Penny Griffiths-Morgan's New Book Examines The Haunted History Of Hitchin's British Schools Museum

March 12, 2021 1:00 AM ‐ BooksParanormal

'Paranormal Playtimes: The School That Never Sleeps' uncovers the paranormal history and ghostly activity at one of the UK's oldest remaining school houses.

Penny Griffiths-Morgan - Paranormal Playtimes: The School That Never Sleeps
'Paranormal Playtimes: The School That Never Sleeps' is the latest release from British paranormal historian and podcast host, Penny Griffiths-Morgan. The book focuses on the haunting of the British Schools Museum in Hitchin, a historic attraction which houses the world's last remaining purpose-built monitorial schoolroom.

As the host of the 'Haunted Histories' podcast, Penny's passion for ghosts and history is apparent and shines through in this book, which not only focuses on Penny's well-conducted paranormal investigations of the former school building, but also its important history and the history of the surrounding area.

It's easy to see why Penny would get so excited about a location that was such an important part of the history of British education, especially one that is said to be haunted by the lingering spirits of its former pupils and teaching staff.

'Paranormal Playtimes' opens with a foreword from Barri Ghai, the founder of the Ghostfinder Paranormal Society and an investigator on the television show, 'Help! My House Is Haunted'. Barri, who's been investigating things that go bump in the night for 20 years, is no stranger to the Hitchin school, having investigated there several times and even used its old Victorian classroom as a place to teach is own budding ghost-hunting students.

According to Barri, the school is "indeed haunted" and it would seem clear from Penny's investigations there that he is correct. This lead to Penny labelling the location "the school that never sleeps."

Penny admits to becoming quite attached to the building during her research. She writes in the book that "the building gets under your skin" and after several visits in between COVID-19 lockdowns she began to feel protective of it.

The author told us that the school is "almost addictive." She said, "the last couple of times I'd gone back there, it did feel like I was coming home. I've got very maternal and protective towards the school. And apparently a lot of people feel that way."
British School Museum, Hitchin

The first half of the book, which is available now from Amazon, covers Penny's in-depth research of the school and the local North Hertfordshire market town that it stands in. 

Penny's meticulous level of detail is impressive. Not only does she interview witnesses who have had paranormal encounters at the museum, but she delves into censuses to confirm names, collects stories from archives of local newspaper, speaks to locals about the other hauntings in the area, and examines the importance of other historic local buildings, including the 500-year-old Sun Hotel, which has been known under various guises over the years, but was once a busy hub for locals and visitors to the town.

All this local knowledge is very relevant to the haunted school itself, due to the sheer volume of grim events that took place nearby, including a devastating fire in 1845 and an outbreak of plague in 1349 that took many locals' lives. The author also touches on the local workhouse, an aspect of British history that Penny is very interested in.

As you'd expect, the book covers the harsh realities of being a child in the 19th century, the lack of education for the poor, and the requirement to work from an early age. This only changed in 1833 when a law was passed forbidding children under nine to work. Even with the introduction of free education, life was still hard for children, especially those subjected to corporal punishment at school.

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British School Museum, Hitchin

With so much history packed into one book, don't be fooled into thinking that this is a stuffy history book, it's far from it. The book is conversational in tone and throughout much of the writing the historical facts are told alongside the author's own personal journey of discovery of this location.

Of course all this historical detail serves as the build up to Penny's investigation of the school. In the second half of the book we get to meet the 'ghosts of a British school'. For her first trip to the school, Penny joined the Paranormal Sisters on an investigation. The team is founded by Sam Bennett. As a psychic medium Sam doesn't want to know anything about the history of a location prior to arrival, but not all investigators work in the same way.

As Penny has a passion for paranormal history, we wondered if she prefers to go into an investigation blind, or does she like to be forearmed with as much as she can find out about the locations. Penny said, "I normally will look up a few key details like when it was built, the name of the person who built it, but the deep dive I'd do for say writing the book, I wouldn't do that."

She added, "the finer points like names, missions, with workhouses who the master was, I don't look that stuff up." This limited amount of knowledge helps Penny devise relevant and effective experiments that are tailored to the places she's investigating.

But of course as a history buff, Penny will have a natural insight into what might have happened in the past at some of the places she investigates. Penny describes this as "a bonus and a hinderance," she says "when I go to a new place, I will already have an idea of what would have happened there because of everything else I do."

With one night-long investigation and several other pandemic-limited investigations at the school under her belt, Penny has recorded a vast amount of paranormal activity there, which she details in her book. In fact on her very first visit to the school, Penny arrived "shaken" after looking up at the building and seeing a figure through the window, however once inside she realised that that part of the building had been completely empty.

Penny experienced unexplained noises in various parts of the old school building, including footsteps. She also heard voices in the form of electronic voice phenomenon (EVP), which are believed to be spirit voices captured or heard through an electronic device, most commonly an audio recorder.

At one point an old Victorian school desk moved seemingly of its own accord while Penny was sat behind it, and her array of ghost hunting gadgets including electromagnetic field meters triggered at various stages in the investigation. Some of these occurrences Penny debunked, while others remain a mystery.
Partway through writing this book, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which forced Penny to change her plans, limiting how often she could investigate the school and who she could go with.

Penny said, "I was due to go there with a couple of other people and I was going to do things like 'Estes'." The Estes Method is a type of sensory deprivation experiment that eliminates any subjectivity by cutting off the senses of the person listening out for spirit responses via ghost hunting gadgets, but unfortunately these sort of experiments can't be conducted alone.

"I tend to go into places with a couple of ideas of things I can do," Penny added, "I never go in with one idea in mind, I go in with lots of things just to see what works." For example she tried using the a recording of a school bell to stir up the spirits a the Hitchin school.

We're sure that if she could have, Penny would have conducted an experiment or two as we know from her previous book that this is something she loves to do.

'A Haunted Experiment' was published early in 2020 and details Penny's attempts to replicate a series of fascinating paranormal experiments that she's been exposed to while working with other investigators. The book covers her search for EVPs and her exploration of the 'Philip experiment', a 1970s parapsychology experiment where participants attempted to conjure up a fictional ghost and communicate with it through séance.

'Paranormal Playtimes: The School That Never Sleeps' is available now, you can get your copy on Amazon or contact Penny to get a signed copy direct.

You can find Penny on Twitter as @PGMorg, on the Haunted Histories Facebook page or visit her website, hauntedhistories.co.uk.
  • 10 Most Haunted Schools In The UK

    July 21, 2018

    The ten educational institutions in UK which are said to be the most haunted. From classrooms to old outbuildings and never ending corridors, schools can be a foreboding place and they're a common location for ghost sightings.

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