19 Apr 2015
Ghostly apparitions and paranormal activity in my little house on the prairie
Allison Bray recalls her close encounters of a chilling kind while she lived in a 100-year-old conduit to 'the other side'
Loftus Hall interior
I'm slightly embarrassed recounting the strange tale of what happened to me all those years ago in my native Canada. As a news journalist, I'm paid to be a professional sceptic, to cast a cold eye on mumbo jumbo and search out the facts.
What is an indisputable fact is that I spent 13 years living in a rented old house, which had reputedly operated as a brothel 100 years back, in the famous flatlands of Winnipeg, where I experienced the inexplicable. I could have left any time, but never did, in spite of the many incidents that convinced me there was something else lurking in the house.
My boyfriend, naturally, assumed I was crazy, but even he was spooked one Sunday night when a thick ghostly mist enveloped the living room while we were watching TV.
We had both extinguished cigarettes - the normal kind! - but several minutes later a thick fog of smoke remained hovering in the space directly in front of us.
As soon as I remarked on it, the 'smoke' shot towards the fireplace and began forming a vertical column - roughly the height and width of an average-sized man - that started at the floor and quickly wafted upwards as if it was about to form into the outline of a person.
The shape shot across the room diagonally like a bullet before suddenly disappearing in a puff.
My hitherto sceptical boyfriend turned white and began shaking. I wasn't much better. When our nerves finally eased we desperately clawed at finding a logical explanation for the apparent apparition. But we couldn't. The flue to the fireplace was shut and any kind of draught couldn't explain the sheer speed and velocity at which the 'smoke' took shape before it shot across the room.
I put it down to 'Hank', the pet name I had for a ghost I believed wandered the house and who began making his presence felt almost immediately after I moved in. On one occasion, I discovered wall brackets on a window blind that I tried to put up one night had inextricably disappeared - lined up in a neat line on the threshold of my bedroom the following morning.
A catalogue of bizarre events followed. I constantly found locked windows and doors - including one with a chain still on it - open and unlocked with no signs of a break-in or anything missing. I got used to everyday objects such as the bathtub plug suddenly going missing, only to reappear seconds, minutes or even days later in the strangest of places.
The ghostly incidents intensified any time I carried out any repair or even simple DIY work on the old house. One time, the hooks I was screwing into a wall in the bedroom closet suddenly vanished when I left the room for a split second to get a hammer, only to resurface later in an odd little pile when I looked beneath the tablecloth covering the counter where I had left them.
It appeared the more I tried to ignore the paranormal activity, or find a logical explanation for it, the worse it got. One night, I returned home after being out for only an hour to discover a large handprint in what looked like mud, or dried blood, on the kitchen wall, even though no one had been there.
I was still living in the house when I met the previous tenants one night at a neighbour's barbecue. After brief introductions they asked me straight out: "Has anything strange happened in there?" So I told them, and they were able to echo every one of my "experiences" in the house. They had also experienced the strange handprint on the kitchen wall.
I even consulted a paranormal investigator, who gave a free inspection and told me the creepy old 19th-century incinerator in the basement could very well be a "conduit to the other side".
But, oddly, I never felt really scared until years later when I moved here to Ireland. I was watching a horror movie in which a demonic presence had apparently scratched out the face of someone in a photograph. The same disturbing thing happened to me in Winnipeg when I came home after being away for several days and found my face had been scratched out in a photo left lying on the kitchen table.
I put it down to the cat being annoyed at being left alone for the weekend, never thinking that 'Hank' might have been trying to tell me something.