Ghosts aren’t just something for Hallow’een for a handful people, many of whom can be reluctant to talk about their supernatural experiences says Richard Fitzpatrick
MICHAEL ANTHONY is the seventh son of a seventh son. He works as a healer and psychic medium based near Hook Head peninsula in Co Wexford where he was born. Aged 54, he says he has been tuned into the spirit world since as long as he can remember.
About three years ago, he held a psychic reading in Tramore, Co Waterford. He says he channelled a number of spirits that night.
“I think it was the third lady who came into see me. Her father came immediately. He had been deceased about a few years. She was happy with that. I won’t go into the details. Then her mother came a few minutes later. Then I seen this gentleman in New York. I seen the Statue of Liberty. I could see a bar brawl and that he was hit over the head with a pool cue. It killed him. I saw that and I told her. It was her son.
“Her grandmother and grandfather came through. I knew she wasn’t entirely satisfied. I couldn’t understand why. At the end of the night, she thanked me very much. ‘Oh my God,’ she said, ‘I’ve communicated with so many. I’ve got so much information. I’m really grateful.’ But I said to her, ‘There’s something not right.’ ‘No,’ she said. ‘I’m fine.’ And she went off.
“Coming home that night from Tramore — it must have been about one o’clock in the morning — I was driving along to Glenmore, just outside Waterford. And this little boy appeared beside me in the car. He frightened the bloody life out of me. I am human after all. I’m looking at him, and he was smiling at me.
“I said, ‘Who are you?’ He said, ‘My name is Darren.’ I said, ‘What are you doing here?’ He said, ‘My mother was with you tonight, but I couldn’t get through to her and I couldn’t get through to you. I died with meningitis when I was 14. Will you phone Mam tomorrow and tell her I’m OK?’
“That was the same lady who lost a son who was hit over the head with a pool cue. I phoned her the next day and I told her about it.”
Anthony doesn’t disclose his rates to the public. He has a fixed fee for psychic medium readings and for exorcisms, excluding mileage expenses.
Every year, he does on average about three to four exorcisms, which he calls “cleansings”. They can last as long as five to six hours.
He makes a distinction between “ghosts” and “spirits”.
“There are two types on the other side,” he says. “Spirits are pure and angelic. Some love their families so much they don’t want to leave. They are someone who hasn’t crossed over. They’re between this world and the next world.
“I had a lady here last week and her husband came to her almost straight away when she sat down. He had bought himself a new car with his retirement money. Then he died with a massive heart attack. He didn’t want to leave that car. He promised his wife he’d take her to Bundoran. Then all of a sudden, he’s gone.
“He didn’t cross over yet because he still wanted to go to Bundoran with her for a spin in the new car. He was there for that reason.
“Then we have the murderers, the paedophiles..... We have the bank managers, the politicians, the schoolteachers, lay people who didn’t live a life as they should have, and, of course, they go into the ghost world.”
Teresa Collins works as a psychic medium in Enniskeane, Co Cork. She charges €50 for psychic medium readings. She is also available to do sessions on Skype.
She says spirits have been coming unsolicited to her since she was a young child. She says there are several reasons for their visits.
“The purpose of a medium is to bring comfort to the loved ones, to bring hope, to remove fear of dying. Usually they bring messages that they’re still alive in spirit — to show there is no death.
“They usually show something that they did with the person sitting when they were young so that there is no doubt that we have the correct spirit.
“For example, when they were a small little girl or boy they fell over on their bicycle and their grandmother picked them up or they lost their money on their Holy Communion day.
“They help with problems. Some people who can’t find a relationship, for example, they’ll try and bring them into a place where they’ll find a relationship. They might help with money if they can by bringing money through in a scratch card or Lotto ticket. It’s very often you’ll hear somebody being short of money and searching the house for money and there’s no money there and then they put their hand in their pocket and they find a €20 note or a €50 note in their pocket and they’re sure it wasn’t there before.”
Dr Margaret Humphreys, who lectures in folklore and ethnology at UCC, joined Collins and Anthony on the bill at last week’s annual World Ghost Convention at Cork City Gaol. She echoes the message of “hope” that mediums offer to the bereaved, and adds that a hunger for communion with the spirit world comes from an age-old yearning in people for something spiritual in their lives.
“People deal with a complexity of problems — social and economic. They’re overloaded with technology — this notion of having to keep in touch continuously, whereas the capacity of the human brain is unchanged. That leads to stress, so in these stressful times some people meditate or they go to yoga classes and others try to activate their sixth sense, which opens the door to the other world. They look for answers.
“As we go about our daily lives, we all encounter problems. There are bereavements in our families, tragedies perhaps. There is a consolation in thinking that we will all meet again in another world. We have no written proof of the existence of another world, but people at the World Ghost Convention have encountered spirits.”
Shane Kelly, a spokesperson for the Irish Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, cautions, however, against the notion that ghosts exist, especially when people are grieving.
“Dead people don’t speak. There is a strong sense of denial when a person dies. We don’t want this to be true. We don’t want to let go.
“It’s totally understandable and reasonable for people to reach out to psychic mediums, any slight hope that they can stay in contact with their loved one because the finality of death is so difficult for us to comprehend.
“That’s why I think it’s particularly cynical of people who I see as preying on vulnerable people at a vulnerable time in their lives, giving them false hope, false wishes.
“If you’re giving somebody false hope — if you’re allowing them to occupy a fantasy that the person is not dead and still contacting you — the natural process of grieving is being interrupted. You can’t move on with your life properly if you hold onto that.”
The origins of Halloween
Halloween can be traced back to the Celtic Festival of Samhain which translates as ‘Summer’s end’. Winter began on November 1 and it was believed that the night before marked an overlap between the world of the living and the dead when spirits roamed the earth.
Dressing up and trick or treating:
The version of Halloween that we know today has been hugely influenced by the US. But the practise of dressing up and calling door to door has waxed and waned over the centuries, but its origins are thought to lie in Samhain. The Celts wore animal skins and masks to scare off evil spirits unleashed that night. People also left out food offerings for the spirits of their ancestors.
It also has origins in Samhain when Celtic druids would light a ritual bonfire as their year came to a close. Fading natural light which provided food and warmth was replaced with the man-made fire as darkness closed in. Families would extinguish their own home fires on the night before Samhain marking the end of the year and then rekindle them from the communal bonfire which was lit on a sacred hill.
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