Ghost hunters in search for 100% proof spirit at the bar

SCEPTICS would dismiss the shadow that traversed Glasgow's oldest bar at 3.35am yesterday as no more than a trick of the light.

But to paranormal experts investigating the Scotia Bar's spooky past, this moving figure was the latest proof that ghosts walk - or float - among us.

Spirit Finders, Scotland's answer to Ghostbusters, were on a mission to detect signs of paranormal life lurking amidst the bar stools of this Glasgow institution.

The five-strong crew arrived in the witching hour with an entourage of cameras, camcorders, voice recorders, 'ghost detectors' and temperature sensors to seek out the dead.

And it wasn't long after last orders before spirits ran high.

"He's over there!" said Shania, a self-declared psychic 'white witch' and key member of the group, which travels across Scotland investigating what they claim is the country's ghost community. "I can see his shadow. He's medium build and moving towards the cellar now."

Silence. Everyone glances around in the dark. Then some rattling noises emanated from inside the cellar. It had been empty when it was locked.

Of course, Scotland's obsession with the paranormal is well known. BBC bosses captured our national fascination in the hit paranormal drama, Sea Of Souls. Set in a fictional university parapsychology department, the psychic team ventured into back alleys and tenements to find answers to modern-day mysteries.

Yesterday's mission made the TV series a reality. Viewers may have scoffed from the comfort of their sofa at the suggestion that spirits were responsible for unsolved mysteries in contemporary Scotland. But when strange things started happening in the Scotia yesterday, it made even the sceptics among us stop and think.

Two deaths have been reported in or near the Scotia, which has a rich history as a bar dating back to 1792. Both deaths were "detected" within minutes by Shania, who insisted she had never set foot in the bar before yesterday. Shania, who asked to be referred to by her professional name only, was quick to claim an explanation for the shadow that had moved across the bar.

"A man hanged himself in here in the cellar," she said. "He worked in the bar. It was his home from home. But something tipped him over the edge. One day he came in here and took his own life. The last thing he saw was that wall."

Bar manager Mary Rafferty, who agreed to yesterday's session after being contacted by the group, said the story was spot on. "I hadn't told them anything about the bar's history. But their depictions of past events are accurate," said Rafferty. "A Scotia manager hanged himself in the bar in the 1970s. It's not a well-known fact. You'd have to trawl through hundreds of newspapers to find that out. It's sad to think he might still be there."

More spirits appeared as the night went on. We met Willy, an ageing ghost from the 1930s sitting in one of the bar's snug rooms. To confirm the presence, the team whipped out their gadgets. A compass dial whizzed round in circles while the 'ghost detector' - designed to verify electro-magnetic fields - beeped repeatedly.

We also met Annie, an alleged 20th-century prostitute who 'answered' questions by moving a glass on a table. In the dark, with five fingers perched lightly on the glass bottom rim, the woman of the night is said to have made the glass circle rapidly and repeatedly. Then, when asked to do something extraordinary as proof of her presence, the phone rang.

Rafferty admitted yesterday's events made her question her sceptical view of the paranormal. "If it had just been one phone I'd have dismissed it as coincidence. But two phones with different numbers rang in succession. I picked up and there was no answer. I dialled 1471. The caller withheld their number."

She added: "I'm still a sceptic. But I'm more inclined to believe in some kind of paranormal activity now. Certain things - like the phone ringing - were either such a coincidence or couldn't be explained. My mind is not made up yet. I'm baffled."