The Problem With Britain’s “Most Haunted House”

I’ve had a Fortean Times subscription for a number of years because I largely find the features interesting, but I’ve found myself becoming more and more frustrated at certain features in the last year or so when certain ghost stories are given uncritical promotion, or when the author fails to remain unbiased. In FT327 The Cage in St Osyth, Essex is given a four page spread and is dubbed as “The Most Haunted House In Britain”. The piece, written by John Fraser, provides a nice introduction to the location and it’s fascinating history of imprisoned witches and some of the spooky activity people claim to have witnessed, but he makes a glaring error.

Fraser writes ‘I received an email from Vanessa Mitchell asking for advice. Her tenants were leaving the cottage and she was reluctant to rent it out again believing that the levels of apparent paranormal activity made it unfair on any prospective new inhabitants … we were surprised when she asked if it was feasible to rent out the house to paranormal research groups.’

Fraser then sings the praises of this decision because of the amount of research this allowed to happen at the haunted cottage. But wait a minute… if this was such a successful move and there has been so much research why haven’t we seen the huge amounts of data and what it means?

That’s because it isn’t actually research that is happening at The Cage, it’s overnight ghost hunts where groups pay a large amount of money for the privilege of up to one day in the building. There is no consistency to these so-called investigations as each team use different methods, and the evidence often presented is psuedo-scientific in nature – EVP recordings, medium testimony, EM fluctuations and similar.

It counts for nothing.

You can’t conduct an investigation in one day as there are so many data variables that you have to try and account for before you even begin to investigate allegedly anomalous phenomena. How can you study the mean temperature of a location in just one day? How can you account for regular electro-magnetic fluctuations in a building in just one day? How can you map out the normal movements of the building in just one day?

You can’t. And these limitations work in favour of the person renting out a haunted building because it guarantees that the ghost hunters will have odd experiences because they have a lack of data to work with, and this keeps the legend alive…

…except when it doesn’t.

When I previously wrote about some of the dodgy evidence presented on the Facebook page of The Cage as proof that it was haunted many ghost hunters left comments about how disappointing the location was:

I can assure you that the cage is most defiantly not that haunted. There might be a ghost knocking around but when our team went we got NOTHING. And we usually go away from a location with some sort of evidence to suggest that there may be a haunting.

She took me around for about 20 minutes before the investigation, telling me about everything that happened, and this made me suspicious because locations don’t usually do that.

I was recently with a team at this property and to be honest, my garden shed is more haunted.

…didn’t feel in the least bit ‘spooked’ and actually found the place had a comfortable atmosphere if you shut your ears to those trying to freak you out…

I am somewhat unconvinced about the claims that have been made.

Now, many of these people will have used bad methodologies which resulted in their disappointment but I was still interested in the feedback of their time at the location. More interesting though was a comment left by previous owners of the cottage.

Jenny Arlott said ‘I find the claims of The Cage being haunted rather amusing. My mum owned the cage before Vanessa and we found it to be a beautiful, quirky but cosy cottage and had some great times there. The history of the house is so interesting so I can understand wanting to capitalise on this, but it certainly isn’t haunted.’

This throws up interesting questions that any investigator should seriously consider, like ‘if previous tenants didn’t experience this activity but current tenants do then what causes that?’ and ‘could the cause be the person and not the location?’ and ‘should I even be getting involved, is it ethical of me to do so?’ but nobody has asked this and so this supposed legend has been allowed to continue.

The only way in which anybody will find answers about what is going on at The Cage is if a group of decent investigators are allowed unlimited access over a number of months (at least) with no charge being made but, excuse my skepticism, I don’t think that will ever happen. Ghost hunting business is good and it’s about to become better thanks to a four page spread in the Fortean Times.

About Hayley Stevens 423 Articles
Hayley is a ghost geek and started to blog in 2007. She uses scientific scepticism to investigate weird stuff and writes about it here while also speaking publicly about how to hunt ghosts as a skeptic.

1 Comment on The Problem With Britain’s “Most Haunted House”

  1. Nice post.

    > the evidence often presented is pseudo-scientific in nature

    Remote viewing haunted houses — that would be hilarious. That’s the least scientific investigation I can imagine, but no doubt it’s been done.

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