The Cork Poltergeist: Part 3


OK, I found the prequel to events recorded in the May 19th Irish Independent article. which formed the basis for the first and second parts of this ongoing commentary. This time my source is the Irish Examiner of May 17th…

Couple claim ‘evil spirit’ drove them out of home

By Eoin English

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A MEDIUM has been called in to cleanse a “haunted” house after a young couple claimed that an “evil spirit” forced them out of their dream home.

Six months’ pregnant Laura Burke and her fiancée Richie Hewitt vowed last night never to return to [address removed by me] off the [road removed]  on Cork’s northside.

“I can’t move back in,” a terrified Laura said yesterday during her first visit to the house in three weeks.”

You might want to read the entire story here :  http://www.irishexaminer.com/archives/2010/0317/ireland/couple-claim-evil-spirit-drove-them-out-of-home-114712.html#ixzz0j8ARRxxN

In case you are wondering why I have removed the address, sadly experience has shown that cases of this type lead to a congregation of youths and curious sightseers, who shine torches, throw stones and shout at the house in the hope the ghost will appear. It was the case at Borley in the 1930’s,  at a case reported by William Roll in the 1960’s and I strongly suspect while the times change human nature does not. I have therefore removed the address, and regret the Examiner publishing it. Of course anyone can read it easily enough – but by omitting it I merely show my concern that the citizens of Cork should not be bothered by this sort of rowdiness. (And I note later in the article it says this scenario has indeed developed, and the Gardaí were called in to control traffic, as well as vandalism occurring to the exterior of the house which has no been protected with screens over the windows etc. How disappointing but predictable…)

I notice now that Ritchie and Laura are not married, but engaged. Good for them! I note this fact however because Laura has a son, and is pregnant again, and I wonder if … well I think anywhere but Eire I would assume this was pretty normal. I probably am labouring under a stereotype, but I wondered if the situation might still in some areas raise a few eyebrows, even make the couple a little uncomfortable. Now I feel bloody uncomfortable raising this possibility – this young couple have been through a lot, and clearly have a supportive and loving family (as we shall see) and I’m not lecturing anyone on what they should do in their bedrooms – I’m a hypocrite, but not that big a hypocrite. No the reason I mention this is my favourite episode of the US ghost show A Haunting featured a case of an ostensible poltergeist in Ireland, and while i have not watched it for a while, there are similarities (analysis of which shall form a future piece) between the two cases.  Being incorrigibly parapsychological in my thinking I tried to establish when viewing that who I would suspect to be the “agent”, the focus for the disturbance, and it was a young mother with a tiny baby but no obvious partner.  I joked at the time about “catholic guilt” (I hasten to add I’m an Anglo-Catholic by religious persuasion — Anglican, as it happens) — but I could not help but wonder if the mother’s ambiguous status led to some kind of tension or guilt that resulted in the poltergeist in that case. Probably utter nonsense, but Nandor Fodor’s psychoanalytic models of the poltergeist have certainly influenced me to some extent, no matter how much I remain deeply dubious of psychoanalysis (except as a useful skill in the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game!).

“My son Kyle can’t come near the place. He was thrown out of his bed and thrown across the room. That was the final straw. He doesn’t want to come back in because he’s afraid of being thrown out of his bed again by ‘the eyes’ – that’s what he calls it. I’ll never bring a child in to this house. I really am petrified.” – Irish Examiner

“The eyes?” I still know nothing about Kyle, apart from the fact he is of school age — but a passing reference later in the article seems to suggest that as well as the unborn baby there is at least one other child in the family.  However his description of the entity that threw him out of bed as “the eyes” is superbly sinister, and makes me think of William Hope Hodsgon’s Carnacki the Ghost-finder short stories for some reason. (I so want an Electric Pentacle!) However, and not to make light of the boy’s distress in any way, what on earth is he experiencing? I am minded of the “orbs” which are actually BOLs -Balls of Light – described in part one of my commentary. Could these be the “eyes” he mentions? Or is it a way of expressing the sense of a presence watching him? I guess we will never know — I am not trained to talk to children about such things, and avoid it totally for fear of distressing them further, even if I was in touch with the family — and sadly I am not.   However I hope that all the amateur psychics and ghost-hunters out there will also refrain from messing with young children’s heads and beliefs – leave reassuring youngsters to their parents and the properly trained authorities.

The couple moved in last August, almost two years after its previous owner Adrian Payton moved out and sold it to the council. He lived there for 26 years and said he never encountered anything unusual.  Neighbours said the house was vacant for several months before the couple moved in and they said gangs gained access and held drink and drug parties there. There are also rumours that some gangs may have used a Ouija board or held a seance inside. – Irish Examiner

I actually think the house is not haunted. There I said it. I don’t believe that there will be much there for the streams of media types and their psychic cohorts descending on the property. So do I think the family made it up? Nope. I am not working from deduction, or inside knowledge, I’m working from an extensive familiarity with the ‘poltergeist’ literature – because in poltergeist cases buildings are not haunted, people are. I’m pretty sure Becky covered this notion of person-centred hauntings on her theory article on this blog.

My prediction would be that the phenomena started with the family, and may even move with the family. No just in case anyone who knows the family reads this, I don’t think they need worry – I would hate to cause distress – it is most likely that the change of environment has ended events, and lets face it most case s of this type burn out in a matter of a few weeks anyway – certainly as soon as ‘experts’ get involved. I doubt they will see a recurrence of activity, and if they have been happy away from the property for weeks, it’s over. I do think that it is very likely that people visiting the house now are wasting their time, and that the house will prove a happy home for new tenants as it did for Adrian for all those years.

I could be wrong – I usually am – but I would stake a pint of Guinness that normality will resume in the house now. Of course visitors to the house will ‘see’ and ‘feel’ things: they are primed to do so by expectation. However I think whatever this ‘thing’ was it was afflicting the family, not the house, and the move has allowed them to escape it and put it all behind them. In fact they could possibly go back now with no ill effects at all? I doubt they want to though! I’ll return to the problem facing the Housing Officers and Council later in this post — I have worked with Housing Associations, a Letting Agent and a Borough Council advising on cases of this type before – with mixed results I must say – but I will make a few comments on the matter. For now, let’s look at the phenomena…

Laura said the strange activity started a few weeks ago with “small things” including:

* Items like keys or clothes going missing.
* The cooker would switch itself on.
* Water would run from the kitchen tap and the sink would fill up.
* Cushions on the couch would flip over.  – Irish Examiner

Yep, exactly what I might expect to read. The duration of events was a few weeks – so possibly since January? As I said these events are rarely long-lived. now the first item is one well known to parapsychologists SOD, or Small Object Displacement (related to jottles, more of which another time!).  SOD is the easiest acronym in parapsychology to remember – as I always say, if something goes missing, blame the SODding ghost! Now if this case was being made up in the hope of being rehoused, the inhabitants have really done their homework. This is NOT a phenomena one sees mentioned on popular paranormal TV much, and is really something that only readers of the technical parapsychological literature (or my blogs and writings) might expect.  Here is a description form a case in Nottinghamshire I was sent recently…

“Items will often go missing and then turn up in random places months or even years later. It’s not just that they have been lost or anything because we have often turned the house upside down looking for these things and then they will suddenly be like right in the middle of the kitchen table or something one day. The items that I can remember is my ring from when I was little, went missing when I was about 10 and it turned up a couple of months ago. A top of mine, a top of mums, trousers, jeans, an envelope with money in.” – a lady in her 20’s Nottinghamshire, England, 2009

Now that case is unusual because it has been going on at a low grade for many years, never developing. Absent mindedness is easy to blame. Yet I have seen this time after time in different cases. Most of them never develop in to anything much – but if a poltergeist case does develop, this is one of the symptoms one immediately looks for. I could cite many more examples from mine and Becky’s research — but for now I will simply note the phenomena is entirely usual, but not well known? (I actually hesitate to publicise such things, as it makes it easier for people to fake accounts…)  Most of the other phenomena listed is also pretty much par for the course – the only place I can think I may have seen it on TV is the oft-mentioned (by me) US TV series  A Haunting.  I have watched all the episodes, and I don’t recall SOD being mentioned though? I could well be wrong!

Anyway things then hot up, as one might expect, as the events move to a head —

She said the activity became more violent in recent weeks, including:

* Glasses flying off the kitchen top.
* Cupboard doors opening and closing and the contents flying across the room.
* An ashtray flew off the mantle piece and nearly hit a friend.
* A chair began to shake violently when Richie’s mother, Imelda, prayed in the kitchen.

Objects flying about are in themselves interesting, but this is particularly telling. The ashtray almost hit a friend; in my experience this is classic polt behaviour. I once, many many years ago at Offchurch in Warwickshire saw a coffee cup lift, and fly at a friend’s crotch, before dropping to the floor. (It is remotely possible the other two witnesses are reading this blog – if so I would encourage them to comment on that event in 1994). The objects almost hit: they very very rarely actually connect ( I think the late lamented  D. Scott Rogo claimed to have been hit by a brick or similar while explaining this “rule” though if memory serves me correctly!) So again, while most of these phenomena are pretty much clichés of poltergeist cases (and the kitchen cabinets feature as a place for phenomena in at least two episodes of A Haunting — though curiously also in a Canadian case I was recently informed of ) I think again the witness report seems to show signs of veracity, through mirroring fairly little known aspects of the phenomena.  And, of course, we learn there is at least one additional witness from outside the family to the events – and we will come across another very shortly…

Back to the Irish Examiner

The couple called in two priests who have celebrated Masses in the home, and blessed the property, but the problems continued.

Now I mentioned above the presence of a second independent witness, and the Irish Examiner reveals their rather surprising identity – Adrian Payton, the chap who lived in the house without any trouble for 26 years! If anyone would be cynical about events one would expect it to be Adrian; he must know the house intimately, and is hardly going to be scared by creaking floorboards or banging pipes.  So let’s see what the Examiner has to  say about Adrian’s visit to the house —

“Myself and Richie were in the kitchen and the next thing, a drawer flew open. There was no explanation,” he said. “Then this heavy wooden kitchen table just lifted off the ground – it was done so gently. It just came up, nice and easy, and came down very, very angry, with a big thud. I reckon what’s in here is evil. So many people have seen so many things, we can’t all be going mad.”

I find that particularly fascinating as those who have read parts one and two will guess, and I’d love to have a signed statement or a recorded interview with Adrian (and Becky would probably love one for her Ph.D too, but I’d share as she is my girlfriend!) I’m too tired tonight to analyse further, but tomorrow will briefly look at the direct quotes from the couple given at the end of the interview,a nd the problem facing Cork Council’s Housing Department – but note again the interpretation is automatically “evil spirit” – I wonder is the beastie is trying to live up to its reputation? (see earlier parts…)

For tonight I’ll sign off, but I can not end without noting a genuine mystery related not to the poltergeist but to the press handling of it. Eoin English has written a superb, informative piece of journalism here — kudos to the Examiner. For some reason, possibly because he did not use the word “poltergeist”, Ralph Riegel’s later article from the Irish Independent (two days later) has appeared all over the web, but I had to work hard to find this story. That is very unfortunate, as if I had read them in reverse order many of the mysteries which puzzled me such as lack of Church intervention would have been clear from the beginning. I also know, but sadly have no access to (unless anyone can help?) that local radio has been extensively covering the case. However: none of the facts in the Examiner article are reported in the Independent article , and vice versa.  The only thing in common is the account fo the boy being tipped out of bed: the clothes shooting out of the wardrobe are not mentioned by the examiner, and the Independent places the response to prayers as happening upstairs.  Ralph has scrupulously avoided using Eoin as a source (Biblical Source Criticism  scholars  might be reminded of the Matthew and Luke non-Marcan passages in the Synoptic Problem here!) and each has given phenomena the other has not mentioned, while agreeing on the overall picture. So why? Are the family changing their story, or is this an example of journalistic integrity at play? I am deeply curious about this puzzle: I hope an email in the morning to the journalists might resolve it.

To proceed with research ideally I’d like to go to Cork, not to visit the house, but to talk to all involved. They are however probably totally sick of the whole matter, and I don’t have the resources and have no desire to compound their misery by adding to the crowds of occult orientated nutcases and hopeful paranormal writers hoping to cash in on their terror with bad film scripts, so I won’t even think of it. Actually I’d quite like to go to Cork anyway, always wanted to!  However what would really help my analysis progress would be to hear from anyone, in confidence if required, with genuine first hand knowledge of events. What would particularly interest me would be dates times and where everyone was at each incident, witness testimony (emailed or recorded on tape), and a rough plan of the house with where each event happened. If anyone reading this can help, I would not pass on any details without your explicit written permission, nor publish anything relating to what you tell me here likewise without your clear consent. I would ask however, no matter how hesitant you are, that you consider if you won’t confide in me that you might seriously consider offering a statement by email to the SPR (linked) for the sake of future researchers.

I doubt anyone is still reading, but if you are,please do comment!

night all,

x

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2 Comments

Filed under Poltergeist Cases

2 responses to “The Cork Poltergeist: Part 3

  1. Wicked blog, very enjoyable read.
    With regard to the Offchurch case and the coffee cup. It was definately strange. It was one of those peculiar incidents where you’re sat around for days and nights on end waiting for something to happen and it never does – only IT DOES! It really was odd. A cross between excitement and I guess if I’m honest, a little bit of fear. There were at least three of us present as I recall and we were all fairly sceptical by nature. When it actually happened I was frantically trying to find a rational explaination and when I simply couldn’t find one I was almost angry. There was also a flying wine glass during the same vigil as I recall all though it was not so intensely whitnessed. The most disconcerting thing about the coffee cup and something that will forever freak me out, was the fact that it burned my fingers when I picked up the broken pieces. I mean blisters and shit! We took photos as I recall. Really odd.

    • Chris Jensen Romer

      Cheers matt!

      I think I will write in a future piece a detailed account of that night as best as we can recall them. I’m assuming the events were written up in the Psi-pher, and it is probable that Derek and Harry lodged some paperwork on the case with the SPR.

      Yes I recall the blister well. There was no way the coffee cup could have been hot; but it was. I think the wine glass which flew from the Restaurant area and impacted the bar was shortly before the coffee cup. The persons present for the coffee cup incident were myself, Derek Newman and yourself, and you and Derek were not getting on at the time so when you corroborated each others testimony I started to believe what I had seen: I must say it was incredibly hard t believe it even witnessing it myself.

      cj x

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