Stoke-On-Trent's New Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop Opens Its Doors To Ghost Hunters
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The Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop opened at the end of August and after just a few weeks the brilliant paranormal-themed venue had already helped to solidify Stoke-On-Trent's spot on the haunted map of the UK.
The city's newest attraction in a 200-year-old former shop in Fenton is spread across two floors and houses five atmospheric rooms of haunted artefacts and ghost hunting paraphernalia.
The museum's owner, Craig Longson, has over two decades of experience hunting things that go bump in the night. Along the way he's collected some fascinating items and antiquities, each with a creepy and genuine ghost story attached. Craig tells us that these are "real artefacts from real people with real documentation."
After years of storing and researching these items at home, Craig has finally been able to make them all available for public viewing in a dedicated haunted depository. Each item of interest has been registered with Arts Council England, ensuring that the Stoke attraction is recognised as a bonafide museum.
The collection now serves as a community hub for paranormal investigators, hosting guided tours in the day and for the brave, ghost hunts and even sleepovers at night. All of which is offered at a very affordable price with profits going back into the museum.
Craig said, "it's about giving people a real insight into investigation. They get to use all of our equipment, we give them a full run through and explain how the equipment works and then we get them to actively investigate for themselves." He adds, "we like to go back to basics as well as using the advance equipment. What we try and do is get people to try and experience something with their own senses."
In the weeks since the museum opened, plenty of visitors have had experiences there. Guests have reported seeing artefacts move, and footsteps and disembodied voices have been heard. Craig said, "we've had members of the public who've been touched, they've had their hair pulled, they've heard growls."
Craig, along with his business partner Jason Dean, set up the venture through his paranormal investigation team, Ghost Hunters Of Stoke-On-Trent. He hopes the venue will help give people a better understanding of the field of paranormal research. He explained, "what we're trying to do is give people a more genuine insight into the paranormal. There are no gimmicks here, it's not a scare fest in any way shape or form. If you walk away from here with nothing, then you walk away from here with nothing, but if you do walk away from here with an experience, it's a genuine experience."
As word of the haunted museum spreads, those with a fascination in the paranormal from all over the country have started visiting the eerie attraction, with guests coming from as far as Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester and beyond. This success means that after only being open for five weeks, already the team have plans to expand the collection into the adjoining empty building next door.
Inside Stoke's Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop
As the newest haunted attraction on the block, we had to go and see why Stoke's haunted museum was getting such great reviews.
An unassuming but suitably black building, the best maintained in its row of shops, awaited us. Entering into a themed shop area, the first thing you'll notice after the friendly greeting is a large coffin against one of the walls, giving visitors the chance to snap a macabre selfie before passing through the gates and beginning the guided tour.
It was in this first room, that pays homage to the legend of vampires, that Craig told us that the building dates back to the early 1800s. He tells us that at one point it was the home of an undertaker, who had his workshop out the back of the building - very fitting.
The whole museum is really atmospheric. It's dimly lit, with jet black walls, dark drapes, and candles flickering throughout. Craig, who is giving us the tour, tells us "we love what we do, it's a dream come true and it's great for the city."
The whole building is rigged with cameras in the hopes of capturing paranormal activity should it occur in any of the museum's five main rooms. Craig says, "everything we do we're looking for an intelligent response, anything can just go off at any point in my opinion and for any reason, but we're looking for the meaningful stuff."
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The first highlight of the tour was a very cozy and authentic Victorian-style séance room. Craig tells us that this tranquil and practical space is "one of the most sought after rooms for séances anywhere in the UK."
The attention to detail in this room is impressive, including the well-presented table itself and the many appropriate photos and prints dotted around the walls, as well as a mirror which is said to swing of its own accord. One photo in particular is what appears to be a very old and personal family portrait that was saved from a house fire, ever since it has been linked to the unexplained smell of smoke.
A vintage upright piano stands against one wall that was donated to the museum after a family death. Like some of the other objects on display, Craig doesn't claim this is one of the museum's haunted items, but the piano serves as a trigger object. A trigger object is an item that can be placed at a haunted location in the hopes that a spirit might interact with it. In this case it's hoped a spirit my tinkle the ivories, the musical note produced would instantly alert the team to this activity.
In the corner of the room is another audible trigger in the form of an old granddaughter clock. The clock hasn't worked for years, but it's said to resume its steady tick-tock from time to time, as well as letting out the odd unexpected chime.
The next room was divided up into different areas. At the end we first walked into a corner was decorated to resemble a terrifying scene from the movie 'The Conjuring II'. An old rocking chair sits in this part of the room. The chair was the favourite seat of a rather strong-willed woman, following her death her granddaughter donated it to the museum fearing that she might return to her chair. Like many of the objects on display, the team haven't captured anything significant from the chair yet, but as a new item the team are monitoring it. In the meantime, it makes a comfy spot for a replica of an original Raggedy Ann doll, the type that was the real-life inspiration of Annabelle in 'The Conjuring' movies.
In the opposite corner, copies of the infamous crying boy paintings lined the wall. Two of these prints came from a house where a family suffered from 11 years of hauntings. After these pictures were found in the attic and removed, the activity stopped.
Under these paintings is a dybbuk box and it was at this point in the tour that I realised just how honest and genuine Ghost Hunters Of Stoke-On-Trent are. It would be easy to claim that this box was donated to the museum or found in a house clearance, but the truth is since Zak Bagans revealed his original dybbuk box there has been a serge in people making and selling these boxes.
Rather than ending up with someone's craft project, Craig decided to take a different approach. He told us, "I love the story of the dybbuk box and I wanted to make my own." The homemade box was sealed with wax after being packed full of 22 items that are believed to be haunted. It allows Craig to tell guests the interesting story and history of dybbuk boxes, while conducting his own dybbuk experiment.
This honest approach seems to be working, as according to Craig, team members who have taken the box home have had strange experiences while it was in their houses. He added, "honesty is the most important thing for us, I've been investigating for 21 years this year. We love what we do and we love giving people the real side of what we do."
In the middle of the room is a large table lit by the flickering light of a candle arbour. The tabletop is covered with various tools for contacting the dead which can be used during investigations. These include Ouija boards, and a planchette used for automatic writing. A pen is placed into this planchette which is able to slide across a piece of paper, it's believed that after placing your finger on the planchette, a spirit can channel their message through you causing it to be scrolled across the paper.
There's also a clever device made out of an old telephone with a K-II meter inside, this is another of the museum's trigger objects. A K-II is a popular ghost hunting gadget that springs to life when an electromagnetic shift occurs, something that is often associated with hauntings. The unusual thing about this device is that it's housed within an old telephone, something that is likely to be familiar to spirits and therefore increase the likelihood of them interacting with it.
At the other end of the room are the stairs leading up to the first floor. According to the building's history, a little girl named Sarah was found dead at the bottom of the stairs. This area is now the museum's nursery where a selection of haunted items and trigger objects that might appeal to child spirits are housed, including dolls from different families from all over the world - one of which has an electromagnetic detector built in, a rocking horse, and a creepy ventriloquist doll that proved too active for one investigator, so she donated it to the museum.
Showing us around the nursery, Craig said "we're always very respectful with what we do, especially when we're working with children's energy because we don't want to frighten them away, we want them to come forward." It seems this approach might be working for the team, as they've had interesting results with several of the objects in the nursery, including an old Victorian pram which has been caught moving on its own several times.
Next we climbed the stairs, past six prints of the most famous haunted paintings from around the world. Upstairs we were introduced to many more of the museum's artefacts, including several items with a military connection such as a genuine uniform, gas masks, a coffin used during the two world wars to bring over 1,000 soldiers' bodies back to the UK, and even a used bodybag - don't worry, it's been cleaned.
The centrepiece of the first floor, and perhaps the museum, is Mary. An old-looking doll sat in the middle of the room on a small rocking chair upon a table, that almost acts as her own pedestal. Craig tells us proudly, "she is our most active artefact" and says it could even be the most haunted doll in the UK.
She's been seen to violently rock on the chair, has been thrown out of the chair, and her eyes have been seen moving. Many of these incidents have been caught on the museum's CCTV cameras.
Opposite a tribute to Stoke-On-Trent's legendary witch of Burslem, Molly Leigh - who was once imprisoned at the very haunted Leopard Inn - is the museum's poltergeist mirror. The unassuming mirror came from a house in nearby Audley. It was found upstairs after a family moved into the house, but after seeing a little girl in the bottom left corner, the family passed it on to Craig to add to his collection.
Now the mirror hangs on the far wall of the upstairs room and is permanently covered by curtains, a sign below reads "look at your own risk". Craig gave me the option of whether to look or not, to be honest I was tempted not to, not because I was scared of it, but because the mirror has a great story and the mystery of it being hidden behind curtains almost adds to it.
I decided not to show it on this page however, so that future visitors can decide for themselves whether they want to gaze into the mirror or not. It's a great item and I would love to spend some time staring into it, especially since the little girl has been spotted in the mirror since being moved to the museum.
The final stop on the tour is the chapel, another room on the first floor which contains two real church pews. The space doubles as a small cinema where Craig plans to hold paranormal television nights and supernatural movie screenings. It's also here that guests get the chance to sleepover at the museum, fittingly in a bodybag.
Believer or skeptic, the museum houses an impressive collection of historic and rare artefacts with interesting ghost stories attached. If you're a fan of the paranormal, then the museum is well worth a visit, either on a tour, event or ghost hunt. With talk of an expansion already on the cards, the Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop can only get bigger and better from here.
Did I experience anything on my visit to the museum? Well, we weren't on a ghost hunt, although I did hear a few knocks and bangs coming from some of the dark corners of the museum. But then at the end of the tour something odd did happen. Despite being fixed on the same colour for my whole two hours in the building, an LED light fixture in the shop area mysteriously turned itself from red to green. Craig laughed and said, "it's never done that before". The colour shouldn't change unless someone presses the remote control, which was in another room and there was no one else in the building at that time.
Visiting The Haunted Museum
The Haunted Museum & Spirit Shop, Stoke, which also includes a small but well-stocked oddities and gift shop, is located at 283 City Road in Fenton. In-depth guided tours of the museum are available seven days a week for walk-ins. Tours cost £5 and last up to 90 minutes.
In the evenings the building is locked down for pre-booked ticketed events including horror movie screenings, paranormal investigations and sleepovers. Plus three-hour paranormal workshops, which include a tour and an in-depth talk about ghost hunting equipment, then a mini investigation so guests can try out what they've learnt for themselves.
The museum also offers tarot card readings, meditation classes, and two-hour séance sessions with a reputable medium in the museum's sought-after and very atmospheric séance room. All these nights of spooky entertainment are offered at a very affordable price with discounts available for established paranormal teams.
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