A piece of my mind

A piece of my mind
May 26, 2009
Dr Ciaran O’Keeffe
Sunday Herald

I WAS interested in ghost stories at an early age and grew up reading horror and thriller novels by James Herbert, Clive Barker and Stephen King. What got me interested in parapsychology, though, was seeing the film Ghostbusters. That's the first time I heard the term being used.

I am a sceptic. Although I'm open-minded about paranormal activity, there has to be evidence, and for me so far there haven't been any overly convincing cases. I have been part of some significant investigations, though. A key moment was Most Haunted's Halloween Live a few years ago at Tynedale Farm in Clitheroe. The crew started collapsing, saying they were choking or losing sensation in their legs.

Just telling someone a location is haunted can affect their reaction to it. Tynedale Farm was more extreme than anything I had witnessed before, but psychology did come into play: part of it was suggestion, part of it the environment. It was extremely dusty and we'd been working for five hours, so people felt a bit parched, to put it bluntly. Part of it was also hysteria - people going along with the moment, seeing close colleagues fall and not knowing what to do, letting their minds and bodies react.

If a ghost came up to me and said "boo", and it was witnessed by another person and filmed, I would be convinced. It would have to be all of those things because I'm aware of the fallibility of the human brain. A lot of people say: "Oh, you would be scared and run away." But I think the ghost would die a second time of boredom because I would be standing there with my list of questions.

It's a natural human instinct to jump at loud noises. As soon as there is a noise or something happens, my scientific mind immediately clicks in and I'm thinking about what rational explanation there could be.

There have been occasions when I've been scared. At Oldham Coliseum, Yvette Fielding, Cath Howe, Most Haunted's make-up artist and myself were underneath the stage in darkness. Yvette asked the spirit to make a noise, and at that moment a huge electrical generator started up about a foot away. That made me scream.
I've been playing the piano since I was four. When I was in America studying parapsychology, I had a jazz quartet that played in and around Washington DC. It's a dream of mine to perform one of my own compositions in front of an audience.

My childhood hero was Einstein. I was a bit of a geek, even back then. I also found photographs of him hilarious.

When I lived on the east coast of America I had a mohawk and was captain of a rugby team.

I hate ghost hunters who use EMF radiation meters as ghost detectors, or mediums who say things like "I'm getting the initial J". Another bugbear is people who ride on my bumper when I'm driving.

I remember being on a bar in Madrid in my underwear, pole dancing. That's probably the most embarrassing thing I've ever done.

Interview by Susan Swarbrick
Comments: 0