Sensed Presence

An installation that fused cutting edge science, art and spirituality - MERGE Festival, October 2014

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In such a historical area that was heavily affected by the Blitz, the Plague, body snatchers as well as supporting a prison, operating theatre and major hospital it isn't surprising there are so many sightings of ghosts and other paranormal activity in the Southbank area of London.

Bompas & Parr created an installation for MERGE Festival 2014 that fused cutting edge science, art and spirituality. Transporting visitors in a multimedia séance that played on both the technological and supernatural meaning of the word ‘medium’, guests were invited to don our Koren Helmet, which gently stimulated the brain’s temporo-parietal lobes, through which people may experience religious and paranormal visions.


Southwark has a rich history, as London's oldest borough there are numerous tales and sightings of ghosts in the area. Southwark is featured in 'The Pack of Autolycus' which is a book of broadside ballads including 'Strange and Terrible News of Ghosts' dating from 1624.

There are also current examples, the most talked about and well known haunt the pubs of Borough and major attractions such as the Clink Prison Museum or the George Inn, first built in the 1500s, boasting a ghost called Miss Murray. The Crown Public House is built on the spot where George Chapman, the serial killer, murdered one of his wives. Decades later the staff reported hearing a child crying. The licensee’s mother caught sight of a man in one of the upstairs rooms who laughed and vanished. Yet another pub, the Anchor Inn on Clink Street, is said to be haunted by a dog who lost his tail protecting his master from press gangers.

Over at the Clink Prison Museum, which dates from the 12th century, stories abound of visitors sighting figures and the staff have experienced doors unlocking and locking themselves as well as mysterious footsteps.

Bompas & Parr’s Koren Helmet could be experienced at the Kirkaldy Testing and Experimenting Works, a little known museum that’s hidden in plain sight on Southwark Street and which contains a plethora of eerily abandoned scientific equipment in a maze of underground chambers, with walls that could tell a thousand stories.

Photography by: Andrew Thompson and Ann Charlott Ommedal.