Tag Archives: Poltergeist Cases

The Sweetshop Spook – Cardross, Dunbartonshire, Scotland


OK, I have been really busy lately so let us return to the 25th June and a story in the Daily Record

A SWEET-TOOTHED ghost has whipped up a storm in a teacup at a village cafe. The friendly “Casper” likes to move sweet jars and other goodies around the tearoom in the night.

Many many years ago an old friend of mine was called in to investigate a poltergeist at a chocolate manufacturers, way back in the early 1980’s. Rats turned out to be the cause! (And oddly enough a couple of years ago a care home where staff were frightened and contacted me also turned out to have a problem with the “rats in the walls”.  But even the most enterprising rodent does not heft around large sweet jars, so let us read on…

But the playful poltergeist sometimes makes an appearance during the day.

That poltergeist activity occurs during the day is of course no surprise, but appears? Um, let’s establish the facts as far as we can…

Laura McKirdy and her mum Fiona believe they are being haunted by an old lady dubbed Nanny Goony by folk in Cardross, Dunbartonshire.

Laura said: “I had just locked the door one evening when a jar of lollipops went crashing to the floor.

“I thought I’d just pick them all up in the morning but, when I came back, they were back in the jar and stood upright.

Well the obvious solution is someone else picked them up and put them back. Yet obviously Laura would have considered this possibility, and would hardly be attributing it to a ghost if she felt it likely. A second option is that she picked them up and put them back, and simply forgot. I know that sounds bats but I have often done things like this, then been surprised to find I have done a task when I return to do it later. But then I’m often quite bewildered,and can’t generalize from my crapness to to others.

Laura's Cafe, Cardross, from their Facebook page

Laura's Cafe, Cardross, from their Facebook page (linked). The cafe has since had a makeover apparently, but looks good to m anyway!

What is interesting is not the fall, but the replacement on the wall. One assumes the jar could have fallen for all kinds of perfectly mundane reason, but the tidying up the spill is a bit strange! Then again, there is another really odd but entirely possible scenario – that the jar did not fall in the first place, and was hallucinated, or that the fall happened some days before, resulting in someone else sorting it out, and Laura was mistaken as to the date. All these explanations strain credibility however, but then so do poltergeists!

Other spooky happenings include sweets moving on their own, pictures falling off the wall and crumbs appearing on newly wiped tables.

All very poltergeist, but all to my mind within the possibilities of simple misperception and natural causes. Those who read my 1996 JSPR piece will remember that I suggest that “ghost” may sometimes be an explanation that develops over time to explain a lot of “symptoms” that appear puzzling and bizarre, but when each of the “evidences” for the spook is examined in isolation, the whole picture may change, and instead it may just represent a series of mundane but entirely explicable events. Anyone who has been besotted with a girl or chap knows you start to notice their name more, spot their birthday, and generally become hyper-aware of things that remind you of  the object of your affections – at least I hope so or I am just a freak, it certainly happens to me. Or if you read Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus Trilogy, it may well be that you suddenly spot the number 23 absolutely everywhere, because 23 now stands out to you.

In many cases I think this occurs with ghost and poltergeist cases (the relationship between which will be a future article written with Becky, but you can here more on my thought about this at ASSAP’s Seriously Strange conference this September); a series of minor events that may well happen to all of us all the time and which are intrinsically puzzling become attributed to an entity, as we seek a causal relationship between what are probably events unrelated except by the fact they live in the category “mysterious happenings in our home”.

Note I’m not saying this happens all the time, and it certainly does not explain a large number of poltergeist cases I have read about, investigated or studied, but it may well explain some. The place for any ghost investigation to start is with each single incident, meticulously examined and recreated with the original witnesses present — exactly the kind of thing I can not do on a press review site like Polterwotsit. This is why I always  stress that I want to go and talk to the witnesses myself, or speak to them via the phone or email. I very rarely get the chance 😦

Fiona said: “One time we heard the sound of legs moving under a table, but there was nobody there.”

This seems rather subjective, but I don’t work in a small cafe, so I may not instinctively recognize these things. Laura and Fiona probably have lots of experience of their cafe – they know what they are hearing, so I’ll take their word for it.

The cafe owners called in the Scottish Society for Psychical Research to investigate.

This is excellent news. I only really know Trish Robertson and Archie Roy, and I think Soapy Sam off the JREF attends meetings sometimes, but they strike me a level headed and intelligent organization.  The context makes it sound like this chap however is the SSPR reponse, which I don’t believe to be the case…

Paranormal expert Ron Halliday described the goings-on as typical poltergeist activity.

He said: “It could be that it is a trapped soul who is trying to send a message to the owners themselves.”

It could be. Or it could be all kinds of other things, and trapped souls are currently low on my lists of suspects. Still I will wait and see what transpires. The SSPR will do a good investigation.

Laura added:”She doesn’t seem to mean any harm. She’s a very friendly ghost – I wouldn’t stay here if she wasn’t.”

Well that is nice, and I think Laura has a very healthy attitude. I’ll do a follow up if anything emerges! I’d love ot hear more from anyone with actual first hand knowledge of the case.

References

Romer, The Poverty of Theory: Notes on the Investigation of Spontaneous Cases, JSPR, July 1996

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The Case of Haunted Castle, Carlisle, UK


OK, after all the excitement of the “haunted theme park”, parts one and two, and with Thorpe Park’s ghost appearing in the papers all over the world, it’s time to see what else is in the news. Firstly, I’ll get this in again – if you have had an odd experience please fill in the survey at www.strangesurvey.com It’s being analysed by grounded theory so Becky does not need a random sample; if you know people who claim to have had relevant experiences please pass on the url, and ask them to submit a report.

So what follows a haunted theme park?  A haunted castle of course! Um… The problem is these news stories fail to excite me – because the venues always market themselves to ghosthunters and paranormal tourism is big these days – well actually I think the profits to be made are pretty mall, but everywhere markets their ghosts. Which is fine, the folklore is part of Britain’s heritage, but I doubt we will push the frontiers of psychical research here. Anyway the Cumbrian News & Star published this fun little article on the 1st…

Ghostly figures sighted at Carlisle’s new haunt?

By Phil Coleman

Last updated at 13:18, Tuesday, 01 February 2011

There was a distinct chill in the air as Tony Goddard recalled recent events in his new workplace…

Hidden behind the ancient walls of Carlisle Castle, this 80-year-old building once provided a canteen and library rooms for soldiers of the King’s Own Royal Border Regiment. But since 1960, it has provided storage space for the county’s archive service. The building is now being prepared for yet another role – as the new HQ for the Castle’s Border Regiment Museum.

So the building in the castle grounds may well be worth a visit: what interests us though is the spooks…

But since beginning work there, says Mr Goddard, the museum’s assistant curator, he has been shocked by a catalogue of ghostly happenings.

They have included:

  • Shadowy figures lurking in doorways and rooms;
  • Unexplained bangs and footsteps hurrying away;
  • Small objects flying through the air;
  • Lights turning themselves on overnight;
  • The sound of a ghostly piano coming from the empty upper floors.

Now this is good stuff. I won’t go through each phenomena one by one, as I often do, because let’s face it they are the same kind of things we have seen throughout the year I have been writing Polterwotsit. (March will see the blog’s  first anniversary, and a phenomena round up of what I found over the year in the press). Objects flying through the air will always fascinate me: and the sound of ghostly piano is rather good, as unlike knocks or bangs that is unlikely to be something like the building settling — it is therefore probably either real music, a hallucination, or something spooky. Well, that does not narrow it down much!

Mr Goddard, who has long been fascinated by the paranormal, said: “The building is called Alma block, and we’ve been working here since January 10, and there have been lots of strange things.

Alma block – so it was named after the Crimean War, clearly, or for some association with that war. Anyway, this is where it starts to get interesting. At the time of the article they have only been working in the building for twenty days or so, yet have experienced a considerable amount of phenomena – rather more than I would associate with a classic haunting, actually, for such a short time period. Yet Tony has always been fascinated by the paranormal, and I think possibly in that we might find a key to the phenomena?

Well firstly, people are more likely to experience odd things when they first move in to a building I think. The sounds smells and layout of the rooms are unfamiliar – after a few weeks there, you start to move around on “autopilot”, not really paying attention. At least I don’t! Now Tony’s fascination with the paranormal clearly creates an environment where anomalous noises etc are liable to be misinterpreted as paranormal- but then if he was a lifelong hard sceptic, we could equally argue that he might make the opposite error, and miss genuinely weird stuff. The building already had a reputation for being haunted – Most Haunted, the infamous TV show had already been there, os Tony and colleagues were certainly primed to interpret things this way. Alternatively we could take the idea I sometimes play with, and have been messing around with for eighteen years – that the story of a ghost legitimises their own psychic powers, as the results of such psi can be attributed to the supernatural third party, and hence they haunt themselves. OK, I guessed no one would buy that. 🙂

“One of the strangest was when three of us were sitting in the staff room, and I know there was nobody else in the building because there’s only one way in. But we heard the sound of somebody banging on the internal door. When we opened it, there was nobody there, but we heard footsteps running up the steps to the first floor.

That is interesting, and it would be good to investigate, with various doors and windows open, to see if the wind could generate the noises. One thing that can make a door bang is if it is sticky, and does not fully close, but catches somewhere on the frame. After a time it suddenly releases, and closes (or opens slightly) often with a very loud bang. However banging suggests multiple knocks, not explicable by my theory — and while this clearly sounds like someone playing a prank, Tony insists it is not. I would be interested though in how many keys exist!

“Last week, I was working on some shelving and I had the feeling I was being watched. So I turned round. Through the window to the room next door I could see the figure of a man, just standing there, looking at me. I just said ‘you don’t frighten me’ and I turned round.”

This is interesting, and something I have seen many times before; the feeling of the presence comes before the sighting of the apparition. Tony’s reaction, turning his back on the apparition is interesting in itself – a brave fellow – but the journalist has failed in an extraordinary way — this sighting is the very centre of the story, it introduces our chief protagonist – the ghost — and yet the article has not a single word about what he looked like. One wonders if Tony could not offer a description? We don’t know if the ghost was old or young, short or tall, anything. The absence of descriptions seems remarkable – but then what was remarkable to Tony was the fact there was a figure there at all, not what he looked like. So I believe the account, I’m just curious as to why the lack of description, it’s not what one would expect. I may have to have a look at Robin Wooffitt’s Telling Tales of the Unexpected and see if this kind of thing is common. (I’m glad I have a copy — it is £181 on Amazon at the moment!)

Telling Tales of the Unexpected by Robin Wooffitt

Telling Tales of the Unexpected by Robin Wooffitt

At other times, said Tony, washers have been thrown at him from above – when nobody else was in the room and another time he heard the sound of a piano, though there is not one anywhere near.

The phenomena clearly seems centred on Tony — and in many ways this does sound reminiscent of a poltergeist case. The direction from which the washers come, above, is interesting — I would like to know more about this. In fact, it is clear that Tony is the key witness, and has had some really interesting experiences…

One of the most disturbing stories has been about the image of a boy seen standing near the entrance to the old caretaker’s flat on the building’s upper floor. The gloomy doorway is known to be markedly colder than nearby rooms.

Suddenly there is a sharp shift. This does not seem to have been a recent experience, this sounds like something that happened a while ago, before the museum. I suspect this may be the traditional ghost story of the building, maybe dating back twenty years or so, who knows? Well if I could get to Carlisle Record Office and look for newspaper clippings on ghosts we might find out — if anyone is in Carlisle and willing to help, please do drop me a line.

It is not the first time that Carlisle Castle has generated ghost stories. In 2009, the castle was investigated by Most Haunted team from Living TV. Among the stories that brought them there was that of a ghostly woman who reputedly stalks the corridors. It is claimed that in 1823, the apparition frightened a soldier so badly that he bayoneted the spook, impaling the wall behind it. He is alleged to have then fainted and died of shock the following day.

This reminds me of a story attributed to the Tower of London, or something one might find in Catherine Crowe or Lord Halifax, but I don’t know the source. I quickly looked and found the following in The Cumberland News from the time of the Most Haunted teams visit

A ghostly woman reputedly stalks the corridors, and, in 1823, frightened a soldier so badly that he bayoneted the apparition, impaling the wall behind it. He is alleged to have fainted and died of shock the following day. Three years earlier, a woman clothed in tartan was supposedly discovered bricked up on a staircase in the Captain’s Tower. She was holding a young child and wearing a costume which was said to date back to Elizabethan times.

This fits with the findings of the Most Haunted team and of the castle’s staff, who have reported seeing mysterious figures on the top floor of the tower. In 1992, an apparition moving beneath an arch between the exhibition and gift shop area in the castle’s King’s Own Border Regiment museum was blamed for setting the alarms off three nights in a row.

Could this figure under the arch be the boy mentioned? When I have a moment I’ll trace the 1992 story, and see what I find.  For now, I find this one more interesting than I first thought I would: expect a follow up later in the week

cj x

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South Yorkshire Tyre Depot Poltergeist – part 3


OK, back to the ‘ Doncaster Poltergeist’ — and the Daily Mail coverage this time

The ghost in my garage: Riddle of the tyre depot phantom whose calling card is a pre-war penny

Gothic castles, deserted mansions, ivy-covered old houses  –  all of them perfect haunts for a ghost.

But how about something as modern and mundane as a tyre depot in sensible South Yorkshire?

According to owner Nick White, a supernatural visitor has been running riot at his garage, which was originally a chapel and also served as a makeshift mortuary during the Second World War.

So reads the Daily Mail’s opening paragraph on the current case we are looking at.  We learn one new fact — the location was also a chapel in the past.  I was able to locate the name, address (Central Doncaster) and a few positive reviews – it’s a good garage, I doubt they need to advertise – for the company – interestingly neither the Express or the Mail chose to directly reveal this information.

The uninvited guest has thrown stones and coins at staff, and stacked up piles of tyres and moved them around the building while it was locked up overnight.

Hey, we are back on very familair territory – good old fashioned stone throwing, reported throughout history. One wonders if a polt whatever that may be can differentiate between a stone and a coin? It’s interesting that the Express piece did not mention this classic phenomena in their write up…

The ghostly figure, which materialised from time to time dressed in the style of the 1940s, is said to have first made its presence felt in 2003 but vanished (so to speak) after Mr White took over the business three years ago.

OK, so now we have new and interesting information. The ghost was seen before – nothing here suggests that the apparition has been seen since the 2003 outbreak — and after Nick White takes over, he seemingly a sensible kind of bloke, it all stops. Did that earlier phase which appears to be associated with apparitions – well one apparition of a chap in “1940’s” clothing — feature similar physical phenomena of objects moving and being thrown? Actually, yes it did.Yet the new phase seems fairly low key in comparison…

The obvious thing to do is to link the two episodes as one “haunting” — but anyone who has read my JSPR piece The Poverty of Theory: Some Notes On Investigation of Spontaneous Cases will understand why I hesitate to do so.  In this case I think they may well be linked – but not as directly as may at first appear. I will explain my thinking on this in a later piece…

Now, however, the odd goings on have started again, with pre-war coins turning up mysteriously on the garage floor in two strange incidents a month apart. Mr White found the first of the old penny pieces, dated 1936 and bearing the image of George VI, when he arrived for work one day in February. The second copper coin, dated 1938, was lying in almost the same spot when Mr White, 35, and one of his mechanics turned up at the depot in Doncaster last week.

OK, I think I had best try to talk to Mr White. Perhaps I have the wrong end of the stick: from this it sounds like the coin incidents are the only things that have happened, and these are interpreted as spooky because of the 2003 episode. Clearly I need to find out more about the earlier incident – in case you have not gathered by now my modus operandi is to read each news story and comment in succession, trying to get as much information as possible, then work out a theory based on the reported facts and follow it up with phone calls and emails. Reading the stories one at a time produces an odd effect of me misinterpreting – I had assumed the tyres moving and coins pelting staff were recent events, clearly not – but I find it useful as I develop an analysis methodologically, without trying to piece it all together too quickly…

Mr White said: ‘I took all the strange stories with a big pinch of salt when I bought the place. But I wouldn’t like to say it’s not true any more. There’s no logical explanation for the two old pennies turning up like they did. I wish there was. ‘It’s a little bit scary knowing that there’s something happening while the place is locked up at night.’ Previous owner Nigel Lee once called in a clergyman to perform an exorcism.

We get a picture of a sensible straight forward bloke here. I wonder who the other mechanic was, and whether he worked for Nigel Lee, the previous owner? I doubt there was an “exorcism” as such: a blessing seems more likely. AGain all these events will be reported in the press of the time, I just need to find the stories.

Mr White added: ‘Nigel told me all about the tyres being moved around when the place was locked up at night and customers witnessing small change and stones coming out of nowhere and flying here and there.

Interesting. Well I will comment fully tonight!

‘It’s all right being sceptical about these things, but I’m the owner of two very old pennies now, and I’d love to know where they came from.’

The story is from : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1263755/The-ghost-garage-Riddle-tyre-depot-phantom-calling-card-pre-war-penny.html#ixzz0kKZ1Kh0c

Part four to follow!

cj x

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Cheshire Poltergeist in Picture Pose?


Poltergeists are like buses — You wait ages for them, then they all turn up at once; or so it would seem. Well of course I have not been waiting ages — this blog is only a couple of weeks old, and already we have looked at Cork (last week) and York (earlier today). I am slightly annoyed with the paranormal-powers-that-be that they have no provided another case, published just two hours ago in a Cheshire newspaper.  Any of my readers in the Stockport area?

OK, I will try and give this one the love and attention it deserves, but a chap can only comment on so many cases in once day! It seems ironic I signed off my last piece on the York poltergeist just an hour or two ago saying people ask “where are the poltergeists today?” and stating that the answer was no one was looking — well I think this proves my point. I shall certainly send a message to the SPR Spontaneous Cases Committee drawing attention to this blog, and then they can proceed as they see fit with each of these cases. Becky and I would love to follow them up — but I simply do not have the money to do so (Indeed I  simply do not have any money at all, as readers of my personal blog will appreciate!).

Ghostbusters called in to pub after party pic terror

March 31, 2010

A landlady has called in a team of ghostbusters after things went bump in the night at her pub.

The ghostly happenings came to a head when Janice Wright held her 45th birthday party at the Stock Dove in Romiley.

An unidentified figure appeared in photos taken at the bash, held on Saturday, March 20.

Now she has called in paranormal researchers Club Zero Ghost Group to investigate.

Mrs Wright said: “I could not believe it when I saw the pictures – it is really freaky. We seem to have a resident ghost. We have heard whistling, screaming and crying and been tapped on the shoulder. My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

So immediately this one is different: the emphasis is very clearly on a traditional “ghost” interpretation, and the landlady has chosen to call in a local group (never heard of Club Zero Ghost Group but nice website,  but will have to get in touch with them, I’m friends with a bewildering number of paranormal groups!), but in this case the ghost appears to have been photographed. Best take this  bit at a time…

An unidentified figure appeared in photos taken at the bash, held on Saturday, March 20.

Sadly the photo is not reproduced anywhere in the article, which is a puzzling oversight. One wonders if the mystery guest might just be a gatecrasher? I’d be curious to see it, but obviously with photos with extra people in them like this the usual explanation is that someone else was present, and simply not identifiable by the photographer afterwards. I must say I have seen photos of me in which I am unrecognisable to me! I will make some enquiries, but I am really unsure what to say about this until I have actually seen the images.  However Mrs Wright is unnerved by the photo – but could that be because of the other phenomena?

We seem to have a resident ghost. We have heard whistling, screaming and crying and been tapped on the shoulder. My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

There is an awful lot of phenomena packed in to that short sentence. What is interesting is the differences to what we saw reported at York and Cork.  “Whistling, screaming, crying”… The whistling sets an icy tingle down my spine, not least because the motif is used in William Hope Hodgson’s supernatural fiction,  but because whistling has been a feature of a number of cases. Screaming and crying? One wonders when this will resolve in to voices — and if a voice does emerge, I really want to know more. I am not going to speculate further here on this simply because I am making predictions about what would happen and the nature of the voice if that did occur — I’m hoping for something more like the Rougham Poltergeist in Suffolk in the 1980’s than the questionable voices of Enfield.

Janice Wright (c) Stockport News 2010

Janice Wright (c) Stockport News 2010

I’m Always Touched by Your Presence, Dear…

Now Becky is about to do a major study (well she has started) for her Ph.D on apparitional experiences, funded by the SPR and supervised by Dr Ian Hume at Coventry University. Before she began Becky and I conducted a piece of research we call the Accidental Census of Hallucinations, which we hope to publish an article based upon in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research.  Drawing on the work of the SPR in the 1880’s and 1890’s and Dr Donald West’s fascinating studies later, the details are not important here but we closely analysed (using a methodology called Grounded Theory) sixty accounts of unusual experiences. (I’m sure we will write much more on this topic in the future, so I’m passing quickly over it here.)

In that sample 21.3% reported a tactile hallucination, that is a  feeling of being touched, as Ian did. 53.8% of those who did reported other phenomena: in 46.2% it was the sole experience reported.  In 69.2% of those who claimed tactile hallucinations it only happened once: the remainder had multiple experiences of this sort.  In only one case  it is  an ongoing experience, that happens semi-regularly. There was nothing unusual about the gender or age of the people having the experience compared with other anomalous experiences (such as say seeing apparitions) – two thirds of those reporting the experience were female. 32% of the reports mention specifically being touched on the shoulder.

So what does this tell us? Actually, not much, apart from the fact one can have the distinct impression of being touched with out any other “ghostly” experiences. I therefore make the following suggestion: the sense of being touched may be a relatively common physiological or neurological phenomenon – a somatosensory hallucination. In fact it may be about as common as hearing someone call your name, but there not being anyone there. Now the account is not clear how many times this has happened, or to whom, but if it has only happened once or twice then it may just be a coincidence of a trivial but not uncommon experience, and maybe then suggestion.

The problem with my hypothesis is that in about half the cases Becky and I found the experience of being touched was linked to other phenomena. While my idea is that these cases are recalled precisely BECAUSE of the other phenomena, I am not convinced that can necessarily account for such a high correlation. I have tried a little experiment on Facebook, and asked

If you read this can you answer yes or NO (and I do want negative replies) as a comment, please! I’m trying to do a really quick rough and ready straw poll. The question is “have you in the last month had the feeling of being touched by an invisible person?” Don’t worry it does not mean you are mad or ill – I’m just …curious about this fairly common experience…

I received over a day 37 responses: 12 positive.  I think this strongly supports my hypothesis the experience is extremely common, but under normal circumstances simply ignored and forgotten?

The Usual…

Moving on we get to the really interesting (to me) bit —

“My 19-year-old son Philip moved out of his bedroom after the furniture moved.”

Bedrooms again, furniture moving again (these poltergeists should get in to the Removals business: might need someone to drive the truck though!) Are we seeing a pattern yet folks? Now of course it could just be that everyone from York to Stockport to Cork reports similar experiences because actually they are all drawing on the same films, TV, or popular culture motifs. Yet somehow, I find this unlikely — the experiences seem (to me anyway) rather trivial compared with the ones you see on the TV.

The Stock Dove

The Stock Dove - cliick for the pub website

Wayne from the Bury St Edmund’s research group messaged me earlier and said he was wondering when we would see another Enfield poltergeist but you know what? I suspect that any of these cases could be as big, if the SPR got hold of them and sent Guy Lyon Playfair and Mary Rose Barrington  or Tom Ruffles or whoever over.  Enfield just got a blaze of press attention (did the story break in the August “silly season” when news is slow  by any chance?), and has had much discussion, writing and books on it. Most of these little cases I am chronicling here strike me as having very bit as much interest — but I doubt in 20 years time people will be referencing them…

There is another curious parallel with the Cork case – the timings —

Janice reopened the pub with her business partner last August after it had been closed for 11 months.

Now thinking back to Cork, the family moved in last August, after the house had been empty for a while. I can not see any reason to think this is more than coincidence, but I think we should watch out just in case any patterns emerge, and we can find hypotheses we can test.  As I said in the Cork case, one would expect people to mistake ordinary noises and house settling, pipes etc,  for something weird in the first weeks after moving in. Here as in Cork the family had settled in for maybe eight months.

Janice Wright seems to take a very level headed view of the phenomena —

She said: “I think we must have disturbed the ghost. I have been told stories by some of the customers about how a girl came for a stay here when it was a coach house and was murdered, and it is thought she is moving things in my son’s room as that is where it happened. I can’t wait for Club Zero to come in to see what they can find out.”

So once again a dead guy – or in this case a dead gal – is to blame? Was the Stock Dove ever a coaching inn? I have no idea, but if I saw the building I could probably make a good guess. No for the story to make sense the murder must have been discovered, and most murders leave written records, so perhaps some local historian will be able to confirm the truth of this one.  It sounds like folklore to me, or people inventing explanations, but I wonder — I have been wrong on this before, most notably on the Old Bell, Dursley Case. I will keep an open mind for now.

The rest of the article simply deals with the impending visit of Club Zero –

Club Zero Ghost Group was founded in Stockport by Chris Andrews in 2003. It will visit the pub in April. Carole Webster, 56, the club’s events manager, said: “We are looking forward to going in to do an investigation. We will take along our equipment including EMS, an infrared system and a video camera. We will then put together a report and a DVD. There will also be a medium present.” For more information see clubzero.co.uk .

I assume EMF meter is intended by EMS, but I could be wrong – this look like a journalistic typo, and I wonder if a DVD is standard for ghost groups now. Seems sensible to keep a record fo the investigation anyway. Well I will do some digging and see what I find out, but for now I’ll call it a day.

cj x

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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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