Harwich Redoubt Fort

Farsight PRS Investigation – Harwich Redoubt Fort

The Brief
In 2010 Farsight PRS investigated Landguard Fort near Felixstowe. At the time we conducted an in depth and detailed investigation of the Fort, the best we could in the freezing March conditions. When I discovered that Landguard had a sister Fort across the estuary in Harwich, which also had reports of paranormal activity, I knew we had to investigate it.

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As ever we would approach the case with an open mind, looking for evidence to support the paranormal reports at Harwich. However, we would also look for logical explanations for the reports too.

History & Reported Paranormal Activity
Built between 1808 and 1810, the Redoubt was designed to protect the port of Harwich against the threat of Napoleonic invasion. Circular in shape and nearly 200ft in diameter, with a central parade ground which is 85ft in diameter. The Fort was originally armed with ten 24-pounder cannons, but later on the Fort was re-modified to accommodate 68-pounder cannons.

Despite the modifications over the years the Redoubt never fired a shot in anger. As the strategic importance declined towards the end of the 19th century the Redoubt was replaced by more powerful batteries to the south. As the council brought land almost right up to the moat the Redoubt was allowed to fall into disrepair.

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During World War II the Redoubt was taken back into the military and used briefly as a detention centre for British troops awaiting trial. Following World War II the Redoubt was used by the Civil Defence organisation until it was disbanded, thus ending its military service.

Harwich Redoubt became a listed building around 1969 and its restoration began from there up until the present day.

As for reports of paranormal activity at the Fort, these are varied. The most prominent of the reports and almost horror story in style, is that of a headless soldier. My research turned up a few instances of the decapitated soldier turning up around the fort on a number of occasions. Other unexplained figures have also been sighted within the Fort, which means quite a few possible sightings of apparitions.

There have also been a few audible phenomena reported at the Fort. Many have reported the sound of footsteps often being heard around the fort and voices when then has been no one there.

There have also been reports of light anomalies, cold spots and the odd feeling of being watched.

Witness Reports
We were unable to obtain any witness reports which detailed the activity at the Fort.

However, what was a little concerning to my team and I was that our Host for the evening, who had volunteered at the Fort for thirty odd years, told us he had never experienced anything. In fact when one of my team asked further questions in regards to the activity, we ascertained that the reports really began following a visit from a member of a paranormal team. This information kind of placed a negative vibe on our investigation as we were worried that perhaps the Fort may not be quite as active as we previously believed.

Please don’t misunderstand me though, as investigators we didn’t rule out activity or stop our investigation there! We just thought it odd that a man that spent a lot of time at the Fort returning it to its former glory had no paranormal experiences and the first experience is that of someone who investigates the paranormal. I’ll return to this later in the investigation.

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Attending Investigators
Ashley Knibb – Lead Investigator
Leanne Knibb – Documentation
Aaron Hardy – Case Manager
Martin Gregory – Investigator
Kevin Ling – Investigator

Location Assessment
As ever we started our investigation with a brief tour of the location by our host. I find this is an excellent starting point for the team to learn a little about the location, both historically and in regards to any paranormal activity there may be. These little tours have also given us the opportunity to get our teeth into some of the reports straight away, with explanations jumping out at us.

Harwich Redoubt Fort was no exception to this rule! Our host took us to a staircase and explained to us that many had felt as if they were pushed down it. The explanation seemed reasonably obvious straight away, given that this occurred during darkened ghost hunts! We hypothesised that perhaps as the staircase was very dark, elevated up and around to the right back on itself, then towards the top it levels off, but appears still to be rising. This combination seems to make you feel as if you are losing your footing a little as you descend the staircase, this could explain the feeling of being pushed. This is merely our understanding of the situation explained to us and the explanation which may provide a logical reason for its occurrence.

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Our host continued to give us a tour of the Fort informing us of some of the locations history, but where appropriate also mentioning some of the paranormal reports. Unusually this didn’t really provide us with any exact hot spots for paranormal activity, apart for one. There was a magazine which was being used display some toys which had a relation to war. We were told that many teams like to utilise the room for vigils and attempt spirit communication through means like glass divination. Some of which had apparently had some good results. With this in mind I thought it may be good location for one of our vigils later in the night.

Another point of interest was the cells, which had a large amount of graffiti on the walls. The graffiti dated back according to some of the scribbles to the war. This varied from the usual pieces of vulgar detail, general information to a little poetry. All in all this little area was quite atmospheric and I decided we would pop back later to see if we could pick up anything.

After a few more little stops, where our host introduced us to some of the many pieces that Harwich Redoubt Fort has on display, we found ourselves full circle, literally, back at our HQ for the night. The theories that some objects may hold the energy from past events or even have a direct spiritual link crossed my mind. Something our investigation may have to look into.

Equipment Location & Setup
We had our doubts about using the CCTV system for this investigation straight away for a couple of reasons. First up, the lack of specifics in regards to the apparition sightings or reports, made it a little difficult to deploy the cameras to locations which may yield any results for us. Granted we face this on every investigation, but at least we have a little of an idea. Secondly, we were aware of the CCTV system having a few technical problems recently and we were concerned it wouldn’t even work as it should.

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With all of this in mind we decided to setup the system as simply as possible with the aim to cover the Fort on two levels in two direction on each level. This was achieved simply with two cameras on the lower level, side by side, but pointing off in directions which set a ninety degree gap between them. Actually that sounds more complicated than it was when you write it down! The other two cameras were placed on the higher level pointing at an angle which had them cross each other. These were setup to cover part of the upper level wall, but also a little of the lower level.

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Although as ever we would hope to capture some paranormal evidence with our CCTV system, we mostly set it up to allow us to validate our own location in the Fort. Thus if we did capture anything we could determine more easily if it was one of us or not.

Once we had setup the cameras and cabled them back to the CCTV system hub, we fired it up and were presented with issues straight away. It failed to record due to some technical issues with the system. However, following a little engineering on the go it seemed to be up and running and we set it to record.

Vigil 1 – Team One – The Whole Fort
We spent the first Vigil conducting a simple walk around of the location to see what we could explain.

Our first stop was those stairs to further explain our theory on how they visually appeared as steps, but actually levelled off making you feel a little off balance. Concluding that this could explain the feeling of being pushed down the stairs.

Splitting up and heading to opposite sides of the Fort, we decided to experiment with how audio travelled. I wanted to try and explain why some groups may have heard voices during their investigations. Simply if there were more than one team roaming the Fort, then voices even quiet ones travelled easily to the other side and from outside to the inside too. This is assuming there is more than one group present, but equally external noise from the local town also filters in with ease too. This makes the Fort a slight audible nightmare as determining who or where the sounds are from is not easy, but equally makes it difficult to conclude them as paranormal.

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During the break following the first vigil we noticed that the CCTV system had frozen! This wasn’t uncommon now days and we had observed it at Watlington House and Arundel Jail House. I feared that our dear old CCTV unit was on its last legs soon to fail completely, but I didn’t know how true that would be. I attempted to restart the unit, hoping it would reboot and recover as it had in the past. This wasn’t to be the case though. Each time I restarted it the device failed to recognise the hard drive or failed to start at all. I attempted a little field maintenance hoping I could fix it, but this didn’t help either. Finally I tried the last restart, but this time the device decided to reformat the hard drive, which it done and then following that it would fail to recognise it again. We had lost CCTV for Harwich and our system forever!

This wasn’t a massive shock to me as I had already tried to fix these issues prior to the investigation due to its minor hiccups during some evidence review. However, at the time the route cause of the problem had been identified as the hard drive and not the system failing. Both appeared to have failed now!

Harwich Redoubt Fort would mark the end of our CCTV system and the loss of a chunk of our CCTV footage. I was a little worried how we would progress forward without CCTV.

Vigil 2 – Team One – The Games Room
We decided to attempt a simple vigil in one room calling out to see if we could gain a reaction. Other teams had remarked on the Games or Toy room being quite good for this and conducting a séance type vigil. We decided to give it a go, but with little results.

As we left the room for our break I setup a camera on the table to record the empty room, just in case. On my return towards the end of our break, less than half an hour later the battery had exhausted. Whether this is paranormal or simply a faulty battery is still under discussion, mainly as it happened previously at Watlington House.

It is believed that significant battery exhaustion could be possibly related to spirits attempting to manifest. As an investigator its nice thought that possibly something may have been present, but unfortunately as we lack evidence to support this we can’t claim it to be so. However, in the mean time though we will look at the battery more to see if it is faulty.

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Vigil 3 – Team One Split – Multiple Rooms around the Fort
During this Vigil the whole team split up to conduct individual loan vigils in various rooms throughout the Fort. In a way a crude attempt to see if spending time alone within the location would cause any of us to experience anything. My concern here was whether we could significantly state something as being paranormal when there is a possibility it could be psychological. As with many situations, not to mention that of spending time alone in a possibly haunted Fort at night, our minds can play tricks on us. However, I trust my team and the dark is the least of their fears.

None of the team remarked on having odd feelings or experiences of activity whilst alone. I sat in a room where there were many objects which may have held some kind of paranormal energy, this included an old hearse cart, but I felt quite comfortable. Leanne reported a slight uneasiness, perhaps due to the darkness of the cells she was situated in. The rest of the team had nothing to report.

As the Fort was so quiet and we had some good explanations for the possible reported activity we decided to call it a night, pack up and head home.

Captured Evidence & Personal Experiences
On this occasion I have little to mention in the line of captured evidence or personal experiences. In fact the Fort was more than a little quiet on our visit.

We did experience a battery drain on one of our camcorders, but as we have had this happen a couple of times now we are looking into a possibility of a faulty battery. Usually we have something else to accompany the battery drain which would make it of greater significance. On this occasion there was nothing!

The only other thing that I think I could report is Leanne’s feeling of uneasiness whilst in the cell alone. This could easily be explained by the simple fact she was alone in a dark cell. Something none of us believe to be associated with the paranormal.

Conclusions
On arrival at Harwich Redoubt Fort I have to admit I was really impressed. The volunteers that work hard to restore and run the Fort have done an amazing job. The place is picture perfect and very impressive. As you walk in unusually onto the upper level of the Fort you can see straight away the detail of care and attention that has gone into the Fort.

It is immediately understandable how a place with such history could possibly house paranormal activity. Even the oddity or perhaps military genius that the Fort is built into a hill rather than on one invokes an interesting thought or two.

However, the Farsight PRS investigation yielded few to none results to support the previous claims. Also, that coupled with the fact that a volunteer that has worked there for more than thirty years has no tales of his own to tell of ghosts, gave my team some serious doubts. Is Harwich Redoubt Fort haunted? I would have to say a firm ‘no’ from our investigation on this occasion. We lacked evidence or experiences to support previous reports. And for many of those reports we managed to find some quite solid explanations.

Still, the paranormal field isn’t somewhere you usually find simple black and white answers. This also includes a quiet night at a Fort. I think it is a little weird how it works, but it does! One night at a location doesn’t make for a definitive investigation and from our single night we can only draw conclusions from what we have. This doesn’t mean the Fort has nothing to offer. After all there are many recorded instances of paranormal activity occurring there, after all that’s why we went. Just not on our night.

Harwich Redoubt Fort is an amazing and well cared for location. It is well worth a visit to understand a little of its history and the work which has taken place to restore it over the years. Please don’t let our quiet night deter you from investigating it either, after all you may discover something we didn’t. And if you do, please let us know.

As we leave the Fort behind us I find myself questioning my approach, wondering if we could have done something different to obtain better results. Sometimes though you just get a quiet night and you have to accept it. We head off to our next investigation, but first I fear we may have to purchase a new CCTV system!

Test Equipment
I thought I should explain why I feel the use of CCTV is important to Farsight PRS investigations. We were lucky enough to have our original system on loan from the guys who helped me start Farsight, Jim and Ian from In Search of Proof.

I think we all agreed with the TAPS approach where it was an excellent tool to assist with monitoring a location. I utilise it to cover two primary things during the night. Firstly, known hot spots where video evidence could be picked up. This could be somewhere that an apparition was sighted or objects had been seen moving by themselves. Secondly, I would use at least one camera to monitor the team movements, specifically from our HQ. This helps us to ascertain when we left on vigils and where we may be at certain times of the night.

Since our CCTV system died at Harwich Redoubt Fort, we purchased a new one. With this purchase I decided to upgrade a little to give us more input. The new system has a possible eight video channels, four of which can also have audio. The system will also record whilst you can review and even backup footage. It also logs any movement events for review. I am hoping that this new system will allow us to be a little more proactive during investigations. This will also mean constant monitoring during the investigation too. Read our future Farsight Files to see how we get on with this.

Categories: 2011 Cases, Cases, Harwich Redoubt Fort | Leave a comment

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