When I visted, I had the opportunity to spend some time talking with Neil Packer, founder of the centre. He told me a bit about haunted antiques, 11A Regents Court and how the centre began.
What inspired you to create the research centre?
"I did the ghost nights, and ghost hunts. But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted to do research. It’s a different sort of avenue to the normal ghost hunts."
How many items did you have when you set the centre up?
"I think I had about 25, all stored in my carport. People kept asking if they could come and visit them, and I had to keep saying no. I thought the time was right, and it was definitely the right place. I looked at quite a few places, this one definitely pulled me."
Was the building haunted before you brought the antiques in? Had you heard any stories about the building?
"When the estate agent showed me round the first time, he said to me “I’ve heard stories that the place is haunted.” But there wasn’t any evidence. You get a feeling when you walk into a building as to whether it’s haunted, but I didn’t know it was this haunted! We brought the stuff in over the weekend. The Friday night before, we said we’d do a baseline investigation. There was nothing in here, just me and the team. It was so active, it was unbelievable. There seem to be many spirits here, there’s a dwarf, a cobbler, children. Bare-knuckle fighting used to take place in the alley way. We caught to figures on the SLS camera on that first night. They were very close together, face to face. As we were wondering what they were doing, our medium walked in and said "There’s 2 men fighting out there".”
The first item you bought was a World War II baby gas mask. What made you buy it?
"I had already decided that I wanted to start collecting haunted antiques. I was walking around the shop, and I kept looking at that mask. I kept going back to it, so I said 'That's my first item'."
Is there a particular item that you have had most activity from?
"I think that's gonna be the wheelchair, because different people sit in it and get different feelings."
Is there an item that has scared you since you've owned it?
"Err, not really scared me. I am wary of the voodoo doll because it did make me feel poorly."
What is the oldest item you own?
"That's the Civil War musket shots, from the 1600s. They obviously hit something, because they're not round anymore. It could have been a fence, it could have been a tree...."
The interview was interrupted at this point by a brief appearance of a figure caught on the SLS camera in the room. An entity seems to like a particular spot just inside the doorway to the back seance room. This is 2 floors up, against an outside wall...... It didn't stay for long, and we continued.
Did any of your objects come with warnings from previous owners?
"No, not yet."
Have you had any items donated due to hauntings?
"Yes, quite a few now."
Do you think spirits are attached to the items or do they visit them?
"Some are definitely haunted, they have a spirit attached, some just have an energy attached to them, and others are visited by spirit."
Are any of your items for sale if the right buyer came along?
How do you know if an item's haunted?
"The team are all now developing their own may of sensing spirit. We have a medium too, and she picks up on things. But it's what we feel. I have a tingley sensation, the back of my neck goes tingley."
Museums of haunted artefacts have their exhibits being casings. Do you think there's any risk from handling these items?
"No, I don't think so. Apart from the voodoo doll. And that's why we have it under glass. People are welcome to hold it if they want to, but we do warn them."
Do you think items directly involved in the death of someone can hold their energy? Have you had any experiences with such items?
"Yeh, gurkha knife has been used to take a life we believe. We got that information from viewers on a live feed. So I believe that has at least two energies attached to it, that of the gurkha and the man he killed."
Have you ever taken items from your collection to other haunted locations?
"We've only done that once. We might do it again in the future, but it's nice to do locations as well, to do something different."
Do you loan items out to teams?
"I haven't done. I might consider it. It depends on the team and the object."
Do you have a favourite item?
"That's the wheelchair. I just love the item, I think it's fascinating. And so many people are getting so many feelings from it, I think there's a lot more to come."
You do sleepover events. Have you ever spent the night here alone?
"No. After what others have experienced, I'd be a bit wary...."