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How Britain became a nation of Ghost Hunters

How Britain became a nation of Ghost Hunters

Back in 2009, The Guardian newspaper took part in our Oxford Ghostfest and wrote a lengthy article about their experiences.

Ghost Hunting at Oxford Castle

“Midnight on Friday. Thirty people are crouching in a dark castle crypt, silently waiting for … what? A ghostly apparition, or an otherworldly sound – a communication, in short, from beyond the grave. Suddenly, a woman screams. “Something just hit me on the head!” The tension broken, everyone starts talking at once and turning on their torches.

We are on a ghost-hunting event at Oxford Castle, one of a growing number of paranormal-themed experiences springing up around the country. Fright Nights, the company behind the evening, organises ghost hunts at 170 locations in the UK, scaring – or trying to scare – 1,000 customers a month. While it claims to be the “undisputed number one ghost hunting company in the UK”, it has certainly spawned a lot of imitators – all making a living from our desire to be frightened.

Fright Nights founded 10 years ago, at the time, there were no public ghost hunts in Britain, but interest in the paranormal had been piqued by TV programmes such as The X-Files. Ghost hunts, as you’d expect, take place in old buildings that are thought to be haunted. Members of the public are guided by a medium or ‘parapsychologist’ through vigils and seances, ‘glass divination’ and gadget-checking. Some companies place the emphasis on fun and frights, while others pride themselves on a more scientific approach. The event I attended was aimed at sceptics, so the opening remarks from medium Ian Doherty were a little surprising: “I’m like the little boy in the Sixth Sense: I see dead people.”

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