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The Paranormal World

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First Hand Account of  Nigel Summerley reporter for the Times newspaper after his visit to Craig Y Nos Castle

Published in the Sunday Times 28/10/2012.... original story can be found >>HERE<<

As dusk approached, I walked up the hill to Craig-y-Nos Castle and gazed at the horses in the nearby meadow. “Lucky beasts,” I muttered.

They would spend the night in the open with nothing to trouble them. I, however, had agreed to spend it cooped up in the castle, on its two derelict upper floors, said to be among the most ghost-ridden spots in Britain.

Such nights are optional extras for guests at Craig-y-Nos, in Powys, one of the weirdest hotels in Britain. It was home to Adelina Patti, a 19th-century operatic diva and the Madonna of her day. She bought the Bavarian-inspired mansion, then added turrets and tower to turn it into a castle.

After her death in 1919, the castle became a hospital for TB patients, and later a hospice. In 2000, the current owner, Martin Gover, bought the ramshackle pile and started to renovate it. He had taken on a remarkable country residence — where lots of people had died.

Richard Felix, a ghost historian, declared it the scariest place he’d ever stayed in Although the hotel makes its money from weddings and B&B, it has found another source of income — those interested in the paranormal, particularly since Richard Felix, a ghost historian, declared it the scariest place he’d ever stayed in. Steve Graham, an investigator of the paranormal, leads ghost tours of Craig-y-Nos, and will stay all night with those brave (or crazy) enough to spend the dark hours in the haunted and yet-to-be restored areas.

He and I entered just before dusk, and we were soon ascending the staircase where Patti’s spirit is said to lurk. Steve is a normal looking, refreshingly cynical bloke, but his wide eyes suggested he had seen strange things. Exactly how strange, I was to find out.

I had thought that the point of staying in the haunted area was to see whether you dared to sleep there. But no. “We don’t sleep,” Steve said. “We might miss something.” He had a torch, sandwiches and crisps, and was ready for an all-night vigil. “You are up for it?” he asked. “Of course,” I mumbled.

I had my torch, too, plus two extra sweaters, a hat, gloves and a sound recorder. There was no heating in this draughty, dismal labyrinth of rooms and corridors; as the night progressed, so did the chill.

Much of the time, we were on the move. Everywhere there were rooms in a parlous condition, including what was once the diva’s boudoir. As we sat in one forsaken bedroom in silence and deepening gloom, Steve told me to listen. I could hear nothing. “Footsteps,” he said. He was having a laugh, I thought. A few minutes later, I could hear them: padding footfall, regular, coming closer, then going away again.

Later, as we sat in cramped blackness in the low-ceilinged storage room where Patti’s corpse had been embalmed, I heard footsteps again, softer now, but just as regular, and coming and going. What was to come would be far more disturbing.

We had made our base in the wreck of one of Patti’s grand staterooms (later used as a children’s TB ward), surrounded by remnants of furniture, tatty curtains and peeling paint. Towards midnight, Steve said it was a fallacy that this was the witching hour. “It’s really 3am,” he said. “That’s when things happen. That’s when people die.”

Despite being in a big, creepy room where children had breathed their last, and which was illuminated only by two little flickering screens relaying Images from Steve’s cameras in the haunted ­areas, I started to relax. It seemed appropriate to tell an anecdote about seances, but, just as I reached out to show how I had once, decades ago, touched a glass on a Ouija board, there came from the dark corridor beyond the doorless doorway a terrifying sound. 

It was a voice. No doubt about it. But the six or seven syllables it uttered were indecipherable, distorted crackles. My gut feeling was that it was anguished, admonishing — and not welcoming. I froze, hand outstretched. I looked at Steve. His eyes were now even wider. Neither of us could move.

“Did you hear that?” we both said sim­ultaneously, and nodded.

I belatedly switched on my recorder in the hope of hearing the sound again, but all I captured on tape was Steve saying a tremulous “Hello” into the corridor, followed by the two of us discussing what had happened, nervously.

We didn’t venture into the corridor for some time. When we did, we shone our torches all along it and around the rooms off it. Nothing. At this point, I would have been happy to say job done. But we had another six cold, dark hours to go.

Whatever it was we’d heard — and I don’t believe it was a trick of the mind or a stunt — now hung over us. We passed the time speculating about that voice, and Steve shared some of his previous eerie encounters here: lots of those footsteps, plus the sound of children running and laughing, and the time he found a small boy crying in the cellar and went to comfort him... only for the boy to disappear.

Amazingly, I managed to get an hour or so of sleep on an old sofa, with the recorder still on, held tightly in my hand. But things stayed quiet until 6am, and dawn.

Before I left, I asked Gover if he had ever encountered ghosts. He said: “Once, I was showing a group the haunted area, and as we went up the staircase, I said, ‘If my dog stops on the stairs, don’t go any further.’ I just made it up, for fun. Then my dog, Jack, stopped halfway and started growling — something he’s never done before or since.If there is anything ghostly here, I think  it’s got a sense of humour!” 

Craig-yNos Castle (01639 730725, craigynoscastle.com) has doubles from £123, B&B and mains from £10. A ghost-tour package (minimum 10 people), with the option to spend the night in the derelict areas, costs £99pp, full-board. For a tailor-made visit, contact Steve Graham (0843 289 2699,theparanormalworld.com)