On a freezing cold and very windy winter night, I took shelter in the tunnels and magazines beneath Nothe Peninsula on a ghost hunt with Most Haunted Experience.
Nothe Fort on the Dorset coast was an incredible location for a ghost hunt, perhaps one of the best I've visited to date. It wasn't the most active, but it was a real thrill to get to spend the night in the fort, exploring its former secrets by torchlight.
The ghost hunting
event was hosted by Most Haunted Experience (MHE), an offshoot of the long-running television series, which gives viewers the chance to search for spooks with the stars of 'Most Haunted'. At this event Karl Beattie and Stuart Torevell were on hand to get stuck into some ghost hunting with the 30 or so guests.
The Grade II listed fort, which overlooks Weymouth bay, was commissioned in 1872, and was built to protect Weymouth harbour and the nearby Portland harbour which was an important British naval base. Nothe Fort was shut down in 1956, but survives to this day as a museum containing World War II and Cold War memorabilia, as well as some of the impressive original cannons and guns.
The fort, which is one of the best-preserved of its kind in the country, earned the title of one of the spookiest places in the UK in a nationwide poll conducted in 2007, and staff and volunteers refuse to enter certain areas alone.
There's also been sightings of a figure in white walking around the top of the fort at night, when the location should be locked up and empty. Others have reported phantom footsteps, the mysterious smell of cigar smoke and slamming doors.
The historic and atmospheric attraction's most famous spook is the whistling gunner. For decades his tooting has been heard echoing around the fort's underground tunnels and empty magazines.
Is this sound really the tuneful whistling of a long-dead gunman, or is the phenomenon caused by nothing more than wind blowing through the magazines? We had one night in the tunnels to find out, and it was the perfect night to test the wind theory as it was a very blustery night.
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After a quick welcome chat from Karl and Stuart, and a chance for guests to have their photos taken with the celebrity ghost hunters, we headed out to begin the night. Sheltered by the D-shaped walls, we crossed the courtyard and descended into the subterranean tunnels.
These tunnels, which house the bomb-proof deep magazines where ammunition was once stored, were an eerie place in the dark. Although completely isolated from the outside world, the wind blowing outside did seem to carry sounds down in to the tunnels. These noises didn't sound like whistles as such, but more like whispering, distant voices.
We held vigil in several of these magazines and tried various techniques to attempt to contact the spirits of the fort, including watching and waiting for activity to happen, as well as the use of Ouija boards, dowsing rods and various ghost hunting gadgets like the popular K-II meter and flashing cat balls to act as trigger objects.
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Towards the end of our time underground we passed through a heavy blast door into part of the fort's magazine level that was converted into a nuclear bunker
in the 1980s in order to aid the continuation of local government during the Cold War.
This area proved to be a little more quiet and sterile than the older areas, but was still a fascinating place to explore with the MHE team. It included command and accommodation areas and served as a chilling reminder of the very real threat of a nuclear strike on British soil that existed for decades.
The first half of our night came to an end, but sadly we didn't witness any whistling in any parts of the underground areas. As it was such a windy night, does this mean we can rule out the theory that wind has caused many visitors over the decades to hear these whistling sounds? Or was the wind merely blowing in the wrong direction during my visit?
After a break and a chance to re-energise with a Wagon Wheel, Club or Tunnock's tea cake, we began the second half of our investigation. This time we were at ground level in the casemates, which once housed the fort's huge cannons and accommodation for the fort's men.
This area produced very different phenomena to that we'd experienced in the magazines below. Some guests noted frequent bursts of electromagnetic fluctuation on their K-II meters. This gave me the chance to try a new bit of kit, an EMF multi-field detector. It's like a professional version of a K-II meter, it doesn't just flash, it actually tells you what its detecting.
So, the next time a guest's K-II meter flashed, I held my device next to it. The multi-field detector is able to tell you the strength of the burst of energy, something the K-II does with its coloured lights that go from green at zero through to red at 20 milligauss, but the multi-field also tells you the frequency range of that energy.
The electromagnetic spectrum is made up of everything from visible light to invisible radio waves, plus microwaves, X-rays and much more. A handy feature of the multi-field is that it tells you the most likely cause of the EM spike. In this case it told me that what was setting off the K-II meter was something in the WiFi and mobile phone range.
This could mean that we could debunk the K-II triggering as the result of a nearby router or someone's phone, especially since the K-II lights were flickering which indicated packets of data rather than a sustained electromagnetic field. But we can't say for sure, if you believe that ghosts
effect the ambient electromagnetic field or emit detectable fields, then you can't rule out the possibility that they do so within the part of the spectrum that phones and WiFi devices use... although this does seem unlikely.
For the final part of the night we went up to the fort's ramparts, where large guns and cannons could once be fired from. We started in an observation tower, where several guests said they felt like they'd been touched. We then moved on to the old black smith's shop. Here we heard several unexplained knocks and bangs, and one guest also suddenly felt ill in this room.
After this final vigil we had 30 minutes of free time, which gave us one last chance to explore the building and head back to any areas that we gelt had been particularly active.
Thanks to all the MHE team for hosting us, and for all the other guests for being good sports and making it such a fun night. If you'd like to book your own ghost hunt with Most Haunted Experience at the Nothe Fort, you can find more information at mosthauntedexperience.com