When you head onto your local industrial estate and see the reasonably modern buildings, you’ll notice they are all places of work. Businesses offering services and goods. It’s precisely where you’d find plumbing supplies and bathroom showrooms. Drakes is a Southeast England chain of stores selling everything you need plumbing-wise. From boilers to baths, smart meters to showers and everything in between. And this is where we are heading today. We’re leaving Wiltshire and heading over to Kent.
Drakes in Ashford
The Ashford branch of Drakes is located on Brunswick Road. It’s a pretty unremarkable place these days, but old maps show the area was once covered by trees. The industrial estate is called Cobbs Wood, named after the woodland that once grew there.
The buildings arrived sometime in the 1950s. Could they have initially been something to do with the MOD, perhaps? Nothing particularly out of the ordinary goes on there other than the daily humdrum of the workday.
It’s worth mentioning the estate appears to be next to an Army base, which is now an Army reserve centre and home to the 103 Battalion REME 133 Divisional Recovery Company.
Kent was a very active county during the Second World War, with its coastal borders sitting straight onto the English Channel and the nearest crossing point to France. The area was full of armed forces, defending the British Isles and striking attacks on the enemy from Kent.
Ashford started life as a railway town and still has much of its infrastructure from those days. Because of this Ashford suffered many raids from the Luftwaffe when they turned their bombers against Britain’s industrial targets, not to mention the enemy would often fly over Kent on their way to larger targets inland, and would often be intercepted by the RAF over Kent’s southern towns, including Ashford. The town was likely very busy during the war.
Something weird was going on…
It was Matt, the branch manager of Drakes in Ashford, who got in touch with me a while back. We are Twitter pals with a shared interest in ghostliness. When Matt mentioned his interest had developed as a result of working in a haunted building, of course, I wanted to find out more.
Matt explained to me what had been going on there over the course of the last seventeen years. In his own words. ‘As individual events, they don’t seem like much. But when you put them all together, it’s really hard to brush it all off.’
The employees at Drakes seem like a fairly pragmatic bunch and whilst there have been many, many strange goings on, the team have all tried to find logical explanations for these events. And for the most part, everyday things explain quite a few events. Seagulls on the roof (they are very noisy on metal roofs and generally cause quite a kerfuffle most of the time), a tree with branches that scratch on the building and plenty of workplace background noise.
But, Matt said the building has always been creepy.
‘It’s a very strange place, to be honest. During Winter, I don’t like locking up on my own. I never look back into the windows of the building when I lock up and leave.’
I asked if other people had unexplainable experiences in the warehouse and yes, they have and continue to do so. Various people had worked there over the years and reported on weird events, leaving them a bit spooked at times. Matt isn’t the sort of person to embellish or lie about things. He and the rest of the team try their best to find explanations. And, as I said earlier, sometimes they do. But there have been many times when what has happened remains a mystery.
A waste of cakes
The first notable event at Drakes happened in 2007. Some cakes, left over from a Sunday cricket match, in a plastic-covered tray, had been left on a desk in the office. They were in the middle of the desk, quite safe, when the staff left. The building was locked overnight. In the morning, the tray was flipped over on the floor, and cakes were everywhere. What a waste!
Matt and his team turned up in the morning and found them there. They tried to figure out what could possibly cause this to happen. Was the table slippery? Was it uneven somehow? It wasn’t! There is no explanation. Unfortunately, the office is the only area without a proper camera, so they weren’t able to check back on the night before.
The Drakes Viking hat
Matt explained an office game they have going on at work. It’s just a bit of fun involving named rubber ducks that get put on your desk if you do something in particular that is a minor office sin, like being late or telling a rubbish joke. One of the other jokey items hanging around is a Viking hat. A fairly weighty (albeit plastic) hat that sits on a windowsill. Matt said he witnessed this hat coming off the windowsill like it had been thrown, and it landed on the floor several feet away. He said he tried to recreate it. Could it have been the heat from the radiator, maybe? But no, that was discounted. The hat was far too heavy. It wasn’t made of rice paper!
The Drakes guys kind of brushed it off. It’s JOTT again (just one of those things)! But is it? How did a plastic Viking hat come shooting off the windowsill, where it had been sitting happily for some time, and land a few feet away?
Levitating Kilner jar
Another unnerving event occurred in the Drakes kitchen. Matt said this was a popular spot for noises and weird goings on. Carl, one of the warehouse workers, was standing by the kitchen door, about to go in. Matt could see Carl from the warehouse floor and was just a few feet away. They were talking. At the time of the incident, Matt could see Carl he was in full view. He did not have any part in the following curious incident.
So, Carl heard a noise coming from the kitchen and looked to his left. He witnessed a heavy glass Kilner jar, the type you put teabags in, slide across the worktop, hover slightly as it left the work surface (not toppling off as it would have done if pushed by a hand) before dropping to the floor and smashing to pieces. Matt was shocked by what he saw. They took photos of the smashed Kilner jar on the floor but sadly didn’t catch any photos of it happening. Matt said Carl was a reliable kind of guy, quiet. Not a prankster at all. He wouldn’t be the type to set something like that up.
Again, they tried to recreate this happening. Was the worktop wet? Was it slippery for some reason or uneven? And the result was no. It couldn’t be recreated.
Another event in the kitchen had four of the employees running straight in there. Four large bangs. Like someone was in there hammering on something. When they got in the door, there was nothing or no one there. Again!
Orbs- Dust, insects or spirits?
Before I show you this, I totally agree with current thinking that pretty much all orbs can be explained away as particles of dust and insects, catching the light of the camera at just the right time. But once in a while, you may come across a photo or video with an orb that is quite interesting. The one caught a few years ago at Drakes is just that. It’s quite clear, and it moves in an interesting way. I’m not saying it’s paranormal, but I’ll let you make your own mind up!
I should just point out that this camera only comes on if it detects motion. It is designed to capture wildlife. So, what set this camera off in the first place? And then it captured the orb. It’s a bit weird, you must admit!
Apparition caught on video?
Over the course of time, Matt started logging the events. He set up the overnight camera again.
One night it did catch something very interesting indeed. The camera switched on (and bear in mind it has a motion detector to set it off) and it catches two lights sweeping across the room. This was debunked as probably being headlights from a car outside. But then, a shadow of a person’s shape appears to rise out of one of the office chairs and move off.
When we put this video out to Twitter to see what some of the more experienced investigators out there thought, the main response was ‘It’s interesting!’ Without further investigations and knowing the layout of the room, windows etc most could not make an absolute call on it, but I felt rather encouraged by their response. You can see the video above with a close-up of the chair. Most times, videos and photos get debunked in a flash, for one reason or another, by serious investigators so the fact that this remains as a ‘maybe’ is quite exciting!
Other Drakes phenomena
Matt told me that over the years, so much has happened at Drakes. Repetitive and unexplainable events. And given the experiences above and this list below, it’s like Matt said earlier, each individual event is not much in itself, but all together, there’s definitely something going on.
- Hearing customers arrive, but then no one is there
- Feelings of being watched
- Metal doors shaking and rattling
- Bangs from the kitchen area
- Chains that secure ladders in place being rattled
- Things ending up on the floor broken when known to have been secure, such as toilet seats
- Copper wire wracking vibrating
What happens next at Drakes?
Personally, and you probably already know this, I generally jump to ghostly conclusions; I think something paranormal is going on at Drakes. I’m encouraging Matt to invite some paranormal investigators in for a night. See what they can find out. He says he will think about it! So, I’ll keep badgering Matt about this because I don’t know about you, but I want to see what the professionals say.
Update- 20th June 2023
Matt sent me a message about a strange thing that happened a couple of weeks back. He said his baby daughter, who is not yet two years old, came to visit him at the warehouse. She pointed down one of the isles and said ‘the man.’ Then she ran back and threw herself at Matt’s legs. She is too young to talk properly but she continued to point down the isle at the man she could see. Matt couldn’t see a thing. Again, it was just one of those things that happens at Drake’s but when added to all the other strange occurrences it all becomes a bit difficult to fully discount. Children tend to be more sensitive than us. Almost as if they are born with the ‘sixth sense’, just like animals. They also haven’t developed their critical thinking like we have. It is thought they may be more open to seeing apparitions because they just take what they see as what is going on and don’t go on to discount it. Could this little toddler have been the first person to actually see the ghost of Drake’s?
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