Will Storr Vs. the Supernatural

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  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2006-01-01
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publications
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Will Storr has done some seriously bizarre and otherworldly things over the course of his career as a journalist. But even spending an entire day with Ozzy Osbourne wasn't as frightening as when he agreed to follow Philadelphia "demonologist" Lou Gentile on his appointed rounds. Will Storr never believed in ghosts-but his healthy skepticism couldn't explain the strange lights and sounds he witnessed, and the weird behavior of the occupants of several allegedly haunted houses. What resulted is a confirmed cynic's (and proud of it!) dedicated search for answers in a shadowy world of seances, mediums, devil worshippers-even the Vatican's chief exorcist. So get ready to confront the genuinely creepy along with the hilariously ridiculous in Will Storr vs. the Supernatural!

Table of Contents

Prologue 'It puts a scar on your brain' 1(136)
1 Are you Sir Thomas Sackville?'
2 'It's not all coming from the trees'
3 'Strange patterns'
4 'Come back, Rain-On-Face'
5 'Distrust the mystic'
6 'Making things fit'
7 All I ask is that you put your life in my hands'
8 'Turn the light off, bitch'
9 'I was very upset at what I saw'
10 'Open your eyes' 137(11)
11 'I promise you, you'll scare yourself' 148(14)
12 'They'll build it up and bugger off home' 162(18)
13 We've got strangers in the house' 180(6)
14 'They called me Ghost Girl' 186(14)
15 'That's Annie's room' 200(13)
16 'And when they die, they'll get a big surprise' 213(13)
17 'Some really weird things' 226(13)
18 'Kangaroo!' 239(11)
19 'I talk to the devil every day' 250(13)
20 'I am the ghost' 263(21)
21 'And that's God?' 284(26)
Epilogue 310(2)
10 Most Haunted Places in America 312(10)
Acknowledgements 322


Will Storr vs. The Supernatural
One Man's Search for the Truth About Ghosts

Chapter One

'Are you Sir Thomas Sackville?'

He's a man's man, is Christopher Tuckett. Rosy-cheeked and countryside-fit, rugged-faced and handsome. The 34-year-old assistant property manager (events) of Michelham Priory is all thick-cord trousers, rolled-up shirt-sleeves and shooting the shit out of pheasants. That's what the (events) part of his job title means, by the way – countryside pursuits. He adores them. And they're his job. So, you believe him when he says, 'I'm not the type who's easily fobbed when it comes to spooks and whatnot.' (I believe him, anyway: I've seen a framed photograph in the lobby of him with a peregrine falcon perched on his arm. He's giving it a steely look.)

'I was a right cynic,' Christopher continues, leaning back on a thick stone ledge. 'I didn't believe in ghosts. Still don't. I'll argue the toss about anything.'

'What,' I say, 'even when you've got a tornado in your bedroom?'

But the rest of the Ghost Club don't laugh. They just stand there and blink back at him.

It would, perhaps, have been better for me if the Ghost Club had turned out to be a support group, the sort that sits in circles in meeting halls, a cuddly community of crumpled victims who wear name badges, have tearful, confessional moments and a twelve-step rationality-recovery programme. Unfortunately, however, they're not. They're unashamed and unreconstructed Ghostaholics. And I am their newest member.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided that my only option is to confront my fears, to charge bravely, head first, onwards towards the answers. So, I tracked down the Ghost Club's website, printed off an application form, filled it in and popped it in the post.

Barely two weeks later, I am here in Michelham, East Sussex on my first investigation. The thirteenth-century priory looms in misty, silent grounds, surrounded by a still-treacherous moat. Its high sloping roof, tough Tudor chimneys and thin, suspicious windows give the building the air of a defensive, growling animal. It doesn't want you anywhere near it.

We're standing in the undercroft, the priory's large, square, stone-walled entrance room. It has a low roof of curved arches that honeycomb across the ceiling and gather together into a large column that comes down into the middle of the room. It's 5:17 A.M.

'Well,' says Christopher, rubbing his chin, as if he's being made to consider the tornado incident properly for the first time. 'Actually, I would say it was more like a mini-tornado. Me and my wife used to hear it in the kitchen. Then it would come down the corridor and into the bedroom. It would be there for a good . . . two or three minutes?'

'And it would . . . what?' I ask. 'Blow stuff around?'

'Mmm, yeah,' he says, nodding with his hand still cradling his jaw. 'The curtains would be flat on the ceiling. Then you'd hear it go back up the corridor and into the kitchen.' He ponders the mini-tornado for a few more moments before muttering, 'That would wake you up.'

In the corner of the undercroft, a life-size waxwork model of an Augustinian canon gazes at us piously from beneath a dark cloth hood.

Christopher has permitted the Ghost Club to investigate the property that he's allowed to live in as an employee of Sussex Past, the site's owner. He's come down to lock up behind us.

'My wife left about a year ago,' he says, folding his beefy, bramble-grazed forearms. 'She couldn't handle it here. I had to make a choice between my marriage and my job. And the job's quite good.'

The worst time for Christopher, he confides, was when he first moved in. He wasn't allowed to live with Sue until they were married, so he had to spend two weeks living here alone.

'The flat upstairs is quite huge,' he says, 'big rooms. And there was no furniture up there except one circular table and a bureau in the kitchen, which we decided to move into the sitting room. I remember waking up at three in the morning and you could hear this thing moving across the floor, as clear as you like. And you knew what it was straight away. It was the bureau, on these small brass caster wheels. I remember thinking, oh dear. Well, this noise seemed like it went on for ever. But it stopped and, well, eventually curiosity gets the better of you. I went into the sitting room and turned the light on. The bureau had been pushed up against the corner and it looked like it had only come out that far,' he says, measuring about a yard with his hands, 'but when you looked at the floor, there was this huge figure of eight scratch. It had scored all the polish from the floor, where one of the wheels had seized up.'

'Christ,' I say, involuntarily.

'Now, I have to admit I do sometimes find it a little difficult to relax. Some nights it's busier than others. You always know when it's going to kick off. You know when you go into a pub and everyone stops and looks at you? That's the feeling. Sometimes I'll walk in, get a chill down my spine and I'll go flat out up the stairs. But I just think, psychologically, that's me snowballing in my mind.'

I know what he means. I've done a bit of psychological snowballing in my own mind over the last few hours.

It started in the gatehouse, a centuries-old castle-like tower that guards the entrance to the priory over the moat. I was with a senior member of the Ghost Club called Lance, and a couple in their early twenties called Natalie and Dane. I'd gravitated towards Lance early on because he looked like a man who knew what he was talking about. Male-pattern-bald and dressed down in a black T-shirt with studious wire-rimmed glasses and a cautious and precise way with words, Lance . . .

Will Storr vs. The Supernatural
One Man's Search for the Truth About Ghosts
. Copyright © by Will Storr. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Excerpted from Will Storr vs. the Supernatural: One Man's Search for the Truth about Ghosts by Will Storr
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