Our nights of darts, pool and the birth of Torbay's 'ghostbusters'

Torbay Weekly

On Monday November 25, 1995, myself and my friends, Dave and Adrian, met up at the Parkers Arms in Paignton after a weekend away in London attending a training session for wannabe ghost hunters and decided to form our own group, calling ourselves Torbay Investigators of the Paranormal...TIP for short. Here we are, 26 years later, celebrating that momentous occasion.

I’ve always had an interest in weird and spooky stuff, taking every opportunity to visit allegedly haunted sites during family holidays when growing up. So, you can imagine my excitement when I came to live in Paignton on the doorstep of Berry Pomeroy Castle, one of the most notoriously haunted places in England after my drama training in London brought me to the Palace Avenue Theatre for a summer season.

I stayed on in the Bay, having moved in with my lady friend, whom I’d met working as a barmaid in the Theatre. I was then introduced to all her friends, one of whom had a son called Dave, who was around my age.

He started joining me on my Sunday walks on Dartmoor, helping me with my letterboxing. Gloria, my lady friend (then wife, now estranged) said I needed even more of a social life, so she encouraged me to go down the pub with Dave on a Monday night. It was there that I was introduced to his mate, Adrian, they had been at Torquay Boys Grammar together, and we found we all shared a common interest in the paranormal. All our conversations turned to weird and spooky stuff.

Back in the early 90s there were several TV programmes that covered the subject, both factually and fictionally, with the likes of Michael Aspel’s Strange But True and the X-Files, these were all pre Most Haunted. Plus, there were many regular publications of magazines and newspapers. We would watch these avidly and I would buy up all the reading material, bring them to the pub, where we would peruse and discuss them throughout the evening. Monday nights became known as our paranormal nights, and, instead of playing pool and darts, we took our conversations on a bit of a pub crawl, going from one allegedly haunted hostelry to another. In those early years, frequented such places as The Inn on the Quay, an old Napoleonic hospital, known for its ghostly lady who is often seen standing vigil over the last remaining grave marker on the lawn outside.

A short walk up the road from the Parkers Arms, lies The Blagdon Inn, also shrouded in its fair share of paranormal activity and mystery. At the Blagdon we waited for the resident ghost, John Henry, to show himself. Sadly, he never did.

We were also paying regular night time visits to Berry Pomeroy Castle, standing on the lawn in front of its ruined walls, hoping to see the White Lady.

We needed something to take us to the next level. Then I found it, an advertisement for prospective ghost hunters to take part in a training weekend at a place called Charlton House in South London, run by a group called ASSAP – the Association for Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena.

So it was that, over the weekend of November 23 and 24, 1995, Dave, Adrian and myself took a coach trip to London, found our way to Charlton House and sat through a series of workshops and lectures designed to assess our aptitude as potential paranormal Investigators.

If there was one thing we had learnt from our encounter with ASSAP, it was that they didn’t have any branches in the West Country. So, we were resolved that we would act as our own group.

I threw myself into researching one of our own favourite haunts, The Blagdon Inn, for the antics of John Henry intrigued me. It turned out that the Inn itself used to be the stable block for Blagdon Manor, that stands behind it. John Henry had been a stable hand, and, for reasons unclear, he had hanged himself from a beam in the stables. Over the years, whenever anything odd or untoward happened around the premises, such as mysterious fires, or a book about local ghosts falling on the head of a customer who had just scoffed at the idea of the place being haunted, poor John Henry was always to blame. This research put us in good stead. On that particular Monday night, following our weekend in London, it served to unite the three of us even further in our endeavours...we had come up with a mutually acceptable name for our own group -  Torbay Investigators of the Paranormal was born!
Happy Birthday TIP...long may your investigations and offers of help to people with paranormal problems continue, for many years to come!