WOODCHESTER MANSION,
GLOUCESTERSHIRE
By Robert Snow

 

On Friday 7th September 2001, two colleagues and I took part in the filming of an American television programme at Woodchester Mansion 'The Worlds Scariest Places'. We arrived at the mansion at around 7pm and proceeded to tour the building to familiarise ourselves with the location before darkness set in. The tour guide was David Price, the Chief Executive of the Woodchester Mansion Trust
Woodchester Mansion is a gothic revival house built of Cotswold stone, around four sides of a courtyard in 1840, but for some reason it was never completed, and nobody seems to know the reason why. However, I suspect that the real reason could have been that the money ran out, why I say this is that the masonry work is of the very finest quality, with no expense spared. In the house, all floors have very fine ribbed stone vaulted ceilings with an abundance of finely carved cartouches. Some of the wooden formers are still in place, supporting part finished arches and vaulting. There are some of tools left behind by the builders, all this, coupled with the extreme isolation of the building, seems to add to the melancholy atmosphere that surrounds it. A feeling of timeless tranquillity permeates the house and valley. Woodchester Mansion is at the end of a mile long drive in a deep valley the sides of which have a covering of dense woodland.
Once we had completed our tour of the house, we adjourned to the drawing room, the only room in the house, which is complete. At around 10pm Dennis Moyses and I proceeded to set up trigger objects at various locations inside the house, at all levels from the top floor to the cellar, these were in the form of two penny pieces placed on pieces of white paper, lines were drawn around these so that if they moved at all one could tell. This task we completed at approximately 10.30pm when Dennis and I joined the rest of the party in the drawing room for coffee, biscuits and a general discussion.
Around, 8.55pm we decided to go for walk down the valley to where there are a series of ponds, twenty American soldiers apparently drowned there during the last war. The house was a temporary military barracks for American soldiers during the Second World War. The walk was about a mile distance each way. The reason for this is that the valley is also haunted according to local residents and we wanted to see if there was any paranormal activity there. We arrived back at the mansion at 10.15pm and sat talking in the drawing room.
At 11pm, we decided to start our vigil with all the lights in the drawing room turned off. We sat in silence for about half an hour but nothing happened at all. The lights then went back on and we had a discussion about the building in general and our thoughts and impressions of the place.
It was just after 2.30am that we all heard a quiet metallic knocking coming from the right hand side of the fireplace; everyone looked in that direction, obviously very surprised indeed. After a couple of minutes, the sound gradually became louder and reached a crescendo; it was now deafening. As we looked at the wall, letters appeared, as if painted by an invisible being, using an invisible brush. The emulsion on the wall was of a light mustard colour, the letters were the same colour but much darker. The letters were 'SWSB' in capitals and about twelve inches in height and roughly formed, as if painted in freehand.
I should mention that Dennis, Archie and I checked the control objects at hourly intervals through the night. However when we did our first check one control object was missing from the kitchen area, so the ghosts owe me two pence. Otherwise, the control objects did not move at all throughout the night.
My first impression was that this was some form of hoax or trick set up by the film company; a very logical conclusion to arrive at, I am sure that you will agree. I went outside into the corridor to see if anyone was there, who could have created the sound, but the corridor was empty. All the time the tapping noise was continuing and seemed to be coming from upstairs. I called on Dennis Moyses a fellow member of The Ghost Club and Archie Lowrie, who is by the way The General Secretary of 'The Scottish Society for Psychical Research', to accompany me upstairs to check the area where the sound was coming from. Archie led the way with Dennis and I close behind. As we climbed the main stairs, the sound was now very loud indeed and getting louder all the time. All three of us had powerful torches switched on and just as Archie rounded the corner the sound stopped. We then went up to where the sound seemed to be coming from but no one was there. We all examined the area to try to establish the cause if the sound but could find no rational explanation. If a human agency had been there, it would have not been able to escape without being seen. I should mention that on all levels the floors were of stone and in places, it was just loose rubble, as no flagstones laid. Anyway, we looked in all the rooms leading off that corridor; but could still not find an explanation. We returned to the drawing room and reported our findings to the others. I decided, and the others agreed, that it would be advisable to go up to the corridor, where the sound seemed to originate from, and spend a period in complete darkness; this we did, with the exception of four people who were not too keen to accompany us. We were there for about ten minutes when the knocking started again. I shone my torch in the direction of the sound but could not see anything to account for the noise. The knocking sound continued uninterrupted. I switched off my torch and the sound stopped. After a very short period, about five minutes or so, we all heard a faint sound from the other end of the corridor; I can only describe it as sounding like a combination of a heavy wooden box drawn across the rough floor, a jet aircraft, and an express train, all at the same time. The sound seemed; to be travelling along the corridor and approaching us, getting louder all the time until it was absolutely deafening by the time it reached us, which would have been about three minutes or so from start. It was then amidst us and I shone my torch and again, could not see anything to account for the sound. I must mention that throughout this incident I was leaning against a wall, which was vibrating violently and so was the floor; everyone present felt the vibration. We had a thorough search of the vicinity, and again could no find anything to account for the sound.
After our thorough search, we returned to the drawing room for a discussion of the incident. The people, who had stayed behind, were in a distressed condition. They were wondering what was happening upstairs. At first, they had thought that we had been playing tricks on them. The loud tapping sound started again and we all went out into the corridor and made our way towards the main staircase. I went upstairs myself and into the corridor where the sound was coming from, again the tapping stopped as I rounded the corner, this I did four times in total, but on the last time the tapping did not stop.
Dennis and Archie accompanied me on a fifth visit to the upper corridor where the sound came from, but this time there was no tapping. Just as we were ascending the main stairs, a loud tapping started which seemed to be coming from the stone vaulting above the stairway; we stopped and listened. The rest of the party came up, including the film crew; we all stood on the stairs and listened. Suddenly there was a sound like a large quantity of masonry falling from a great height. My first impression was that the stone vaulting above the stairs was collapsing; the sound was deafening. There were many other incidents of a loud metallic tapping and too numerous to mention. I have, however mentioned the major incidents.
I carefully examined the areas in question and could find no explanation at all for the sounds; therefore, I am one hundred percent certain that these incidents of loud metallic knocking must have had paranormal origins. The painted letters however, are another matter, which could have possibly have been a hoax, but considering all other factors I am of the opinion that they could also have paranormal origins. I must also mention that on the night in question there was no wind or rain at all and the night sky was fairly clear with a thin cloud layer.

© Copyright Robert M. Snow 2001