Client: Alice McGraw
Team: interviewed by Innes Smith
Mrs McGraw is a 51-year-old Psychiatric Nurse who works in the Care/Community sector. She contacted the SSPR to talk about her experiences in a tenement building she lived in from September 1995 to June 1999.
Mrs McGraw witnessed some possible poltergeist phenomena seemingly centred on her downstairs neighbour (she lived on the first floor, and the family at the centre of the disturbances on the ground floor). Intervention was sought from a local Priest and an alleged exorcism (on the neighbour) took place at Renfield St Stephen’s Church, Bath Street, Glasgow. Mrs McGraw’s own personal life was affected by a number of traumatic events: her dog was killed in a traffic accident; her husband suffered a brain haemorrhage (and subsequent detrimental personality change and then death); and her son died of a drug overdose.
The anomalous experiences she had in the building – coupled with the traumatic life events, which coincided with her residence there – has led her to wonder on the possibility of there being ‘something malevolent’ behind it all? She contacted the society because she wants ‘an understanding…an explanation’.
Initial & Subsequent Telephone Interview:
Mrs McGraw initially contacted Mr Tim West who passed on her contact details to Innes Smith. Innes Smith contacted the client on the evening of the 8th of July and on the following morning. The client stated that she was ‘quite a rational person’ with her ‘feet on the ground’. She was evidently anxious about her story being believed, stating ‘I don’t want you to think I’m a crank’.
Her reason for contacting the SSPR was due to her trying to put her experience ‘to rest’. The church had advised her to ‘leave it alone’, but she could not.
At the end of her second telephone interview, she thanked Tim West and Innes Smith for their time, saying that she found the conversation cathartic.
Alice McGraw moved into a tenement flat in 29 Clemmonds Drive on the south side of Glasgow during September 1995. She needed a property quickly and purchased the flat against the advice of her solicitor, who warned her about the poor structural integrity of the building. Despite the potential serious work needing done to the building, Mrs McGraw moved into the property with her partner, her teenage son, daughter and their pet dog.
The property consists of 8 apartments sharing a communal stairwell (or close). The client lived on the first floor, opposite an elderly lady, Mrs Annie Gauld. On the second floor lived a young man, Peter Jones, and opposite him, a young couple. On the third floor, one flat was occupied – the other was not. On the ground level only one flat was occupied; by Kathryn Graham and her four children.
Alice McGraw began her account by describing her reservations about the Graham family whom she knew were responsible for a lot of building alterations that endangered the entire structure. Apparently load-bearing walls were demolished and work was ongoing in the basement to ensure the tenement remained sound.
The client stated that she ‘kept herself to herself’.
When the McGraw’s moved in, often the entire family were out during the day – leaving the pet dog alone. The first time she met her downstairs neighbour was when Mrs Graham called at her door bearing a bottle of wine as a gift. However, Mrs Graham also complained of the dog howling, which struck her as unusual.
Soon Mrs McGraw began to feel both uncomfortable in her home and with the Graham family. Plants wouldn’t flourish in the flat. The dog had to be put on tranquilizers to calm it down. Her neighbour across the landing, Annie Gauld, didn’t like the downstairs neighbours and expressed an active dislike of one of the twin daughters. An opinion shared by Mrs McGraw; ‘I liked one of the twins, the other – I could never take to her’.
Mrs McGraw was also anxious about the entire building, as there was a ‘drop’ in the cellar. It was rumoured that the neighbourhood was riddled with underground passages probably related to mining, and it was possible that the tenement was built upon a tunnel. The client also stated that she felt uncomfortable in Mrs Graham’ back room; ‘there was an awful feeling of damp’.
The following list is a mixture of significant mundane events, and anomalous experiences – but listed in chronological order. The client felt that there might have been ‘something malevolent’ behind each event. Mrs McGraw said that she felt that ‘things started round October 98, peaked December 98 to March 99, then after April 99 – it calmed down’.
Paranormal Phenomena / Significant Events
Partner Suffered from a Subarachnoid Haemorrhage
Mrs McGraw’s partner suffered a Subarachnoid Haemorrhage – a brain aneurysm. After being hospitalized, he spent some months back at 29 Clemmonds Drive, but according to Mrs. McGraw he became impossible to live with. His personality was significantly changed by brain damage; he started drinking and became abusive. Mrs. McGraw could not give an exact date when he moved out, but said it was ‘a few months’.
Car Caught Fire
August or September 1998
Mrs. McGraw was with a friend learning to drive and suddenly she felt she should stop and get out of the car. Moments later the car burst into flames. She felt that this was significant, as she had never heard of a car simply going on fire.
Dog Was Killed
During this month her pet dog ran across the road and was hit by a car. Mrs. McGraw was extremely distressed by this event.
Sensation of Presence
During the night Mrs. McGraw awoke at 3 a.m. certain that someone was in her living room. Speaking later of this unusual event to Mrs. Graham, Mrs. Graham asserted that she too ‘thought her son was in her room at this time’.
Poltergeist Type Activity
December the 30th 1998
On the evening before Hogmanay, Mrs. McGraw was in her flat when both Mrs. Graham and Peter Jones (her neighbour from upstairs) ‘forced her to borrow her Dyson’. She thought it extremely unusual and didn’t want to borrow her neighbour’s vacuum cleaner, but wasn’t allowed to refuse.
Mrs. McGraw went downstairs with Mr. Jones and the both of them waited in the kitchen while Mrs. Graham fetched the vacuum cleaner from her living room. From the kitchen they could see across the hall into Mrs. Graham’s bedroom, and something caught Mrs. McGraw’s eye: ‘There were two or three red baubles – like Christmas tree baubles – falling off from the top of the wardrobe and bouncing on the floor’. When her neighbour arrived with the ‘Dyson’ she told her about it, to which Mrs. Graham replied, ‘I don’t keep baubles up there’.
Then according to Mrs. McGraw, ‘All hell broke loose!’
‘There was all this stuff flying… all this noise – crashing – but no apparent damage – ‘what was that?’’
Mrs. McGraw went onto elaborate; ‘stones appeared which shouldn’t have been there – ‘chuckies’ (small stones used for paths and driveways) and debris.
Kathryn Graham said, ‘I’m not staying here!’ and left the flat, leaving her flat door open.
They all went upstairs to Mrs. McGraw’s flat to put the kettle on and phone for a taxi. When phoning all three heard a loud crash from the living room and on investigating found a 29 pence piece on the coffee table.
When the taxi arrived Kathryn Graham ran down the stairs towards the front door only pausing to shut the front door of her own property. Watching her exit from the upstairs landing was both Mrs. McGraw and Mr. Jones. They watched Mrs. Graham shut the door and immediately after ~ ‘I saw a white blur, and heard a loud crash against the front door! The white blur came from behind us – from between our heads – and crashed into the door. But there was no damage’.
A work colleague (now dead) said she would spend New Year with her. Both were at a local bar when her drink ‘flew over her…as if someone had thrown it over her’.
No specific date given
Tiles, which were normally affixed to the storm door, were found on her bed.
Daughter Feeling Uneasy in Bedroom
No specific date given
Mrs. McGraw’s daughter felt uneasy in one of the rooms of the flat. Despite her daughter still living with her in her current address, she was not to be interviewed; ‘it would upset her if she were to talk about it’.
More Poltergeist Type Activity
Mrs. McGraw describes an experience she found terrifying during the night in her own flat. She was alone – as her daughter was away in France at the time on a school exchange. She describes being awoken by crashing sounds coming from her living room.
‘I sat in bed – terrified – sweat dripped off my nose… ‘That thing is in my house!’’
Next morning she got up to discover that the cupboard door in her hallway was wide open and her living room was in disarray; furniture was moved, a heavy couch was moved three feet and chairs were upended.
Priest Blessing House
Between January and April 1999
Prior to the ‘exorcism’ a Priest from The Holycross Chapel named as Father Hughes, visited the property and blessed the house. The Priest told Mrs. McGraw that ‘it didn’t come from here’.
When the trouble continued the Priest returned and interviewed Mrs. Graham – with Mrs. McGraw being present.
The Priest asked, “Did you knock down any walls?”
To which Kathryn Graham replied, “no”. This disturbed Mrs. McGraw, as she knew it was a lie. And ‘you don’t lie to a Priest’.
Mrs. Graham also told the Priest that she had been ‘hearing stuff in the house for ten years’ and that her ‘kids dabbled with the ouija board’.
The Exorcism & Other Accounts from Mrs. Graham
According to what Kathryn Graham told Alice McGraw, Father Hughes took her to Renfield St Stephen’s Church in Bath Street, Glasgow, where she was met by a number of Ministers of Religion. She was baptised in the basement of the complex, and Kathryn Graham felt as if she was “being pulled backwards” and heard ‘a scream come out from her mouth’ (presumably an unfamiliar voice).
Mrs. Graham also said that prior to this (no date is given), her family visited her mother for dinner. Even in this different property SRPK was apparently evident, as ‘food flew out of the kitchen and into the hall’.
Mrs. McGraw states that the paranormal phenomena quietened down after April 1999.
Son dies of Overdose
June the 7th 1999
James McGraw dies of a drug overdose at the age of twenty-five. Her mother found this particularly hard to understand as she herself was an Addiction Worker and had long warned her children about the dangers of illegal drugs.
The client described the following as ‘her strangest experience’. Mrs. McGraw had no savings, so had to sell her house to pay for her son’s funeral. One night she had a lucid dream. She walked over a beautiful bridge and met her son on the other side. He urged her not to worry and that everything would be all right. The next day she came across an old pension deed, which when she contacted the provider, discovered that the company was up for de-mutualisation. She found that she was – at that time – due for a sum of money that was ‘nearly to the exact penny’ the cost of her son’s funeral.
From June 1999 to the Present
When Alice McGraw moved from Clemmonds Drive to Govanhill, Glasgow in June 1999, Father Hughes said, “I’m glad you’re out of there”. This confirmed to her that the property was in some way malignant. The client stated, ‘that close was bad’ and felt anxious for the young couple who bought the property from her. To this day she feels guilty for selling it to them and ‘wonders how they got on?’
The Priest has advised her to move on, and she has attempted to come to terms with what has happened to her, but has no intention of keeping in touch with the Graham family. The client was alarmed to find that Kathryn Graham once visited the public house she frequented in Govanhill. Mrs. McGraw was told that she wanted to speak to her about something. This disturbed Mrs. McGraw because she never wanted to see her again.
In February 2905 her ex-partner died of complications related to the brain aneurysm. In December the same year she moved to Irvine, but returned to Glasgow the following year due to reasons of employment and commuting. Since September 2906 the client has lived in Crookston with her daughter.
Previous Anomalous Experiences
The client has had anomalous experiences prior to her experiences at Clemmonds Drive. These ranged from feelings of clairsentience ‘when something was wrong with the family’ (in 1977 she had an ‘awful feeling’ when her Mother’s Calor Gas cylinder exploded); to working in two buildings with a reputation for being haunted. She also talked generally about her experiences as a psychiatric nurse.
From 1976 to 1977, Alice McGraw worked as a Student Nurse in Gartloch Psychiatric Hospital. She was 29 years old at the time. She asserts that she had no prior knowledge regarding paranormal phenomena associated with either the hospital generally, or any specific area within.
First she talked about a ‘locker room’, which was ‘just horrible’. ‘No-one went in by themselves’.
Then she described in some detail an experience she had in Ward 10.
Ward 10 was next to the TV Room and according to Mrs. McGraw, ‘that ward never got a quiet night’. There was a seat at the top of the ward underneath a standard lamp for the nurses on duty. On the night in question, it was November or December and there were high winds. The ward light wouldn’t work so she put on the standard lamp.
It struck her that the usually restless ward was quiet, yet she was uncomfortable: ‘that night I couldn’t get settled – but not one of the patients stirred, I thought, ‘that’s odd’’. Then a window blew right open, so she shut the window and drew the curtains.
She describes next an intense sensation of presence: ‘every hair stood up…I said to myself ‘don’t turn round, don’t turn round’ ~ I was just rooted to the spot. Frozen’.
She describes an old record player that was nearby: ‘then the records – all 45’s – flew out the rack and hit my arm! This broke my paralysis…I thought ‘Get to Ward 9’…I was really frightened…panicked…crying’.
Alice McGraw activated the main lights, which were only to be switched on in an emergency. This brought the rest of the nurses running to her aid, and the Sister in Charge rebuked her. She remembered pleading to the Sister – ‘Please don’t leave me by myself!’
The following morning the Sister in Charge was Cathy Larkin – a more sympathetic and approachable person than the one who witnessed her distress. Alice McGraw confided in her, and Cathy Larkin said that that sort of thing had happened before, and she herself ‘had seen a figure’ in Ward 10.
Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre – West Street
The Glasgow Drug Crisis Centre is an old school building now used as an administration centre and drop in centre, complete with a residential unit. Mrs. McGraw’s experiences in this building were limited to two experiences: an ‘uncomfortable feeling’ in Room 6 -‘all the people asked to change rooms – even the staff didn’t like it’; and her hearing a security pad being activated and a door open and shut in the administration block – when she knew that no-one was there.
According to other members of staff, singing could sometimes be heard, although this was not corroborated by the client.
Witnessing Near-Death Hallucinations in Patients
Mrs. McGraw talked about Psychiatric Patients – who were either insensible or unable to communicate for some reason – becoming lucid before death. ‘I saw that a lot’.
She gave one example about an elderly patient called Lizzie who normally did not communicate. But two days before she died, Alice McGraw found her sitting upright in bed and speaking. When asked if she was okay, Lizzie replied, ‘I’m fine, I’m just speaking to my relative’.
Another thing that struck her as unusual was the amount of patients who reacted negatively to red flowers: ‘‘Get out! Get them out!’ …A lot of people I dealt with were like that’.
The Client’s Health
When asked about her health the client stated that she is only on two prescribed drugs – one for heartburn, and one for HRT. She disapproves of recreational drugs and described herself as ‘anti-pharmaceutical’.
When asked about ‘stress’ she responded, ‘I do have anxiety since James died’. After her son died she went to see her G.P who prescribed her a course of counseling. However, she felt that her counselor was ‘inexperienced’ and ‘daunted’, so she stopped going.
She now attends a Reiki Practitioner, which she finds effective; ‘when I get really stressed – I go – I feel it corrects all the energies’.
What the Client Believes
The client said that when she was living in Clemmonds Drive she did some research on the building and the area, to see if there was a possible explanation for the events. She talked about her understanding of the events as follows: ‘I feel as if a malignant force was directed against my family – and me. I’m sure something malevolent was there: and it was directed against me’.
She initially believed it was a Poltergeist, but – based on her understanding of the phenomena – discarded the theory as untenable, as the ‘activity’ was not fixed to one location: ‘Paul (Jones, her upstairs neighbour at Clemmonds Drive) thought it was a Poltergeist, but when Kathleen left the house, the activity stopped. And it followed to Kathleen’s Mum’s house’.
When asked about her knowledge and interest in the paranormal, the client said she had read ‘a few’ books on the subject. She specifically remembered one example – a book about a haunted house in Springburn (in Auchentoshan Terrace).
She also said she was interested in astrology, but mostly read crime fiction.
What the Client Wants
Alice McGraw said that her experience in Clemmonds Drive was ‘something I keep coming back to’, despite being advised to forget it and move on by the Priest.
She wanted ‘closure’, ‘an understanding’, and ‘an explanation’.
What was said to the Client
A brief description of the SSPR’s remit was given, complete with an understanding of what the society could do – and wouldn’t do. We could neither affirm – nor deny – her experiences, as we weren’t there. Also the SSPR had no corporate view on the Paranormal, and was not a Spiritualist organisation.
Two different perspectives were given on her experiences – one that denied the existence of the paranormal – and one that accepted that it was a possibility. It was up to the client what she believed, but the SSPR was not in any way pushing a pro-paranormal agenda or vice versa.
The Non-Paranormal Perspective
It was suggested to the client that stress could have been responsible for a heightened emotional state and a possible distortion of reality. She could have been greatly influenced by the following factors:
- The illness and subsequent change of personality of her partner.
- The structural instability of the property.
- The Graham family who evidently made her uncomfortable, but wouldn’t leave her alone. By Mrs. Graham’s admission to the Priest, the family had an interest in the occult. Their belief could have been psychologically influential.
- The death of her pet dog.
It was also pointed out that not all people within the tenement building were affected by either the paranormal phenomena or the bad luck. Indeed, within any tenement close, within a four-year period, many life changing events, tragic accidents and illnesses occur to the occupants. The fact that so many happened to her was unfortunate, but by no means impossible.
Possession is a widespread belief in many cultures around the world. It may serve as an explanation for socially taboo behaviour, or indeed – a conduit or opportunity to behave in a socially unacceptable way.
If one is believed to be possessed by an evil spirit, it effectively gives the ‘victim’ license to misbehave, especially in a ‘sacred place’ when the exorcism is being performed. The expectations of people in authority (ministers of religion) would also affect the ‘victim’.
The Paranormality as a Possibility Perspective
It was suggested to the client that stress could have been responsible for a heightened emotional state, which could make her more susceptible and sensitive to paranormal phenomena.
Poltergeist cases often feature the following factors, which were also evident in Clemmonds Drive:
- Recent structural work or building alterations to a property.
- Families – often single parent families – under a great deal of stress.
- Teenage children.
- Interest in the occult.
- Throwing of stones.
- Moving of furniture.
- Violent collisions & impacts but surprisingly little damage.
It was explained that Poltergeist Cases in literature mainly attached themselves to people rather than places. This would mean that the phenomena in Clemmonds Drive could be due to a Poltergeist, as initially thought by Peter Jones.
It was suggested that it is possible that either interpretation of the events is correct – or indeed a mixture of the two. Some events may be mundane, others paranormal. Innes Smith offered the possibility that even one real paranormal experience may influence the client’s expectations, and any further unusual mundane events are interpreted as paranormal.
The client thanked Tim West & Innes Smith for their time and said that she had found the opportunity to talk about her experiences helpful. She talked about ‘release’ & ‘catharsis’. She also expressed an interest in the SSPR. Innes Smith said that if she was still interested in three weeks time, then she should contact him, and he would forward her a leaflet.
Update August 2008
On the fourth of August Innes Smith returned a call to the client, who did indeed express an interest in joining the SSPR. During this phone call Innes Smith asked the client if she would object to Innes Smith contacting Peter Jones (if he could be found) and asking him about his experiences. The client gave Innes Smith permission – as long as her whereabouts could be kept secret, as she had no desire to speak to the Graham family ever again.
Update September 2008
It has not been possible to track down Peter Jones.
The Scottish Society for Psychical Research
This report has been anonymised. Permission to copy for education – not for resale or profit.
Copyright the author.