PSI Ghostwatch: Wyvern Theatre 09/07/05
Dave Wood (PSI)

A 1970s theatre in the middle of Swindon might not be a traditional location for a paranormal investigation, but following eyewitness accounts of unusual activity Paranormal Site Investigators (PSI) went to research the allegedly haunted building.

Wyvern Theatre, Swindon, Wiltshire.

Despite being part of a civic centre of a modern town, researchers traced the history of the land on which the theatre was built.

In the late 1960s, numbers 27-32 Regent Place and 7-10 Princes Street were 'cleared' to make way for the theatre. The terraced houses and back alleyways had stood since the 1880s, records of habitation on the site spanned back further centuries.

The site of the modern-day Wyvern stood adjacent to the ancient hamlet of Eastcott, before the rapidly expanding 19th century Swindon consumed the settlement.

Red light anomaly caused by investigator

The Wyvern has its fair share of ghostly connections for a modern building. One of the theatre's original staff members resigned to pursue a career in spiritual mediumship.

In its early days, a psychical research centre stood a stone’s throw from the theatre – situated in the congregational church where the British Computing Society offices now stand. More important, however, are the occasional sightings of 'ghostly black figures' running across the stage and stairs.

Eleven investigators conducted an over-night research session at the Wyvern on Saturday 9th September. Perceived activity included light anomalies, moving shadows, the feeling of being touched, anomalous voices heard, heat fluctuations and shadowy figures running across the stage.

In all, 54 experiences were reported throughout the night. The auditorium saw most reports, closely followed by the lighting studio. The prop room and dance studios saw a few reports of possible ghost-like activity, whilst the green room and network of corridors saw little or none.

Over two thirds of sightings were only reported by one investigator at a time, and were therefore discounted as possible hallucination. Nearly one-fifth of experiences were subjective but verified, that is unusual occurrences coincided with significant equipment readings. Finally, 15% of experiences were perceived by more than one investigator.

Verified experiences were analysed against potential extraneous factors. That is, they were compared to natural occurrences that could explain the usual experience. Three investigators saw unusual lights moving across the stairs in the auditorium across a few minutes, and there were numerous accounts of more than one person seeing shadowy figures crossing the theatre stage.

Two investigators saw a light switch apparently switching itself on, which was verified by video evidence. Whilst these experiences were unusual and not easily explainable, primed expectation, group hallucination and electrical fault could not be ruled out.

The investigation team was armed with photographic and environmental monitoring equipment, including: ultrasonic sound detectors, anemometers, negative ion detectors, electromagnetic field meters, spot temperature gauges, and gauges for ambient temperature, humidity and air pressure.

Five cases of 'significant' fluctuation from the baseline were recorded. Whilst three were ruled out, two units were further analysed. A 20 minute period saw a room’s humidity increase from 51% to 61% whilst reported unusual experiences increased significantly. Whilst this cannot be easily explained, no causal link was obvious.

Orbs in the prop room, cause - dust?
Secondly, when an investigator reported a cold presence over their hand, no drafts were reported and equipment showed that hand to be significantly colder than the other did for a period of 30 seconds.

The investigation racked up hours of video evidence and audio evidence (in electrovoice or EVP experiments) whilst hundreds of photographs were taken.

Whilst video and audio evidence revealed little activity, 34 photographs contained anomalous images. Audited light factors potentially accounted for more than half these images, whilst equipment proximity, moisture, dust and reflection seemed to account for the rest.

Finally, PSI’s mediums established numerous pieces of information. Whilst historical records were not sufficiently complete to marry up most of the information, two significantly accurate pieces remained. One assertion cannot be revealed for ethical reasons. The other saw a medium report the death of a young builder during the construction of the theatre, which was corroborated afterwards by interviewees who recalled the death. It should be noted that information picked up by mediums cannot be scientifically grounded.

The Wyvern theatre investigation saw an above average amount of potentially 'ghostly' activity, especially for such a new building. Whilst all the evidence had to be discounted, PSI cannot say for certain that the Wyvern is not haunted. What is clear is that science needs to become more advanced before we can really understand what is going on.

www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/conte..._feature.shtml (external - login to view)

Wiltshire's Secret History
Wiltshire's secret history from serial killers and leper colonies to religious private eyes..

The Wiltshire County Council's Community History website is pulling all of Wiltshire's historic skeletons out of the cupboard. From serial killers and leper colonies to holy private eyes...

Here's just a taster of some of them:

The Religious Private Eye

Among Wiltshire's legendary tales is one which tells the story of a Pewsey cleric who turned detective, in 1798, to solve the murder of a farmer.

The Reverend Joseph Townsend, the rector of the village church, came up with a bizarre way to unmask the farmer's murderer.

Playing on the superstition that the body of a murdered man could point the finger at its killer, he hauled the corpse into his church on Sunday.

Every member of the congregation was asked to place their hands on the dead man's face and declare their innocence. One man, whose surname is recorded as Amor, was too afraid to take the test and was later charged with the murder and hanged.

The Wiltshire Leper Colony

Even stranger is the bizarre story of the origin of the village name of Maiden Bradley.

The 'Bradley' part of the name means simply an open woodland space but the 'Maiden' part refers to a time when there was a leper hospital on the site for 'maidens' who had been affected by leprosy.

The hospital, founded in 1152, took in wealthy or aristocratic women who were suffering from leprosy but later became a priory.

By the end of the 13th century the lepers had long gone but the priory continued to prosper until King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries.

The last prior, before the dissolution, was the notorious Richard Jennings (1506-1536). Claiming to have a papal licence, that allowed him to keep mistresses, he chose the prettiest women as his lovers but then married them off when they became pregnant.

By the time the priory was dissolved, he had fathered six sons and several daughters.

Wiltshire's first serial killer

Than there's the one about possibly the first serial killer in Wiltshire.

In the 18th and early 19th centuries, a small inn called The Shepherd and Dog stood on the Lydeway, near Urchfont.

With Thomas Burry as the landlord the inn soon earned itself a bit of an evil reputation. It was rumoured that any solitary visitor, such as a peddler or traveller, who entered the small inn was often never seen again.

One story even suggests that over a dozen bodies were exhumed from shallow graves, behind the inn, all the victims of the landlord's greed.

Although records state that Burry, who died in 1842, was never tried or convicted it is claimed in local folklore that the church bells refused to chime at his funeral.

Who's the Horn blower?

One other frequently asked historical question relates to the identity of a statue of a man blowing a horn which stands in the river at Wylye.

The statue is thought to be 18th century and represents a post boy who had fallen from the mail coach into the river and drowned.

Drummer boy

The website also contains some chilling ghost stories, including the story of the 'Tidworth drummer'.

Legend has it that the drummer was arrested while begging in Tidworth and thrown into prison in Salisbury.

At the time, prisoners normally either had their food provided by family or friends or they had to pay for it. The drummer had no friends, family or money, so he starved to death.

After his death, the sound of a drum was often heard beating in the house of the magistrate who jailed him.

Other fascinating stories include the history of the 'Purton Spa' - water which was sold commercially for its reputed medicinal value throughout the 19th century and into the 1920s.

And the story of Isaac Pitman, the inventor of the shorthand system, who was born and brought up in Trowbridge.

www.bbc.co.uk/wiltshire/conte..._feature.shtml (external - login to view)
Spooky, scared me stiff. I have enough problems with the living, I don't ever want the dead coming for tea.

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