Do you believe in ghosts? Since my childhood days, I’ve heard many stories of ghostly encounters and I guess I simply accepted the belief that there exists a world of spirits. Growing up in Asia, acceptance of this belief is part of the cultural fabric and I never questioned it. My Dad used to spook me and my siblings with ghost stories from his travels. When I started travelling myself, my Dad had one bit of advice for me: talk to them gently. If I stepped into a hotel room or any place and I immediately felt uncomfortable (or the shivers) for no particular reason, I had to calmly say out loud that I came in peace, I meant no harm and that I was just passing through.
Ghost stories from my travels
Ever since then, I’ve used my Dad’s advice whenever I felt spooked and it almost always made me feel better. I said “almost always” because there have been a few occasions when it didn’t quite work. Here are three ghost stories from my travels which still give me goosebumps till this day:
Spooked in Ireland
Ireland has its fair share of spooky places. During my Wild Atlantic Way road trip, I stayed a night at the Ballyseede Castle, which has the reputation of being one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. I was told that the castle has its own resident ghost, Hilda Blennerhassett, who is said to roam the main staircase and hallways.
I said my Dad’s words out loud when I entered the castle. Though I didn’t feel entirely comfortable (it could’ve been my imagination), I had a restful night and moved on the next day without any ghostly incidents.
Several days later, I found myself standing on a grassy field outside the 12th century Kilmalkedar Church (map) on the Dingle peninsula. Perhaps it was the howling wind or the ancient crosses and tombstones that were scattered around the field, but every single nerve ending in my body screamed for me to move on. That experience spooked me but another one awaited me a few days later.
Towards the end of my road trip, I stopped at the ruins of the 13th century Timoleague Abbey (map) in West Cork. This hauntingly beautiful abbey sits atop a hill with lovely views of a bay.
As I strolled around the stone arches and tombstones, I couldn’t help but feel like I was being followed. It was a grey morning on a weekday and there was no one else around but I couldn’t shake off that feeling. I muttered my Dad’s words under my breath as I respectfully wove my way around the graves.
At a certain point, I began to sense a weight on my shoulder. You know the feeling of someone putting their hand on your shoulder to steer you in a certain direction? The hand felt heavier with every step I took. After a while, my shoulder literally started to ache.
“I’m very sorry but I can’t help you. Please leave me alone”, I said out loud as I turned around and, slightly trembling, headed back to the car. The ache thankfully dissipated soon after.
Terrified in Stellenbosch, South Africa
I was in Stellenbosch, South Africa, with a group of bloggers, where we stayed at a beautiful mansion in a vineyard for several days.
On our first evening there, our hosts threw us a welcome party which was attended by many local wine producers. We retired to our rooms on the upper floor at about midnight.
As I got into bed, I heard a constant creaking of the wooden floorboards outside my room, like someone was pacing up and down the hallway. The minute I switched off my bedside light, I heard my door slowly open with a clearly audible groan. “Who’s there? Matt, is that you?”, I asked, thinking it was one of the bloggers. There was no reply but I heard the door close. Feeling somewhat scared, I pulled my blanket over my head and went to sleep.
It was still dark outside when a cacophony of loud noises from downstairs woke me up. There were sounds of a window shutter clapping in the wind, furniture being moved and glasses clinking. “Huh, the cleaning staff are here early”, I told myself, and somehow managed to fall asleep amidst the noise.
The next time I awoke, it was 8am and sunlight was streaming through the window. I checked my phone and saw this message from one of the bloggers:
The hair on the back of my neck rose and I felt a chill run down my spine. The message was sent at 3:46am, which meant that the noise I’d heard wasn’t caused by the cleaning staff!
I got up and made my way downstairs to find the blogger curled up in a blanket on the sofa. She hadn’t slept all night. As I consoled her, Matt walked in. I asked him if he had been pacing in the hallway the previous night. “No, I went straight to sleep”, he answered.
We chatted about the events that occurred and discovered that almost everyone had heard the loud noises and the footsteps. It was clear that there was a troubled presence in the house.
That day, after an excursion around the wineries of Stellenbosch, we returned to find the front door open. We looked at each other and swore that the door was closed and locked when we left. We entered the house and checked our things but everything seemed fine. I walked into the dining room and found a half-empty glass of wine on the table. We were positively sure that it wasn’t there when we left the house that morning. We tried to find some sort of explanation but there was no denying it, the fear we felt was palpable.
That night, after telling the bloggers about my Dad’s words in case something happened again, I went to bed and wished out loud for a good sleep. Not long after, the shuffling sounds started. There was a sudden loud thud which got me upright in bed. A door creaked open, followed by heavy footsteps and a soft knock on my door.
“Keith?” A soft, trembling voice called me. I hesitated but opened the door to find one of the bloggers standing in the hallway, pale and frightened. “He’s in my room. There’s a man in my room”, she whispered.
We walked back to her room and switched on all the lights. She pointed to the corner where she had seen the shadow of a man. I stayed with her for a bit before going back to bed. We kept the lights on that night.
The next day, we left the mansion frightened but relieved, with a terrifying ghost story to tell!
Medieval spooks in Czocha Castle, Poland
The 13th century Czocha Castle (map) is one of several castles in Lower Silesia that I visited on a Poland road trip. The castle’s history is long and eventful: it was the scene of many sieges and it played a dubious role during the Second World War and the Cold War.
I spent a night in the castle, a stay I won’t easily forget. After checking in, I made my way up the dark, creaky staircase to my room and found a large space with axes and spears on the walls and a suit of armour on the writing table!
I had a lovely dinner in the main castle hall before returning to my room. The light of the moon shone brightly through the window, illuminating the weapons on the wall. It certainly gave me the creeps! After doing a bit of reading, I switched off the light and quickly dozed off.
Some time in the middle of the night, I was awakened by loud clanging sounds from the floor above. The noises came and went, punctuated by booming thuds, footsteps and the creaking floorboards. Frightened, I kept my eyes firmly shut and said a few prayers.
The following morning, I joined a tour of the castle. The guide showed us the different rooms in the castle including a secret network of passages and bookcases that opened to reveal tunnels and staircases!
I asked the guide about the floor above me and she looked at me quizzically. “There’s nothing above your room, just the attic and roof”, she replied. I told her about the noises I’d heard and she literally stopped in her tracks. In a hushed tone, she told me about sightings of ghosts in the castle, including the ‘White Lady’, and added that this was the first time she’d heard of a guest hearing things. I was glad that I only stayed there for a night!