DESPITE the beautiful ambience, spirits of the past can still be felt at Woodchester Mansion.
That’s according to staff, who say spooky happenings are so frequent that you wouldn’t expect anything different.
As site services manager, Max Raven lives with his fiancé and their dog on site, and he is nonchalant when discussing the strange occurrences, which take place most evenings. “One of the most common things you’ll have when the place is locked up, is that you’ll hear a conversation in another room, and you can kind of hear the mumbling of other people’s words, but you can’t quite make out the conversation,” he said.
“We have had ghost hunters here that have experienced body apparitions, both here and in the chapel and in the kitchen.”
The mansion was purchased in 1845 by William Leigh. Despite building work taking place, it was never completed, and the workmen abandoned the project. Work did commence again in the 1850s but was, again, mysteriously abandoned. I am told by Liz Davenport, the building’s archivist and a trustee, about one of the most famous incidents.
“In the run up to D-Day in April and May of 1944, there were a lot of American serviceman who came to the mansion. One of the things they were training to do was to build bridges, because when they got into Europe they needed to get across these rivers.
“They did a week’s training here but during one of the exercises a bridge collapsed and the men drowned.
“We do have people from paranormal groups who come and spend five or six hours here. They have photographs of orbs and film that shows mysterious lights. They also once had a photograph of what they thought was an American serviceman’s face.”
Max reveals that electronic voice phenomenon techniques have been used as a way of connecting with the soldiers.
“We’ve done something where you would leave your phone recording in a room where there is no other sound and you’ll come back and play it and you’ll find there are voices and things moving around which shouldn’t be there. We’ve asked ‘is there anyone there?’ or ‘are you one of the soldiers that drowned in the lake?’, and then you’ll play the audio back and sometimes you’ll find voices in return.”
They also had volunteers who were running children’s activities one summer, which resulted in a chilling tale. “At first they couldn’t find one of the girls in the group,” said Liz. “So, they went down to the cellar looking and they both thought they saw her go in one of the rooms, and when they went and looked properly, she wasn’t there.”
But Max doesn’t let the experiences unsettle him at all, and he says the mansion’s energy can change depending on what is happening at the time. “If we have a long period where repairs are taking place which is essentially caring for the building, which is kind of in line with the people that built it, or something religious, then the energy will be much more happy or calm,” he said. “But if we’ve had a raucous party, such as a Halloween party where people have gotten really drunk and dressed up, then the energy after can be quite unpleasant, because the person that built this would want it to be quite a sacred place.”
As I walked through the chapel I was on high alert after hearing that a former trustee heard a sinister laugh behind her only to find no one there. Fortunately I avoided a similar experience in the mansion.