Wednesday, February 1, 2012 Norfolk Ghosts DVD Review

So after being post-dead for a while I figure I should bring this blog back from the grave (PUNS) by reviewing a DVD I just watched, hurah!

Norfolk Ghosts is a part of a super low budget documentary series by Richard Felix. The DVD is pretty bad, but is the only one I have seen delivering Norfolk specific ghost stories. The editing, sound engineering and effects are terrible, a real "windows movie maker" job but some of the content is fairly interesting although it gives very little new information to any one who is familiar with Norfolk legends and ghosts.

Much of the information is delivered as absolute fact with no references to the historical basis of how these stories came into being. Richard also fails to offer some of the alternate theories behind some of these ghosts such as the hysteria spread by smugglers. There is a lot of embellishment and exaggeration delivered with nary a "could," "maybe," or "possibly."

Many of the more interesting stories from out fair county were barley mentioned or missed completely. The main thing I took away from this DVD was the sound knowledge that I could and should make a better one...

Thursday, November 3, 2011 The Lost Crown: A Ghost Hunting Adventure

Let me start off by saying this is by no means a new game. In fact I myself owned it for several months before I actually got stuck in to playing it proper.

Now that I have given it some real time I can safely say this is one of the most interesting games I have ever played.

Set in a fantasy version of East Anglia (yep, how often does that sentence come up in gaming?) this game taps right into memories of reading old ghost books as a child. You can practically smell the musty pages of those creepy books, with their weird black and white pictures, as you play.

This comes as no surprise when you realise the author of the games screenplay, Jonathan Boakes based the game on his own childhood memories of reading "A Warning to the Curious" and other ghost stories.
The game itself employs point and click brain melting puzzles with some very interesting paranormal investigation mechanics.
You can scan areas and items for EMF, take photographs, record EVP and even use a night vision camera.
The creepiest sections of the game involve navigating in pitch darkness seeing only through the camera's LCD screen.

Graphically the game uses mostly black and white pre-rendered backgrounds with 3D characters on top. Where the game really stands out is in its use of photographs as part of the background. The author uses many real life images of his home county Cornwall (noteably the towns Looe and Polperro) and many real life objects. The whole game is presented in a dream-like monocrhome with odd but relevant splashes of colour on objects such as flowers or lights.

Being a massive fan of the Discworld video games good ol' pointy clicky fun holds no fear for me but some people might feel the gameplay mechanics are a little out of date. While the animations may feel a somewhat clunky and the interface is very basic, nothing can take away from the overall creepy atmosphere and fantastic story telling of this game.

The only issue I had when attempting to play for the first time was the voice acting, which I found a little poor, leading me to shelve the game for a couple of months before I reattempted getting stuck into it.

After a more in depth play through I actually feel the odd, slightly jarring voice acting (very british, a little cheesey and seemingly only a couple of voice actors providing VO for every character) really adds to the dreamy atmosphere of the game.

This game now sits up near the top of my gaming love list, and is probably my favourite low budget PC game of all time. Not to mention being the only game to make even a half decent attempt at accurately portraying paranormal investigation thanks to the author's research and input from "This Haunted Land".

So even if point and click puzzling just isnt your thing, I would reccomend playing with a walkthrough just to experience the brilliant story and atmosphere of this adventure gaming master piece.

Buy the game now for around 6 quid!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011 Bacton Wood: A Brief Investigation

So after researching the history of Bacton Wood I decided to head to Gibbet Piece after dark and see if I could experience anything.

The sun was setting as I headed out from the picnic area down the old cart road. I took a few photos along the way and used Google Maps for Android to point myself in the right direction.

Once I reached the dense woodland near Gibbet Piece I headed off the path into the pine trees. I wandered into the middle of the area and sat down to take a few pictures. Funnily enough my first picture contained an "orb," but the following picture showed the "orb" to have moved in the breeze, just as dust would.
I debunked this as being merely a spooky coincidence.

Left to right: first shot of dense pine area showing "orb", second photo showing how dust "orb" moved in the breeze, third photo showing how dark this area was.

After sitting for a while I headed back to the path and a little further down to Gibbet Piece itself. I veered off from the path again heading deeper into the overgrown brush to the area that was once home to "Bloody" Will Suffolk's gibbeted corpse. As I ventured further into the dark an owl screeched very close to me, needless to say I was getting pretty spooked!
I stopped and pulled out my phone to record some audio. I settled in and recorded audio for roughly 2 minutes.

I peered into the dwindling light and I was sure I saw movement. A black shape moved between the trees before me and the birds chose this moment to fly noisily from the trees above. I must be honest and say I freaked out at this point. I backed up at some speed taking a few more photos as I made my way toward the path and the comfort of my girlfriend (who had, being a sensible lady, refused to follow me into the dark.)

Another strange coincidence had occurred; the digital recording application on my phone failed at the exact moment I saw the shadow figure. (Note: while I already suspected this was coincidence I have since been able to replicate this error under normal circumstances, so I can confirm it was not paranormal influence.) As I headed back out of the wood I took several photos of the path behind me, capturing more "orbs" that I would again debunk as dust.

Left to right: the "orb" that seemed to be following me, the same dust "orb" having been blown to the left, my android audio software failing.

While I do not feel I captured evidence of any significance this experience showed me how the coincidences can really pile up; seeing dust "orbs" on my camera screen while I feel something following me, my audio recorder failing at the exact moment I think I see a shadow figure and the birds nosily fleeing at suitably spooky moments...
It is easy to see how all these factors could be used to support the fact that I had encountered the paranormal. Personally I feel that I probably just spooked myself and happened to produce enough coincidental evidence to make for a creepy blog post...

Tuesday, November 1, 2011 Bacton Wood: Local Legend Tripping

Bacton Wood, also known as Witton Woods is a wonderful place for an after lunch stroll. Thought to have had tree cover since Saxon times, the wood is home to mighty oaks considered to be more than two hundred years old and over thirty species of tree.

Like all medieval woodland however, there is dark history lurking amongst the trees... Gibbeted criminals, murder and possible infanticide are just a few of the elements that make for a potentially paranormally active location.

Two crossroads straddle the north east and south east corners of the wood, at least one of which is thought to have been an unmarked grave. On the western side runs the North Walsham and Dilham canal.
It is generally considered that the flow of water and it's proximity to a location can have an effect on the activity that occurs. Many religions consider water to have a cleansing power over the supernatural as well as being believed to be a barrier to some types of entities. Some claim that flowing water can act as a channel for energy causing paranormal phenomena along the banks of rivers and lakes.

There is also a large amount of history surrounding the canal, as well as a lot of energy expended creating and working the canal. It is also true to say many deceased locals will have had strong emotional ties to the area and some may have even died working the canal and local mills. Not far from the south west corner of the wood is the foreboding presence abandoned Ebridge Mill which once produced flour and provided much cargo to the wherrymen that would deliver goods to and produced by the various mills along the canal.

The eastern side of the wood is marked by road with a crossroad at each corner of the wood. The north eastern cross has a western fork leading off into the wood down the old coach road. This crossroad could have been a burial site. Many such locations were used as unmarked graves for criminals and suicide victims. Slightly further up towards Edingthorpe is another crossroad known on old maps of the region as "Dead Man's Grave" which was indeed known to have been a mass grave.

The wood itself has one particular point of interest; Gibbet Piece. This part of the wood toward the north western side near the old coach road is known to have been the location for the gibbeting of a notorious criminal; "Bloody" Will Suffolk.

On Friday 17th March 1797 William Suffolk sentenced to death for the murder of Mary Beck a young woman with whom he was having an affair. After an argument he struck her a blow to the head, killing her. He then dragged her into the nearby cart-tracks to make the murder look like an accident. William Suffolk also stated in his confession that a child had been conceived as a result of the affair but had been murdered during birth by William and Mary in the isolated countryside. William was hanged at Norwich castle before being taken to Bacton Wood to be gibbeted at the location still know as Gibbet Piece.
The body was displayed for six years before being taken down in 1803 and buried in a unmarked grave very near the gibbet. Many locals visited the site during the six years William was displayed, some even stealing parts of the body as it decayed to keep as souvenirs.

Needless to say the events surrounding the death of "Bloody Will" and the six years his body was displayed in the wood must have created a lot of negative energy. The area seems to have absorbed this as dog walkers have reported strange and uneasy feelings while wandering this part of the wood, some dogs also act strangely with one I myself walked refusing to enter the darker part of the wood. It is also said that the sounds of the gibbet's creaking can sometimes be heard on the breeze.

It is true to say Gibbet Piece has a very creepy atmosphere; with a dense patch of pine trees to the north of the coach road blocking out most of the light and dampening the calls of the birds. It is easy to imagine something watching from behind one of the many tall trunks. Gibbet Piece itself is an over grown patch of brush, with brambles and tree roots to trip up the unwary wanderer.

On the southern side of the wood is an ancient tumulus (burial mound) dating back to the bronze age which I have yet to investigate...

All of these factors conspire to make for an interesting location for paranormal investigation. 

Saint Nicholas Parish Church: Addendum

Further to my post about the church in North Walsham my lovely lady partner has pointed out a weird picture I took on my phone.

I had taken a couple of pictures of the old iron chest with the crappy camera on my phone but after glancing at the last one I decided it was way too dark and didn't think any more about it.
Today my girlfriend was flicking through the photos on my phone when she suddenly asked "what is this weird picture of the faces?"
I looked and realised it was one of the two pictures of the chest but unlike the one I checked there appears to be a strange anomaly and, yes, something that does look like a face...

Left to right: very dark photo, photo with the anomaly, enhanced anomaly with magnified "face."

Saint Nicholas Parish Church

North Walsham church is a wonderful building with a rich history and a spooky place to hang out after dark on Halloween! We did not stay long so no real experiences to speak of unfortunately. The old parish chest made my Android EMF detector register very high readings even though I could find no electrical devices or wiring anywhere near it. I know iron will produce natural EMF but how much? More research into this and the history of the chest is needed...

After some Googling and discussion I have come to the conclusion that unmagnetised iron should not produce EMF as high as I could read off the chest. Of course cold iron is supposed to repel spirits but why would it give off such high EMF? Perhaps iron has some characteristics that have lead to these folk tales; could it be that iron some how absorbs and contains spirit energy which is why it was considered to ward off evil entities?
Maybe this old parish chest is protecting the church from the effects of hauntings and this is why no ghost stories or reported paranormal events concerning the church exist, despite it's turbulent history?