WriterBy Steve Higgins
Ghost Hunting At Ettington Park Hotel With Jayne Harris & HD Paranormal
Arriving at an allegedly haunted location couldn't be much more atmospheric than the drive up the eerie tree-line driveway leading to the beautiful, but remote, Ettington Park. As this was a mid-winter ghost hunt, it was already dark when I arrived at the luxury hotel at 6:30pm.
Stood outside I looked up at the hotel that the AA Hotel guide once described as "Britains Most Haunted Hotel," it looked impressive lit up in the darkness and I couldn't wait to find out more about it's ghostly past. We were very fortunate to be able to investigate these claims, as the hotel don't normally host paranormal nights.
Like most haunted locations, Ettington Park has a long and varied past, but despite this it doesn't look particularly old. However, looks can be deceiving. The interior of the building is much older than the exterior walls, which were dismantled and rebuilt in a Neo-Gothic style in the mid-1800s. The building has been in the hands of the Shirley family for over a thousand years. It was once their ancestral home, now they lease it to the hotel chain. Archeological finds on the land the building stands on tell us that the site has been a centre for human habitation for at least 2,000 years.
I was greeted by the HD Paranormal team, and directed into a cozy library where tables had been set up. Unlike other events I'd attended, the night started with a meal laid on by the hotel. A hot buffet including pulled pork baps, sliders, ribs and chilli nachos.
There were about 40 guests in attendance but we were split into four groups, which was pretty much the perfect size. Not too many that it got noisy, unorganised and people splintered off, but enough to make sure there was enough energy in the room from 10 enthusiastic ghost hunters. There were a few familiar faces and people I'd worked with before in my team, some of them fairly well known within the paranormal community. However, I won't mention them by name in this article, because this review is all about Jayne Harris and her team.
Jayne recently appeared as a lead investigator in Really's 'Help! My House Is Haunted', the 12-part series gave Jayne a chance to showcase her passion for haunted history and paranormal investigation. But when she's not travelling around the country with co-stars Barri Ghai and Chris Fleming, Jayne runs her own paranormal events company called HD Paranormal.
HD Paranormal were shortlisted in the Best Paranormal Events Team category of the 2019 Paranormal Entertainment Awards. After receiving plenty of nominations, the decision to include HD in the finalists came down to the unique and creative events that the company offer. The hot buffet at Ettington Park was an example of something that HD do that's above and beyond the norm.
The investigation started with all of the guests together in the ruins of the oldest building on the hotel's grounds, the remains of a 12th century church. A family chapel was built within the ruins and is surrounded by a graveyard where Shirley family members are buried. This part of the land is said to be haunted by a cloaked figure, who is believed to be a former priest.
First thing on the agenda was an energy circle, in the hopes that it would boost everyone's energy levels for the investigation. Kay, one of Jayne's team members, expertly guided us through the process which was essentially a visualisation exercise combined with some breathing techniques. It's not something I'd done during a paranormal night before, but it was good for clearing your mind, forgetting the outside world and stresses of live, and focussing on the investigation at hand.
After this ritual we were divided up into our four teams. The group I was with needed little help finding the energy needed for an investigation, they were probably the most enthusiastic and engaged team I've ever worked with on a ghost hunting event. We began in the chapel, which although was inclosed, felt no warmer than the outside.
The vigil began with some EVP recordings, led by Jayne. She called out to any spirits that might be present encouraging them to answer, while recording the audio using a handheld digital audio recorder. Jayne then played back the audio, the idea is that spirits are able to leave their voice in the recording in the form of EVPs, or Electronic Voice Phenomenon.
We repeated this a few times and the playback revealed a few sounds which were potentially voices. The responses were interesting, and at times seemed to directly answer or questions asked.
After the event, Jayne shared the EVPs she'd captured in the chapel. You can listen to all of her captures in the video below. She wrote, "a selection of EVPs from our recent investigation. This place has so many layers to its history and so many paranormal reports we have only just scratched the surface and cannot wait to go back in March!"
Later in the chapel, Jayne and some of the guests were talking about General Horatio Shirley, who fought in the Crimean War. As soon as he was mentioned the green light on a device called a REM-Pod started erratically flashing while emitting a beep.
This cylindrical ghost hunting gadget has an antenna on top that emits an electromagnetic field. If anything enters that field, like an object or someone's hand, it triggers the device. The fact it had triggered despite nothing visible entering its field could be evidence of spirit communication.
Over the next 10-15 minutes the erratic green light and beeping continued. It seemed to trigger in response to our questions. However, we later realised that when the green light on a REM-Pod erratically flashes, its an indication that the battery is low. The devices instructions say "when a battery needs to be changed, the REM-Pod green LED will start to fluctuate randomly." So, although we did get some responses, it's hard to say what was a valid response and what was the result of a low battery. Lesson learnt... always be sure to use a fresh battery for each investigation. I should say, it was a guest's REM-Pod, not one brought by Jayne and her team.
The most interesting thing to happen in the chapel was a moment when a very loud sound was heard from the back of the room, an area that none of the guests were in. It sounded like something being dragged across a wooden surface. Nothing seemed to have moved in the room, which leaves the cause of this sound as truly unexplained and really quite weird.
Jayne then lead us inside to the library, which was snug, warm and very welcoming after the cold chapel. It is here that the apparition of a servant girl, named Mary has allegedly been seen, as well as the ghost of a gentleman seen walking his dog through before fading away into the bay window. There's also said to be a phantom priest seen near the grand fireplace.
In this room Jayne conducted a sensory deprivation experiment, which for me was the highlight of the event. This involved taking two guests, giving them ear plugs and headphones playing white noise, plus a blindfold. This completely cut off their sight and hearing. They were then sat in chairs facing each other while the rest of the group called out and encouraged any spirits present to interact with the two volunteers.
Jayne started calling out, "if there are any spirits in here, we have two people here who have had their two main senses taken away. If you'd like to approach them. They can't see anything. They can't hear anything."
Suddenly one of the volunteers shouted out loud, not aware of the volume of his own voice, "who just blew in my face?"
Jayne then wrote down an instruction on a piece of paper and asked the spirits if they could read it and act upon it. The instructions asked the spirit to touch one of the volunteers specifically, however instead of going for the female guest, the male guest felt as if he'd been touched.
A few moments later Jayne said "if you want to hold hands, you can do that" and straight away one of the volunteers moved her hand into a position as if holding hands with something invisible. Seconds later she reported the sensation that someone was stood right in front of her.
In his sensory deprived state, the other volunteer then had a vision of someone working with wood in the room and cutting themselves. Jayne wondered if this could have been the joiner who constructed the ornate bookcases in this room.
Speaking afterwards, the female volunteer said, "first time it felt like somebody had just tapped me like that on the back of my hand, and then there was a searing pain going through my wrist."
It was a very interesting experiment and one I hadn't witnessed in person before. Being in a state of sensory deprivation does remove the possibility of psychological suggestion and the investigator thinking they've felt something when they hear another investigator say "can you touch one of us".
Still in the library, we conducted another EVP experiment, this time using thought projection. Instead of trying to communicate with spirits we all focussed on the same word in an attempt to imprint the sound in the recording. The idea behind this is to address a theory that EVPs are in fact the mental projection of investigators being captured, not the voice of a spirit.
Over the three or four tests, most of the people around the table agreed that they heard the word we were thinking of on the recorder when we played it back. Based on the success of the experiment, Jayne said, "for me what it's confirming is that consciousness and conscious energy is all around us all the time and we can project our thoughts and whether it is that spirits are picking that up and relaying it to us, or whether the device is actually picking up our thoughts."
The Long Gallery
Next we left Jayne and one of her team guided us up the main staircase, that was the place where the same servant girl that haunts the library is said to have fallen to her death. Now on the first floor we stepped inside the long gallery, which was once the library and the place where a man was rumoured to have been stabbed in the 1960s. In terms of paranormal activity, a figure has been seen standing next to the fireplace at the end of the room.
Most of the guests I was with found this room to be quite active, but I have to say, I thought it was quite peaceful compared to the previous two locations we'd investigated. This was probably just down to a difference in investigation techniques more than anything.
The team were using an SLS camera, or a Structured Light Camera. A device that projects its own structured grid of invisible infrared laser light dots. The camera's sensor is able to spot human figures amongst these dots and draw the figure on its screen in the form of a stick figure.
I'd seen SLS cameras used on television shows, including 'Help! My House Is Haunted', but in an edited show you only ever see the impressive moment the investigators capture a clear and defined stick figure on the camera and the evidence can be quite compelling. However, seeing one used in real life highlighted how the evidence produced by this device might not be the most robust.
At one point one of the HD team were stood next to the fireplace while another member of the team pointed the camera at her. The camera was unable to correctly identify the solid human figure in front of it. Instead of drawing a stick figure it drew an abstract mess of lines over the upper half of her body. Every now and again a leg would appear which shot out to the corner of the room before instantly vanishing again.
Perhaps it was because the team were also using another laser device in this part of the room, but for whatever reason the camera was struggling to identify a human form.
Then a shape showed up next to the living human. It glitched and jumped around, spontaneously changed shape, and suddenly disappeared and reappeared. At times it looked like a stickman, but at other times was just an indistinguishable mess of lines on the floor.
In my opinion this was a false positive, but some members of the group thought the camera was revealing a non-human elemental spirit crawling across the carpet. It was a leap too far for me, even if I accepted that the camera is able to see something on the floor, to assume that the shape it was showing was an accurate depiction of the spirit was a step too far given that the the camera wasn't even showing a living person as a human-shape.
Of course, this method of investigation is a valid approach for many investigators, so don't feel you need to take my skepticism as the final word on this. After all, the reason I like to go on public ghost hunts is to see how other teams and people work. Although in my opinion this method of detecting ghosts isn't as valid as relying on your own senses, it was interesting to be able to see for myself how the camera works and gain an understanding of the issues with the camera from my own perspective.
After the long gallery we moved on to the most haunted bedroom in the hotel, room seven. It's here that the hotel's most famous ghost has been seen, the apparition of a grey lady. There's also believed to be the spirit of a man in this area who hung himself during the 17th century.
The room was in total darkness other than a red lightbulb that had been put in a table lamp to create a feel of a traditional séance. It was unusual to be investigating a normal, average sized hotel room, but the room yielded some interesting results.
Once again, we mostly concentrated on capturing EVPs in this room. We had a few responses that sounded like voices in our recordings, in some it was possible to make out words, but none of the responses seemed to directly answer any of our questions.
The Indoor Chapel
After a break and the chance to refuel with some caffeine, all the guests came back together for one last vigil. This time in the indoor chapel, this is a part of the main hotel building and not to be mistaken with the old chapel in the grounds.
This part of the building seemed like a fitting place to end the night as it has a dark past all of its own. At one point in history the room was used as a makeshift hospital to treat children infected with the plague. Ever since people have reported disembodied children's laughter, felt as if they are being watched, and heard unexplained footsteps.
With an array of ghost hunting gadgets and even a doll to encourage the child spirits to interact laid out on the table, the room fell silent as we resumed our investigation. All the guests placed their hands lightly on the table and we began to call out, encouraging the spirits to move the table. The table did seem to respond, despite its large size. At one point it vibrated and moved quite dramatically at one end. In fact the movement was so pronounced that I saw the table move as well as feeling it.
The final hour of the night flew by, and while the energy of the guests was still high as the time approached midnight, sadly it seemed the spooks of Ettington Park were already snoozing, and as is often the case on ghost hunts, the rest of the vigil proved to be a quiet one.
The event was a really refreshing change to other ghost hunts, the inclusion of food and the luxury surroundings made this feel like quite a special evening.
A hot buffet was actually a really nice way to start an event, because it gave guests the chance to have a chat with the rest of their table and get to know the people they'd be working with throughout the night. The food was also really good, as you might expect from a 4 star country hotel.
The HD Paranormal team were great, they were all really enthusiastic and you can tell there was a real passion for the paranormal and a want to capture genuine evidence during the evening.
Jayne has obviously become fairly well known in the paranormal field after her recent television exposure, but she couldn't have been more down to Earth and approachable. Jayne joined each of the four groups of guests for a whole vigil, which meant everyone got a good amount of time with her during the evening.
Like the rest of her team, Jayne is also clearly very passionate about what she does. The evening is very obviously a serious paranormal investigation for her, rather than just an event she's hosting. In the vigils I was in with her, she lead the investigation and was a very active part of the evening.
Ettington Park itself was an amazing and very atmospheric building to investigate. The hotel did have paying guests staying there, but hotel guests didn't impact on the areas of the hotel we were investigating, likewise, I don't think we bothered the guests either.
If you'd like to book your own ghost hunt with Jayne Harris and HD Paranormal, you can find more information at hdparanormal.com.
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