Meet The Man(n) Behind The Paranormal Database

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There are certain websites you find yourself stumbling across again and again, and for me one of these is the Paranormal Database.

If I’m due to take a trip somewhere, and think I might have time to visit a supposedly haunted site while I’m there, I’ll have a quick search online for local ghost stories and before long I find myself in the Paranormal Database. Likewise, if I’m looking for information about a ghost story I want to research, this is often one of the first sites I come across. Given the size of the database, this is hardly surprising.

The Paranormal Database currently contains over 10,000 entries summarising paranormal and cryptozoological reports from around the UK and Ireland. And the site is continually being updated.

Its creator, and the author of a recent book of paranormal tales from Cork in Ireland, is Darren Mann.

Hi Darren. How would you describe your website to someone who’s never visited it before?

The Paranormal Database gives a brief overview to thousands of alleged paranormally active locations around the UK. These include haunted houses, legendary places (like Stonehenge), UFO hotspots, and sites where dragons and other mythological creatures were once said to live.

How long have you been maintaining the database and what gave you the initial idea?

I started work on the Paranormal Database in 1999, although back then it had a different name and only collected ghost stories based around the east of England area, where I live. The original idea was to have a photographic website of local paranormal locations, although within a few months people started to email and share their paranormal experiences from across the UK.

A couple of years later I decided I had enough information to expand across the whole of the UK and Ireland. Now stories come in from all over the world, so I will soon be looking at expanding once again, although I cannot say for sure when.

What was it that sparked your interest in the paranormal?

I’ve been interested for almost as long as I can remember! As corny as it is, Scooby Doo was a favourite growing up, and one of my first books was an Usborne book of “real” ghosts, monsters, and UFOs.

My interest was rekindled while studying photography at university, and I found myself investigating how to fake UFO photographs.

How often do you add new information to the database, and where do you get the details from?

I try to add information to the backend database every weekend and upload once a month.

The details come from wherever I can find them - I’m sent around 60 submissions per month, but I will not use all of them due to a number of reasons. For example, ghost stories that relate to recent murders I believe will upset too many people so I avoid them. I also trawl national and local newspapers and rummage through second hand bookshops.

If somebody wanted to look further into a story listed on the database, how could they do so?

If someone is really interested in finding out further information about a story, they can drop me a line. The website also has a comprehensive bibliography.

To complement the website you’ve created the Paranormal Field Guide app. How does this work?

The actual app was written by a good friend of mine, Phil Willis. The Paranormal Field Guide figures out where you are in the UK and then displays paranormally active places that are close to your current location.

It’s basically a cut down version of the website, but much more handy and convenient if you’re on the move.

You’ve also written a book - Haunted Cork - featuring supernatural tales from Cork in Ireland. What sort of stories can readers find in there?

Cork is a fantastic place to visit - history is scattered around the countryside, and I was amazed at how many disused and crumbling forts I stumbled across. As with many places, once you pass under the skin of the seemingly normal culture, there’s a wealth of legends and paranormal encounters ready to be discovered.

The book itself is a mix of old and new ghost stories, including interviews with witnesses and coverage of the activities of CPI (Cork Paranormal Investigators) and the Ghosteire team.

If you had to choose one or two favourite stories from either your book or the database what would they be?

It is nigh impossible for me to choose single stories! I think one of the most memorable for me, mainly as it was one of the first I received, was from a sports editor of a national paper who watched a phantom coach pass through the walls of his home. The following day he discovered that his neighbour had died around the same time as the sighting.

I also become excited when I receive several different accounts of happenings from the same location but by different witnesses at different times. I have now received three witness statements relating to a large hairy creature that stands on two legs at Thetford Forest - a British Bigfoot would be cool!

That’s something I’d love to see! Any last comments for our readers?

Only to say I am amazed by the number of stories that people have shared with me.

I started off as being quite cynical of those claiming to have experienced paranormal occurrences, but after reading and hearing thousands of stories from all over the world, you start to believe there is something on the fringes of the rational and the mundane.

Visit the Paranormal Database.

Smaller portrait of Darren Mann by Amy Webb; other images courtesy of Darren Mann.

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James Clark is a freelance writer based in deepest, darkest south London, UK. His latest book, "Haunted Lambeth", exploring ghosts and legends from the London Borough of Lambeth, is due out in February 2013.

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