Very late on Saturday night I went ghost-hunting.
The venue was a manorial house, the seat of a Scottish estate, less than 30 miles south of Edinburgh.
The event, organised by NEPI (North East Paranormal Investigations), started promptly at 9pm.
But shouldn’t the organisers, given that we were in Scotland, be called SEPI (South East Paranormal Investigations)?
The canny lads and lasses of NEPI were drawn from the north-east of England’s stout-hearted phalanx of ghost-hunters.
The NE in NEPI is an indication of where the ghost-hunting team are based; it isn’t an exclusive label of the area they operate in.
Along with ten other spook-seekers, I arrived a little before 9pm.
I did wonder if our ghostly friends would be similarly prompt.
At the start of the tour/investigation, we were issued with…
… our ghost meters!
We were given a brief history of the impressive-looking house and were then told what we could (possibly) expect, if we experienced any ‘contact’.
From the physical to the metaphysical.
Our ghost meters were explained to us; what they measured, how they operated.
Infrared and UV devices were shown to us.
The team introduced themselves (I experienced a momentary loss of understanding as my inbuilt universal translator switched from English to Geordie but, truthfully, their accents somehow added to the experience).
And, most importantly, we were given strict instructions on how to faint.
Fainting correctly, it was pointed out to us, would minimise damage to the priceless artifacts within the stately home.
Safe in the knowledge that, should we lose consciousness, we would hit the deck in a manner previously calculated to cause the minimum amount of damage to our surroundings, we gingerly made our way up the steps, and in through the front door.
Fortunately, because we were so far north (compared to home base in Oxfordshire, even at 9.15pm on an August evening, the house was bathed in early evening sunlight.
For reasons never fully explained, there was a grey horse (not a real one, obv), gazing out of a ground-floor window.
Our NEPI hosts guided us inside and upstairs to the first floor and, as we went, they explained a few details of the age and importance of various portraits and objets d’art.
The price (or pricelessness) of many was emphasised.
The group was split in half (not literally!); my group was taken in to a ghostly bedroom filled with eeriness and electric atmosphere.
The bedroom was warm and comfortable; the large four-poster bed looked terrifically inviting and the decor – and carpets – added the dimension of a very liveable-in room.
Large, but liveable-in.
I’ve stayed in creepier hotels. And with creepier people accompanying me.
As our paranormal guides explained history and consequence, we were given the opportunity to stand, in the dark (windows had been shuttered) in a separate bedroom.
To await the ghostly arrival of something from another place.
I gave it a go.
I stood in the pitch blackness of a neighbouring bedroom, waving my ghost meter around in front of me, as if it were some kind of micro Jedi lightsaber.
I may have started to make the ‘buzz-whoosh’ sound that lightsabers make.
And then my ghost meter went off and I cacked myself.
It lit up, it beeped loudly; starting with a slow intermittent beep then getting quicker and quicker as the thing it was detecting got nearer and nearer.
My ghost meter went ballistic as it got next to my pocket.
My pocket where my phone was.
I switched my phone off.
The ghost meter went back to its previously inert state. I cursed the GPS in my phone and hoped I hadn’t actually cacked myself.
I sauntered back in to the main bedroom, looking relaxed and nonchalant, and joined my fellow ghost hunters and ghost hunterets.
A couple of hours later, as the hour approached midnight, our ghostly tour drew to a close in the most impressive gallery.
This is a beautiful room with a vaulted ceiling that has been designed as a central – glassed – feature.
Unfortunately the glass served to reflect the emergency exit lights. This added a ghostliness all of its own, to the half-gloom of the midnight hour.
Our NEPI hosts held a kind of mock séance where they commanded, in a slightly passive/aggressive tone, the spirits to appear.
I think if I were a spirit I would have taken umbrage at such a tone; I would probably have packed my ghostly bags and gone to the Edinburgh Fringe!
Sadly, there were no spirits to be found, and the tour of the main house concluded.
We were taken across the courtyard to the kitchen.
Apart from the ghost hunters and hunteresses, there was no-one around. And there were no pigs heads.
I leaned against the range (in the background of this shot) and actually fell asleep, standing up, whilst another attempt was made to contact the dead.
Maybe the line was down; contact failed.
About half-past midnight the ghostly tour wrapped up.
It was, if I’m honest, a fun evening.
The NEPI guides could work on their patter, but the way they delivered what they did was charming.
The settings were, actually, lovely.
And, during the séance, I got to hold the hand of a girl I had never met before.
Whether one is a believer in ghostly goings-on or not, it’s a night out. It beats an early night in bed with a mug of tea and a bar of chocolate.
But only just.