Today we continue our look at the County Antrim Paranormal Research Association by interviewing its case manager, Hugh Gallagher about his thoughts on ghosts and spooky things.
Spooky Isles: What was your first paranormal encounter?
Hugh Gallagher: My first paranormal experience was about 25 years ago in my home. I must just say at that time, I had no interest in the paranormal. It was only later my intrigue and passion followed into what I, or should I say, we witnessed. After myself and my wife then had gone to bed we just settled down to sleep when we heard a whistling like a tune it was beside my Right ear then faded as quickly as it had begun. we both looked at each other questioning if it was either of us that had whistled but we both said no we were bot a bit freaked out i just lay there wanting to hear it again but at same time hoping i didn’t wanting to try make some sense of what we both just heard. never did hear it again that night. It always left me though wondering though. Through time and some research many years later i guess it was some form of Residual type event maybe along the lines of the Stone Tape Theory.
Do you Believe in Ghosts if so what is a Ghost?
To be honest all my time with C.A.P.R.A., I have never seen a so-called ghost. I have witnessed many strange and odd occurrences and dark shadows. I do try to keep a very open mind to it all but some things that occur just don’t seem to have some answers to as much as I have tried to find them. I personally would define the term ghost to be more in line with a residual haunting – it just will play over same thing time after time along the lines of the Stone Tape Theory just like a play back of a video. It doesn’t interact and has no intelligence to it, where as a spirit-type haunting would indeed interact with the living but again it’s all just theory isn’t it?
What evidence have you uncovered that makes you consider ghosts are real?
As I explained in my last answer, I haven’t actually seen a ghost or a spirit. I think though that over time we have captured some very intelligent EVPs (Electronic Voice Phenomena) when we ask for a specific name or a particular question and get back a direct answer to a question. We are very aware of contamination that can be misconstrued as being an EVP through cross modulation or even audible pareidolia.
Are you sceptical of the claims others make of their findings?
I guess as a investigator, I have to keep an open mind to all things whether I witnessed them personally or through another report from a fellow investigator. If it is from another team, I have to trust that their integrity and their honesty in their findings although I always keep an open mind myself unless I was there and witnessed it myself.
How do you prepare for a Ghost Hunt ?
Lol … firstly, i never use the term Ghost Hunt. Every investigation big or small is different – no two are the same but we always prepare in the same way. As case manager, I with a colleague would interview the client or proprietor of the location and get all the information of what has been happening, We would ask if we can record the interview through an audio device you never know it might pick something up but we also write down what the witness had said. We would also take photos of location and get them to sign a form giving us permission to do so. When I get back I would do some drawing of a floor plan of location to bring to group meeting and work out with the tech team, where is best to set up whatever equipment might be needed. This would be put on a colour coded key map for them and laminated for the tech team to set up. It makes it so much easier and saves time on the night. Any research or history would also be researched by other members of team for the investigation and also any risk assessment would be done and later discussed with team and client along with the liability insurance we hold. All this would be shown to the client before the actual investigation to see if there happy enough to go ahead with the investigation.
What tips would you give for a person going on a paranormal investigation for the first time?
I guess for anyone going on an investigation for the first time, whether it’s as a member of the public or as a new member of a team, I always say never to expect too much to happen – it can be quite long evenings with little to show and can be very cold as the night goes on. It’s not like the TV shows where it seems to all kick off as soon as they start recording or turn up. Keep an open mind to anything that might occur, look for all possible natural answers. First bring warm clothing and plenty to eat and drink – it’s surprising how exhausting and cold you can get. You need to keep your energy levels up as the night goes on to keep alert on an investigation.
What is you favourite piece of paranormal investigation equipment?
I know many would say your own senses, which to a degree is true, but it can also be misleading due to natural or man-made causes to the environment within a location such as high electromagnetic fields or other causes such as infrasound, that wouldn’t be noticed but can be felt on the body and misconstrued as being something paranormal, when, in fact, it’s nothing of the sort.
I do like to use the Natural Trifield Meter, which is a Triple Axis Meter. With its Natural DC current, it is a much more sensitive meter and more accurate on picking up EMF fields.
I also like to use broad spectrum equipment cameras, I use this term broad spectrum rather than full spectrum as others call it as it only picks up on the peripherals of the near infrared and ultraviolet wavelength of the light spectrum just beyond what we see and is known as visible light. Maybe spirits can be picked up on cameras beyond this. We have had a couple of interesting pics since we started using this equipment.
We have also been using the Kinect 3D motion capture device. It maps motion or movement through thousands of tiny infrared dots and picks up and maps anything that distorts the dots.
Are you psychic? Do you consider psychics as a help or a hindrance for paranormal investigations?
No, I’m not a psychic in any way. I never pick up on anything when on an investigation. A member of the team would be a sensitive and does come up with some interesting things that we try to follow up on. No, I don’t think using a psychic would be a hindrance. We have had a well-known person join us on a couple of investigations from England and we were very impressed with the stuff she was coming up with that was not public knowledge.
What makes a great haunted location?
Lol. Being haunted helps. Lol, no I mean you hear and see many locations that look like they should be and have reputations after their name and look the part. Then again I guess a lot do play them up for the purpose of public events. I have been to many locations as having reputations of being haunted on more than one occasion only to get nothing. Then again, I’ve been to locations you wouldn’t give a second thought to and got some very interesting occurrences. I guess it’s quite hard to say what makes a place haunted.
If you could Investigate any haunted location where would it be?
In Northern Ireland it would be Carrickfergus Castle (in County Antrim). In the Republic of Ireland, it would have to be Castle Leslie (in County Monaghan). In England, the Ancient Rams inn or the Golden Fleece in York. in the United States, the Stanley Hotel (in Colorado).
What scares you most about ghost hunting paranormal investigations?
Well, to be honest, as I never sense anything, I don’t get scared although I have jumped a couple of times and my heart was racing a bit but no, I can honestly say I don’t get scared. The most frightening thing to me would be going on an investigation and forgetting to bring my flasks of tea lol.
In your opinion what is the most haunted area in the UK or Ireland ?
It’s a hard question to answer. i’m sure many will have their own stories and experiences to make claim to that but it is said the City of York is the most haunted place in the UK but as I said there must be many to that claim.
i recently visited Colchester in Essex and visited many places that are reported to be haunted. It does have a lot of Tudor buildings and its Roman walls and the Colchester Castle, where it is said many a person was persecuted as being a witch and condemned under the the authority of Mathew Hopkins who was unofficially given the title Witchfinder General.
In Ireland in County Offaly, there are a few great places such as Charleville Castle, Leap Castle and Ross Castle. Another very interesting place is in Wexford is Enniscorthy Castle, which we have had the privilege of investigating a number of times, now with our friends from Wexford Paranormal.
Read any good paranormal books or watched any paranormal TV?
I used to watch the TV shows a few years back but when you have been investigating it for over 10 years now the shows don’t really float my boat – as they say – done it seen it sort of thing. I do read a lot of books especially some of the older ways of investigating rather than all the modern pieces of equipment and methods used today. Books such as Peter Underwood’s Nights in Haunted Houses ,or Ghost Watching by John Spencer and Tony Wells. I was recently given a book by fellow investigator from Wexford Paranormal Michael Benson called Haunted Wexford. I also recently read a book by Paul Fennel called a Guide to Paranormal Ireland so yes read quite a lot.
Tell me about your favourite moment from a paranormal investigation.
Oh that’s a hard one. Been so many. Well, I’ll tell you of one we did at a location called Richhill (in County Armagh), one we had visited many times. The previous occassion was quite eventful, we all heard a loud crash or bang. Upon looking for the source we found no reason for it and nothing out of place so the next time we were there we were all a bit anxious as what was to happen.
We all settled down in total darkness upstairs and began to do some Era Que, where we try to create a sense of a time gone by playing some music from that period. The lady of the house at that time was said to be very beautiful and was sought after by very distinguished gentlemen in the rich and well-to-do social circles and was often seen attending various important functions and events.
After some time of asking a lot of questions and doing some EVP sessions, I began to run out of things to say. Nothing had happened during this but you could cut the atmosphere with a knife – everyone just waiting and tense. Without realising what I said I called out “I bet you have held a few balls in your time, Dolly!” not realising what I had just said. Well, the whole team fell about in fits of laughter! I still didn’t get it for a few moments, but that was it – the atmosphere was gone, so we ended the session time for tea, Lol. You can’t be serious all the time I guess.