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Davidstow Airfield & War Museum

High up on Bodmin moor in the Parish of Davistow is a large flat area of moorland that spreads out for miles. In the distance you are able to see the peaks of Roughtor and the treeline that encompasses Davidstow woods, behind which lies Crowdy Reservoir, a large expanse of open water. The main road that joins the A30 to the A39 towards Camelford is long and straight. As soon as you join this road passed Altarnun you feel as though you have been transported to another world. The open stretch and magnificent view allows you to reflect on everything. There are times you almost feel like you are floating over the road as opposed to driving, a very weird and surreal experience. What significantly enhances this eerie landscape are the abandoned buildings that are dotted around the barren backdrop, old units from the days of war supporting the airfield that hides in plain sight around you. It is not until you see an aerial photograph that you come to appreciate the strange shapes that make up the airfield itself.

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RAF David Stow Moor Airfield, England 2 June 1951 Source: Royal Ordinance Survey. Crown Copyright expired 50 years after photograph take

It is clear to see the various take-off and landing segments but what makes it peculiar from my perspective are the numerous circular stalks that lead off from the main concrete segments. Like a 1970’s fractal diagram they branch out poignantly like stems on a plant.  Nowadays the airfield is but a shadow of its former self, mainly used for light aircraft and enthusiastic teenagers hijacking their parent’s cars for a brief experience at driving in a fairly safe environment. I say fairly safe as I was once one of those teenagers. At only fourteen years old my Father allowed me to take control of his vehicle on the empty and degraded ground that used to make up the main runway. A brave man, he sat helplessly as a passenger as I attempted to learn the concept of driving. Things went well until we noticed in the distance a light aircraft heading our way, coming in to land. Short of mass panic we switched sides and we were on our way, far away from any incoming flying machines. At fourteen I was unaware of the history for this amazing location and was certainly did not realise it was haunted. In November 2011 Supernatural Investigations were treated to an all-night investigation at this location. We were warmly welcomed by the resident group, Soul Searchers, who took us on a tour and showed us the hotspots. Soul Searchers have been actively investigating this airfield and the Cornwall at War Museum since .   They have captured various anomalous phenomena  from freaky photos to strange voices, we had high hopes we could do the same. So what of the history behind the airfield?   The airfield officially opened on the 1st  October 1942 and served as  a fully operational RAF station until it was closed in December 1945. Its primary function was to  act as ‘Coastal Command’ to the Royal Navy and to protect convoys from the German U-Boat force, also known as the ‘Wolfpacks’.  Another function was to protect Allied shipping from aerial threats posed by the Luftwaffe. Three runways were built and used as you will see in the photo above, each at least 1400 yards long with one runway measuring 2000 yards. Over 300 officers served at this station using several types of aircraft across the 3 years that the airfield was open. Aircraft such as the Lockheed Hudson, an American built bomber and coastal reconnaissance aircraft used  in 1943 & 1944; the Bristol Beaufighter,  a British long-range heavy fighter;  the Supermarine Walrus; Vickers Warwick & Vickers Wellington, another British long range medium bomber and finally the Hawker Henly, a two seater target tug based on the Hawker Hurricane.

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Photo from the top of Roughtor overlooking Bodmin Moor and nearby Davidstow

Unfortunately Davidstow Airfield was fraught with its fair share of disasters in the three years it was operational. It is reported that approximately 40 aircraft crash landed at the airfield after being out on a mission. Many were in trouble after action and could not land safely whilst others overshot the runway, probably due to technical issues. Such incidents are understandable with the limit of technology in the aircraft from the 1940’s. Most of the time the pilots were required to perform the hair-raising tasks that technology performs for us today, when we fly. With such catastrophic outcomes you inevitably have ill-fated fatalities - over 100 aircrew personnel lost their lives performing brave and altruistic tasks whilst protecting us from the German enemy. On the evening of the 9th December 2011 my colleague, Kayleigh Williams and myself were fortunate to be invited along to investigate the War Museum with the host group, Soul Searchers, led by Paranormal Investigator, Bev. The night was particularly cold but that did not stop me from wearing shorts, as usual. The weather was clear, crisp and bright with a full moon illuminating the sky, that was, until we arrived at the location. In a space of 10 minutes the wind gathered pace, clouds rolled in and torrential rain scattered all around us.  Within 10 minutes the clouds were gone, the wind was still and the sky was bright and clear yet again, which is how it stayed the rest of the night.  A strange start to the evening I thought. We were met by Bev and taken to the tea and snack cabin where we were showered with hot drinks and a selection of chocolates, biscuits and sandwiches; excellent start to the evening by our hosts although I did feel a little guilty that I didn’t bring anything. Bev soon revealed each location to us within the Museum itself gently caressing our minds with facts about what has been known to occur here, we were obviously excited about the evening ahead.

We started off the evening in the officer’s mess, Bev and her team, Kayleigh and I all sat around a table after setting up all the equipment. A small flitter of light could be seen entering the room and allowing low visibility of everything around us. Ironically, even though there were around thirteen people in the room, we all had the feeling that we were being surrounded. We also seemed to have the feeling of movement in the corners which I tried to address by moving towards them. Each time I moved to an area where we thought the ‘shadow man’ was, he appeared to move to a different corner. It was as if I was chasing him around the room. On a number of occasions certain team members felt as though someone had rushed past them in and out of the room. Bev told us that a gentleman officer has been seen in this room and that he is keen on the ladies. On the night he appeared to take a shining to a new budding investigator, Kayleigh. On various occasions she was touched or could feel breath on her neck when no one was close. On Bev’s request I set up a locked off camera in the hall next to some artefacts and mannequins behind a glass shield. Bev had told me that this area was prone to activity and that sometimes artefacts are found in different places from where they were left. On viewing the footage I was disappointed to see that nothing had moved, however, was immediately intrigued to hear what sounded like a man groaning on the digital camcorder. The sound was very unusual in that it seemed to move past the camera from left to right although nothing appeared visually in the footage. What made this more interesting was that the sound movement meant that whatever made the sound would have been moving along the corridor. At this time all of Bev’s team, Kayleigh and I were in the Officers Mess. At the end of the session we can be heard quite clearly walking towards and past the camera with regards to footsteps and shuffling. The moving groaning sound had no other sounds associated with it! It was as though the groan was floating through the air and not ‘walking’ past the camera.

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Our next stop was in the Ballroom area of the museum, an old hanger shaped building with more artefacts and more eerie mannequins. The room we started in was adjacent to the ballroom itself and seemed a lot cooler to start off. Although we were investigating at the heart of December I was surprised to see how much colder this area was compared to the Officers Mess previously. The smell of what seems like burning flesh has been noted in this location on more than occasion. Unfortunately at this time we were not privy to such a sense awakening smell, however, we did witness some unusual sounds emanating from the back of the room itself. On inspection I could not find any unusual visitors or rodents that may have snuck in under the light of the moon. This area also seemed to play havoc with my equipment and I was forced to replace batteries in my voice recorder three times during the one hour session. I had charged and checked all batteries before the investigation as any hardened technological ghost hunter would do. Ironically in all other areas, this did not seem to be a problem. Kayleigh reported not feeling comfortable in this room and felt as though she was being watched. She said that it felt as though something was waiting in ‘anticipation’ of something. Further into the vigil in this area Mark Rablin, resident medium at Bodmin Jail, who is also a member of the ‘Soul Searchers’ group said that he could smell woodbine cigarettes. When I moved into that area there was definitely a strong smell of smoke but obviously no one was smoking. Within a few minutes the smell was gone and we were all left baffled as to what had caused it.

We then entered the ballroom itself and were faced with a very creepy prospect. The room was laid out with tables and chairs strewn down the centre of the room with 5 or 6 male mannequins dotted around the room all dressed in smart bow tie and jackets. On a dark, cold, winters night in a haunted location, this setup is very unnerving. At first the room felt calm and comfortable, however, the atmosphere soon turned frosty and unwelcoming.  We kept seeing shadow play again in the corner,as though a tall dark man was staring out at us. I again moved towards the offending area and was surprised to find the temperature a lot colder when I got there; it was as though I walked straight into a cold spot. The other team members agreed that was the exact spot where they saw the dark shadow. I felt a little uneasy and could feel what appeared to be someone touching my head. This was a very strange feeling and I felt urged to move away from this location.  I decided to walk up and down the room at the far side of the table to see if I could sense anything unusual. At one point a member of the team shouted out that they could see a dark shadow following me.  I reached the end of the room, turned around and walked back and all of a sudden was pushed into the tables and chairs. I stood up and no one was there! I cannot explain this action but I was definitely pushed into the chairs, I could feel someone pushing against me on one side until I fell over. This was a very discomforting experience and soon taught me to go and sit down with the rest of the team. This had my captured by full interest and I was intrigued to see what else this ‘shadow man’ could do. It soon became evident that this was most probably the same man as was seen in the Officers Mess because the two rooms are connected. We sat quietly for a bit and called out but we didn’t seem to get a response. Our time was up and the team decided it was indeed time for tea and biscuits back at the base room but I was still taken by my experience and wanted to do another ten minutes or so in this area, Kayleigh, although on her first investigation, agreed to stay alone in the area with me. We continued to attempt contact with any spirits in the location but again were disappointed with the results. Just before we decided to join the others aback at base room both Kayleigh and I heard a loud bang in the next room. It sounded like a door slamming or closing and within seconds I was on my feet with a torch in hand off to find what I thought would be another team member returning for something they had forgotten. I left the ballroom and moved towards where I thought the sound had come from, no one was there. I checked the doors but they did not match the sound that we had heard. It was at this point that I realised that I had left poor Kayleigh alone in the Ballroom. I soon returned and she was fine, a little scared but acted like a professional.

Whilst we were in the ballroom area we tried some ovilus work to attempt communication with any spirits that may want to speak out. An ovilus is a device that uses multiple sensors to detect variations in EMF waves in the air. It contains a database of over 10000 words and the theory is that a spirit can manipulate the waves and therefore affect speech by choosing a certain word from the device catalogue. Unfortunately we only had the smartphone application versions of the ovilus and as such any results should be taken with a pinch of salt. Needless to say I have been on investigations where the word selection was uncannily accurate to the scenario and theme of questions we were asking. Davidstow Airfield and War Museum was to be one of the most accurate ovilus experiences I have ever had. One of Bev’s team members also had the same phone application on her device and we decided to run them together to see what correlation we could make. We left them running and began questioning by calling out and it was not long before we got some responses. It did seem as though there was more than one spirit in our location and they all seemed keen to talk to us. Both devices began churning out words frequently and most, if not all the words were connected to our location and relation to the military. Words such as ‘Subversion’ meaning to change an established social order and to take down a structured state.  ‘State’ was also another word that followed closely to ‘subversion’. ‘Coast’ trailed shortly after which was ironic as Davidstow was used primarily as coastal support. ‘June’ was a response to a question about an important date in time, we feel this was related to the D-Day landings on the 6th June 1944. ‘Military’,’Escape’,’Spain’,’Europe’,’Community’ and ’Officer’ were other words that were linked, maybe loosely, but significantly to Davidstow and other RAF type bases. People often question whether there is any validity in the responses that the ovilus gives out and I am the first person to question such responses, however, I test the replies by considering whether the same words would be applicable to another location, for instance, a pub. In this case I think it would be hard to relate the words we received to a standard pub in a town. Perhaps the most intriguing part of the evening for me and most remarkable correlation between the ovilus responses we got and the airfield was when my device said in quick succession ‘Purple’ then ‘Flower’.

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At the same time the other ovilus device said in quick succession ‘Blue’ then ‘Flower’. We sat confused for a while before we realised that it may be associated with Squadron Colours. We immediately made our way to the corridor by the Officers Mess where all the Squadron Colours could be found on the walls. We desperately looked for a blue / purple flower and what we found was truly amazing. On the wall was a picture of a blue / purple thistle which belonged to 236 Squadron. We then looked for the information for this Squadron and asked out where it could be, with which the ovilus replied ‘West’. We looked at each other and worked out which way was west and headed in that direction, on the wall at the end of the corridor hung all the information about that particular Squadron. Finally the ovilus made one more startling announcement, it mentioned the word ‘drown’ and upon reading through the Squadron information we discovered that two members had drowned in the sea when a plane had gone down. The frequency and timing of the words for me, were amazingly accurate considering it is simply a database of 10000 unique words that may be picked at random. If this is the case and there is absolutely no connection between spirit manipulation and the device then this was the most precise case of blatant coincidence I have ever seen. I was certainly taken aback by this incredible period of activity. I was keen to ask Bev about her many experiences at Davidstow and whether she was successful in capturing any evidence worthy of analysis.

She pointed me in the direction of the Soul Searchers website (www.soulsearcherskernow.com) and asked me to listen to their EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) section. On returning home that was the first thing I did and I was amazed to hear some of the voices they managed to capture on a device called ‘Franks Box’. Basically it is an untuned radio that skips through all different radio stations at speed on a particular frequency such as FM or AM. This happens over and over and it this thought that communication could be initiated with the spirit world by utilising the white noise and short bursts of tuned stations as they pass through. Again this could be thought as a device which gushes out random phrases or parts of words that may make up a whole word or sentence as a response to questions. I was indeed surprised at some of the responses that the Franks Box gave to certain questions posed by the Soul Searchers team. On the website there are currently nineteen different evps to listen to for you to make your own mind up on whether you believe the phenomena is purely coincidental or could it really be the voices of the deceased reacting to questions from the living?  You Decide! Davidstow Airfield & Museum is certainly an amazing location in a desolate area of Bodmin Moor.

Probably one of Bodmin Moor’s best kept secrets with regards to being a haunted location with only a handful of groups honoured enough to have experienced all night investigation here. Although my team, Supernatural Investigations, were unable to join me on that evening I know that they are certainly interested in booking a future investigation at the airfield. I will definitely be intrigued to have the opportunity to delve further into the main characters that still wander the baron outbuildings and museum areas of Davidstow. It is understandable that there may be high levels of energy that surround Davidstow and nearby Roughtor with so many ghost stories and legends that appear to encompass a five mile radius of the moor. Perhaps the forsaken, fog-ridden landscape where the airfield lies is the perfect scene for the active spirits that roam the moor, or could it be that with such a suggestible backdrop it is inevitable that paranormal experiences will be reported? Either way Davidstow is an astounding place to visit! Many thanks to Bev and her team at Soul Searchers for their noble hospitality and leadership on the evening!

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