Why these Northern Ireland people believe in ghosts and things that go bump in the night
Linda Stewart talks to three Northern Ireland people about their brush with the supernatural.
‘In the shot is a woman’s profile you can’t explain’
Armagh mum-of-two Rebecca travels far and wide photographing buildings that have been left to decay and posting them on her Abandoned NI Facebook page. She says:
The photography started initially when I was part of a paranormal group back in 2010 called Paranormal Ulster, which went round locations in Northern Ireland and did investigations. My role in the group was to be the team photographer and I found the locations.
Where my interest in the paranormal really originated from was a place called Gill Hall in Dromore. It was a mansion that was supposed to be one of the most haunted places in the whole of Ireland. It was blown up in the Seventies so it's not there anymore.
But I used to go up to it when I was a teenager and we would hang out at night. One night we were out the back and we got out of the car and I decided to hide on the others. There was a wall behind the car and I got up on the wall - this was about 1am and it was really dark.
I'm on the wall and I can see the car and the next thing I can hear in my ear is a man going 'Shhh'. There couldn't have been a man on the wall behind me. I jumped down and got back in the car! But maybe that's where my fascination with the paranormal came from.
With Paranormal Ulster we would have started at maybe 11pm and it could have gone on until 3 or 4am. We would have gone round all the castles, including Charleville Castle.
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That one was really good - one night we heard a bouncing ball going down the stairs. There was a young girl who was supposed to have died on one of the back staircases and that was well documented, so it's possible that it was her, but who knows?
Then I came across Cairndhu House in Larne, a former hospital. It was the first house that really sparked an interest where I preferred to concentrate on photographing the house. After that, I stepped back from the paranormal bit and focused more on the abandoned buildings.
The building has been empty from the late Eighties and recently it's been named one of Ireland's most haunted houses. On one visit I had the keys to Cairndhu House when it was relatively secure, almost 10 years ago.
We had walked the entire house and had come back to the dining hall and walked through its exiting door, only to hear a loud crash come from behind us, almost like the sound of a metal radiator being thrown towards us with force. We froze in fear for a few seconds, and I shouted 'hello' hoping someone would reply.
We briefly waited and then we could hear footsteps and the arms swooshing on a coat coming towards us. We didn't look but ran down the main corridor and out the front door. We waited for five minutes to see if someone came out - no one did.
At the start of this year I went to a convent up the country near Londonderry - it has now been knocked down. It was five storeys high and we were up on the fourth floor on the main staircase.
I took photos of the staircase, including the bannister and door, and then I moved a foot to the right and took the shot again. In that shot you can see what looks like the profile of a woman through the door.
I only saw it afterwards when I was going through photos and I thought 'Oh what was that'. It was really noticeable and there was no-one else in there at the time. It clearly looks like the profile of a woman - you just can't explain it.
We also went to what used to be a priest training college in Omeath. We were walking down a long corridor and I opened a door on the left and as I opened it I heard a male voice as if it was beside me. My friend was recording on an iPad and when we played it back we could hear a faint voice but we couldn't hear what he was saying. But when we worked on the recording we could make out a man's voice saying 'you are crazy' and it's almost in an Ulster accent.
We also visited De Salle College in Co Cork five years ago - it was used to film Song for a Raggy Boy. As we were walking along one of the long corridors we could hear someone behind us banging doors and we got to the end of the corridor and found we couldn't go any further.
The banging was getting louder and we pulled a board off a window and got out onto a small balcony. You could almost hear someone coming along the broken glass along the corridor. We stayed for a couple of minutes but no one came. We went back through the building, but the banging started again behind us, almost as if whatever it was was chasing us out.
After we went outside we moved off around the front and could hear the banging again from the inside out. If it was somebody, why did they not approach us?
That was one of the most terrifying things. It got us into a situation where we didn't know what to do next!"
‘Jack took a photograph and then we started to run’
Dolly Parton impersonator Donna Stewart, currently rehearsing for her Dolly's Jukebox show at the Marketplace Theatre in Armagh next month, had an eerie encounter in Hillsborough five years ago when she was walking with her son Jack (20). She says:
It was about this time of year - Jack was doing a GCSE in art and he got his camera. It was a really misty morning and he said he was getting really good photographs of low lying mist, so he wanted to head over to Hillsborough and see if there was any mist on Hillsborough lake.
We could see there was mist on our street and he wanted to get some really atmospheric photographs.
We had a German Shepherd at the time and we took him. He was just toddling along beside us - he wasn't the kind of dog you put on a lead.
So we were walking around and Jack was taking close-ups of leaves and anything that was a bit arty.
It was about 7.30am on a Sunday and everything was really still - we were the only people there. We were walking round having a normal chit-chat when all of a sudden the temperature changed and the wind started and it started to rain out of nowhere. I went 'that is so unusual!'
We were about three-quarters of the way around the one-mile walk and the next thing our dog stopped dead and started growling into the bushes - he looked like a wolf. But he was the softest dog you'd ever come across and I'd never seen him growl before.
Jack said: "I don't know what it is but I'm going to take a photo anyway." He took the photo and I said 'let's go' and we started running around the final quarter of the lake.
The dog was absolutely shaking and it was raining - it was just awful. Then all of a sudden, the rain stopped and the mist came back.
We came home and Jack looked at his photographs - and then he says 'Mum, wait till you see this'. I couldn't see it at first then I went 'oh my god'.
It looks like a face - it's like the face in The Scream.
I put it up on Facebook straight away and it went mental. People were saying is it an image coming off the lake, but it's in behind trees and the path is in the way.
Jack looked up the history of Hillsborough and he said there is something there. I have simply said I don't want to know about it!"
'I stopped in my tracks ... a tall man was staring at me'
Passenger services agent Carla Rainey (30) from Ballymena is a member of Belfast-based Paranormal Investigators Northern Ireland which investigates locations across Ireland. She says:
I've always had an interest in the paranormal and wondered if there was anything after this world. The team was set up by partners Donna and Keith Jermy. When we first go to a location we do a 'sweep' of the area, so that we don't get any false readings and can understand why there may be changes.
For example, there may be a cold spot in a room but it could be down to a breeze coming through a cracked window, or an electric spike could be due to power lines around that area.
So once the initial sweep is done, we get down to business. We set up pieces of equipment in different areas, usually based on spots where we have felt something, be it we felt personally affected or heard a noise.
Camcorders are also set up in these areas to try and capture any evidence and we then start going to different areas of the location, maybe spending about 45 minutes in each area where we will all take it in turns to 'call out', ask for any 'person' that's with us to interact with us using our equipment or to give us a sign that they are here with us.
Some nights you could sit for hours and get nothing; other nights the knocks and bangs and equipment going crazy could blow you away. It's not all like you see on TV shows!
After an investigation comes the real work... all the hours of videos and voice recordings are listened to and watched using specialist software.
It took me maybe about a year in the team before I actually saw my first 'figure apparition'. Before this I've had experiences of feeling like I've been poked, my hair played with, having my moods changed on locations, like going from feeling normal to all of a sudden feeling sick, or that I wanted to cry, feeling really angry etc.
I've also felt temperatures drop very suddenly and have seen dark shadows in different locations, as well as catching EVPs (electronic voice phenomena) of someone answering our questions, of knocks and bangs, and of footsteps coming closer to us.
The night in question we had been investigating in Conway Mill in Belfast where we have investigated many nights, both on private and public charity investigations. All had seemed like a quiet night - we had sat for an hour with not much happening and decided to move to a different room.
As I was walking up the stairs, I happened to look over to my left and I stopped in my tracks. Staring back at me was a tall man dressed in black - an expressionless face, but looked like a man of power.
The experience maybe only lasted a few seconds, then the man walked away towards the wall and disappeared into the darkness.
Through our time investigating this location we have come to believe that this man is one of the men that was in charge of the workers and would walk around upstairs on the balcony watching the workers and shouting orders - we know this man as 'Robert'.
I didn't tell my team mates about this man straight away, as I felt like I was in shock.
Part of me was still trying to 'debunk' what had just happened. However, there was no doubt in my mind that was the first night I had a proper experience with the afterlife."