East Dart Hotel

COLUMN: It's time to meet the Ghostbusters

Jim Parker

Emboldened by the success of my recent road trip and meeting at the East Dart Hotel in Postbridge, I am now launching not one but three future events during May, to which both old and new members will be warmly welcomed.

These meetings are an opportunity for people to meet myself, and other members of my group TIP (Torbay Investigators of the Paranormal), in a safe space, amongst like-minded people, giving them a chance to listen to and share spooky and unusual experiences, that they may be looking for an explanation for, as well as possibly talking about them for the first time, having been afraid of ridicule in the past.

The first will be on Monday, May 16 at Chelston Manor in Torquay. This will be a new venue for our meetings, although we do have previous history with the place, plus strong links with the new management and staff.

Wendy Bennett now runs it, having previously been my boss during my days at the Princess Theatre, and has fortuitously recruited several of my old colleagues from that time too. My visits there are always a pleasure, with familiar faces, a warm welcome and wonderful food!

Churston Court
Churston Court

The meeting itself will start from 8pm, but if you want to make it a night out, get there early and treat yourself. My good friend, David Hammond, will also be on hand, to make further recordings for his South Devon Folklore segment on his Thursday morning radio show on Riviera FM.

He is coming to record me, ostensibly, to add to recordings we made recently, but if anyone comes wanting to share stories and would like a wider audience, then David would love to record you too, but don’t feel obliged.

Chelston Manor was built back in the 17th century as a residence, before being converted into an hotel and restaurant. Sadly, the upstairs rooms are in need of restoration before access can once again be granted to the public, but many years ago some members of the group knew the then owners and they got us an invite to have a look around.

I turned the occasion into a birthday treat for my partner, Sarah. After a bite to eat, we explored, and the place certainly does have an atmosphere. One group member was slightly freaked out when she felt her hair being stroked and gently pulled as she walked up one of the staircases. It’s little observations like that which draw me to places, and keep me returning years later.

On Monday, May 23, my plan is to make a quick return to the East Dart Hotel in Postbridge, as I felt the previous evening was very well received. Nearly 30 people turned up, reminding me of the early days of meetings at Churston, gladdening my heart.

Chelston Manor
Chelston Manor

It was mainly Dartmoor locals, who were my target audience, and, along with some group members, also in attendance was a gentleman and his family who had come all the way from Paignton, having read about the event in these very pages!

I was very impressed by that, even more so by the fact that he had come armed with an excellent story regarding one of our favourite haunted spots, Berry Pomeroy.

He was an electrician by trade, and many years ago was employed to carry out some out of season maintenance in the toilet block. Whilst there, he claims to have seen a young woman in a blue coat carrying a baby. Now the mythology of one of the established hauntings is of the sighting of a woman in blue, in search of a baby who can often be heard crying in the woods.

To have a sighting of the two potentially reunited at a time when the castle was closed, and the weather wasn’t conducive to wandering around randomly clutching a baby, puts an interesting spin on an old tale. It also turns out he knows my good friend Martyn Jenkins, who is the technical manager at the Princess Theatre…small world!

My own recollections were interspersed with tales from other attendees, including an ex-forces gentleman, who told us about his creepy experiences whilst caretaking at an old army barracks in Germany, experiences corroborated by his partner, who couldn’t get away from the place quick enough.

They now live in Postbridge, in a property where they claim to see the phantom rear end of a dog. They have other dogs of a similar breed, but none with a tail like this one…could this be a potential new home for the drunken dog of Postbridge? We were also given evidence that the hotel itself remains full of spirits of the non-alcoholic kind…I sense an investigation pending to establish exactly who they might be…

Our final event for May, is a celebration of 23 years of public Monday night meetings at Churston Court on the 30th. This was the day when the floodgates opened, after I’d placed an advert in a local paper over the Bank Holiday weekend, and on the Monday, over 20 people came to join us at the start of the journey that is still going today.

Apart from the odd one I’ve cancelled due to work and holidays, plus the mess Covid has made, I’ve spent every Monday night hosting meetings at various venues, but mostly Churston.

This night will be a chance for old and new members to get together to celebrate this achievement. David Hammond will once again be on hand to record any stories that people might like to share, plus there will be cake. There always has to be cake at TIP celebrations!

All evenings start at 8pm, and I hope to see as many of you as possible at whichever events you can make.