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2003 Tour Report by Kriss Stephens

    The "Tours of Terror" Ghost Tour to England exceeded even my lofty expectations. I was happy that my very first Ghost Tour would be with a smaller group of people, all of them nice and eager to have a great time. All the travelers arrived at Kennedy Airport in New York, where we were given gifts (ghoulish goodie bags) by Charles from "Tours of Terror." Three of the tour-members had been on the "DraculaTour" to Transylvania before. Everyone boarded the British Airways plane with the right attitudes for a wonderful adventure.
    We arrived in Great Britain, and were greeted by Tony Walker, our English ghost hunter and tour guide. To everyone's surprise it was sunny when the flight from JFK touched down in London. It stayed sunny throughout the whole week. So much for the myth that it always rains in England, and that London is continually wreathed in fog. Wait - maybe we wanted a creepy fog in London? Anyway, we dropped off our luggage at the haunted Georgian House Hotel, piled into our bus, and headed to the first of many tour highlights.
    Our first destination was the famed London Dungeon. The Dungeon was big -- it took over an hour to navigate--and the costumed actors abused and ridiculed everyone while demonstrating torture, grave robbing and the delights (?) of the British justice system. The London Dungeon was a scream (pun intended). I loved the Plaguesectionand some of our party got splashed with pus from bursting plague buboes (boils). The Wicked Women area was also a favorite. The high point for me was the boat ride through the dark and very creepy sewer.
    After the Dungeon and our long flight, many of us decided to take advantage of the free time and get in a nap before our Jack the Ripper walk. However, two of our die-hard brave souls, Alan and Sandra, accompanied Tony to the Templar Church, once the English headquarters of the Knights Templar, before they were all excommunicated for heresy. The history of the Knights Templar is shaded with the occult, and the properties associated with the order are notorious for strange goings-on and paranormal encounters. They continued on with a glimpse of St. Paul's Cathedral and a visit to "Deadman's Walk," the lurking place of the Black Dog of Newgate. On the way back they managed to locate The London Stone (more on that later), a Frankenstein-themed eerie pub with lots of bubbling retorts and evil interior décor. We understand that they threw back a few drinks there before it was time for "Jack." You don't know "Jack" until you've taken the walk! They met us back at the hotel, and we all set off as a group for the Jack the Ripper Walk.
    The Jack the Ripper walk around East London was very informative, taking us directly to the sites where the bodies of the butchered women were found. While some of the landmarks had changed since the murders were committed, many, like St. Botolphs Church, are the same, and it is surreal to view them as the dying prostitutes had.
    Half of us grabbed a late meal of some fantastic Indian cuisine near our hotel, while the other half (less gastronomically adventurous) chose kebabs. Although our hotel was reputedly haunted by several ghosts, we all slept soundly and awoke bright and early for our trip to the British Museum. The traditional English breakfast provided by the hotel was delightful.
    The British Museum is haunted, not surprising if you take into consideration all of the mummies. Tony wanted to show us one item in particular, the Egyptian sarcophagus of a woman. After allowing us to photograph it, he then told us the cursed history of the object. Apparently anyone that photographs it is doomed. Nice, Tony, thanks a lot. Alan became convinced that the mummy was out to get him, and even more so after one of the museum staff gave us the evil eye for 20 minutes. Everyone rated the museum visit a 5 out of 5, and we were glad we added it to the itinerary. Before turning us loose in the museum, Tony had taken us on a brief walking tour of some of Aleister Crowleys favorite haunts. Aleister boasts the dubious disctinction of being the "wickedest man who ever lived."
    We walked on to Covent Garden and stopped in a haunted pub where the bartender first scoffed at our inquiries about the ghost. Soon he spilled his guts, figuratively speaking, and admitted to seeing an apparition walk down the alley and disappear on several occasions.
    We boarded the bus and headed to Hampstead Heath for a march led by Tony. We joked that we'd inadvertently signed up for the Tony Walker Ghost Tour/Weight Loss program. The Heath was the hang out for Dick Turpin, the notorious "highway man." I enjoyed the walk, and along the way Tony identified traditional herbs growing along the paths, and we discussed their magical properties.
    We explored a small cemetery with a gorgeous bronze statue and then we stopped at The Flask Tavern, a local pub, for a quick drink.
    Our next stop was Highgate Cemetery, infamous for the grisly vampire attacks that occurred in the 1970s. Highgate Cemetery is a huge overgrown Gothic cemetery with many paths that cut through the overgrowth of trees and vines. Our near-dark tour was led by a weird albino guide with a wandering eye. We named him "Renfield." He methodically but very carefully locked the gates behind us. He warned us in no uncertain terms that we must not stray from the path, and he said it was forbidden to talk about ghosts or vampires. He was very concerned that we wouldn't make it out of the cemetery before dark. Still photography was allowed, but he immediately confiscated Stephens's video camera and locked it in the office. Obviously he is in league with the vampires.
    We looked for the sealed tomb of the Highgate vampire, but were unable to identify it. However, we did see the tomb that was Bram Stoker's inspiration for Lucy's tomb in the "Dracula" novel. Renfield showed us the catacombs, and then got angry with me for taking photos of one of the entrances to them. He said the flash wasn't a good idea.
    He also said that no one was allowed into the catacombs - that they were off limits. However it was clear that SOMEONE was going into them, otherwise why would they have had recently installed skylights in the roof at very regular intervals?
    As the light began to fade he quickly ushered us back to the main gate - making sure than none of us dawdled.
    Highgate is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've explored, and very haunted. Ron and I took many digital photographs, both of us captured anomalies, and we were both able to track them in successive shots. I hope Ron and Kim enjoyed Ghost Photography 101.
    As if our albino guide Renfield wasn't scary enough, the elderly headmistress of the cemetery (picture a somber version of the dead queen mother complete with a string of pearls) met us at the entrance on our way out. We didn't let the white hair or the pearls fool us, Renfield was terrified and intimidated by her and with good reason… she was the scariest thing we had yet encountered. I can only assume that we didn't suit the vampire's palate, and I am happy to have made it out alive.
    Draw your own conclusions - but we thought they were protecting someone - or something - that lurked in the catacombs.
    On the way back to the hotel we stopped for drinks in a wood-paneled room at The Spaniards Inn, an ancient pub frequented by Dick Turpin when he was alive, and after death. The apparition of the highwayman has been sighted in the pub on numerous occasions.
    We had late-night drinks at a very cool pub with what I felt was a mad scientist décor, called the London Stone.
    The next morning we boarded our bus to Cambridge, England's second oldest University city, founded in the 1300s. There were lots of small graveyards in the city with accompanying tales of terror behind them. It was all very quaint, looking a lot like Harry Potter land. Monks haunt several of the ancient buildings, which was to be a recurring theme on our trip. Some of us wanted to shop, so we arranged atime to meet back at our bus, after lunch. We photographed some of the more sinister buildings and graveyards, then crossed the river and boarded the bus. We did see one monk, but he was still breathing, we think. What a shame.
    One of the most famous hauntings in the world is that of the Borley Rectory, so it was only natural that we stop in at the Borley Church. The house itself burned down years ago but we spent some time on the church grounds, which figured prominently in the haunting. Not only does this haunting involve a monk, but a ghostly nun is sighted here too.
    Tony and I gave out various ghost-hunting devices to the group and then we wandered the churchyard, photographing the graves and taking readings. Stephen was using one of my EMF meters, and he noticed an electromagnetic spike at one of the graves. Because he is a sweetheart, he picked some wild flowers and put them on the grave, only to discover that the EMF readings were even higher than before. He repeatedly put flowers on the grave and took readings, noting the definite increase each time. Alan noticed a sarcophagus that was just barely visible through one of the windows in the back of the church and we took turns braving the nettles to peer in (as the church was locked).
    While we were exploring the churchyard I noticed a man walking towards me jangling some keys, so of course I asked if they were the keys to the church. He said no, sadly, and we started talking about the haunting. He told us that a skeleton of a woman was found years earlier when the rectory was being remodeled, and that it was buried at another church just a few miles up the road. We decided to check it out. Our bus driver, Billy, managed to turn the bus around and soon we were exploring another ancient and dilapidated church and cemetery, another impromptu but worthwhile addition to the tour. This church was almost completely constructed of shiny black flint; very cool looking. I even found some bone fragments that looked human. Stephen got another EMF spike with my meter over the bones, so I buried them again. Hopefully the ghost is cool with that. I wonder if these were remains of Borley's spectral nun?
    Now for a quick blurb about our bus driver, Billy. Billy is an older gentleman with a thick English accent. He managed to get us in and out of some places that I wouldn't have been able to drive a car into, much less a bus. He is very good-natured and never complained about our little variations from the itinerary.
    After we left the churchyard, we drove through the gorgeous English countryside with its hedgerows and woods. The houses we passed had thatched roofs, with people playing cricket on village greens. Occasionally we would see the tower of an ancient church sticking out over the treetops.
    We checked into an Inn called The Crown, which dates back to the Middle Ages, and is recognized as one of the most haunted inns in Britain. The Innkeeper related encounters with unseen presences and tales of cellars full of bones, as well as ghosts in tricorn hats. A lot of malevolent activity seemed to center on room number 6, so of course we jumped at the chance to check it out when he offered us the key. He also told us about the cemetery and old church on the hill over looking the town. We couldn't resist another cemetery, so after having dinner in the private dining room, we took a walk through deserted lanes up the hill to the Church.
    It was a very dark and spooky night, and the road to the church soon became desolate as we walked out of town and through the fields. The church tower was lit up with big floodlights, so we joked that it was all a lure to get us into the cemetery at night. I mean, how odd is it that a local wanted us to investigate thecemetery at night? The graveyard surrounding the church was surprisingly big, with even more graves across the road. We all spread out with our cameras and video recorders. I walked around the back of the church and suddenly the lights on the tower went out, plunging us into darkness. I hurried to the front to see who had found the switch. No one had. The lights went out by themselves. Cool. So we continued to take photographs. Ron was picking up phenomena in the back area of the graveyard, and soon so was I. It's great and validating when you can get results simultaneously with two cameras. We got lots of photographswith orbs lurking around. After the ghosts left, we decided to leave too. Stephen and Sandra were in the back of the group, and the entire way they each said that they felt something was following them, something unseen. Spooky. The walk back through the village was creepy too, totally silent and deserted, with the exception of one man relieving himself on a wall near the inn.
    Back at the Crown we decided to assemble in the Inn's most haunted room. I set up my video camera to shoot in infrared, and then we arranged ourselves throughout the room and turned out the lights. The ghost in room number 6 is known for trying to choke the living as they are sleeping, so we talked Stephen into lying on one of the beds as bait. Nothing ghostly happened, so Stephen decided to try and provoke a response by shouting at the ghost. Soon we were getting phenomena on the video camera, and dim pinpoints of green light were manifesting near the beds. Alan decided that maybe more bait was needed, so after declaring his respect and fear of the ghost, he took the other bed. After a few minutes someone noticed a shadow moving on the wall, and we all got excited until we realized it was Alan's foot. The activity slowed, then left, so we called it a night. Despite being warned of what he might experience, Stephen decided to sleep in one of the more haunted rooms. Icy drops in temperature twice awakened him, but he wasn't choked. How disappointing.
    The next morning Billy drove us to Norwich for a formal Ghost Walk. Then we had lunch at the Adam and Eve Pub, which is an ancient building haunted by the ghost of Lord Sheffield. The city of Norwich is quaint with lots of cobbled streets. We didn't have time to see the witch-dunking area by the river because we had to head to Castle Rising, but we did get to cruise down the coast and look for the Black Hell Hounds of Norfolk.
    Our final stop before checking into our hotel was at Castle Rising, a haunted keep built in 1140. This had once been the home of Queen Isabella, known as the "She Wolf of France." The archeologist in charge of the keep gave us a brief rundown of the history, and handed us audio tour devices. I asked him not to tell us anything about the hauntings until after we had explored it on our own. I didn't want us to have any preconceptions. The castle is in ruins, but still very impressive. I followed the audio tour until my device stopped working (always happens to me) and then I walked around with Tony, asking for pertinent information about each room.
    We climbed up the tower stairs and entered a dark hallway, then turned into a well-lit room. I expected the room to be warm, because of the many windows and the sunlight. However, it was several degrees colder than the dark hall we had just left. I noticed a haze at the end of the room, but thought it was some kind of weird lighting effect from the windows. Tony remarked about it too, and then we noticed that the haze was moving towards one corner of the room. It sort of condensed into the corner, and then disappeared. Tony went back out to the bus to retrieve his non-contact thermometer, and I photographed the outside of the room looking for some kind of explanation other than the obvious: we had just seen a ghost! It was amazing. By the time Tony got back to the room the temperature was a couple of degrees higher than the hallway, a definite change from just a few minutes earlier. We talked to the archeologist on the way out, and he confirmed that many people have seen a mist in that room. As a paranormal investigator, I have experienced this mist many times, usually only seeing it on film, but several times witnessing it right before my eyes, however this is the first time I have seen it manifest during the day. I tried to talk the archeologist into letting me set up an infrared video camera in the room to run overnight, but he was reluctant. Maybe I'll talk him into it next time.
    Later that night we arrived at the Tudor Rose Hotel in Kings Lynn. I knew we were in trouble when I saw the dilapidated condition of the sign out front. The inside was even worse. It was cursed all right -- with haunted plumbing and really bad furniture. Nonetheless, we were intrigued by the horrific murder that took place on the premises, the poltergeist activity, and the fact that my Walkman was playing by itself when I returned to my room, so we decided to stick it out.
    Kings Lynn has a Market Place and an interestingly named twisty little building in a graveyard called "The Exorcist's House." The village is famous for burning witches in the town square, and legend has it that one woman was wrongfully accused -- and that while she was being burned her heart burst from her chest and lodged itself into the wall of one of the buildings. There is a heart carved into the stone where the woman's heart is supposed to still be.
    We walked through the town, down a sinister alley to the river, then to a pub for dinner. Along the way we passed a church and graveyard, so after dinner some of us went back to do a little ghost hunting. We did get some phenomena, but nothing spectacular, so we decided to go to another church nearer the hotel. The ghosts were more active in that graveyard, and one took a liking to Stephen. It can be seen in several photographs as an orb, following him around.
    The next day we traveled to a small village named Lincoln, to visit its haunted cathedral (haunted by monks, of course). This unexpectedly turned out to be everyone's favorite stop. Lincoln Cathedral is huge and located right in the middle of town. Although it has always been a church, most of the edifice is covered by pagan looking carvings, some more than a little risqué.
    We had tea at the White Hart Hotel, a gorgeous building haunted by several ghosts, including one that is obsessed with his ginger jar.
    Tony, Alan and I explored the Lincoln Castle, and we definitely felt a presence in the prison chapel. Alan started acting strangely, and soon he was standing at the pulpit talking to the Holy Ghost. We really think he was possessed, as Alan is not the most talkative person. Weird. The pews were very unusual, shaped like standing coffins with openings for the prisoners' heads to stick out above the locked doors. Alan's sermon made us hungry, so we left the castle and had some very good food at Browns Pie Shop. Alan will eat anything, and he tried a pie made out of entrails of some sort. He seemed to enjoy it. I guess that confirms that he was possessed…by a strong hunger!
    We met up with the rest of the gang in front of the White Hart for our proper ghost tour. I've been on many ghost tours and this on was definitely one of the best. Our tour guide was quite entertaining and very knowledgeable. Unlike many, she seemed to spend a lot of time investigating the hauntings personally, and she obviously has a very good rapport with the locals. She told us about the phantom of a man on a horse, seen by many people in the early morning rushing through the streets and up to the gates of the castle, shouting, "open up in the name of the King!" He is thought to be the ghost of a man who arrived with a pardon from the King too late to save his friend from execution. She showed us an archway near the church through where the apparition of a severed head, rolling down the cobblestones, has been known to trip people.
    She showed us a small building in the back of the cathedral with a hole in the door. Legend has it that if you are sinless, you may walk around the building three times and then put your finger in the hole you will feel something paranormal, but I forgot what. Blame it on too many pints at the pub. Anyway, it's a cool story; just ask about it the next time you are in Lincoln. If you look closely at the photo to the right, you can see the legs of a man lying on the ground. He thought he was sinless… Of course, none of us tried it.
    We reluctantly left Lincoln and continued on to York, ghost capital of England, where we stayed at Hedley House Hotel. It was quite comfortable but unfortunately not haunted. York dates back to Roman times and a phantom Roman Legion is seen marching through the walled old part of town. There are endless medieval buildings and some really good shopping. It's a lively place with a lot of character that reminded some of us of the French Quarter in New Orleans. That night we went out on a haunted pub-crawl and saw some of the local curiosities, including men without noses and some dwarfs. Somehow the weird locals were attracted to us. We stayed until the bars were closing. Of course, we had to sample the local spirits, so to speak. We looked for phantom monks, but once again they managed to elude us.
    We woke up early the next morning for our drive over the Moors to Whitby, a seaside village known for its ties to Dracula. Whitby is the legendary landing place of Count Dracula in England, and veterans of the vampire vacation, "Dracula Tour to Transylvania" were familiar with its literary ties. It's a delightful place with itsruined abbey on the cliff tops, and its mixture of holidaymakers and Goths. There were lots of great Goth shops that proved irresistible for Stephen and Sandra.
    We had all originally planned on doing the "Dracula Experience," a commercial horror-themed mini-amusement park, but after seeing the ruins of Whitby Abbey, the purists among us unanimously changed our minds and decided instead to hike up the 199 steps to the church. The ruins are magnificent, perched on top of a cliff overlooking the North Sea. It's easy to understand why Bram Stoker chose this setting for Dracula to descend upon England. What a magnificent highlight of this tour.
    The abbey is enormous, and photographs cannot convey the grandeur of the ruins. Even though many visitors were roaming the grounds it was very quiet, the majesty of the place affecting each of us. Several ghosts, including more than one monk, haunt it. Of course they didn't want to be seen or photographed. Ghosts can be such a pain to work with.
    Just before we left Whitby I met with one of the members from www.paranormal.com and his two sons. They had traveled by bus for 2 hours to meet up with us. They were delightful, and I wish we had more time to spend with them. Hopefully next time.
    We headed back to York to dress up for our farewell evening, our gala masquerade party. This would prove to be a most memorable and eventful evening. We met outside the hotel and walked to The Golden Fleece, one of the oldest and certainly most haunted pubs in the heart of York. Some of us made our way through the crowded streets in full costume, thus attracting stares and raised eyebrows. After seeing some of the locals it's amazing that they thought we were dressed oddly.
    Tony had arranged for a medium to meet us there, and he was waiting for us outside. We were led to a private dining area upstairs for our séance. The medium gave us his colorful criminal background, and made contact with some of the resident ghosts. A couple of ghosts connected to other members of our group also made their presence known, and Billy in particular was the subject of much attention. The upstairs room was so thick with spirits that Tony actually started to feel ill. Sometimes spirits affect sensitive people so strongly that they feel disoriented and nauseous. Many investigators theorize that this is because of the electromagnetic properties of the entity that affects our inner ear. I took a photo of Tony in the room, and there is an orb perfectly visible on the back of his chair. I took several others, and the entity remained near or on Tony. His demeanor had changed, and he had a sinister air about him. A few defensive measures were taken, and he felt ok by the end of the evening, when we were deep into visualizations, and trying to contact the resident ghosts.
    As for the dinner itself, the food was very good, although the group had to make do with Tony and me as servers. The staff at the Golden Fleece doesn't know the meaning of customer service. The bad news as that the servers were ghastly, the good news was that everything else was ghostly. The bartender at the front bar was very nice, and provided our drinks with apologies and smiles.
    After dinner the medium gave each of us a private tarot card reading, while Tony did visualization techniques with the rest of us. It was a lot of fun, and during the visualization we learned that one ghost in particular was menacing, if not entirely malevolent. This was the entity that focused on Tony, I am glad it didn't focus on me. Stephen's visualization manifested a man in what was once the attic of the building, and Sandra and I both felt that a spirit was on the stairwell. We tried to contact the ghost in the attic area, but the menacing male presence in the room with us managed to stay in the forefront. It was close to midnight when we decided to make our way back through the streets of York to the hotel. We kept a look out for roman soldiers and monks, but we didn't see any, foiled again. That's not to say they weren't there, of course.
    Our final day in England started with a lovely drive south from York to London. We made it in surprisingly good time, and had time to spare, so Tony squeezed in one more haunted landmark, St. Albans Cathedral in Hertfordshire. The Cathedral is the site of a glowing, holy apparition (St Alban himself), and is also haunted by - you guessed it - monks! The cathedral is gorgeous, and Hertfordshire is charming. We took photographs of the church and graveyard, then walked through the park to see remains of the Roman city that once stood there. On the way we had some English ice cream. Then we were back on the bus to the airport. Nooooooooooo!
    We made it to the airport with enough time to sit and talk about our adventures, having encountered some supernatural beings, trekked through obscure locales, and learned a few new English phrases that we couldn't use back in America (speed humps, fags and mint balls among them).
    We had a small but very tight group, and I think we were all honored to have traveled on this inaugural "GHOSTour."

    I want to say thanks to Tony, who did a fantastic job of shepherding us around England (and who lugged my enormous suitcase up many flights of stairs), and to Billy, who really is a magnificent bus driver, and very good company. Thanks to Kim and Ron for never being too tired to check out just one more cemetery. Thanks to Alan for the great conversation, and for protecting me from the mummy, and thanks to Charles for giving me the opportunity to experience haunted England and to meet some wonderful people. Thanks to Stephen and Sandra for taking that vulnerable back position on the creepy walks back to the hotels. Thanks also to Sandra for being cool and Gothic, thanks to Stephen and Alan for being the true characters of our group, and thanks to Ron and Kim for lending some normalcy to the insanity. Special thanks to Charles and Danny from "Tours of Terror" for organizing such amazing haunted tours -- for those of us who'd rather explore the eerie and unknown than go on traditional, boring vacations. The tour group adds thanks to Kriss for helping make sure everyone got in enough scares and laughs and paranormal encounters.

All photos by Kriss Stephens

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