Supernatural Subterranea: Paranormal Tales From Dark & Forgotten Places
As a regular contributor to Haunted Magazine, I'm best known to its readers for my love of the paranormal, but ghosts and hauntings aren't my only passion. I'm also a bit of a secret bunker geek and over the last couple of decades have travelled the country researching and exploring some of Britain's most fascinating dark and forgotten places.
Underground exploration and the paranormal often go hand-in-hand, perhaps because the historic abandoned subterranean places I've visited are steeped in history, some of it pretty grim. This makes many of them the perfect location for a ghost hunt.
I've recently written a book called 'Hidden, Forbidden & Off-Limits' about my underground adventures, and have included a few stories of odd goings on underground, like my dealings with a psychic medium who was searching for a missing person in an abandoned mine, and the time I went searching for spooks with a paranormal team in a former underground aircraft factory. But my most terrifying moment underground has to be the time I had an encounter of the eight-legged-kind.
Psychic In Search Of Murder Victims
A few years back, I was contacted by a psychic medium who was assisting the police with the disappearance of a local man. Due to the sensitive nature of this still unsolved case I'll call him Gavin. The police were treating the search as a murder investigation and the psychic - I'll call her Elise, this is not her real name - believed that his body could be found in an abandoned mine in Wiltshire.
Elise had asked me for help as she had learnt I knew a little about the mines. I was a little hesitant about getting involved because this case was so recent, but I was curious as to where it might go. After agreeing to help, Elise sent through her report and sketch, which she claimed would help narrow down where Gavin could be found.
The report was conflicted, inconsistent, and frankly a waste of my time to even read. There was talk of railway lines, dirt roads, a lake, and a farm. I don't think it's possible to be anywhere in the English countryside without being near at least one of these things. The sketch was equally as vague. It could be pretty much any part of the English countryside and didn't look like any mine entrance I'd ever seen.
I told Elise, "sorry, I can't even begin to narrow this down to a quarry. From your conflicting descriptions, it's hard to tell if this is a quarry at all." Despite my criticism of her work, Elise was quick to reply, "thanks for your honesty, I guess I was expecting too much from you, sorry to put you on the spot." That old psychic medium trick of blaming others, after all it can't possibly be the all-knowing psychic at fault. No, the failure must be in my knowledge.
Luckily, around the same time I was contacted by Elise, I got an email from Liz, one of Gavin's family members. Her email read as follows, "I'm currently helping with the search for Gavin. There are a few psychics on the case who are seeing him possibly in a tunnel. I wonder if you could help identify these tunnels."
I replied to Liz telling her I had been contacted by Elise and felt the need to add, "the best advice I could give is to be very wary of psychics, there is pretty much no good, substantiated evidence that they are able to solve crimes. Many police forces actively discourage people from contacting psychics in missing person cases." Liz responded a few days later, saying, "I took your advice and have now disassociated myself with Elise."
I was satisfied by this, it felt like I'd done some good, but then a week later I got another email from Liz. She told me, "I just wanted to let you know, there is now a legitimate UK psychic liaising directly with the police. She is going out with police next week to assist them with their investigation." Over a decade later, Gavin has still not been found, and his disappearance remains one of four investigations still unsolved by Wiltshire Police.
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The Ghosts Of Drakelow Tunnels
A couple of years ago, I attended a ghost hunt hosted by Haunted Happenings at Drakelow Tunnels, an underground factory, where more than 500 staff manufactured aircraft parts during World War II.
Modern-day visitors who dare to wander through the darkness have reported hearing strange noises, screaming and cries, and disembodied voices. Many have even reported more violent poltergeist activity in the tunnels and have said they've felt something push past them as they've made their way through the vast underground maze. Countless ghost hunters have reported odd and unnatural light sources in the tunnels and even ghostly apparitions visible only due to the light from the phantom lamps they are seen holding.
At one point in the night, I found myself with some other guests in the old kitchen are of the factory. Two rickety tables had been set up and we were about to try a method of spirit communication called table tipping. The four of us huddled around the table with our fingers lightly placed on its edges as we encouraged the spirits to move it for us.
Unexpectedly, all four of us witnessed a flash of light coming from down the tunnel. Then it happened a second time. One of the participants at our table ran off down the tunnel to try to find the source, but after several more flashes and a little bit of investigation, the source of the mysterious light remained unsolved. Could it have been the phantom flashlight of the ghost of a security guard who is said to roam the tunnels?
It was interesting to get the chance to experience a paranormal investigation at Drakelow Tunnels, especially since I even got to experience some of the unexplained lights that the tunnels are famous for.
Eight-Legged Freak Out
It was a mild spring evening and some friends and I were about to climb down into a vast underground labyrinth of tunnels that are hidden beneath the city of Bristol. Getting down into the tunnels below wasn't going to be easy, it required us to climb dozens of ladders spanning the height of a 60 metre access shaft. To make the climb safer, the shaft was divided into several chambers, one on top of the other.
I was first down the ladder into the top chamber. The air was still warm just a few metres below the surface. I stood waiting for the others to join me in the darkness. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light from my head light, I noticed a spider on the wall in front of me. It was quite big and nasty looking. Then, looking around, I noticed that it wasn't alone. There were spiders covering every inch of the circular wall. It was like something from the 'Temple of Doom'.
I suddenly had the horrible realisation that when I'd climbed down the ladder, my back had been scraping down the wall of the chamber. I started checking myself for spiders while screaming up at my friends to warn them. Are there spiders on my back? What about the ladder itself? Have spiders crawled up my sleeves?
My fear was taken to the next level when a drop of water fell on my head. In a panic, I just assumed it was a spider. I decided not to wait for the others and climbed the ladder down to the next level instead. To my horror, the spiders were there too. So I shot down another level, finally finding safety in a deeper, spider-free chamber. But the problem was, there was only one way out.
My Top 10 Haunted Underground Places
10. City Of Caves, Nottingham
9. Smethwick Baths, Smethwick
8. Hack Green Nuclear Bunker, Nantwich
7. Kelvedon Hatch, Brentwood
6. Marsden Grotto, South Shields
5. Wookey Hole Caves, Wells
4. The Hellfire Caves, West Wycombe
3. Mary King's Close, Edinburgh
2. Edinburgh Vaults, Edinburgh
1. Drakelow Tunnels, Kidderminster
'Hidden, Forbidden & Off-Limits'
'Hidden, Forbidden & Off-Limits' is available now for Amazon Kindle, and on paperback, hard cover and Audible audio book. It's my story of exploring the unknown worlds and hidden landscapes beneath our feet, from subterranean World War II ammunition stores, to massive Cold War nuclear bunkers. It's also about the fascinating history I uncovered while exploring in the darkness and the people I met along the way.
It's a tale that starts inside the abandoned stone quarries of Wiltshire, where the Ministry of Defence still hides some of their biggest secrets to this day. The tunnels were put on the map by ufologists and conspiracy theorists who were convinced that the tunnels had clandestine links to secret government UFO programmes.
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