Rhik Samadder tries … ghost hunting: ‘There are faint children running around in smocks’

I’m exploring a Victorian mansion after dark, with the help of a torch, a Ouija board and a ‘spirit box’. Is there anyone here but the living?

The planchette slides across the surface of the ornate Ouija board. It settles on one letter, then another. This is what I’ve been dreading. We’re sat around a table in Avenue House, a Grade II listed Victorian mansion in Finchley, north London, in a dark room that was once a tuberculosis ward. Across the floor, a children’s lullaby suddenly starts playing from a music box activated by motion sensor. “Who is SG? Are they your initials?” a woman in our group asks the darkness. I’m agnostic, and scared. If there is a beyond, I don’t want to open the door.

“Did Henry VIII take your land?” someone else asks, which strikes me as random, until I learn we are on a site that once belonged to the Knights Templar. Earlier this evening, ghost-hunting facilitator Craig advised us to be mindful of our questions. These ghost hunts involve 45-minute vigils throughout the night at sites of noted paranormal activity, “calling out” the spirits to make contact. “You might be meeting a departed spirit, loved by someone in the room,” he says gravely. “If you ask them if they’re OK, and they say no – what are you going to do with that?”

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