Back in the 1990s when I was a first-year student at Queen’s I lodged in one of the brutalist Soviet-style 1960s tower blocks known as the Elms halls of residence located just off the leafy Malone Road.
During the week the area was a hive of activity, a self-contained student village where countless tomfoolery, pranks, romantic liaisons, all-night parties and all kinds of alcohol-fuelled debauchery and hedonism abounded – just as you would expect to find at any university campus in the western world. And apparently, some of us also managed to even set aside some time to study.
Nothing unusual so far then.
But at weekends the place was a ghost town. On Friday evenings hungover students returned in droves to their parents clutching black bin liners full of laundry.
So on the rare weekends when I stayed at the halls of residence rather than go home I noticed there was an eerie, almost ghostly feel about the place.
But little did I know that just over a decade previously there had (allegedly) been some paranormal phenomena going on in one of the student halls close to the one I was staying at…
The BBC podcast “The Evil in Room 611” tells the story of a student (now a renowned geneticist) who back in the 1980s claims to have witnessed some spooky occurrences. The plodding of mysterious footsteps, banging of doors and the bizarre moving of inanimate objects apparently all took place in or around this particular room – according to also to a number of other students who had all lodged there at various times. As the story progresses we find out about a sinister sequence of events of a more macabre nature related to some of the room’s previous occupants.
He was studying microbiology in 1981 when he began having some terrifying experiences.
“I saw a large, black silhouette near the desk of what I had the impression was a man,” Ken tells the podcast.
“The first thing that struck me, because I was analysing this data as much as possible, was that I’d never seen anything so black – it was just the blackest black I’d ever seen.
“At exactly the same moment. two things happened – one was I could hear in my ears what I could only describe as very, very loud white noise and also there was a very, very strong sense of pure distilled evil coming from this figure.”
He says his friend and roommate told him he had had a similarly disturbing experience at the same time, seeing the figure of a young man in the room staring at him who he felt “wanted to do harm against him”.
I’ve never been a believer in the supernatural, but nevertheless, I find such stories fascinating. They say a lot about how the human mind works.
A professor of paranormal psychology (I wasn’t aware that such posts even existed!) from Edinburgh University goes some way towards providing rational scientific explanations for these incidents but doesn’t quite manage to explain everything…
Although I remain sceptical, this half-hour podcast is worth checking out. It manages to be both entertaining and at the same time a little disturbing.
It’s also made me somewhat disappointed that nothing quite as interesting or unpredictable happened during my student days!
Just have a listen – and you can make up your own mind.
Ciaran Ward is from Co. Tyrone and is now based in London where he works in the data protection/cybersecurity field. His latest book “On Square Routes”, a collection of memoirs, travel writing, short stories and poetry has just been published and is now available from Amazon.