LIMERICK Post reporter Alan Jacques joined paranormal investigators GhostÉire during a recent visit to Lough Gur where they set about making contact with the other side.
“DEATH is nothing at all. I have only slipped away to the next room. I am I and you are you. Whatever we were to each other, that we still are.”
These comforting words from Henry Scott-Holland’s poem ‘Death is Nothing at All’ permeate my thoughts on my drive out to Lough Gur to join GhostÉire for a paranormal investigation on a beautiful summer’s evening.
My own father passed away unexpectedly earlier this year so mortality and the afterlife are subjects that have been to the fore of my own mind of late. After the sudden death of a loved one, the fragility of our existence is magnified tenfold and it is hard not to ponder some of life’s bigger questions.
In dealing with my own personal loss, I have learned to take one day at a time and find comfort in the little things. As I head for Lough Gur, I take stock of this sentiment, while the horror movie buff in me is excited to be tagging along with some real-life ghostbusters.
Maybe I will also take some comfort, however fleeting or flimsy, from their exploration of the great beyond. Or maybe not!
Either way it’s a win-win, as the sun is splitting the rocks and an evening in the magical surrounds of one of County Limerick’s most popular visitor attractions doesn’t sound so bad.
I last joined GhostÉire, led by husband and wife team Anthony Kerrigan and Jennifer Cremins, on a paranormal investigation in Kilmallock three years ago, which proved quite the experience. So I was looking forward to seeing the Killarney-based crew once more and getting up close and personal with any celestial apparitions that may frequent these picturesque parts of southeast Limerick.
As I arrive at Lough Gur, the words of Scott-Holland’s poem check in with me once more.
“Life means all that it ever meant. It is the same as it ever was. There is absolute and unbroken continuity. What is this death but a negligible accident?
“Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight? I am but waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near, just round the corner.”
A consoling thought for sure, I think.
Last time I went chasing phantoms with GhostÉire it had been at Halloween in a historical setting, which proved a lively and evocative backdrop for paranormal research. However, I sensed from the off that our evening in Lough Gur was going to prove a very different experience.
Firstly, we were in the middle of an Irish summer heatwave, a startling anomaly in its own right, which somehow just didn’t seem conducive to spine-chilling encounters. Secondly, this investigation was mostly going to take place outdoors where the air was viscous with the sounds of laughter and life.
The charred scent of meat wafted on the breeze from barbecues all around the Neolithic site.
Children splashed about in the lake, as their parents patrolled the shallows, keeping a watchful eye on their energetic little devils.
I combed the horizon eager for sight or sound of shape-shifting water kelpies, or anything slightly ghostly, but alas, not a thing.
In fact, the most threatening critters to be found were the troublesome fleas that feasted incessantly on the flesh of clammy sunbathers.
Sadly, I wasn’t holding out much hope of things going bump tonight!
However, things were about to go awry.
Anthony and his crew turned white as ghosts when they unloaded their car to learn much of their high-tech gadgetry including temperature and motion sensors were left behind in Kerry.
But disaster was quickly averted. A selfless family member had stepped up to the plate and offered to make the two-hour trip from Killarney with the missing equipment.
For now they would just have to crack on and try make contact with the other side using more old-fashioned methods.
And maybe, just maybe, the mislaid gear was a warning from the other side for these ‘meddling kids’ with their notions of making contact with the dead.
As we made our way to Lough Gur Visitor Centre, I took the opportunity to ask lead investigator Anthony about his own paranormal experiences over the past decade.
Have you ever seen a ghost?
“I have heard many voices, unexplainable to which have come through. Seen a ghost? Well, I think sight is our weakest sense,” he tells me.
“To what we could actually see in this plain, it is quite disappointing compared to some other mammals. Spirits sometimes like to blend in. Who knows if I saw them in a crowd, or talking while everyone is in conversation?
“I have had many cold freezing encounters when doing a séance, like it feels your hand is in a freezer. You have to take into account also the sensation of smell, taste and touch, which have all been felt by the team at some point in the past. But I think if a spirit wants to make contact, if done in the right way, it won’t harm you.”
Anthony also considers the spirit world to be another dimension that the living is not capable of relating too.
“Sometimes we do interlink, only some people can link to this more. I’d say some spirits like to carry on living after they die. Who says you can’t watch a football match, visit a bar or walk with your loved ones in the afterlife?”
Well if any supernatural stragglers have been hanging around these parts since the Stone Age or Bronze Age, we would soon find out.
Staff members at the visitor centre greet the ghost-hunters with a healthy mix of skepticism and curiosity.
The little equipment GhostÉire have to work with is quickly set up and they are ready for the off.
The crew stands in a circle in the centre of the room. They look like they are about to play ‘Ring Around The Rosie’ as the room fills with tension and anticipation. A protection prayer is then recited before a séance to commune with the dead.
Staff members gaze on with arched eyebrows.
“Spirits step forward, make contact with us,” Anthony commands.
“Build your energy. Can you talk now? Use your voice.”
At this point, Anthony mentions that it has gone cold. A moment later he thinks he has heard a whistling sound, which other members of the team have also picked up on, but suggest it may have been a bird.
There is a great sense of excitement and activity among the investigators, but for the few onlookers eyebrows remain arched as they suspiciously take in the unfolding spectacle before them.
The séance continues.
“Is there anything in the room you’re associated with? Maybe you can make a cold breeze towards that area?”
Moments later the team report hearing a loud tap, possibly originating from a wooden surface.
As I was not taking part in the séance, it was hard to get a true sense of what was going on, and what all the excitement was about. But the GhostÉire team was clearly animated about the activity they were picking up at the visitor centre.
“Step out of the darkness into the light,” Anthony beckons.
Before the opening act came to a close, investigators reported a slight rocking motion of the table where the séance was taking place. Some said they felt pins and needles and a chill in the air around them as the table started to lift. One team member was even sure he heard a growling sound.
It was certainly entertaining, but somewhat frustrating not to be able to either concede or refute any of it.
But the night was still young.
Our next stop was to ‘The Spectacles’ in Lough Gur where there is the remains of an early Stone Age settlement.
It is a bizarre scene in the most idyllic setting.
A Ouija Board is zealously set up, overlooking the lake, as smiling tourists go about their business, blissfully unaware of the murky deeds afoot.
“Dear spirits use our energies. What makes you come here?”
After a couple of tries, the glass starts to move on the Ouija Board.
“Water takes over me”, is mysteriously spelled out on the board.
“Did you drown?”
“The water makes my body small”, comes the reply.
“Is your body in the water?”
“Yes, the Gorgon put me in”, is the answer from the Ouija Board.
As the question and answer session continues we learn that we are communing with a 25-year-old mother-of-two from 1673. Part of a clan of 34, we also learn that her name is ‘Rachal’ and that she is more than happy to communicate with us.
If anything she appears to be warning us about this ‘Gorgon’ — a Medusa-like creature from Greek mythology.
“The Gorgon found me. The eyes are green. It will see you,” she cautions.
The whole thing is intriguing and leaves me with more unanswered questions than anything. But the investigators decide it is best to move on to the next spot as the numbers of joggers and walkers out enjoying the sweltering evening sunshine is starting to grow and this macabre scene is piquing their curiosity.
As we head for the Giants Grave wedge tomb, I take the opportunity to pick Anthony’s brain some more. He tells me the trick to this line of work is to be critical, but to remain open-minded.
“It’s at the end of an investigation we can be skeptical. We can’t rule something had happened, neither can we rule that it didn’t. You have to weigh the outcome.
“When we uncover something that’s hidden in the location’s history, that makes it interesting, or if we find a missing link and something extraordinary comes up on our recording devices. If there is a haunting at a location, we try to discover a reason for it happening,” he explains.
By the time we reach the wedge tomb, the high-tech gear has arrived for the next paranormal experiment.
This site was excavated in 1938 and the skeletal remains of at least eight adults and children were found, mostly in the main chamber, of this grave. The tomb, according to a report in the early 19th Century, was once home to an elderly lady for many years.
As we arrive at the tomb in the late evening, the sunlight dances resplendent off the stones, giving the impression that it is on fire. It is totally bewitching.
There is a real air of tranquility at this location even if what is to follow is more than a little unsettling.
Team member Gemma bravely lies down inside the tomb as the rest of the crew take their places around the Ouija Board.
“Come on dear spirits step forward. What makes you come here?”
We don’t have to wait long before the glass on the board moves in a straight line to its very edge. This happens three times before making four small clockwise circles.
It is then decided a bigger board is needed and once it is set up, the experiment continues.
“What makes you come here?” Anthony asks again.
No reply. There is an eerie stillness in the air and the team get the sense of a mischievous spirit that doesn’t want to play by their rules.
“You don’t want to communicate?”
“Round and round we go,” comes the insolent reply on the Ouija Board.
“What do you use to cook?” the spirit is then asked.
“No, I will talk now,” is quickly spelled out.
“Which deity provided prosperity?” is the next question.
“Me”, is the reply.
“Who is buried in the wedge tomb?”
“You”, we are told.
“What would you like to say?”
“Go down with them,” the board answers.
Once out of the tomb, Gemma reveals that she felt tightness in her chest while the experiment was taking place. She also complained of a whirring sound in one of her eardrums for the duration of the séance. I experienced the exact same thing.
Team members said afterwards that they sensed anger and “not a nice feeling” while carrying out the test.
Later on, looking back at their findings, when team member Lindsey asked ‘Go down where?” a light masculine voice can be heard on their recorders saying, “Who else is there?”
Anthony says they don’t know if this was a form of mocking or querying.
It had been an eventful evening in Lough Gur for sure. As darkness started to fall, I took my leave of the GhostÉire team as they headed back to the lake eager to carry out further tests.
Did I take comfort from the experience?
Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, I always say.
But, I think science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein summed it up best when he stated, “There is no conclusive evidence of life after death, but there is no evidence of any sort against it. Soon enough you will know, so why fret about it?”
by Alan Jacques