In the sixth episode of the new series of 'Help! My House Is Haunted', Barri Ghai, Jayne Harris and Ian Lawman are called to investigate Groundlings Theatre in Hampshire, where a volunteer believes that multiple spirits are trapped in the building.
The 18th century building is located in Portsea near Portsmouth. Its trustee, Helen Gibbs, said that over her three years volunteering there she's "always been aware of something at Groundlings Theatre." Helen says that the paranormal activity ranges from light anomalies through to fleeting glimpses of shadowy figures. Lights are also said to turn on and off on their own, and the disembodied voice of a child crying has been heard.
Ian, the show's psychic
medium, is not told anything about the property in advance, but before he even arrived he said, "I'm feeling very excited today, so I feel where I'm going there must be some happiness there, there must be some laughter, and there must be some fun." He then added, "I wish I never said that now, because I do feel quite sad as well." Ian thinks the building he's heading to might have a history as a workhouse. He added, "I'm also drawn to someone shouting and I'm seeing a cane or a stick."
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You can read more and the team's investigations on our 'Help! My House Is Haunted' hub, where you'll find detailed reviews of each episode, trivia quizzes and news on future episodes.
Ian's Psychic Sweep
Upon arrival, Ian confessed to being a little confused. He said, "I'll be brutally honest, I didn't see a theatre, I actually thought it was more of a poor school. However, I did see happiness, and I did see joy". To find out more, he began his solo walk around the property. As soon as he walked in, he said, "I can hear children. I can hear them very strongly in here."
He also said he felt like he was being watched by a gentleman who would have worn a top hat. Ian added, "he was very significant to this building, so he could have funded it, he could have look after some of the children potentially that were here." Ian describes this man as a "strict gentleman" who wasn't to be messed with.
Walking into the actual theatre space in the building, Ian once again said he was aware of the energy of children. He said, "it's almost like a scene from 'Oliver Twist', they're tugging on people's coats and taking things, so there will be poltergeist activity here."
In the backstage dressing area, Ian said he felt stress and a headache as soon as he walked in. He also said, "I can hear footsteps across the floor, and there's a thud, a big bang." Although there are no stairs in this room now, he speculates that there might have once been a staircase. He said, "I'm wondering if someone has fallen or been pushed."
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Barri & Jayne Investigate The Background Of The Case
Jayne and Barri look for leads in the local area. Barri started out by talking to Richard Stride, who has owned the theatre since 2010. He told Barri that the building was a burned-out shell when he took it over, but it wasn't long before he started experiencing paranormal
Richard said, "I would see stuff move by itself, I would put a drink down and it just went across the table. We had things like doors slamming, things falling over, things turning around, things going missing constantly." He added, "quite often, I'd see something out of the corner of my eye, like a dark shadow or something."
Richard also told Barri that a spirit named Jill is said to haunt a room in the dressing area. He said, "she quite often knocks, and every time I've been in their she's knocked, pretty much on a regular basis." Richard took Barri to the exact spot and Barri called out, "Jill, can you knock" and to Barri's amazement, a knock was heard.
Richard then explains that Jill is either supposed to have pushed a child down some stairs or witnessed the incident. He adds, "which was interesting at the time because there's no staircase here, there's never been a staircase, and then six months later we had someone come in to do restoration and they found remains of a staircase."
Meanwhile, Jayne went to uncover some of the nautical history of Portsea, since the theatre is located close to the historic dockyards. She meets with Matt Wingett, a local historian, who tells her "it wasn't always a theatre, basically it started off as the Mutual Beneficial School, and the story behind it is that Portsea had the byproduct of prostitution, and that's lots of wild, unruly kids." Many of those children found themselves in the school that had pretty grim conditions, with tales of a whipping post where punishment was served.
Spirit Trigger Experiment
After coming together to share their findings, the team gather with the homeowner in the dining room to try a spirit trigger experiment. The idea is to involve trustee, Helen, in the first stage of their investigation in an attempt to trigger some interest from any spirits that might be present.
They conducted the brief experiment on the stage, where they attempt to contact any child spirits by filling the room with old toys that would have been familiar to them. Almost straight away Helen said, "my hearing has gone funny." Ian instantly put this down to "clairaudience," he explained "that means spirit are trying to communicate with you". Ian described it as an adjustment of frequency like tuning a radio, but despite being on the same wavelength, Helen didn't report hearing anything.
The team switch to using EchoVox, an app which is pre-loaded with the 40 or so phonetic sounds that make up words. From this bank of 24 consonant sounds and 20 vowel sounds any English word or phrases can be produced. The app randomly spews out these sounds and it's believed that spirits can affect the random nature of this app in order to form the words they are trying to communicate.
The device seemed to say the name "Edward" when the team asked for a name of the spirit. Helen asked some questions. She asked, "are you one of the children?" The noise that was heard in response sounded like "no," so Helen asked "are you the head master?" and a noise that sounded like "head" echoed out of the app.
They also heard a noise they interpreted as "shhh," as in "be quiet" several times, but since "sh" alone is one of the 44 phonemes and the noises was a single syllable, this could have just been a raw phonetic being spewed out randomly. However, the other responses to the questions did seem to support the known history of Groundlings.
After Helen left for the night and with the light fading outside, the team prepare for their investigation. Barri had rigged eight night vision cameras throughout the historic property. The team start out by trying to recreate a school scene in a mock up of one of the old classrooms. The plan involved dressing up in school uniforms, with Ian taking on the role of the teacher.
After getting permission from the teacher, Barri set up his REM-Pod between the class and the door. This ghost hunting
gadget that senses changes in the electrostatic field that it generates. If anything conductive enters and disturbs the field the gadget will alert the team by beeping and lighting up.
As Mr Lawman mentioned sending Barri out of the room, the device did beep, despite no one being near it. Ian wondered if this could have been a spirit leaving the room as he threatened Barri, so he said "so, the spirit person who walked into the other room, I'm asking you to come back into this room please" and again the device lit up. Ian thought this activity might have been the result of the spirit of a little girl called Emily.
Barri had a hunch that the spirit they encountered in the classroom was more trusting of Jayne, so the team decided to split up. While Jayne walked the building alone during which time she heard unexplained knocking sounds, Barri and Ian monitor the static cameras and are amazed to see a shadow moving across the stage, despite no one being in the area. Seconds later a REM-Pod that had been placed of the stage triggered.
Towards the end of the investigation, Jayne tried a scrying experiment while sat in front of a dressing room mirror. The technique is similar to gazing into a crystal ball, but instead you stare at your own face in the reflection, normally by candle light. It's said that if a spirit is present they can affect what you see and even alter the vision of your face.
Jayne explains her hopes from the experiment, "by focussing on my image in the mirror, I can access my unconscious mind, allowing visions of the past to surface." The experiment proved to be very emotional for Jayne when she felt she could see a woman on the verge of tears. Now crying herself, Jayne said, "I think this lady has been very sad in this room, and I don't know who she is."
Meanwhile, Barri and Ian had returned to the area of the dressing room where the spirit of Jill is said to knock, and again she seemed to knock on command. One of the knocks coincided with Jayne radioing through to tell Barri and Ian about the sad female spirit she'd encountered in the dressing room, they took this to mean that Jill was this sad spirit... only Ian wasn't sure about the name. He tells us, "we've been told the lady who knocks is called Jill, but she's actually called Elizabeth and we need to work out why she's sad and knocking to get our attention."
The investigation ends with the team working together to try to uncover some collaborative evidence that links the spirits of Elizabeth and Emily.
The team's investigation of Groundlings Theatre was an interesting one with a strong conclusion that answered many of the questions raised by Ian during his initial walk around, although all the answers did come through further psychic insights from Ian rather than any other evidence obtained through the actual investigation itself. Since Jill seemed to knock so regularly in response to questions, it's a shame we didn't get to see the team attempt to verify any of the information using this method.
There were a couple of standout moments in the episode. The first was in the classroom where in a very short space of time the team caught what sounded like a disembodied voice in an audio recording, and a series of strange still photos using a night vision camera. The photos were taken in the exact spot where Ian said just moments before that there was a female spirit. A name for this spirit, Emily, popped into Barri's head. Ian was able to validate this name with his abilities.
The evidence obtained on the theatre's stage was also very impressive, not only the shadow moving across the stage, but as Jayne approached the stage afterwards the REM-Pod triggered twice on her command.
You can watch the whole third season of 'Help! My House Is Haunted' right now on Discovery+, as well as the show's whole back catalogue.
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