It was the night of Halloween and seven ghost hunters embarked upon a fundraiser with a scary difference. I was one of them.
We were going to be locked inside one of Manchester best loved buildings. Afflecks is home to dozens of independent stalls, small shops and boutiques. It’s a building steeped in history – and a ‘one stop shop’ for all your Halloween requirements.
Taking part with me in this terrifying challenge were actor and writer Steve Edge (who you my recognise from Benidorm), beauty guru Sam Marshall, DJ John Locke, reality TV star Chloe Khan, Corrie star Mollie Winnard, and my ghost shield for the evening – former Lord Mayor of Manchester, Carl Austin-Behan.
Leading the tour was ghost hunter Stuart Marshall who has spent years searching for evidence of spirits and other spooky entities and has visited hundreds of haunted locations all over the UK.
We met up at Afflecks at 5.30. With my devil horns firmly set in place, I was raring to go. As a horror film fanatic with a huge interest in the paranormal, I was getting quite excited. I went in very open-minded and ready to witness some spooky shenanigans.
The other participants started arriving one by one in Halloween outfits, apart from Chloe Khan who turned up as a glamorous but not-so-scary Jasmine from Aladdin. Carl Austin-Behan looked unrecognisable, transforming himself into the Joker from Batman.
We had a quick debrief with spirit-loving Stuart about how opening and closing my ‘third eye chakra’ would help me be susceptible and more open to witnessing some paranormal activity.
A few of the Afflecks shop owners who had witnessed unexplained happenings throughout the building were also keen to join the tour and tagged along to give us a bit of a background of the building.
I really, really wanted to feel an unexplained entity. I even took pictures on my phone hoping to grab sight of a orb. But sadly I didn’t.
However, some of my new ghost hunting companions would beg to differ.
John Locke felt a cold hand on his head twice and was urged by Stuart to talk to a spirit only he could see that was apparently huddled up in the corner. John took on the role of paranormal investigator in this room. Speaking softly and asking questions, it came to light that there was allegedly a small child in the room.
This was followed by an unexplained draft coming from the top of a staircase. Stuart explained we were not alone. He said that an older, angry gentleman was watching over us and urged us all to shout ‘no!’ to scare this old ghoul away.
At this point it was mentioned that a notorious disc jockey and TV personality, now deceased, is rumoured to have lived in an apartment on one of the higher floors of the building.
I was secretly hoping this was the cause of the aggressive banging above one of the shop owner’s stalls. Or maybe the ghoul that has been playing with the children’s toys from one of the stalls in Afflecks out of hours.
We all held hands to create a closed circle seance and closed our eyes whilst a ghost detector was placed on the floor in front of us. When the LED lights flashed to red it meant that the presence of a spirit was close by.
I was slightly sceptical about this piece of kit so I opened my eyes and had a quick peek to see what was going on. Unknown to the rest of the group, Chloe Khan was on her phone, which had been told earlier interferes with the ghost detector. So of course the LEDs were flashing red, spooking a lot of the group. Not me though.
As the hunt came to a close, there was a moment when I started to suspect that we were not alone.
We formed a circle, with beauty guru Sam and Coronation Street‘s Mollie acting as human pendulums in the centre. It was as if a spirit had taken over their bodies and was making them sway left or right and forwards or backwards in response to the questions the group were asking. It was something you’ll find hard to believe until you experience it yourself.
From the questions asked, it seemed that a deceased fireman was present which actually flung Carl Austin-Behan forward dramatically, with the girls swaying like a tree in the wind. It was very spooky. And it was my cue to leave.
A fantastic evening was had for a great cause in such an iconic shopping emporium. I am thrilled to have been involved. I may not have raised the most, which I am putting down to having been one of the last participants to sign up, but I still really enjoyed being a part of it and witnessing something that not many people get the opportunity to.
And Forever Manchester ended up raising just over £3,000 for their brilliant charity which helps fund and support community activities across Greater Manchester.
So is Afflecks haunted? I’m not sure. There is definitely something strange happening there after hours. I just wish I could have felt a hand on my shoulder or seen something flung across the room to confirm my suspicions.