Wednesday, 23 December 2015

I Believe In Father Christmas!

An article appeared on The Conversation the other day, asking whether we should let children believe in Father Christmas? I don’t have children myself, but this is something I have thought about. As a sceptic and non-believer in anything (!) deemed ‘superstitious’ my logical brain tells me the answer should be NO.

However, I fondly remember as a child waiting for a glimpse of him on Christmas Eve. One year I thought I heard sleigh bells! I don’t remember when I found out he wasn’t real (apologies if that’s news to you). So I was either old enough to deal with it or it was so traumatic I blocked it out?!

Without that early belief would watching Christmas films as an adult be the same? The emotional and nostalgic feelings we have for our early Christmases can be comforting, during what can be a difficult time. The ‘magic’ of Christmas wouldn’t be the same if it was all about having to spend time with relatives (you avoided the rest of the year) or eating so much you felt sick.

If you substitute ‘Father Christmas’ for ‘God’ the above argument takes on a different perspective… Many commentators have said setting-up children to believe in superstitious thinking may lead to deficits in critical and scientific thinking later on.

For me, critical thinking is about questioning the status quo so it may actually help. Children are naturally curious and don’t always accept the Christmas myths without asking a few questions, e.g. How can Father Christmas get into our house if we don’t have a chimney?

I used to joke I believed in Father Christmas (but not ghosts or God) as it was obviously silly but he is no more ‘provable’ than other beings many accept as fact.

Anyway, it’ll soon be Christmas and I won’t have to think about it for another year… Maybe I’ll decide after I see what presents he’s got me.

Here’s the link to the article: The Conversation

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Telephone Calls From The Dead

It's been a busy end of term for me and the society. We've had some fascinating events, guest speakers and podcasts. One of the highlights was a guest lecture from Callum Cooper from Northampton University on 'Telephone Calls From The Dead'.

This has links with my own research in Electronic Voice Phenomena (EVP) and the idea that electronic equipment can be used to contact the dead. In this instance they contact the living. It's no surprise these follow the progress in technology and I wonder when we'll get the first report via a smart watch!

Whilst the phenomena is rare, I have spoken to a couple of people who have experienced this - a telephone call and a text message. People are often reluctant to talk about their paranormal experiences, particularly to researchers who they think may be judgemental, so there could be many more who’ve had this.

I was fortunate that Chloe was willing to discuss her experience and you can listen to her account (in a haunted hotel!) here:  Telephone Call From A Ghost!
Here are links to Callum’s talk (video and full audio inc. Q&A’s):  Guest Lecture: Telephone Calls From The Dead by Callum Cooper

...If you've had an experience similar to this we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch via the blog, email or contact Callum direct. You can read more about his research here:

Callum Cooper, Northampton University 

Have a spooktacular Christmas and New Year! Here's looking forward to a paranormal 2016.

Precognitive Dreams Podcast

I was lucky enough to speak to John about his experience of pre-cognitive dreams and you can listen on the podcast below.

The debate among psychologists about the phenomenon often descends into arguments about statistics but large number of people report these dreams. It’s not something I’ve experiences myself but it’s an intriguing topic…

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Ghost Hunt at Ordsall Hall with Ghost Tours UK

I was lucky enough to be invited to a college seminar/paranormal investigation at Ordsall Hall, Salford by the Ghost Tours UK team. I’ve not been ghost hunting for a while, due to uni commitments, and some would say what’s the point if you don’t believe in ghosts? But I’m fascinated by the psychology of paranormal perception and if they are real, I might see one! Ordsall Hall is said to be haunted by the ghost of the White Lady who died of a broken heart after her brother died in war.  

The team gave a talk on their research methods and the evidence they’ve obtained. This was opened-up for discussion on what level of proof those present would need to be convinced in the paranormal. Is seeing believing? As usual, I bored everyone about my research and EVP (electronic voice phenomena). Luckily, everyone was still awake by the time we started the investigation…

In the Star Chamber we sat in a circle and held hands. The medium asked the spirit(s) to lift our arms. To my surprise, the arm of the student next to me (and mine) started to rise. The sceptical interpretation would be suggestion and unconscious movement. However, as my hand was on top (and not moving, promise!) I can’t comment on what was doing it. I asked the student how it felt and they said it was as though it was being pushed from beneath.

I was in for a bigger surprise in the next room. In the Main Chamber we sat on the floor again and called out. The medium said he had someone for me from two generations back. I won’t comment on the reading but suffice to say it was 100% accurate and somewhat disconcerting for me. I made the joke that even though I’m a sceptic my dead relatives keep trying to contact me! I have previously had my grandfather come through.

In the kitchen we did some glass divination and dowsing with positive responses. In the attic we did an EVP session with the P-SB7 spirit box and you can listen to the audio below. Finally, there was a mediumship demonstration in the Main Hall where several people had messages relayed to them. These seemed meaningful to them but I didn’t speak to them afterwards to discuss the content.

It was a well organised and balanced event with differing viewpoints on the paranormal embraced. I hope the students enjoyed it and, you never know, they might decide to research the psychology of paranormal perception like me!

I’ve attached some of the pictures from the event and the audio of the EVP session below.



You can find out more about Ordsall Hall and their Ghostcam here: Ordsall Hall

Check out the Ghost Tours UK Facebook group for their next event: Ghost Tours UK

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Another Childhood Tale - The Wizard of The Edge

After submitting my Mum’s ghost story (see post below) I remembered another supernatural tale from my childhood. A local legend this time, the Wizard of The Edge in Alderley Edge. It’s widely known around here and has been the subject of books (‘The Weirdstone of Brisingamen: A Tale of Alderley' Alan Garner, 1960) and a sculpture at the Wilmslow Sainsburys (1989, Judith Bluck). The Edge is both beautiful and atmospheric and I encourage you to visit. The location was also used for the BBC 3 zombie series ‘In the Flesh’.

I was told the tale as part of a geography field trip at primary school. It certainly added an extra dimension to the visit. Possibly, helped by the fact I was walking under an umbrella with a massive metal spike during a thunder storm. I survived the experience.

“A farmer from Mobberley was taking a white mare to sell at the market in Macclesfield. Whilst walking along the Edge, he reached a spot known locally as "Thieves Hole." Suddenly an old man dressed in a grey, flowing garment stopped him. The old man offered the farmer a sum of money for his horse but the farmer refused, saying he could get a better price at the market. The old man told the farmer that he would be at this spot again when the farmer returned, not having found a seller for the horse. The farmer failed to sell the horse and cursing his luck made the journey back home along the Edge.

At the same point, the old man appeared again, repeating his offer, which this time it was accepted. The old man told the farmer to follow him with the horse. As they approached an area just past Stormy Point, the old man held out a wand and muttered a spell. To the farmer's shock, the rock opened to reveal a pair of huge iron gates, which the ‘wizard’ opened by casting another spell. The frightened horse threw its rider and the farmer knelt before the wizard and begged for mercy. But the wizard assured him he would come to no harm and told him to enter.

The farmer did so and was led through the gates into a large cavern. In the cavern, the farmer saw countless men and white horses, all asleep. In a recess there was a chest, from which the wizard took the payment for the horse. The astonished farmer asked what all this meant; the wizard explained that all these sleeping warriors were ready to awake and fight should England fall into danger. He then ordered the farmer to leave and the gates slammed shut. The rock face returned to its previous state. The farmer told his friends of his experience but when he returned with them the following day there was no sign of the mysterious iron gates”.

Find out more about The Edge and Alderley Edge here:

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Where It All Began: My Mum’s Ghost Story

Here’s where my fascination with the paranormal started, my Mum’s ghost story. Still the best one I’ve ever heard…

“My story begins in the little village of Loftus in Yorkshire where my father was born. Each summer my parents, brother and I spent a week with my grandmother in her little terraced house on our summer holiday. When I was 16 I was told I could take a friend as I was finding family holidays boring.

My friend agreed to come with us, her name was Mary and as well as being friends we worked together. We were not able to stay at my grandmother’s house as it was too small for us all, so Mary and I had to stay with my aunt, uncle and cousin Keith in the centre of Loftus. They also lived in a row of terraced houses which were down a lane just off the village square.

One evening Mary and I decided to go to the cinema (in the village centre) so had an early tea and went to see a film. When the film was over we called in at the fish and chip shop on the corner and bought some supper. Walking back to my aunt and uncle’s house we decided to carry on past their house and walk further down the lane as we had not finished our food. We felt it would be rude to return back still eating and without buying them anything.

The lane had stone walls on either side but further down the pavement changed to a dirt track. We were now walking past the last street lights and as we were going into the dark we decided to turn round and go back…

The first thing I was aware of as I started to turn round was the feeling I had walked into a cobweb that brushed my face. I was facing the stone wall on my right. I then saw what I thought was a woman riding a bike in the field over the wall. I realised that this woman appeared to be gliding into the centre of the field. She was dressed in a Victorian dress and had a bonnet with flowers round the rim and chiffon holding the bonnet on which ended in a floppy bow under her chin. She was also holding a parasol which was half open. It was like looking at an old film. You could see all the detail but everything was opaque. I don't remember seeing her face.

It was all over in seconds but I realised the importance of what I had seen and was keen to validate the experience. I turned to Mary and asked her if she had seen the lady in the field and to my relief she had seen her as well. Just to make absolutely sure, we each described different details of her clothing and they matched, so there was no doubt in our minds that we both had seen the same thing!

When we returned, my aunt and uncle had gone to bed so we had to wait until the next morning before we could ask them about the history of the area. My aunt told us that just a little further down the lane was a large house that was not lived in any more. It had belonged to a wealthy wool merchant but the house was abandoned after a tragedy in the family.

The wool merchant and his wife only had one child, a daughter, who was prone to sleepwalking.
When the house was lived in, there was a lake in the grounds near to where we had seen the woman. The last task of the day for the house staff was to lock the doors once the family had retired to bed.
One night this was overlooked and the young woman walked in her sleep down the staircase through the hall, out of the front door into the grounds and walked into the lake which was in the field we had seen her in and she had drowned. So distraught was the family that they left the house and never returned.

There was no interaction or recognition of our presence from this woman, it was just like watching a film clip, but I feel privileged to have been at the right place at the right time to see her”

My Mum and I tried to find where it happened. We think it was left by the corner of the cinema, further down Cleveland St on the left. Maybe we'll have to go back there. 

If you have a real-life ghost story you’d like to share email us at:

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Most Haunted Live! – Then and Now

I finally got round to watching Most Haunted Live from Halloween. I was aware of the controversy surrounding some of the events (#ropegate) so was keen to see what all the fuss was about…

I was reminded of my first foray into MHL, 10 years ago on Sat 3rd September 2005 at ‘Cheadle’s Victorian Asylum’. I got places in the audience and was really excited. I was ‘open minded’ back then.

My family didn’t have Sky so had only seen ML and MHL on Freeview channel FTN. These were early episodes where the crew got scared and not much happened. The only live show I’d seen was Dudley Castle where the audience were at the location. I was in for a few surprises…

We were told to collect our tickets from a sports hall outside Manchester and were delighted that Derek Acorah turned-up. That was before phones cameras so didn’t get a selfie with him, unfortunately. I know he has his detractors but he was lovely and spoke to us individually. We went back there for the show. That’s when the illusion of MHL was shattered for me and I realised it was ‘just’ a TV show. 

Firstly, we were herded around like cattle and told if we didn’t get back to our seats during breaks we’d lose our place. We were searched (probably standard practice) and not allowed to take drinks in, it was very hot too*.

I could have coped with all this if it hadn’t been for the fact WE WEREN’T AT THE LOCATION! We were merely there to make the appropriate responses/noises. They weren’t even at an asylum! It was Barnes Convalescence Home which had a much more mundane history.

I know I was probably naive but it was such a disappointment. Over the next few months we had the fakery allegations - Kreed Kafer/Rik Eedles - and Derek left. ML and MHL carried on but it was never the same for me.

So, I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised by MHL 2015 and the subsequent debate. Maybe there isn’t a market for a truly scientific paranormal TV show. From my experiences of ghost hunting it would be quite boring and I would probably be the only one watching. 

We’re all wiser now to media manipulation and the corporate world behind it. A bit like when you realise there’s no Father Christmas and your parents had to max out their credit card to pay for your presents. Sorry kids!

*These criticisms are levelled at the security/event staff not the crew themselves

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Request for Submissions - Have you had a ghostly encounter?

Have you had a personal experience that you would consider to be paranormal?

We’re collating accounts for our ‘real-life ghost stories’ series. This can be done as an audio recording (for a podcast) - on campus at Manchester or Skype - or a submitted written account.  We won’t use your name, unless you want us to. Just email us:

The Manchester Metropolitan University Parapsychology Society aims to promote research, creative work and organise events that explore parapsychological themes.We meet every full moon at locations in Manchester to discuss all things paranormal.

Join us at the MMU Union Website
Twitter: @MMUParapsychSoc

‘Haunted’ Beaumaris Castle, Anglesey

I’m a regular visitor to Beaumaris, Anglesey but haven’t been round the castle for a while. On a wet weekday afternoon I decided to visit, figuring it would be quiet. It was and I got soaked.

Most of you will be familiar with the haunted past of Beaumaris Gaol (Most Haunted, 2007). I went on a paranormal investigation there in 2014. But the castle is also said to be haunted by the ghostly chants of previous occupants, a sense of being watched and a feeling of loneliness. 

Dating back to 1295, the castle was never completed. If you subscribe to the ‘Stone Tape’ theory (where ancient stones record and play back historical events) this is an ideal candidate for ghostly sights and sounds. 

Walking inside the castle walls (trying to keep dry) was certainly an unsettling experience. Looking down the long, dark corridors I expected to see a figure standing there. I didn’t but the mind plays tricks on you. The chapel is definitely the most atmospheric area. The acoustics are amazing and you could see how people might hear ghostly echoes. 

The only other-worldly visitor I encountered was a sleeping bat. Luckily, I’m not scared of bats and the flash didn’t go off when I took the picture – that could have had ‘hilarious consequences’!

Beaumaris Castle is certainly worth a visit. It provides an ideal location for capturing EVP’s (Electronic Voice Phenomena), particularly in the quieter off-peak season. It’s a blank canvas where your imagination can run wild…  

You can find out more about Beaumaris Castle here: Beaumaris Castle

On a side note – Anglesey Council is allowing paranormal investigations again at Beaumaris Gaol. Read the Daily Post article here: Daily Post