Halloween has come upon us again, and streets, parks and pubs will be filled with people dressed up for the occasion. 2016 is likely to feature ‘killer clowns’, the craze that has taken over the media in recent weeks, and the years biggest blockbuster film characters – perhaps Harley Quinn and the joker, from Suicide Squad – as well as bringing the classic array of ghouls and ghosts to life. But as all these scary costumes get made or bought, we take a look at a few places where ghosts are said to roam the streets all year round.
South West College is never too far from places rumoured to be haunted. A council house in Cookstown contains a bedroom said to be home to phantom footsteps and the indistinct figure of a man; an older looking woman wearing a gown is said to haunt the area around the bridge in Dungannon; the ghost of a man who dropped dead during a cricket match is said to appear on the Sion Mills cricket field at night, dressed in his whites, carrying a bat; and at Enniskillen’s Crom Castle, a glowing ball of light rolls around the castle lake, normally marking a major event which will affect the whole of Ireland.
Closer still, our very own Enniskillen Campus includes the old Enniskillen jail. Speaking on BBC radio, Dr Éamon Phoenix and local historian Catherine Scott described the ‘grim edifice of Enniskillen Jail’, with Scott explaining some of the history of the place.
She said, ‘the county jail is established at the beginning of the nineteenth century, and takes about three years to build, from 1815 to 1818. However, it’s the extension that’s revised from about 1850 at the back of the jail rather than the original county building itself (that remains). We know that public hangings occurred here. They were rare, but they occurred, and the last public hanging was as recent as 1839, where two local men, Thomas Kerr and Thomas Wilson were hung together at Gallows Green at the front of the jail, as it would have been, with a large crowd gathered, having been convicted of the murder of a young local woman.’
On Halloween, South West College Snapchat showcased some of the creepy and spooky leftovers of this time, as we investigated the building and the dungeon below. The most notable reminder of the buildings history as a jail is in the central hall, where the outlines of what were once jail cells are still recognisable. However, we also spoke to Aidan Stewart, who showed us some of the buildings secrets and shared a few lesser known stories. Aidan showed us around the dungeon below the central hall and explained: ‘The dungeon housed “condemned men” who had been sentenced to hanging. There was a tunnel, which still in part exists today, which they would be led down after their last meal. From the tunnel they would emerge directly beneath the scaffolding where they would be hanged.’
With this creepy history, Aidan explains that there has been a rumour or two of spooky occurrences. He tells the story of a room in the infirmary building behind the old jail. ‘A lecturer and a class of students were in the room one afternoon when the storeroom door began to creep open. At first students exchanged a few strange looks, then they laughed; but when the door violently slammed shut, they all got up and ran out. The lecturer refused to teach in that room again, and the building is no longer used for classes.’
The old Enniskillen jail is not the only one to sit close to South West College. Roddy Breslin of the Northern Ireland Paranormal Society, told the BBC website: ‘Myself and other’s carried out investigations in the hospital part of Omagh gaol back in July 2005. We managed to capture some very strange things on video-cams, like three times we had things thrown at us and we also captured some strange lights, known in the world of the paranormal as orbs.’
With these different places close by, it’s fair to say that as you’re out and about this Halloween, seeing all sorts of make-believe scary scenes, the truly scary goings-on mightn’t be as far away as you’d think.