Paranormal Lockdown UK: Shepton Mallet Prison Review
I've never watched the US ghost hunting show 'Paranormal Lockdown' before, but as the new series on Quest Red started with episodes filmed at two locations I've visited myself, I thought I'd give it a go.
If you're new to the show too, the basic premise is that paranormal investigators Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman spend 72 hours locked inside of the some of the most haunted places in the world. Two series have already aired which were filmed at locations across America, but in this new series the duo are on the hunt for ghosts in some of the UK's most notorious haunted hotspots.
This series starts with their investigation of a now abandoned prison in Somerset, which is plagued by strange sounds, shadow figures and voices from the other side. The building was the oldest operating jail in the country when in closed in 2013. With a history of almost 400 years of incarceration, suffering and execution, it's no wonder it's said to be haunted.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, prisoners were crammed together in tiny, filthy cells. Later Shepton Mallet was used as an American military prison during World War II and became the site of many executions by firing squad. It return to a civilian prison in 1966 and housed some of the UK's most infamous criminals.
My first impression is that the show is beautifully shot. Drone footage really sets the scene and shows the building like no other paranormal show ever has.
Not knowing anything about the format of the show at all, I was quite pleased to find that after a brief history of the prison's haunted history Nick and Katrina got stuck into their investigation, initially with the help of their camera man, Rob Saffi, but he soon left them for the night.
Once locked in, darkness soon fell on the prison and the show switched on their night vision cameras. I was pleasantly surprised to see that a purple filter had been applied to the otherwise grey and dull night vision shots. The tone is really easy on the eye and brings out splashes of other colours. It's a really different and stylistic choice which gives the show its own identity.
As they started their investigation, Nick said "this is probably one of the scariest places I've had to investigate. There's a vibe about it that I just can't explain." They start by walking around the old 1700s prison cells, and although they didn't experience anything there, they did hear a sound coming from A-wing and went to investigate. It's in this part of the prison that a ghost described as a Lady in White has been seen.
Now, 13 hours into their lockdown the pair walk through the wing calling out to the spirits. At this point they were using a device called a Geoport. Katrina explains that this "scans phonetic words, if anything comes through that makes sense it could be a spirit communicating with us." After Katrina saw a shadow move, Nick called out, "is that you? Are you in here with us?" The Geoport sprung to life with a grunt, Nick interpreted this as "I'm here".
Moments later Katrina jumped when they heard a door slam somewhere in the wing. They went up to the first floor balcony to try to find the door that had slammed. After identifying the offending door, Nick saw what he thought was a shadow figure at the end of the wing, Katrina said "it's like it's leading us."
After following the spirit, Katrina felt that it had quietened down. So, they decided to move on to another location in order to get answers.
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The next location the pair investigated was the former exercise yard. In this location an apparition of a woman has been seen before vanishing. Straight away Katrina felt like something had touched her arm. Before long they moved on to the area of the prison where executions were carried out.
Nick described the room as "eerily calm" and decided to head back to A-wing to spend the night alone. While Katrina spent the night in the condemned man's cell, right next to the hanging room.
I'm not really sure how this next bit of the show works. We see Nick and Katrina in their respective beds, alone in different parts of the prison. I assume they must just film an hour or so of themselves lying in bed, as their cameras wouldn't have the storage capacity or battery to film them continuously throughout the night.
However they film it, it's lucky they did because while alone in this bed, Nick heard several load metallic bangs and rattling sounds coming from the darkened wing. He jumped out of bed and grabbed his digital audio recorder in an attempt to make communication, but quickly became freaked out and picked up his camera and went to investigate.
Nick described the sounds as cell doors slamming, footsteps, shuffling around and voices.
23 hours in, the sun came up... I'm not really sure how they've worked that out because they started their investigation just before sunset. So, almost exactly a day later should be just before dusk on day two, but some how it's just after dawn.
Katrina was first to wake up due to the freezing cold conditions of the jail, she went to find Nick in A-wing to begin their day. They started the second day by reviewing the audio captured by Nick's audio recorder, which he left running over night. There were lots of odd sounds in the recording like growls. Katrina thought it sounded like someone saying "Nick, help."
Nick and Katrina were then rejoined by Rob and they continued their investigation throughout the rest of the prison, starting in C-wing, where the infamous gangsters Ronnie and Reggie Kray were once held. Today the guys were using an Echovox device, which according to Katrina "takes a bunch of phonetic sounds and scrambles them and then if anything intelligent can manipulate the device we'll get sentences or words that make sense."
In one of the old sales Nick starts calling out and before long they hear something that sounds like the word, "Kray". But pretty soon they were interrupted by another cell door slamming on the upper balcony.
Now 37 hours into their lockdown, the sun had once again set on the prison and the cameras had been switched to night vision. Katrina pulled out a still camera and took some of the worst photos I've ever seen, clearly moving the camera too quickly while it's struggling to take photos in the low light, this just results in blurred, unusable photos.
Nick then said he saw what looked like a shadowy figure in the middle of the exercise yard, this seemed to coincide with Katrina hearing a noise from the darkness. Nick got excited when he saw the object move. Katrina said, "I look up and I see this figure standing there and its sort of the outline of a woman wearing a dress." Sadly the figure wasn't caught on camera or in Katrina's blurry photos.
After the encounter, Nick said "those are the type of shadow figures that we keep talking about. These things just keep forming and appearing, but we can't catch them. We turn our cameras and they're gone as fast as we're looking at them."
Nick then pulled out his Geoport and asked out, "where are you?" He seemed to get the answer "underneath". Katrina said they should split up and Nick should go to investigate the old underground cells, while she stays up to.
I'm not really sure where Nick was at this point because there are no accessible underground cells at Shepton Mallet prison. It looked like he was just in one of the old 1610 cells, which are above ground. As he crawled into one of them through a whole in the wall, he leapt back out shouting, "something just hissed at me."
Katrina decided to put her bed in the yard, which seems like a bit of a silly place without a tent. Nick slept in the 1600s cell he'd explored and heard the hissing sound in.
Day three consisted of another Geoport session in the yard, this didn't seem to reveal much, but the pair decided to head to hanging room to conduct one final experiment on their final night behind bars.
They are using a device made by eXtremeSenses called an Angelus. It is like a visual version of the Geoport, it scans through a video database as well as phonetics. Nick explains, "the idea behind this whole experiment is spirit can supposedly manipulate the images being projected and use it to communicate with us intelligently."
During the experiment, Katrina assumes the position of a condemned prisoner above the trapdoor, while Nick stands watching over her as the executioner might have. As Katrina starts calling out she suddenly hears a loud noise to the side of her. The whole crew then hear knocking sounds coming from outside the room, most of the sounds weren't picked up on camera, until there was one last loud bang.
This lead to a séance in which Katrina asked the spirits to "knock once for no and twice for yes." Using this method they determined that the spirit was in the room with them and that it was a soldier. After Katrina said, "I'm in a state of shock at this point. This is such clear contact and as an investigator, this is kind of the stuff your dreams are made of."
They then switched back to the Geoport device and asked the spirit its name, it replied with the name "Cassandra." Another grunt was heard through the device which the two interpreted as "I'm a thief." But then the eeriest bit of evidence I've heard in a show like this.
A clear female voice came through the device, speaking in whispers but very clearly saying "I don't want to die." Both of the investigators were shocked by the voice. Nick said, "we've never experienced this before, this spirit completely bypassed the sound banks on the device and we heard a clear tonal voice coming through."
As a skeptic, unless I'm there and hear it with my own ears in a controlled environment, it would be hard for me to say it's valid evidence and proof of the paranormal. But, if the voice was really heard as clear as it was heard in the show, then it is incredible evidence of the afterlife.
After this, the team have the hunch that Cassandra is in the 1600s jail cells, so they go to investigate. Straight away Katrina and camera man Rob hear what they think sounds like a female voice. They used the Geoport again at this location, but frankly the grunting sounds they heard after were nothing like the "I don't want to die audio."
Not long later, Nick said that things had quietened down and the investigation came to an end.
Having reviewed some truly awful paranormal television recently, I really enjoyed 'Paranormal Lockdown UK'. Other than the fact the times given didn't add up throughout the investigation, the show was really well produced and looked great. Nick and Katrina are really likeable, they don't get over excited when they experience things and don't runaway screaming either.
You can read what happened when I went ghost hunting at Shepton Mallet prison here. Next week Nick and Katrina visit the Drakelow Tunnels in the West Midlands, another location I've visited on a ghost hunt.
'Paranormal Lockdown UK' continues at 9pm this Thursday on Quest Red. Watch on Sky channel 149, Virgin Media channel 215 and Freeview channel 38, or on demand via QuestOD.
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