Flying stones, creeping shadows, unexplained bangs and plenty of bats kept us on our toes as we hunted ghosts at the imposing Margam Castle, which left me wondering if I had experienced my first ghost sighting.
Port Talbot isn't the first place that comes to mind when you think of sprawling country parks and historic landmarks, perhaps due to the fact that the southern end of the town is dominated by one of the largest steel works in the world.
But less than a minute from junction 38 of the busy M4 that passes through the Welsh town is a vast parkland that is steeped in history and natural beauty. At its heart is the impressive and allegedly very haunted Margam Castle, a large Victorian era Gothic Revival home.
With a grim history that spans over 4,000 years and tales of untimely deaths, despair and a family curse, we had to join Haunted Happenings and search for the lingering spirits of castle.
Following in the footsteps of the ghost hunting shows 'Most Haunted' and 'Paranormal Lockdown', plus paranormal YouTubers like the Ouija Brothers, I spent the night along with 25 other guests at the ill-fated former family home.
The event was taking place in a post-COVID era, so things were a little bit different to normal. I won't dwell on that too much, but Haunted Happenings were seen to be doing everything they could to keep guests and their team safe - including wearing face coverings throughout the night, which wasn't a requirement in Wales at the time of our visit.
The venue itself had imposed a few restrictive and perhaps overly cautious rules, but all of the guests on the event seemed happy to comply anyway.
Is Margam Castle Haunted?
After a brief introduction, Haunted Happenings' team for the night, Craig, Karen and Louise took us deeper into the dark castle. We had most of the main building to explore over the next six hours as we searched for proof of the paranormal.
This part of the house is said to be cursed. According to local legend, a hex was put on the grounds after Christopher Mansel Talbot used parts of the dismantled abbey which once stood on the land to build the castle.
It's said that the curse has brought tragedy onto the the family and ruined the Talbot line, who all died out, their wealth was squandered and eventually the castle was put up for auction in 1941. Could this explain the negative and oppressive feeling many visitors report throughout the castle?
The old nursery and the dining room are said to be particularly active spots, as is the grand staircase at the heart of the castle, where unidentified figures have been seen leaning over the stone balconies.
In the green bedroom on the first floor, the ghost of the last surviving member of the Talbot family has been seen. Her apparition is often seen sitting in a chair near the window. Others walking in the castle grounds have seen a figure they believe is her standing in the window.
Perhaps the most frequently reported spook seen at the castle is the ghost of Robert Scott. In life he served as the castle's gamekeeper for many years until he was murdered by a local poacher. Ever since Scott has been regularly spotted walking up the steps to the castle's entrance.
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The Ghost Hunt
The team were armed with various ghost hunting gadgets, everything from simple dowsing rods through to mobile phone-based apps that spirits are said to be able to use to communicate. There was also the option to take part in Ouija boards or table tipping experiments, although you could only participate in these activities in single household groups or in your support bubble due to the current coronavirus guidelines.
When you watch ghost hunting shows on television, intense and frequent paranormal activity often occurs. The reality is that ghost hunts are a waiting game. TV crews of often film hours of footage before a bang or something odd happens.
This is why I was excited when the investigation quickly got off to a very promising start. During our initial walk around the building we stopped to conduct some quick vigils in each of the areas we'd be returning to over the night.
We started out in what was once the library, before walking through into the adjoining drawing room. I was stood with my back to the doorway we'd come through. As the group was calling out and willing activity to happen, a few of us heard something coming from the library.
It sounded like a small stone had been thrown, and bounced off of something before landing. A couple of us put our torches on and went to investigate the sound. Very quickly we were able to find a stone on the floor in the area the sound seemed to have come from.
I'm not going to jump to the conclusion that this was paranormal, but there was no one behind me when the object fell, and there were no other stones on the floor or anywhere else in the room. Could it have been a piece of falling plaster from the ceiling? No, the ceiling was destroyed in a fire decades ago. Today the wooden floor of the first floor is suspended above the library on metal beams. There's no plaster, no stone. The walls are red brick, the stone was grey in colour. The source of the stone and what caused it to move is a complete mystery.
Later something similar happened. A small group of guest were investigating the yellow room on the first floor when they noticed something fly past their head. At first they thought it was one of the many bats the fly around the upper floors, but it quickly became apparent that it was a part of a plant that had been thrown.
The plant was plastic, which told me it must have come from somewhere in the house. I wandered through the rooms on the first floor until I came to what was once the tapestry bedroom and found the plastic potted plant that the stem had come from. The plant seemed to have moved through three rooms before ending up at the feet of the other guests.
I May Have Seen My First Ghost
I had another odd experience of my own in the library. I was stood pretty much alone in the area in total darkness. I was looking through the opening into a round turret-like room. Because the small round space had windows all around it there was bit of light coming in from the outside.
Suddenly I saw a dark shadow move across and out of the turret that I can't explain. Most of the guests were together in the drawing room at this time, there was no one moving as far as I'm aware, and even if they were, there was no obvious light sources that would create a shadow. This gets marked up as another unexplained incident and perhaps my first ghost sighting?
Later we were in what we were told was the nursery, but I'm not sure if that's actually what the rooms were used for. According to historical information available on Margam Castle, the two rooms at the end of the south corridor on the first floor were bedrooms. The nursery is the adjacent wing, which we didn't have access to on the event.
Whatever the two rooms were used for, we heard lots of strange noises coming from one of them. We were sat in one room calling out just watching and waiting for anything odd to happen. We heard several bangs and thuds coming from an adjoining room over the course of about 10-15 minutes.
I decided to go and stand in the open door with my back to the pitch black room that the noises were coming from. I stayed on the edge of the dark, disconcerting room for about 10 minutes, but weirdly all the time I stood there, the noises stopped. When I returned to the other side of the room, the sounds started up again.
Other guests on the event had lots of activity during the night, including REM-Pods triggering. A REM-Pod is a devise that senses changes in electrostatic and beeps if anything gets close to it. There were also some interesting words and phrases come through on a spirit box, a device that rapidly scans through radio frequencies, it's believed that spirits can manipulate the static and white noise in these frequency ranges to form words and sentences.
Some very active Ouija board sessions and dowsing rod experiments also took place throughout the night.
Margam Castle is a stunning location, one I want to return to in the daytime to explore the grounds. Although the castle isn't as old as it looks, it's an interesting building with a lot of history and it's built on land that has been considered to be sacred for thousands years.
Margam is actually a stately home made to look like a castle, which for me was perfect. I've investigated plenty of castles before, plus pubs, prisons, industrial locations, and haunted homes, so it was great to get the chance to investigate a large county home with its endless number of bedrooms and a grand stair case.
Although the activity we experienced was tame compared to some accounts of hauntings, what I witnessed on the night was enough to satisfy my curiosity and gave me something to think about on the drive home. I was so impressed by the incident with the stone that was seemingly thrown in the library, that I picked it up and brought it home with me as a souvenir. Let's hope the stone isn't cursed like the rest of the castle.
I'm not a big believer in claims that ghosts can drain batteries, but something odd did happen to my torch on the night. When I arrived I tried to turn it on, but it didn't work. So I tried two spare batteries, neither powered the torch. During the break I tried to charge the torch, but it wouldn't charge as the battery was already full. So I thought my torch was broken. My friend I was at the event with took it apart, tried another battery, but he couldn't get it working either.
What's strange is I tried it again when I got home and it worked straight away. I hadn't charged it or taken it apart. I'd just put it back in my bad at the event assuming it was broken, but when I got home it was working again. Perhaps, not paranormal, but weird none the less.
I'd like to say a big thanks to Craig, Karen and Louise for guiding us throughout the night and all of the guests, who made the night fun by being great sports and getting involved.
You can book your own ghost hunt at the Margam Castle with Haunted Happenings, find out more here