When my mate Simon set me a challenge to spend a night in a haunted house, I told him he’d have to come with me as there was no way I would do that alone!
So, on a fairly mundane Saturday evening in September, we set off for the picturesque village of Finchingfield in Essex, where we joined the team from Fright Nights London & Essex to spend an evening hunting out the ghosts and spirits residing in the 15th century Guildhall.
At this point I’ll say I was rather relieved we weren’t actually staying overnight as I was feeling a bit apprehensive. I tend to be sensitive to energies so I thought I might be quite affected by whatever we found there.
Once we turned off the motorway, we were both a little bowled over by the beauty of the countryside. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to rural Essex – never had a need to – so it was lovely to discover some beautiful villages with genuine picture postcard scenes of thatched cottages, flower-edged village greens and babbling brooks. Finchingfield is known as the most photographed village in Essex and it’s easy to see why.
The Grade I listed Finchingfield Guildhall itself is strikingly constructed using old carpentry skills, and the building is held together with mortise, tenon and pegs, rather that bolts and screws. The exterior is a fine example of ornamental pargeting, which is particularly associated with this part of the country.
Scorch marks on the timbers
Originally built around 1470 by the Guild of the Holy Trinity to house priests and to provide a schoolroom for the boys of the village, the Guildroom has been used as a place of learning for more than five centuries. Recent restoration work has exposed scorch marks on the timbers where priests attached wax tapers to light their studies at night. It was going to be an interesting night!
Our ghost hunt facilitators included a Medium who communes with spirits. He began by taking us outside into the churchyard to see who was lurking behind the gravestones. He identified a few spirits that he could see and hear but I must confess I couldn’t detect any otherworldly presence other than the flag pole blowing in the wind.
We then went back inside where the Fright Nights team introduced us to the gadgets and equipment we’d be using to assist our communications with the spirit world, the likes of which I’d never seen before. K2 meters, EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) recorders, SpiritBoxes (like an AM radio playing white noise that the spirits could speak to us through), touch-activated flashing balls, and all sorts.
We set everything up in the downstairs room, which is now a dedicated museum, and waited. The Medium explained he was receiving communications from a man and his wife, and a group of children. The flashing balls were the most active – they lit up a few times in response to the energy of spirits in the room, and we definitely felt some temperature changes. Others in the group felt the children pushing at their legs.
After a break for tea and biscuits (very important), we then went to the hall upstairs to try communicating through using glass divination. We had a bit of success here with the glass moving around the table on demand, and I thought at one point I was about to get a message from my Nana Vera, but we couldn’t decipher any obvious messages.
The team suggested we take lots of photos and voice recordings while there as sometimes things appear that are beyond the human eye or ear. Alas, I’ve not spotted anything of note on reviewing my recordings.
After four hours, it was time to go home. I’d love to report that I had a personal experience of communicating with the spirit world but I’m sorry to say I came away feeling a little underwhelmed and disappointed. I guess I was looking for – in fact I expected to find – some irrefutable evidence of ghostly presences but I didn’t really find any.
The spookiest thing that happened was that when we got out of the car, having just arrived in Finchingfield, the shoelaces on both of our right shoes were undone…
All that said, this adventure has sparked an interest in ghost hunting, and Simon and I discussed going on more expeditions in search of a more quantifiable experience. Perhaps this was just introducing us to the equipment and easing us in gently to the mysteries of the beyond.