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  • Writer's pictureAnn

Visits.... Anything BUT Closed!

Out the back of modern 'Visits' at Shepton Mallet Prison, is a dead end corridor known as Closed Visits. It's simply the other side of the glass dividing prisoners from their visiting loved-one or contact, and features three rather dilapidated green chairs that used to be screwed to the floor, but now only one of the three is. The glass is cloudy, and the room has a quiet and reverential feel to it. You might ask, doesn't all of the prison feel like this? Actually, no.

Many of the areas that day-to-day folk head for are the most obvious ones, either for grandeur (B-Wing) or out of morbid curiosity (Execution room and the morgue). This is understandable, for why do we visit such places unless to make ourselves feel something out of the ordinary? I feel that perusing the tinned produce aisle at Tesco wouldn't have quite the same pull as standing silent in the small, oddly comfortable room where sixteen men hung from a rope. It always amused me how, on the paranormal nights, a team member would call out to the group seated and waiting to go. He or she would say, "Okay, so group B? You're off to the morgue with Shaun!" and a great cheer would go up. I shall miss the offbeat weirdness of being a paranormal night supervisor. Currently I'm just a nobody again, and to be totally honest, I'm struggling a bit. Night shifting, even just 14hrs a week mess you up. Now my brain says, "if you're tired, just nap!" and that's happening every day, pretty much all day. Hoping I'll feel better soon.

Grasping the map given to them at the reception, self-guiders will do a circuit. Mostly they are intrigued by the firing squad wall, enthralled by the foreboding menace of the towering 'Treadmill House', and thus find themselves funnelled along the natural narrowing walkway to the old entrance, and the unequivocal draw of the gate lodge. They'll hit the wings and either consider where they are, things that must have happened in here over the centuries (yes, CENTURIES, for it is easy to forget the great age of Shepton prison) in quiet reflection or in the case of many sorts who find the obvious emotion they're experiencing embarrassing, shout, mess around, and slam cell doors. Even adults. I've never understood this mentality, but I suppose it goes to show why some overnight guests believe that it's perfectly acceptable to behave as they often do.

The places that draw the crowds do still give phenomena, very readily and in great bountiful abundance. There is no mistaking that. But, find an area that people don't find as interesting, and the untapped energy and thus very likely EVP captures too, will rocket.

Closed Visits, in all its unassuming visual dullness, has become my phenomena treasure trove over the past three weeks, a small refuge where I can sit on the floor (clean, because not many shoes ever tread there!) and talk, or stay quiet. It hasn't failed. Even now I've left as staff, it's a place that is not a walk-through, and the doors to it are not particularly enticing being so close to the bright lights and pseudo-comfort of Visits proper. I say pseudo, because main Visits lately has (as you will already know if you've read my last few blogs) become active and quite disconcerting. So, even as a 'normal' person I can now secrete myself away and receive communications that are frankly, beautiful.

The child, I think a girl, has made my day, week, month and even my year... She signed off at my last shift with "Thank you..."

Although this blog was supposed to be a nod to the wonderful Closed Visits, I now find myself wanting to investigate more of the young inhabitants of the prison. Over the 1974 days that I have known this location I have heard children many times, and they're always (barring the horrendous scream in B Wing and the lad in workshops who said he liked my a*se) sweet in nature, often singing and being well, lovely.

Over my next few visits I will endeavour to reach out to these young ones, and hopefully get to build more of a rapport. I shall compile a complete file of child interactions, and present them here.

Until then, over and out!

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