From a young age paranormal investigator Darren Ansell had a curiosity about the unexplained.
Ghostly experiences and strange goings on were so strong around him that he even began to question his own faith.
Growing up in a Christian home left Darren at odds with his own beliefs and resulted in him beginning the quest of a lifetime to prove that what he saw was real.
Darren, 41, from Banbridge, said it was always in his nature to be inquisitive and when he began seeing ghostly figures it ended up sparking a passion for the paranormal.
“I’ve always had an interest in the paranormal from a very young age but the interest really took hold in my early twenties.
“What fascinated me was the fact that I always had a quizical mind. I never just accepted what was supposed to be the general way of things. I always did and still do question everything. I never just accepted something because someone said that was how it was, I needed proof.
“I always believed that there is more to this world than what’s generally accepted. Reading up on theories of multiple universes, other possible dimensions and levels of existence lead me to the belief that what we perceive and see may not be all that is.”
As Darren began educating himself more and more he got further and further away from his Christian upbringing in his beliefs.
However, while he says that he no longer holds a Christian faith, Darren is keen to engage with people of faith.
Along with fellow investigators Tony Armstrong and Cormac Donnelly from Paranormal Study & Investigations (PSI), Darren is hosting The Great Paranormal Debate at the Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast on October 1.
They hope that by bringing scientists - both skeptics and non skeptics, religious leaders and commentators, paranormal investigators and mediums together they can answer some of the questions that have plagued Darren his whole life.
From whether ghosts exist to discussions about the afterlife, The Great Paranormal Debate, will open the floor to expert panelists as well as attendees throughout the day.
Darren is hopeful that the event will help people see each other’s viewpoints and create some “much-needed discussions and debate” in Northern Ireland around the subject.
He said: “Studying the light and sound spectrums made me realise that we are blind and deaf, we can only see a tiny fraction of the light spectrum and it’s similar with the sound spectrum. Let’s take the light spectrum as an example, we can only see what called ‘visible light’ it’s like driving up a road at night with your headlights on, you can see what your headlights allow you to see, but there is so much more out there but you just can’t see it.
“Growing up I had many experiences, I have never been shy about talking about these and ridicule from others has never prevented me from saying what I see or talking openly about my views. I grew up in a Christian family. I attended church twice on a Sunday and Sunday school twice also. I then went on to join youth groups and often went out onto the streets to evangalise to others.
“I eventually moved away from Christianity as I got older and started to form my own views. During my time at the family home I did experience some very strange things.
“I saw a tall dark shadowy figure on numerous occasions. These sightings were both at night and during the day. The figure was tall in height, approximately 6.5ft in height. I also witnessed things move, strange sounds among other strange things.”
Now as a researcher, best known for his appearance on the hugely successful BBC NI series Northern Ireland’s Greatest Haunts, Darren has many more strange goings on and ghostly experiences to add to his list.
“During my time as a researcher into paranormal occurrences I have also seen, felt and heard things that I can’t explain, although I have tried to date to find a normal and rational explanation” he said, adding: “On many occasions myself and the PSI team have found explainable reasons for some of those experiences but not all.
“I have witnessed a lady appear in front of me for a few seconds while on a pre production visit to Richhill Castle amongst other things.”
As Darren grew up not only did he have to explain himself to many skeptics around, he had to reconcile his Christian beliefs with what he believed he had seen.
He explained: “People around me often look at me as if I have two heads. They are often very skeptical and dismiss the belief or possibility of something else. When you get people on their own it can be often a different conversation. I am uncomfortable sometimes of using the term ghosts/spirits as I don’t quite know yet if that is what it is.
“Something is being witnessed, and I have seen things over the years, what it is or how or why it’s happening is yet to be discovered.
“Growing up in a Christian home and having Christian beliefs obviously affected how I reacted to what I witnessed growing up. I was always taught and in fact had it drummed into me that once you die you either went to heaven or hell, that was it. Ghosts or spirits couldn’t exist except if it was demonic and of the devil.
“That never quite tied in with what I had witnessed, seeing an old woman on the stairs of Richhill Castle didn’t give me the impression it was demonic.
“My experiences certainly challenged my once solid beliefs.
“I think it’s time to debate the subject of the afterlife. I would never challenge the Christian belief in an all powerful force, a higher realm of existence or a higher state of consciousness, but science has progressed and we are beginning to make new discoveries.
“Consciousness is now being understood more and the possibility of it existing outside of the human brain and even after death is now a reality.
“We’ve had interest in The Great Paranormal Debate at the Crumlin Road Gaol from all beliefs and viewpoints. Humanists, Atheists, mediums, spiritual healers, paranormal investigators and even religious believers have shown interest or purchased tickets to attend.”
For more information about The Great Paranormal Debate at the Crumlin Road Gaol on October 1, hosted by David Meade, log onto www.redmoonevents.org.