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A ghostly lock-in for charity

Inveraray Jail has a reputation as one of Scotland’s most haunted locations. Staff and visitors alike have reported feeling icy drafts, hearing eerie footsteps and experiencing strange sensations. So imagine how scary it would be to spend a night locked up in the dark, cold cells with the jail’s spirits, spooks and spectres for company. Last month 24 brave people did just that to raise money for SiMBA, a charity that supports people affected by the loss of a baby.

The ghost hunt participants who all raised money for SiMBA.

The ghost hunt participants who all raised money for SiMBA.

The event was organised by Susan Simpson, SiMBA’s Highland Ambassador. Susan’s always on the lookout for new ways to fundraise for the charity, so when Scott MacKay, who took part in Great Glen Challenge to raise money for SiMBA, pitched the idea of a ghostly lock-in to her she was instantly hooked. ‘I thought it would put the ‘fun’ into fundraising,’ she says. ‘The original idea then developed into a full-scale ghost hunt when Tess Chubb and her paranormal investigation team from GCUK Paranormal Scotland volunteered to take part.’

The participants came from all over Scotland. After meeting at The George in Inveraray for dinner (and a drink or two to calm the nerves), they headed to the jail for a night in the cells. They were met by Rob Irons, the actor who plays Andrew Boyd, one of the prison’s longest serving warders, who gave them a tour of the jail and an insight into its dark past.

The group was then handed over to the paranormal investigation team and split into two teams. One team headed for the old prison, while Susan’s team headed to the Courtroom. And that’s when things began to get a little bit spooky. Susan, who’s sceptical about all things ghostly, hadn’t seriously considered the possibility of a supernatural encounter.  So what happened next was quite a surprise. ‘Our group was standing in the Courtroom and we heard a babble of voices at the door. We all heard it and thought it was the other group standing outside chatting. We even joked about how rude they were being! It wasn’t until later that we found out that it wasn’t them – they’d never been there. That was my first encounter with something I couldn’t explain.’

There was more to come as the night progressed. A number of times, Susan felt the temperature suddenly drop. This experience was backed up by Tess the paranormal investigator, who measured huge fluctuations in temperature with a special instrument. At one point the group were in cell XX of the New Prison, which houses the whipping table, when they heard someone walking through the building. ‘All of us clearly heard a door open and shut and footsteps in the corridor, but when we went to look there was no-one there,’ explains Susan.  Later, back in the Courtroom, the group used divining rods to make contact with a judge, who said he was protecting them and warned them to be careful. ‘At this point, we all started to get a bit nervy,’ says Susan.

A view of the corridor at night

The group heard footsteps in the corridor and felt the temperature suddenty drop.

It was well into the wee hours when Susan had her most haunting experience of the night. ‘We were in the New Prison and we formed a human pendulum, which is when three people hold hands and the spirit communicates through the person in the middle’, she explains. ‘I really can’t make sense of what happened next, in fact I can’t quite believe that I’m saying this, but we made contact with a woman called Mary. She told us that she had fallen in love with a prison guard.’

Then it was time for Susan’s sponsored lone vigil in a cell. She’d happily signed up for this in the light of day, but after experiencing all this paranormal activity the thought of it left her a bit jittery. She did the vigil for half an hour – but only with her husband posted at the end of the corridor. ‘It was terrifying, especially when the cell suddenly went icy cold,’ she says. Susan’s colleague had an even more frightening lone vigil experience. ‘She heard someone walk along the corridor of the floor above, down the stairs and along the corridor to her cell. Of course she didn’t tell me about this until I’d done my vigil!’

As the night came to a close at 3am, everyone came together to share their experiences. Some had arrived as sceptics and remained sceptics, but others, like Susan, weren’t so sure. ‘There’s stuff that happened that I just can’t explain,’ says Susan.

SiMBA responds to the needs of those affected by the loss of a baby during pregnancy or close to the time of birth. It provides family rooms, memory boxes, trees of tranquillity and other help and support. Susan would like to thank all the people who volunteered to make the event such a success, including Tess Chubb, Danny Spruce, Carol-Ann Horseborough and Ryan from the GCUK Paranormal Scotland Team, Willie at Flit Haulage, Oban who provided the minibus and Allan Price who drove it. Susan’s planning more ghost hunting events for the future. If you’d like to find out more, email her at simbahighland@gmail.com.

Keep an eye on our website for up-coming ghost hunts at Inveraray Jail – and join us if you dare!


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Inveraray Jail, Argyll, Scotland, PA32 8TX