After the devastating death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the 8th September 2022, the nation is now in official mourning. Not just because we've been told to be either, but because it is the natural reaction to something that has shaken us. It seems that the majority of us in the UK are feeling something deep, profoundly and immeasurably sad. Even those who begin their sentence with, "I'm not a royalist, but...".
The Queen has been the constant in many of our lives, even my Father's generation, and he's 78. She's always represented for me my Grandmother, especially as they were the same age. She died when I was 23 so I've known her Majesty for much longer. I've always seen the Queen as my Nana, and especially lately when she's become more cuddly and quintessentially granny-ish, and I've always felt close to her. Apparently so has everyone else, and her passing seems to have reminded everyone of their own bereavements. It's dredged up a depth of emotion that has has us brimming and bubbling with briny eyes days after the event.
This odd, never before felt wave of emotion may be partly responsible for fuelling the activity experienced by myself and others at the prison on Friday 9th, for there was certainly a surreal sense of foreboding even before I set off for work that night. If that sounds mad I apologise, but hear me out.
I received at text from my friend and colleague Jenny in the morning as she was walking the wings. It was on A Wing that she, alone, began to hear low female humming. Suddenly, realising that it wasn't Monica or Flick, she listened harder and made out chillingly, God Save the Queen. Undeniably. Jenny was on the 2's, around cells 4 and 5 and as she progressed, the humming continued. It's worth pointing out that Jenny has also been deeply upset by the Queen's death, it reminding her of her Mother's passing. It's fair to say, and I know she won't mind me writing it here, but with the news of the previous day work was not the top priority in her mind, and she struggled with Thursday night's ghost tour somewhat. So the outpouring of emotion that she felt and indeed spilled out to the 'invisible inmates' of Shepton on the Thursday, hit home. And I believe 'they' were listening.
It is generally believed that emotional states of mind can generate a heightened, more energetic canvas for phenomena to occur. Just look at the recognised ingredients for poltergeist activity for example. A stressed out or sad mind is like a battery, and given the right circumstances and right venue (and Shepton is THE venue), that energy source can cause activity to go haywire. Add to this the swelling bright whiteness of the full moon, 35 guests also pumped on grief, and what do you get? An almighty night of phenomena that had me going with a proper case of jelly-legs!
I'm normally much more savvy, but I actually had to ask a couple of guests to stay nearby after everyone else had gone home, to wait until I'd locked up the site, and more importantly, the formidable car park! How embarrassing.
This particular joy (locking the car park, not commandeering men) is not always necessary as most guests are happy to park up in the lane outside the gates. But on that night, just a couple wanted to be off the road, which meant that muggins here would have to go up into and through the foreboding workshop building, out the other side, press the button to close the massive mechanical gate, and then reverse the process to get back within the prison walls proper. It bothered me throughout the night, so eventually I buckled and asked for a bit of manly backup in the form of Max and Jack. You'll see why I was on edge very shortly. The atmosphere was throughout, heavy, intelligently mischievous, and thus incredibly goosebumpy. I appreciate that this isn't a word, but it works.
You may have read my other blog on the workshop building and what I've captured there (A Rabbit Warren of Treasures), and believe me when I say it's not exactly a welcoming place to find yourself even in the day, but especially not in the wee hours of 3.30am! Hearing footsteps in the last section of corridor leading up to the door out into the car park that morning certainly did not help the cause, but it did rev me up to the point of leaving the prison some twenty minutes later at great speed, much like the proverbial greased weasel.
This was not quite the final straw in a whole bunch of straws from that night's event, and it certainly was not the first...
After Jenny's incredible in-the-moment experience that morning on A Wing, I went to work early with a view to doing some recording before the arrival of the guests. Jenny was still there, and so we headed off to the wing together. We started on the 1s, then 2s, I trotted on up to the top and we both recorded. After a few moments we both heard loud metallic crashes at one end of the wing, and I mean loud, as if a large tin had been dropped from a height. We investigated, not birds, not wind. Then it was the same but at the other end.
On reviewing the audio, I was stunned to hear that these noises, although crashes to our human ears at the time, came out as male voices. This is not unusual. Many many times I’ve heard what I thought sounded like a foot scuff or knock, and on closer inspection they turn out to be one or two words spoken usually, by a male. It is as if (and this is just my theory) in moments of heightened energy (as already mentioned) the barrier between our two realities is thinned, meaning that we can hear a hint of what is actually there. Normally it is via a device that the veil becomes infiltrated, but every once in a while, with exceptional energies, sound pushes through. Think of it like normally straining tea through a duvet. Except that on this occasion, it was like using a fishing net. As for the sounds we actually heard, like a jet going supersonic whenthe air fills the void left with a gigantic booming crack, I believe that the bangs and crashes associated with audio phenomena (see My Little Bang Theory blog!) are something to do with the sub/super/molecular waves being crossed or distorted. It’s very difficult to put into words, but I hope you sort of catch my drift.
No fewer than 19 captures were born from mine and Jenny's recording session that lasted just 25 minutes and 22 seconds. That’s a fantastic average of one EVP every 1 m 32 seconds, way up on my latest general average which is at a dismally low rate of one every 5.30 minutes. See? Increased emotion and all that!. As ever, what I hear in them changes, so do forgive any differences between what you hear and read. I've just listened again and hear very different things! Such is the natrue of EVP. But always, ALWAYS listen with headphones. Thank you.
So we’ve covered the footsteps in the workshops, and the multitudes of EVP captures. But what of the event itself?
Well, the group, as lovely as they were, arrived somewhat sporadically and it was admittedly quite a disorganised affair to begin with, with nobody really knowing how many folks were due, who was parking where, or when they were turning up. Consequently I stood on the gate for much longer than the customary five minutes, until the majority of guests had been kind of wrangled and directed towards Visits. Several cars misunderstood my directional advice, and instead of parking in the allotted parking spaces outlined in white just inside the gates, took off around the inner perimeter of the prison wall and somehow ended up outside Treadmill, in the hard labour yard, and sheepishly returned some twenty minutes later.
Eventually however, most people were corralled within Visits, and the night began.
The mood was odd. With the national anthem playing on a Mini Rig speaker outside, the atmosphere was heavy and incredibly sad. I was tired, and by 10pm hit my sleepy wall, and I wanted nothing more than for 4.30am to come so I could hit the sack. However, things picked up..
The group were off doing their thing, and I got on with such mundanieties as checking the loos and topping up the hand towels. As I left the toilets and returned to the desk, there came an almighty series of crashes and smashing sounds, emanating from the Ladies, where I’d just been moments before. They just kept on. It sounded as if the front of the towel dispenser that I’d just opened and closed had perhaps come off and bounced across the floor, clattering loudly. But it then sounded as if it was being hurled wall to wall, kicked or dragged. It was an astounding level of noise, and I quickly ran in to see what was what. The answer? Nothing. Back at the desk, the noises started up again, this time in the gents’.
A while later I placed my book I’d been browsing, upon the printer whilst I broke off to top up the confectionery. As my back was turned, I heard a loud slapping noise, how it would sound if someone thwacked a rolled up magazine heavy on the desk. What was it, I wondered?
Then I saw it. My book was on the floor, several feet from where it had been lying flat on the printer. Oh lordy, I thought, there was certainly something in the air alright!
The group intermittently returned to Visits and then drifted away again, and by 1am quite a few decided to call it a day. In dribs and drabs I let near enough everyone out, leaving by 3am, just a small handful of people. Two, Max and Jack, had agreed to accompany me to lock up as for reasons aforementioned, I was a jittery coward. I thanked them profusely, and we got on with the lock-up. As we returned to Visits and they supped on the last of their beverages, I stood with them. Then there came the first whistle.
It was just a second or so in length, and it was close enough that Jack heard it too, but he thought it was something on Max’s phone. But it hadn’t been. The air was thick and prickly. Jack then showed me a photo that he’d taken on B Wing earlier, when they had the wing to themselves. Max had been on the 3s with a head torch, and the photo had been taken sans flash, so consequently what appeared in it, was not seen at the time. A visual EVP if you will. I looked at the screen…
“Oh wow!” I exclaimed. Now, my reaction to some peoples’ photos are often a little in the realms of, what exactly am I supposed of be seeing here? Or ah yes, dust particles, again!, but this one was different.
Standing by the stairs next to the segregation/execution corridor, stood a huge imposing dark figure, appearing to have arms folded in a formidable stance, facing down the wing.
Don’t get me wrong, the details aren’t in fine point because (a) it’s pitch dark and (b) the figure is a way down the wing, but what I do know, is this is not mistaken identity, no fake, no shadow from the stairs or wishful thinking. This I felt, was the real deal. The figure was only noted when the photo was manually lightened, Jack having seen nothing at the time in the flash. The photo is shown here, with the kind permission of Jack.
I’ve had success with this method myself in the gate lodge, in which a naked pregnant girl appears to be leaning against the wall, one leg cocked, hand on her belly. This was another such capture, and I was so pleased for them! The night had succeeded in producing yet another phenomenon. I must admit, the only other time I have successfully experienced in the moment stuff, great EVPs and photo captures (let’s not forget the moving objects too) was on an intense 6hr session in which myself and a small group were ecstatically charged and in which the ‘vibe’ was intense. That day we got everything thrown at us.
We looked at each other, and knew that ‘they’, attentive and invisible companions were focusing their efforts a little too personally now, and frankly, I didn’t want to be on site much more than I had to that night, or morning as it then was. I called out to let them know that they’d succeeded in impressing us, and we made to leave.
“OK people, we get the message! Time to go…” So I let the boys out, never more glad to have company. Bins and bogs, lights out, and run.
Except that as I darkened Visits and flicked off the final switch (mercifully close to the exit) there came the whistle again. Not down at the back this time, but right by me at the desk.
I was out of there!!
The hasty retreat to the main gates was rather impressive speed-wise even though I say so myself. I glanced backwards, and she was a beautiful brooding beast in the silvery light of the full moon. As much as I disliked the walk to the gates in the dark, totally solo, I craved the ‘it’s just you and me now, old girl’ feeling. The privilege of being allowed to be within those walls alone is a feeling quite like any other. I also knew that, like a glowing-eyed wolf creeping behind me, The Mallet knew that I was still prey, fair game, and a toy with which to play. So I dallied no further – unlocked the bolt, and leaped out, breath pluming in the dark and chill morning air…
Well what a night!
Until next time old girl, until next time.