After writing “Fairies Witches Spirits and Shakespeare – a guide to the folklore of Clydach Gorge” for the Abergavenny Chronicle in May this year, my appetite for more knowledge about the existence of the Fae, has led me onto an intriguing path.
So my sister Linzi and I were delighted and honoured to be invited to visit Ireland to take part in a small group of Legend Seekers by Author, Scriptwriter and former Ghost Hunters International star, Barry Fitzgerald.
Barry has traveled around the world researching and examining all aspects of myths legends and paranormal occurrences, however it is his homeland in Ireland that he has been drawn back to.
In his book “Searching The Sidhe” (Sidhe pronounced Shee – an old Irish term meaning fairy, hill folk or other world being) Barry demonstrates the common threads that exist in the folklore of cultures all around the world, and explains how the stories passed down to us from our ancestors, the clues that they left us via cave art and ancient testaments, the symbolism carved into stones and the wisdom they left us, and has become lost.
Our world of technology has depleted our senses and created a distraction away from the possibility of another realm, yet the likelihood still remains that these strange beings or entities whom enter our world via a thin veil from another dimension exist to this day… and the signs are still here for those that are willing to look.
As we boarded the plane at Bristol airport we were filled with anticipation, not knowing what to expect.
Our paranormal journey so far has taken us to many exciting locations within the UK but has always been principally about proving the existence of ghosts and the afterlife.
The idea that we were now going to be looking for Faeries was new to us both and I have to admit, I didn’t know if I really believed in them, yet here we were, about to be camping for two nights in whatever weather the Irish sky had planned for us, in ‘Knocknashee’.
Situated in the Ox mountains in County Sligo this is a former Neolithic hill fort which has the remains of approximately 38 buildings and two cairns - or three if you count the one that appears and disappears according to local stories.
Claire, Barry and Linzi
Reports of strange lights and tales of the Fae first drew Barry here to investigate two years ago and his findings were so startling he wrote about the experiences in his book.
After landing in Knock, we hired a car and set out with our ‘just under 15k” baggage allowance – no hair straighteners allowed on this trip! I remembered apprehensively that we were asked to sign a waiver of liability which included a clause referring to “any injury to my person or property, missing equipment, physical or mental consequences arising from supernatural activity witnessed by me, alien abduction, Faery abduction or missing time.”
See it is I had nervously laughed and told Barry that I loved the clause about Faerie abduction!
“I wouldn’t laugh” he replied seriously.
We arrived at base camp – Gillingham’s World, which is a tourist attraction owned by Melody Urquhart, who closed the park for the weekend and joined us with her pug cross Evie.
Melody is a wonderful lady whose passion for her Irish inheritance has seen her painstakingly transform the land surrounding the hill into a magical place with an enchanted glade, picnic areas and botanical gardens all filled with faerie statues.
It hardly seems the place for anything darker than Tinkerbell and her cute friends and I couldn’t have felt less afraid at that time surrounded by the delights of fairyland.
We were joined by Barry’s lovely wife Donna and his faithful dog Max, best friend and fellow investigator Damian Denver, as well as a handful of other like-minded guests, and we bonded quickly as a group.
Relaxed by the company I felt only positive expectation as we began the investigation by hiking up the steep hill to the top of the fort, just before night fall where activity is said to be at its height.
It seemed surreal as we were met by the most stunning full rainbow which ended right there at the top of the hill surrounded by panoramic views of the most stunning scenery.
Nobody could fail to be enchanted by all this and it occurred to me that should a few leprechauns appear out of the hillside and begun to dance it wouldn’t have surprised me at all right at that moment in time!
As a ghost hunter, I am used to having plenty of “manmade” equipment with me, spirit boxes, K2s, cameras and temperature gauges for example, technology invented to capture evidence of those other worldly things. This time however we were told to simply observe. Not interested in arguing and trying to prove our findings with closed minds any more, we left behind the gadgets and gizmos and practised using only our natural perceptions.
It was not long into the evening that I caught my first glimpse of what we had come to see when I noticed what I thought maybe were children popping their heads up and down on the horizon, always just within my peripheral vision.
At first I wrote it off as a trick of the light but when another member of the party also commented that they were seeing the same thing I started to wonder...
The group then split into two and as we remained stood on one cairn, four went to examine the second Cairn about 200 yards away.
They remained within sight as they walked away from us getting smaller and smaller whilst the elements closed in on us escorted by the darkness, throwing rain and a bitter wind into the mix.
After about half an hour, the two members of our group who were facing the second cairn commented that the other group must have moved very quickly as they were now walking towards us from an entirely different direction from the left of the hill, yet there were only three of them.
On second glance however the group of four were back to the right of the cairn and walking towards us and the three they had seen some distance away had inexplicably disappeared.
Considering we had a six-mile panoramic view of the area this was deemed as a mystery indeed. The group on returning said they had not seen any other walkers on the hill but they had heard a shout of “Barry!” coming from our direction however, not one of us had called out to them.
It was now time to descend the now perilously dark hill with its steep incline came, and cold, wet but with adrenaline keeping us enthused we trekked back down with head torches and the solar light trail we had placed on the way up leading us down safely to base camp.
However our plans for a campfire were now disappointingly cancelled due to the inclement weather and instead Linzi and I snuggled down in our three-man tent, grateful to be warm and cosy again and with ear plugs to block out the howling wind. However a peaceful night’s sleep was not intended for me that night.
I was woken by the sensation of two hands roughly shoving me from the outside of the tent. Disorientated, it took me a few seconds to remember where I was and I scrambled for the torch, finding myself pushed right over into Linzi.
Taking out the earplugs revealed that the weather outside was still extreme and it was just after 3am. Call me a wimp, but I had a creeping feeling that told me not to open the tent and I genuinely felt trepidation at the thought that what had woken me up was still lurking out there.
I did manage to talk myself into the notion that I had dreamt the whole thing and managed to go back to sleep, only to be woken again not long after by a hard tap on my left foot.
Linzi told me she had felt something push her also but she had managed to go back to sleep.
Grateful for the morning light we were to soon find out that several others in our party reported the same thing happening to them also. Barry recalled hearing strange footfall close to his tent which he thought had come from a two footed creature that made an unearthly breathing sound, unlike a fox or a badger, which that increased in activity each time the rain intensified.
That afternoon we were privy to a three-hour long talk by Barry, in which he went into depth about the history of the Fae, and theorised about these entities, giving examples of why us as humans should respect their existence and not become involved in their affairs.
Clearly Fae are not the depiction that Walt Disney might have us imagine, as he uncovered true life sightings and dark accounts, and highlighted the clues our ancestors have left us about this hidden world and the consequences for those that cross the line.
At nightfall we had planned another hike to the top of Knocknashee Common, however the weather had yet again taken a turn for the worse, and this time it was unsafe to even attempt to climb the 45-degree hill, as thick fog rolled around the mountains and storms threatened high up on the hill, we decided that a campfire with ghost stories would be both safer and preferable.
It was odd that we were blessed with a clear and starry sky after about 10pm, when all around us I could still hear torrential rain, but who would question it as we were simply enraptured by the fireside tales told to us by Barry in his melodic Irish accent.
A down to earth, honest man who is passionate about his vocation in which has toured the world not only to appear in all 57 episodes of the TV hit Ghost Hunters International, but to study and research his books.
We were truly captivated by his stories and it was after 1am, as the embers of our fire choked out its last sparks that the first four of the team retired to their tents.
Two of them reported that they heard someone running up behind them on the gravel and assuming it was one of us not wanting to walk back to camp alone, they turned around only to find nobody there.
The rest of us remained accompanied by the two dogs, Max and Evie who had remained sleeping soundly all evening beside the comfort of the fire, until they suddenly put up their hackles, and began to growl at a dark area to the side of us where there was a small steep overgrown woodland area.
The area was knotted with tree roots and wild ferns, and fenced off to people and animals but was where the seven of us present witnessed something we will never forget.
One tiny light appeared in the woods... and then another. Soon we found ourselves watching a light show, and these were lights that danced and flickered, faded, flashed and rocketed like nothing I have ever witnessed before.
These were not insects, moths or fireflies and I cannot find the words to describe it to you as a reader, as nothing I could say would give you a true enough depiction of what we were seeing.
Perhaps this is because it was also accompanied by a sense, one that we were being shown something that was incredible.
We didn’t have to go searching for the Fae, because they came to us. We did not rush to get our cameras because that would have meant missing a second of this supernatural phenomena that we had all come so far to find out about.
During the activity we all were seeing darker much larger shapes moving closer around us on the ground which as we shone a torch in their direction, would disappear. Strangely these shapes also brought with them a feeling of fear which was enough to stop us following them further.
This fear also infected the dogs who were certainly not happy either.
Linzi and I would like to thank Barry Fitzgerald and The Legend Seekers for the most amazing weekend, and for the opportunity to bring back our story to Abergavenny.
We were truly privileged to be able to witness such an extraordinary scene on our final night in Knocknashee. In the midst of all the “oohs” and “ahhs” from our new found friends, all I could think was “how am I going to explain this?
Nobody will believe me!” but do you know what? I don’t care. Because whatever we witnessed was meant for us and we shall simply echo what Barry says to you. “Our world is only restricted by our limited perceptions”.
We are now keen to explore much deeper into the rich history of our very own Welsh Fae known as “y tylwyth teg” meaning “the fair family” or “bendith y mamau” which means “their mothers blessing” and would love to hear from anyone who has any stories of unusual sightings or happenings in the area.
• For further information regarding Barry Fitzgerald’s work visit www.charmstealer.com