Ghostbusting 101: Breathing

The Crypt of Peel Castle. Photography by Graham Richards.

The Crypt of Peel Castle. Photography by Graham Richards.

I began tutoring my first parapsychology student today. He wants to know how to see ghosts. Therefore my first goal is to teach him to be invisible to ghosts. Lesson one: breathing. Extra Sensory Perception requires a steady mind. The exercise of breathing for eight – in for 8, hold for 8, exhale for 8 – effectively balances the surge of adrenaline customary to paranormal encounters. Breathing is the most effective way to keep your composure (and consciousness) in potentially frightening situations.

What is the most important part of seeing ghosts? he asked.

Breathing, I repeated. Imagine a bright white light.

I guided him through a simple meditation of breath and white light. After the session, I lent him my copy of Loyd Auerbach’s Ghosthunting. It took me years to reach a point where I am comfortable openly discussing ESP. I am humbled to now mentor kids who see ghosts. In so doing, I feel like I am helping my 10-year-old self. That busy, pointy-legged creature blinking at the ghosts in the window. Three cheers for education.

If you are interested in parapsychology tutoring sessions via Skype ($20/hour), contact me at CrismanRichards[at]Gmail[dot]com.

Love and Light,



But Who Am I Going To Call?

Slipping beyond the veil is as subtle as turning a page.

Slipping beyond the veil is as subtle as turning a page.

Like any girl curious about the disembodied faces ever watching her from the window, I thought one day I’d make a fine Ghostbuster. As a child, my spectacles and frizzy flop of hair resembled Dr Egon Spengler, psychologically confirming my be-coveralled destiny. The Ghostbusters instilled within me an analytical, if hilarious, basis for my intuitive research. The beloved characters were inspired by the great Doctor Hans Holzer, because Dan Akroyd is all about paranormal academia. As am I, good sir. As am I.

Naturally, when I heard that Ghostbusters 3 will be an accurate all-female crew (fancy that: women make excellent intuitive investigators), my first thought was: How do I get in on that? Followed immediately by: there is no way I have time to play a Ghostbuster, I have actual ghosts to contend with on the regular.

It was the first time I realized that I grew up and became a Ghostbuster all on my own.

Well, I can’t really say “on my own,” as the spirit world rarely leaves me alone for a moment. My research has been focused sharply on understanding my intuitive abilities. In so doing, I seem to have opened Pandora’s Box. Whoopsy Daisy. When I was a girl I always asked Them not to appear before me. “I startle easy,” I said into the darkness. They kindly obliged.

Until recently.

Want to hear my ghost stories?

A Brief History of Muncaster Castle

The Richards. Photography by Tiffany Black,

The Richards. Photography by Tiffany Black,


This week, I made a dispassionate decision to put the podcast on sabbatical in order to devote my life to telling ghost stories of my ancestors, the Penningtons of Muncaster Castle. This is a project I have been researching for 10 years — 30, if you count the endless hours of Blackadder I watched as a child or my own personal paranormal experiences, 800 if you count my genetic memory imprinted across the castle grounds.

The Baroness & the Fool began in earnest two years ago at Cicily JanusWriting Away mountaintop retreat. There at a cozy oak table in the company of literary lovelies, I realized my responsibility as “the Pennington with the pen.” Incidentally, that is the very same moment I realized I am in love with Graham. I called him up and said, “I need you to go with me to my family’s castle, and also I am in love with you.”

Since then, we uprooted our entire lives in order to be together and bring you these stories. Please enjoy this construction paper tale introducing the adventure at hand.

Follow along on our journey from the modern comforts of electronic mail.


Audio Essay: Tom Fool and the Ill-Fated Lovers

Crisman | Richards

Audio Essay:  Tom Fool and the Ill-Fated Lovers

Written and Narrated by Sarah Crisman

Music and Engineering by Graham Richards

Music performed by Dave Richards and Graham Richards

Muncaster Castle has been home to my family, the Penningtons for over 800 years — three generations live there today, along with numerous ghosts.  Muncaster is believed to be one of England’s most haunted buildings.  Paranormal researchers have spent over 20 years studying centuries-worth of unexplained events.  Many eerie happenings are attributed to the most famous castle ghost, Tom Fool, usually heard walking the halls and sneaking up close behind visitors.

Known in life as Thomas Skelton, the last Fool of the Pennington family, Thomas’ 16th century misdeeds were far darker than a few bumps in the night.  Two of the Muncaster ghosts knew Tom Fool in life and death:  Richard, a lovestruck, headless carpenter (reportedly seen wandering the grounds), and my headstrong, weeping ancestor Helwise Pennington — now believed to be the Grey Lady drifting through the halls of Muncaster.  They are known in English folklore as the Ill-Fated Lovers.

Thomas Skelton served faithfully as steward to the lord of Muncaster and as tutor to the Pennington children.  He is said to have known Shakespeare —  even rumoured to be the inspiration for King Lear’s Fool.

In the 2008 documentary Castle Ghosts of England, presenter Robert Hardy explains: “In Muncaster’s long story, there is no more malevolent character to judge by events than Thomas Skelton.”

In 1585, a scandal broke when the castle lord’s fiery daughter, Helwise, fell in love with the village carpenter, Richard.  The rebellious affair would not go undiscovered.  On May Day, Helwise donned a country hoodie and stole away to the May Pole dance in nearby Ravenglass.  When she patently refused to dance with a cocky villager and chose instead the modest carpenter, the lovers were quickly given away.  The jilted villagers followed the couple to Muncaster, where they discovered Helwise was the Lady Pennington and thusly engaged to their hunting buddy, Sir Ferdinand Hoddleston of Millum Castle.  Knowing full well Sir Ferdinand’s pride and considerable artillery, they set off for Millum Castle to tattle on Helwise, thus sealing the fate of her illicit lover.

The disappointed Sir Ferdinand refused to rest until his rival was abolished.  He rode to Muncaster and found a smug Tom Fool laughing about misguiding a traveler off to the treacherous quicksands of the River Esk.  Thomas rose to the occasion, as he believed Richard had weezened sheckels from his pile of shillings.

According to Castle Ghosts of England, Thomas lured Richard to the castle under the pretense of meeting his adorable Helwise.  Once there, he poured a heavy cider until Richard was insensibly drunk.  Thomas used the carpenter’s own tools — a hammer and broad chisel — to hack off the carpenter’s head.

“He’ll not find where I’ve hidden his head so easy he did my shillings.”  said Tom Fool.  H
elwise’ fate was published in 1824 among the Remains of John Briggs:

“Her heart was cold, and no human power could warm it.  The noisy mirth of the hall, she could hear unmoved — the mazy intricacies of the festive dance could not reanimate her — the glowing beauties of the summer landscape were gloomy and dull as December.  She resolved to seclude herself from the giddy world, and brood over her own sorrows in a nunnery.  She therefore retired to the Benedictine Convent of Maiden Castle — the ruins of which are still visible behind the higher end of Soulby Fell; where she passed her few remaining days in piety and silent solitude.”

Thomas Skelton drown in the River Esk around 1600.

To learn more about Muncaster Castle and help bring these ghost stories to life, please consider supporting our Kickstarter Campaign.