Possibly one of Northern Ireland’s most famous poltergeist accounts, The Cooneen Poltergeist continues to intrigue, drawing paranormal investigators into the rambling forestry and ramshackle cottage in which it is said to reside. JANET QUINLIVAN tells us why.
Set back many miles from the main road in a wooded area, almost on top of a mountain in County Fermanagh sits a run down and broken cottage. This is an old stone cottage with a red metal roof, no windows or doors left intact and teenage graffiti on the walls.
Go back around 100 years to a time when a family lived there, The Murphys. Michael Murphy, Bridget Murphy and their children Michael Jnr., James, Annie, Mary, Teressa, Bridget, Catherine and Jane-ann. One terrible day in 1907 Michael Snr. was killed in a tragic accident leaving a will of £127 to his young widow. The turmoil for this family didn’t end there.
After her husband’s death, the widow and her children (although according to the census Michael Jnr. had left the family home at this time) began to hear knocking coming from the front door some five years after Michael Snr. Had passed. Every time they got up to answer there was no-one there. Within a few weeks’ things gradually got worse, knocking on the doors and windows, footsteps up the stairs, then eventually plates, pots and pans moving around the room.
The family in their desperation decided that they needed to ask the church for help. There are different accounts to how many priests attended the property, although I do know of two. Father Peter Smyth and Father Eugene Coyle of Maguirebridge agreed to visit the property to witness these occurrences for themselves.
‘It felt like snakes squirming under the sheets of the bed’
Father Smyth described what felt like snakes squirming under the sheets of the bed he was sitting on. He also challenged the entity at one point and stated that it felt like a rat under his hand, then an eel wrapping itself around his wrist but never touching his hand. The priests could hear what sounded like snoring coming from the darkened corners of the room, which turned to spitting and hissing.
Father Coyle reportedly witnessed household objects levitating and moving across the room. It’s said that they thought most of the activity centred around one of the Murphy daughters, Annie. Herself and her mother took it in turns to lay across the bed and activity seemed to escalate when Annie was on the bed rather than her mother. Father Coyle stated that shapes appeared on the walls and under the bed clothes and then quickly disappear.
Two exorcisms were carried out on the property but they were in vain as the activity carried on. One local MP Cahir Healy expressed his utter astonishment at what he had seen from dancing shadows to moving objects. It’s also said that this particular poltergeist loves music, old songs such as ‘Boyne Water’ and ‘The Soldier’s Song’. The family stated that the entity has banged and thumped along to music and that sometimes music can be heard going through the house.
Book found in forest called ‘The Legion of Doom’
Again things got worse for this terrified family as locals started to accuse James Murphy of witchcraft and summoning demons using a book he found in the forest called ‘The Legion of Doom’. This left the family ostracised by their community and utterly alone. So the family decided to leave and emigrate to America via a ship that left Glasgow. Allegedly the entity followed them on to their ship and the noises from their cabin were said to be so bad that the captain himself threatened to throw them off.
The property has featured on Northern Ireland greatest haunts and is very famous throughout Ireland and the UK.
So does the poltergeist or entity remain in Cooneen cottage waiting on the next family to torment, or has it left with the Murphys? One team that may be able to answer are C.A.P.R.A (County Antrim Paranormal Research Association), who visited the property recently.
C.A.P.R.A on their most recent visit noted many changes to the property and surrounding area. They found the property difficult to locate due to the overgrown landscape and trees. The eerie feeling of the property lived up to all expectations with complete silence and stillness. The cottage itself is in a bad state of repair with the fireplace more or less fallen through and the walls bowing.
The team set up static night vision camera’s in all three rooms along with audio recorders and some motion sensors. Several EVP sessions were carried out in small groups with lots of questions using new research discovered by John and Bronach of C.A.P.R.A. A newly built device was placed in the main room (built by technical specialist Kieran), similar to a REM pod, picking up disturbances in the electromagnetic field. The closer the disturbance gets the louder the device sounds.
After a period of time and John playing ‘The Soldiers Song’ on the penny whistle, they started getting spikes on the K2 meter (another EMF device, although this can react to stray radio signals, mobile phones and two way radios). They made sure no mobiles were on, they didn’t use two ways and the house is too remote to pick up radio signals. They then decided to head back to the cars for a break and on the way heard whistling coming from the trees near the cottage, similar to that of the penny whistle.
All equipment was left to run inside the cottage. On reviewing the audio, they heard movement and shuffling around the room, however knowing that the home is open to weather and animals they checked the video equipment – no animals were in the property at the time and the weather was very still.
Soon after the movements were heard the REM pod started to sound quite quietly at first then louder and louder over a few minutes. At its peak the sound then quickly faded, the REM pod was placed high off the ground so that animals or vermin could not interfere. On checking the video equipment again nothing in the house was visible that could have disturbed the area.
Overall they found it to be an interesting investigation and it seems they left with more questions than they had answered.
So does this entity remain in wait, still lingering on in an old run down cottage in a forest? I guess only on further investigation will we know.