I pulled up to the gothic gates at the end of demonologist, Fred Batt's driveway. Seconds later the gates swung open, seemingly on their own. I slowly rolled forward along Fred's drive and his stunning home in the Surrey countryside came into view.
I walked across the beautiful garden at the front of the house, my eye was drawn to a small pond which had a permanent eerie film of mist blowing across it, even though it was a warm summer's day. Then I saw Fred. He walked across the front lawn and between a row of pristine Bentleys parked on the sweeping driveway. The television demonologist greeted me, with his dog Cerys at his side.
All but one of the row of Bentleys parked outside are for sale. Fred has been selling luxury cars for 50 years. His own Bentley is identifiable by the personalised number plate, a slogan at the bottom of the plate reads "I ain't afraid of no ghosts".
Fred is the resident expert in all things dark and sinister on the long-running paranormal
show 'Most Haunted'. He's been kind enough to allow me to visit his house to find out a little more about its haunted history and his encounters with demonic entities.
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The Clock House has been Fred's home for more than 30 years, but has housed families for around 1,000 years before him. The oldest part of the Clock House was built in the 12th century, it connects via a supposedly haunted panelled corridor to the Georgian part of the house. At the back of the house is a Victorian extension, and to the side Elizabethan outbuildings.
The Grade II listed house gets its name from the small turret on the roof. This once had a clock on it, but in the 1600s it was changed and a bell now hangs inside the turret. At this time the house was at the centre of the hamlet and the bell was used to call people in off the fields.
In case you're wondering, the bell - which was made at the same foundry as Big Ben - still works. Fred even gave me a demonstration and told me how he rings it at midnight on New Year's Eve. It's a lovely feature to have in a house.
Fred invited me into the house. We pass through a large kitchen, past the warmth of an aga and an amazing array of cakes. Fred leads me through the panelled hallway, we walk past the doorway to his plush home cinema and into the immaculate dining room.
The table is laid as if its about to host a Victorian banquet any moment, the kind of display you'd expect to see at a National Trust property. In fact, the whole house has that feel about it, perhaps because of the work Fred has undertaken to preserve it. The Clock House is without a doubt the nicest private home I've ever visited.
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Now sat around the dining table, Fred begins to tell me about what led him to a career as a demonologist, "I've been studying the paranormal since I was 14," but he had his first paranormal experience at the age of five, while living in South London.
He recalls, "I remember waking up in the middle of the night in my mum's tiny terraced house. I walked through the living room and to the sort of a scullery bit, there was a mangle there. And I remember, I opened the door to get a drink of water from out there, and this mangle was there behind it."
It was here that Fred saw somebody's arm moving from behind the mangle, "that's all I remember. That's the first weird thing that happened to me."
It was almost ten years later when Fred was walking around Belgrave Square with some friends and noticed The Spiritualist Association of Great Britain. Despite knowing nothing about it, he walked in.
Fred said the building was full of photos of famous people after they'd died and the association had tape recordings of them speaking from beyond the grave. He said, "I thought it sounded interesting, but I didn't really believe a word of it. Then I started looking into it further".
This led Fred to the world of demonology, the field he now specialises in and a topic that over the years he has researched in depth. Fred says, "demons are said to be fallen angels that God got rid off because they were no good, they were horrible, bad angels."
According to Fred, it goes back thousands of years and can be found in Egyptian mythology, as well as pretty much every religion and culture around the world. He says, "if you believe in God you have to believe in the Devil and demons, because they both go together. You can't have one without the other."
Despite the fact that demons are rooted in so many different cultures and religions, Fred says his Western approach to demonology keeps him safe, "I've only come across demons I've called up, unless one comes through accidentally and then what I do is call up another one to get rid of it. That's the way I work."
But, identifying a demon can be tough as Fred explains, "there's legions of them, there's thousands but you've just got to know roughly what the main ones are." He adds, "people get mislead down the wrong way."
Fred says that demons can transform into anything, a dog, a cat, a bear, even a cloud of smoke, "the main demon in the old days was a serpent." Fred warns that this might mean it's hard to know what you are up against, "you never know what they are until they come up."
This expertise in demons and the paranormal led Fred to Yvette Fielding and the 'Most Haunted' team when they came to investigate the paranormal activity at his house. Fred says, "they started in the middle of 2002 and I started with them at the beginning of 2003, we did the house and my club I had at the time."
Although just a guest in the episodes, it wouldn't be the last viewers saw of Fred. He said, "Living TV said they were looking for someone to do witchcraft. They didn't know what I did, I never ever told them, but I said 'I can do that'."
This lead to his appearance in a couple of 'Most Haunted Live!' shows. "The first one I did was the Village Of The Damned in Wales," he said. This seven-night special was broadcast from Denbigh Asylum over Halloween in 2008. Fred recalls being thrown in at the deep end, "I was on stage doing an interview with Julian Clegg in front of an audience of 1,000 people, but it went really well. I really just fitted into it."
Fred remembered one incident during the live show in Wales in particular, "in one of the rooms there was this red smoke that came up and it followed, I think it was the medium, everywhere and that was a dangerous demon."
Fred next appeared in a 2010 live show from Prague, "a lot of the time I was on stage with Paul Ross and our historian, Lesley Smith. So, that's how I was brought into the programme and then gradually went into the series."
Since 2014 Fred has been the show's resident demonologist, taking on an important role that the rest of the team stay clear of. Fred says, "what I look for compared to the others is different. I'm looking for the dark stuff, they're looking for normal spirits. I'm looking for them as well, but mainly the dark stuff."
Fred has become known for his now-famous incantations
. He said, "on the show, the bad ones, the channel cuts half of it out so you don't get the whole thing because it can be quite dangerous."
The Latin chants come from a large book of shadows that he is often seen carrying on screen. Fred says, "I use it for reference if something comes up and I want to use something that's in it. So, I have it with me most of the time, sometimes even if I'm not carrying it."
Fred says that fans of the show love his unique look, "every time I do an event they want to have their picture taken with it and the big cross that I have." He's referring to a mirrored Mexican cross he's often seen brandishing in the show.
Perhaps Fred's proudest moment as part of the show was his brush with the Devil in Prague. Speaking about his time in the Czech Republic for the live show, Fred said, "the place we did on the last night was called Castle Houska and it's the only place in the world where Satan is said to have appeared from a whole in the ground."
"You could cut the evil with a knife, the feeling in there was just horrible, really horrible."
In fact the castle is known as 'the gateway to Hell'. It wasn't built as a fortification, a residence or anything else, its sole purpose was to keep the demons trapped in the lower levels where the walls were thickest.
This part of the castle served as a chapel and was constructed directly over a huge hole in the ground, which is said to be so deep no one could see the bottom of it. There are reports of "otherworldly creatures" flying from it and even stories of animal-human hybrids crawling out of the darkness.
During the live show, Fred had one of his most exciting experiences to date. He explained, "they locked me in the chapel and I was calling out to Satan in Latin and my briefcase went over on its side and all the papers were being pulled out individually."
The terrifying moment was caught on camera, but despite the activity around him, Fred continued with his incantations because he felt he was close to coming face to face with Satan. "I thought, 'he's here, I've got him'."
But moments later the show's production team came to get him, calling an end to the vigil. Fred says, "that's the closest I've got to him really."
While the experience may have scared some witless, Fred would love to go back to Prague, "that's what I'm there for." He added, "you'll noticed when I call up something in Latin, I run towards it, the others run the other way and that's because they know what I can call up - you'll see that on every show, more or less."
In fact, the only locations Fred wouldn't go back to are those where nothing happened, "we've got loads of stuff on the shelves that we haven't used because nothing has happened - wasted days, wasted nights."
Fred's tendency to try to summon evil forces during an investigation has led some viewers to question why he needs to drum up demons in a location if the place is already haunted. Fred explains, "because the place is haunted, but it's not what I want. I want the bad stuff."
As viewers of the show will know, the team do seem to catch a lot of activity on camera. Fred mentioned one of his favourite investigations, "one of the best was Codnor Castle, where I made the doll catch alight. That was a good experiment."
In the 2018 Codnor episode in Derbyshire, Fred introduced us to a creepy, cursed doll from his own collection. I asked if he has much of a collection of occult items. "I used to have, not now," he said, "there's a few things around the house. I've got a library upstairs full of witchcraft stuff. Do you want to see?"
Of course, I jumped at the chance to have a nose around the personal library of a demonologist
We walked up the old, creaky wooden staircase to the first floor and into Fred's immaculate, spacious library. The light and airy reading room had a view of the garden and lake at the back of the house. As well as serving as a library, the room also housed many collectable pieces of Bentley memorabilia.
Walking into the room, Fred pointed out his famous book and cross which were stored here, and a small collection of voodoo dolls. Pointing to the far end of the room, Fred said, "these are all my witchcraft books."
The demonologist said, "everyone keeps asking me 'where can I learn about it', I just say to them read books," he added, "there's lots of books
you can read. Amazon has got loads on there, but there's a lot of reading, a lot of work, a lot you need to know. You can't just learn something in a week."
The books in Fred's collection cover everything from Egyptian mythology, voodoo and ceremonial magic, including several books by occultist, Aleister Crowley. Fred pointed out his two volumes of the 'Malleus Maleficarum', one of which was in Latin and Fred's personal favourite, perhaps just for the title alone, was a book called 'Whores Of The Devil'.
Fred then pointed out some of the gifts from his fans that are scattered around the room. "They leave presents on the gates," he said.
Fred has a strong and loyal fan base and is apparently a bit of a hit with the ladies. He thinks it's down to his unique stylised appearance, "honestly, the women fans I've got, it's unbelievable. I can't understand it. It's mainly because of the image I think, nothing else."
"The amount of stalkers I get is unbelievable," he says referring especially to his female fans. He continued, "I think it's because when I started doing the show I was dressed all in black with a cross and because 'Twilight' and things like that were big at the time."
Luckily the Clock House is in a remote location and protected by large gates, but still the tranquility of the Surrey hills is sometimes breached by fans at his gate. Fred said, "I had to set the dog on a couple of them."
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Back downstairs now, Fred showed me into a cozy wood-panelled drawing room, home to two full suits of armour - something every haunted house should have.
Here we got on to the topic of psychic
mediums, who it seems Fred has a pretty dim view of. Fred bluntly said, "all mediums are fake and I can put my hand on my heart and say you'll never find a medium that's real. They are all out to make money from people."
Of course, this is partly why Fred became a permanent member of the 'Most Haunted' team filling the roll previously occupied by a medium, but using his time on screen completely differently. Fred explained why there are no psychics on the show anymore, "we don't use them anymore, every one we've had we've tested and they're all fake."
During a recent radio interview, Fred challenged any medium to phone in and prove they really had psychic powers in order to win £100,000 - but no one came forward. Fred says, "you will never find one that will come and prove themselves to you, never. You can offer them anything, they'll never come."
Fred gave the example of the late Colin Fry, a television and stage psychic, "he had to change his name because he was faking on stage. Did you know that?" Fred asked.
I didn't, but Fred is right and this damning fact about Colin didn't stop him having a successful career as a medium. Colin originally performed under the stage name of Colin Lincoln, but was forced to change it after a stage show in 1992 when he was caught faking it.
During the a séance in darkness audience members were led to believe that they were hearing a 'spirit trumpet' being played by spiritual energy, but the stage lights were unexpectedly turned on revealing that the trumpet wasn't levitating as they'd expected, but was in fact being played by Colin himself.
Although Fred is far removed from the world of mediumship, on the show he does sometimes pick up on things - a sort of awareness of the presence of paranormal energy, "there is something like that around and some people can have it. I never used to have it, it's because I do it so often I suppose now and I can sense something around me. I don't know what, but I can feel when something is around me whatever it is."
Fred says this feeling can be as simple as picking up on a smell or on a breeze even when the doors and windows are closed, "there's various things that you can pick up that let you know that something is there and then it's determining whether it's good or bad."
With the sun shining outside, Fred suggested a tour of his grounds, which includes an Elizabethan walled garden, a small wooded area and a fairly large lake. Fred has brought the lake to life with likenesses of animals in the water, including a large swan, an alligator and even a hippo wallowing in the water under the shade of an overhanging tree.
One of the most unusual things about Fred's garden is the presence of yew trees. Fred says, "there's not many gardens you'll see those in, normally you only see yew trees in cemeteries." Poisonous yew trees were planted in churchyards so that farmers could be sure that their animals wouldn't stray into them.
This species of tree also had importance to Pagans who were believed to worship the yew tree. The yew was associated with longevity and fertility in Paganism. Fred says, "the pagans used to hang gifts to the gods on them."
It seems that might have been the case with at least one of the trees in Fred's land. He said, "this one has got a leg bone in it, the trunk has grown around the leg bone". It was clear to see the end of a bone sticking out through the bark of the tree, a tree that Fred thinks is at least 400 years old.
Looking back from here we had a good view of the rear of the Clock House and Fred told me some more about its haunted history.
The house was once an episode location for the 'Most Haunted' team, so clearly it has plenty of ghost stories to its name. Fred says, "here was the first time we did an hour long show."
Fred told me, "there's a corridor upstairs you can walk through one time of the year and you can smell roses, you walk through another time and you can smell lavender." Fred says smells are commonly associated with the paranormal, "things like that let you know there's someone here."
He added, "there's a couple of rooms up on the third floor that feel a bit strange when you go in. That's where a couple of children died." Apparently the children died as a result of illness, nothing sinister.
Other reported paranormal activity in the house includes the ghosts
of two monks who have been seen in the ground floor corridor that joins the two parts of the house. On the upper floor ghostly footsteps have been regularly heard and a door opens and closes on its own. There's also said to be the ghost of a women wearing a bonnet.
I asked Fred if he knew who these spirits were in life, he said, "I've got all the owners of the house going back to 1207, although it goes back further than that, and I've got all their wills and everything, so I know exactly who they were."
According to Fred, guests who have stayed at his house have told him they've woken up in the night, half opened their eyes and seen a figure stood near their bed wearing a distinctive hat, the type worn by a beadle. Little did his guests know that a beadle, a church official, used to live in the house.
Fred said, "they didn't know about the beadle, I told them after they'd told me they'd seen him."
With so much activity in the house, I asked Fred if he's let any other teams come in and investigate the house since Yvette and her gang. Fred said, "everybody wants to come here but I don't let them in. I don't let anybody in here."
He added, "I won't even do a Ouija board here myself because this is the place I come back to and it's my safe, homely place."
We learnt in the 'Most Haunted' episode that Fred was followed home from the nightclub he owned by the spirit of Ruth Ellis, the last woman ever to be hanged in the UK. As Fred does so many ghost hunts now, I wondered if he worried about anything else following him home. He said, "if I brought something in, I'd get rid of it, but I don't want to bring anything in."
Speaking about reciting his Latin chants in the house, "I do that sometimes, but obviously I do good ones, I don't do the bad ones," Fred said, "I'd do, 'in nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti'," this translates as the harmless but spiritual phrase "in the name of the Father and of the Son, and the holy spirit."
Although Fred's wrought iron gates are firmly shut to ghost hunters, fans do get the opportunity to go on paranormal investigations with the demonologist. Most Haunted Experience host events with Fred Batt
where members of the public can experience ghost hunting with a demonologist firsthand.
Fred says his favourite locations to investigate in the south of England include "a tiny little theatre in Portsmouth called the Groundlings theatre, that's really active. The best one probably is Preston Manor in Brighton, that's a good one. It's like an old manor house where somebody's just walked off and left it."
If you happen to find yourself on a Ouija board with Fred at an event, then you're in for a treat. He says, "I'm very very lucky with Ouija boards. As soon as I go near one, all the meters start lighting up. I've only got to walk near one, it's unbelievable."
Recently Fred has started to use a new app alongside the Ouija board and has had great results, "it's just this ordinary app you can buy on the internet, it's called The Witch app
. It's a bit like the spirit boxes people use, but it's not, it's completely different."
The first time he used it at the Groundlings theatre, Fred was amazed to find that what was being spelt out on the Ouija board was being mirrored by the voice coming from the app. He said, "I don't know how it works. All I know is all the words are put in backwards, so there's no way it can just churn out words, it has to turn them around"
During the event, Fred and his guests made contact with a French spirit. He said, "this French girl came through on the Ouija board and she was speaking in English, but you could tell it was a sort of broken English. And then she started saying a few French things. There was a French person there who was translating it and then all of a sudden the spirit's French voice came through on this app."
They continued to focus on the Ouija to ask questions, but found she was answering both on the board and through the app. Fred says, "combined with the ouija board and me, people can't believe it when they see it happening, it really is amazing."
While there's no word on a new series of 'Most Haunted' right now, you can bet the team will be doing something to celebrate Halloween this year, even if it's just a live stream.
Fred told me he's also writing a demonology bible at the moment, which he's hoping to release in the next couple of years, so that's one to look out for. Until then, if you want to experience a ghost hunt with Fred for yourself, you can find details of his upcoming events here
I'd like to thank Fred for speaking to me and for allowing me to visit his stunning house - it was a real treat and honour to get a look around.