After Decades Of Ghost Hunting I May Have Encountered My First Ghost... But Was It The Spirit Of A Dog?
I went on my first ghost hunt in 2004 and have embarked on countless investigation since to try to capture proof of the paranormal, but despite my best efforts to communicate with the undead, I've still not witnessed anything that would convince me that hauntings are caused by the spirit of the dead. That is until my most recent ghost hunt, where I may have encountered a spirit, the only problem is, it might not have been human.
The incident, which I actually found quite terrifying, occurred at Bishton Hall, a Grade II listed mansion in Staffordshire. I was completely alone in the entire Georgian hall setting up cameras before a public event. After making my way up to the top floor guided by torch light, I placed a camera in one of the abandoned rooms.
I was about to head back downstairs, but as I passed a doorway that was ajar on a decaying corridor, I heard what I can only describe as being a growl. The sound seemed to be coming from behind the door. My normally rational and level-headed demeanour instantly left me, and spinning around to face the door I shouted "what the f**k was that?!"
Not quite believing what I had heard, I backed along the corridor away from the door and shouted, "is someone there?" This unnerving realisation that someone or something might be lurking in the dark with me became too much and I turned and run, darting back down the two flights of stairs and out of the building. I was visibly shaking by the time I got out of the hall.
I can't explain the cause of the sound, but one thing that was clear was that it wasn't a human sound. So even though I had an unexplainable experience on a paranormal event, I still didn't consider it to be any kind of proof that human spirits are behind hauntings.
Back at home, I messaged a Charlene Lowe Kemp, the founder of the Facebook team, Paranormal Hauntings. Charlene seems to take a bit of an interest in my experiences and often encourages me to open myself up on a more spiritual level to paranormal activity, so I thought she'd probably be interested in what was potentially the first time I had heard a ghost.
Like in the "back off, man, I'm a scientist" scene in the original 'Ghostbusters' movie, Charlene started interrogating me about my experience. Knowing that there were no stories of demons, spirit animals or any other kind of non-human entity attached to the property, Charlene asked questions about where I'd been lately, how I was feeling, and my general health. She wondered if what I experienced could have been something attached to me rather than the property.
I told the experienced paranormal investigator that things are pretty good at the moment, I said "I feel fine and positive. I haven't actually knowingly been anywhere haunted in about two months."
She then had a brainwave and asked, "did the previous owners of the hall have a dog that may be protecting it?"
There are no stories of pets haunting the building. Its best known spook is said to be the spirit of Charlotte Sparrow, the eldest daughter of a former high sheriffs of Staffordshire who inherited the hall upon his death. Charlotte never married, but remained in the hall and devoted her life to caring for it and improving upon it. It was Charlotte who added the grand east and west wings to the house, leaving the sprawling property we see today.
However, Charlene's question did make me consider something that hadn't crossed my mind. There was in fact a dog associated with Bishton Hall, not only this but it is actually buried in the grounds in a small pet cemetery.
There was at least one dog that lived in the hall, a black dog that died in 1930. If its spirit does roam the hall, there's no way I'm going to call for it to interact by name. The pooch's name hasn't aged well, hence having to blur the name on the headstone. The 1930s were a very different time.
The revelation that the hall had its own pet cemetery was enough to convince Charlene, who said, "personally, I think now you have told me that, it's a dog. It makes sense spiritually speaking, it's a logical explanation for it."
Charlene said, "you may need to go back there alone," she explained, "I've done Strelley Hall several times and only one time, when I was in the cellar I caught a three-word sentence in the cellar area when I was alone. I've still never got anything like it and I've been back several times."
On a return trip Charlene suggest trying some experiments aimed at attracting spirit animals. She said, "you could set up some dog treats see if they moved." But of course during my visit I hadn't been looking for animals, the most commonly reported spook at Bishton Hall is an apparition of a woman wearing period clothing. She's said to have been seen looking out a window on the upper floor. The same upper floor where I had my experience. It's often said that this apparition is that of Charlotte Sparrow.
Could it be that the protective pooch that growled at me was protecting its owner, Charlotte Sparrow? It seems like a good theory and would have tied the story up nicely, but Miss Sparrow died at the age of 90 in 1876, a whole four decades before the oldest grave in the pet cemetery was laid.
Charlene's theory still stands despite this, there's no requirement for the dog to have been buried nearby in order to haunted the property. And although a link to the resident spook, Charlotte, would have been nice, again that link doesn't have to exist for an animal spirit to haunt the property.
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