'I woke to see a dark figure with a shovel ready to attack us'
From spooks with spades to deceased dogs... life's really been a scream for Una Brankin
I don't know how to explain some of the strange things that I've seen. The first was a sneering orb-like face with a long bright trajectory flowing behind it. I was about 18 or 19. I awoke from sleeping in my family home with this thing around an inch from my face, for about five seconds.
Yes, I know it could have been a dream or a manifestation of fears following a trauma, and I know that the light could have come through the window from a passing car, but I was wide awake and completely terrified. My screams woke the whole house - more of which later.
The most recent apparition appeared earlier this year, in the cottage in Carlingford I share with my husband. He was away and I had just gone to bed. I was lying there awake, thinking of what I had to do the next day, when the TV came on of its own accord. I sat up, puzzled, and saw the figure of a mature, curly-haired woman in a winceyette nightdress drifting from the corner where the TV is to the window, then disappearing. I couldn't make out her features but she seemed to be smiling.
The TV had only been on for a couple of seconds - to attract my attention? The figure was there for four or five; it's hard to gauge in that startled state. I sat there for ages trying to figure it out. I still can't.
I've read and heard that conventional ghosts are the residual energy of those have passed on, and that they can manipulate electronic frequencies. And I've been told this pleasant spook was most likely my "spirit guide".
She certainly seemed more friendly than another lady I saw at the side of my bed in my sister's house in Belfast. I was having a restless sleep and was turning onto my side to try and get more comfortable when I saw the figure of a short, older woman with scraggy white hair (I didn't notice the attire) staring down at me from the side of the bed. I froze in fear. Then, within seconds, she began to dissolve, one small square or cube at a time, from the head down, until there was nothing there.
In between these events, I have woken my husband on countless occasions with my screeching, having thought some sort of ghost was beside me. On one occasion, in Dublin, I awoke to see a dark-haired man running into the bedroom with a shovel to attack us, as I thought. "Dex, look - there's somebody there," I hollered. To his credit, he sat bolt upright and flung out his fist. But it didn't connect with anything - the phantom had disappeared. "Not again," he complained, before promptly falling back to sleep.
He thought I was having nightmares, but he was intrigued when he heard how two of my sisters saw an apparent ghost of a little girl, in a typically Victorian dress, standing by the side of their beds in different rooms of our family home on different nights. Without knowing about the older one's experience, my younger sister described the ghostly child's hair and the white collar of her dress in the exactly same way as the older one.
I have not seen this one - I have prayed not to when I'm staying at home. But one night, I was staying in my brother's former bedroom - where he had often felt a tap on the shoulder from nothing visible - when I heard light footsteps running up the hall at 3am. Unable to get to sleep, I had the lamp on and was reading. The next thing, the sturdy brass handle on the bedroom door began to turn up and down and squeak - it needed oiling. I sat saucer-eyed with my fists to my mouth, holding my breath and stiff with fright. Only my parents were in the house and they definitely don't have a light tread or go around opening doors in the middle of the night.
But the door stayed shut. The light footsteps returned, running in a different direction, towards another sister's bedroom. She wasn't there that night, but she has had her equally heavy door suddenly open in the middle of the night, and has felt a thump on the pillow beside her and a tug of the duvet, and a compression at her feet.
She and my brother also saw the ghostly figure of a very tall man with a large black dog one night on our farm. Apparently, the scary pair fitted the description of a local who had passed away young - before my siblings were born - and his loyal hound.
I could go on, but there's just room for one more mini-story. Three decades after my first ever fright, my Belfast-based sister woke up and saw exactly the same sinister face smirking down, an inch from hers. My mother thinks we're all crazy, but my father knows better. He once saw an old woman "who looked like Charlie Landsborough" disappearing through a wall.
Happy Halloween, everyone.