THE QUIET ONES Interview with parapsychologist Stephen Mera

The Quiet Ones is the latest release from legendary horror studio Hammer. Loosely based on a 1972 experiment into parapsychology, it's a terrifying supernatural thriller about Jane Harper – a girl with some seriously sinister powers. We awarded it four stars in our cinema review here .

To celebrate its release on Blu-ray and DVD, we spoke to parapsychologist Stephen Mera about his experiences with the paranormal...

What does your job entail?

I carry out investigations for private individuals, corporate organisations and tenants' associations. We've even done some work for the police. Phenomena are more likely to take place in normal homes than the mansions and stately homes that are typically thought to be haunted. Of course, most things can be easily rationalised and explained, but I have witnessed some fascinating events.

It's surprising to hear of tenants' associations employing a parapsychologist! Does that happen a lot?

More so now. I used to do work for councils across the country. Sometimes there would be incidents of tenants reporting strange incidents. The tenants' associations needed some sort of protocol and would have to send somebody out to investigate. Nowadays people are more forthcoming and report incidents, but they still don't know who to report these things to. Generally they'll tell their families and after that perhaps a medium and then maybe a priest – although the church is usually reluctant to get involved these days.

Why is that?

Because of the public interest. Priests and vicars know that the general public are interested in this stuff. People like to dabble in the subject and their minds can run away with them. Priests need hard evidence before they get involved and even then they're worried because of the media and tabloid publicity.

So, let's say you've found a haunted building. What would your next step be?

We'd establish if there is a disturbance. If we did find evidence then the tenants would probably have to relocate. We ask a series of questions to help determine if there is a phenomena there or not. As you'd imagine, we know the difference between the real thing and people who have just watched too much TV. In some cases we have had to have families relocated. If that happens then we leave the house to lie fallow for 12 months.

What do you mean by that?

The family are moved out and the house is stripped of electrical input. We have found a definite connection between phenomena and electricity. In some cases phenomena has been seen to feed on electricity. There have been unusually large electrical build ups and flickering lights and electrical disturbances. When we have these, people are relocated to make sure they're safe and we suggest leaving the property empty for 12 months.

Are they sentient?

When it's highly interactive, then in some cases, yes, there is intelligence. They're aware of their timeline and occasionally move things around.

Do you personally believe that these could be the spirits of the dead?

Yes! I believe some incidents may be associated to residual phenomena, a type of recording of an event played back at a later time, witnessed by people and termed “a haunting”. There are other types as well.

Such as?

There are locations that people would traditionally say are “haunted”. When the new residents move in and encounter the haunting, their first instinct is to want to get rid of it right away, but they don't understand that it's not that simple. It can be like trying to catch a fly in a glass – and occasionally it can be next to impossible, especially stately homes and buildings that have a lot of history.

A lot of phenomena are what we call “fear feeders”. They create phenomena to generate fear in the residents of a property. The more upset they get, the more things happen and it becomes a vicious circle. We try to educate people on how to react and to think rationally so that the phenomena lessens. It does seem to work.

What has been your most exciting encounter?

In 1996 I was called out by the Rochdale city council. They had some tenants in prefabricated bungalows. They reported a case of water appearing and disappearing in the house across the ceilings, on doors... sometimes it was as if it was raining indoors. One of the residents of the house would actually sit in his kitchen with his brolly up!

At that time Britain was in the middle of a heat wave. We hadn't had rain for a long time and after four-and-a-half weeks a hose-pipe ban had been put in place. So the council had looked at the property. They had checked the plumbing and the pipes and they couldn't find a rational explanation.

I witnessed it myself. The way I would describe it is if you took a glass of water and threw it across the floor, you would see the water arc out of the glass. We saw this, but it was moving and arcing across the ceiling. At one point we actually saw it move around a light fitting as if it was intelligently controlled.

Now, I went into this case as a sceptic, but we – there was myself and two others – were in the bedroom and we heard a rasping breath behind us. As I turned around I felt a hard thump and I was lifted up off the bed and thrown four feet into a cabinet. I had a big bruise to show from it! But what I noticed, aside from it being very painful, was that it felt like both a punch and an electrical shock at the same time. It was very worrying. We had the family relocated and the house was left fallow for a considerable amount of time.

What is the biggest misconception of the work that you do?

That parapsychologists are sceptics. We are not. Parapsychologists believe that there may be some incidents that are real thus we conduct our experimental research in the hope of finding tangible, replicatable conclusions.

The Quiet Ones is out now on DVD and Blu-ray.