It was pitch black in the crypt of the castle and feeling something brush against my hand I was terrified, until I realised it was the person next to me – temporary moments of fear such as these are all part of the Haunted Happenings experience. Having been invited by Visit England to spend a night looking for ghosts in Oxford Castle and sleep in a prison I jumped at the chance to be scared silly. Especially as the evening was being hosted by Haunted Happenings, the number one ghost hunting company in the UK, which has been running for over six years.
Our group was led by two guides, Craig and Wayne, a medium who claims to have seen, smelt and been touched by spirits. The pair take groups to areas where there spirits have been known to be active in the past, Oxford Castle being a prime example. They told us they get a mix of believers and cynics (I fall safely in the later). During our introduction we were warned it was going to be very dark. Thankfully we were given a safety torch, and some tips on torch etiquette, ie don’t shine it in peoples’ faces. We were also instructed on how to behave if we meet a ghost – we were told to treat the spirits with respect and ask politely if we want to speak to them. Finally, out came the ghostbusting equipment, which felt like something out of a horror film. Dousing rods to connect with the spirits, a K2 energy meter to pick up electrical energy (which flickers like traffic lights when active), plus a ouija board, the idea of which I don’t mind admitting petrifies me.
We were then taken into Oxford Castle itself. I was a touch apprehensive as we were led up the stairs, dousing roads in hand, trying to establish if there were any spirits present. Holding the rods to the centre you ask questions out loud (we did feel silly but everyone got into the spirit of things) to see if they shift to the left or the right to reply with a yes or no – or in our case not at all.
So far it all seemed like a bit of fun and not too scary, until, like an episode of Most Haunted, we were led down into the crypt. We were instructed to hold hands and form a circle. Wayne said he could feel the spirit of an older man, Harry, and sods law made me try and communicate with him. Then he asked for someone to stand by themselves in the corner, one of the guys bravely volunteered, while Wayne said he felt the presence of a woman behind him.
I’m the first to admit I’m a cynic. But there were moments throughout the night when, on the verge of hysteria, I swung between fear and hilarity. Whether it’s the anticipation of what may happen, or group mania, there were points in the evening where people genuinely freaked out. At one point the group was split into two. Our half was taken up into a tower with a ouija board where we tried to speak to the spirits. The board did move but I have a feeling it was because the table tipped as it was quite difficult to stay still and then we all got the giggles.
The most frightening part for me was in the crypt. I thought I could hear footsteps and, with comedy timing, the girl next to me lost her footing and grabbed my hand. Someone else was convinced they felt a cold wind blow in their face as a spirit supposedly walked past and was totally terrified. Thankfully the night ended on a lighter note. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a glow appeared on the back wall. I was convinced it was coming from the fire alarm but Wayne, who was standing next to me holding my hand, thought otherwise. I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen someone so excited. Despite our protests he truly believed it was a spirit. Animatedly he began trying to start up conversation. Then to her shame, and our amusement, one of the women in the group realised she’d accidentally switched her torch on in her pocket. Poor Wayne was crushed.
While I’m personally not convinced we were in the presence of ghosts and ghouls, as far as the entertainment factor goes the night was bloody good fun, and a hidden gem as it rates up there in terms of unusual activities. Haunted Happenings hold ghost hunts across the country, perfect for Halloween – if you dare. While £69 might seem a bit on the steep side for the Oxford Castle event you could easily spend that much on a night out. And this hidden gem is one night that’s likely to haunt you for some time to come.