The haunted Lodge: Part 2
In Part 1, I neglected to mention the colourful history surrounding the building and its environs. It was built at a time when public executions used to take place every Monday just around the corner at Tyburn. The high class residents of these newly built avenues and private squares didn’t much care for this gruesome activity and it wasn’t long before the gallows were dismantled after 600 years of neck-stretching and subsequent executions took place beneath the walls of the much feared Newgate prison. The neighbourhood’s social heyday was in the 1920’s when anybody who was anybody would be seen partying, canoodling and doing the Charleston in the excluxive clubs and luxury hotels of the area. But when the West End, just a mile away, stole its glory, the area started to fall into a state of neglect.
When Toni and I first visited the area, there were dozens of empty and decaying buildings that were just screaming out to be used as a movie location. The building that we set our hearts on had, until recently, been home to The Honourable Fraternity of Ancient Freemasons, a secretive society that, rather unusually, was exclusive to female members. (We actually found evidence of their closely guarded rituals that they had left behind.) We had visited dozens of properties in our search for the perfect location in which to set a “haunted house” movie, but this, without any doubt at all, was the mother of all locations!
Over a period of several weeks, Toni and I returned to the house many times in order to find interesting camera angles and just to be inspired by the place. Even though we tried our hardest to conquer our nerves about the place, we were unable to forget the facilities manager’s stories about the building (see The Lodge Part 1) and whenever we were inside, we both experienced a constant sense of being watched and followed.
I wanted to compile a full photographic record of the building’s interior, but because it was always so gloomy in there, I would have to use a flash. Rather than settle for the garish and flat lighting that a camera mounted flash would give, I had Toni handhold a second flash unit to one side which would help give the impression of depth. I had the camera on a tripod and used a slow shutter speed of about two seconds, giving us enough time to set off two flashguns manually. We made our way down from the attic rooms and it seemed the house was awash with flash explosions and I was getting very excited about the shots we were getting.
When we got to the first floor (that’s the second floor if you’re American), we decided to take a break. I left the camera on the tripod and balanced Toni’s flashgun on top. We thought it would be fun to check out the basement to discuss a few story ideas. We took the back staircase, the one originally designed for the servants, but we’d only got halfway down when there was the sound of a big crash from upstairs immediately followed by a loud ringing. It sounded like a fire alarm, or maybe a door bell as it only lasted a few seconds. We both thought this very odd as there is absolutely no electricity connected in the house. And we knew for sure that the doorbell didn’t work as we’d tested it on our first visit.
We both assumed there was someone else in the house, but as we had the only set of keys we wondered how they’d got in. Rather nervously and very quietly, we crept back up the stairs and nudged open the door to th long corridor where I’d left my camera kit. I didn’t know who or what to expect, but I was very surprised to see my tripod lying on its side. The flashgun I’d left on top had been completely smashed. I checked the tripod leg clamps to see if one had failed, but they were still perfectly locked off. Tripods just don’t have a habit of falling over; it’s rather like a chair or table overturning itself. I quickly searched the nearest rooms and the main staircase, but there didn’t appear to be anyone else in the building. But we both had a very, very bad feeling about the house. Not only that, but an oppressive gloom had suddenly descended on the house and, more than ever before, we felt that we were no longer on our own. We both felt inexplicably threatened so we decided to call it a day and get out of there. As we stepped out onto the street we were surprised how bright it was out there. We looked back at the house, its windows dark and impenetrable. The gloom seemed to remain inside, despite the sunshine outside.
I started to do some research into paranormal investigations and I wondered if it might be a good idea to return to the house in order to make our peace with whatever it was that seemed to have taken exception to our presence there. I wondered if the heavy use of flashguns had done something to disturb the status quo of the house and its occupants. I was also worried that if “he” (the angry male presence) was capable of doing that to my camera kit, what would he do to the very expensive film equipment we’d be bringing in to shoot the main movie? So I suggested to Toni that we go back one night, when it would be quieter and we could be more focused, and do something to try and make contact with the entity. I also thought we might have a go at Electronic Voice Phenomenon to see if we could record his voice. So a few nights later, Toni, myself and a friend who was helping us put the project together, turned up at the Lodge armed with a night vision camcorder, some candles and a bottle of Dutch courage.
I like to think we weren’t entirely stupid, so we didn’t head straight for the basement! Instead we made our way to the “mirror room”, the one where the image of a screaming face had been seen in one of the walls. We set up camp and lit the place with candles (no electricity remember) and set about opening a line of communication with the other side! I admit to feeling a bit foolish at first, talking to thin air, asking if there was anyone there and all that, but then I started to sense there was actually someone else in the room with us. Instead of feeling nervous or scared, the sensation actually made me feel more comfortable with my questions as I now had someone to whom I could direct them. I let “him”know why we were so interested in the house and what we were planning to do there. I guess I was trying to reassure him that we weren’t going to be staying long. We weren’t going to be changing anything.
When we had run out of things to say, we rewound the tape to see if the microphone had picked up anything. I had left long gaps between my questions for the entity to make his replies. We didn’t seem to have recorded anything that we could describe as paranormal, which was a bit of a disappointment as we had all definitely felt the presence had been amongst us.
As we stood around, wondering if we should continue the experiment elsewhere in the building, we suddenly became aware of how much quieter and colder it had suddenly become. During the day, the sounds of city life outside the windows was some sort of comfort to the deathly stillness inside the house, but now that it was nighttime and this part of the city had emptied of its workers, the silence had become extremely unnerving to say the least.
Our friend Julian wanted to explore the house on his own, especially the basement. He took the camera and off he went. I thought he was a little crazy, but he had come here for an experience and that was the most likely way he was going to achieve his wish! Toni and I kicked our heels upstairs for what seemed an age. We were starting to get very worried about Julian and we were just about to go and look for him when he suddenly appeared on the stairs. He handed over the camera and said he was going home. He didn’t seemed upset or edgy, in fact he just looked emotionless, or “drained” of all emotion. He had nothing to say about his solo journey to the basement; he just shrugged his shoulders and left. Just like that!
Well, Toni and I wanted to know what had happened in the basement because something must have happened to bring about this sudden change in Julian’s demeanour. In any case, I reasoned, it would be good for our writing experience. Let’s get ourselves really scared and then penning the spooky scenes would be a doddle!
We hesitated at the top of the basement steps, remembering how the facilities manager had been pushed down them on two occasions by our angry male presence. I raised the camera, flipped out the monitor and pointed it into the darkness below. The stone steps stood out from the darkness in an eerie green glow. We took a deep breath and down we went.
We reached one end of the long passageway and immediately I wished we hadn’t come down here. I had thought the house was cold and silent upstairs, but it was freezing down here and the silence was like nothing I’d ever experienced before. Toni headed down the passageway with me bringing up the rear. I don’t know which is scarier, leading or being at the back! I had such a strong feeling that someone was right behind me, their cold, clammy breath on my neck! But I knew it had to be my imagination, right?
Toni stopped outside the meat hook room; it seemed the logical place to go! She opened the door and stepped inside. As the door swung shut, a very loud dripping sound came from the other end of the passageway. My heart leapt in my chest. As well as there being no electricity in the house, there’s no water either and it hadn’t been raining, so there could be no leak. And what’s more, it was coming from right outside the door to what used to be that bedroom I mentioned in Part One. Then there was another drip, but it didn’t sound so much like a drip this time; it was more like a voice. A huge surge of panic swept through my body and I was filled with a huge sense of imminent danger.
I kicked open the door and threw myself into the room. I must have looked absolutely terrified from the way that Toni was staring back at me! I said there was no way I was going back out there as there was someone or some thing waiting for us. We stood in that room for ages and we might have been there until morning had we both not needed to use the loo so desperately! The Dutch courage hadn’t been such a great idea after all! We steeled ourselves, then bolted up the stairs and ran from the house!
(There is a little bit more to this story, but I’ve gone on long enough for one post. I shall finish it off tomorrow.)
(I’m also going to add footage from the EVP session as soon as I can lay my hands on the tape which I’ve put in a “safe” place that I can’t find it!)