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  • Karen Hamilton-Viall

Fright Night at Finchingfield Guildhall

Updated: Oct 26, 2021

I recently discovered that Fright Nights Essex were running events at Finchingfield Guildhall, just a few villages away from where I live, so I signed up to take part in one. The timber-framed Guildhall itself was built in the 1470s and sits next to the equally charming St John the Baptist church with its 11th century tower, and 13th and 14th century later additions. The Guildhall is currently used as a library, museum and meeting space. The hall sits directly on the road that winds its way through one of Essex's most charming villages with its duck pond, quaint bridge and post mill.

The evening began shortly after seven PM. There were nine of us attending, other than the three staff of the Fright Nights Essex team. The night was presented chiefly by Steve, who's a trained psychic. Steve started by telling us a little about himself. He has apparently been able to communicate with spirits since he was a child and can see, hear, smell and even taste spirits! He explained that if someone had been a heavy smoker, for example, that he may be able to taste that in his mouth.

The session started with a walk into the graveyard of the church which directly abuts the Guildhall. Steve led us to the porch of the church, closed his eyes, and tried to communicate with any spirits in the vicinity. There was a description of a man who seemed to have died fairly recently, as he was wearing blue jeans, thin rimmed glasses, and presented an image of the actor Owen Wilson to Steve. Steve explained this was probably to give a context of when he died, or perhaps he was a favourite actor. Next was an odd entity that presented Steve with the image of a wolf, a bat, and a baby. Steve dismissed this spirit quickly, and we soon moved back into the warmth of the Guildhall.

We entered the tiny museum of the Guildhall, and he tried to connect again. This time, there was a woman who he said looked like a milkmaid. There was also a man who he said wasn't evil per se, but was carrying a belt which in life he had used to beat his wife and child. We then headed off for a short break.

Upstairs again, in the main room of the hall, we were told that we were to split into two groups. The four lovely ladies that were attending the evening kindly invited me to join them downstairs, whilst the gents all stayed upstairs. Downstairs, back in the museum, Sophie set up what she called a divination table. She explained it wasn't like using a Ouija board, where the session had to be closed off at the end. It was similar to a school fold up exam desk but with the addition of 'Yes' and 'No' printed on it. Sophie placed a light glass with an electronic candle underneath and we switched the lights out. The purpose of the candle presumably was to make it easier to see where the glass was moving and to what people were doing, as well as adding nicely to the atmospherics of the evening.

Sophie explained that using our energy, the glass would hopefully move. We were asked to rub our hands together vigorously, as if it were a cold day to bring heat and energy to our fingers. Sophie asked the spirits to move the glass in a circle and after a couple of minutes, it started to move gently in a circle.

We first of all tried to communicate with the spirits that Steve had said he'd made contact with earlier in the evening. We did seem to have some sort of contact with the maid, but it was quite brief and not too clear who she was. Perhaps we were asking the wrong questions. Quite quickly, though, it seemed that perhaps it wasn't the milk maid at all but someone who had come with one of the ladies around the table. We asked her to indicate by pointing with the glass, which of us she had come to speak with. The glass moved across to one of the ladies. One of the ladies felt a touch, and we asked the spirit if it had just touched her. The glass moved to 'Yes'. Sophie suggested asking the spirit a question in their head that only they would know. The spirit apparently answered correctly. Through several more questions, it was established that it was one of the ladies' nan. After communicating these facts, the spirit moved on.

A new spirit entered but we couldn't get a gender so thought it might be a spirit of a pet or something similar. One of the ladies jokingly asked, "Are you a good boy?" The glass moved to 'No'. It was asked if there was anyone it wanted to talk to. It moved to 'No'. When asked if the spirit was a child, it moved to 'No'. When asked if it was elderly, it moved strongly to 'Yes'. When asked if it died in the eighteenth century, the glass moved to 'Yes'. Then the spirit seemed to disappear.

A new spirit appeared who moved the glass to 'Yes' for female when asked. The spirit said it was not young. It appeared to be a spirit of another family member of the group and answered several of their questions, which I won't repeat here.

A new spirit came through. When asked who it wanted to speak to, the glass moved towards me. When asked if it was male, it said 'Yes'. When asked if over sixty by me. It said 'No'. After this, it failed to respond to any questions.

A new spirit arrived. For me, the most interesting spirit of the night. When asked if it was cremated, it replied yes. It confirmed that it hadn't died in an accident but was, in fact, murdered. We established this time that the spirit was female. When asked if she was happy in spirit, she responded that she was not, which elicited a lot of empathy from the group. Curiously, the spirit said it didn't know who had murdered it, that it was not murdered because of jealousy, or for money. Which confused us greatly as we tried to figure out what other motives for murder there might be. The spirit said it was not the only victim of the murder and she did not know her murderer. We were getting even more confused. She said she wasn't murdered in the hall or village, but she was murdered in Essex. Working our way back through the centuries, we worked out she died in the sixteenth century and had died during the reign of Elizabeth. She said she liked Queen Mary and was a catholic, killed for her beliefs. She had sought refuge in the church as it was a catholic church. She'd been burnt at the stake. When asked who she was drawn to, the glass moved towards a lady who was a catholic. The spirit said she knew the lady was catholic. Sophie then asked the spirit to spell out the first initial of her name. After some working out and question asking we established it was a letter 'D' she was spelling. She then spelt the second letter, 'I', and a guess was made at Diana. The spirit confirmed this with a 'Yes'. When asked, she said that she had no surname, which Sophie said was not unusual at this time. We wondered what a Scottish woman was doing in Essex and she said that she was married to a man in the army, in Mary's forces. Diana said she preferred Mary Queen of Scots to Elizabeth the first, which made perfect sense as Elizabeth was protestant and Mary catholic. Sophie asked Diana if she'd like her to research her further. She moved the glass to 'Yes'. At this point, we finished the session and had no further contact.

After a short break and back upstairs, Steve introduced us to the EMF meters (electro magnetic field radiation). Originally, they were designed to help electricians. They can pick up EMF fields and microwave radiation. Various things can set them off, such as mobile phones. Steve also set up a spirit box for the ghosts to talk to us. Shortly after starting, one of the crew came upstairs to say the men had heard someone walking up the stairs towards us. We hadn't heard this, but the spirit box was quite noisy as it gave off its static noises, so this wasn't surprising. The gentlemen had great luck apparently with the EMF meters, constantly flicking to red, but the ladies had nothing. All our phones had been switched to aeroplane mode to make sure they couldn't set the meters off. Downstairs, the gentlemen had no luck with the glass and we eventually all met back upstairs. We tried to use the glass again with a small amount of success and again the meters worked for the gentlemen. A spirit came through pretending to be Diana but could not answer the questions she had, and very quickly moved off. It seemed to be playing. We were now at the end of the night, however, and the evening had flown by.

For me, the divination table and the spirit of Diana were the most interesting phenomena of the night. It was my first experience at anything of this sort. I have tried experimenting with a similar glass on a table at home to see how easy it is to move. It is incredibly easy to move with one finger, but when trying it on my own, the glass tried to rotate and produced a different effect. Even with two fingers from different hands, it still tried to rotate. For much of the time we were at the divination table, Sophie the organiser did not have her finger on the glass. Often it was just myself and two of the ladies. It often moved so strongly that I sometimes had trouble keeping my finger up with the glass as it sailed across the table towards its answer. Therefore, either the glass was moving by paranormal means, one of the ladies was intentionally moving it, or somehow inadvertently, we were all moving it. I tried to rest my finger as lightly as possible on the glass. I come from the viewpoint of being a believer in spirit because of my previous experiences, but I don't accept everything as being paranormal. My dad was a chemist, and I had worked myself for several years at the Royal Society, so with my rational head on, I was still trying to find explanations. What I can definitely say is that the 'spirit' of Diana was very intriguing and I loved the way it gently built up to tell her story, like playing the twenty-one questions game.

I would definitely take part in another Fright Nights Essex event. My only regret was that the time went so quickly and I wished it had been longer (I think they had to be out of the hall by 11.00). Other events run by the company do go on for longer,' though. If you'd like to find out more, and take part in a Fright Night yourself, you can visit the Fright Night's websites:

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