’ve probably visited just as many locations again without investigating, soaking in their ghost stories and creepy vibes, while still opening myself up to the same potential hauntings others have experienced.

When I began visiting these locations, I didn’t expect to see a ghost, as I’m a skeptic. However, my mind wasn’t closed to the possibility. I firmly believed that these locations, haunted or not, had gained their reputations because people had experienced something there. Maybe it was the layout of the building that disoriented people and put them on edge. Perhaps it was a location where external noises could be mistaken for the sound of rattling chains or footsteps inside. They might even be creaky old buildings with plenty of sounds that could be misconstrued.

So, I was convinced that by putting myself in these locations, I’d experience the same stimuli and psychological cues. I was sure I would experience the same things as those who reported paranormal activity at these places – even if it wasn’t caused by the spirits of the dead. But exactly 101 investigations later, I’ve had none of this. Where are the creaking floorboards, and the tricks of the eye, the doors slamming in a draught? It makes me wonder: What are these ghost hunters experiencing that they could be mistaking for the paranormal?

I’m not saying I’ve experienced nothing at all. While investigating the Nunnery in Worcestershire, a piece of glass fell into the middle of our group from seemingly nowhere. At Bishton Hall in Staffordshire, I heard what I can only describe as a growl while alone in the building. At Margam Castle in South Wales, it appeared a stone was thrown. But this is the extent of my truly unexplained incidents, and although they might have logical explanations, they are the type of occurrences I’d expect to happen. These incidents occurred in less than 3% of my investigations. Considering these places are said to be the most haunted in the country, where experiences are reported on a weekly basis, my success rate is quite low.
Each of these three incidents has a list of possible explanations, ranging from someone faking it to the building crumbling around us. However, if you’ve been following this site for a while, you’ll know there’s one other unexplained event I experienced. It really was the holy grail of experiences. I saw what I would describe as a ghost – a vaguely human-shaped mass that appeared right in front of my eyes in a corridor in Woodchester Mansion.

This is a textbook ghostly experience and exactly the sort of thing I had expected to experience at other locations. Again, I’m not saying this was the spirit of a dead person – although it could have been – but even if it was my eyes playing tricks on me in the dark, the psychological impact of the building, or a figment of my imagination, this was exactly the type of thing I expected haunted locations to give rise to.

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I’m not out to see a ghost on these investigations. For me, experiencing the “unexplained” is the ultimate goal. By putting myself in the shoes of investigators who came before me, I hoped to experience things they couldn’t explain. After 101 investigations, this has happened exactly once at Woodchester Mansion. Am I being unfair? Are my expectations too high? Is one encounter in one hundred a good success rate? Again, I remind you that these locations, those reputed to be the most haunted in the country, are reported to deliver experiences on a weekly basis.

Last weekend, I visited what I’d say is one of the top five most haunted locations in the UK. That claim is based purely on the number of people who visit and claim to have experiences there. It’s one of the places in the country where you are statistically most likely to experience something that could be paranormal, or at least mistaken for the paranormal. We experienced nothing. Even with an open mind, there was nothing that I could even begin to consider paranormal. This was a location I’d visited before. Altogether, I’ve probably spent close to 40 hours there, and for me, it’s always been the same – I don’t experience anything that can even be misinterpreted as paranormal.

So what are other ghost hunters experiencing that I am not? Flicking through videos made by paranormal teams at this location, of which there are many, it seems they aren’t encountering any of the phenomena I’d expect either. They experience the haunting in one of four ways: through spirit boxes, electronic voice phenomena (EVP), word bank tools, and personal experiences.

Spirit boxes are devices that rapidly scan through AM and FM radio frequencies, creating bursts of static and radio broadcast. The belief is that spirits can manipulate the radio spectrum to relay a message. This is a ghost hunting method I don’t use because I don’t think the spirits of dead humans have the ability to modulate a radio wave to encode a sound. I personally believe this is nothing more than the power of suggestion and expectation – people hearing what they want to hear.

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Similarly, EVP recorders expose investigators to vague sounds that can also be misinterpreted as spirit voices. It’s a commonly used method involving a digital audio recorder to ask any spirits present to answer questions. Their voices can’t be heard at the time, but on playback, investigators often find what they perceive to be answers to their questions. This is another method I’m skeptical of, again because ordinary sounds like someone shuffling, a jacket rustling, or even the slight movement of the hand holding the recorder can sound very different on playback and be almost impossible to identify. These sounds can also resemble groans, growls, whispers, and even full sentences.

Another type of tool that often yields results for others are apps and handheld devices that include word banks or phonics capable of spewing out words. The belief is that ghosts can influence the choice of words using the device’s or phone’s sensors – things like pressure, humidity, and electromagnetic fields. Again, I have a problem with these tools as I can’t accept that a dead person has the ability or knowledge to communicate in this way. They would need to know exactly how to influence one of the sensors to select the words they wish to communicate.

The final way people experience what they believe to be paranormal activity, and perhaps the hardest one for me to replicate, are personal experiences. Many people report feeling a negative energy, weird vibes, or cold chills in certain rooms or locations. Investigators perceive cold spots, tactile sensations, goosebumps, and shivers, among other things. I don’t tend to get scared on ghost hunts. I don’t personally understand what a negative atmosphere is, and I’m not the type of person who feels physical sensations. I hesitantly say I’m not suggestible enough in this case. So this avenue of experience is closed to me.

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Perhaps the next step for me, if I want to experience what others are experiencing, is to spend a night using nothing but EVP recorders, spirit boxes, and word bank apps. The problem with this approach is that while a knock, a bang, or something being thrown is an undeniable occurrence, the significance of a word or sound, or its meaning through one of these methods, is open to interpretation. Although it might let me experience what other ghost hunters have, it’s not going to provide the kind of undeniable evidence I’m looking for.

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