Most of us are familiar with incidents involving haunted houses, but, perhaps we are not so aware of the fact that it is often not so much the house as the person inside it who attracts the psychic manifestation.
Why do some people seem to have this power to attract phenomona? The question has always fascinated me. Is it because, whether conscious of their psychic sensitivity or not, they give off some form of sympathetic rediation causing them to become ‘psychic transmitters’? This degree of awareness and their power to evoke manifestations will of course vary from case to case.
Take the classic example of poltergeist activity in a house where a young person is living. Owing to adolescence and the unstable factors in his undeveloped psyche, such a young person might evoke formidable phenomena that might be quite senseless in their content. In another case the phenomonen, taking its cue from another sensitive, might be restrained and even beautiful in its demonstration. Now and then the other end of the scale, it could become the nightmare expression of a personality possessed by a powerful discarnate entity who would turn life into a waking hell.
This was the case with Mrs R … of Belfast. Three years ago I was called on to investigate a series of incidents in which she figured. Thanks to a telephone call from a journalist friend of mine I found myself wending my way across the city one dreary winter night. I arrived at a modern terrace house, the home of the woman who earlier in the day rung my friend in a state of restrained hysteria. A frightened and distraught woman whose home and very life had been ‘taken over’ by some unseen and menacing presence.
We were greeted by Mrs R … and her engineer husband, who having installed us in front of a blazing fire, proceeded to give us a blow-by-blow account of what had happened. Having arrived from England only a month before, the family had installed themselves very happily in their newly built home. It was in every respect ideal; close to Mr R’s work, school, and transport. Everything was normal for the first three weeks; then Mrs R … became aware that she was no longer alone in the house, after the others had gone out to work or school. At first she described it as merely ‘a feeling’ as though someone standing behind her. Then she began to feel a hand on her shoulder, and a distinct presence that followed her from room to room.
‘At first I thought it was my nerves,’ she said, ‘being away from home, and alone all day. But then I began to hear a voice; it spoke to me and called me by name, and I somehow got the feeling it was in terrible trouble.’
Mrs R … told me that she began feeling a great sense of sadness and misery, and other sensations and emotions totally foreign to her. As each day went by the unseen visitor made its presence felt more and more. Life became a nightmare. Mrs. R … knew neither sleep nor peace. At night the entity would come to her and wake her, and the children began to complain of seeing a shadowy figure in the bedroom. By day mysterious noises were heard, and objects were moved about. The modern light fittings began to behave in an extraordinary fashion switches were clicked into the ‘on’ position before the bewildered eyes of family and friends alike. Mr. R … , knew a great deal about electrical installation, examined the circuits and wiring, but found everything in order and could offer no satisfactory explanation for the manifestations he himself had witnessed.
After about three weeks of these occurrances, a friend told Mrs R…. of my research work, and, through another journalist, she was put in touch with me. We discussed the whole situation that first evening, but could think of no reason for the manifestation. Two isolated incidents occurred while we were there. Both my colleague and myself heard a distinct knocking on the front door. The husband also heard it but not Mrs R… The door was opened but there was no one there. Later my friend remarked that we could feel an area of cold between him and myself, and within a minute Mrs R … said in a very frightened voice, ‘It’s here! I can feel it’. We saw nothing, but we could see how frightened our hostess was.
Later Mrs R…. was to refer to the presence as ‘her’, and was quite convinced that it was female. The hand she felt on her shoulder was quite solid, she told us; young and soft like a girl’s hand. Feeling rather worried and helpless at my inabillity to help the frightened woman, I came away saying I would return later in the week. Then, I hoped, I could bring some help for the unhappy household.
An examination of the plan of the estate showed that, prior to the erection of the modern terrace houses, in one of which the R’s…’ lived, an old house had stood on the site. Nothing of moment had happened here; no crimes or incidents during the Troubles; no murder or any other violent incident had been reported in the area.
During the next fortnight I became a frequent visitor to Mrs R….. as the ghostly manifestations became more pronounced. The entity now communicated with Mrs R…. and told her its name was ‘May’ or ‘Mary’, and that it was afraid. It repeatedly urged Mrs R…. to pray for her, or alternatively asked for a priest. Mrs. R…. was not a Catholic, and as she was a stranger to the district, I undertook to locate the priest of the parish and, having explained the circumstances, to ask his help.
I explained my mission and my professional interest on helping the family. To my surprise the Reverend gentleman treated me with a degree of rudeness and arrogance that was far from my definition of Christian charity. In the conversation the only practical suggestion he saw fit to make was that Mrs. R … needed a head doctor, and so did I. As for the unhappy and disconsolate ‘Mary’ – well, the good father obviously considered that his cure of souls did not extend into that dimension. Let the entity shift for itself!
Fortunately, I found less orthodox but more understanding aid, in the shape of a local medium und her husband who were only too delighted to help.
After a long and trying session in Mrs R’….s bedroom, ‘Mary’ was persuaded to materialize and the medium extracted the whole pathetic story. It appears that ‘Mary’ had lived in the big house that had once occupied the ground where the new estate now stood. A dutiful, if fearful daughter of a father who, as she described him, must have been an unbending, bullying relic of Victorian repression. Eventually her father died, and ‘Mary’ herself had died soon afterwards, while still in her early twenties. She had hated and feared her father in life and she explained that she was frightened of meeting him in death.
This was why she had stayed close to the physical area she had known when alive, a tragic earthbound spirit, lonely and afraid. With the coming of the R….. family, she had felt a bond of sympathy between her and Mrs. R….. so she had clung to the only real friend she had ever known.
After long and difficult explanations, Mary was persuaded to leave her friend Mrs R….. alone, and strengthened by the prayers and heartfelt sympathy of the assembled company, she seemed happy to do so, her fears in part, at least, assuaged.
From that moment Mrs R. had no more problems, and shortly afterwards the whole family returned to England. I heard nothing more, but did ‘Mary’ keep her promise and leave the family alone, or did she follow them to another land?
Perhaps the most touching part of the story was Mrs. R’s…. insistence that neither I nor the medium should do anything to hurt ‘Mary’. ‘She came to me for help’, she insisted, ‘and I don’t want the poor lonely soul upset or frightened any more.’ A very heartwarming response from a woman who had suffered a great deal and feared at times for her sanity as a result of ‘Mary’s’ cries for help.
A curious, and to the uniniated, frightening experience!
So indeed is any first contact with the unexplored world of the psyche. To the sceptic, the whole episode may sound too melodramatic for words, totally unbelievable; and here again one has no scientific proof that the entity we called ‘Mary’ had any existence outside Mrs R’s own consciousness. Even the manifestation of the figure of a woman in the bedroom could have been a projected hallucination, of which we were all victims. But the evidence of the R. family; the testimony of friends and neighbours; the genuine fear which the sensittive Mrs R. exhibited; the intervention of a medium of solid professional reputation-all these things pointed to a not unntypical case of an earthbound entity seeking to be ‘rescued’ from the predicament in which it had found itself.
Mediums and clairvoyants, as well as members of Psychical Research and the Churches Fellowship for Psychical Study, can describe similar incidents; there have been many such cries for assistance.
Although it involved no ‘rescue circle’, a rather similar incident took place some ten years ago. The locale was a bungalow on the County Antrim coast. Again I was told of the manifestation by the person who had attracted the phenomena. A middle-aged woman had suffered a severe illness and she had taken the bungalow for a holiday with her family. Due to the nature of her illness and her subsequent restlessness, she slept alone, her husband occupying another room.
The room the invalid chose overlooked the sea, and was very comfortable as well as affording magnificent views. The rest of the family slept at the back of the house.
The wife retired early the first night and had scarcely got into bed, before she became aware that someone was trying to climb over her and get into the bed. ‘It was a solid body, and I lay petrified,’ she said, ‘I could tell from the limbs, that it was a woman, and she appeared to think that the bed lay in the opposite direction, for she lay across me’.
Needless to say, my informant scuttled out of bed to rouse the family, who clearly believed she had had a nightmare. To pacify her, the husband said he would pass the night in the bedroom. He did so, and also spent the following night there, and reported that nothing untoward had occurred. The woman assumed she had suffered from a nightmare and moved back into the room.
Once again she was forced to leave as, for the second time, ‘someone’ attempted to share the bed with her, and persisted in lying across the bed. Marks on the wall-paper showed that the bed had indeed lain alongside the wall and not with its head to the wall as it stood now. The unseen contendor for the bed, therefore, did not know that the furniture had been rearranged and, more important, the unfortunate woman whose rest was being disturbed could not possibly have known that the bed had been shifted because she had never been in the bungalow before, but, from the first she had insisted the ‘someone’ or ‘something’ had lain across the bed in the manner in which the furniture had originally been placed!
At last they shut up the room and used the rest of the house. There were no other disturbances, except that the wife complained of a sensation of terrible sadness that seemed to affect only her, and seemed to be coming from the seaward side of the house.
One other incident concerned the young son of the house, whose name was David. He came running into the back door of the house one morning, asking whether it was his mother or his grandmother who had called him from the front garden? Neither had left the kitchen or been out of sight of the other in the past hour. David insisted he had heard a woman wailing his name several times. He had crossed the road from the shore to see if he was wanted for a message.
In the meantime the husband had decided to do a little discreet investigation, and discovered two interesting facts:
The previous owner of the bungalow had lost his wife by drowning: Her body had been washed up almost opposite the house. After some weeks of living alone her husband had shut up the house and gone to live elsewhere. The door to the bedroom was always kept locked after the wife’s death and they had had a son called ‘David’ too.
Local people were reluctant to give more than the bare facts of the drowning incident, but one got the impression that there had been contributory causes of a somewhat tragic nature.
When the family returned to Belfast, they got in touch with me and the woman told me her story. She had never been aware of her psychic sensitivity before, and was distressed and upset by what had occurred. One aspect which worried her considerably, and which she had confided to no one, was her awareness of ‘thinking someone elses thoughts’ and an intense feeling of sadness and despair which was totally alien to her own personality. ‘I prayed for that woman,’ she said simply ‘for I felt she needed someone’.
Not all entities of this nature need help or reassurance themselves. Some make themselves known simply to help and comfort those they have left behind, across the barrier we call Death.
A mother told me of the loss of a dearly loved and only child. The child died at the age of four in a car accident, and this will always remain with me as a tender reminder that as the Song of Songs tells us, ‘Love is strong as Death’.
The stark tragedy of such a loss to a loving parent can only be dimly appreciated by an outsider. For months after the accident the grief-stricken mother would find her way to the child’s bedroom, and sit down among the scattered toys that she hadn’t the heart to put away. ‘And always’ she told me in half whisper, ‘always he’d be there. I’d smell a smell like fresh violets and feel his hand touch my face.’ She looked at me for any sign of disbelief on my face, then continued, “It was then I knew I hadn’t really lost John; I’d never really lose him.’
Of the curious and poignant sensations she experienced in her son’s bedroom, she had told no one, not even her husband, afraid,.-as so many people are- that he would smile at her fancies, and that some would-be kind person would try to explain her feeling away in the harsh light of reality and in so doing tear the last shreds of comfort from her. ‘I wonder, will he always be there?’ she asked me after we had sat awhile in silence, and that was a question I couldn’t answer. What I could say with some assurance was that, whether she continued to feel his actual bodily presence or not, her little son would be there for as long as it took Time to heal the Memory to hold back the door; and that John would go on to take his rightful place, leaving behind him not grief but recollection, and love too strong for tears. For in this inexact science of ours, as we probe into these vast and un-chartered realms, we know there is a place where facts end and faith begins.
Taken from “Psychic Phenomena in Ireland” by Sheila St. Clair Published by the Mercier Press
1972 No ISBN.
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