Irish Supernatural Society busts ghosts in abandoned lunatic asylum

Cork Supernatural Group member Paul Keating
Cork Supernatural Group member Paul Keating

Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters. And if Melissa McCarthy doesn’t happen to be available, you may want to keep the real deal on speed dial.

On the weekend that the all-female reboot of Ghostbusters is released, the Sunday World joined forces with the Cork Supernatural Society for a hair-raising night of ghost hunting.

Our spooktacular location? Our Lady’s Hospital, formerly Eglington Asylum, Cork – a now partially abandoned building that overlooks the river Lee.

For Jackie Clarke and her son Matthew ,who are making ghostbusting a family affair, it’s a standard day at the office. Kim O’Shea and Paul Keating are another two of the team of who call themselves paranormal enthusiasts.

The group’s mission is simple, to capture incidences of paranormal activity by travelling around Ireland and checking out reports of ghostly goings-on.

Paranormal investigator, Jackie (47), whose son Matthew (20), founded the society when he was just 16, points to a silver case laden with specialist ghost-hunting equipment and says: “We use K2 Metres that detect any change in the electromagnetic field. They light up if there is any change in the atmosphere around us.

Cork Supernatural Group Matthew Clarke, Kim O'Shea, Jackie Clarke and Paul Keating

 “We also use digital thermometers, digital cameras, motion lights, motion sensors and Frank’s boxes – an electronic device that makes contact with the paranormal.

As the team disperses through the grounds that once housed 500 psychiatric patients, the former lunatic asylum seems to be the perfect location to witness phenomenon that go bump in the night.

The ghost-hunting mavericks, however, are unperturbed and Jackie says she has always been in tune with the supernatural world.

“I remember when I was very young I was always a fearful child. When I would be in a room on my own, playing away, things around me would start moving. I always felt a presence in the room with me. It wouldn’t show itself, but it would move my toys.

“When I was eight or nine, I was on the street playing with a friend and I was drawn to a house across the street. There was a woman looking out the window but she didn’t look familiar to me. She was skeletal, her eyes were sunken in her head and she had patches on her eyes, I said to my friends, ‘can you see this woman’, but they couldn’t see anyone.”

Aside from travelling to Ireland’s most haunted sites, the group also respond to calls from spooked householders worried there is a ghost in their homes.

Our girl with the Cork Supernatural Society 

But don’t get excited, the team, who range in age from 20 to 50 and work ordinary jobs, don’t make a habit of pulverising ghouls into slime.

“We carry out an investigation and try and communicate with whatever is there. We travel all over the country, but we are not mediums or psychic,” says Jackie. 

“People tell us there is something strange going on in their home or there is a ghost there and we then just go in and see if there is anything there.

“If it wants to show itself it will do so by making noise or we’ll pick it up on the cameras or the voice recording.”

“Sometimes there might be nothing in the house, it’s just imagination or electrical wiring. We have gathered some evidence in people’s houses, but not much.”

During their three years tracking down spirits, the paranormal experts have had haunting experiences.

“We were at an old hotel in Skibbereen where Michael Collins had his last meal before he was shot and we investigated the upstairs, which is no longer a hotel.

“That was probably the scariest,” admits Jackie. “It was very, very, active. We called out ‘is there anybody there?’ and the next thing a wardrobe door just hopped off the wall.

“It made us all jump. We got one or two voice recordings of a man talking. We asked the presence to bang on the wall and they did. When we asked them to do it again, on the audio we got a clear ‘no’.

“Then we asked, ‘give us some detail about yourself, what’s your story?’ On the audio the voice said, ‘nobody wants to hear my story’.”

The team also hit the headlines last year when they captured evidence of a haunting in the abandoned ruins of a 700-year-old Abbey.

The supernatural investigators caught a figure on camera as they snapped pictures around the 12th century ruin of Timoleague Abbey, in west Cork.

“We have normal mundane lives from Monday to Friday. I’m a student, but this is just a hobby we enjoy,” says Matthew.

Paul (27), adds: “Friends and family think we are nuts, but it’s just a hobby, we take it with a pinch of salt.

Author Kim (50), adds: “My mother is 82 and she thinks it’s the best thing ever, she wants to be pushed down the corridors exploring buildings.”

Despite being coined as Ireland’s Ghostbusters, the group have yet to see the movie.

“We are constantly being asked if we are out catching ectoplasm,” laughs Kim.

The Cork society have never been in more demand, but on-screen, the newest Ghostbuster troupe aren’t proving as popular.

The news that Paul Feig, director of 2011’s Bridesmaids, was remaking the 1984 hit comedy Ghostbusters with all-female leads was met with widespread indignation, with many die-hard fans claiming it was disrespectful to the original.

Since the promotional trailer was launched in March, almost a million people have officially ‘disliked’ it on the video-sharing website YouTube.

Ghostbusters now has the distinction of being the only movie trailer in the Top 10 most hated pieces of YouTube footage.

However, Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wig, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones – who replace the original movie quartet of Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson – have called out the misogynist Ghostbuster trolls.

McCarthy, who stars as Abby Yates in the controversial remake, fired back at sexist critics: “All those comments – ‘You’re ruining my childhood!’ – I mean, really? Four women doing any movie on earth will destroy your childhood?

“I have a visual of those people not having a Ben [her husband Ben Falcone], not having friends, so they’re just sitting there and spewing hate into this fake world of the internet. I just hope they find a friend.”

Slimer may have not made an appearance in the new movie, but back at the asylum the group are just beginning to pick up signs of paranormal activity, which is my cue to leave!

You can contact the Cork Supernatural Society on Facebook www.facebook.com/Cork-Supernatural-Society.