Ghosts in the Attic: Only the Cats Know For Sure

By Peter Duffy

A hush falls on our little group in the living room. The ghost-hunter has returned from upstairs, and his face is pale.

“Something’s just happened,” Darryll Walsh says softly.

We shift uneasily in our chairs, waiting for this investigator of the paranormal to tell us what just happened to him.

It’s a late November afternoon, and a handful of us are gathered to check out some strange goings-on in a nondescript 21/2 storey house in Mount Uniacke. The place isn’t particularly old; it was built in 1971 by a couple who’ve now retired to Bridgetown. (Contacted later, they tell me they had many happy, uneventful years in the house).

Despite its innocent history, new co-owners Don Lightbody and his wife, Carolee, have been experiencing some puzzling occurrences in this house. A face at the window, voices – that kind of thing. And now, whatever it is that Darryll, 36, has stumbled upon.

While we were downstairs chatting, Darryll was upstairs taking photos of the landing. That’s where Carolee had heard a voice a few days earlier.

At the top of the stairs, he tells us, he found a small door leading into the half-attic. He opened it and clambered in.

“I was sitting there with my feet sticking out,” He relates. “I leaned forward, with my head out of the portal. I could account for everyone in the house.”

He pauses and we hold our breath. So what happened?

“All of a sudden,” he says, his voice dropping, “as I was about to take one last picture, I leaned back into the portal and I heard … whispering.”

We stare at him. Goosebumps crawl up my spine. Could it have been one of us he heard? He shakes his head emphatically. He could hear everyone else talking downstairs.

“It lasted four, maybe 41/2 seconds,” he continues. “I felt it was a woman whispering to a gentleman, and he was answering. Then it ended.”

I’m struck by how shaken he seems to be, considering he’s devoted his life to researching the paranormal.

Armed with a degree in counselling psychology and a graduate degree in parapsychology, Darryll lectures on the subject at the community college in Halifax. He also heads something called the Centre for Parapsychological Studies in Canada.

Don, 58, is a picture framer; Carolee, 36, is a nurse at a metro nursing home. They’re from Truro and bought the Mount Uniacke house this summer, along with another couple who have a teenage daughter. Shortly after everyone moved in, odd things began happening. Darryll is still dazed by this encounter.

“I’ve never felt nothing psychic before,” he confesses. “I’ve never heard anything before!”

Don hands him a steaming cup of tea. Darryll takes it gratefully.

“I’ve always investigated it scientifically,” the ghost-hunter says. More to himself than us. “I’ve always given it an open mind. But something weird happened for a split second.”

Darryll has come prepared with various high-tech instruments. He has a night-vision scope, a camcorder and two point and shoot 35 millimetre cameras. When I arrived, he was taking pictures of the five cats that live here.

“We have to catalogue everything for the file,” he says. He also has an infrared thermometer and an electromagnetic field tester.

Don says the thermometer is needed because, when a spirit materializes, the temperature is said to drop as much as 20 degrees.

“They absorb the energy in the atmosphere and create a noticeable cold spot.”

And the electromagnetic thing?

Don says that a “presence” affects the surrounding electromagnetic field. The instrument is used to sweep the area to detect such disturbances.

It’s impressive stuff. This isn’t a lark; these people are serious.

“Normally, we’d get everyone out of the house and then we’d scan it,” Darryll tells me “We’d use the floor plans and we’d take pictures everywhere, inside and out”.

It’s time to find our ghosts. Darryll picks up the cameras and night scope. His assistant, Janet Hillier, takes the thermometer and Don has the electromagnetic thing.

“To the portal,” cries Darryll, his former upbeat self-returning. And off we troop, up the stairs.

We reach the attic door and Darryll checks inside with his night scope. Nothing. Just normal attic stuff. He lets me look. The scope gives everything an eerie green glow. But no ghosts.

Janet does a thorough scan with her thermometer. It registered a steady 19 C, about average for an uninsulated attic. Don uses his instrument. Nothing.

Directly across from the portal, on the stair wall, sketches of Don’s paternal grandparents hang mutely in their frames. The four of us exchange looks. (You don’t think that – maybe?)

We sweep the house thoroughly from top to bottom. Everywhere. We find nothing.

And all the while, as we pass from room to room with our high-tech toy, the cats watch us through half-closed eyes, feigning lazy indifference.

But they know.