Last week I received the most unusual event invite I’ve had in a while, to take part in a five-hour paranormal investigation to find the phantom of the Opera House.
A group of around 30 of us arrived before 9pm on Sunday night to take part in the first ever event of its kind in this historic and iconic Belfast grand dame of theatre.
Pre tour we were briefed by the new Chief Exec and given some health and safety advice before we headed into the darkness of the building.
The foyer area was in darkness and the rest of the lights were due to be switched off shortly, you can’t really do a proper paranormal investigation in bright lights can you.
We headed round the back of the theatre, and on to the stage, and before you ask, no I wasnt tempted to put on a performance, but we were all hoping the spirits of the Opera House would. But did they?
Before the lights were switched off, I sneaked in a quick selfie with Anne Hailes (it has to be done) and did a few pre tour tweets. Everyone was excited, buzzing and a little bit nervous.
The paranormal team then briefed us on various things, including not to run if the phantom touches us. Ok, so they never once said phantom, but it sounds good, the phantom of the opera house!
We had to make sure our laces were tied, we had to let them know if we felt sick or ill during the night. Sure sickness is something spirits do to you isn’t it….I was thinking ‘The Exorcist’…oops, I’m scared now!!
You can’t help have all these images in your head, we’ve all seen too many movies and watched the odd Ghost Hunters programme or Most Haunted, would tonight be like that?
We were assured that the spirits in the Opera House were very welcoming, and that we would be taking nothing home with us. Unlike Crumlin Road Gaol, which to be fair, you’d imagine would be a bit scarier.
The whole of the building is rigged with sound recording equipment, motion sensor cameras, infrared recorders, basically the best equipment you can have on a Paranormal Investigation. These guys are the real deal. If anyone was going to find the phantom of the opera for us it was going to happen tonight.
Split into three groups, our group headed round to the original foyer at the front of the building. And then the lights in the building were turned off.
I was strange sitting on the floor, in the darkness, with some light seeping in from outside and listening to our paranormal guide ask if there were any spirits in the building to make themselves known. It was all very polite and respectful. Asking a spirit to basically introduce itself to us and let us know of its presence.
The thermometer noted a drop in temperature and one of our group felt a tapping on her head. I felt nothing.
After a while we were taken into the pitch black stalls. We clambered in the dark to find a seat and all eyes were on stage. Was the phantom of the opera going to appear, was a chandelier going to drop from the ceiling, was the Opera House haunted.
For the next few hours we moved around from the stalls to the gods, all in complete darkness. The paranormal team continued to ask if the spirits in the room could make themselves known. There were occasional commotions when they believed to have heard a noise or spotted a light or movement. But I saw nothing. Maybe the ‘circle’ or séance on stage would bring out the spirits. But that all came after a short pizza break in the Green Room.
You can picture the scene, complete darkness (aside from the recording equipment and the fire escape lights), a circle of chairs on the opera house stage and about 30 of us eager for that dramatic moment when we finally and completely get convinced of that other world.
Ten on stage in the séance and the rest of us in the stalls watching. We could hear the calls for the spirits to make themselves known. We could hear the sounds of the old building creaking, our stomachs rumbling and the occasional cough disturbing the silence. And then the guy beside me jumps and says, ‘holy shit!’. What had he seen!!!! Well, It was only one of the recording crew step out of the dark with his recording equipment’s green screen reflecting off his face. I tried not to laugh, this is a serious investigation and not a scream-fest designed to scare us.
Then it was our turn on stage. Yes, I have completed my first séance.
The paranormal team called out for the gentleman spirit on stage to come out of the darkness, he called out to plea for them to make their presence known by touching each of us on the shoulder. And then another, ‘holy shit’ moment. That same guy had been touched on the arm, and then said ‘thank you’. Apparently that’s what you do, you thank the spirit for making themselves known. Then someone saw lights on the floor. And there was an apparent drop in temperature.
Maybe I’m just too much of a sceptic.
I was and continue to be open to the option to have an awareness of this apparent other world, the spirit world. I’m almost desperate to witness its existence. Maybe I’m too desperate and as a result I scare the spirits away! Imagine that, me scaring them away! I think if I ever got that feeling of ‘something’ touching me on the shoulder, of that spider-web feeling on my face, or actually heard an obvious and totally unexplained noise, I’d be running for the hills.
So for me, the phantom of the opera house just didn’t appear or even exist. I continue be the sceptic I have always been but an entirely and completely fascinated and intrigued one.
Huge thanks to the Opera House for the invite, I genuinely LOVED it and hopefully next time. the phantom will shake a few chandeliers, just for me.