Rachel Parsons launched her very own ghost hunting team on a whim, after having previous experiences with the paranormal. Now she runs a 10-person operation that boasts over 14,000 Facebook followers, a dedicated tearoom and a sponsorship with one of the UK’s biggest paranormal equipment providers, as well as making an appearance on TV. She gives us an insight into life as a paranormal investigator, and why the afterlife doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.
“We live in a very, very complex world, a very supernatural world. That little ball floating around space – there’s a lot more to it,” the voice of Rachel Parsons, manager at Retford Ghost Hunters, echoes through the phone. The only other noise in the room is the slashing of rain against my window, a sound that would usually be fitting for conversations surrounding ghosts and ghouls. Not with Rachel.
Rachel might not be what you expect from a ghost hunting professional, the 49-year-old ex-NHS worker is far from doom and gloom and champions a positive approach to paranormal investigations. “You know the afterlife; you’ve got to think these people are just people that we’ve been walking the earth with. It doesn’t all of a sudden turn into this dark gloomy thing,” she says, and it’s an approach that is clearly working.
The Retford Ghost Hunters are a team of ten individuals, boasting over 14,000 followers on Facebook and often racking up thousands of views on their live streams. Rachel herself has appeared on the well-known ghost hunting TV show ‘Most Haunted,’ and Retford Ghost Hunters have just taken part in a Discovery+ show named ‘Unexplained: Caught on Camera’.
Their supporters seem to enjoy Rachel and her team’s cheerier approach towards the afterlife, commenting encouraging words as they watch along with the investigations. The support from their followers is what makes Retford Ghost Hunters truly unique; recently Rachel received a surprise when it was announced that they had been secretly fundraising so she could purchase a large vehicle, after she ceased fundraising herself due to some negative backlash. ‘RGH Tearooms’ also opened in April, with Gap Signs in Retford covering the bills for their signage. Whatever the team are doing to gain such committed supporters, it’s clearly working.
In particular, 53-year-old Jan Barton and her husband Mick become firm fans of Rachel and her team, after Mick discovered Retford Ghost Hunters on his Facebook news feed. The couple began watching the live streams together as a way of having a shared hobby, and often visit the RGH Tearooms together. Jan said: “They’ve helped so many people, each team member has something different to be able to give. I just think, the whole team, it’s amazing what they do and what they give to us.
I don’t know another team who do what they do, the energy that Retford Ghost Hunters have makes it better. That’s why I stick with these and don’t want to watch anything else, because for me they are truly genuine people.”
Jan and Mick are also subscribed to Retford Ghost Hunters, making them two of the more hardcore supporters who pay £3.50 a month to receive extra content. They even donated a bench to the RGH Tearooms ahead of their opening.
The more I learn about the Retford Ghost Hunters and the way they run their business, the more I wonder if they’ve ever been questioned on their financial motives. I quiz Rachel on this, asking if she is ever accused of being in it for the money.
“Oh God, I get that all the time,” she tells me with a sigh, “I was working full time for the NHS. Because it was getting bigger and bigger, I decided to leave my job, so I had more time. I need to obviously pay my rent still and pay my bills.
The very little income I do get from ghost hunting allows me to carry it on, so it carries on going. Otherwise, it doesn’t happen, and it stops. It’s a service at the end of the day.” She runs me through the costs of running the ghost hunting business, accounting for fuel and batteries and the costs of electricity to charge equipment at home. It seems perhaps that the financial backing from her supporters is down to their desperation for the service. These people want to continue seeing Rachel hunt for ghosts, so much so that they will help fund her ability to do it.
A cost that doesn’t weigh on the team anymore is the need for equipment. Rachel shares that for around eight months now, they’ve been sponsored by ghost bunting equipment supplier, Paranormal Electronics, and have been gifted many tools to assist with their investigations. Specifically, Rachel and her team enjoy using a SLS Kinect mapping camera, something she tells me is made of an Xbox and maps out any figures it might detect.
Rachel’s scariest paranormal experience was witnessed with the help of a word box, something that picks up any words a ghostly apparition might say. About two months ago, when investigating a derelict nursing home, the team witnessed plastic counters being thrown around a room that Rachel was particularly drawn to. She spoke to whatever was moving the counters: “I said, you want us to go, don’t you? And it said ‘plastic,’ on our word box. I thought yeah, they were plastic coins.
“I said, if you throw another one, we’ll leave. It said, ‘deal.’ It threw one and then it said, ‘now leave.’ That, for me, was really freaky and real horrible. I ran out the building and as I was running, another came flying past my head and hit the ladders. It was crazy.”
As the rain on my window begins to slow down, my conversation with Rachel steers towards her own theories as to why people gain an interest in the paranormal. There’s a brief silence in our phone call, eventually she says: “I think because we’ve all got that question hanging over our head – what happens after we die?”
There’s a further few seconds of quiet, and the sun breaks through the clouds as the rain completely halts. She continues: “We don’t think we’re going to find the answer, but it’s really fun looking for it!”
If you want to experience the search for yourself, you can learn more on the Retford Ghost Hunters Facebook page.