Tuesday, 10 October 2017

The Rookeries Asylum: A real life House of Horrors.


Nestled in the woods on the outskirts of a small English market town is The Rookeries Asylum - an imposing Victorian building that is a mishmash of redbrick, wood clad and concrete blocks (which came later)
complete with turrets and many unblinking soulless windows.

The drive way up to it is pretty much overgrown, meaning that the only real way to access is it is a traipse through the woods, which isn't easy when you're carrying a heavy load of paranormal investigation equipment - not that me, being a guest as part of the ghost hunting crew who charmingly call themselves Ectoplasm, had to carry anything

One of the side entrances of The Rookeries. Despite
being boarded up, people have still managed to get
in and vandalise the inside.
I'm here because of a friend of a friend who also happens to be as completely captivated by the idea of life after death and haunted spaces as I am. I'm beginning to think this is all a rather ridiculous idea, although I'm feeling smug that I have layered up and brought plenty of hot-chocolate. It's going to be a long bleak night.

The Rookeries Asylum was a philanthropic project established by one of the local wealthy families. Built on the far edges of their grounds, it was originally established as a maternity ward and hospital to help young women of the town and neighbouring villages in 1855. Just five years later, it was completely burned out, and over 20 women and young children died. By 1865, it had been rebuilt, extended and had become a hospital for the insane and morally dissolute.

The quarters that were most likely reserved for the
Doctors and visitors is now overrun with damp and
graffiti. It's weird to think of such beautiful spaces
contrasting with the other bleaker areas of the
Today, there are many locals in Heargton village who testify to hearing the sounds of crying on the wind as it weaves through the imposing pine trees. There are other locals who will not set foot in the woods, not alone the old abandoned asylum for fear of either things they have witnessed with their own eyes or because of stories that have been passed down from generation to generation.

Some of the legends that surround the Rookeries are, aside from the usual hauntings, that there were some very dodgy medical experimentations that took place within he walls, and that as a 'private' hospital, being under the radar, it attracted several doctors who used both the quiet location and mental state of the patients to their advantage. More wild claims include the urban legend that Satanists used the newly empty building (The hospital closed in 1958, having been used as an emergency Hospital for soldiers suffering from shell shock and other mental disturbances) to create a portal to Hell.

As much as that fantasy doesn't capture my imagination, it is very easy to still sense the sorrow and loss of the many souls who were 'cared for' in this place.

Dave is our guide for the evening. He is a seasoned ghost hunter and he's been wanting to get into The Rookeries for years, although gaining permission has been a little challenging. Heargton has a very protective attitude to its town and doesn't really welcome investigations such as these, despite its other numerous haunted buildings.
Some parts of the building are truly
beautiful even though they are in
ruins. It's easy to imagine patients
being walked down this light and airy
corridor with the idea of exercising
their body and spirit. There was
a real sense of peace in this space. 

Dave is 52 and spends a large chunk of the year working in the US with an American team. He is unashamedly obsessed by paranormal investigation and has visited literally hundreds of supposedly haunted sites. It doesn't help my over active imagination any when he stops as soon he enters the building and rubs his arms vigorously. "Oh," he says. "This is going to be a good one."

I'm not sure exactly what that means - is it 'good' if we're about to be subjected to twelve hours of terrifying ghostly activity? I'm not so sure.

We start our 'hunt' by doing a little exploring. I've had to sign a disclaimer in case of personal injury. The rooms are littered with debris and other dangers. I could easily break a limb. The setting is suitably freaky and my author mind is literally going overboard. Hell, I can't wait to get home and hit the keyboard. AT this point, I will not be disappointed if nothing more supernatural than a bat appears. This whole place is fuelling my creativity.

I laugh to myself, knowing that I am literally enacting the start of a cheesy horror film - you know the kind where some really stupid people decide to to go and taunt the devil and then are surprised when he rises and disembowels them. Dave is good company as he leads me through, giving me a running commentary of all the various atmospherics and details he is recording. As we travel, he tells me how he is less about ghost hunting and more about disproving, although when I ask him if he has had inexplicable experiences, he chuckles and says, "More than explicable ones."

Other spaces felt very oppressive and there was a
definite sense of trauma and pain still residual in
the room. Remnants of equipment like this sent
shivers up my spine. It's all too easy to visualise the poor
women who stayed in this place and were subjected
to terrible indignities and painful procedures. 
Night falls fast and it's going to make taking photos more difficult. I snap away, wanting to capture as many of the spaces as I can to add to my scrap book. Little do I know at that point that many of them will disappear as a result of the files corrupting during transfer to my laptop - something that has never happened before, and hasn't happened since.

The further into the asylum, the more wild things get. It is clear that people have got in and gone wild with their own creative flair. Graffiti, tags and scrawled quotes are everywhere. Sacrilege and yet, in a way, an understandable response to such a space. There is a lot of dark humour present, although Dave is less than amused by some of the symbols and iconography that has been painted on some  of the walls. It always makes him uneasy.
People come to these places and they don't know what energy they are stirring up. They think they're being funny - some even think they are being serious - but either way, the energy in the place doesn't like to be mocked. This kind of 'play' attracts the demons.
'Demons!' I scoff in my head. In the short time I have known and spoken with Dave, I am surprised by this sudden turn in tone and subject matter. Surely Dave doesn't believe in demons?

I've done hundreds of investigations and most involve long nights of tedium, but then some places just have this really dark vibe. Several times, I have seen mysterious scratches raise on fellow investigators. It's all pretty convincing when you see those kind of marks literally emerging out of someone's skin. 
Suddenly, this little adventure doesn't seem quite so fun. I have a deep respect for the idea of positive and negative energies in the world. I guess there is part of me that believes in true evil and that it can manifest - although as for actual demons, the jury is still out.

One of our last stops before heading back to the HQ we have established in one of the old doctor's rooms, is the records office. Nobody has bothered to clear these out and archive them, and it feels criminal. This is history - real history, about people who lived and suffered. The mould and dust sets off my allergies, despite having taken an unhealthy amount of antihistamine. Rot. That's the overall word of this whole place. I leaf through a few of the remaining files, which mostly date back from the 50s and 60s. In some ways, it's amazing that they still exist. I vow to find a way to get them recovered and properly stored. It feels perhaps why I am here, doing this ridiculous thing.

Night settles and I have to admit, I am absolutely running on adrenaline. Every sound travels through me and is amplified in my imagination. As much as I want to chase after Dave as he goes around 'hunting' there is part of me that wants to stay in the relative safety of HQ.

Generally, it's a pretty quiet night, although the sudden burst of barking dogs does nothing for the health of my heart. I'm unnerved by the sound, which is clearly a pack of dogs in the woods nearby. Packs of dogs is not a neutral sound and immediately I feel very uncomfortable. Steve, the techie doesn't help matters by telling me the local tale of the ghostly hunt. Susie, who is Dave's right hand woman is quick to shut him down when she sees the look on my face. She tells me that almost all legends of ghostly hunts have been debunked.

Dave returns and he's so pale, he looks as if he has seen a ghost - which he tells us he has; well sort of. He's out of breath and it's clear that he has been running from something.
There's some dark shit out there, guys. A lot of bad energy.

There are a few remaining relics of its days as a
hospital and there is something about their decay that
makes them inherently terrifying and full of possibility. 
He tells us how he was lying on one of the old hospital beds (as you would) and he felt something pressing down on him and then a growl in his ear. Steve's attention is suddenly captured by the site of a nasty red mark on Dave's neck. He investigates, pulling the neck of Dave's t-shirt down. Sure enough, three red scratches run down his skin. Part of me is sad that I missed this incident, the other isn't, which is why I'm not sure what I should do when Suzie and Dave both agreed that they need to head back to the same room and spend more time there. My instinct says no, but nevertheless, I find myself travelling behind them. It's the same room I took a photo of earlier.

I sit on the edge of the bed, encouraged by Dave. I refuse to lie down - I'm not crazy. I can hear the reassuring breaths of both Dave and Suzie. This is why I'm here. To face my own fears, to discover and experience for myself. Nothing happens for about twenty minutes and we're about to go when strong hands push me back and I find myself on my back, a terrible weight over me. I hear Dave and Suzie shout out to me but it's honestly as if they are a whole world away. There's a voice at my ear. I can't move. It's a deep voice, full of menace and I am in no doubt that I am in serious danger - although from what exactly, I can't tell. I'm trying to scream but nothing is coming out.

In that moment, seriously, there's a belief that I might die. Suddenly from the other side of the room, there is a deep barrelling voice that travels across the room. There is no doubt in my mind that it is not the voice of a human.  "I'm right here," it growls before this whooshing sweeps right over me and finally, the scream can escape. Whatever it is, it's gone and the whole atmosphere changes. I'm shaking and laughing and crying all at the same time.

Suzie has me wrapped in her arms, reassuring me that I'm safe and that this wasn't an unusual incident for an investigation. I had come looking for a paranormal experience and I'd had one. Perhaps the moral of this story is be careful what you wish for.


Welcome to the anual OCTOBERFRIGHTS BLOGSHOP. I'm so very pleased that you have stopped by to take part in day one of the October Frights Blogshop and I hope that you have enjoyed reading about my experiences of being on a ghost hunt at The Rookeries Hospital. It's now that I get to tell you that the whole article was a dastardly Halloween trick - a playful creative exploration of a world that  I built as part of The Meadowsweet Chronicles. I'm sorry to have tricked you but I hope you enjoyed it and I hope it fuelled your imagination. The line between reality and fantasy is such  a thin one when you're an author of the paranormal.

So that was your dastardly Trick bit but now I have some lovely treats for you. Firstly, during the course of the 5 day blog hop, all the authors have got together to organise a fabulous rafflecopter giveaway with some really lovely prizes. You can enter that here below. (Just scroll down)

Also to fill your halloween treat bag, here is the link for a FREE eBOOK DOWNLOAD of Book 1 of The Meadowsweet Chronicles, 'Witchcraft' - the series in which The Rookeries Hospital features. It's planned to be a 7 book series and book 4 is coming out spring of 2018.


a Rafflecopter giveaway



  1. Trick or not it was a great story.

  2. Loved it. Great job! While the story was a trick, is the place real or based on a real asylum?

    1. Thank you. I'm afraid is not although I am an avid Ghost Adventures watcher / fan and so I guess it's an amalgamation of all those kind of incredible buildings. It's an area of history that really intrigues me. Thanks for stopping by and so glad you enjoyed it.