The cloudless sky and warmth of the sun didn’t exactly scream a night of ghostly goings on to come. We’re we being lulled into a false sense of security? But then it was hardly going to be Scooby Doo with grotesque shaped trees or fork lightning on cue. One thing was for sure though, with all those murders on Inspector Morse, no wonder Oxford is meant to be so haunted!
Seven hours of ghost hunting awaited us on our first Fright Night’s ghost hunt, but first we enjoyed a few spirits of another kind in a couple of pubs dotted round near the castle. Established in 1999, Fright Nights is the oldest ghost hunting company in the UK with such evenings taking place at over 100 locations across the country
To say my brother, Gavin, came prepared was an understatement, deep breath, seven torches, including a wind up one, you know, just in case the spirits sap all the energy, a night vision camcorder, a dictaphone and some crystals to keep us from harm. He’s pretty much the Tackleberry of the paranormal!
Sarah and I had already discussed what would make a successful evening, moving glasses and a wobbling table not being part of the equation. Noises and footsteps in such an old building where groups were split up, not to mention the hordes of drunken students roaming the town like Zombie extras, were also not conclusive.
We wanted items moving or being moved, or even good old orbs. Not too much to ask of somewhere with such a history is it?
Sarah said she was even going to do a Yvette Fielding and ask a spirit to throw something, not Gavin with his bulging rucksack though. I’d like to see them try.
And so, as day became night, we began our night locked in Oxford Castle…
The Castle itself dates back to Saxon times, 1004 to be precise, and has a rich and sumptuous history as it was both a court and a prison, part of it now forming the rather posh and plush Mal Maison, although I’m not sure if the guests realise they might be sharing their beds with some uninvited guests. It was a prison until the 90s and was utilised as one for the screen in everything from Bad Girls to 101 Dalmatians and The Italian Job.
Tantalizingly, as we stood outside the dark foreboding walls of the castle we were told that it would take all night to recount all the paranormal activities witnessed here. Our guide went onto say that her most unnerving experience took place right here at the castle and spooked her so much that she did not return to the castle for six months!
To the back of us a mound where seven human remains were excavated, a mound that was also fondly referred to as hangman’s hill, as this was where the locals got the best vantage point of where the executions took place, which is now, rather ironically, a swish restaurant we were a stone’s throw away from called The Living Room. Tales of floaty mist were also recounted before we finally entered the dark, dark castle and headed up the dark, dark tower. The evening had begun and the stench of death was definitely in the air, or was that just the nearby peri peri chicken van parked nearby?
The sounds of heavy breathing filled the cramped winding staircase of the tower as we headed to its very top and the clear Oxford night air, an area not normally accessible to the public in the day, one woman even getting strange orbs in a few snaps taken from the top. Surely is was too early for capturing any activity yet?
As we were getting acclimatised to the surrounding, firstly in light before we were plunged into darkness we made mental notes of where the liberal numbers of mannequins were so we didn’t getting spooked by the dancing shadows created by torch lights bouncing off them would make, truth be told, even then it took us all a while to be totally at ease in spotting them.
A particularly interesting area we scoped out was D Wing, otherwise known as the hospital prison, complete with a padded cell no less and the ghostly shadow of a tall stocky man, surely that’s just my brother? A story goes that a security guard had a dog with him that heard a noise, it broke free and entered the room only to be heard whimpering, a day later the dog died. Don’t hold back with their tales do they?
We then travelled through the cells, it almost like being on a film set or a nocturnal version of the Crystal Maze, minus the gaudy jump suits, on our way to the area most hotly anticipated the crypt. The name said it all really, it was dark obviously but it never felt foreboding, it was just rather a cool setting.
This is where our guide had her experience that saw her not return to the Castle for six months. The back wall of the crypt is where the experience took place, where our guide felt her arm be grabbed. Of course, throughout the rest of the evening the crypt and its wall were a popular location, bring on the wall appeared to be the mantra of the night.
It was no surprise then once we told we could break off until small groups, surely the one thing you should never do in a haunted house, that this location was a popular choice as we wielded our mini torches left and right as the walls came to life like a giant zoetrope. Once a larger group of people had moved on only five of us remained and one by one we extinguished our light sources to be left in the pitch black with only our own breathing and the whirring of recording equipment for company, interjected with trying to talk to the spirits.
Forget Sam and Dean Winchester, make way for Gav and Dean Newman, minus the rock salt and sawn off shotgun you understand, wouldn’t have minded that car though.
The second chapter of the evening would raise the paranormal stakes, with the introduction of a Medium…