London is jam-packed full of people who make a unique contribution to our city. This week we talk to Ian Shillito, organiser of London Paranormal…
‘I used to be a bit of a goth in the ’80s,’ smiles Ian Shillito, 44. ‘All that death and horror: rock ’n’ roll, isn’t it?’ Apparently so, judging by the crowd of attendees at one of his Ghost Watch events (where he organises night visits to supposedly haunted venues). Amongst the crowd of 30, ages and genders vary, but about half the attendees are sporting black. This isn’t surprising, given that it’s taking place in Islington Metalworks: a former coaching house turned nightclub, best known for hosting ‘industrial power-noise’ event Slimelight.
‘Who hasn’t been on a ghost investigation before?’ asks Shillito by way of introduction. About a quarter of the room put their hands up. Shillito goes on to explain that after a year of being a ‘psychic ghost hunter’ on Living TV’s documentary series,‘Most Haunted’, he set this company up in 2007 to help people experience the paranormal.
High ceilings and old stonework surround us as Shillito shines a torch through the draughty gloom and picks out a large pair of double doors. ‘I’ve seen them fly wide open when we’ve tried this before,’ he grins. EMF (electromagnetic frequency) meters are produced: ‘The theory is that ghosts can manipulate electronic energy in the air,’ says Shillito. Some of the group don headphones that amplify background noise. Shillito urges any spirits to ‘please make a knock.’ A couple of people giggle nervously. Nothing. ‘Did you die here?’ he tries. Again nothing.
After half an hour, there’s a change of tactics, and individuals are left to investigate the room on their own. Some report noises. Others report no activity. All are unnerved. ‘I never guarantee that we’re going to see anything,’ explains Shillito. ‘The thing about paranormal activity is that it’s incredibly, incredibly rare.’ A quick break for tea, then it’s on to a second room. One attendee wanders around taking photographs. There’s a bright flash, and she flicks her camera to display mode.
‘Ooh, look! Orbs!’ she cries. Her photograph of an empty corner of the room is speckled with a pattern of illuminated circles; apparently the manifestation of ‘spirit energy’. Couldn’t these simply be dust particles reflecting the camera flash? ‘Well, it’s about what you believe,’ she offers. Shillito starts urging spirits to make their presence known. Twenty seconds elapse before an eerie creaking fills the room. ‘Sorry! I stood on a floorboard!’, offers a participant. The experiment is repeated. Silence. ‘Did anyone hear that?’ shouts one attendee. ‘I did!’, yells another.
‘There’s a real community side to this,’ says Shillito, ‘But most who come want an experience.’ And what about Shillito? How did he learn to do this? ‘There’s no course. You just try doing it.’ Alexi Duggins
For info, see londonparanormal.com.