Weird Norfolk: The Scole Experiment
- Credit: Archant
It was an underground experiment which set out to find scientific evidence of the afterlife – and there were some startling discoveries
Once a Roman thoroughfare on the way to Venta Icenorum, an Iceni stronghold close to Norwich, Scole is the unlikely home to Norfolk's very own X Files-style investigation.
In 1993, psychic researchers Sandra and Robin Foy joined forces with another husband and wife duo, mediums Diana and Allen Bennett, to form the Scole Experiment Group, with the intent purpose of trying to create a direct line of communication between the living and the dead.
The quartet, initially working with three friends, set out to see if the Victorian practice of holding séances had any basis in fact and whether it had been discredited unfairly as hocus-pocus.
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Deep underground beneath the Foy's 17th century farmhouse – in a cellar nicknamed 'the Scole hole', the couples began to hold séances in pitch darkness in order to contact spirits who would be able to help them provide a scientifically-literate public with proof that there was life after death.
From February 1995, they were joined by members of the Society for Psychical Research, who observed what was happening and the sittings in Norfolk were later extended to include other experiments in Germany, Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and California. Hundreds of hours were taped by Robin Foy.
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The evidence gathered at the séances was strangely compelling: the spirits which the four claimed to have reached can seemingly be heard on the recordings, each with their own distinct voices and at times apparently appearing from mid-air.
Light globes and pinpricks of light were seen dancing in the cellar, their movements responding to investigators' requests. There were lightning-like flashes, levitations, the displacement of objects in the room and endless taps that could be heard. The researchers reported materialisations of moving and walking forms, instruments in the house could be heard being played, those in the room felt they were being touched by hands, fingers and mouths and there were materialisations from cat and dog forms.
After making their way down the winding stairs and through a solid oak door to the midnight blue cellar, those who took part in the Scole Experiment would be seated around a round table in the middle of the room.
Each participant or observer would wear a luminous armband so his or her movements could be tracked in the chilly dark. Robin would begin with a prayer: 'Infinite spirits, creative source of all things, be with us this evening and guide us in our work towards the highest good…'
On one occasion in October 1993, a Churchill Crown coin landed on the table during a séance, during others a so-called 'spirit team' was contacted which told the researchers that it consisted of 'thousands of minds' working in unison to provide tangible proof of other dimensions.
Following the coin, group members saw dancing lights, heard the ringing of bells, saw objects hover in mid-air and heard noisy crackling. In January 1994, they were sprinkled with water.
Cameras began to levitate and take their own photographs, images magically appeared on rolls of unopened film still in their factory-sealed packaging.
In October 1995, three leading members of the Society for Psychical Research, Arthur Ellison, David Fontana and Monty Keen came to observe a séance and all three concluded that they had witnessed 'something paranormal'. In 1999, the society published a 450-page report about the Scole Experiment which was predominantly supportive of the legitimacy of its aims, goals and results.
The phenomena reported attracted criticism from those who suggested that the group's insistence on complete darkness invited suspicion, but those that knew the group insisted on their honesty.
Having created what they called an 'inter-dimensional doorway' the group was dismayed when 'a group of experimenters from the future whose motives were not entirely benevolent' caused 'an interference contrary to the strict laws of time and space'. The group disbanded.
In 2006, Diana and Alan Bennett began work on The Norfolk Experiment, at the time, they said: 'We owed so much to those in the higher realms that we knew in our hearts we would continue to experiment in one way or another. I have always seen, in my mind's eye, a phoenix rising from the ashes with renewed vigour to live through another cycle.' The truth, as they say, is out there.
You can learn more about the Scole Experiment here.
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