WHEN it comes to ghosts I definitely put myself in the category of sceptic.
In my 27 years I have never seen, felt or heard anything that would suggest there are spirits unable to leave this earth – and those who do believe I always imagined to be a bit nuts.
So when I met 7Paranormal I was surprised by how normal they all were.
The group, which was formed just nine months ago, was originally made up of seven (hence the name) paranormal enthusiasts. They had been part of another investigating team for several years but they decided it was time to go it alone.
Managed by Mel Cossey, who is an accountant when she is not chasing ghosts, the group is made up of men and women who have had paranormal experiences, plus a medium – and also a team sceptic.
“Most people develop an interest in the paranormal after they experience or see something they can’t explain, then it becomes a way of life,” explained Mel.
“My first experience happened years ago when I was 15. There was a particular smell that moved round my house. It never lingered it just went from room to room.
“I never thought about it as being a spirit at the time but now looking back it may well have been.”
She added: “The best experience I’ve had was at Beamish Hall. I opened the door to one of the rooms on the top floor and there was stood a lady. I shut the door and then when I opened it again she had just vanished.
“I didn’t have chance to get frightened, I saw her and thought she was a person, when she wasn’t there I realised she was a ghost but it was all so quick.
“It was so clear. I thought that was really cool.
“I’ve also had spirits hold my hand and I loved it!”
I joined the team at Souter Lighthouse in Whitburn to experience first-hand what a paranormal investigation involves. It was dusk when I arrived and the lighthouse stood eerily silhouetted against the headland.
I had been feeling pretty brave but I was beginning to feel slightly spooked.
Mel, from Washington, said: “The only things required to be a paranormal investigator is a willingness to be open-minded and a desire to find out. Just because you didn’t hear or see it doesn’t mean it didn’t happen – you have to respect what other people experience.
“We’re not doing it to change anyone’s mind, we’re not here to make people believe – people will take from it what they want.
“We do actually warn them not to expect to see Casper!”
She added: “We also have a team sceptic because if we were left to our own devices we would think things are paranormal when they are not – but when they are he doesn’t like to admit he’s seen anything.
“He does admit when he can’t explain something though.”
Myself and 20 other members of the public huddled inside the lighthouse as 7Paranormal’s team medium, John Cossey, explained what would be happening throughout he night.
We were told that the lights would be turned off and everything would be done in the dark with the aid of torches as our senses become acute in the dark.
We were also reminded that we were free to opt out of any of the activities if we did not feel comfortable taking part.
John, who has a degree in bio-medical science, never used to believe in the paranormal. He said: “I used to laugh when Mel told me about it, especially as I have a scientific background – I’m always looking for an explanation.
“I had no interest in it at all, then I went along with a friend to an investigation at the old aircraft museum in Washington and I started thinking maybe there could be something in it. I got hooked and it’s very addictive.
“It got to the stage where I could not go anywhere in the dark. I had to turn the lights on.”
Hearing this made me a little more apprehensive about what we would be experiencing during the night, although my sensible side was still adamant that we would experience nothing.
“We invite the public along so they can experience it to,” said Mel. “We’re not about entertainment, we won’t do anything to scare the public and we don’t put things on.”
As well as conducting investigations at specific locations, the team will also go out on call-outs. They will go to people’s homes if they are requested and help them deal with what they believe is paranormal activity.
John explained: “When we get called to a house we want to understand why the spirit is there. It’s usually attached to the house and doesn’t want to leave.
“We did one recently and it was quite nasty. The lady who called us had quite a few bad experiences and she was actually thinking of moving because of the activity in the house.”
Before the real fun and games began we were allowed to wander around the lighthouse and try our different ghost-related activities.
There was a scrying mirror (which apparently is more reflective than a normal mirror and allows you to see spirits more easily) and Tarot card readings.
There was also a contraption called a ghost box, a transmitter which operates at a higher frequency than a normal one so spirits can use the white noise to communicate, and an electro- static device, where a green light comes on if there is any movement on or around it.
After a quick break it was time to get down to business. In our groups we were all designated a room and a couple of team members to lead us in a seance.
We had all learned earlier in the night the rules of protecting yourself when taking part in seances, using Ouija boards and other activities that call upon spirits.
So we all planted both feet flat on the floor, imagined our safe place and a bright light of energy surrounding our bodies – sounds a bit mad but I didn’t want to find out what happens if you don’t do it!
As we were standing, holding hands, in a circle in the pitch black in what used to be the kitchen of the lighthouse, John began to call out to spirits and we all waited for a response.
To be honest this is what most of the evening involved, waiting for a sign that there were spirits around who wanted to talk.
For the next few hours we didn’t have much luck. There was the odd claim that someone’s hand had gone cold or that a faint knocking could be heard but no real proof that there was a ghost in the building.
Other groups told us they had heard knocking on cue in what used to be the master bedroom and another had communicated with the ghost of a child in what is now the cafe, using an upside down glass.
The glass is used in a similar way to the planchette on a ouija board – you pop your fingers on it and ask the ghost to use its energy to move it in answer to your questions.
The last activity of the night was the ouija board. I had been dreading this as I find them a bit creepy and you have to believe that the other people with their fingers on the planchette are not moving it for their own personal gain.
We had a lot of movement on our Oujia board – but I remain sceptical because many of the people taking part were all related, and it seemed too convenient that their dead relation wanted to speak to them.
I can’t prove if anyone was moving the planchette so who knows..?
I asked Mel what she actually thought spirits were. She replied: “Everyone has a different theory and I quite like that. I think spirits are people who believe they are going to hell so they don’t want to move on.”
By 3am I was exhausted and it was definitely time to call it a night, I had tried to be open-minded and embrace all of the activities but for me it was not the night for my first paranormal experience.
Having said that I had a brilliant time, everything was well organised, the group members were really friendly and they were more than willing to share their own experiences.
7Paranormal have several other investigations coming up, so maybe I’ll have more luck at another one – although deep down I’m not sure I really want to contact the spirit world. I think we are getting along just fine by not keeping in touch.
l For more information on 7Paranormal and to book to join an investigation with them go to www.7paranormal.org