Photojournalist Peter Dench takes a Ghost Camera on a chilling walk into the bowels of London’s haunted alleyways to see if he can capture any ghosts.
‘I’ve seen an increase in people bringing along cameras and recording devices of all kinds,’ says Richard Jones, paranormal author, qualified blue badge guide and host of the The Alleyways and Shadows Ghost Walk. Of course, most of the 53 people booked on this evening’s walk have opted to bring bottles of wine, beer and cans of vodka and gin rather than ghost cameras.
The previous week on eBay I’d seen a ‘Full Spectrum Camera Infrared IR Camera Night Vision Camera for Ghost Hunting’ and clicked ‘Buy Now.’ Six days later opening the package I reeled back as it released a musty odour. Even more ghastly, the instruction manual came on a CD Rom. I typed the originating address into Google Street View and discovered a suburban purgatory of clipped lawns and one storey dwellings.
I fondled the silver Panasonic Lumix DMC-F3 from the packet and slid the power switch on. A full spectrum camera conversion is a modification where the camera’s internal IR cut filter is removed and replaced with a clear filter, making the camera sensitive to UltraViolet visible, and IR light, giving the image a pinkish hue. I checked what else the eBay seller had sold. There’s a copy of Adventures In Sex Magick, Control Your Life With The Power of Lust and Magickal Cashbook; Attract Money Fast With Ancient Secrets And Modern Wealth Magick (both by Damon Brand) and The Master Works of Chaos Magick, Practical Techniques For Directing Your Reality by Adam Blackthorne. I reached out to confirm what modifications they’ve made.
‘Hi – I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. The Full Spectrum Camera has arrived and all is working perfectly, thank you. I’m writing an article about Ghost Cameras for Amateur Photographer magazine and hope you might be able to answer a quick question (no problem if not). So, I’m curious if / what modifications were made to the camera, were the filters blocking UV and IR removed & is this easy for someone to do themselves or does it have to be sent away to a specialist!? I’m going on a Ghost Walk around London Saturday to give it a try. Thanks again. Pete’
‘Hi. The filters were removed from the sensor. We did the conversion ourselves for that camera. Anyone can do this conversion, however, starting with non-expensive cameras is the way to practice. If converting an expensive camera without prior experience of the process, it’s better to seek a specialist. XXXX’
Those aren’t kisses at the end of their message. The name is so unique I won’t reveal it. Typing it into Google will deliver zero results, as if the person doesn’t exist. I’ve named the protagonist, Hector.
‘Hi Pete, I see your email in eBay message. Have you ever visited the Enfield Green Street poltergeist’s house? I met Peggy, her children, around 1984, 84 according to media, all activity had stopped. True, in some sense, however, Peggy would tell it differently. She was correct, as we ourselves witnessed this phenomenon firsthand in 84. Peggy gave us many of the sound recording, we were doing a school project and as fearless most 15 to 16 years olds can be, off we went to meet them. We don’t have those recordings anymore.
I can say the energy lives on… in 1984 it was no longer aggressive energy. It had found a balance between Peggy and kids. What it’s like today, I have no idea. What we witnessed occurred outside before going in. Inside you could feel the presence, yet was not of a scary nature anymore. Although my friend at the time will dispute that, as he ran away fast leaving me to go in alone. I’m sure everyone has an opinion on this house. I can only go from my own experience. Have a great day, Hector.’
I’ve never visited the house at 284, Green Street, Enfield in North London. For 18 months from the summer of 1977, Peggy Hodgson, her children and over 30 eye-witnesses (including neighbours, psychic researchers, journalists and local lollipop lady) witnessed and heard furniture being moved, flying objects, knocking and levitation. The activity was centred on the daughters Margaret (13) and Janet (11) who channelled a mysterious, gruff voice. The film, The Conjuring 2, is based on the house.
The Mirror newspaper sent reporter Douglas Bence and photographer Graham Morris to investigate. ‘I thought it was an ordinary job until I walked into the house. I stood in the gloom in the kitchen and one by one they brought the children into the adults’ arms and the last one to come in was Janet. Suddenly things just took off and started flying around the room. I got hit by a Lego brick over my right eye. It gave me a lump for a few days, there was a fair bit of force. There were marbles and things left in the kitchen that were just flying around the room. I was watching all of [the family] and none of them was doing anything,’ Graham is reported to have said. He took a sequence of photos of Janet apparently levitating although he wasn’t actually present in the room with the camera.
I thanked Hector for mentioning the story, he responded with some advice:
‘If you’re new to ghost hunting are you aware you need an IR Illuminator light?’
‘No I wasn’t aware and thanks for the tip. I thought a small amount of ambient light might be ok. Pete.’
‘Yes that will work. We use ours in the daytime for UFO spotting as their hidden within the UV and IR spectrum among the clouds. Hector.’
Taking the Panasonic Lumix DMC-F3 ghost camera to London
For my Ghost Walk Movie Settings I selected black and white (standard, natural, vivid, sepia, cool and warm are also available) and Forced Flash Off in Normal Picture Mode. There are settings for: Portrait. Soft Ski. Self Portrait. Scenery. Sports. Night Portrait. Night Scenery. Food. Party. Candlelight. Baby1. Baby2. Pet. Sunset. High Sens. Hi-Speed Burst. Flash Burst. Starry Sky. Fireworks. Beach. Snow and Aerial Photo but sadly no Ghost setting.
I’m a World Press Photo award winning photojournalist and felt like the world’s most ill-equipped ghost hunter. I had 12 megapixels, one battery, around 7000 frames and an hour of High Definition filming available to capture what I could.
Before heading out I logged onto spiritshack.co.uk for some tips and advice: ‘If you’re new to hunting ghosts. Make sure to have a number of essentials and equipment for quality spirit hunting and investigations. Including a flashlight, camera, extra batteries, and mobile phone to trigger objects. Also, be sure to keep a pen and paper handy to write down your observations for later reading. Even if they are merely temperature changes, or voices. Also, if you are an experienced paranormal team, you are going to need more than just the basics to use your techniques. You’ll need a full kit. You may need items such as an audio recorder, ghost meter, night vision lights, magnetic field and ghost detector, video camera, and more hunting tech.’
Spiritshack also advises: ‘Introduce Yourself to the Spirits before using your Ghost Hunting Equipment.’ As a trained photojournalist, I would usually seek permission from those I was photographing in their personal space. I reached out to Hector for some final analysis: ‘What kind of energy spirit are you seeking? If it’s a scary spirit, fear works well as they feed on others’ fears. Not something I personally would recommend. If it’s good, harmonious, may I suggest setting the intention of what you’re seeking, trust at some point it will occur. Setting an intention before each adventure for a spirit who wants to be seen and noticed for the good of research might be a good way. If a spirit didn’t want to be seen, we would not be aware of them. The fact we are speaks clearly they want to be acknowledged. Hope that helps. Hector.’
Not wanting to ghost walk alone I invited along my wife who decided her sequin jacket was too bright and opted for a disco ball patterned jacket, woollen beanie bobble hat with shiny baubles and long white scarf. When you’re hunting ghosts, senses are heightened. Underground train station names take on new meaning: Burnt Oak, Archway, Angel. The word HELL jumped out of theatre posters and advertisements. ‘If you see something unusual or which doesn’t look right, speak to a member of staff or text the British Transport Police on 61016. See it; say it; sorted.’ I rapidly typed the number into my phone.
As Richard addressed the throng outside Bank Station dressed grandly in a long black coat, I raised the Panasonic and started to film. I’d no idea what I was looking for and less of an idea of what I was doing. I made B&W panoramic JPEGs when I meant to be filming and filmed when I wanted to shoot a colour JPEG. Pointing it towards Bank underground station where a sinister figure had been sighted, stalking the passages accompanied by a putrid smell and pervading sense of sadness (sounds normal for the Northern Line). I swept the camera around Great Bell Alley when I felt a drop in temperature.
I jabbed it towards the stone demons that stare menacingly from the Victorian building next door to St Peter-upon-Cornhill church. I pressed record in the shadows outside Simpson’s Tavern, the oldest chophouse in London, hoping to catch the mutterings of the old grey haired, ghost waiter. Around Threadneedle Street, I kept an Infrared eye out for Sarah Whitehead, who became unhinged after her brother Philip, a disgruntled former employee of the bank was executed in 1811 after being found guilty of forgery. Indeed, Sarah still went to the Bank and asked to see her brother until she died and was buried in the old churchyard that later became the bank’s garden; her rancid ghost still stalks the area. I stooped low in Guildhall Yard, built on an amphitheatre constructed during Roman London, there have been mysterious reports of legs being swept from underneath people.
It was a ghoulish hour and forty minutes. Sadly, the only thing I saw that died was my camera battery. My wife and I headed into The Paternoster pub and ordered large spirits. Staring directly into the mirror behind the bar my face drained of colour, hands started to tremble and a chill ran the length of my body. ‘That’ll be £24.50,’ said the barman – now that’s just frightful!
London Ghost Walks: www.london-walking-tours.co.uk
For Sale: Full Spectrum Camera Infrared Camera Night Vision Camera for Ghost Hunting, Buy Now from Peter for £64
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