Saturday, 25 November 2017

Searching for ghosts (and rational thinking) in Richmond

How on earth did I end up in the cellar of the Black Lion in Richmond, at 11pm, with my finger on a Ouija board with a couple of total strangers?

Hartlepool Paranormal Investigations (HPI), led by Jo Banks, came to Richmond last night to conduct a survey of the Town Hall and Black Lion pub. About a dozen members came, including one medium, and one “empath”.

After meeting at the Black Lion, we started the evening at the Town Hall. I was asked to participate in the first exercise, where I closed my eyes surrounded by the rest of the group, and the spirits were directed to sway me in various directions to indicate their wishes. I didn’t find myself swaying in any direction at all, but the other two who did it had more luck, swaying in response to the rather vague yet leading questioning from the others.

In the mayor’s chamber, the EMF detectors (electromagnetic fields) and some more slightly leading questioning led the group to believe that the spirits of past mayors were angry at the group for invading such an “important place”. What was going through my mind was the image of current mayor, Stuart Parsons, sitting there a couple of weeks ago wearing a pair of big fluffy reindeer antlers (all in aid of charity). At one point a person thought they heard growling; it turned out to be somebody's stomach.

Charlie Wells from the town council provided us a few history snippets, and we decided to move on. As we were leaving the town hall, the music in the Town Hall Pub came on: people searching for spirits of a different kind.

Outside, I told the group about the burning at the stake of John Snell on Newbiggin, in 1558. They weren’t too bothered about walking along the road to see where he was burned alive outside the old gaol, instead heading back to the Black Lion for a quick drink, and then down to the cellars, which Jo was convinced was where the fabled drummer boy passed through on his way to Easby. I wasn’t convinced.

They’d set a lot of gear up, including some motion sensitive cameras that had “Xbox 360” written on them, hooked up to a laptop. After a bit of fruitless waving around of the EMF detectors, we got down to the serious business of the Ouija board (lit by fake candles), which I put my finger on, and the spirits stubbornly refused to move it to “yes” when asked to show their presence. I guess I’m just not a very good spiritual medium? Or perhaps there was a big elephant in the very small cellar: EMF detectors, infrared cameras, and the other “scientific” instruments shown to me are all well and good, but do any of them detect spiritual activity? No. All they are good at finding is red herrings. With the standard of evidence so low it’s no wonder that lots of “evidence” is found, but never any proof.

I remember a friend showing me a photograph they had taken. It was taken at night, in their garden, in the rain. The camera flash had fired, and the rain drops were brightly illuminated. According to my friend, these were “spirit orbs”. For some people, the mundane explanation of reflected light isn’t enough: they need to go out and hunt for meaning, even if that means spending Friday night in a cobwebby pub basement, and rejecting all rational thinking.