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Meet the man who delves into Swindon’s spirit world
A SWINDON ghost walk to tie in with The Woman in Black was cancelled – so the organiser took the Adver on one instead.
The town may not be able to muster a spectre quite as frightening as the vengeful spirit currenty portrayed on the Wyvern Theatre’s stage, but we have our share of spookiness.
It ranges from hauntings in the theatre itself to flitting black figures in a car park, and from a dead soldier in the bowels of the Town Hall to a ghostly little boy in a pub that once stood on the site of the Brunel Centre.
By day Dave is a political campaign officer and LibDem councillor for the Eastcott ward, but in his spare time he’s a director of Paranormal Site Investigations (PSI), a group which probes alleged supernatural phenomena. Dave himself is an avowed sceptic, believing all such phenomena have rational explanations, but PSI has gathered countless accounts of hauntings.
The town centre ghost walk – the first of its kind – had been planned for Saturday and organised in conjunction with local theatre group TS Theatre Productions, but was cancelled due to what Wyvern bosses described as unforeseen circumstances.
“A lot of phenomena tend toward particular types of buildings,” said Dave. “Our research suggests that these types of buildings, regardless of the area they’re in, have high concentrations.
“I’ve never come across a theatre that didn’t have at least one ghost, perhaps because of the superstition of actors. At the Wyvern people would complain of the goods lift activating by itself. There was a report from the bar of a glass flying from a shelf for no reason.
“Running footsteps have been heard in the admin area and we’ve never come across a reason for them. A former theatre manager said he was sitting quietly in the auditorium and saw black figures moving around the stage, although he was nodding off and that might have been a factor.”
A stone’s throw from the theatre is the former ABC and Cannon cinema where Dave saw Ghostbusters as a child and became interested in supernatural phenomena, and which is now the Savoy pub. The building was said to be haunted by the unquiet spirit of a projectionist called George, whose mischief included creeping up behind at least one staff member.
Dave said: “An employee of the cinema was sitting in the auditorium. She turned around and a man was standing behind her seat. They looked at each other for a few seconds and she ran off, and when she came back he was nowhere to be seen.”
Nearby is the Town Hall, and Dave discovered an account of a ghost in a book dated 1885. “It was just a brief report about a set of steps under the building and the ghost of a soldier who used to hang around there.”
Another Victorian ghost was supposedly that of a lonely little boy who was seen at the New Inn pub, which stood on part of the site now occupied by the Brunel Centre.
Not even the sterile strip-lit environment of the Spring Gardens car park is free of phenomena.
Dave said: “Some people who worked for the council or the Job Centre reported being bumped into by people walking fast and too close to them, but on turning round nobody was to be seen anywhere. There were also reports of dark figures on several floors, just flitting about.”