Ghosts of Woodchester – Celebrity Haunted Mansion

Ghosts inside Woodchester MansionToday, a new celebrity reality/game show – Celebrity Haunted Mansion – debuted on W (and, this episode only, was also on Really).

This new show seems to be part Survivor, part Big Brother… but in a gorgeous, truly haunted house.

The site – Woodchester Mansion – looks tremendous. Woodchester’s history is very weird. It offers many quirky nuances for researchers. That’s promising.

But, the idea of making paranormal research into a sort of game show – makes me uneasy.

On one hand, I’m thrilled to see another great, haunted location receive attention. This is the kind of site that should be investigated.

Here’s an short (5 minutes) video about Woodchester Mansion and its ghosts.  It covers a lot of history.

And as usual, I’m hopeful that new media coverage will attract fresh researchers to this field. Of course, I’m glad to see Jason Hawes get another gig, as well.

But… (You knew that was coming, right?)

The first two-hour episode of Celebrity Haunted Mansion didn’t show enough of what I’m looking for. It wasn’t an actual investigation.

Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be. I’m trying to keep an open mind and be okay with Celebrity Haunted Mansion as entertainment (as opposed to real life).

I’ll admit it: Like many researchers in this field, it’s far too easy for me to take myself – and ghost hunting – too seriously. (That goes double when I’m putting in long hours, as I am now, working behind-the-scenes on the free ghost hunting course.)

Paranormal Prep School

Apparently, the cast learned about ghost hunting in a “paranormal prep school.” I ranted at the TV screen when they showed clips from that training.  The staging seemed to mimic (parody?) Hogwarts, and the lessons made me even more uncomfortable.

For example:

  • Whether you call it a “spirit board” or a Ouija board, it’s not a toy and people should be aware of the risks… and how to avoid them.
  • Generally, ghosts do not follow anyone home. I felt that the instructors unnecessarily frightened the cast members, especially the two who’d already expressed concerns about that exact issue.

That’s when I took a few deep breaths and reminded myself that it’s not a documentary. It’s a TV series. It’s entertainment.

The Cast

Among the celebrity guests, I especially liked Simon Gregson (Coronation Street). He spoke honestly about seeing a ghost (in the past), while remaining rather skeptical about it. That’s a balance I like to see among team members. I hope he’ll be involved in other ghost-related TV shows. He seems like a level-headed, intelligent man. We need more researchers like him.

I was not expecting Katie Price (“Jordan”) to be an experienced ghost hunter. That impressed me. I liked how she described “the cobwebby feeling” at actively haunted locations.  I hope she continues similar, serious research on the show. But, realistically, I’m expecting her to focus more on getting audience votes so she can stay on the show.

In general, I felt that the celebrity guests were a good balance of curious, skeptical, serious and humorous.

Mostly, today’s episode of Celebrity Haunted Mansion focused on introducing the cast and the location.  Since this was a live broadcast, it was alternately amusing, interesting, and embarrassing to watch.

It’s difficult to broadcast a show like that. Ghosts don’t perform on cue. Filling the show with interesting content can be a challenge. I think the cast did a good job with the sparse material they had on hand.

Hosts Christine Lampard and Matt Richardson did a very good job of filling the time. I liked both of them.

Also during the show, Jack Osborne and Jason Hawes each made some good points about real paranormal research. I wanted to hear more from them, and see them working directly with their teams.

But, I felt as if they took a back seat to the celebrities, and that may be be planned. As I said, I’m not sure I get what this show is supposed to be, and perhaps it’s finding its own path, spontaneously. (Sometimes, the most interesting things are unplanned and unscripted.)

The Ghost Hunting Equipment

The cast seem to have some good, basic ghost hunting tools. I saw a K-II, an Ovilus, a Paranormal Puck 2, and a REM Pod.

I also heard reference to a Mel meter, and – in the “paranormal prep school” – the cast were shown a pendulum, with confirmation that it’s okay to use it in a stand. (Pendulums aren’t 100% risk-free, but they don’t present anything close to the dangers of Ouija boards.)

Most ghost hunters can afford some of those tools, especially if you find used ones at eBay, etc.  And, from my experience, they’re all good tools. (I still prefer my Ghost Meter Pro to my Ovilus III, but that may be a personal quirk.)

Not Available in the US

The rest of the episodes will air on W, a UK network that isn’t available on the American UKTV app. So, I’m unlikely to see the rest of Celebrity Haunted Mansion. Not unless it appears on Hulu or Netflix or something, later.

Meanwhile, the location intrigues me enough to continue researching its past.

Quick Historical Research

For now, those who want to leap into historical research immediately, here’s a link to an in-depth history of the site: Woodchester Park, Gloucestershire, by Oliver Bradbury. (PDF)

You may find even more interesting bits in A History of the County of Gloucester, Volume 11, at British History Online.

And here’s what I found in Burke’s Peerage.

Leigh family in Burke's Peerage

As time permits, I may continue researching Woodchester’s history and ghosts.

Here’s what I’d look for:

  • Contemporary reports from when the workmen “vanished” from the mansion. For that, I’d search old newspapers.
  • Anything odd about Spring Park. (There’s already a gruesome legend about the Wildcat of Woodchester and animal mutilations. So far, it looks like a wild panther more than, say, a Black Shuck.  This link has the kinds of photos that I’d rather not see, and do not recommend.)
  • Whether there’s anything strange about the repeated building-demolition pattern at the site. For that, I’d dig deeper into the Historic England summary of Woodchester Mansion. Everything I’ve skimmed so far – including that history – seems to be studiously avoiding something. (Or maybe I’m reading too much between-the-lines.)
  • At that link, I read this:

“A park noted at Woodchester from 1311 which lay near the church and manor was abandoned soon after 1600 when George Huntley began to create a demesne, including a new deer park and warren, in the Inchbrook valley. This park, which was walled, included much of registered area, and was composed of what had previously been common and open-field land.” (Emphasis added.)

I’m wondering how much local residents protested the enclosure of commons that had been theirs to use for nearly 300 years. That’s the kind of history that can lead to residual energy, if not outright hauntings.

That’s as much as I have for you, today. If you pull any of these threads and find something interesting, I hope you’ll leave a comment.

Whether or not the Celebrity Haunted Mansion TV show is compelling (or at least fun), I think Woodchester sounds like an excellent site to investigate.

If you want to see what people are saying about the show, you can follow related Tweets at #CelebHaunted.

Winchester Mystery House – Ghosts Inside?

Eerie photo of Winchester Mystery HouseThe Winchester Mystery House is the focus of a stylish 2018 movie starring Helen Mirren.

Some of the house’s strange elements aren’t quite what they seem, and – in historical context – may have been more practical than spiritual.

Other, recent “discoveries” at the house – including Sarah Winchester’s attic – set off my skeptic alarms.

However, much of the Winchester house’s most compelling paranormal evidence isn’t obvious.  It’s layered in history, mystical beliefs, and secrets.

They’re why I believe the Winchester Mystery House is haunted.

Here are a few videos to introduce you to the strange (and sometimes chilling) Winchester story.

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The next video is a 7 1/2 minute visual tour of the Winchester Mystery House. The soundtrack is entirely music, no verbal descriptions.

If you’re looking for ghost stories or history, you may want to skip ahead to the “Winchester Mystery House – Secrets of the Mansion” series, further down this page. That series delivers a tour of the house plus details of Sarah Winchester’s life, and how the house was built.

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I recommend the following four short (4-5 minutes, each) videos in a series, “Winchester Mystery House – Secrets of the Mansion.”

The sound quality is okay, but not great. Despite that, if you want a good overview of the history – including some ghostly legends – this series is worth your time. You’ll gain a far better understanding of why the Winchester story is so compelling.

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My next link to a Winchester Mystery House video starts around the 3:20 mark, and includes an interesting paranormal story. It resonates with similar stories I’ve heard in other haunted locations. To me, it seems credible.

(After she finishes telling her story, fast-forward to the 7:46 point. There, another tour guide describes her own eerie experience. After the 8:19 mark, the video shows a little more of the house, but no additional stories.)

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YouTube videos I did not include:

    • Ghost Adventures S05E04 Winchester Mystery House – a YouTube video posted by Perdue Adrian. It’s probably the full episode (or more), but it’s in a skewed screen-in-screen image. If you want to see that episode, as of January 2018 it’s at Daily Motion.com.
    • Ghost Adventures S12E11 Return to Winchester Mystery House 1080p HDTV x264 tNe – another skewed screen image, with a link to another website “to see in full HD.” I don’t click on links like that. Instead, I recommend watching the full episode on Hulu. (That link was current in Jan 2018.)
    • If you’re looking for the Ghost Hunters episode (Season 2, Ep. 11) that includes the Winchester Mansion, it’s at Daily Motion, too.
    • Winchester Mansion: The House That Spirits Built – It Is Written. It explains why God warns us about seances and believing in ghosts, and uses the Winchester Mystery House as an example. (If you don’t believe in ghosts and you’re looking for a fairly high-quality Christian video, that’s probably the best relevant YouTube option.  The video references: Job 7:9-10, Ecclesiastes 9:5-6, Leviticus 19:31, 2 Corinthians 11:14-15, and so on.)

But, if you’re a fan of the Winchester story, be sure to see the stylish, old-school (1963) video about the mansion, narrated by Lillian Gish, Mrs. Winchester’s House. For me, it was 30 minutes well spent.

In general, I think the Winchester house is one of America’s more enigmatic haunts. Its eerie legends and quirky history raises many questions. Some may only be answered by the ghosts.

Gilson Tee-Shirt – Sad or Funny?

Gilson Tee-Shirt
What’s your reaction to this shirt? Sad? Funny? Something else?

A Gilson Road tee-shirt is available at Amazon. I’m interested in what my friends think about it.

Frankly, I laughed out loud when I saw the shirt.

But when I posted about it at my Facebook page, the reaction was mixed.

Is this tee-shirt disrespectful?

Clearly, some people feel that way. I’m not happy when long-time researchers – who take this field seriously – are upset by those who take ghost hunting lightly.

I’m also sensitive when people ridicule paranormal research, as if we’re stupid, gullible, and prone to an over-active imagination.

Unfortunately, ghost hunting lost considerable credibility over the past few years. A lot of that can be blamed on the editing of ghost hunting TV shows. They were so sensationalized and so preposterous, they started looking like self-parodies.

That was sad.

It’s also a natural decay that happens to most fads and pop trends. I try to be realistic about these things.

On the positive side, I’m seeing a new generation of ghost hunters enter this field. That’s exciting. We need their challenging questions, and their unorthodox viewpoints.

With those fresh viewpoints, I’m also seeing a kind-of-snarky, kind-of-hipster humor. It’s self-deprecating, in a way.

It’s like they’re saying, “Yes, this subject is kind of ridiculous. It interests me anyway. I want to know the truth about ghosts.”

As long as people take the research seriously, I’m okay with the humor, even when it shows up as tee-shirts. If sarcastic humor keeps new researchers from running out the door in terror… that’s fine with me.

I might buy one of these tee-shirts, myself. It could spark an interesting conversation at the grocery store.

Every story I hear and every question I’m asked can be a very good thing.

  • Questions are good. They keep us looking in fresh directions.
  • First-person stories are even better. The more data points we collect, the clearer our understanding of what’s going on at haunted places, including Gilson Road Cemetery.

So yes, my first impulse is to get one of these shirts and wear it, just to see what happens.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t want to offend people. I know that, at times, my humor can be a bit raw and unconventional.

I’d like to know whether this kind of tee-shirt is sad, amusing, or in really poor taste.

Update: One reader gently reminded me that the tee-shirt audience isn’t entirely that “new generation” of ghost hungers.

As she said, a certain generation created the expression, “Been there. Done that. Got the tee-shirt.” And, for her, it’s still a thrill to have a tee-shirt as a memento of an adventure, or a series of adventures.

She’s right. I should have remembered this when I wrote my original article. Also, I know that many of my friends and fans have been part of the Hollow Hill community since the 1990s. I dashed off this article too quickly. I apologize.

What’s your opinion?

Photos from the Haunted Laconia House

Hashmarks scratched into an attic door in Laconia, NH.Here are three photos you’ve never seen from my Laconia investigation, and a larger copy of one you may have seen.

These pictures are from the haunted house near Laconia’s Parade Road. It’s a private residence, but in Colonial times, it had been a tavern.

Much later, according to stories told by the homeowners, someone was locked in the attic, possibly for years.

There’s plenty of physical evidence, including personal belongings from long ago. It’s difficult to tell which had been left there by previous homeowners, and which belong to the current residents.

But few attics have so many marks scraped into the walls and door.


Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NHThis is a follow-up from my post about Rue Cote’s book, Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NH. It includes some of my story about an investigation in a private – and very haunted – home in Laconia, near Parade Road.

The scratch marks at that home’s attic were some of the creepiest things I’ve ever seen in a private home. It was reminiscent of hash marks carved into prison walls and in orphanages and hospitals where people were practically imprisoned.


The first photo shows the wall near the attic door, close to an old-school light switch. I’m not sure if the scratched-in date (near the top of the wall) says 1895 or 1896. I think it’s probably 1896.

Either way, it’s creepy.

Laconia haunted house - scratch marks 1895
Haunted attic in Laconia. Is that date 1895 or 1896?

Next, here are the marks on the inside of the attic door (by someone inside the attic). Some look like they may have been etched with chalk.

More hash marks and scratches inside haunted Laconia (NH) attic
Interior of the attic door, in that haunted Laconia house.

Next is a photo you may have seen before (in my article – Laconia, NH’s Ghostly Places) but this is a larger copy. It hasn’t been adjusted or changed in any way, aside from reducing it to fit on this webpage (and adding my name as photographer).

Haunted Laconia attic, with lots of scratch marks.
Even more hash marks and scratches. Some look almost frenzied.

The fourth (next) photo shows an area just to the left of the previous photo. I did adjust the contrast (and I added an arrow) so you can see the date scratched into the wall: 1892.

Haunted Laconia - 1892 scratches in attic
The date is clear: 1892. So, was someone up there for FOUR years…?

If the photo at the top of this article shows 1895 or 1896 scratched into the wood, it’s possible someone was locked in that attic for a very long time. Three or four years, at least. That’s sad, but also shocking.

You can read more of my Laconia story in Rue’s book.

For me, the most chilling part of this Laconia investigation was what people said, afterwards.

I talked about this house with several friends in Tilton. Every one of them had a story about a relative that had been locked in their family’s attic, years ago. Or, they knew a neighbor or nearby cousin with a relative locked in the attic.

I understand that in the 18th and 19th centuries, mental health facilities could be barbaric. It may have seemed more humane to keep the person at home.

But, in an attic…? And for years…?

That explains a lot about why Tilton and nearby towns are so very haunted.

Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NH

This isn’t my book, but it includes a few of my Tilton area stories, plus one of my ley line articles for ghost hunters, and many of my photos of local haunts.

Other ghost hunters, including Lesley Marden and Jim Fitzgerald, also contributed great ghost stories to Rue’s book.

During January 2018, it’s 99 cents in Kindle.

Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NH, by Rue Taylor Cote.

From the Amazon description:

Ghost Hunting in Tilton, NHIs Tilton the most haunted town in New Hampshire?

Tilton’s ghosts became famous in 2010 when the Ghost Hunters TV series featured Tilton’s haunted 1875 Inn.

After that, many ghost hunters came to Tilton and New Hampshire’s Lakes Region, looking for haunted places.

They found them… Lots of them.

Tilton may seem like a typical New Hampshire town.

After you learn about its ghosts, I think you’ll agree: Tilton is one of the Granite State’s strangest, most haunted towns.

Of course I’m biased, but I think the Tilton-Webster connections are fascinating. The Tilton area seems an odd place for two such eccentric, powerful – and haunted – families to settle, and to be among the area’s ghosts.

The Tilton link to the popular book & TV series, A Handmaid’s Tale, was a complete surprise. I’ll bet there’s more to Peter Tilton’s story, and if two of Oliver Cromwell’s supporters are buried near Tilton’s Connecticut house, in unmarked graves… well, I’d be very interested in investigating there.

Like author Rue Cote, I’m curious about Northfield, too. I’ve researched near the abandoned town center, without realizing anything important had been there. I never knew about the hidden cemetery, either. I’m always interested in haunted sites that have been concealed for at least 100 years.

Tilton is a sleepy little New Hampshire town off I-93, in the Lakes Region. If you’re going to be in that area, I recommend getting this book while it’s 99 cents. Then read it to plan some unique ghost hunting adventures when the weather improves.

(Also, if you have any Tilton-related ghost stories to share, leave them in comments. I’m very interested in that part of New Hampshire, especially since it seems such an unlikely place to have so many ghosts.)