There doesn’t seem to be a month go by without news of a haunted pub hitting the headlines.
The latest is The Lansdowne Pub in Cardiff. Back in the summer, manager Hayley Budd was scrolling through her phone during a break when the chair opposite her seemingly tucked itself under the table.
You can see her genuine look of surprise on CCTV footage of the eerie event, she even checks beneath the table, and has since tried to come up with a logical explanation to no avail.
Of course, the footage went viral raising all sorts of questions, one being ‘why are pubs so popular with ghosts?’
Is it because they’re often so old and atmospheric, or that people are typically more susceptible to illusory events after a tipple or two, or that it’s simply great for marketing purposes? Perhaps that’s all too cynical.
“Most people will experience at least one paranormal incident in their lives. If you have experienced something, I’d say be objective and open minded about it, don’t dismiss it. It’s something profound and unknown that we’re still trying to figure out,” says Steve Mera, a Manchester-based expert on all things paranormal.
“I started in the subject as a sceptic, and it was a few years before I witnessed something that changed my opinion, so I don’t mind people being sceptical, especially as so many hoaxes go on. But just because you haven’t experienced something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist,” he says.
After almost 40 years researching paranormal phenomena, he’s not surprised by The Lansdowne footage.
“I get plenty of them sent to me on a regular basis and have investigated a number of them. People think pubs are hotspots [for paranormal activity], but that’s because they tend to get reported. Normal residential homes have as many disturbances.
“I’ve done countless investigations with city councils regarding homes where there has been reported activity, but they don’t tend to get as much media interest or coverage,” says Mera, and that’s usually because there’s no spinetingling CCTV footage for people to pour over.
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“Pubs, as well as office buildings, castles, hotels, inns and stately homes tend to get a lot of interest, because they’re public areas and monitored, so there’s more chance of capturing something unusual on CCTV, and then those things tend to get sensationalised over the internet,” notes Mera who reveals he’s always suspicious when it comes to CCTV.
“The footage is interesting and might back up other claims, so you can’t dismiss them immediately, but some can be a little bit hoaxy. We’ve had a few in the past, and they’re usually poor quality. It’s very difficult to determine something just from CCTV footage, so I really do rely on witness statements.”
Of all the places he’s investigated over the years, Ye Olde Man & Scythe in Bolton town centre is one of the most perplexing.
“It’s an extremely old pub and certainly has paranormal activity there. I’ve witnessed phenomena there myself, and the disturbances are very evidential. We had communication with something that wasn’t there, and there was unusual movement,” reveals Mera.
“There’s supposed to be a man with depression who hanged himself, and we actually caught something very odd on the CCTV camera, a bit of a hooded figure. We didn’t know what it was, but everyone who works there has stories to tell about their experiences.”
They also recorded a man saying heart attack who might be one of the pub’s previous patrons.
“The disturbances are often associated with a man who’d passed away having had a heart attack. He was a regular, an old guy who even had his own chair in the place. The idea is people imprint onto a location because they’re there on a regular basis, and if there are going to be hauntings, it’s going be something of a regularity rather than something that’s few and far between.”
Mera explains that imprinting is a phenomenon that captures events, typically in places where there has been heightened emotion, that then get imprinted into the environment and are played back.
“People see them and go, ‘Oh my goodness, it’s haunted’, when in fact it could be an event replaying itself from time to time that people experience, like a recorded event being played back.”
It might be something you see, smell, sense or hear, unlike the chair supposedly moving at The Lansdowne pub, which could be referred to as ‘localised phenomenon’.
“It’s an interactive haunting, but what’s interesting is when you get a number of people seeing the same type of action,” says Mera who reminds us to be open-minded on our next visit to the pub.
“Most public houses have got some story to tell usually, or strange disturbances. Enjoy the atmosphere, do a bit of history on the place and the stories behind it, and talk to people who work there.
“And be aware of yourself and your surroundings. We have a natural survival sense that kicks in, makes our skin tingle and the hairs rise on the back of our neck. Just because we can’t see something doesn’t mean it’s not there.”