Ghost Searchers Enjoy Busy Night In The Mill At Ballydugan
It was dark, rainy, wintry, and cold… just like the chilling background scene from a Gothic Dracula movie. But this was in Downpatrick in 2013 and the spirit world was about to be engaged.
Ghost Searchers Ireland, who had recently had ‘appearances’ on TV and radio reflecting their growing public interest, organised a public ghost hunt at The Mill at Ballydugan and around 50 people from all over County Down attended not knowing what presence from a strange world would reveal itself through the evening. And reveal they did!
I, being of sound mind and body, and the ultimate sceptic, attended the event, my second public GSI event in Downpatrick, and it was indeed an experience. It did not affect my basic religious beliefs, but did add to my thoughts on the possibility of a dimension we do not yet understand. Just as witchcraft turned into the science we understand today centuries later, this new phenomena of ‘ghost-busting’ may appear novel and even sacrilegious to many, but may represent the continuation of the process of human investigation into the ‘unknown’.
Gary Watters from GSI said: “We travel all over Ireland to venues that have a history of paranormal experience. In many of the venues we have visited we have experienced a range of activities from apparitions, sounds, voices, changes in temperature, being touched by spirits, and there is generally a growing body of evidence that there is something going on that we do not fully understand.
“We use the latest up-to-date equipment to detect voices and presences from different dimensions and really most people are sceptical or open-minded when they come to our sessions, but they tend to go away more convinced that there is another world of spirits or being that we are just managing to touch on. It is all early days but we are making some inroads into this and have many recording on audio and video etc of what can only be described as ghostly experiences. Many can be explained off rationally, but there is a growing body of evidence which those attending these sessions will support.
“There was a great atmosphere at The Mill. It was a taster session really, and a bit of fun, and we did have a laugh. But I think everyone saw the serious side of what we were doing. And some even heard, saw and felt things which were indeed paranormal.”
Through the evening, the activities included scrying, seance, using the ghost box, a vibration box, working with the Van Der Graf machine, and playing sound to the spirit world to create a portal for them to enter. Scrying is the use of mirror and candle to communicate with… if you feel a bad spirit is following you or you uncomfortable, you leave a talisman you are given and exit the room !!
A wide range of people from all walks of life attended the ghost hunt at the Mill reflecting that the process of inquiry probably popularised by paranormal programmes on Sky TV is moving to its next stage.
Noel Killen, owner of the The Mill at Ballydugan, said: “There was a mill on this site recorded back as far as 1210, and likely there was earlier settlement here going back for many centuries before that, possibly into the Iron Age. There certainly have been a lot of inexplicable events at The Mill which staff have experienced which can only be described as very strange. Maybe this evening we will uncover a bit more about this activity.”
At the beginning of the paranormal investigation session, The Mill manager Maureen Daly gave an account to the assembled ‘ghost hunters’. She said: “The Mill was built in 1750, and closed in 1856 after a fire. It lay vacant for 125 years until Noel Killen bought it and began the long restoration work you see today. At one time there were 700 workers active here, so it is quite conceivable that there were fatal accidents here. There was no health and safety in those days. And I understand there was also a morgue in the basement.
“There have been lots of spooky goings-on at The Mill. Noel found that a hand dryer in a men’s toilet kept coming on when no-one was there. He replaced it and the same thing happened, but other hand-dryers and toilets did not do this. And one room inexplicably had electrical cuts despite being checked by an approved electrician. Lights have flickered on and off at times.
“The owner Noel himself has heard the lift suddenly go from the ground floor to the third and a man’s voice say ‘Lift door open – and that was when there was no-one in the building bar himself. The lift is checked monthly by engineers which is a statutory requirement so there was no issue technically.
“And we have experienced small items being moved and appearing somewhere else a few days later. So we believe there is definitely something going on at The Mill. But the spirits are all friendly so there is nothing to fear. If they appear close to you, you just speak to them.”
Many of those who had attended had been to other ghostly invests and had stories to tell.
A group Ballykinlar ladies – the Burrows family – were there also looking forward to the experience. Tina said: “We went to the Queen Street police station session and I was in a cell by myself. I could seen a torch shining under the foor and hear foorsteps but there was no-one in the corridor, only Gary Waters at the far end. It was a strange experience.
Jacqeline added: “We attended the invest in Denvir’s Hotel and in one room there was a rope and noose hanging from a rafter where someone had committed suicide many years ago. The noose suddenly stated to move and swing from side to side.”
Cynthia said: “I took part in a seance there and apparantly a three-year old girl called Emily had died there many years ago with TB. I got a sudden sense of pressure on my chest and felt very hot.”
Kiley also said: “We have just come here with open minds and and hoping it is all a bit of fun. But there definitely something going on that we do not understand. It can’t all be explained off by concidences and other reasons that at not paranormal.”
The four groups began their ghost hunt and it wasn’t long before results were forthcoming. I joined the first group to go down to the cellar which measured around 20-feet square with a few supporting pillars. Gary played a sound sequence which is supposed to help spirits come through a portal. Within minutes he felt his ear being flicked, and others had experiences or feeling their legs brushed, and sudden drops in temperature.
But the main experience in the cellar had to be the seeing of a black apparition, a woman-sized dark shadow, in the room. I saw it myself and I am quite au fait with lighting nuances etc and can safely say there were no light sources in the room that could have caused such a phenomena to move in the room due to a light source moving or otherwise. This was remarkable. Even more so as another person in the cellar also saw it from the other side of the room at the same time.
The ‘dark shadow’ is no stranger to The Mill. Joan Killen, wife of the owner Noel Killen, said: “One evening my husband was away and we were sitting by the big fire in the downstair bar. Suddenly there appeared a black shadow which crossed in front of the bar. A few of us witnessed this. It was very strange.”
In another session in the front building at The Mill, the group I was with tried to converse with spirits using a PX ghost box, a highly specialised piece of ghost-busting kit. Through the crackle of the ether of frequencies that humans do not inhabit, words were clearly audible from the ‘other side’. A number of interesting associations were emerging but the one that caught the group unawares was when a memebr of the group asked a question through the PX box… “Do you know anyone in the room.?” The answer came back. ‘The bitches’. The four young ladies from the North Down area were literally blown away as this was their own self-styled nickname, a title no-one in the room would have known except them. Definitely unexplicable!
“The spirits were very keen to communicate in this session. It was quite lively. There were lots of words coming forth,” said Gary. But what the group did not fully pick up on as the crackle of words began, was that I heard my surname mention which only one other person in the room knew, and following this the word ‘articles” was clearly said. Was this just pure coincidence? What do you think? I also attended the last ghost hunt at the Downpatrick railway and just a short time after that, the chairman Michael Collins died quite suddenly. He was quite interested in the work of GSI. That evening he explained to me that his wife and son had died tragically. As the voice on the PX box crackled, I heard the words “Michael” and Suicide” on several occasions. Such an experience does make you think about what could be.
The was another session too with a device which drew images and letters on a large sheet of paper while a blind-folded group of five put their fingers on the device. This seance produced a horse’s image on the paper as the it moved around the table top under its own volition marking this out, the initials of a member of the group appeared. BUT… what did not grip their attention because they were blindfolded, was that the lights in the room had gone off inexplicably for around two minutes. I myself was standing next to The Mill owner Noel Killen at that moment and he was just dumbfounded.
And another session in the attic although less active from a spirit point-of-view did leave one woman standing a few feet from the group feel something invisible brush against her leg which is often a ‘sign’ of presence.
Whatever you think about ‘ghost-searching’ as an activity, it must be said that this and many other groups across Ireland are coming up with some revealing and ground-breaking experiences. Amidst spoofs, hoaxes, rational explanations, simple misinterpretations etc, there is a growing body of evidence that shows there is is something out there we do not as yet fully understand. The real X-files.
But one day we will get closer to the real truth… and GSI will be there leading at the forefront of the investigation.
And the verdict on The Mill… definitely haunted!!