Nov. 9, 2011— -- Nearly a quarter of the British population claims to have seen or felt a ghost, and the number is steadily climbing.
It's understandable when you realize the United Kingdom, whose past is no stranger to violent wars and bloodshed, is host to dozens of haunted locations, where many ghost sightings have been reported.
Deep in a warren of Hell Fire Caves dug into a hillside on a little island in Southeast England, ghost hunters search for the dead who have not yet passed on.
"I believe in ghosts because I've seen them with my own eyes," said Barri Ghai of Ghostfinders Paranormal Society.
His team even believes Benjamin Franklin, who visited once when he was alive, might haunt the hills.
Inside King Henry VIII's six-and-a-half-acre Hampton Court palace grounds in greater London, the tortured soul of one of his executed wives is said to haunt one of the galleries from where she was dragged to her death.
"People have reported hearing those final screams," said Dave Packer, a palace warder.
Of the tourists who collapse or faint when they visit the gallery, more than half have fainted when they come to a particular spot. In 2003, security cameras recorded pictures of the palace's fire doors bursting open and a mysterious unidentified figure pulling them shut.
There are also tales of a tongueless lady at Glamis Castle in Angus, Scotland, a Brown Lady who has been seen descending the staircase at Raynham Hall in Norfolk, England, and the restless souls of long-dead prisoners in an Edinburgh jail.
But the place that is believed to be the most haunted in Britain is an antiquarian book shop at No. 50 Berkeley Square in London.
So fearsome was the ghost that haunted this place, the police once closed the top floors of the house. Apparently a man died of fright in his bed there, and a terrified sailor threw himself from the window to escape the monstrous demon.
Or did they? Owner Ed Maggs claims he has debunked every story about the so-called haunted property, and said the stories aren't real, but came from a novel.
"It was fiction," Maggs said. "The novelist herself said, 'No, it is make believe.'"
And the story about the police closing the top floors was actually to repair wartime bomb damage, Maggs said, not to lock up a dangerous specter. Yet, ghost hunters continue to flock to this location, and several others in the British countryside.
"I suppose, fundamentally, people may be a little dissatisfied with the world that they see around them and want there to be something else there," Maggs said. "To be honest I'm really rather baffled."
But no one can prove that ghosts don't exist -- that's where Barri Ghai and his ghost-hunting team come in.
"We've gathered paranormal evidence here in terms of temperature fluctuations, stones being thrown, people have been touched. The strange noises, the temperature shifts and the stone throwing," he said.
So despite the sceptics and the disbelievers, these ghost hunters continue to search for evidence.
"I don't think I'm going to find ultimate proof before I die," Ghai said. "I'm just going to carry on. In fact, when I pass away I'm going to come back and I'm going to give proof to someone else."
For more information, visit the following websites:
Ghostfinders Paranormal Society: http://www.ghostfinder.co.uk/
Maggs Bros Rare Books: http://www.maggs.com/
Hell Fire Caves information page: http://http://www.hellfirecaves.co.uk/
Hampton Court Palace information page: http://www.hrp.org.uk/HamptonCourtPalace/WhatsOn/Default.aspx?gclid=CKPvtOmdk6wCFYl9fAodtxYpog