Last Friday night, a group of brave volunteers, made up of Museum staff and Paranormal Investigations team Dark Encounters, chose to spend a night in the museum. Did the exhibitions come to life, just like in the film?
Well, we didn’t see Nelson walking around in all his glory, but there were certainly a few unexplained goings on….
We split into four teams and went off to four different areas of the museum. Two teams went up into the attic, where some of the artefacts that are not currently on display are stored. Another team went into our Princess Royal Gallery, which is used for meetings and functions, and the fourth team went into one of the public galleries, the Sailing Navy Gallery on the ground floor. All of these rooms are within Storehouse No 11, one of the main museum buildings.
We started at around 8:30pm, a time when the Dockyard is relatively quiet, apart from the coming and going of the odd ferry and the striking of the clock on the top of Storehouse No 10.
In the attic, we stood in a circle and asked if there was any spirit present. Some of the volunteers felt sensations of cold and movement and saw lights flickering in certain areas. One group thought they sensed a German man, that they felt might have been linked to an artefact in the room.
Dowsing rods were used, which are supposed to channel the spirits through the subconscious of the person holding the rods. Questions are asked by the person holding the rods, and yes and no answers are given through the movement of the rods either coming together for yes or moving apart for no. We asked questions such as “Is there a male spirit here?” and “Did you work here?” – names were discovered by a process of elimination, going through the alphabet until we got a yes for a certain letter and then suggesting names.
One of the other techniques that was used in the attic rooms was Glass Divination. One group used an old table - one of the artefacts stored there, and using an upturned wine glass, each put their finger on the glass and asked questions, trying to make the glass move. Some of the volunteers felt as if they were swaying, as if on a boat, and when asking certain questions, the glass would move.
In the Sailing Navy gallery, the large glass display cabinets were used for scrying, where one volunteer would stand in front of the cabinet and light their face with a torch. This produced two reflections. The volunteer would close their eyes and the investigators would ask if any spirits could show themselves in the volunteer's face. There seemed to be differences between the two reflections for each volunteer, and one or two of them looked nothing like themselves in their reflections.
The Princess Royal Gallery seemed to feel quite warm and comfortable, but there were also “cold spots” and tapping noises. A few of the volunteers felt that they sensed a young child in the room, and others thought there was a man there. Other noises were heard, but they sounded as if they were coming from outside.
It’s hard to know where the noises came from – could it be the Museum’s heating system, people leaving the evening function on HMS Victory, cars driving through the Naval Base, or ships moving in the harbour? Or could it be something else?
The Museum stays relatively warm at night, aside from parts of the attic and some of the fire escape areas, so when the volunteers did feel cold it was more noticeable. Some volunteers would feel sensations in certain parts of the body and one or two felt slightly sick at times but this could be put down to anticipation or excitement at what they might discover. One volunteer felt a sudden feeling of real joy, which faded away on leaving one of the rooms.
At the end of the night, the groups all came together and shared their experiences. Some of the groups experienced similar things in the same rooms, for example the lights in one of the attic rooms and the sensing of the young child.
Of course, we can’t tell you everything that we discovered, or this post would go on forever! It was all great fun, and a fascinating experiment to see what we could find.
It certainly gave the volunteers food for thought, and some have even been inspired to research some of the names and dates that were reached during the course of the investigation, to see if anything turns up. Certainly everyone very much enjoyed the night and would like to give a big thank you to the excellent Dark Encounters team.
We hope to run more events like these in the future that could be opened up for the public to attend, so watch this space!