The Ghosts of Warwick Castle

Fright Nights – Warwick Castle (Warwick, England)
August 4-5, 2006
9 pm – 5 am

The small group participating in the ghost hunt met in the castle’s café. We were introduced to the Fright Nights team and got an explanation of what they do and what to expect.

After this brief introduction, we got a tour of Warwick Castle – the grounds, gate house, dungeon, and ghost tower – along with the historical background. At certain points, the guides paused to tell us that they felt spirits around, but most of the participants couldn’t see/feel/hear anything, except for one person in the group who had a very strong sense of the ghosts that were in each room.

After the initial orientation of the castle, we met back at our base of operations – the café. The tour leaders passed out ghost hunting equipment – various thermometers and electro-magnetic field detectors – and gave us a brief tutorial their use. Then we were allowed to go off on our own private tour of the castle.

Reluctant to fly solo, I paired up with another woman who was also on her own. We decided to explore the gate house, but our equipment detected nothing. The gate house was allegedly haunted by the spirits of soldiers who tried to invade the castle, as well as a witch and various other spirits.

Eventually, we reconvened at the café to meet up with our medium, Michael. We introduced ourselves to each other, and two men (a gay couple…this will be important later, which is why I’m mentioning it) struck up a conversation with me. I stuck with them the rest of the evening.

As a group, we went with Michael to tour the castle again. Immediately, he picked up the presence of ghosts: Roman soldiers marching in the courtyard; a man who had been trampled after being pushed to the ground; a drummer boy standing by a doorway who was sad because he lost his drum; a mother carrying a baby who stood outside the castle gates, begging to be let in.

Inside the dungeon, he saw the torture master, who didn’t want us there. On the ceiling hung an iron maiden. He saw a woman in it.

In the gate house, he saw various other ghosts. At one point, he saw a ghost named Guy, a member of the Knights Templar, standing next to me. The room was hot and stuffy, but my right side, where he allegedly stood, was freezing cold.

In various rooms, depending on how spirits had died in them, people complained of correlating body aches: terrible headaches if the person died of a stroke, stomachaches if a person died from being stabbed in the stomach, etc.

There was one room where the air kept getting sucked out of my lungs, and I gasped for breath – it happened to other people at the same time. We smelled random scents like lavender or mint, when there was nothing that should have caused those scents.

In the ghost tower, Michael picked up on a ghost in the first room named Brooke (last name), who told him that he’s Sir Greville’s servant. (Sir G once resided in the ghost tower.) Michael felt a heavy pressure in his body, which he said was due to the pervasive sadness in the room. Brooke was not just Sir G’s servant, but also his lover, and he stabbed Sir G. to death in a fit of passion before killing himself. Michael related all this to us as he communicated with Brooke. This account was consistent with the history of the castle, which Michael said he did not study prior to coming.

In Sir G’s bedroom, Michael described Sir G’s ghost and began to feel very uneasy. The other men in the room noted some odd sensations, but the women didn’t feel anything. We all stood in the dark, and we were advised to turn on our flashlight and run if we felt we were in imminent danger.

One of the men did – he suddenly panicked, turned on his flashlight, and ran down the stairs, followed by one of the paranormal experts. They were down there for several minutes (they picked up on another ghost at the bottom of the stairs), and those of us remaining in Sir G’s bedroom stood very still and quiet. We heard footsteps walking around in the middle of the room. The men downstairs also heard them.

We eventually went downstairs and into a very narrow room. The medium panicked. There was the presence of an elemental, or animal spirit, and several people picked up on it being a wolf or a dog. Michael, who has had contact with ghosts his entire life, told us that he had never felt more scared in his life, and we had to strongly convince him not to flee from the building.

At this point, I was still not convinced any of this was real. I didn’t feel this panicky/dangerous vibe that several other people were picking up on.

After this intense scene in the ghost tower, we headed back to the café, where we were split up into two teams. One team went with Michael to the gate house and dungeon. My team joined the two other guides to go into the ghost tower.

We started out on the first floor. One of the ladies in the group said she felt a very playful spirit in the room. We stood in a circle, holding hands. People claimed they could feel the presence of the ghost behind them as it walked around the room – it would lightly touch people. One of the guides said she felt the ghost was walking in a very comical manner. One lady in the room got a random fit of the giggles.

We went up one floor, back to Sir G’s bedroom. All flashlights off, and we stood in a circle holding hands. Suddenly, we hear hissing sounds coming from various parts of the room. Some people said the hissing was directly in their ears.

We heard screaming, and flashlights came on. Several women were shoved around very hard. They moved to another part of the circle.

Once we calmed down, we rejoined hands and the flashlights went out again. The guides were asking, “If you’re here, give us a sign. Make a noise. Touch someone. Let us know you’re here.” (They repeated this several times throughout the night.)

More pushing, screaming, flashlights coming on. Lights out again, holding hands again…

I heard a shout from one of the men in the group. It was one of the gay guys I was hanging out with, and he said someone was trying to pull up the back of his shirt. (Remember, Sir G. was in a homosexual relationship.) He explained that he was gay, so perhaps the ghost could sense that.

We settled back into our circle, lights out… A guide sat on Sir G’s bed. A woman claimed to see a bright flash of light moving onto the bed. The guide announced that Sir G. sat next to him.

We heard a sound coming from downstairs. The guide on the bed shouted, “We know you’re down there, come up and join us.” A minute later, he told us, “the elemental has joined me on the bed.”

Despite all this going on, I still hear/see/feel nothing. Just about everyone else in the room was panicky and scared, and I felt disappointed because I wasn’t experiencing anything.

After this, our group joined Michael in the gate house and dungeon. Michael should have gone to the ghost tower, but he refused to go.

We went to the dungeon first, which was, in my opinion, the creepiest room in the entire castle. All lights out. Instead of standing in a circle and holding hands, we sat around the room very quietly. I sat in a little alcove next to a trapdoor where they would throw some of the prisoners (the oubliette). I figured that surely I would feel something there, but I felt absolutely nothing. We sat in silence for a while, and the medium finally announced that nothing was there, so we moved on to the gate house.

Nothing seemed to be going on there either. In one of the rooms, Michael said that he saw ghosts moving in and out, but none of them stayed. We sat for a really long time. My legs fell asleep. One guy fell asleep and started snoring. Two women finally got up and left. I followed them out. We sat in the café for a bit, talking about how disappointing this was. Nothing we had seen had truly convinced us.

A short time later, everyone else joined us in the café. Michael arrived first, a minute or two before the others, and he was shaking and telling us he was absolutely terrified to go back in the ghost tower. The rest of the group joined us, and we went back into the ghost tower and stood in a circle, holding hands. All flashlights off, and the only light in the room was a tiny red dot coming from the tape recorder.

Michael was sitting apart from us in a corner. I got a very odd sensation at this moment – the hairs on the back of my neck stood on end and I got this hot flash. One of our guides announced that Michael was in a trance. As a transmedium, ghosts can enter his body and speak through him. We felt a whoosh of cold air, and Michael’s breathing became really shallow. He moaned.

The guides asked him questions, and slowly he started to talk. He said his name was Guy and he lived right after the Crusades in a place not far from the castle. He told us that he didn’t want us in the room, but he agreed to answer some questions on the condition that we promised to leave. He said that his wife lived in the castle. She was the daughter of an earl, and she jumped into the Avon River and drowned at the age of 25 because she was possessed by demons. He said he lived as a recluse until he died at age 50. We felt another burst of air as he was talked about his wife, and he said, “She’s here.” The guides confirmed that his wife entered the room. In a minute, we felt another rush of air and heard footsteps leaving the room. The spirits were gone. Michael was sputtering and choking on the floor and needed assistance.

A large chair was then placed in the middle of the room with a wine glass placed upside down on top of it. Three people volunteered to place their fingers lightly on the base of the glass (like an Ouija board). One of them asked questions:

“If there is a spirit in the room, please move the glass.”

The glass moved just a bit.

Through a series of other questions, we determined that the ghost moving the glass was once again, Sir G. More questions:

“Do you know there is an elemental in the room?”

The glass moved so hard and fast that it nearly crashed off the chair.

“Can you move the glass in the direction where the elemental is located?”

The glass moved toward the stairway, where this wolf/dog spirit was first encountered.

A series of other questions were asked, and then the wine glass stopped moving. After several minutes, we concluded that Sir G. was tired of playing with us and left.

The ghost hunt was at an end.

Back at the café, Michael was slumped in a chair, complaining that his body was burning. A woman touched his arm and said his skin was boiling hot. It looked like blisters/boils were popping up on his skin.

The last hour was perhaps the most convincing for me, but I’m still skeptical. Whether it was real or a bunch of smoke and mirrors, it was a very cool experience. I was happy to have access to the castle at night, which few people before me have ever had the chance to do.

15

My husband and I celebrated 15 years of marriage on October 18.

Well, the celebration wasn’t actually on that date. We celebrated our crystal anniversary by doing yard work. After work the following day, we drove nearly an hour away to Yellow Springs, Ohio, for a weekend getaway.

Hiking at John Bryan State Park, a visit to the Glen Helen Raptor Center, good food (Saturday lunch at Ye Olde Trail Tavern in Yellow Springs and Sunday breakfast at Clifton Mill), a cold (brief) hike at Clifton Gorge. We didn’t get everything in that I wanted to, but we can always go back. We made a quick stop at Young’s Jersey Dairy on the way back to Columbus to pick up some cheese.

Also, if you ever find yourself needing accommodations in Yellow Springs, I highly recommend Jailhouse Suites.

Life, Death, and Donations

October 9, 1989 – I was a freshman in high school. I was at my locker before homeroom, preparing for the day. A friend approached me, her face very serious and sad.

“Sherry died last night,” she announced.

I raged at her. Told her to shut up. It couldn’t possibly be true. Sherry was only 14.

And yet, I knew it was true. On some level, I expected it.

In homeroom, I listened to the announcement of her death over the intercom. Most of my classmates came from other middle schools and didn’t know her. I was one of the few who cried. Later that day, I got a note from a friend saying that this was the worst day of her life. I had to agree. Losing a best friend is brutal at any age, but it’s incomprehensible at 14.

Sherry was one of my best friends in middle school. She had an illness – the name of it escapes me now – which weakened her lungs and made it difficult for her to breathe. When we first met, she could do most everything that healthy kids our age could do. Birthday parties, school dances – she even played clarinet for a time.

I think it was around 7th grade when her illness became more apparent. As her heart and lungs weakened even more, she stopped participating in normal activities. Every day, her father would carry her up the stairs at school for classes and then down again at the end of the day. Since she couldn’t take the stairs, my friends and I would take turns getting her lunch tray and taking it up to her. We’d all have lunch together.

She started appearing in the local news. There were spaghetti dinners and other fundraisers to help the family with medical expenses. She was on a wait list for a heart and lung transplant.

In 8th grade, she no longer came to school. She was too sick, so she continued her education at home. Meanwhile, everyone waited and hoped for a donor.

I wrote to her often that year. She never wrote me back. To this day, I don’t know why. Did my letters upset her? I wrote about events at school – a life she could no longer participate in. Did she know she was dying? Probably. Maybe she was trying to pull away from all her friends, thinking it would make things easier for us. I will never know.

Just a couple days before she died, I wrote her another letter. I remember walking into my bedroom later and seeing it. I crumpled it and threw it away, thinking she would never write me back anyway, so why bother? I’m so glad I didn’t send that letter. Her parents would have received it right after she died.

I didn’t go to the visitation later that week. I couldn’t bear it. There was a finality to seeing her dead in a casket that I couldn’t handle. The funeral felt safer. The casket was closed. I remember the funeral being on Friday the 13th.

Since that time, I’ve been advocating for organ donation. I signed up as an organ donor when I got my driver’s license a couple years later.

Today, on this 29th anniversary of her death, the bloodmobile came to work. I have no intention of donating organs any time soon if I can at all help it, but blood, I can donate. It seems fitting to do it today.

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Thinking of you, Sherry. And today, I’m wondering who you would have been if you had only gotten that organ transplant that would have saved your life. You never got the chance to grow up, but hopefully I can give a chance at life to someone (or multiple someones) when my time comes to an end.

Canon or Nikon?

I have a Nikon camera. For everyday use, my cellphone has a pretty great camera on it. But when I’m deliberately out taking photos, I bring the Nikon.

A couple weeks ago, I took my mom to Pickerington Ponds Metro Park. A Roseate Spoonbill had taken up residence there, and while we did see it, it was too far away for me to get a good shot – even with my zoom lens. This photo won the day.

cormorants

In fact, this was one of three photos that I entered into a nature photo contest last weekend (which will be exhibited around the Columbus and Franklin County Metro Parks starting next weekend).

I’m still learning. But I’m a serious hobbyist, and I particularly love shooting nature.

This morning, I attended an event at another metro park. Midwest Photo and Canon hosted the event. For $15, I got to borrow Canon equipment of my choosing and go on a walk with an Audubon guide.

The equipment I chose was no joke.

img_20181007_084718It was a 45-minute walk, otherwise this thing would have seriously started to hurt my neck and shoulders. It was HEAVY.

But it was an unfamiliar camera, and I didn’t really know what I was doing. So I focused and clicked and hoped for the best.

I did okay.

Female monarch

Egret in flight

Egret perched in a tree above Scioto River

This last photo was but a white blob in the distance to the naked eye – 400 mm zoom, hell yeah! My zoom on the Nikon maxes out at 300 mm.

It was fun to try new equipment, but I’ll stick with my trusty Nikon. I just need to get some more lenses for it.

Maybe I should experiment with macro lenses.

 

A Picture and a Story III

This is Turtleshell Cabin at Sylvania Tree Farm in Lackawaxen, Pennsylvania. I just visited the website and it appears that the cabin is no longer available, which makes me incredibly sad. (Their other cabins are still available, though, and I recommend a stay there if you ever get the chance.)

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October 2013/2014

For our 10-year anniversary in 2013, I booked this cabin for a long weekend in the Poconos. It was the smallest cabin on the property, but as it was just the two of us, we didn’t need much. It came equipped with everything we needed, and the location could not be beat. It was pretty remote – sure, there are other cabins on the property not too far off. But it felt very private. We loved it there so much that we went again the following year.

The cabin had a loft bedroom with the most comfortable bed I ever slept in. There was a screened-in porch with a hammock. The kitchen had everything we needed for cooking, but we could go rustic if we wanted and cook outdoors. We also had a TV, which I could have done without, but it was pretty funny to watch Pennsylvania Polka one of the nights we were there (or maybe it was only funny because we both had a few drinks).

(The hot tub pictured above wasn’t one of our amenities. That was an additional expense, and besides, I’m not a big fan of outdoor hot tubs when the air is chilly.)

My favorite thing was Mast Hope Brook, which ran through the property a few steps from the cabin. Hearing the rush of water over the rocks gave me a feeling of serenity that I don’t think I’ve felt anywhere else. I spent a lot of time near the brook, just soaking in the peace.

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This cabin is near and dear to my heart, and I wish we could stay there again.

20141018_091510120141019_15334320131018_184214We explored the area both times we were there – both the Poconos and the Adirondacks on the New York side of the river. Those are stories for another time.

A Picture and a Story II

Spice Bazaar

Istanbul, 2005

I was excited to go to Istanbul as part of a tour organized by the Turkish members of the International Women’s Club. (In short, IWC was a spouse’s club for those of us living near the NATO base in Germany.) While Istanbul was not one of the places on my bucket list during our time in Europe, the opportunity presented itself and I jumped at the chance.

Turns out, it was one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen. And the food was phenomenal. We went over to the Asian side one day, and it’s the only reason I can claim that I’ve visited Asia.

This photo was taken in the spice bazaar. I had just bought the pashmina that I’m wearing here. The man in the photo is a stranger, someone who worked at the bazaar. He asked to have his photo taken with me, but first he wanted to wrap my head. I’m not entirely sure why. Most women I saw in Istanbul didn’t have their hair covered – though Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country, it is a secular society. But he wanted to show me how he thought I should wear a pashmina, and then we posed for this photo.

I got a lot of male attention because of my blond hair and blue eyes. At least, that’s what our male tour guide said. So perhaps this is why the man in this photo asked to pose with me.

Anyway, this is just one of many memories from Istanbul.

Here are some more:

bread vendor

apple tea vendor

Hagia Sophia

Blue Mosque

Spice Bazaar

Spice Bazaar

A Picture and a Story

I haven’t written anything creatively for several weeks. But to flex my creative muscles, I thought I’d share a photo along with a story. I may do this regularly. I have a lot of photos with back stories to share. 

Venice, 2006

My friends and I arrived in Venice just in time for Carnevale. That actually wasn’t the point of our trip. Our actual destination was Vicenza, which was to be our home base for a shopping trip to buy pottery in Nove. We flew into Venice (from snowy Belgium), took a bus into town, and stored our luggage at the station so we could spend our first day taking in the spectacle.

As you might imagine, it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s impossible to know where to look because there is so much to see in every direction. Elaborate costumes everywhere you look, and just when you think you’ve seen the best one, you look in another direction and see one even more incredible.

The photo above is one of many I took that day – it’s my favorite. I did not ask this family to pose for a photo. They saw my camera pointed in their direction and stopped – all of them – right there in the crowded square. Spontaneous and unplanned. It was a perfect moment, gone in a second, but I have it preserved for eternity.

The people behind the masks will remain a mystery to me, and it’s better that way, I think. To know them would take away from the magic of Carnevale – a celebration that brings perfect strangers together for memorable moments like these.