WriterBy Steve Higgins
The Old Picture House & Haunted Museum, Nottingham
October 02, 2019 6:00 AM ‐ Paranormal
At the weekend I visited a museum with a difference. Housed within a former cinema on Woodborough Road in Nottingham is the Haunted Museum - a unique paranormal-themed attraction run by the team behind the paranormal events company UK Ghost Hunts.
The first thing that struck me upon walking into the foyer of, what was until 1957, the foyer of the Majestic Cinema, was the character this old building has. After the closure of the iconic building it has had various uses until 2012 when it was abandoned. At one point in its history the building was put at risk of being demolished as part of redevelopment plans.
Luckily, in 2018 Steve and Marie Wesson moved their haunted artefacts collection into the building, which has many of the original features from its days as a cinema intact. The foyer, which still has the feel of an old picture house about it, now houses the museum's ticket office and a small cafe.
I was expecting the museum to consist of perhaps a couple of rooms with cases of artefacts, so I was quite surprised when the tour started and we were led through a door to the side of the ticket office, rather than the main doorway through to the main cinema room.
All visitors to the museum are taken on a guided tour. In the case of a museum that claims to have haunted artefacts this is better as many of the items on display don't have much of a back story, but have proved to be responsible for paranormal activity since arriving at the museum - most of which as been witnessed during night time paranormal investigations in the building and the guide can tell you about these occurrences.
The first room on the tour was a small room known as 'the crypt'. The room is lit with atmospheric red lighting and a large cross hangs from one of the walls. The crypt is used as a safe room during paranormal events as no paranormal activity is known to have happened here. The black walls are covered in the names of previous ghost-hunting guests written in chalk.
At one end of the room is a coffin, which is now the final resting place of a medical examiner's dummy that our tour guide Aaron called Richard. Aaron tells us that this dummy is from the 1800s, a time when real human bones were used to make dummies like Richard.
The next stop on our hour-long tour was a small room where a shadowy figure has been seen. The room was little more than a short corridor, it had various creepy dolls, as well as dolls' heads and limbs hanging from the ceiling - a couple of which apparently came from the eerie Island of the Dolls in Mexico. I got the impression that none of the dolls are haunted as such, but they're there to add to the atmosphere of the location and to act as trigger objects during ghost hunts - the idea being that a spirit might play with one. Aaron told us that one of the heads has been caught on camera spinning on its own in the middle of the night.
Passing by the cinema's old ticket office, which has recently been uncovered behind a wall, we walked down a wide staircase overlooked by a series of macabre Victorian photos of the dead. Next we found ourselves in the picture house's basement, which has been made to look like a morgue with various medical oddities, including some narrow morgue beds from the infamous and allegedly very haunted Denbigh Asylum in North Wales.
Aaron explains how the team believe that paranormal energy can be stored in the metal and wood that make up items like this and thinks this energy could be responsible for some of the weird things that have happened during ghost hunts in this part of the building, including guests reporting loud bangs, the sensation of being pulled and even the ghostly sighting of hands.
We then climbed the stairs, past a few prints of the infamous 'crying boy' paintings, and up into the building's west tower. At the top of the stairwell a hangman's noose ominously swung from the rafters. Aaron told us that several independent guests claim to have picked up on the spirit of a man who they say hung himself here. Although Aaron says there's nothing to back up this claim, the rope now hangs as a dark trigger object in the hopes that this spirit might interact with it and they can learn more about this story.
At the top of the tower is a small and slightly unsettling attic bedroom. There's just something a little odd about it. The room has a toilet in the corner, a bed and sofa was cramped into oppressive spaces, and there's a lack of natural light. The team think, because there's a toilet and wash basin in the room that it might have been used as a caretaker's room when the building was in use as a cinema. Now it's one of the most active room's during the team's events there. On one occasion four guests witnessed a dark mass growing from the corner of the room before lurching towards them. The room's door has also opened on its own on command.
Next we were taken back down the stairs and into an atmospheric room which has been dressed up to look like a chapel. The haunting sound of choral chanting was playing in the dimly lit room. A couple of rows of chairs sit facing a small lectern at the end of the room, upon which a cursed dybbuk box is perched.
This dark artefact was given to the museum's owner, Steve, in Prague and is alleged to contain an evil spirit of some kind. It goes without saying that this is a popular room on ghost hunting events and the box is blamed for any activity that happens there.
I couldn't resit walking over and touching this supposedly cursed item. Aaron says the activity includes scratching sounds coming from the box, spirit voices caught in the form of EVPs on audio recorders and even visitors being scratches.
Now in the area of the building that once housed the cinema's projection room, we stepped inside a room with a disconcerting flickering light and just one antique-looking wooden cabinet with a large and creepy doll inside. This is Martha's room. Martha, the allegedly haunted doll is the museum's centrepiece and has been blamed for much of the haunted happenings at the location.
It's said Martha has a negative spiritual attachment and has been blamed for bringing about feeling of sadness, anxiety and depression with her previous owners. Now at the museum safely behind glass, she's been blamed for moving the items around in the cabinet and her name has come through as EVPs several times.
After a quick peek inside of the witch's room, we then moved into an impressive room, which has mirrors of different shapes and sizes covering every part of the walls and ceiling. The mirror room is essentially a giant Devil's toy box.
A Devil's Toy Box is a small box that is mirrored on all of its internal faces. Beliefs on what this paranormal tool does varies, but some think they are used to trap spirits or communicate with them. This means that the whole room in the museum can be used for this purpose.
From here we passed through a doorway and found ourselves on a balcony overlooking the main cinema room. Here, Aaron our guide left us to take in the last few exhibits at our leisure. This included the infamous old funeral hearse that was seen on Pick TV's 'Paranormal: Captured' earlier this year.
The hearse made it on to the television show after footage emerged of the heavy metal handle on the old horse-drawn hearse swinging wildly of its own accord while the building was locked up over night. This footage now plays on a loop on a screen next to the hearse, which I thought was a nice touch.
The cinema itself has been restored and comfy sofas now give visitors the chance to watch classic horror movies every Thursday night.
No trip to a haunted museum would be complete without a walk through a haunted mansion, all thanks to the museum's newest attraction - a haunted virtual reality experience. I can confirm that if nothing else gives you the creeps in the museum, this immersive and terrifying experience is sure to make you scream.
I really enjoyed my look around the museum and it is well worth a trip for anyone with an interest in the paranormal. The museum is open from 11am–6pm Tuesday to Friday, and from 1–6pm on Sundays. Entry costs just £7.
Some might say that the museum is a little gimmicky in places as rooms are dressed up to take on new, creepier roles - but it should be remembered that the building is primarily a museum and the reason the rooms are dressed up with various themes is to compliment the items and exhibits they contain.
The themed rooms are sure to make a ghost hunt in the building more atmospheric. Although the dressing may change the rooms' original purposes in some cases, it's the ghostly attachment to the museum's artefacts that people come to investigate.
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