For many years ASSAP held training days at Charlton House in south-east London. The location has been investigated many times by paranormal researchers and appeared on TV. ASSAP was one of the earliest groups to investigate there. Here, Chris Walton reports on a training vigil held there in November 1994.
A brief history
Construction of Charlton House for Sir Adam Newton began in 1607. He had become tutor to King James l's eldest son in 1599. In 1610 Newton became secretary to the young Prince of Wales. Charlton House was completed in 1612 and Prince Henry, aged 18, died a somewhat mysterious death that same year. Newton took up residence in Charlton House. Since then the house has seen many owners and much intrigue. It is now used by Greenwich Council as a unique community centre.
Charlton House is the site of a long-term research project by the South East London Paranormal Research Group. Because of this research some details of the phenomena cannot yet be made generally known. Through my research I have come across so many reported phenomena that I have had to separate them into two distinct categories: first-hand accounts and ‘word-of-mouth' accounts:
- First-hand accounts are those I have personally followed up and verified with the witnesses to a degree that I am happy with.
- ‘Word-of-mouth' accounts are those where I have as yet been unable to interview witnesses, or old stories which fall into the categories of legend. This is not to say that these should be dismissed out of hand: old stories and legends can often be twisted and changed by storytellers with overactive imaginations, but in many cases there is a truthful, if less exciting, basis to the storyline.
The reports involve a huge variety of anomalous phenomena, including mischievous poltergeist-type activity, apport and some very well-attested visual sightings in recent years. One of the most curious phenomena has been reported by many people over a number of years. It is auditory, yet seems to be so curious that most people do not report it immediately, instead approaching us at the end of a vigil with the words 'This may seem silly, but ....'. We wish to study this phenomenon in depth and therefore do not want to ruin our 'control' by revealing it yet. I apologise in advance for some of my 'vagueness' about certain phenomena, but hope the results will more than make up for my caution.
The November 1994 vigil
From the reports we have to date I was able to compile a list of areas I considered worthwhile 'staking out'. A few 'dead' (forgive the pun) areas were also put on the list to give us a degree of comparability. The only instructions attendees were given was to be alert for visual and auditory phenomena on a very small scale, and not to discuss phenomena with other teams, but to take detailed notes and report anything they thought anomalous directly to the vigil leaders.
Being prepared for perhaps 10 to 15 people attending the vigil, I was astonished to find 35 people waiting patiently for their postings. I decided to keep myself and Philip Walton separate so we could move around during breaks, checking that people were sure of their next position. The set-up was also useful for collecting information about any phenomena from teams, so that one of us could sit in on ‘active’ locations and arrange for appropriate equipment to be present. Team members were advised to keep within visual range of each other. The vigil leaders and various team members were equipped with CBs and therefore be contacted easily.
SESSION 1 : Due to staff tidying up in the old library and the acoustic nature of Charlton House, all the noises reported during the first session were tied in to natural causes. To our great surprise both Philip and I, stationed in the main halt during this time, were at 00:05 able to hear the auditory phenomena mentioned above quite clearly for approximately 10 minutes.
SESSION 2: Loud breathing was heard, but was later confirmed as coming from another group, as were many creaks and bangs caused by the slightest movements on the floorboards. A ringing sound was reported by various groups throughout this and subsequent sessions. On investigation, I found that the noise occurred at exactly 15 minute intervals! The culprit was the clock in the Jenkins Room exactly seven minutes and twenty-five seconds fast!
At 01:53 Dave Thomas had a sighting which we will keep under our hat until further research has been completed. It was of a very unusual but nevertheless (after some research) quite plausible object.
SESSION 3: At 02:53 a loud groan was heard in the Grand Salon where Group 3, Phil and I were present. Three people heard the groan come from the area by the open door leading to the lift. One person heard the sound as if it were behind him at the opposite side of the room and the fifth person heard nothing at all. After inquiring we found that Maurice Townsend (a fairly reliable and alert witness) had heard nothing, although he would have been closer to the sound than any of us, being stationed just outside the open door by the stairs. Maurice has confirmed that his video camera did not record the sound. Other equipment is still being checked. Two people in different areas reported the sound of sobbing on the second floor at separate times.
SESSION 4: The only report during this session was from Val Hope, who witnessed some visual phenomena. Again, this is being researched.
After the last session a debriefing was held to try to rule out many of the noises heard and to highlight any phenomena experienced. Reports were handed in and duly processed and recorded. Charlton House seems wholly worthy of in-depth study, as results seem to be gained from every vigil. Many thanks to Sue Piggot of Charlton House for once again staying up all night and keeping the black coffee flowing.