It’s midnight and I’m in an abandoned former orphanage and mental institution, praying my eyes are playing tricks on me.
No one else seems to notice the lanky silhouette lurking behind our paranormal ghostbusters – until an orb emerges from a dark corner and slowly rolls toward me.
Just days before Halloween, I met researchers Helen Nicholson and Mandy Taylor in Merseyside’s Newsham Park, one of the UK’s most haunted buildings.
The listed 19th century property has been derelict for 30 years.
It has been described by former staff as “purely evil” and is said to have once housed the Moors’ killer, Ian Brady.
With ghost sightings, physical attacks on visitors, and self-moving furniture, even professional ghost hunters have been traumatized by the building.
Helen, who runs the ghost hunts at Newsham Park for events company Haunted Happenings, told me: “I’ve only just come back here after what happened last time, it scared me so much.
“We were giving a tour of the building a few months ago when I heard this scream in the basement.
“It was so loud that I stopped the tour because I was convinced everyone must have heard it, but they didn’t have it.
“It was a woman’s voice, very high pitched and so disturbed, saying ‘sorry.’
“It was as clear as anything and so incredibly scary. Even today, what I heard touches me.”
Earlier this year, two Haunted Happenings customers were attacked while attending a vigil with Mandy.
The man and woman, who did not know each other, both reported a burning sensation on their skin.
When Mandy turned on the light, the woman discovered a deep scratch on her cheek while the man had several red scratch marks on his neck.
Mandy, 45, said, “A woman wouldn’t do that to her face,” then showed me photos of the injuries.
She added: “I also saw a shelf move six feet off the floor.
A lot of people have actually shed tears from our ghost hunts because there’s just such a sad energy here.
It’s a dark, ugly place. Some of the things that happened here are terrible.”
Last year an E4 TV crew took a group of famous faces to film Celebrity Ghost Trip at Newsham Park.
After just a few hours, the entire cast ran out of the building screaming, with Love Island’s Callum Izzard in tears.
Previously a skeptic, he admitted on camera that the abandoned orphanage was “the scariest place I’ve ever been.”
Mandy said “thousands of people” had died during its 75-year operation at Newsham Park – many of them children.
She added: “Infant mortality was very high in the 19th century and many of the orphans were ill.
“Many also died when the site was being used as a hospital.”
The first stop on our tour was one of the busiest areas of the building, a corridor nicknamed the “Bad Boys’ Corridor.”
Children were brought here for punishment when the building was an orphanage from 1874 to 1949.
Helen’s daughter, paranormal historian Emily Nicholson, 21, tells me that children were locked in small closets that lined the corridor for days or weeks.
It is believed that a boy was left in the closet until he fell silent.
When they finally opened the door, he was dead.
It didn’t take me long to figure out why the Naughty Boys’ corridor has such a scary reputation.
As soon as I opened the hallway door, I heard a table squeak, aggressively rocking back and forth across the hallway.
But when I ran over to join the paranormal researchers, the movement stopped and I asked if it was a hoax.
I was about to walk away after giving our photographer an unfazed look when a toy car that had been placed on the table for communication with spirits started rolling by itself and fell to the ground.
I scanned the corridor looking for an open window so I could blame the breeze, but instead I spotted a creepy china doll on the floor looking up at us. “Don’t be afraid,” Emily tried – and failed – to reassure me.
“Remember, we’re here because we want to find out more. We’d rather run to something than run away.”
I took a rain check and left the Naughty Boys corridor, pronto.
I next reunited with Helen when she returned to face her fears in the basement.
Great Shadow of Man
When she pulled out a Ouija board, I said I wasn’t going to participate and just watched instead.
As the planchette, or pointer, began to move, I had the overwhelming feeling that we were being watched.
That’s when I spotted the large shadow in my peripheral vision.
Though the room was dark, I was sure I saw a tall man with a slightly hunched back standing in the corner staring at us.
Freaking out, I abruptly stopped the seance to ask if anyone else could see him.
Helen quickly pulled out her flashlight – nothing was there.
But just seconds after turning off the light again, a ball lit up the room as it rolled out of the same corner.
The toy ball, which glows when its motion sensor is activated, had been left in the corner of the room by investigators to allow ghosts to make contact.
I screamed and our photographer rushed over, insisting there had to be a reasonable explanation.
Maybe there was, but I said goodbye quickly. . . just in case.
Grim twist in the tail
NEWSHAM Park’s Sailor’s Orphanage was built to house around 400 children when it opened in the 1870s.
But by the end of World War I, so many Liverpool children were left orphaned that up to 1,000 orphans were squeezed in.
The cramped quarters and reported abuse by staff have been compared to Oliver Twist by those living there.
Siblings were separated upon arrival and only allowed to see each other a few hours a week.
One occupant, Frederick Fleet, later served as a lookout on the Titanic and was the first to spot the iceberg that sank her in 1912.
He later suffered from severe depression and took his own life.
During the Second World War, Newsham Park was heavily bombed and lack of funding led to the closure of the orphanage in 1949.
After reopening as a psychiatric hospital, it was permanently closed in 1992 and remains boarded up.
Our terrible story
RECORDS of ghosts date back thousands of years. Here we take a look at some of the scariest. . .
The Enfield Poltergeist – More than 30 people, including a police officer, are said to have witnessed furniture moving by itself, unexplained loud noises, objects being thrown around the room and children at the Hodgson family home in north London for 18 months floated the 1970s.
Hampton Court – In 2003, a skeletal figure in Tudor clothing was seen on CCTV flinging open a sturdy emergency exit door at the royal palace in south London.
Birmingham Poltergeist – Incidents of rocks falling from the sky and smashing house windows on Thornton Road spanned three years in the 1980s.
The police did not find the cause.
Freddy Jackson – RAF commander Victor Goddard took a picture of his old WWI squadron in 1919, which also showed mechanic Freddy – who had died two days earlier.
Anneliese Michel, Germany — The 23-year-old claimed to be possessed by six demons, eating insects for two days in 1976, biting the head off a dead bird and barking like a dog.
She received 67 exorcisms before eventually dying of malnutrition.
50 Berkeley Square – Dubbed ‘the most haunted house in London’, it is said to have driven people insane, such as a maid in the 1870s who spent the rest of her life in an asylum.
Roland Doe, USA – In 1949, priests exorcised a 14-year-old boy.
Witnesses said he could speak ancient languages, levitate his mattress and had supernatural powers.
The events inspired the 1971 novel The Exorcist.
https://www.the-sun.com/news/6557720/i-went-inside-the-building-ghost-hunters/ I spent the night in a cursed orphanage that terrifies professional ghostbusters – it was pure terror