Excellently, John Green and his disappearing pipework does feature in this episode. Interestingly he implies that pipework disappeared but the boiler did not - so presumably this negates my theory about wandering into the wrong room. Still, Chingle Hall doesn't even sound very big. So it probably wasn't a very good theory in the first place.
Strange but True? – Series 3, episode 6: Chingle Hall.
Michael Aspel: Good evening. There’s nothing like a good ghost story to pull in the punters. For pubs and hotels claiming of a ghostly presence amongst the kegs or hovering on the landing is a sure-fire way to attract a lot of custom. But one manor house just six miles north of Preston has a boast which outdoes the rest. In the past 50 years Chingle Hall, its owners claim, has been the home to some 20 spooks. Not bad for a building with only four bedrooms. But then they never rest.
[reconstruction] Ladies and Gentlemen, you must concentrate! You must not break the circle. Do not break the circle, whatever may happen in this room tonight.
MA: Just another night at Chingle Hall, the 700 year old manor house set on the remote moorlands north of Preston, Lancashire. Steeped in a grisly history it’s perhaps no surprise that it’s claimed to be Britain’s most haunted house. So notorious is the hall, and so intriguing the tales, that ghosthunters come from far and wide in the hope of experiencing something from the other side.
Jason Karl, Resident: The first time I ever came here was around four and a half years ago, and I was convinced on the first night of the hauntings here. I don’t know how many ghosts are here, I don’t know what is hre, or why it’s here, but I know it’s here.
David Butters, Local historian: There have been a lot of stories about sightings and apparitions at Chingle Hall, and it’s got some very grisly legends attached to it. I‘ve heard tales of people being locked up and heads buried in walls, a very gory and bloody history.
MA: Whatever the truth, people do believe they’ve seen extraordinary things at Chingle.
Paul Crone, TV Reporter: I will never go inside of Chingle Hall again, I mean there’s just something so spooky about the place, I will not step foot inside Chingle Hall.
JK: People do come here complete non-believers and do go away complete believers.
MA: Down the years 100s of people have passed through Chingle’s doors, saying they’ve experienced something inexplicable. Photographs and research notes boast of what they claim as evidence. People pay up to £40 a night to ghost watch at Chingle – it’s booked for months ahead. But visitors are not usually locals.
DB: Tourist place of course. People come from other parts to see the ghosts. But I think you’d be hard pressed to find a local – certainly I can’t think of one who’s said they’ve seen a ghost there.
MA: So is Chingle Hall just a tourist trap dreamt up to attract the gullible, or is it a legitimate paranormal study centre?
Chris Edwards, St John Ambulance: The way Chingle Hall was sold to me personally was you were guaranteed to see a ghost, something was guaranteed to happen. I thought it was a load of codswallop, a big con.
MA: Well you wouldn’t expect a down to earth Lancashire lad to be easily persuaded that ghosts exist. Chris Edwards from Southport went to the Hall to raise money for his charity. He was a confirmed sceptic.
CE: I was reading a book on my own when I saw a movement out the corner of my eye. I looked up and as I looked up a figure of a monk drew across the door, appeared to look at me, and basically disappeared around the door again and vanished into thin air. I was absolutely petrified for a few seconds. I need hard proof before I believe anything and it’s been provided here at Chingle Hall.
DB: I think the ghostly monk that most people talk about is John Wall. He is the last catholic martyr in this country, he was hung drawn and quartered in 1679. His head is supposed to have been brought back to CH and buried somewhere in the grounds.
MA: The ghostly sightings led local tv reporter Paul Crone to investigate Chingle.
[reconstruction] – Let’s go upstairs to the John Wall room, shall we? It’s supposed to be haunted.
MA: He spent the night with a group of fundraising nurses from Royal Preston hospital.
PC: I thought – we’ll sit here for nine hours, nothing will happen, we’ll film, we won’t hear anything, we won’t see anything. How wrong I was. I mean basically it just turned into a complete nightmare.
Alison Westbury-Spurr, Nurse: We all came that evening looking for a good time, a good night out. A group of girls that all got on well. We went home in the morning very different people. I just turned my head to look at one of my colleagues when I saw a figure behind her, a cowled figure, and it looked like a monk stood behind, looking down on her. I couldn’t see its face, I couldn’t see any features. I just felt frozen, I couldn’t do anything, I couldn’t move and it took me a few seconds to say anything. I was frightened.
PC: Everybody knew she wasn’t joking, and it was genuine, and she saw something and she was absolutely positive. Now I couldn’t see anything but I knew she was telling the truth.
MA: Paul’s own encounter was to happen on the staircase.
PC: There was no one there and the door just slammed shut and I went ice cold from head to toe, so people dived with their cameras and as all the flashes went off we saw a blue streak just whizz up the stairs. You can’t make something like that up, it genuinely did happen.
MA: Even in the cold light of day when the ghost hunters have gone home, the hall’s unearthly inhabitants seem to be active. Plumber John Green came to the hall in winter last year, to install central heating.
John Green, Plumber: I live quite a way from here and I’ve never heard of the place or the reputation that it had.
MA: John needed help to get the work completed in time, so he called in a mate the next morning.
[reconstruction] I finished off in here yesterday. What the hell has happened to my pipes?
JG: To my amazement there was just nothing there. The boiler was in position but all the flue, the pipes, there was just nothing there. It would have been impossible for anyone to have ripped those out without making an absolute devastation, and even an expert would have taken some while to remove everything.
MA: When he came back down to the room minutes later, John Green was in for the surprise of his life. All the pipes were back where he’d fitted them the night before.
JG: I just couldn’t believe it. I was in shock. I didn’t know what to believe or say.
MA: Could any of the goings-on be explained by Chingle’s mysterious past or former residents?
DB: One of the people we do know lived in Chingle Hall is Eleanor de Singleton. She was the only daughter of John de Singleton. She was deemed mad and locked up in a room. She was abused by the rest of her family and died a very tragic death at the age of about 20.
MA: Was Eleanor the uninvited ghost at a séance held by fundraisers on the 7th of October 1995?
Annette Cox, Charity worker: I must admit I didn’t really expect anything to happen. I really didn’t.
JK: They’d come for a bit of a laugh – the novelty value of staying in a haunted house.
Vic Allonby, Milkman: I thought it were a load of rubbish, I’d seen these things on television, in films and things, and I didn’t think much of it. I could feel a pressure on my back, a warm pressure. Like someone had two arms on my back. The pressure just built and built and I thought ‘what is it?’.
AC: I thought Vic was actually going to have a fit, I was quite concerned.
MA: Whatever it was then started on another member of the séance.
Angela Dewhurst, Nurse: The feeling I had was like a rush of adrenaline, but it lasted a lot longer than (shivers) ooh – like someone walks over your grave. It took a long time to actually pass through me.
MA: It moved round to include Vic’s wife Wendy.
Wendy Allonby: I could feel this unusual feeling, you know as a baby’s in your stomach type-of-thing, and you can feel it, you know, it was just pushing and pushing.
AC: There was now lavender, it was strongest near Vic and it seemed to come round. And with the smell of lavender came this awful sadness, just a horrible feeling of sadness.
VA: The tears were absolutely rolling down my face. I’ve only cried so much when my dad died, sort of thing.
MA: He wasn’t the only one – soon Angela, Annette and the others also started to sob.
WA: I started to pour with tears, and I felt like I was releasing this sadness and letting people know I was upset, but I don’t know why I was upset.
When I started to cry the tears were just rolling. It wasn’t me at all. It was something that was here I think.
JK: I wanted to capture the moment on camera, on film, to get the moment to come out.
AC: I could actually see the outline. Not exactly a woman, but the outline of a lady, and I was absolutely amazed.
JK: I was worried because it was getting out of control. There were far too many people affected there, I’ve never seen anything as dramatic before or after that event.
MA: Were these people experiencing mass hysteria, auto suggestion perhaps? Or would the photo hold the key to a paranormal explanation? When it was developed there was nothing standing behind Vic, no figure, not even a vague shape. That hasn’t persuaded those at the séance to change their story.
VA: I’m convinced the Hall is haunted. What haunts it I don’t know.
AWS: So much happened in that one night, it was unreal. It was definitely haunted.
MA: Ghost hunters fully book up Chingle Hall for months in advance. I admit, once I saw something in the hotel that made me scream. It was the bill.