Help! My House Is Haunted: Hertford Corn Exchange - Series 2, Episode 1 Review
'Help! My House Is Haunted' returned to the Really channel tonight for its second series. In the first of the 12 new episodes of the British ghost hunting show the team head to Hertford to investigate reports of strange sounds and sensations in a popular music venue with a dark past.
Barri Ghai and Chris Fleming return for the new series, but this time around they are joined by new team member, Jayne Harris. Just like in the first series, that aired last autumn, the team are travelling across the UK investigating homes using specialist paranormal equipment to gather evidence and communicate with spirits, in order to find out what they want and help them move on.
The team arrive in the historic market town in their new mobile nerve centre built in the back of a luxurious-looking camper van. They've been called to get to the bottom of the strange goings on in the imposing 19th century Corn Exchange building, which is now an entertainment venue. Its owners, Chris and Juliette, claim to have been plagued by "abnormal levels of spiritual activity" and inexplicable sights and sounds since taking over the venue 13 years ago.
The show has 'levelled-up' with an exciting new opening sequence, featuring dramatic narration by Ian Shaw. The opening segment and the introduction to the location has a similar feel to 'Unexplained: Caught On Camera', which aired on Really earlier this year - in terms of the music used, style of the voice over, the owners' eye witness testimonies to camera, and even their amateur video footage of orbs caught on camera in the building. Although similar to another show, it's a slick, snappy, engaging and fitting start to the new series.
Chris' Initial Investigation
More so than in the previous series, each of the team members now have very clear and defined roles. So, as Barri and Jayne head off to discover more about the building and its links to the paranormal, Chris begins his investigation alone.
Chris is a world-renowned medium, who claims to be able to communicate with the dead and channel their messages from beyond the grave. In this episode as always, Chris knows nothing about the location in advance, but while on route to Hertford he picked up on a male spirit in his 40s or 50s.
Stood outside the building, Chris is "immediately overwhelmed by strong residual energy", which he likens to echoes from the past which tell him how much the building has changed over the years.
Once inside he felt drawn toward the main event space, a large open hall with a stage and a bar at one end. Suddenly he ran across the room towards the bar after seeing something move across the bar area. He then jumped as he felt a cold sensation across his back, like something made contact with him.
Later in his walk around in one of the back rooms, Chris felt uneasy, reported the sensation of a tight chest and difficulty breathing. At first Chris was unsure why he felt this way, but then it came to him. He said, "someone died over here".
Chris believes that this man he's picking up on is a negative spirit and the same person he became aware of during the drive to the location. The venue's owner Juliette thinks that this male presence is a highway man who was imprisoned in the old town jail that once stood on the land where the Corn Exchange is now built.
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Jayne Delves Into The Building's History
Meanwhile Jayne, a paranormal researcher, psychologist and historian, is doing what she does best and is digging into the history of the location in an attempt to find out who the entities that are said to be associated with the building are.
In order to find out more she went to explore the streets outside the building with local historian and author Ruth Stratton. She learnt that the building has close ties to judicial hangings in the town in the 1600-1700s, during the trials of the assizes.
Within a small area of the town the trials and sentencing took place, the guilty were detained in the old jail on the site that the Corn Exchange now stands on, and the executions took place outside the shire hall, situated just across the road from the old jail. Jayne wonders whether the area could be an "epicentre for paranormal activity in Hertford," due to its longstanding history of misery, suffering, death and incarceration.
Jayne continues her research in a lovely looking coffee shop in the town, where she looks up some of the town's history online. She uncovers the name Charlie Cox, who was famously held in the old jail on charges of highway robbery, before being taken across the road and hanged for his crimes outside the shire hall.
Charlie's nickname was "bacon face," this ties in with the information given to her by Juliette about the highway man that Chris has also picked up on. Jayne thinks his traumatic death might have left an "imprint" on the building and thinks Bacon Face could well still be haunting the site of the old jail.
Barri is a paranormal investigator and technical expert who's never afraid to take the investigation to places others fear to enter. He was also on the hunt for information about the building's hauntings and had gone to meet bar manager Kayleigh. As an eye witness to the paranormal activity in the building, Barri wanted to ask her more about her experiences there.
Talking in the safety of a presumably not-haunted nearby pub, she told the paranormal investigator that the toilets are one of the creepiest parts of the building. She told him that some nights she "can't wait to get out of there."
The team re-grouped to begin their investigation in the main hall. They brought owners Juliette and Chris into the first vigil to use them as familiar triggers to encourage the spirits to interact. In this initial vigil the team experienced issues with their audio recording equipment, which died despite just having had its batteries tested.
Moments later they appear to capture a spirit in the form of an EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) using a digital audio recorder. The disembodied voice appeared to be telling the investigators, "I'm here".
The next experiment they conducted was to get Juliette to play her violin in the hopes that it might stir up some spiritual energy. After just a few seconds of the music playing, the team noted a sudden drop in temperature.
After this Barri, Jayne and Juliette moved into the women's toilets, the area Barri had been tipped off about previously. During an EVP session, Jayne suddenly felt like something had touched her shoulder from behind. The definite touch lead her to the conclusion that there's "no doubting the presence" of something with them in the bathroom.
Barri, Jayne and Chris gathered in their nerve centre, where their team can monitor the feeds from eight cameras placed around the building. They discussed their plan of action and the areas they were going to focus their investigation on, as a 3D plan of the building's layout appeared on screen.
The building was then locked down as the team prepared to start their night-long investigation of the building, but before they even got started, Chris became the victim of what Barri describes as "an overwhelming and sustained attack by a powerful presence."
While setting up their kit, Chris became unstable and fell backwards. he then started wheezing and speaking in a strange voice while writhing on the floor. Barri tells us that it appears to be what is called a 'walk in', he says "a departed soul has entered Chris' body". Barri explains that this means a sprit has literally walked into him and taken over his body.
Luckily it didn't last long and a few moments later Chris snapped back to reality and came around from this unexpected experience, but he needed to take a break from the investigation and stepped outside.
While Chris recovered from his drama, Jayne went back into the toilets to see if the spirit that reached out to her earlier would make its presence known again, but this time things were quiet, leading Jayne to speculate that the energy in the building might be focussing its attention on Chris.
Jayne then rejoined the boys who had discovered the building's lift was behaving strangely. The door was refusing to close, as if something was blocking its path. Barri stepped inside the elevator and said "I dare you to close this lift door" and on cue the door effortlessly slid closed, much to the excitement and amazement of the team.
Seconds later Chris thought he saw someone stood on the stairs, he believes it could have been the spirit of a young girl. This matches what Juliette had told the team about a young servant girl who is said to be trapped in the building.
Barri then ventured down to the basement with his SLS camera, a device that is supposed to be able to map anomalies invisible to the human eye and highlight these potential manifestations by showing them as stick figures drawn over the camera's image.
Barri's device showed two such stick figures on the screen when he pointed his camera into part of the dark basement. Based on the success of this experiment Barri took the camera back to the lift to see if the camera would map anything there. The camera once again showed a human-like figure stood in front of him, was this the spirit who had earlier been messing with the lift's door?
Later back in the main hall, Chris once again fell victim to an attack, but this incident only made the team more determine to uncover the cause of the haunting. They move into an office in one of the back rooms where the gang conduct a session with a spirit box, a device which scans through the radio spectrum. The idea is that spirits can affect the sound and use it to communicate. They seemed to get several responses which confirm that there are negative entities in the building connected with the old jail.
They conclude that the negative male presence that has been attacking Chris has been doing so to stop him getting to the spirit of the young girl. Chris decides he needs to conduct a spiritual ritual to move the dominant male spirit aside in order to release the spirit of the girl.
Chris explains what he's about to do, "what this prayer does is it opens up the plains of existence between the dimensions, between ours and the afterlife."
The first thing Chris does is use a chyme that produces a "pure harmonic tone" to get the spirits attention. He then splashes holy water around while calling upon legions of angels to come forward and drive away the negative entities in the building.
Jayne concludes that after an intense night of investigation, Chris' cleansing ritual has had the desired effect and the dark residual energy from the old jail has been expelled and the trapped spirit of the girl who wanted to cross over had now moved on. And with that, the first episode of the series came to an end.
The new team seem to work really well together, and their new more defined rolls really worked well to bolster the narrative of the episode, with Chris focussing on the energy of the building, Barri investigating the paranormal claims, and Jayne looking into the building's history.
Early in the investigation some of the music choices were a little questionable as they included noises that sounded like knocks and bangs, making it hard to distinguish the sounds from the room they were investigating and the music. It also seemed like several sound effects had been added to the episode's soundtrack, this was OK as the sounds weren't supposed to be paranormal in nature, it just added a bit of depth to the episode - I actually thought it was a good bit of attention to detail.
'Help! My House Is Haunted' continues next week on Really as part of the channel's #Freakend event, bringing viewers two nights of paranormal entertainment every Thursday and Friday.
You can watch in the United Kingdom and Ireland as part of the Discovery family of channels. You can watch Really on Freeview (17), Sky (142), Virgin Media (129) and Freesat (160), plus YouView, BT TV and TalkTalk TV. Or watch previous episodes on demand on dplay.
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