Monday, 30 June 2014

Fashion Victims?

From the Daily Mirror 27/6/14 comes a story of the alleged haunting of a New Look store in Sidmouth, Devon.

















"Terrified staff have called in a medium over fears their shop is haunted by a gran who hates skimpy outfits.
Seven workers at fashion store New Look heard mystery bangs, footsteps and whisperings."
The article continues:
"Spiritual medium Linda Helliker poured cleansing salt on the floor and tried to communicate with a prudish widow named Gladys.The strange happenings began when staff in Sidmouth, Devon, entered an unused storeroom.They discovered it used to be Gladys’ bedroom when the building was a hotel three decades ago."

The information that the building used to be a hotel is quite useful, the rest seems to be nothing but speculation. Did the staff "discover" that this room was Gladys' or was that simply ad-hoc invention on their part? I suspect that the staff may of named Gladys themselves. I've worked in allegedly haunted buildings myself and you tend to find the stories surrounding the "ghost" develop over time courtesy of the staff. This includes the parochial naming of the "ghost". If this information has come from elsewhere, we are never told its source, and of course, its still speculative. Even if there was a "Gladys" who lived at that location, why assume that this is the source of these occurrences? 



So we know that the building used to be a hotel, how is this useful to us? 

Well, quite often reports of anomalous noises, such as footsteps, originate not in the building in question, but from an adjoining building. This is especially relevant in terraced housing/buildings where staircases are often placed on opposite sides of the same wall. This can result in the sound of a person climbing the stairs in building A, sounding like a person climbing the stairs in building B. If there is no one who could be on the stairs at that time in building B, this can be misinterpreted as a ghost.

Indeed we are told that footsteps on the stairs are a reported phenomena here:

"“When we’ve been in the stockroom we’ve heard footsteps coming down the stairs." 
This may be particularly relevant in this case. Remember we are told that the store was previously a hotel, but a quick at the store front on Google street view strongly indicates that the neighbouring store (right of screen) was also originally part of the hotel. You can see this in the continuity of the architecture such as the roof height, window style/height and brick work. This isn't a continuity that runs through the buildings on the rest of the street.





Hazarding a guess I would say that the mystery footsteps are originating from the store next door, which was originally part of the hotel, and where the division may not be masonry that is not as heavy duty as between the neighbours on the other side. It may even be possible that the two stores share the hotel's original stairwell. Many of the other unaccounted for noises may be caused by the moving of stock, and as these are both clothing stores, clothing rails.

Another possible culprit for these unidentified noises could be the stores air-conditioning. Most shops have air conditioning systems, which can emanate all kinds of weird noises. Rapping and banging being quite common. Often these noises travel along the system. Like central heating systems in houses, I'd say air conditioning systems are responsible for a great deal of mis-attributed hauntings in shops and offices.

As for some of the other experiences, the explanation for this may well be down to suggestibility and the more nervous members of staff  almost being primed by these ghost stories, resulting in a perceived encounter of their own.

"“One girl heard a whispering in her ear and she got so scared she ran into a table. Another of my girls felt someone breathing on their neck...""
Under conditions of fear and stress our senses are heightened as a result of the release of adrenaline, commonly known as the flight or fight response. This can result in a mere breeze that would normally go unnoticed, feeling like breath, or even a light touch. Likewise normal background noises are heard and imagined to be much louder than they actually are, therefore misinterpreted as supernatural in origin.

The haunting seemed to cease after a local medium, whose son happens to work in the store, was called in. Again, this seems purely psychological. The staff expected the actions of this medium to work and they did, not surprising as many of the factors of the haunting may well of been due to the staff's state of mind anyway. This is similar to exorcism rituals having success and the victim's (yep, I said victim) "recovery" being due to the fact that they expect the ritual to work.


Sorry guys, I think your story is pure window dressing.