Friday, 29 September 2017


Friday September 29th 2017

Speaking as one of the founder members of the West Midlands Ghost Club, I must admit that it feels wholly bizarre to contemplate that the group is now less than 2 years away from it's 30th birthday!!  How time flies when you're having fun, eh!?  Lol!
  
On the subject of passing time though, I was making some posts on a social media site about the Bushbury area yesterday, when I happened to dig out a couple of newscuttings related to our investigations at the gorgeous, black-and-white-beamed, Northycote Farm in 1997.....
  
'Early 1997...' I thought, somewhat amazed: 'Lord.... that's just over 20 yrs ago now!!' In turning to the blog to search out more details of the affair to share... I realised that - for whatever reason - we had never actually posted a report on this particular matter before...!?  Thankfully, however, information had been previously posted on our website and that data had been 'saved for posterity' when the site was closed down some years ago. For the sake of brevity and, without further ado.... the following is a slightly edited version of the aforementioned information:     

"In late January, 1997, a correspondence was received from the House Guide for Northycote Farm and Country Park in Bushbury, enquiring whether members of the W. M. Ghost Club would be interested in looking into a number of potential 'paranormal experiences' said to have occurred at the farm over the space of a number of years.

Northycote Farm itself was built around the year 1600 and throughout the duration of the 17th Century was the home of the Catholic Underhill family. In 1845, the farm is listed as being the property of George Thomas Whitgreave and, at that time, comprised of a tight complex of structures including the farmhouse, a number of outbuildings, a yard, and a Chapel belonging to nearby Moseley Court. From the 19th Century onward, the farm was lived in by a series of tenant farmers involved in arable and pastoral farming.

Wolverhampton Borough Council took over the site in 1978 - five years before the last remaining farmer left. In the early 1980's, the farmhouse and outbuildings were in a deplorable, derelict condition. Under the supervision of F. W. B. Charles, one of the most experienced architects in the study and preservation of timber framed buildings, Northycote Farm was successfully restored to something approaching its former glory.

During August 1984, Workmen digging drains on the site of the former Moseley Court Chapel to the rear of the farm - unearthed two small skeletons. Despite initial police interest, it was eventually discovered that they were, in fact, the remains of two children of Whitgreave family descent, who had been interred in brick built tombs in the - at the time still extant - Chapel.

A History Of The Haunting

In 1651, a representative of the fugitive King Charles II - fleeing from his crushing defeat at the battle of Worcester - called at Northycote Farm, appealing for shelter for his sovereign. With her husband away from home at the time - possibly engaged in 'Royalist' activity somewhere - the farmers wife apparently turned down the request....... resulting in the King taking refuge at Moseley Old Hall, less than a mile away. Perhaps as a gesture of penitence, there is said to be some historical record to suggest that an attractive maid was sent from the farm to Moseley Old Hall, presumably to serve as 'amusement' for the King during his brief stay. Following this dalliance, the maid was seen to leave the Hall, travelling back in the direction of the farm. Whatever fate befell her during her return journey home is not known; however, local legend dictates that the unfortunate girl was never seen again. Despite this tale being the basis for the main 'Ghost Story' associated with Northycote Farm, it is not the vanishing maid who is credited with haunting the site. It is actually her grief stricken beau - a lowly farmhand - who, dying with a broken heart, is said to return to the farm, searching for his lost love.

The Blue Room: According to the farm guide, some 30 to 40 visitors (per year) had reported sensing 'something strange' upon entering this room. (However, the bulk of these experiences fall into the Psychic Impressions category and, as such, do not necessarily represent actual paranormal incident). In the Summer of 1996, the Site Manager was standing in the Blue Room when his accompanying wife complained of feeling cobwebs brushing across her face. The Site Manager looked across to where she was standing and allegedly saw what he took to be a 'shadow' next to his wife which didn't move when she did. Checking the room later, there were supposedly no cobwebs to be found anywhere. (See 'Vigil 1' below).

Parlour: During a Craft Fair, a trader looking after a stall set up in the Parlour claims to have heard the sound of footsteps cross the length of the floor above her - closely followed by a noise akin to someone falling down. Somewhat concerned, the trader mentioned the sounds to a member of staff who immediately investigated. The stairs leading to the upper floor had been securely fastened against members of the public and there was no sign whatsoever of anyone having been in the area.

The Tea Room / Restaurant: A number of 'Poltergeist-like' occurrences have happened in this converted milking parlour. One member of staff claims to have seen a vase fly from the Tea Room counter onto a nearby table, while another is said to have entered the kitchen area and found a mysterious woman apparently sweeping the floor with a broom. Rushing outside and quickly returning with a friend, they found that the woman had disappeared. A female customer reported feeling uneasy and experiencing 'extreme cold flushes' while dining at the restaurant. She says she was constantly putting her jacket on and taking it off, and complaining of an intense cold blast that other diners were apparently oblivious to.

Womens Toilet: Upon leaving the Restaurant, the customer mentioned above visited the toilet and, as she was washing her hands, saw the figure of a man - standing behind her - reflected in the mirror on the wall above the hand basin. The man is described as being somewhat swarthy in appearance and wearing a black, or dark brown, suit, with a tall top hat. (Possibly mid-Victorian in style). The man 'doffed his hat' to the woman before disappearing.

Stable Block Staircase: Two men looking after a stall at a Christmas Fete (Circa. 1994) claim to have seen a ghostly 'Cavalier' walking up the Stable Block Staircase towards them. The figure was described as having long black hair and a brown hat with a white band and white feathers stuck in it. He wore white gloves - with the cuffs of a white shirt showing below his outer garment sleeves - and carried a sword of some description. Reaching the top of the stairs, the figure is said to have 'doffed his hat' at the bewildered witnesses before turning to his left and disappearing through an external wall of the building. Despite having been seen walking up the bare, wooden stairway, the figure made no sound whatsoever.

Stable Block Office: A notepad was seen to turn over by itself in front of a number of witnesses during an official farm meeting.

Farmyard: During the 1960's, the owner of the farm often spoke of seeing the figure of a 'Cavalier' at the end of the farmyard. The mysterious sound of horses hooves were also said to have been heard around this area.

Moseley Court Site: Local legend has it that the last owner of Moseley Court is said to haunt the area around where the house once stood. There is also a tale concerning a phantom horseman who supposedly gallops up the driveway to Moseley Court - a trackway situated just to the rear of Northycote Farmyard.

The W.M.G.C. 'Visits':

Visit 1: Sat. 8th - Sun. 9th March 1997


Investigators Present: Roger Simpson, Darren Simpson, Len Jackson, Adrian Beckett and Nicholas Duffy. Also present Farm Guide Chris Modd.

Early on in the investigation, a researcher entered the Blue Room and immediately reported walking into a sizeable quantity of - very real - cobwebs. He presumed this might explain away previous reports of experiences with seemingly non-physical cobwebs in this area. (See 'History of Hauntings: Blue Room' section above).

Temperature readings from thermometers set up at various points around the farm showed constant readings throughout the night. Despite this, the temperatures actually physically experienced by all investigators present plummeted to most uncomfortable levels during the early hours of the morning.

Two separate researchers reported a feeling of 'nausea' during their respective vigils in the Blue Room. One found himself so affected by the Blue Room, he was unable to stay there for any real length of time.

From 3.30 to 4.30am, two investigators conducting a vigil in the passage between the Blue and Green Rooms reported experiencing potential paranormal activity centering around and incorporating a collection of dried flower heads which appeared to have moved around the room of their own volition.

Throughout the night a number of audio and video recordings were made in various rooms. While nothing was caught on video tape, a considerable array of sounds - mainly inexplicable clicks, bangs and cracks - were found to have been picked up by a cassette machine left in the Tea Room / Restaurant.  Also, a number of Photographs taken during the nights activities contained irregularities that may be a result of some form of paranormal activity.

Vigil 2: Sat. 10th - Sun. 11th May 1997

Investigators Present: Roger Simpson, Darren Simpson, Leonard Jackson and Nicholas Duffy. Also present Farm Guide, Chris Modd.

Throughout the night, uncomfortably cold temperatures were experienced by all of the investigators, despite constantly mild temperature readings given by thermometers positioned around the building.

One investigator reported a feeling of 'nausea' again upon spending time in the Blue Room.

Unfortunately, the Tea Room / Restaurant wasn't open to investigators on this occasion, so all audio / visual recordings were carried out in the Blue Room and on the Stable Block Staircase.

Again, nothing was picked up on video, but a cassette recorder positioned in the Blue Room did detect a clear sound sequence containing what appears to be someone 'walking away' from the cassette recorder - approx. 12 paces - followed by the sound of a distant door squeaking open and closed. (There was no indication of anyone actually 'approaching' the recorder to begin with). A number of doors around the farm had definite 'squeaks', but, upon checking, none could be found that came close to matching the particular sound picked up by the recorder.

None of the photographs taken during the vigil showed any irregularities whatsoever.

Vigil 3: Sat. 21st - Sun. 22nd June 1997

Investigators Present: Roger Simpson, Darren Simpson, Leonard Jackson and Nicholas Duffy. Also present Farm Guide, Chris Modd.

Audio / visual recordings taken during the night revealed nothing anomalous. Temperatures remained 'reasonable' throughout the night.

Vigil 4: Sat. 20th - Sun. 21st September 1997

Investigators Present: Roger Simpson, Darren Simpson, Leonard Jackson, Adrian Beckett and Nicholas Duffy. Also present were the usual Farm Guide, Chris Modd; Kharis Harvey (the customer who had witnessed the 'top hatted figure' in the Womens Toilet); two (unnamed) male acquaintances of Miss Harvey; and Darlaston based 'White Witch' and 'Psychic', June Smith, and her (unnamed) apprentice.

Around 2.00 am, a number of investigators left the farm and walked down to Bushbury Church to take a look at the grave of a supposed local witch - the infamous 'Clutterbuck Grave' - and the area known as 'The Plantation', situated just outside the main Church Gate. Leonard Jackson dowsed 'The Plantation' briefly (with rods), and picked up considerable traces of energy from the collection of large stones piled up at the centre of the site.

Again, audio / visual recordings taken during the vigil revealed nothing anomalous.

More Happenings Down On The Farm?

Neil Prosser is a postal worker from the West Midlands area who holds a keen interest in 14th to 16th century history. A member of 'The Stafford Household' historical re-enactment group, Neil took part in his first public display at Northycote Farm some three years ago - a visit he not likely to forget in a hurry! At the time, Neil was certainly no stranger to the site, as he openly tells us that he had already heard some of the weird tales associated with the building, and had visited the Farm a number of times with his partner and their children.......

On the day in question, Neil and his fellow enthusiasts carried out their display for the public and, as usual, had stowed their kit away ready for the next days show. Because of the distances some of the other group had come, they were told that they could all stay in the farmhouse overnight. Despite not living all that far away, Neil says that he decided to stay too - thinking it would be a good opportunity to get acquainted with some of the other members.

During the early hours of the morning, Neil had been having a few drinks with his friends when he suddenly felt a 'call of nature' come on. Making his way downstairs - past the rest of the group who were seated in front of the fire - he went outside to find that the 'Gents' toilets were securely locked!

Tentatively knocking on the door of the 'Ladies' room, he received no answer and went inside. Having used the toilet, he set about washing his hands. While in the process of washing, he suddenly turned round to see - what he could only describe as - a 'Cromwellian Soldier' apparently in the process of going out of the door!

Despite the fact that he only saw the rear of the figure, he immediately registered a tell-tale 'Lobster Pot' helmet, brown sur-coat and long black boots.......

Incredibly, he tells us that he could not see the man's feet; his boots could be seen to run from the top part of the leg, but ended just past the middle section of the shin.......!

Initially, he admits that he did not take all that much notice of the costumed figure, because he still had his uniform on too. However, Neil and his associates were all wearing costumes associated with the 'Wars Of The Roses' (15th Cent.) period - a far cry from the styles worn during the English Civil War. (17th Cent.) The person that he had seen was definitely 200 years out of time!

Neil readily admits that he suddenly found himself going cold - even though it was a January night, he felt that this cold was coming from his very insides! He stood still for a moment, considering whether his experience might have been a by-product of the beer, but he really hadn't consumed very much.

Eventually going back inside the farm and venturing to tell the others what he had just seen, Neil was rewarded with scorn and laughter. Evidently, to them at least, it was all just down to the effect of drink........

Neil tells us that he did brave the rest of the night at the farm - but, understandably, he didn't get all that much sleep!

In Mid-June, 2008, the W.M.G.C.'s John Conway made enquiries at Northycote Farm, resulting in the opportunity for the group to, yet again, investigate the site.  Our follow-up visit, after a gap of some 11 years (almost), was made on Fri. the 13th of June 2008.

Present:

Investigative Team – John Conway, Julia Whiston, Steve Chew, Len Jackson and Nick Duffy.  Also present on the property (in the office portion of the site throughout duration of investigation) were Ian and Penny Nicholls.  Within a hundred yards of the farm were 4 men, associated with the site, who were engaged in the process of disposing with farm rubbish.  (No discernible noise whatsoever from this quarter throughout the visit).

Aims / Inv. Process:

General, brief investigation of property, mainly focussing on sections of building noted as being of particular relevance / importance regarding the alleged ‘paranormal history’ of the site.

Investigation procedure incorporating:

* 1st person audio / visual observation.
* Static (area based) audio / visual recording, incorporating standard / night shot cameras and digital (audio) recording equipment.


Investigation:

Visit began with a tour of the farm site and completion of a risk assessment form (by John Conway) in the presence of Ian Nicholls, Fire Marshall to the property.   On this recent visit, slightly more areas of the overall site were kindly opened to us, in comparison to our 1997 investigations.  During the tour, Ian specifically pointed out to the group certain parts of the property which were alleged to be ‘paranormal hot-spots’, though purposefully did not reveal ‘why’ this was said to be so.

Subsequent questioning (later on in the evening) revealed that the area of the building situated above the Tea Room Kitchen – specifically, a Small Stock Room – had once been mentioned as significant by a visiting psychic.  It was said that ‘children’ were present here and that ‘they’ had expressed happiness at the presence of a Christmas tree in this area.  They had asked for the Christmas tree to be there every year, or some such related sentiment.

The same psychic had apparently refused to venture down the cellar of the Laundry Room (outbuilding at the rear of the farm) as they had been too scared to do so.

Both areas had been previously closed to the group, but were open during this visit.

Other information gleaned included staff in the Tea Rooms reporting a feeling of something akin to a dog brushing against their legs – though no animals were found to be present at the times concerned.

Penny Nicholls mentioned to group members that she had felt a sensation akin to a cobweb brushing over her face / head on entering the farms Blue Room on one occasion.  (See 1997 investigation notes for more information on related incidents).

Ian says that he once witnessed a Post-It note ‘flipping’, seemingly of it’s own accord, in the office area of the farm.  (See 1997 investigation notes for more information on related incidents).

Vigil One – 10.40 pm

*Camera set up in Blue Room.  Situated: far, left hand corner of room, when viewed from entrance, facing / filming towards entrance.
*Camera set up in Antique Wallpaper Room.  Situated in centre of table set against wall, furthest from Blue Room.  Facing towards passage to Blue Room.
*Camera set up in small Stock Room above Tea Room Kitchen.
*Entire group seated in main body of Tea Room – just to right of main doors as you enter.  Casual conversation throughout sitting.

Vigil Two – 11.44 pm

*Camera set up in Tea Room.  Situated just inside main door, facing across to ‘cattle stalls’ / tables area of room.
*Camera set up in Ladies Toilet area, facing towards entrance.
*Steve and John situated in downstairs Panelled Room throughout vigil.
*Len, Julia and Nick situated in Blue Room.
(Casual conversation – both groups).

During this period:  (Blue Room group): group of men previously disposing of rubbish  seen leaving area.  Warden – previously engaged with latter mentioned activity – enters his cottage on end of farm and noises of movement detected through dividing wall of premises.  Also, muffled, vocal sound of investigators downstairs heard.

(Panelled Room group):  At end of vigil, Steve asks if anyone has been walking around in the Blue Room just after midnight, as they had detected a sound akin to this.  No one had moved from their seats in the Blue Room throughout the vigil, though there may have been some accidental movement of chairs / feet during the session.

Vigil Three - 12.50 am

*Steve and Nick situated in the upstairs portion of the Tea Rooms.
*John, Julia and Len situated in the Education Centre.
(Casual conversation – both groups).

Vigil ends approx. 1.30 am and group pack up and leave building.

Comments:

Apart from the potential footsteps heard during Vigil Two, nothing of interest was encountered during the stay".


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