PARANORMAL investigators and ghost hunters have marked Sussex as one of the most haunted counties in the country. For Halloween, HENRY HOLLOWAY reports on spooky Sussex.

TONIGHT is the night for ghosts, ghouls and goblins and the county is full of terrifying tales of spectres and spooks, with every town having its own ghostly history and list of legends.

Paranormal experts have marked Sussex as one of the country’s hotspots for ghosts, apparitions and paranormal activity.

One study carried out by the Rev Lionel Fanthorpe, president of The Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena, found that Sussex has seen 417 reports of the unexplained, including eight reports of vampires.

In the study by Mr Fanthorpe, pictured below, Sussex was only behind Yorkshire, London, Lancashire and Essex in unexplained visitations.

The figures were compiled from historical archives, police reports, eye witness accounts and paranormal investigation reports.

There are many groups probing the paranormal all over the county.

One is Sussex Paranormal Investigators (SPI) which has been carrying out research into hauntings since 2008.

The group was set up by former police special constable Johan Jansen, from Hove, who has always had a interest in the paranormal.

He said while he identifies himself as a sceptic he holds the mantra ‘once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth’. This saying was made famous by Arthur Conan Doyle’s detective Sherlock Holmes.

The SPI carry out investigations at some of Sussex’s reportedly most haunted locations including Bramber and Pevensey castles, Clapham Woods and Jack Upperton’s Gibbet in East Grinstead.

Mr Jansen said Sussex’s history contributes to its reputation as a hotspot for hauntings.

He said: “Sussex itself is a very old part of the country. Its history dates back to Roman times, if not older, and this all adds the mystique.

“It is atmospheric and I would compare it to the West Country.

"What happens is that newer buildings are often being built on older grounds.

“We are encroaching on historic sites and in Brighton that is evident, especially in places like Brighton Police Museum.

“The city lends itself to ghost stories. Long ago when the land was used by smugglers they would tell stories to frighten people away.”

Mr Jansen carried out his first investigation in 2006 before he formed the SPI and said he has experienced unexplained activity on his paranormal stakeouts.

He said: “I just got hooked and I wanted to do more and more. It almost became an obsession.

“One experience was when we hired Wilmington Priory. I stayed the first night by myself and I had visitations, knocks on the door, and rattles. It was a very uncomfortable night’s sleep."

“Unfortunately as with anything, with some investigations we come back with very little despite our efforts. That is the nature of things.

“I am the group sceptic but it is important to have an open mind.” He added that he considers ghosts could be another plain of existence.

Mr Jansen says the group has captured ghosts on camera.

One such instance was in Pevensey Castle in 2006. The photo above shows an orange phenomenon which Mr Jansen said could not have been explained by other light sources in the area that night. Another instance was in Clapham Woods in November 2008 in which a photo captured a hooded figure standing behind SPI member Tammy Stevenson. This strange figure is seen in the circular box, left.

- See The Guide for a round-up of all Sussex’s halloween events


Brighton Lanes

ONE of Sussex’s most popular places for paranormal phenomena is the Brighton Lanes which is now a venue for spooky ghost walks for tourists.

Rob Marks, pictured, who runs and acts as tour guide for the Ghost Walk of the Lanes, said he thinks there is ‘probably not a street or lane that doesn’t have some story’.

He said people have reported ghostly apparitions they have seen such as that of a nun and a small child.

The Argus:

Mr Marks said: “A number of people say the Friends Meeting House is meant to be haunted by the apparition of a nun who is said to disappear through a bricked up doorway.

“A gentleman contacted me recently and said he has had several paranormal experiences in his life and as he was passing by the rear door of the meeting house he saw her. He did a double take and she had gone.”

Another story he has been told is about the ghost of a child in Meeting House Lane.

He said many people in Brighton do not know that near the meeting house there are approximately 40 unmarked graves which could contribute to the hauntings of the area.

Mr Marks used to run ghost tours in York, which is reported to be Europe’s ghost capital.

He said that when he moved to Brighton he discovered that there were ‘perhaps even more hauntings down here’.

He said: “It is certainly one of the most haunted places on the south coast.”


Spirits won't rest

THERE are plenty of other supposedly haunted locations across the county.

The Rev Fanthorpe, who worked on the study which detailed Sussex’s prolific hauntings, details many.

The Argus:

He said there are stories of a large white dog, reportedly the size of a small horse, following lonely walkers for short distances along Brighton beach before disappearing.

In The Cricketers pub in Black Lion Street, Brighton, there are frequent reports of poltergeist activity such as bottles and glasses falling from shelves, doors slamming and footsteps.

A one-time manager reported seeing a pale figure wearing a long black cloak in the pub.

In a wooded area north of the Darwell Reservoir in Robertsbridge there are reports of the manifestation of a murder victim in their mid 20s haunting the area.

The ghostly sound of smugglers and footsteps is also said to be heard in The Old Vicarage in Sudley Road, Bognor Regis.


Preston Manor

ANOTHER of Brighton's most haunted locations is Preston Manor, a house with a reputation for poltergeists and with a history of séances. The manor has over a hundred years of ghost stories with the original owners the Standford family being troubled by the spirit of a lady in white who climbed the stairs before disappearing.

Living TV's popular ghost show Most Haunted also carried out an investigation at the manor and received one of their most eventful nights.

The Argus:

In 1896 the Standford Family held a séance in the Cleves Room of the house and the medium received messages from a nun called Sister Agnes who claimed to have been wrongly excommunicated from the church.

A year later 400-year-old bones were discovered under the terrace outside the dining room.

Mary Craggs, ghost tour leader at the manor, said: "I am not even a person who is totally gung-ho in believing it, but even people like me have heard and smelt stuff.

"We have children who do Victorian role-play and when they left they said they could smell bacon, there is nowhere it could have come from but it is often smelt here.

"There are certain things people say they have seen. I have definitely heard kids laughing, when there have been none in the house, and a dog barking.”


What is a ghost?

WITH Sussex being full of ghosts there are many who specialise in researching them.

The Rev Fanthorpe, who worked on the study which detailed Sussex’s prolific hauntings, outlined numerous theories about them.

He said ‘the heart of the mystery’ is understanding why certain areas like the county become hotspots of hauntings.


He said there are five explanations for paranormal events. He said: “Some researchers are looking into the idea that we can think of human thought and emotion as a form of energy.

“When I am making a recording that is the transfer of energy in an electromagnetic form. So what if there were natural recording devices in the subsoil and geology or in the structure of the stone or ancient ruin which has taken a burst of emotional energy? “This may be what happens when you get a haunting seen over and over again like a phantom army marching across a battlefield.

“These men would have been in great fear and that emotion may well have been recorded on the fabric of the environment.”

Another theory is that time could be subject to glitches and ghost apparitions may be glimpses into past events.

He said: “If we think of time like a ball of wool and when they are in juxtaposition we may see something from the past. That is an unexpected interaction between time now and time then.”

The third theory is the idea of parallel universes created by the differences in decisions and events, each creating a chain of cause and effect. The fourth type of ghosts who Rev Fanthorpe described were ‘traditional Shakespearean or Dickensian’ – spirits who once occupied human bodies and who appear with a purpose.

The fifth category links poltergeists to adolescent teens who cannot control their emotional energy as they reach adulthood.


Traditional costumes

WHILE Halloween is a time to look back on the paranormal it is also a time for parties and most importantly costumes.

Last year there was a boom in the popularity of Halloween costumes based on American television show Breaking Bad and this year costume shops are reporting people are taking inspiration from another show The Walking Dead.

Costume shops are reporting the popularity of zombie costumes this year is increasing.

Julie Funnel, a member of staff at Rococo, in Gardner Street, Brighton, said people are also looking more at making their own costumes this year.

She said people are purchasing make-up and the popularity of zombies is being driven by the increasing popularity of The Walking Dead. Dragon, supervisor at Revamp Fancy Dress, in Sydney Street, Brighton, said while zombies are looking popular there is also an increase in the popularity of werewolves.

He said: “The thing is every year there are different things that take precedence. Weirdly, Donnie Darko Frank costumes are popular.

“Werewolves are looking up this year. I honestly couldn’t say why, zombies are also kicking off.

“Zombies are always popular and people might also be getting them as Beach of the Dead is back this year.”