A sceptic of the supernatural turned ghost-buster has set up a business to investigate the paranormal in Darlington. Madeleine Cuff speaks to John Gibbon of Haunted Hunts

WE'VE all wondered if that strange noise was something more than a door creaking in the wind.

John Gibbon, 41, is a man dedicated to finding out whether it was just a draught you felt on your face or something more sinister. He launched his Darlingtonbased business, Haunted Hunts, earlier this month.

Mr Gibbon started going to ghost hunts two years ago as a guest, and says he was initially sceptical.

"At my first hunt, I sat there thinking 'what a load of rubbish', " he said. But then his scepticism was put to the test.

"I sat down in my seat and had a really strong emotional feeling, like I wanted to cry, " he said. "I found out later that someone had died in that seat.

I couldn't say whether that had anything to do with it, but I can't explain my reaction."

Since then, Mr Gibbon has become a paranormal enthusiast, devoting himself to explorations of the "other side".

He said he has learned from other hunts that have gone wrong.

"I've been on hunts when someone's pretended to be possessed in front of me, and you just think, that's so embarrassing, " said Mr Gibbon.

"We are dedicated to proving the truth, even if that means debunking false sightings."

Many sightings have a rational explanation, such as dust on a camera lens, or an unexpected reflection, he said.

Gathering proof is at the heart of Haunted Hunts events.

"A lot of things you don't physically see eye-to-eye, but this doesn't mean they're not there, " said Mr Gibbon.

Groups take sophisticated equipment with them, to record any spooky happenings. These include voice recorders, temperature sensors, digital cameras and electromagnetic field detectors.

"My ultimate aim is to capture a full-body manifestation, " said Mr Gibbon.

Haunted Hunts has held its first night-time ghost hunt at the Railway Institute Club, in North Road, Darlington.

Mr Gibbon said he deliberately chooses unusual locations for his nocturnal events - there is even a hunt planned inside The Northern Echo building.

"My aim is to put Darlington back on the map, and that means investigating its forgotten buildings, " he said.

Mr Gibbon is also planning a charity hunt at the Civic Theatre in Darlington, that he says some people find eerie, in aid of Bliss, a charity for babies who are born too soon, too small or too sick.

Proceeds will help improve parent facilities at Darlington Memorial Hospital Special Care Unit, run by Bliss.

The Bliss Charity Hunt is on April 1, tickets cost £25.

For Haunted Hunts, go to hauntedhunts.co.uk, or email hauntedhunts@yahoo.co.uk