Updated: Mar 5, 2020
Ireland has a pretty rich history, dating back thousands of years. And with such a long history often comes hauntings. Ireland is full of them, but today we’re looking at one that isn’t quite as well known as, say, some of its castles. But it’s also been called one of the most haunted houses in Northern Ireland. Let’s talk about Cumber House.
Cumber House is located in Claudy, a village in the county of Derry (also known as Londonderry) in Northern Ireland, aka the part of Ireland that is part of the United Kingdom. In 2011, the population of Claudy was 1,340 — so it’s extremely small! The stereotype about small towns is that they’re quiet and not a lot goes on there. As someone who has lived in small towns most of my life, I can say that stereotype is often true. And it does seem to be the same for Claudy, but the bigger county of Derry that it’s in has quite the reputation.
Derry has been called the world’s best Halloween destination, and boasts a decent number of (allegedly) haunted places. Among these places are a hotel, and old convent and a road. In a smaller townland called Derryork, farmers report their crops often being destroyed by fairies. That’s right — Tinkerbell apparently likes to destroy crops.
There’s not much easily accessible information on Cumber House. From what I could find, it was built in the 1830’s and there’s also a cemetery on the grounds — which might explain some of the paranormal activity.
So, here’s the story behind the haunting. Supposedly, the house was once owned by the Browne family. The patriarch of the family is never named in these stories, and neither is anyone else. So for the sake of clarity, I’ll call him Mr. Browne from here on out.
Mr. Browne was not very well liked by people in the town and apparently took advantage of his position of wealth and power. After he died, a priest told the family’s gardener that Mr. Browne was burning in hell. The Browne’s son heard about this via the gardener, and was so angry that he confronted the priest, holding him up at gunpoint and screaming at him to prove his father was in hell.
Obviously this is a bit difficult to do, and the priest began praying on his knees. At first, nothing seemed to happen, and the son grew agitated. I’m not sure why he didn’t just kill the priest right there — he must have been very patient. Finally, the priest drew a circle on the floor and Mr. Browne’s ghost appeared engulfed in flames, seeming to confirm the rumor that he was in hell. The priest escaped the clutches of Browne Jr. and never went back to the house.
Mr. Browne haunted the house for awhile until his spirit was banished by another priest. Strangely, it was banished into a tree on the property — I assume because that was the closest thing the priest could find in the moment. Today, visitors report hearing knocking and scraping sounds from the tree. Other rumors include a woman on the front steps, lights going on and off, gusts of wind, objects moving on their own and appliances turn on and off by themselves.
There aren’t many specific stories of Cumber House hauntings, say, on forums or social media. But there have been a decent number of investigations in the house. One group that’s held at least two paranormal investigations on the grounds is called Supernatural Activities. Their website details an investigation they held on the 11th and 12th of July in 2015. According to their website, “Supernatural Activities is an exceptional company that uniquely blends Corporate Eventing with a highly skilled and Professional Psychic Medium dedicated in providing a variety of Paranormal, Mystical and Mythical tours, events and activities.”
This investigation seemed to be comprised of both laymen and those who professed to be psychic mediums, as well as some skeptics and people who had never experienced the paranormal. Supernatural Activities’ website claims there were group members who made contact with their dead loved ones. They held a seance and claimed to be visited by someone named Thomas Lecky, who said he was a “distant relative” (I assume of the Browne family) and had visited Cumber House before. Another seance visitor was Colonel Francis Browne, who told them all about the medals he earned while serving in India. Other ghosts that reportedly made contact were a 13-year-old girl and a little boy named Joe.
Cumber House is the only place listed on their website where they go into details about their investigation, and the 2015 one is the only one listed. But I found information about another investigation in July 2017. In an article that month in the Belfast Telegraph, Fiona Stewart-Williams, who works with Supernatural Activities, said she’d been in the house several times and considered it one of the most haunted in Northern Ireland.
In the article, another woman named Kate Carlile, who also works with Supernatural Activities, detailed her paranormal experiences in the house:
"Two years ago at Halloween I was working for an event at Cumber House on my own, late in the evening. I was making my way up from the basement and had reached the foot of the stairs near the very famous tower room, and from the room behind me I heard a loud noise. Of course I had to go and look, and the Hoover had just gone on. There was no one in the room with me, and I had been in the house for several hours on my own, so that was a bit strange.
Another time when I was with several other people a large gym ball started rolling by itself, even though there wasn't a breeze or any wind.”
A vacuum cleaner coming on by itself and a gym ball rolling across the room…maybe the Cumber House ghosts like to clean and work out? If so, I’d love for them to come to my house and vacuum — I hate vacuuming!
There have been a few other investigations by other groups. One of the most prominent is called Life Afterlife TV Productions. They have an entire playlist of their investigations, some of them stretching to almost three hours long. I’ll leave a link to that playlist below if you want to check it out.
By the way, in one of their videos, I heard what sounded like stomping around. I’m not sure if it was something supernatural or just other people in the house.
Today, Cumber House is owned by the Derry City Council, and you can rent it out for events. If you’ve ever been to Cumber House or even other haunted places around Derry, I’d love to know about them in the comments. Unfortunately, the closest I’ve ever been to Ireland is flying over it in 2015 on the way to London. But the green fields were gorgeous!
Claudy photo: Anne Burgess
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