On 25th November, TIP (Torbay Investigators of the Paranormal) will be 26 years old and we will be celebrating 26 years of spending Monday nights in a pub, mainly Churston Court, chatting with all comers about paranormal experiences.
I hope to see both old and new members there, keeping the group going into our 27th year!
Back in 1995, it was just the founding triumvirate of Dave, Adrian and myself, David (we almost called ourselves DAD!) plus a few friends, that would meet up on Monday nights...more about those early years in next week’s article...but in 1999, the Spring Bank Holiday weekend to be precise, TIP went public, and we have been immersing ourselves in the paranormal world ever since.
One of the local papers was publishing a section about spooky locations around the Torbay area, at the start of the tourist season, and for the princely sum of £52...I always say its the best £52 I’ve ever spent...we could place an advert, plugging our group and inviting people to join us, what did we have to lose?
We had discovered Churston Court, just outside Brixham, and, with its history of haunted happenings, we decided this would be an ideal place to hold our Monday night meetings and, once established with the owners, to carry out investigations there.
As soon as the paper came out, I started getting phone calls, offering up stories, personal experiences and, most importantly, people wanting to attend our meetings, starting that Bank Holiday Monday, and so it was that new recruits started joining us, some just the once, most becoming regulars...the floodgates were opened and we haven’t really looked back.
As soon as we set foot in Churston, and let people know what we were about, the staff opened up about their own experiences, and the known haunted history of the place.
The first to share was one of the barmaids, Sharon, who told us about one particular evening, after closing time, when she was tending to the open fire, down in what was known as the Armoury Room.
As she was bending over, she felt the sensation of someone passing through her, like someone walking over her grave, and as she looked to her left, she saw the tail end of a monk’s habit trailing across the floor into the Blue Room next door. Of course, there was no one there!
It is quite feasible that monks would still be present, they owned the land on which the hotel stands, and would have overseen the construction of the church next door, building the pub itself for putting up their craftsmen.
Another story we were told concerned a night porter, who used to work there. One night he was doing his rounds, making his safety checks along the corridor at the top of the main staircase, when he was approached by a gentleman wearing, what he described as a gamekeeper’s outfit, flat cap and tweed suit.
As they passed each other, they nodded a greeting, but then the night porter felt he should enquire why the gentleman was out of his room so late...as he turned, he found himself standing in an empty corridor, no sign of the guest he had just acknowledged.
Some years later, the local paper published an article about Lord Churston, and the properties he owned. Not just Churston Court, but also Lupton House, where he actually lived. Said article was accompanied by a picture of Lord Churston, wearing a flat cap and tweed jacket, not dissimilar to a gamekeeper’s outfit. So, could the night porter have had an encounter with the owner of the property himself?
Apparently, it was well known that the Lord was in the habit of dressing down and spying on his staff at all his properties, to make sure everyone was pulling their weight!
A few years ago, whilst my niece, Beth, was making a promotional video about the group, as part of a project for her college course...the results can be seen pinned to our Facebook page...we were joined by a good friend of ours, Adele, an excellent medium who lives locally, and who had never visited the hotel before, so knew nothing about its history or hauntings.
As we were giving her the guided tour, she became very interested in a room along the corridor where the night porter had had his encounter. She was picking up on a particular spirit that seemed to be in distress in that room, but, as it was occupied by sleeping guests, we had to literally drag her away.
As she moved on, she said “oh by the way, there’s a guy watching us from around that corner, wearing a cap and tweed jacket...” of course we could see nobody, but was Lord Churston up to his old tricks again?
Over the years, many guests have been keen to share their experiences of overnight stays at the hotel, especially when they learn it is home to a bunch of ghostbusters! One such story came from a woman who had been on her way back from the ladies’ loos, near the restaurant, an area often reported as having unsettling feelings for those who have to make use of it!
Along the walls of the connecting corridor can be seen a collection of old photos, relevant to the property. Our visitor had stopped to view the photos, before returning to the restaurant, when out of the corner of her eye she noticed someone coming towards her.
As the corridor was quite narrow, she moved closer to the wall, eyes still on the pictures, to give the other person more room to pass. When she realised no one was actually passing her, she glanced to her left, just in time to see a young girl in a long flowing nightdress, carrying a large open book, pass through the wall of the corridor!
Upon closer inspection, it was found that the part of the wall, where the girl passed through, used to be a door. So, our guest had seen the re-enactment of a previous occupant of the manor house, going about her business totally wrapped up in her reading.
As a group, we have also had many of our own experiences, whilst at meetings or investigating the property, and these have become part of the history of TIP. Some of them I will share with you in next week’s article, but there is nothing I like more than telling my stories in person...some of the long-standing members might have a different opinion on that, having heard me repeat them many times over the years...so if you are free on Monday 22nd, from 7.30pm onwards, please come along and meet us, bring your own stories and experiences to share, join in the celebrations and have some cake!
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