'I wasn't a believer in the paranormal': Ghost hunter on his work with Cork's Supernatural Society

Paranormal investigator David O’Neill speaks to Eoin Kelleher about his work as part of Cork’s Supernatural Society and tells of some spooky encounters
'I wasn't a believer in the paranormal': Ghost hunter on his work with Cork's Supernatural Society

David O’Neill said their team started in 2013 and has grown to include ten paranormal investigators using modern equipment, cameras, recorders, and motion detectors.

CORK’S Supernatural Society is a non-profit team which investigates reports of hauntings and ghostly presences around Ireland every month, but their once sceptical leader has now come to believe there may be some supernatural element to the Universe.

Spokesperson David O’Neill said their team started in 2013 and has grown to include ten paranormal investigators using modern equipment, cameras, recorders, and motion detectors.

“We do at least one investigation every month, but usually more than that,” said David, who became intrigued as a photographer by abandoned buildings, asylums, and graveyards. The spooky atmospheres and tragic stories behind these crumbling buildings inspired David and others to investigate further.

In Cork’s St Kevin’s asylum, a former psychiatric hospital with a dark past, David heard a door slam behind him, and in the former Magdalene Laundries at Sundays Well, he heard a voice that he can’t explain. “I wasn’t a believer in the paranormal, but I’ve had one or two experiences while doing photography,” he said. “I wanted to do more research into it.”

“If you’re not used to it, you will easily get spooked in these buildings. They are dark and a lot of the time, you would have lads taking drink and drugs in there. So there is an intimidating atmosphere to a lot of them.”

The ‘ghostbusters’ use digital technology to record electronic voice phenomena (EVP) sessions. Recently, they went into the top floor of The Poor Relation pub in Cork city centre. David said a voice can be clearly heard on the recording that he can’t explain.

“I asked, ‘how many of you are in the building’ and ‘just me’ was the response. It’s remarkably clear, it’s one of the best we’ve ever got. I was the only one with access to the recorder, so I know no one else could have faked it.

“We didn’t hear it with our own ears, we only heard it when we played back the audio. So that’s what we call an EVP. They are voices that are picked up on the equipment that we don’t physically hear at the time.

“There were three of us in the tiny office. We have footage of it as well.” The voice recorded “was on a totally different voice pattern to any of our voices.”

The team includes Paul Keating, Kim O’Shea, and Trevor Murphy. They regularly gets calls from families and homeowners around Ireland concerning suspected hauntings.

“We go there to debunk it, which we do most of the time. Nine out of ten times, we can put them at their ease,” he said.

Last weekend, they went to a large old house, after the owner heard of “poltergeist activity” over the years. “So far, we’ve got one possible voice from there. It sounds like it says ‘yes’ in response to ‘is there anyone in the building?”

One of the strangest cases was in Timoleague Abbey in west Cork years ago, when one of the team took a photo outside. “This first picture is by far the best piece of evidence we have ever caught on camera and one we have never been able to debunk,” said David.

“When reviewing the pictures from our investigation we were truly stunned to find a picture of a full body apparition which can be seen in pictures one and two of this album, one zoomed in and the other the original picture.

“This photo was taken as we were leaving the infirmary, all five of the team entered the section where this figure is pictured and not one of us saw any other person. The Abbey is also lit up at night and we all had strong torches.

One of the strangest cases was in Timoleague Abbey in west Cork years ago, when one of the team took a photo outside.
One of the strangest cases was in Timoleague Abbey in west Cork years ago, when one of the team took a photo outside.

“We had audio recorders, cameras and motion sensors around other parts of the Abbey including all the entrance points and not one of these picked up any other human entering the Abbey at any point. Where this picture was taken also has a floor of stones and gravel and we did not hear any footsteps or any sound which would suggest a person had entered the Abbey.

“There are no statues in this part of the Abbey either and this is one of those rare occasions we believe we have caught something paranormal in nature. Having been present on the night and being the person who took the picture, this is without doubt the best piece of evidence we have ever caught.”

In another incident, David was in Redwood Castle in Tipperary when he felt a fire at his back, like a lighter. “When we looked there were tiny scratch marks. I was just standing up in the middle of the room and there was nothing around me. It felt like fire on my back for a few seconds. That’s the only negative experience we’ve ever had.”

In an incident in a private home in Kerry, a family claimed their son kept on being dragged out of bed, and scratched.

 “Just two of us were in this bedroom. On the recorders, this real deep male voice was heard in the background. That spooked me out of it because of the stories they were telling us. 

"I didn’t believe them, if I’m being honest. But when we got this voice, I wondered was there more to it. They left not long after that. They said stuff kept on happening. We never got to go back. But that was a spooky one.”

David has received calls from elderly people who lived with a partner for decades, and they want to believe there’s something still there of their deceased loved one. These vulnerable people can find themselves prey to charlatans and hoaxers. “That’s where the paranormal gets a bad reputation because there are people who will take advantage of it,” he said.

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