Most of us know the gorgeous Lesley Smith as Most Haunted's resident historian, Tutbury castles Curator and one of Yvette Fielding's screaming banshees. Lesleys love for history has helped bring it to life, literally, as she is famed for her alter egos as Elizabeth I and Mary queen of Scots as well as a few other powerful women from the past.. A scholar and academic authority on the private lives of the middle class woman in the 16th century, Lesley has brought a often dull subject to life with her flamboyance and infectious passion for history.
Having met Lesley with some fellow members of the RiPA team, We grew curious of what made Lesley tick, so decided to ask her...............................
Why did you become an Historian ?
When I was about seven. A natural leaning you may say – a vocation of sorts. I was an odd child who spent a great deal of time hanging around museums in an anorak. However, I had a fantastic range of friends who patiently trailed round with me and later boyfriends.
My formal study started at 18 and now I am back at University – Birmingham Medical School where I am studying for my Phd.
If you weren't a Historian, What would you be?
A politician – like my Father. Wouldn’t I be a nightmare swinging my handbag!?
Do you believe in the paranormal?
I believe passionately in the people of the past and have great respect for the lives that have been. I do believe paranormal activity exists but have a real problem accepting most cases as fact. I know, probably more than most, what some members of the public will do to be famous or on television and I am afraid that tempts too many to pretend. Not in all cases though and certainly I have never seen any faking on the show and am amazed by some of the activity.
What first sparked your interest in the paranormal?
When I was a little girl I had great imagination and enjoyed the concept of ghosts becoming interested properly when I was about 7 – frightened but interested.
I am a bit of a bookworm and read a huge amount and am constantly reminded how ghosts have fascinated this nation for centuries.
What types of resources would you use to research a location?
Firstly talk to the site. If they are part of large and well respected organisation there is good chance the research will be really good and fairly recent. Buy a guide book and use that as a base although be warned they can be wrong.
The local library will help you understand the site itself – what was on the site before that building and the type of people who lived in the area going back as far as possible.
The Land Registry, they will carry out a deed search for you about the property which can be hugely important as they usually provide names of ownership and nature of usage.
Major published works by respectable authors.
Phd’s recently published for up to date work
Leading bodies such as Museums and organisations such as the Public Records Office.
I am very wary of the internet – if the sites are respectable – fine – if not be very careful. I have read enough clap- trap about this castle – recently researched for 5 years by the British Museum, so we do know all about it – yet still some cling to some old research ideas that are frankly overturned.
Be careful, history is not an exact science and there are lots of works that contradict each other. This is a bit of a nightmare but real historians are used to this.
Where in your opinion is the scariest place that you have investigated?
S.S. Great Britain – scare the living daylights out of me and so did Chislehurst Caves.
For those people who don't know, you are also the curator at the magnificent Tutbury castle. Could you tell us about some of the activity that happens there ?
We have a famous sighting, seen regularly of a little girl in “The King’s Bedroom” and also a towering dark figure that is really frightening and has been known to push people. Lights, moving shadows and doors being locked and unlocked is common here.An odd atmosphere prevails at times.
What are your opinions on tv mediums / psychics?
Often pleasant and sometimes gifted.
If you could meet anyone alive or dead, Who would it be and why?
Elizabeth 1st. Her Majesty has been the inspiration of my life.
Are there any new and exciting paranormal projects that you are involved in ?
Yes, but I am restrained from telling you about it yet. Lots more telly coming up too for various programmes.
Thank-you for helping us :)
DELIGHTED AND GOOD LUCK
Tags: history lesley smith most haunted
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