Woodchester Mansion

“I’ve always been able to see and speak to spirits, they appear just as clear and solid as the living. They choose to communicate to tell me about their daily lives, the gossip, the scandal.. the real history. They are everywhere.. including my home..” Cassandra Raven

I love visiting castles, old stately homes and creepy buildings here in the UK. Our beautiful land is rich in history, many of these buildings still stand proud and majestic, sparking our imagination. Sometimes they have actors playing the parts of kings, queens, maids and so on, all dressed up according to the time period they are portraying. I’ve watched lively shows including jousting and falconry as little children run around with wooden swords, fully immersed in their fantasy of slaying dragons and riding horses into battle. But the truth is, while others are walking around taking photos and reading about the history on signs, I am somewhat distracted. The level of sound most people are hearing is much less than in my ears. Busy places are almost unbearable with at least 4 or 5 times as many people all crammed in, jostling and going about their own lives, mostly unaware of the other people from different time periods. The movement in every direction of people and animals, the smells and the noise are enough to make me wonder if this is what it’s like to be autistic, to have the colour, volume and emotion constantly turned up to 11 metaphorically. It certainly makes me feel like I need to hide away and almost completely shutting down my emotions is sometimes a necessary defence. The emotion.. feeling what they felt.. and sometimes the physical feelings too. I’m not just watching the real history happening all around me, I’m constantly, often painfully, aware that I’m part of it.

I’ve always been able to see and speak to spirits, they appear just as clear and solid as the living. The ones that choose to communicate tell me about their daily lives, the gossip, the scandal.. the real history. Sometimes they are so wrapped up in their emotions they don’t realise they have passed away. Others show me images of how they died, or impress those emotions and physical feelings onto me so that I may understand some of what they experienced. They are everywhere. At castles, the real knights, sweating from training or bloodied from battle push past me, while in the streets of towns young Victorians run around as their fathers shovel coal, mothers scrubbing and cleaning the steps. In larger buildings soldiers are playing cards, smoking and laughing, sometimes nurses run past attending the wounded or in a different time period, they look after the sick. Teachers stand in front of classes of children while they recite and suddenly out of nowhere an impressive figure of a man dressed in a bizarre amount of brightly coloured material might appear. Jewels, a cape and tights, complete with gigantic wig, he demands to know what I’m doing there. Life is certainly not boring.

When I was 9 I started to study how this was happening and why others couldn’t see or sense the things I could. I looked into psychology, began to understand the subconscious mind and learned how energy works. I asked the spirits questions. I read as many books as I could about dreams, magic, witchcraft and ghosts. Those studies lead me into the realm of the occult and later, my studies of Qabalah. There is no doubt in my mind that what I see is real.

Eight years ago at age 32 I started working on paranormal investigations and ghost hunting events. It gave me the freedom to openly talk about the spirits and ghosts and to give them a voice to be heard. With all my experience and knowledge in the mechanics of the spirit worlds, it made sense to help others to understand it too. It also gave me the opportunity to experience these fantastic locations at night, which is still a real treat! People always discuss their favourite haunted locations and there was one that everyone kept talking about, yet 4 years into my work in the industry I still hadn’t been booked for. It was called Woodchester Mansion. My partner and I decided to visit during the day for something to do. I love anything gothic, so the architecture with it’s cathedral-like arches, carved bosses, gargoyles and grotesques all carved from Cotswold stone was a joy to explore. But it was the energy that captivated me.

The approach to Woodchester Mansion is what people start with when they describe their trip here, in daylight or otherwise. The 1.5 mile dirt track starts at a gate set back from the road at a small junction most delivery drivers cannot fathom. Once through the first gate, you pass between two stone pillars, each one carved with a shield. Atop each pillar sits a large stone sphere,appearing to balance precariously. The track then begins to descend into the valley through woodland which closes in from both sides, branches like fingers reaching out as if to ensnare or caress you, depending on your state of mind. If you’re visiting during the day, you park at the National Trust car park and can get a bus from halfway down the track, but Woodchester Mansion is not a National Trust property. The track winds on down, woodland on one side and small sloped fields on the other. The ridge of the top of the valley where the fields meet the trees is the sort of place you expect to see cloaked horse riders at dusk, perhaps highwaymen escaping with their loot. More about that later. As you round the last bend, the mansion looms, it’s bizarre Gothic Revival dimensions and lack of symmetry jarring our modern minds. It’s a stark deliverance of beauty and strength against the backdrop of trees. The belfry tower roof points to the heavens while rather appropriately four stone carved bats keep a look out on each corner. The weather vein screeches as it turns in a strong wind, like a banshee’s terrifying scream. More about that later, too. Huge windows to the South of the building suggest a grand family home and the chapel on the East side with large leaded windows leaves you in no doubt that the person who had this place built had a strong sense of Godly duty. Acres of woodland including 5 lakes stretch through the valley like a land lost in time.

All of this sounds lovely of course, except that it isn’t. At least not if you’re expecting grandeur, riches and plush living. That’s what the house standing in the time before Woodchester Mansion, on exactly the same spot had. What a beautiful home that was! A grand Regency building and hunting lodge, family, servants, laughter.. It’s easy to understand what the aim was when Mr Leigh decided to build his family home and dedication to the Lord here. But Woodchester Mansion was destined to never be finished. The Cotswold stone walls are still mostly bare in the areas open to the public. There were never any floors put in on the South facing side. You can stand on the ground floor and look up 3 floors high into the roof, which is also made of stone. When it snows, if it’s fine snow, it falls right through the gaps between the stone tiles, cascading down to gently coat the floor and mantlepieces like the Great Hall at Hogwarts. In fact, the whole building is reminicent of that school in the movies. It is deeply magical in it’s tragic majesty.

When we rounded that last corner on our first visit, what I saw astounded me. Not just the building itself, but a huge column of bright white light from the mansion shot into the sky as far as the eye could see. Well, my eye, anyway. I often see this type of thing at churches and other buildings where religious and spiritual practices take place, but it’s usually when the location is actively used for prayer or ritual. What really surprised me though, was the image within the white light.
I saw very clearly an image of the Qabalistic Tree of Life, glittering in all it’s colourful glory. Now, I won’t go into too much detail here, but this diagram can be drawn from descriptions from more than one ancient religious text and is a representation of all of life’s intricacies. Everything we know of can be placed on this diagram and it is the key to the energy of the Universe and everything in it. It is not connected with any one religion, but can be used to understand all religions, all spiritual energy. It is also known as the map of the spirit worlds, as well as the map of the inner world inside ourselves. Many people use this image in spiritual and occult practices. It’s not exactly common, your average person in the street probably wouldn’t recognise it. But has been used in secret societies moreso in the last 100 years and is now something that is more widely used in spiritual development. This was a blazing signal – not just that the imagery has been used on this piece of land before, but that this is a known location in the spirit realms for certain types of energies to enter, exit and inhabit. I couldn’t wait to get inside the building.

Walking around inside, I felt at home. I didn’t know anyone could possibly live on the premises. I remember saying “This is amazing, it feels like home”, but guessed it was probably the energy and architecture of the place. My partner made a joke to one of the volunteers, asking when we could move in. To which the reply came, in fact, there will be a live-in job advertised soon! It was like my heart froze. Time stood still for a moment as the possibility to live in such an environment enveloped me and shook my bones. Really? REALLY? Imagine living here! From that moment we just knew that somehow, some way it was going to happen. Fast forward 3 years and we are still living here, my partner Max is the Site Manager and we reside just under the Belfry tower. We are the only people living here, or as I like to say.. We are the only living people living here.

Everyone who has been ghost hunting or investigating the paranormal for a length of time has had “THAT” experience. Either something they can’t explain, just a feeling, or something so powerful it changes their life.. “THAT” experience forges a connection with a spirit or location. The connection will always exist even if the building is knocked down. It’s usually an experience like this that makes people feel they have a special relationship with a location, a facination. They re-visit time and time again, almost as if they have become part of the energy, part of the building itself. Woodchester Mansion is one of those locations for many people. When news spread that we had moved in, we faced a lot of jealousy and opposition from people involved in the Paranormal field. It was heartbreaking, but you learn who your real friends are I guess. On that note I’ll make it clear that although I live here, I don’t work for Woodchester Mansion Trust, but I get booked by groups and companies to work on paranormal investigations and ghost hunts here as part of my job as a freelance Occult Specialist and Medium. I don’t work on all of them, so please check first if you’re hoping to see me!

From the first visit it was clear that many of the spirits here were connected to Spring Park, the building that stood on the same spot before Woodchester Mansion. They were moving along slightly different paths, the aura of the environment moving along with them like a torchlight only picking out a circle of light around them. In that aura I see wallpaper, draped curtains, walls lined with books. In the old kitchen the floor is the original kitchen floor from Spring Park, looking around that room I often see a different kitchen, the windowed wall placed slightly differently but a kitchen table in the middle laden with food ready to send out, sometimes late at night just a solitary bowl of soup made from the leftovers of the day. On one ghost hunting event I was giving a guided tour and began to describe a lady I often see in a grey dress standing in the doorway. I was happy she had come along and asked her to show herself to the group. As I was describing her, the group started to react saying they could see her, every person in the room said they could at least see the grey energy, some went on to describe her clothing exactly as I could see it. When 28 other people see the same as me, I get rather excited and we had only just started the night. This type of thing is usual here. There are often housemaids, cooks, travellers, groundsmen, stableboys and such like around on the ground floor. It is just as active spiritually during the day as it is at night. If you’re open to experiencing that kind of thing, it’s hard to miss it here!

The Chapel is different energy again. It was never finished, so never consecrated. The spirit most frequently seen by myself and guests here is the 7ft tall black hooded figure. He is a neutral energy and is great at passing on information, showing me scenarios from the past. He has strong energy and has been known to frighten people, sometimes causing grown men to cry. I’ve seen him pass through people causing them to vomit, I’ve had to stop several vigils because of this. Some of the soldiers that were based here sometimes throw stones on request, which is great of them. They are people too and won’t always respond to requests but it helps if you live with them!

Upstairs a little girl is often seen. Not many people know that Woody (as it’s affectionately known) was a school for a period. The little girl is often seen by guests, usually in the same place. There are other children too, from the time prior to Spring Park. I’ve seen a house with timber on the outside that I think dates back to the 1500’s, with many spirits relating to that time period.

We have up to 1,000 bats roosting here every year – the longest studied group of bats in the world I believe. If you visit during the day you can view the bats on camera having a snooze, stretching their wings lazily and looking after their young. At dusk they fly out around the mansion, but you usually only see up to six at any one time indoors. They can fly pretty close, but I’ve not been bat-slapped yet! Standing outside you can watch as they fly out of the windows on their way to feed. Some of the spirit energies here have taken on the image of having bat wings. I’ve seen this phenomenon at many locations, usually when a non-human energy is deciding how they will move around a location, they take cues from the environment. I’ve seen energies that look like all kinds of creatures. People often say “You won’t BELIEVE what I’ve just seen!” then go on to describe these types of things. It’s not just the spirits of people that can be seen, there are lots of other different types of energies!

If you thought all that was a bit weird, wait til you visit the cellar. This is where I sense a lot of occult energy, but I think it dates back to at least the 1500s. The land itself in the area is so full of amazing energy, there are ancient burial mounds close by and the valley is rich with elemental and Earth energies. There are spirits of working witches, one in particular who enjoys frightening the men. Several secret societies have met on this piece of land, members of these have introduced themselves in spirit form and shown some symbology to represent who they were and some of the energies raised by them during ritual. The building is completely hidden from view and accessible from either end of the valley, it would be easy to conduct secret meetings here.

There have been many occasions when I’ve been walking my dogs and a charge of Saxons has appeared over the hill. One of my dogs also sees some spirits. I frequently see Romans, their presence is documented here. We often hear voices in the building when everyone has gone home and I’ve heard chairs and tables being dragged but there’s definitely nobody around at the time. There’s even a headless horseman in the woods. People often report stones being thrown, cups of coffee being moved during the day as well as unexplained electrical disturbances and paranormal equipment being triggered. Screams are often heard (although we do have a lot of owls here). The Highwaymen have been seen on the hill and in the woods in the valley. There are also reports of a Big Cat, it seems we have everything here including bats in the belfry.. in fact the only thing we’ve not heard or experienced yet is aliens! There is so much more I could tell you…

Even if you’re a skeptic, I highly recommend a visit here with one of the ghost hunting companies. I’m not booked on every ghost hunt and paranormal event here, but the next one I am working is on 6th October 2018 with Paranormal Discovery. Book your tickets and I hope to see you here so you can experience the energies for yourself!

Cassandra Raven

Guest Blogger – Paranormal Discovery

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