In March 2010, Aaron Hardy brought a new case to me, asking for Farsight to assist him.
When Aaron first mentioned the case to me I have to admit I was a little apprehensive. However, after I read some of the reports on its website, spoke to Aaron a little more I decided to get involved.
Following a couple of visits I arranged for a small Farsight team to go in with Aaron to conduct the overnight investigation.
History & Activity
On the day of the investigation Leanne visited the almost local Dorchester Archives to see what she could find. Although difficult to pin point she managed to unearth some information in the Kelly’s Directory in regards to possible previous owners of the pub.
The property itself dates back further than 1855 and has not always been a pub. Originally it was actually three or four small cottages. We know little about the residents of these cottages at the moment, another visit to the archives and a lot of digging may find something, but given our limited time and resources this was something for another visit!
It may be prominent to mention that over the last ten years as a pub it has changed landlords thirteen times, with Rachel being that thirteenth landlady! Also, in this time frame it has experienced two fires. One of these being very serious, which from investigation seemed to start both ends of the pub! I believe there may have also been one death on the property from natural causes, but have not been able to confirm this.
On our first visit to the pub on a relatively quiet Thursday afternoon, we were given the full tour by Rachel and Terri. They detailed some of the more active areas and where oddities had occurred, recently and in the past. I soon realised as our tour proceeded that they had experienced an abundance of activity. Rather than attempt to describe each here, I have listed them below;
People poked or touched on the neck
Sightings of possible full apparitions
Net curtain to upstairs moving as if someone is peeping out
Glass shattered by itself on the bar
Smell of hay or stables near cellar area
Sightings of whispy smoke in back room
Pictures falling off walls – with force
Sound of footsteps on floor above bar.
Same footsteps heard outside the bathroom on first floor
Apparitions sightings or medium connections made in the top room
Rappings in / on the wall
Sighting of man apparition in garden, also the garden was as if it was centuries ago -S Haine
Sightings of apparitions in the corner of the main bar
Odd feelings in some of the rooms upstairs
Feeling cold in some places
Tugging on clothes
One final thing struck me as odd, well it was something I hadn’t experienced to date! What seemed the majority of people appeared to have a kind of spiritual connection. Rachel herself had worked in this pub in her younger years and now returned as its Landlady years later. Then there were the other locals that had spiritual abilities or a connection of some kind. Rachel also told me of many visitors to the area, possibly on their holidays which would wander into the pub and soon begin talking about things spiritual or have those abilities themselves. It was beginning to seem like a bit of a spiritual beacon from my point of view, but what significance this had, I didn’t know!
As this was more of a private location investigation, after all the landlady lives at the pub, we wanted to collect as much background information as possible from several sources.
When Aaron and I visited the Royal Oak for the first time we took the opportunity to gather as much information as possible. We spoke to the locals, staff and residents alike to build up the picture. To back this up we interviewed a selected group including Rachel and asked them the same set of questions, only following up on anything that may require it. Suffice to say everyone we spoke to that night had either had an experience in the pub, felt it was haunted or repeated a previous report! None told us that they thought that there was nothing there!
I return to the pub in April 2010 alone! This was for a couple of reasons really. I wanted to go over what we had already learnt, speak more with some key people in the investigation, spend the night alone in one of the active rooms and also get a feel for the pub in its natural state. On that final point, I wanted to blend in with the locals to see how their night was. I already had some theories on the people themselves being some kind of conduit for the activity here! This assumption gained through what their spiritual beliefs were and that the activity experienced at the pub seemed to bind them together.
Following my night in the active room at the Royal Oak, incidentally this wasn’t active! Perhaps a more sensitive person would have more experiences? The next morning presented some more information. Rachel had managed to contact a previous Landlady, who had been in the pub nearly ten years previous. We spoke at length and I had her (like Rachel) give me a tour of the pub! Interestingly enough Sharan (ex-Landlady) took me to similar locations as Rachel, pointing out similar activity and stories from her days in the pub.
This included seeing a Gentleman standing in the corner of the garden from the window of the room on the second floor, the same room that Rachel had identified as active. Sharan also identified the first floor bedroom as having the unwelcome or trapped feeling about it. In fact it was Sharan and her partner that found the loft space above that room. They discovered a false wall which covered up the entrance, which they subsequently took down and gained access. Perhaps it wasn’t the bedroom, but the loft that had the feelings of being trapped?
Sharan also explained how her pets had acted oddly on this property, refusing to enter some rooms and reacting as if something was there, when there was nothing!
Finally, she explained how whilst working in the Garden they found what they thought was a human vertebra bone! They kept it behind the bar for a few days before taking it to the police. The police later told them that it was indeed human, but as it was dated 300 plus years old they would not be following it up. I contacted the local police to see if I could find out more, but as this occurred over ten years ago, their computer database couldn’t find anything! I did try contacting a local officer in Swanage too, but they are busy guys!
On its own this sounds quite sinister! However, the area has been reported to be the location of some Roman burial sites and thus we can’t rule this out as a logical explanation.
Sharan also added that over the years the neck area did appear to be one of the more popular areas to be poked by unseen hands! Rachel also noted this more recently.
Ashley Knibb – Lead Investigator
Leanne Knibb – Documentarian
Lucy Harkness – Assistant Documentarian
Richard Owen – Film Crew
Aaron Hardy – Investigator
Judith Hardy – Investigator
Residents & Pub Locals Present
Location Hotspots & Equipment
With our previous visits and detailed interviews with many people we had plenty of ideas for how to setup for the night and where to concentrate our efforts. The first two members of the team (Leanne and Richard) arrived on site on the Friday evening. I arrived Saturday lunchtime and from there we began to talk about our setup for the evening. We also had right up until after eleven PM before we could begin setup.
The first CCTV camera was placed in the far corner of the bar (under the TV), this was to cover most of the bar area.
The second CCTV camera was on the first floor at floor level, filming the corridor past the middle bedroom towards the living room door. This was to cover one of the areas that footsteps had been heard and the previous land lady reported her children seeing shadows under the door.
The third CCTV camera was initially to be placed in the first floor bedroom off the living room, as it had many reports of activity. However, at the last minute I changed my mind and decided to place it in the attic room above.
The forth CCTV camera was setup to cover the second floor bedroom which had activity reported. We setup the camera on the bedside table, so it filmed the room from that perspective.
Our HQ for the night would be the dining room off the main bar, where the equipment was based.
Vigil 1 – Top to Bottom Walk Through
For this vigil Aaron, Judith and I made our way through the pub to the main hotspot areas, with intention of trying to debunk the reported paranormal activity.
The footsteps herd on the first floor could have been hot water pipes heating up and making the old building creek. Equally the noises heard could be the creaks and groans of an old building!
As other areas were more linked to individuals and what they saw or felt, this was even harder to debunk! EMF readings were pretty flat throughout the building, which ruled that out and only left the individuals themselves.
Vigil 2 – First Floor Living Room – The Spiritual Circle
Rachel, Terri, Pete and Jon began to go through the motions as they usually do when conducting their spiritual circle.
For me and some members of my team this was a first, having never experienced how some sensitive’s practice. To begin with we remained quiet and allowed them to go through what they usually do, but it soon became apparent to them that there were too many people in the room with them. Leaving Leanne and Richard behind, the rest of us left.
As the spiritual circled continued they managed to be more successful, picking up on more names, possibly people connected with individuals and feelings of the group themselves. A few names did pop up which could be linked to our research, but they were too vague and common to really raise an eyebrow!
Vigil 3 – First Floor Middle Bedroom
This vigil saw Aaron, Judith, Rachael and Andrew take a few photo’s in the room, as an odd photo of Andrew was taken in that room!
Vigil 4 – First Floor Bedroom (Off Living Room) & Attic Space
Terri, Jon, Pete, Leanne, Lucy and I headed to the room on the first floor to investigate the feelings of being trapped.
We settled into the room and began to call out. We tried some knocking asking for the spirit to copy our taps if they could, but without success. With this I decided to take myself up the ladder into the attic space above the room and Pete joined me.
I placed my Grandfathers pocket watch on the floor between us. At this point I spoke out loud asking for the watch to be moved!
A while later we realised that the watch had been running normally, for nearly twenty minutes. That would have been just after when I ask for it to be moved or there about. When I had asked for the watch to be moved I hadn’t considered it starting, but this was an interesting result.
As we reached the end of the vigil I picked up the watch, as I did it stopped again! It then remained stopped, exactly as it was prior to the vigil!
Vigil 5 – First Floor Bedroom (Off Living Room) & Attic Space
Rachael and Pete remained in the room below, whilst Judith, Andrew and Richard headed up into the attic space to investigate.
At one point Judith believes she felt something behind her, but couldn’t be sure. However, more interesting was what occurred as they prepared to leave the area. Richard left first and was sure that Rachael and Pete followed him out of the bedroom area! They then believe they heard someone in the room below! Could this be a simple case of Judith and Andrew hearing the other two or was it paranormal?
Vigil 5 – Second Floor Bedroom
The rest of us decided to conduct one last vigil in the second floor bedroom, but this was reasonably quiet.
Although we had interviews from residents and locals alike detailing their own experiences at the Royal Oak, on this investigation we found very little to support it. However, this doesn’t mean there isn’t ‘something’ at the pub.
My team also experienced some oddities during their stay there and I have to admit there may have been an occasion where I looked over my shoulder into the darkness with the firm belief I thought someone was there. However, these are personal experiences not solid evidence.
The most prominent experience of our investigation I think was my grandfathers pocket watch! The watch which I use as a trigger object hadn’t been wound or working in while. I set it down on the floor of that attic and asked for it to move. Although I was initially unaware it did start and continued to work without being wound for the next 20 odd minutes. This was witnessed by me, Pete and Lucy. However, as the end of the vigil came to a close, the watch stopped as soon as I touched it!
It was during this same vigil that we also picked up a knock or tap possibly in response to a question, during our EVP session. However, this is inconclusive as it only occurred once for us. This occurred just before the movement on the pocket watch!
Please feel free to take a look at the investigation for yourself at www.farsightfiles.co.uk/fstv. The episode should be available over the next few months. Just select the On Demand button at the bottom, Farsight Files and then Farsight Files –Royal Oak Swanage. This is also accessible through our Facebook Page too under the Livestream tab.
The Royal Oak was certainly an eye opener for me as an investigator. Until now Farsight PRS have pretty much just investigated locations that are generally open to the public. Although a local pub on the edge of gorgeous Swanage, the Royal Oak investigation is more like a private residence investigation. With activity reported throughout the building from the bar to the residence area upstairs. This type of investigation creates challenges of its own, but as ever the Farsight PRS team stepped up and covered the location well.
Given this case is also one which is affecting the very lives of the pubs locals and residents alike, we ensured we gave as much time as possible to it. This included the initial visit by Aaron and I to collect as much information as we could. Then my return visit to the pub, where I questioned a few key people, talked to the locals during a normal night and then stayed in one of the most active rooms in the building. Finally Leanne and Richard arrived at the pub the night before the investigation and also stayed in the active rooms to gauge the place for themselves and leave plenty of time for research the next day. Then of course there was the overnight investigation by the team and a few locals. All in all we were very thorough.
For me the interesting thing about this case as it stands is the fact that there seem to be many witnesses who have experienced activity or oddities which are similar or at least located at the Royal Oak.
The most impressive is that of a previous land lady who was resident with her family ten years previous. If anything those who have lived there and drank there certainly believe the pub has some additional unseen residents.
However, beyond the possibility of ghosts or spirits the pub has an additional oddness about it, something I find relatively intriguing. In my personal opinion there appears to be a high number of sensitive, mediums or spiritually gifted individuals drawn to this place than I have ever seen. Every other person seems to be gifted in some way or another. The landlady Rachael also told me of how during the summer season visitors would come in for a drink and following a brief discussion it would be realised they are sensitive in some way. Odd to say the least!
Is the Royal Oak Swanage haunted? Our investigation returned little solid evidence apart from the EVP ‘knock’. We have a few personal experiences such as the pocket watch incident, but little more on the night. As ever without this conclusive evidence I am unable to state that the Royal Oak is indeed haunted, but equally I can’t say it isn’t. Is the activity picked up by the sensitive’s something we won’t be able to prove? I know one thing for certain Rachael continues to tell me of activity at the pub and in this case I don’t think Farsight PRS have finished. We will keep this case open and return to Swanage in 2011.
The Royal Oak was a new kind of investigation for us, but one we have taken on well I think. Our initial visit has given us some leads to follow up on and the nature of this case will require some other approaches I think, but still a good start. It’s not often an odd case like this comes up, with the complexities of an old location and interesting individuals involved. However, Farsight PRS will continue to investigate and try and find some answers for Rachael where we can.
As for Farsight PRS until we return to the Royal Oak we move onto our next investigation taking with us a greater understanding of private investigations. We headed to Portsmouth to end our 2010 investigations with a bang! And there’s no better place to do that than the Explosions! Museum.