Sunday, 13 September 2015

Hellfire Caves - How our journey began

Hellfire Caves, in Buckinghamshire, features strongly in the world of the paranormal, perhaps not surprising in view of its’ name.

The entrance to the caves
Whilst Laura and I have been there on a couple of occasions, it was our first visit to the location that perhaps sticks in the memory the most, as not only was it the first time that we’d been there, it was also one of the first locations that we went to when we first started working together.

After an uneventful journey to Buckinghamshire in the early Sunday morning traffic, we found ourselves stood in the weak winter sunshine, in a garden centre car park a couple of hundred yards from the entrance to the infamous Hellfire caves.

Excavated by hand in the 1750’s by the workforce of Sir Francis Dashwood, who undertook the project to provide work for unemployed farm labourers following a succession of poor harvests, the caves subsequently became host to the ‘Hellfire Club’ following the destruction by fire of the club’s original headquarters at Medmenham Abbey.

It’s here, at their second location, that the Hellfire Club became synonymous with, eventually lending its name to the man-made cave complex.

Crossing the road, Laura and I headed up the short, steep hill past the small primary school, leading to the entrance to the caves.

Finding the entrance guarded by an automated turnstile, we entered the small café and tried to attract the attention of the uninterested staff so that we could purchase some tokens for entry into the cave.

Five minutes later we found ourselves in the entrance passage to the cave, the tired white paint clearly in need of some refreshment before the summer season arrived.

The cave system
Entering the Cave 
As we walked along the narrow passage, pausing only to take some photographs, Laura turned to me and asked me if I felt anything.

I told her that, as usual, I didn’t feel a thing and I asked the same question of her, to which she gave the same negative reply.

After a couple of hundred yards or so, we found ourselves at the ‘Circle feature’ - two passages hewn out of the chalk, forming a huge central pillar.

We took the left hand side passage and soon rejoined the right hand side passage, around the other side of the pillar.

It was at this point Laura started to appear disorientated and started to proceed along the adjoining passage, back to the point where we had originally entered the Circle. I told her that she was merely going back to where we had started, to which she replied, rather than directly acknowledging that fact, that we hadn’t been there before and needed to make sure that we had not missed anything out.

Having taken some more photographs, Laura paused and asked me to lead on. Nothing unusual I accept, but I got the impression that there was a reason for this request.

Moving along the passages, pausing only to take photographs in Franklin’s Cave, we moved down to the Banqueting Hall.

It is here that things started to become very interesting from my point of view.

The Banqueting Hall
Entering the large, domed cave, we went our separate ways to take photographs. Laura went to look at the wax models on the right hand side, whilst I went to the far left to take some wide angled shots.

Whilst there, we were joined by some other visitors, the first ones that we had encountered during our visit. After a couple of minutes Laura walked over to where I was standing, totally ignoring me. If I hadn’t have stepped back as she passed she would have walked into me. She appeared very focused, as if she had something on her mind.

As I watched her, I realised that something was up and she could be picking up on something. I thought about taking some photographs of her at that point but held back, as I didn’t want the flash to disturb her.

Laura pacing back and forth
I watched her pace back and forth, retracing her steps and repeating this action. At this point I decided to risk taking a photograph and managed to capture her, deep in thought as she repeated her steps.

Laura finally paused and looked up at the ceiling, then to the floor to her left. Initially I thought that she was watching the occasional drips of water falling from the roof of the cave high above us, falling down onto the gravelled floor.

Laura then seemed to snap out of herself, looked at me and told me that ‘there was a pool of blood right there” gestating with a sweeping movement of her right arm and stepping around an imaginary pool of blood.

I took a couple of pictures, just in case the camera could capture what I couldn’t see, more out of hope than any real belief.

Laura later told me that she can’t recall telling me this or indeed even speaking to me until we left the Banqueting Hall.

I asked Laura if she was feeling ok and, if she wanted to leave the Hall and continue on our journey, to which she gave a simple “yes” in reply. We made our way to the lower passage and left the Banqueting Hall, passing the two other remaining visitors.

As we left Laura explained to me what she had experienced, a male, looking up, something falling from the ceiling and getting hit on the head, leaving a pool of blood where he fell.

The remaining system
After 50 yards or so we reached the Triangle cave.

Initially, it looked as if we had reached a T-junction, but it quickly became clear where we were in the scheme of things. We turned right to find the next side passage, Laura pausing at the entry point to the adjoining tunnel, to take another picture with her camera.

We proceeded along the passage, passing the point where the right hand side of the Triangle joined up again to form a single passageway. Laura looked left along the passage and, as we continued to walk, calmly told me that she had observed a spirit of a little boy, ten foot or so along the adjoining passage.

At this point we were again joined by some others, so I asked Laura if we could go back at the earliest available opportunity and take some photographs of where she had seen the spirit. Laura readily agreed.

We arrived at the Miner’s Cave, taking some more photographs as we waited for the other visitors to snake past.

Once we were sure that the passageway was now devoid of any other human life other than our own, we quietly made our way back along the passage to the Triangle Cave, to the point where Laura had seen the little boy.

As we reached the side passage, we spotted, to our dismay, more visitors making their way down the passage from the surface. I could only think that the staff in the canteen must have undertaken a quick customer service course and were now dishing out tokens to the cave like there was no tomorrow.

Laura, at the spot where she saw the small boy 
Unable to wait no longer, Laura made her way up the side passage whilst I stood stationary watching, camera in hand. As Laura reached the point where she had seen the boy, Laura gently touched the wall, a pillar, with her right hand, just as two other visitors passed her from the other direction.

I allowed them to pass me where I was standing and walked up the passage to where Laura was waiting, where I asked her if she had seen the spirit at the point where she had touched the wall. She confirmed that indeed that was the spot. I then asked her if the spirit was still there, but sadly Laura replied that he was not. I asked Laura to stand next to the pillar, where she had observed the boy, so that I could take a couple of shots.

We then made our way back down the passages, through the Miner’s Cave and River Styx, to the final cave, the Inner Temple, which passed without event.

We found the Inner Temple to be caged off and containing some wax models of presumably Hellfire Club members, complete with baboon that looked as if it had seen better days.

Laura departs....
I turned to Laura and suggested that we should return to the surface.

Laura turned around and bizarrely sped off along the passageway leaving me standing, puzzled at her quick escape. Quickly gathering my thoughts, I thought that I’d better give chase and proceeded back along the tunnel, Laura quickly disappearing off into the distant gloom.

Laura disappears into the darkness
As I raced along the passage, I thought it most strange that Laura was now moving so fast, especially as we were at the steepest point of the tunnels and we had previously walked at a leisurely pace, throughout our journey through the cave up until this point.

In the distance I could see the light of the Miner’s Cave and watch as Laura pushed her way through the crowd of visitor looking at the wax work displays and into the darkness where I could no longer see her.

My pace had now developed into a speedy trot as I tried to gain ground.

As I passed through the Miner’s Cave I could see Laura ahead in the dimly lit passage leading to the Banqueting Hall, bumping against the side of the narrow passage as she went.

This seemed to slow her down and I called out to her, which slowed her down even further. Catching up with her, Laura looked really confused. Unlike the earlier episode in the Banqueting Hall when she appeared to be deep within herself, she appeared to be her normal self, but just a bit confused.

She turned to me and said we need to go there, indicating what appeared to be a small recess, but clearly what looked to be a solid wall from where I was standing.

I convinced her that there was no passageway there, which she sort of accepted despite her confusion and we made our way up the passage to the Banqueting Hall.

This I found interesting as there is a long standing tradition of a long lost tunnel within the cave system. I noted the spot.

As we continued our walk, Laura asked me if I had felt unbalanced as I walked along the passages from the Inner Temple.

I replied that not really, although I advised that the gravel flooring appeared to be much deeper in the deepest part of the tunnels, which gave the impression of walking along a beach in places and may have given the impression of ‘unbalance’.

Making our way along the final yards to the Banqueting Hall, Laura explained to me what she had experienced deep down in the bowls of the cave, the feeling of being attacked and ‘clumped’ hard on the head, the need to exit the caves as fast as she could.

Although I asked several questions regarding her experience to try and make sense of things Laura wasn’t really able to add to this, so I let the situation be.

Back at the Banqueting Hall, Laura proceeded to again tell me exactly what she had already told me about her vision of the dying man when we were in the Hall for the first time.

I pointed out to her that she had already mentioned this to me earlier, but was met with a blank look.

She advised that she had no recollection of saying anything to me whatsoever last time we were there.

Laura looks up
We paused to take some more shots of the Hall, including one where I managed to capture Laura unaware, staring high up at an unreachable point on the ceiling where I can only assume that whatever she had saw fall first time around had originated.

The rest of our visit was taken up taking photographs before we decided to make our way back to the surface and make good our departure.

Looking back, what transpired that day was not what we were at all expecting but, as it turned out, set the scene for how we would operate, allowing us to develop the protocol that we follow today.

Up until Hellfire Caves, before we started working together, the process that I would follow would be to record investigations, both audio and visual, with the hope of recording paranormal phenomena that I could sit down and analyse, whilst Laura would do something similar but also rely on her senses, which she hadn’t really pushed much at that point.

Working together has required us both to change how we previously had approached investigations, but it is something that has worked very well for us and, whilst we are not going to make any rash claims that it has enabled us to produce any evidence of paranormal phenomena, it has provided a lot for us to think about all the same.


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