An unusual night in the pub last night: I joined the Gloucester ghost lady Lyn ‘Mystic’ Cinderey and about 18 other brave souls on an overnight paranormal investigation at the Café Rene.
I like to think that I am open-minded about ghosts and matters of the paranormal. When I was younger I was definitely a believer in such things, but with age I’ve become less certain. I believe that weird things happen, or at least that they are experienced, but whether this is something spiritual or simply natural phenomena that we don’t yet understand I’m not sure. I am sure that there is a lot of fraudulent nonsense around the subject, but Lyn seems genuine in both her belief and enthusiasm.
It was with a mix of trepidation and anticipation that I set out for the evening: this is (roughly) how it went:
7.00pm – we gather at Café Rene. Lyn, who has an impressive memory for names, makes introductions. First things first: to the bar for a beer.
The group is a mix of old hands and novices. It was obvious from early on that the gathering divided into two camps: the credulous, who believed without question and were determined to have an experience, and those who were just curious about what might happen. Also amongst our number were four people from Star FM, there to report on our experiences for the radio. I have a good face for radio, so that was fine. The Star FM people were typical local radio types: confident, enthusiastic and exuberant. All looked set for a fun evening.
7.30pm – before starting on our investigations we have a last hearty meal: an excellent buffet-style hot meal provided by Café Rene as part of the package. We are split across three tables. On my table was John, his work colleague Luke with his girlfriend Ashley, and another couple Chris and Vicky. We were all first-timers except John, who was an old hand; very enthusiastic with many tales of past paranormal experiences. All seemed perfectly normal and well balanced individuals. We decide that what we want is just the right amount of spooky activity: enough to make the evening exciting, but not so much that we run from the place screaming and seeking a change of underwear.
8.20pm – let the spookiness commence! Lyn leads us down into the pub cellars for the start of the investigation. At the bottom of the stairs is the small cellar bar. Although this is in use, it has obviously had recent water problems as evidenced by the sandbags and the soggy cardboard laid on the floor to mop up the remaining puddles. It smells damp and musty and, basically, like an old cellar.
Lyn gives us an introduction into what lies before us. I’m a little disappointed to discover that it is more of a vigil than an investigation: I was hoping for some high-tech gadgetry to capture changes in temperature, atmospherics, etc, but instead we are just there in the hopes of seeing or hearing something or capturing something on film. There are other occult-type things for us to have a go at during the evening too. First though we are left to have a wander around on our own to get a feel of the place and get our bearings. Fat chance with my sense of direction! It rapidly becomes clear that the radio folks are not there to be serious; they are going to be the badly behaved children in the class.
8.45pm – having gathered back together we are split into two groups. My group are to start in the deep tunnel, the area they call Deep-6, I don’t know why. Whereas the cellar bar and the tunnel leading from it is an original old brick vaulted cellar, as you move back you go beneath the Eastgate Shopping Centre and the cellar therefore consists of a concrete roof and supporting pillars circa 1973 and so creates less atmosphere. Although the upheaval of major building works is said to disturb spirits, these should have had a chance to settle down again by now. The place is also piled high with junk and rubble.
We make our way to the back of the tunnel where we pull up some old chairs and sit down. A break-away party moves round to an adjoining chamber to carry out a vigil there. There is an air of anticipation as we sit in the pitch black. Although it is dark and should be creepy, I feel surprisingly un-spooked. One of our party claims to hear distant chanting, but none of the rest of us hear anything, except for a brief burst of comms from our guide’s walkie-talkie, which nearly gave us all a heart attack! So far, no ghosts.
9.45pm – We swap places with the other group near the cellar bar. Although there is said to have been paranormal activity here it is less compelling, not least because it is well lit. We grow restless and mill around chatting and taking pictures.
10.15pm – Lyn comes back and sets up a séance to keep us occupied. This consists of a table with a glass in the middle and four pieces of paper laid out around it with the words ‘yes’, ‘no’, ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye’ written on them. We all sit around the table with one finger lightly placed on the glass and ‘call out’ to any spirits present to make contact by moving the glass. We all feel a bit foolish calling out, so Lyn has to join us. We all feel some movement in the glass, but nothing dramatic.
10.45pm – we re-emerge into the pub for a break and a drink. Life goes on as normal above ground, with punters blissfully unaware of the occult dabbling going on below.
11.15pm – we all head back down to the cellar in small groups. Back in Deep-6 Lyn has set up a scrying mirror. The table and glass has also moved to the back of the tunnel and a few others are trying out divining rods. We all mill about and dabble as we wish. Others go back to the adjoining chamber for a further vigil.
The scrying mirror is interesting. It is a black mirror rather than silvered, and to enable you to see your reflection a candle is placed before it. Even so, you have to concentrate hard to see yourself. Apparently sometimes people see themselves either younger or older than they are, or they see other people. One lady got quite emotional, having claimed to have seen her grandmother in the mirror. The radio people all gave it a go, and one of them seemed to see a face with a moustache, although he was clean shaven. This caused hilarious Tom Selleck references amongst his colleagues rather than awe.
On the séance table the glass stubbornly refused our increasingly desperate pleading for it to move, and the divining rods seemed equally disinclined to cooperate. The vigil in the next tunnel did, however, hear some suspicious knocking and possible footsteps. Others caught ‘orbs’ on their cameras. These are orbs of light unseen by the human eye but captured on film, or these days on digital. The trouble is I find it difficult to distinguish between an orb, dust particles caught by the flash, or flare on a dirty lens. Spooky? I still wasn’t quite convinced.
I was at a loose end for a while and got fidgety so went for a poke around in the rubble. To my surprise, I found an electric organ buried at the back – quite a sophisticated one at that. Even more surprising, it had power to it. None of this was as much a surprise as when I hit a key, filling the tunnel with a loud, deep, sonorous and totally unexpected note. After peeling everyone off the ceiling we commenced our investigating, but there was no more spookiness.
12.00am – the witching hour. We resurfaced once more for coffee and snacks – Lyn seemed to have brought half the supermarket’s supply of crisps and cakes with her. The pub was mostly empty by now. The radio team were thinking of leaving, but Lyn shamed them into staying a bit longer in case it all kicks off after midnight.
12.30am – strangely compelled, we straggle back down into the cellar. I was keen to have a go at scrying as I hadn’t tried it yet. It is interesting and you can see how such concentration could induce a trance like state. My reflection did seem to shift and change, but with the flickering candle allied with tiredness it is hard to identify what is real and what is imagined.
1.15am – time to check out the upstairs. The dining room is apparently very active with reports of shadowy figures, unexplained lights and ghostly Cavaliers. We set up a vigil around the room in the dark, with frequent pictures taken to capture any spirits or orbs. After a while I got bored and wandered through into the bar, where an attempt at table tilting was going on. Sat around a table with fingers touching, you ‘call out’ to the spirits to make themselves heard by rapping on the table or tipping it. No luck, but there was still quite a bit of disruption from behind the bar where they were clearing up.
2.00am – a last go at the séance with a glass. We call out a few times with no luck. Eventually there are just 6 of us left at the table, including one of the bar staff who has joined us. Suddenly the glass starts to move. Hesitantly at first it twists under our fingers and moves slowly across the table. Does the spirit want to speak to anyone in particular? our spokesperson asks. The glass picks up speed. At first I fear it is heading for me, but instead it makes straight for Vicky sat next to me. Every time the glass is placed back in the middle it heads straight back to Vicky with increasing speed. Questioning suggests that the glass is being guided by the spirit of Vicky’s father. Clearly and understandably affected by this, Vicky eventually goes off to steady herself.
We continue, and now there is no stopping the spirits, they seem to want to speak everyone. I bail before it gets to my turn. Lyn, who has been complaining about feeling really hot for some time, is on the point of spontaneous combustion. Adamant that there is spirit activity in the room she begins snapping away with the camera in the hope of capturing something. I too feel odd – a tingling sensation across my skull back and legs. It is all taking a turn for the spooky.
Was this a real paranormal experience? Was the glass guided by unseen spirits, or was it guided, either deliberately or sub-consciously, by those of us around the table? Was the air charged with spirit activity, or was I susceptible to suggestion due to anticipation and sleep deprivation? I don’t know, but it was a spooky end to the evening.
3.00 am – time to go home. Just the small matter of walking alone, freshly spooked, back to my car by way of St Mary de Crypt graveyard and the ruins of Greyfriars…