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Wednesday, 03 September 2014

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The Haig ghost hunt

THERE was a time when ghost-busting belonged to the spotty teenager wandering round churchyards late at night or the self-styled psychic armed only with a bell, book and candle.

But today’s ghost hunters bring scientific precision to the quest to prove the paranormal.

A newly-formed team led by Mark Hankin of Whitehaven is more likely to be seen with electro-magnetic field meter or digital cameras or laser-operated devices than a Ouija board.

Indeed Mark, who is a trained clairvoyant, rejects Ouija boards completely, preferring to rely on more proven methods of detection. He began Cumbria Ghost Hunts in January as a natural follow-on to his clairvoyance and tarot-reading sessions. His county-wide team of investigators have now begun a series of sessions at historic sites to see if they can prove once and for all that there is evidence of paranormal phenomena.

And they’re off to a flying start. Two weeks ago, seven of them witnessed an apparition walk down cellar steps at Haig Mining Museum in Whitehaven. And – thankfully for the cynics out there – one of the witnesses was unconnected with the group. Haig Museum manager, Pam Telford, was with the investigators when a a ball of light – perhaps a foot and a half in diameter – appeared. “I would not have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself,” said Pam.

She bravely stayed the rest of the night with the investigators and admits that there was much experienced which could not be easily explained.

Mark, a 46-year-old highways engineer, was no doubt delighted to notch up a sighting but even he is sceptical enough to look for normal explanations first.

“We tried to recreate the phenomena,” he said “in case it had been caused by the reflection of a torch light or a passing car.” But so far the luminous cloud remains unexplained and Mark had to admit that it was “probably the most vivid and spectacular phenomena I have ever seen”.

Regrettably the sighting came at a time when neither camera nor video camera was switched on but the team will now go through the museum’s CCTV images in the hopes it was caught by those cameras.

The location of the sighting was particularly interesting – Number Five cellar was used in the past a temporary morgue for those killed in mining accidents.

Mark was keen to emphasise that their investigations are conducted with professionalism and respect. “We do it in a very controlled way and we do it with respect for spirit. We are not there to antagonise. We try to work with them,” he said. The group began its overnight vigil with a prayer.

The group had also had success during an investigation a few weeks ago at Workington’s Helena Thompson Museum – a building well known for its ghosts. “We had some incredible stuff there,” Mark said. “We heard a scream and managed to get that recorded on video tape.”

But while Helena Thompson Museum has a history of haunting, the Haig Museum had no previously reported phenomena so why investigate that building?

“We like to go to places where there is history or been something interesting... if you have an old building there is likelihood of something being there,” said Mark, adding that investigations are conducted at night as that is usually a quieter time with less traffic and background noise.

Cumbria Ghost Hunts will carry out vigils where they just ‘wait and see’ what happens or sometimes Mark will invite any spirits to make themselves known. On other occasions he will conduct a proper séance to try and find out more about any spirits connected with the site.

He categorises ghosts into three types: those that are more like ‘tape recordings’ which just repeat an image in a particular part of the building; those with which you can interact and talk via a medium; or the more mischievous poltergeist activity.

He is helped by fellow Cumbria Ghost Hunt members Jenna Storey and Sarah Thomson from Barrow. The Facebook group has 185 members ranging from the deeply sceptical to those who need no convincing. They like to investigate places more than once and – although Mark avoids researching in advance as he will try and gain information psychically – they will study the history of a building or site in case it throws light on the phenomena.

Mark is particularly interested in a spirit called Tommy he connected with during the investigation at Haig Mining Museum. He felt Tommy had “something wrong with the way he walked” and at one point footsteps – perhaps the sound of someone wearing clogs – were heard going up one of the staircases and the figures seemed to have an ‘uneven gait’.

The team has more investigations lined up for later this year including a return trip to Helena Thompson Museum and a visit to Millom’s Heritage Museum.

Those who wish to find out more or perhaps take part in an investigation can contact the group via email on cumbria.ghost.hunts@ gmail.com or visit their website cumbriaghosthunts. co.uk. Mark is also happy to hear from any owners or private houses or businesses that have problems with ghosts or poltergeists.

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