As the ‘new kid on the block’ I argued with myself as to which subject I could approach first. After much deliberation I decided to write an article on Don Styler’s Gym in Gosport. Those of you that haven’t been fortunate enough to visit this phenomenal and chilling crop of buildings on the waters-edge of Fareham Creek, must put it on your ghost-busting bucket list. Not only are the premises extremely active with paranormal phenomena but you must also take the time to chat with Don Styler himself. He is an amazing character and a terrific artist, especially proficient at his psychic drawing and he sketches spirit guides for his hobby.
Don has spent his entire life, some almost eighty years, in the area and is the font of all knowledge when it comes to historical fact and local legend surrounding the Gosport area, which was previously known in Saxon times as Elson. Historically the land was owned by Ethelred the Unready, King Alfred’s brother and the land was passed by Ethelred to his wife. A part of this land is where the Gym and other buildings are built, on the marshland on the edge of the causeway, where the boats would land on there way into and out of Portsmouth Harbour and very close to the Roman Causeway.
The ‘end building,’ as it’s known, was built in 1903 as a Smallpox Hospital, built to receive the highly contagious victims from Blake’s Hospital, 300 yards away. The construction was funded by Blake himself who was a local brewer and the founder of Blake’s Hospital. In 1918 another brick construction building was erected to extend the space required and included a large mortuary. English Heritage holds records of thirty Turkish prisoners being detained and later dying of cholera in this building and three more are recorded as dying of smallpox.
The sheer number of bodies received at the mortuary by the ships coming into port at the time reportedly led to men being laid out on the grass outside, with sacking over them, until the workers had time to ascertain the reasons for their death; sometimes hundreds at a time. It was apparent that if the men were brought to these buildings alive the chance of survival would have been slim and they would live out their lives here. Further historical records tell macabre tales of the French Canadians from Dieppe that were brought into this mortuary. Within the records it is documented that these men were taller than the coffins they held at the hospital and they would have to break their legs to enable them to be folded into the coffins!
Furthermore, in times gone by there have been many stories of Pagan Rites and Rituals being practised on the land and stories of the Woodland Spirit Sprites that live within the woodland around the area. These sprites have been seen today by Don, his family and many of the patrons of his gym, that still remains open and operating.
The local fields in which Don played as a child included chilling reminders of the horrors of the past, namely ‘blood field’ and the ‘field of men’. Don was always a ‘strange child’ and was aware of spirits and things others couldn’t see and often saw things happen before they did, although this was something he never shared with his family being the youngest of eight children and something unspoken of at that time. At around ten he met his first spirit, it was 1947 and he had just lost his Dad to cancer. He was sitting around the fireplace in the lounge which was rarely used (except Christmas and holidays), when he was thinking that he would like to get a message from his dad. A voice came into his head that said;
“write a message and put it in the fire, and he would make sure the message got to him.”
Don did as he was asked and an apparition appeared to him, a Native American in full head dress and buck skins, who said his name was ‘Grey Owl”. This spirit is Don’s Gatekeeper still today and can be read about in history as one of the Ojibwah tribe. He has since received meaningful messages from Grey Owl in many situations and through many avenues.
Don was always into body-building and he competed in the Junior South Britain Competition when he was very young. Don’s Involvement with the buildings began when he came home from National Service at around nineteen. He was walking across the marshland with his wife and young daughter in the pram when he could hear shouting and smashing of windows which brought him into the area to have a look. He was horrified at the condition these buildings were being left in and it was then that he had the idea of taking on the buildings and creating a specialist bodybuilding gym. He applied to the council and was given permission to take over the area and from here Don Styler’s Gym was conceived.
During the renovation Don speaks of the many strange and eerie occurrences that took place including once when he was putting cardinal polish on the concrete floor of the gym, he and his wife at the time were busy painting away but there were no lights in the gym at the time and they were working by candle light. However, every time they got into the work two of the candles would go out, it happened again and again and every time it was different candles that extinguished. Another time Don had gone to the gym on his bicycle and he went in and closed the door behind him. He only had a bicycle light with him and he was about to light the gas lamps that he had had installed by this time when a loud bang of a door closing rang through the building. At this time his bicycle lamp decided to shut off and he was left reaching around in the dark across the mortuary slab to try to find the gas lights but couldn’t find them. Don left the building instead and was met by a huge blast of air as he opened the door, he reports that he couldn’t wait to get out of there. This is a feeling we have experienced ourselves whilst investigating the buildings, a feeling that is by far the strongest I have ever experienced.
Our own findings of this crop of buildings and the surrounding area are varied but there is one thing you can be sure of; there are plenty of spirit friends there. On our paranormal investigation in the gym we have been met with slamming doors, where there is no door to slam and an eerie blast of air that breathes fear into you. As hardened Investigators we are rarely fazed by such goings-on, but this was a much harsher energy than we had encountered previously. We have also seen with our own eyes a growing black shadow travelling towards us from within the gym, enough to make us all move away quickly.
We also took some amazing photographic evidence, filled not only with orbs but also with a full shadowed figure in the Gym building, and video footage of Don’s own spirit dog running past us in a whirl of white smoke. Out of all of the venues we have visited Don Styler’s has to be by far the most active.
There is a ouija board set up permanently within the dark room, which is used regularly by Don and his friends and by visiting paranormal investigators that brings through exceptionally strong energies. Don is deeply shamanic and the ‘end building’ is full of totems, Indian head dresses and memorabilia, and you can be secure in the knowledge that the protection and safety of all involved is paramount. Although there is very little chance of any ‘take overs’ by spirit, we have been witness to many cases of over-shadowing in the buildings, where the spirits can come into close contact and change the appearance of the hunter.
The grounds of the area are also very volatile and there are incidents of many suicides and troubled soul’s who passed in the vicinity over the course of the years. Although the woods and undergrowth can be quite daunting, there is so much activity and experiences to be had there. However, winter time can be a little treacherous with the land being marshland, so it would be an ideal addition to any investigation in the spring or summer months.
If you are ever in the Gosport area, drop in to see Don and book an investigation there, you won’t be sorry you did.