Chingle Hall is a lot smaller than you may think and is more of a large house than a hall. It is built in a cruciform shape and painted white with a small overgrown moat surrounding it and a large garden which leads to a small wooded area covering a stream.
We were greeted by the owner Trevor who, with his fiance are a lovely couple who are more than happy to have a group of strangers mooching around their home once you have been strictly vetted. Chingle visits are not advertised and the owner is not at all keen on the Internet because of the increased publicity it has generated about Chingle Hall. My work colleague who arranged the trip had to undergo a lengthy phone interview before the owner would agree to our visit.
Once that was out the way though and we were stood on their front door, the owners were very affable explaining we could have full run of the older parts of the house, this included the Great Hall, The Chapel, Kitchen, John Wall and Eleanor rooms upstairs. The only areas out of bounds are the living area and their bedroom which have been modernized.
The owners then departed leaving us in the hands of Pat, who works as a full time guide at Chingle. Pat does a great job of setting the scene and creating the right atmosphere for a night in a haunted house.
She began by playing a tape to us of noises supposedly captured by others visitors to the house. One tape plays very clearly, the sound of chains as if a draw bridge is being lowered. This was captured when a tape recorder was left in the John Wall room where the original draw bridge would have been. Another has a very eery female scream (followed quickly by more female screams from the living members of that party!).
There is also a wonderful collection of photographs donated by previous visitors of many strange images. The two most striking for me are the shape of a hooded monk caught in the reflection of a picture hanging in the Great Hall and a villainous looking cavalier's face looking out of the upstairs window. This one really makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, Pat could not say who it was and we only nicknamed him "The Cavalier" because that's what he looked like, it could have been John Wall himself! Genuine or not, I couldn't say, they certainly appeared it to me but I'm no expert on photography.
You are then treated to a tour of the house room by room with Pat before she leaves you to settle in for the night.
Our first experience took place in the Chapel where I was videoing Pat's overview. We had already had one or two electrical interferences with failing camera batteries and viewfinders not focused etc but hadn't really thought much of it.
In the Chapel, next to the kitchen door, there was a very cold breeze moving downwards from my head. Each member of the group experienced this and we followed the cold spot around the room for several minutes. I went to investigate the doors as the main door was open as well as the back door to the house. However, this was June and it was a warm, still night and the breeze was moving in what I can only describe as a ball around the Chapel.
We all gave a start when one of our party, Caterina let out a huge howl when she experienced the cold spot. She said it felt like someone small running around her legs. Cat is not someone to over exaggerate or get carried away but this event shook her up. We felt our adrenaline pumping as if this was the start of things to come!
After a brief break, we went upstairs firstly to the John Wall room. Both of the rooms upstairs are now unfurnished (bar the odd chair and floor lamp etc) and are quite small. The John Wall room has the heads of four saints painted into little alcoves.
Whilst climbing the stairs, My friend Ann commented on the smell of Lavender which Pat said was common before a haunting but not many people pick up on this smell.
It was in the John Wall room that three members of the group experienced the floor swaying. We had read of feelings of vertigo in this room in previous accounts. Personally I did not experience this and could only attribute it to the old, oddly fitted floorboards.
The cold spots quickly returned and Pat claimed there were ghost children present. One of our group, Lisa, had a very uncomfortable experience where she felt like a small child was holding her hand and this freaked her out for the rest of the night. Rebecca also experienced what she described as a cat moving around her legs.
It was interesting to be present during this as my friends were genuinely upset by the experience and I didn't doubt for a moment they believed it. Personally though, I drew a blank here again!
Pat advised us not to close the door in the John Wall room as it upsets the Cavalier. (After she left, we closed it anyway out of curiosity but, no Cavalier!!)
We had similar cold spot experiences in Eleanor's room and once again the little girl (or girls) were supposedly present. I don’t know who they are or whether it is supposed to be Eleanor or not but Pat definitely felt there were two small children with us. Although not a medium, Pat says she has spent so many years in the house that she has become accustomed to the ghosts and can sense their presence.
Eleanor's room was probably the first place where I felt anything like a touch to my hand. My little finger went extremely cold for a few minutes and could possibly have been the hand of the child Lisa had experienced earlier.
After Pat left us (about 11.30pm) I sat alone in Eleanor's room in the dark armed only with Lisa's video camera. I must have spent 15 minutes there with absolutely nothing to report so I rejoined the group downstairs.
Interestingly, Lisa watched the tape at home with her boyfriend Steve a few nights after our visit and they claimed a faint black image or shadow can be seen passing my lens. It is only a quick snippet and I have yet to see the tape for myself to judge but as I say, I thought it was quite uneventful.
The rest of the night was spent sitting in pairs in the various rooms and investigating the grounds. About 2pm we gathered together to hold a seance in the Great Hall. We used a basic method my Mum taught me years ago using a key and a candle. We tied the key to piece of string and held above the flame, you then ask the key to show signs for yes, no, don't know etc and it forms circles or back to back motions. To be perfectly honest, none of us believe this is a true scientific method and at the time, it was a bit of fun but you do get some interesting patterns with the key!
After a few minutes we started getting a large rocking sensation with the key, I was holding it at the time and can testify that I was not exaggerating the motion. We asked a lot of questions to the spirit and came to the conclusion from the answers that it was a monk, it wasn't John Wall, it wasn't unhappy and (thank God) it didn't mind talking to us. Cat also felt her hair being tugged just after the seance.
A strange event did take place with the video camera. It had been playing up for a few hours now, the battery (and the spare) kept running down within five minutes of operating. We had the charger with us and kept recharging them. They would show as full but once attached to the camera, would drain again. I switched the camera off during the seance and left it lying on its side on the table. It was only after the seance Rebecca noticed it was switched on and had filmed the whole thing! I can't swear I turned it off properly but I'm pretty sure I did. The tape revealed nothing of interest but it was weird all the same.
Perhaps the best evidence of a ghost happened at around 5.30am. We were all tired through lack of sleep and too be honest, a little disappointed that we hadn't experienced anything truly spooky. It had been light for about an hour so and we were altogether having a Coffee in the Great Hall. Right above us in the John Wall room we heard a single footstep that stopped our conversation followed by five distinct steps across the floor. We just sat there and for some strange reason, not one of us went to investigate. I think the group lethargy had taken over as we were all ready to depart. It's a shame though, if this had happened earlier we would have been jumping through hoops to get upstairs.