Ghost-Hunter's Casebook: Spine-chilling encounters of Northern Ireland's paranormal investigators
With Halloween approaching, it's an eventful time of the year for Paranormal Investigators NI, a passionate cross-community team of ghost hunters based in Belfast.
A strictly non-profit organisation, which runs fundraising events for charities, the group was formed in 2014 by engineer Keith Jermy and takes a scientific approach to its investigations.
Using hi-tech surveillance equipment, more often than not they find rational explanations for seemingly spooky goings-on.
But sometimes, they run into hair-raising, inexplicable situations …
'We heard a very human-sounding growl in our faces'
Keith Jermy (46) has had several paranormal experiences since his childhood in Newtownards. The heating engineer lives in Belfast with his wife Donna (40). They have five children and both are active founding members of Paranormal Investigators NI. Keith says:
My dad used to go hunting and when I was younger I got up early one morning to go with him to Toomebridge. We were going up a hill, past Ards Shopping Centre, and I saw this woman on the left side, coming down the hill. I remember she was wearing a white nightie and she had long dark hair.
I turned to my dad and asked him if he saw her. He just kept his eyes on the road and said nothing, but he had a strange look on his face.
When we got to the top of the hill, he said he had seen her and stopped for a better look.
The woman was still there but she had no legs; she was hovering above the grass. But by the time we got back down the road, she had gone. We both saw her.
We found out there had been a death on the road there, years and years ago. The white nightie looked old.
I've had countless experiences since then. One night I was with the team at Greengraves (a megalithic tomb site) in Dundonald. We usually say a prayer for protection, but that night we didn't. The next thing we heard a very human sounding growl right in our faces.
We all jumped back and this ball of pearly golden light shot over the top of my colleague Gary's head. We got back to the car and jumped in. My EVP (electro voice phenomenon) recorder had picked up children's voices, and something demonic, saying 'Leave now'. And the full spectrum camera caught a very gaunt face - I still don't like looking at it. Whatever it was, it attached itself to me and I lost myself for a month.
It stayed with me until I went to the Angels Centre in Belfast. They took one look at me and knew it was a very evil presence. When they lit a candle, the flame went sideways for no reason. Apparently, devil worship had gone on in Greengraves. There's a wee hall there and the owner's son reported it on fire many a time, but there wasn't even a cinder by the time the fire brigade arrived.
More people than ever are seeing things around the world; people are opening themselves up a bit. I stand at the door at night in east Belfast sometimes and I'll see someone at the corner or on the street, just disappearing. I believe the veil between the worlds of the living and the dead is getting thinner. It's not what it used to be."
‘I had calmed down, but quickly got that sense of dread again’
Anthony Seargent (29) works as a general manager for a phone company. From Belfast, he has been a member of Paranormal Investigators NI for two and half years and is active in their fundraising events for various charities, including Cancer Research. Anthony says:
I'm very sceptical and I always look for a rational explanation before describing something as paranormal. So-called 'orbs' are just dust particles on a camera lens; things that go bump in the night are just the sounds that houses make.
But there are some things you can't explain. I had a sick feeling in my stomach from the moment I walked into Leap Castle in Co Offaly, which is well-known as one of the most haunted locations in Europe.
It was ruled in the Middle Ages by the O'Carroll clan, who were so barbaric and violent, they used the severed heads of their victims as footballs for fun.
I am always the one full of bravado, challenging spirits and wanting definitive proof of a spirit. I go in aggressively, call out and demand things to happen. On the Spook Tours event at Leap Castle, I was not feeling so macho.
The sickness and sense of dread increased. When we got to the top of the castle, where the former clan chief killed his brother (a priest, saying mass), I began to get anxiety. I am a man who has suffered anxiety before. I told the tour leader how I felt but she didn't want to give anything away.
So, I went into the 'bloody chapel' as it's known, with my team mates, Allen and Janet. I had calmed down, but quickly picked up that sense of dread again.
I tried to relax and control my breathing. The chapel is surrounded by windows that have no glass.
The frame of the windows is a different brick from the building and a lighter shade, so easier to see. At the back wall, there is a window and an ‘oubliette pit’, where prisoners were impaled on spikes from the floor and left to die in agony. There’s an entry where you can stand and look down into the pit, with a window to your left. We stood around it and called out for interactions with any spirits.
I began to feel sick and my knees weakened, but I said nothing, as I am supposed to be the brave one.
So, we are staring at the window and entry, which is approximately three feet wide and seven feet high.
We think we see things peeping out from the oubliette pit, like black shadowy heads, but we put it down to our eyes adjusting to the darkness.
Then, from the left, it was just like a curtain being drawn. This sheet of darkness consumed the entry. We could no longer see the step up or the brick of either the building of the window frame. It disappeared into the oubliette.
I knew for sure what I had seen and later on, the team confirmed they had, too. It was excitement, panic and fear, all combined into one.
There was no light source there to create a shadow — we were in a field off any main roads, and there was no glass in the windows. I wondered was this presence the old clan chief Teige, letting me know he was still in command of the castle and asserting his dominance.
The tour leader, Gillian Murphy, later confirmed this to me. He was “peacocking” me. Had I intimidated him? Did he feel threatened? One thing for sure, I let him win his battle and he gave me an experience that scared me and left me unable to explain.”
‘I felt the tremor of the steps as they came from behind’
Donna Jermy (40) works with her husband Keith in their heating engineering company. The mother-of-five leads paranormal investigative tours of Conway Mill in west Belfast. She says:
One cold September night, near midnight, we were having a break from an investigation session for refreshments, in the attic of the Conway Mill. I was recording the events on camera and calling out for spirits to interact.
The public and team had formed a circle to try and put our energy together for the spirits to use to communicate.
I was at one side of the group and John, one of the team members, was at the other side.
We were making sure everyone was still and that no one was trying to scare anyone by shuffling their feet to make a noise.
Apart from the sound of wind outside, it was fairly quiet and we can hear everything.
The wing the attic is on was not being used by anyone else and it was four levels up, so contamination is confined and controlled.
There was the odd noise and people feeling cold spots, which we had asked for.
I asked the spirits to come closer to the circle of friends, and told them we meant no harm or disrespect.
Then, from behind me, I heard solid footsteps on the wooden floor. I froze, as I could see everyone present in front of me and they were all standing completely still.
The fear temporarily overcame me.
I asked ‘Who’s that?’, but there was no one. To gain access to the attic, you have to climb up a narrow ladder — the floor is so old and the wood squeaks with every footstep. I was astonished that no one was there. I felt the tremor of the steps as they came from behind me. The public thought the steps were from me. They were not.
In the spring of the next year, I was up in the attic with another team member, Phil.
I was talking about the experience and as I was explaining it, the same thing happened. I stopped and looked at Phil.
We both looked around, looking to see if there was something there — and there was nothing.
I laughed, as I had not even asked for this to happen.
Phil and I had the same experience. That is validation for us.
It shows a level of consciousness and intelligence from the spirit. They are definitely able to interact and communicate.”
For further information email email@example.com or tel: 07779 897608
Hi-tech devices used for investigations
Paranormal Investigators NI use various devices to demonstrate how spirits can apparently manipulate electro-magnetic energy or the ‘energy field’ which surrounds us.
This measures electrical frequency and lights up in its presence.
“Being exposed to electronic frequency can range from dizziness, to a nauseating feeling, to paranoia or the feeling you are being watched,” explains Anthony Seargent, of Paranormal Investigators NI. “People often interpret this as being paranormal but it’s a natural reaction to the electronics magnetic field. With the K2 device, we can get the spirits to light it up to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Also, you can ask them to light the various colours, if they are able.”
Electro Voice Phenomenon recorder
“EVP provides one of the most common pieces of evidence we can capture,” says Anthony. “We simply ask a question and allow an approximately 20 to 30 seconds gap before play-back. We usually get between one and three words; on occasion, a small sentence.
Says Anthony: “We use tape recorder resources and not digital, such as a memory card. Working off the electromagnetic theory, we believe spirits can attach to the tape and is easier to catch. If a spirit is manifesting, it will have some sort of resemblance to what it was in a previous life. Also, they appear as a black mass, or shadows. It is very rare to see a full body apparition, which is basically seeing a spirit as though they are solid human figures. Shadows and mists are the most common sightings.
“I believe that we all have a connection with the spirit realm. We have all had that gut feeling or intuition. To me that is spiritual guidance. Some are more sensitive to it than others and I think it’s something that can be worked on.
“But it takes a lot of time and effort. It’s not like a Wi-Fi connection we turn on and off.”