Andrew Green, who has died aged 76, was pursuing a blameless existence as a freelance parapsychologist, secular exorcist and author of such classics as Ghost Hunting: A Practical Guide, when, in April 1996, he was plucked out of obscurity to investigate reports of paranormal sightings at the Royal Albert Hall.
A caterer’s porter had once seen two ladies of the Victorian demi-monde in the hall’s basement; and the area round the organ was said to be haunted by a stooped old man wearing a skull cap who berated workmen whenever repairs were carried out on the instrument. But there could easily have been other explanations for the “feelings of unease” experienced by staff patrolling the building at night, and for the repeated failure of the basement alarm system.
Indeed, suspicions were raised when it emerged that the ghost hunt had been arranged for April 29, the night before the launch of the new Proms season; that 1996 was the Hall’s 125th anniversary (a fact that had so far failed to arouse much public interest); and that Green had been contacted at his 18th-century cottage near Battle, East Sussex, not by the management, but by Mark Borkowski, the hall’s public relations consultant.
Borkowski had also invited the media, and Green’s 12-hour vigil became a scrimmage of journalists yelling questions, and camera crews jostling and zooming in for the best shots – it was “exorcism by PR”, as one wag put it.
Not surprisingly, the apparitions took umbrage and failed to appear, the only things going bump in the night being hacks falling over each other to get an exclusive interview (victory went to The Daily Telegraph’s Tom Leonard).
But, armed with a rucksack full of gadgets, Green claimed that, before their arrival, he had found the temperature in a top-floor room to be 83 degrees “over the spot where two workmen drowned in the Serpentine, which used to run under here before the hall was built”; his bat recorder had also picked up some bat noise.
This did not, however, make for gripping television: “Oi, Andrew!,” shouted a cameraman through a mouthful of crisps, “Can we have that shot of you walking around the corridor waving your torch again?” There was further disappointment when it emerged that, notwithstanding Green’s long and distinguished career as a ghost-hunter, he could not swear that he had ever actually seen a ghost, though he did announce that “I think I saw the ghost of a dog once”.
Andrew Green was born at Ealing, west London, on July 28 1927 and educated at Borderstone Grammar School. His interest in the paranormal was kindled as a teenager after his father, a former Metropolitan policeman, became rehousing officer for the borough during the Second World War. Among his duties was storing goods from bombed houses in empty properties.
One of these was a house (now demolished) in Montpelier Road; it had been empty since 1934, and was notorious as the site of a murder and 20 subsequent suicides from an adjoining tower. When Andrew’s father asked him if he would like to visit the house with him, the teenage Green jumped at the chance.
On reaching the top of the tower, he recalled, he had the strange sensation that it was only a foot or so from the parapet to the garden below; had his father not hauled him back, he might have become the 21st suicide. He then took a photograph of the empty house to show his schoolfriends. When it came back from the developers, there was the image of a girl’s face peering above some curtains in a first-floor window. The photograph would adorn many of Green’s book jackets.
After leaving school, Green worked, variously, as a research chemist, a salesman, a public relations executive and as a civil servant. But the world of the paranormal remained his obsession.
In 1950 he formed the Ealing Society for Investigation of Psychic Phenomena (for which he carried out research projects on “child perception” and “telehypnosis”); and in 1952 he co-founded the Lewisham Psychic Research Society and the National Federation of Psychic Research Societies. He also wrote articles and, from the early 1970s, concentrated on investigating and writing about the paranormal full-time.
Green was often called upon as a consultant, investigating sightings in houses, pubs, theatres and even underground stations (Covent Garden: a tall man in a homburg, probably an actor who had been stabbed). He was called in to advise the American Disney Corporation on a new project.
But, despite years of searching, his only encounter was in 1950, with a phantom fox terrier that had died 12 years earlier in his uncle’s house in Devon. After that, Green’s experiences led him to the conclusion that ghosts are not souls of the dead but forms of electromagnetic energy, created by outbursts of emotion from living people.
This theory failed to explain all the stories which he published in some 15 books, such as Shire Album of Haunted Houses; Haunted Sussex Today; and Ghosts of Today. There was the manor house in Folkington, Sussex, where guests awoke feeling that they were being strangled (this was, Green concluded, merely the ghost of a blind old lady feeling her way about the room).
There was also the Bell Hotel, Thorpe-le-Soken, Essex, where a guest in room six found, on waking, that a heavy wardrobe had been moved during the night and that the spare bed had been slept in; the ghost in this case, it appeared, was an 18th-century bigamist buried in the adjoining churchyard.
A thin, courteous man with an impressive sweep of grey hair, Green became a popular lecturer and worked as a freelance “secular exorcist” for two county councils, offering counselling instead of the traditional bell, book and candle.
“I try to convince people that it may be a medical or mental problem,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “I’ll ask to speak to their doctor, and nine times out of 10 they’re taking the wrong drugs.” But, he admitted, poltergeists could be caused by frustration: “I knew a case where a typewriter exploded because a farmer was so frustrated typing out European Union forms.”
After the Albert Hall jamboree, Green was inundated by requests from the world media for interviews, and was featured in a Dutch television documentary, De Stoel, which was submitted for a European film award.
He was often asked to comment on paranormal sightings. The clanking sounds heard during the construction of the problem-plagued British Library, he suggested in 1996, “may just be the visual phenomenon of the workers’ despair”, or possibly “hyperkinetic energy caused by stress, strain and trauma of someone there, possibly the management”.
In 2002 Green was asked to comment on claims that “curvy Daily Star babe” Jordan was having “the willies put up her” by ghosts (including a young man in a tattered shirt) at Pyecombe, the Sussex village in which she had just bought a new home.
The reason, Green suggested, was that the neighbouring A23 had been the site of several fatal accidents. Jordan should not be frightened, he added: “They won’t be able to harm her as they don’t have a physical form.”
He was equally reassuring when, earlier this month, the singer Robbie Williams was reportedly spooked by ghostly phenomena at his new home, a �7 million mock castle called Whithurst Hall in East Sussex.
“If he comes across anything strange,” suggested the ghosthunter, “he could write a song about it. Who knows? Any spirits he meets might help him get another Number One.”
At the time of his death on May 21 Green was working on a book about ghosts of south-east England.
Andrew Green’s first marriage was dissolved. In 1979 he married Norah (nee Styles), who survives him with a stepson.
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