On Saturday 25th June 2022, I was due to attend an investigation not too far from my home. It had been a little while and I was really looking forward to it. However, due to circumstances beyond my control, the investigation was cancelled on the Saturday morning. These things happen.
The after spending the afternoon writing, I knew I needed a little of a paranormal night to really complete my weekend. Not expecting to find anything last minute I decided to check out what everyone else was doing with their Saturday night investigation. That was where I stumbled upon Brookes Paranormal’s post regarding their planned ghost hunt at HM Prison Ashwell, which just happened to be about an hour and a half drive up the A1 from mine. What was more interesting was I had never heard much of HMP Ashwell in my travels, which seemed strange considering it is so close to my home.
Obviously I must have truly missed this one or had my head slightly under a rock, as the location has certainly been on the ghost hunting circuit since March 2015; when Mystical Ghost Hunts conducted an overnight ghost hunt with Chris Conway. Since then many ghost hunt event teams have been in and its been a regular location.
In 2018, even Most Haunted conducted their own investigation at HMP Ashwell, kicking off one of their new seasons at the time. A standard Most Haunted ghost hunt from what I understand after reading the review on the Higgypop website. It was also this televised account that began to provide the basis for much of the activity known today. Whilst those that came before Most Haunted do mention much of what they do; it is their dramatisation and broadcast to a much wider audience that may have increased interest in the location.
History wise the location has a nice mixture of old and new. The prison was originally constructed on the site of a WWII US Army base, which was home to part of the 82nd Airbourne Division. At least that is what all the ghost hunting websites state, I must confess I have not had the time to properly research that claim just yet. Whilst not impossible we must always seek proof to support these things.
The prison is believed to have opened in 1955 as an open prison, holding around 600 male prisoners. It later converted to a category C prison and has had a great deal of funding over the the years. 2009 saw a major riot break out in the prison, which caused significant damage. HMP Ashwell finally closed in 2011 and remained abandoned until the site was sold to Rutland County Council in 2013, for redevelopment.
Whilst the majority of the site has been redeveloped into an Enterprise Park, what remains of the prison is now used for Airsoft matches, extreme escape games and ghost hunting events. I have to bear in mind here though that the first online remark of ghostly goings on I could locate was dated March 2015, two years after redevelopment started and after the location had sat abandoned for two years. Does this mean its not haunted? Of course not, it just means that there is a possibility we have yet to find the Alpha Case of paranormal activity here, which could be a night watchman or something. Alternatively the ghost hunting events which originally started going there may have generated the interest themselves. We have to be mindful of this at least when considering a location such as HMP Ashwell.
Paranormal activity wise most websites I checked and even the Most Haunted episode seem to agree on the following; strange whispering voices, loud knocks, bangs, people being pushed, an apparition in the grounds, spirits in military uniform, apparitions in the cells, footsteps, shouting, metal doors closing, strange lights, shadow figures and moving objects. Which in reality is actually quite a lot of potential activity when you think about it. It would certainly be good to nail down some witness statements around these to help investigate them better. Especially as precise location and times were lacking.
Although we managed to secure our tickets to HMP Ashwell with Brookes Paranormal pretty much last minute; I still received a nice email from them to advise us when and where we should be. Simple, but effective touches when it comes to ghost hunting events, that some I have witness completely miss in the past.
We arrived a little early to make the 2045 suggestion from Brookes Paranormal, I noticed that the team also took a register to confirm who was present, not just for record of paying customers; but also for health and safety.
Around 2100, Lynda, one of the founders began to tell us all about the health and safety aspects. She and Jordan, also provided a little on the history and purported hauntings too. Then split us into three groups, so we could each have a prison wing to each group. We were with Lynda as our team leader from Brookes Paranormal; and headed off for our first investigation area around 2130.
Our first location was to be F Wing, and as we left the base room heading into the prison area or at least whats left of it; you could not help, but feel the change generated by the high razor wired fences.
Whilst partly feeling how some may associate the location to some very dark individuals, I personally did not see this initially. Granted it did seem like a set from the Walking Dead, but equally we must understand that the location was abandoned for a few years. This alone allows the building to break down a little, the dust to settle and for many to see shadows in the corridors.
Our group started upstairs in F Wing, by simply calling out near the cells to see if there were any responses. We also set up a laser grid pen along the corridor. Later on one of the ghost hunters believed they captured a photograph of a shadow crossing the laser grid. I took a look and I have to admit I was not totally convinced, but to be fair it was only a brief look and not a thorough one.
Lynda seemed to have a little trouble with the walkie-talkie too, where it kept generating interference. This caused static, a little like white noise. However, this did not appear to correlate with anything the group were doing at the time. In fact, most of the group were using the Ouija Board in one of the cells. They appeared to make contact through the board, according to the group with someone called George. When I entered the cell, one of the group, possibly a Medium proclaimed that the ‘spirit’ did not wish him on the board. So, I decided to have a go. After a few ‘yes’ and ‘no’ answers, plus a few ‘maybe’ ones too; we asked George’s surname. The response on the board was ‘S-T-L-A-L,’ which did not make much sense at the time. I suggested or assumed perhaps that the name may be ‘Stall,’ but a quick and simple Google failed to reveal anything to us later in the break. The problem here is really the lack of other information to allow us to cross-reference the name against something. Otherwise I find many ghost hunters fall into the trap of fitting information to a name without very much supportive data.
A couple of the group were using various Apps on their phones too. The kind of Apps which produce what appear to be random words. Often ghost hunters interpret those words as communication from spirits. Personally I am pretty sceptical when it comes to these Apps, as there are a number of possible algorithms they use to produce these words and are likely not related to actual ghosts. Don’t get me wrong, they can be fun, but not really good evidence to support survival.
Many of the group also used KII EMF meters in F Wing too; a device which is not always quite as accurate as some may believe. One thing to mention here is that Brookes Paranormal did advise the groups to place their mobile phones on flight mode during the ghost hunt. Whether or not everyone in the group switched their phone to flight mode or not is not completely known. My personal guess here would be, probably not. Add to that the fact that everyone seems to forget about smart watches and the likelihood that there was quite a bit of interference is high; which would explain some of the potential KII activity in my opinion.
Our first vigil came to a close around 2320, which was well led by Lynda from Brookes Paranormal. She made sure we made good use of F Wing and tried various methods, which was good. We returned to our base room for the evening along with the other groups. As we sipped hot coffee, I wrote up some notes on the first location and listened as others caught up on their experiences so far.
Around 2350, after a decent length break, we headed back out to our second investigation area, E Wing.
This time we started upstairs and a couple of the group tried table tipping. Personally I have seen this done in the past many times, sometimes quite well and seemingly genuine looking and other times obviously fraudulently. Oddly table tipping is also an interesting way to engage the group on an activity that can suspend belief and sometimes open group members minds.
On this occasion Lynda the group leader did provide the little wooden camping table, but did not involve herself. This is good as often when you have the group leaders too involved in the nights activities, it makes you question them more. So, this was the right approach.
The aim of the two on the table was to have it ‘walk’ down the corridor, perhaps to a cell. As ridiculous as this seems its something I have witnessed before. in fact the most interesting instance of table tipping I experienced had the table walk across the room towards the door. At that time I was on the table with one other; and the table felt as if it was pushing up trying to float away.
However, this instance was not to be quite as successful; the table leaned towards the gentleman on the table and then fell to the ground. In my opinion this did not feel to be genuine activity and most likely the gentleman applying a little pressure to the table. Hence why it only leaned his way and not the other. Whether or not he was actually consciously committing fraud, I do not know as I was unable to see properly on account of the red light he was using.
We then split up into smaller groups, I was actually on my own to begin with; and spent a little time in the cells. Perhaps an attempt for us to try a more quieter approach and personally experience being in a cell. Personally I found the cells quite spacious and was surprised they had an ensuite bathroom. I have stayed in worse hotels over the years.
Following this we made our way past the old control room, past some larger rooms and down a stairwell to the ground floor. Where we found a coffin. It was stated that the coffin was used to transport dead prisoners over the years. Whilst I do not dispute that as a possibility, we really had no evidence to support it either.
The group attempted to pick up on something in the area and the story of one man stabbing another was discussed. At one point some believed they heard noises from the upper landing, so I headed up there alone.
We then made our way through the downstairs and at about 0115, our time in E Wing came to a close. We headed back to the base room for a break. In which I once again scribbled a few notes down.
At around 0145 we headed out for the final time, this time to G Wing. Other groups had already mentioned that this Wing of the prison had been very active. However, for our group this was not to be the case, the entire vigil was relatively quiet. Sometimes that is just how ghost hunting goes; I scribbled ‘nothing of note’ in my journal.
To be fair Lynda did attempt an experiment using two mobile phones. She created a connection between hers and one other mobile; placed hers at the bottom of the stairs whilst we listened from the floor above. Attempting to ask questions from our position we hoped for a response, but nothing came through. I seem to remember a similar approach with radio’s back in the day.
Apart from picking up on a potential spirit called Albert through mediumship, nothing else happened and we headed back to base for around 0250.
All in all Brookes Paranormal provided a well organised and really good ghost hunting experience. They kept the night moving and provided plenty of suggestions for us to try; from Ouija Boards to ITC Apps. They were also honest about the reality of a ghost hunt and how more people can often cause contamination. Still it was a good fun night at a really interesting location. I would happily join them again for another ghost hunt.