Spooky Isles interviews PAUL MOYNIHAN, a paranormal investigator from Irish Ghost Hunters


Paul MoynihanHow long have you been a paranormal investigator?
I have been studying and researching the paranormal since the young age of about 5, gathering stories locally and nationally, listening to tales from anyone willing to tell them to me! I have been taking part in actively investigating various premises for 3 years. I feel that my early years of research helped me to gain a better understanding of how to successfully conduct a professional and productive investigation.


What area of the UK/Ireland are you based and/or focus your paranormal investigation attention on?
I was born and raised in the historic village of Ferns in County Wexford, which sits on the south-east coast of Ireland. I moved to the town of Ballinasloe in County Galway in September 2012. The Irish Ghost Hunters team are spread throughout Ireland, with members from Galway, Longford and Wicklow. The team’s founder and lead investigator, Tim Kelly, is from Dublin. Funnily, his late father hailed from Ballinasloe, the town where Irish Ghost Hunters location manager Meadhbh Larkin and I live (a spooky coincidence perhaps!)
The team itself is open to investigating anywhere in the country, and we like to think of ourselves as a team that represents the whole country. We have travelled high and low over the last few years and we are committed to searching everywhere and anywhere that holds claims of supernatural goings-on. We look forward to investigating in the UK and beyond in the near future.


What is your area of expertise?
I am a huge fan of history and therefore enjoy studying and researching a location’s background. In terms of roles within the team, we are not tied down to any specific ‘job’ like many other teams; we find it much more productive to be familiar with all aspects of paranormal investigation, be it the technical side, the research side etc.


What was your first Paranormal encounter?
I have been studying and researching the paranormal since the young age of about 5, gathering stories locally and nationally, listening to tales from anyone willing to tell them to me! I have been taking part in actively investigating various premises for 3 years. I feel that my early years of research helped me to gain a better understanding of how to successfully conduct a professional and productive investigation.


Do you believe in ghosts, and if so, what is a ghost?
I would love to say wholeheartedly that I believe in ghosts, but unfortunately, I must say that I am still unsure. Despite seeing and hearing some strange things, I won’t be convinced until a a spirit approaches me and shakes my hand!
Defining a ghost is quite difficult, as there are various theories and angles that must be taken into account. I believe there may be two types of ghostly existence: intelligent and residual. An intelligent ghost is one that is aware of his/her surroundings, is aware of your presence and can interact with you. Their reasons for staying on Earth’s plain may differ; perhaps the spirit was the victim of a sudden or tragic death such as murder or an accident of some description (which is often the case). They may be tied to this state of being until the issue relating to their demise is resolved; perhaps they are unaware of their death even, and are simply living on as though nothing has happened.
A residual spirit is one that is unaware of your presence, and appears to be caught in a time-loop of sorts. Reports of this type of spirit have described the apparition as being similar to a video tape being played over and over, repeating the same image in an unaltered state. This is also known as the Stone Tape Theory; the belief that the very walls and surroundings of a particular incident hold the ability to somehow record or ‘tape’ this incident, only to play it back in the form of a supernatural occurrence.


What evidence have you personally uncovered that makes you consider ghosts are real?
I don’t know if ghosts will ever be proven to be real, as their will always be skepticism (which is a good thing). In terms of experiences that have helped me to be more open-minded to the possibility of ghosts being real, there are a number of them.
The first experience I had which I cannot explain rationally occurred during our investigation of Connolly Railway Station in Dublin City. Fellow investigator Thomas Borza and I were in a disused area of the station known as platform 5. The area had been full of reports of poltergeist activity from staff and patrons alike, including a report from a nightwatchman of a full bodied apparition of a soldier in the area. While Thomas and I conducted an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) session on the platform, the large steel door slammed shut. We immediately insisted it was probably a slight wind swinging the door shut. However, upon inspecting the area and noting no change in temperature, we discovered there was no wind. We asked the entity to perform the same trick, and low and behold the door slammed with even more force. We also noted that the door sat on a level angle, making the chance of a natural explanation even more unlikely. This experience was later shared with the whole team, who took turns in asking the supposed spirit to slam the door. Their requests were met each time!
Another experience I will never forget occurred in the beautiful Cabra Castle, which is situated in County Cavan. The castle is one of the country’s finest hotels, and is a gem for those wanting a taste of old Ireland. About halfway into our investigation of the ancient building, fellow investigator Meadhbh Larkin and I were in the bar area with two of the castle’s staff members. The bar has reportedly seen some strange goings-on, including the apparition of a man seen by staff and guests of the hotel. While investigating the area, one of the staff members screamed, claiming she had seen a shadowy figure at the far end of the room. Meadhbh and I walked down the hall to investigate, and as we came closer to the area where the girl had seen this strange spectral image, a man suddenly appeared to our right. He was around 5 and a half feet tall, dressed in what appeared to be a black shirt and black trousers. He walked slowly across the floor in front of us, as we attempted to address him. He did not acknowledge us, and continued through a door to our left, leading to the reception area. We immediately followed him around this corner but alas, he was gone. After much investigation of the area, we discovered there was nowhere for this man to disappear to in the space of a second without us seeing him. This experience is one I question over and over, but I must admit I’m lost for a logical explanation!


Are you skeptical of the claims others make of their findings?
I’m skeptical of all forms of evidence, including my own. In an age where anything can be manipulated or created via computer, it is difficult to separate fact from fiction. Trying to differentiate between the two is a huge part of being a paranormal researcher. The factor that comes into play when hearing of the experiences of others is the notion that you have to experience it for yourself in order to have any faith in it. In other words, I will always be skeptical of the claims of others, though not because I don’t believe; rather because I didn’t experience it in order to believe.


How do prepare for a ghost hunt?
Before setting out, I ensure I have eaten plenty (not a problem as I love my food). This is very important, as it is vital to keep energy levels up when partaking in an investigation. I also ensure that all of my equipment is working. I purchase new batteries for each investigation, as batteries have a tendency to drain whilst in a supposedly haunted location (a theory in itself, whereby spirits use energy from electrical and battery-operated equipment to manifest themselves). We aren’t a particularly spiritual team, though some of our members like to say a blessing or a prayer beforehand. I feel that this does no harm, and I have the utmost respect for anyone who utilises this technique within their methodology and investigation.


What tips would you give for someone going on a paranormal investigation for the first time?
Eat plenty. Keep the energy levels up. Always remember to keep a cool head. Be respectful to the location and the past inhabitants: this is their turf, not yours. Avoid watching paranormal television shows, they are for entertainment purposes and are not to be regarded as serious training material. Read books on the subject instead. Say a prayer or a blessing if you feel it will put you at ease. Last but not least, have fun!


What is your favourite piece of paranormal investigation equipment?
This may sound cliché, but the best piece of equipment we have is ourselves. Our own gut instinct as investigators and our own ability to filter and decipher the often strange occurrences is what stands up against any piece of equipment. If a gadget told me a place is haunted, I wouldn’t believe it until I saw it for myself. However, much of the equipment we use during investigations are highly regarded pieces of scientific research, and are therefore reliable. EMF meters, Tri-Field meters, IR cameras, thermometers and Thermal Imagers are all a part of the Irish Ghost Hunters investigation kit.
If I had to pick one piece of equipment that is hugely effective, I would have to say my Digital Voice Recorder. I find that EVPs are increasingly becoming the most common (and most convincing) form of evidence in the paranormal field.


Are you psychic? Do you consider being psychic a help or a hindrance for paranormal investigations?
I am not psychic, though I have worked with a few psychics on investigations in the past. As already mentioned, I am a skeptic by nature. I therefore question all areas of the supernatural spectrum, psychics and psychic mediumship included. Some of the psychics I have worked with have presented brilliant results. I will say this: though I am skeptical, I have respect and admiration for those who are spiritual in nature, and I am happy to see teams use this as a form of investigative style.


What makes a great haunted location?
The first thing a supposedly haunted location needs is a great story. Was there bloodshed in this place? Is it built on an ancient burial ground? Was there a war here? These questions appeal to the primitive side of us, the part of us that loves a good spooky story. Ever since man could speak he’s been telling scary stories around a bonfire, and that has trickled down through the generations.
The next thing a great haunted location needs is the element of surprise. Thanks to the wonderful gothic literature of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, we as a society naturally link stories of ghosts and ghouls and creatures of the night with creepy castles and desolate dungeons. This, however, is not always the case. 90% of the investigations Irish Ghost Hunters have undertaken have been in buildings that are almost brand new. Ghosts, it seems, like to move with the times too!


If you could investigate any haunted location, where would that be?
There are so many places to mention! Luckily, I have investigated a number of places I always dreamed of, including Leap Castle in County Offaly and Loftus Hall in County Wexford. Places I really hope to visit in the future are the haunted cities of Edinburgh and London. There are countless supposedly haunted locations in those two places alone! I would also love to visit Savannah and New Orleans in the USA, supposedly full of paranormal activity. Gettysburg Pennsylvania, site of the most brutal battle of the American Civil War is another location I hope to see.


What scares you about Ghost Hunting or Paranormal Investigations?
The only real fear I have in terms of investigating is being left alone in a particularly spooky part of a castle or jail! Some people enjoy doing investigations completely alone, and I see no real issue with that, but it’s important to always be safe. If a team member were to fall or receive an injury, help should always be at hand from a fellow team member.


In your opinion, what is the most haunted area in the UK or Ireland?
From my own experience, I would say the County of Offaly in Ireland is an extremely haunted place given its relatively small size. There are numerous castles in Offaly (such as Leap, Charleville and Clonony) that have been host to many a supernatural occurrence. The city of Kilkenny has a surprising number of ghostly locations also, including Kyteler’s Inn and Kilkenny Castle. My home county of Wexford is also full of haunted houses and spooky sites, including Loftus Hall, Duncannon Fort and Enniscorthy Castle.


Read any good paranormal books or watched any good paranormal TV shows/movies recently?
I love reading books on the paranormal and see this pastime as the best way to learn about the subject. A recent favourite of mine is ‘Ghost Hunters: William James And The Search For Scientific Proof Of Life After Death’ by Deborah Blum. The book tells the story of the founding of the Society for Psychical Research, the first true team of ‘ghost hunters’. Colin Wilson’s ‘Poltergeist’ is another book that is full of great stories, written by someone who is very knowledgeable within the field. Paul Roland’s ‘The Complete Book Of Ghosts’ is an informative and well-put-together read. ‘Natural And Supernatural: A History Of The Paranormal’ by Brian Inglis is a massive tome, covering the milestones of the supernatural world in a stylish and interesting way. ‘Memoirs Of A Monster Hunter’ by Nick Redfern is a great little book too, very funny and witty while dealing with the spooky area of cryptozoology. Jeff Belanger has written numerous books on the paranormal, ‘Ghosts Of War’ and ‘Our Haunted Lives’ being particularly good. Dr. Bob Curran’s ‘A Haunted Land’ is an excellent read, and one that first introduced me to Leap Castle. ‘The Mammoth Book Of True Hauntings’, edited by the late Peter Haining is a tour de force in phantasmagorical tales. Christina Mckenna ‘Ireland’s Haunted Women’ is a chilling collection of tales from nine women who claim to have been the victims of hauntings. My favourite paranormal book is probably ‘True Irish Ghost Stories’, written by John D. Seymour and Harry L. Neligan. First published in 1914, the book is full of tales that hold particular sentimental value for me, as they remind me of the stories told to me by my Grandparents when I was a child.
I try to avoid paranormal reality shows as I feel they have given people the idea that anyone can be an investigator without any serious research. As mentioned, they shouldn’t be taken seriously and, although they may be entertaining, that is their purpose. TV isn’t about scientific research, it’s about ratings. However, some fact-based shows have helped the field and broadened people’s perceptions of the paranormal, so it works both ways.
In terms of fictional paranormal television, I am an X-Files devotee, and have adored the show since I was a child. I also enjoy Supernatural and found Fringe to be very interesting. I like to keep the paranormal world separate most of the time, therefore opting for other shows such as the outstanding Breaking Bad or Homeland.
One of my other passions is film, particularly the genre of horror. Film as an art form has given us some phenomenal movies that deal with the subject of the paranormal, such as The Fog, The Haunting, The Innocents and the terrifying The Exorcist to name a few. Studios such as Hammer and Universal have built empires around films dealing with the paranormal, showing the effect the subject has on the cinema-going public.


Tell us about your favourite moment from a paranormal investigation.
The moment that still stands out for me is the apparition seen in Cabra Castle as mentioned earlier. I have tried to explain it rationally, and it still leaves me clueless as to what happened. Moments like that are the holy grail for researchers around the world.


 

Spooky Isles
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