Paranormal investigator and podcaster Danny Robins wants to hear Cork’s ghost stories. Photo: Piers Foley

That's uncanny, Danny

Many Leesiders claim to have had first-hand paranormal encounters. Sure, some of us have even seen the number 208 show up on time.

We have our fair share of sceptics in Cork too of course, those who flat out reject any notion of ghosts or the paranormal.

Well, both sides of the fence and everyone in between will receive a warm welcome from the UK’s go-to ghost man Danny Robins when he brings his show ‘Uncanny: I Know What I Saw’ to the Cork Opera House on 30 June.

Having started out in his teens as a comedian gigging around the pubs of the north east of England with well-known comic Ross Noble, Robins has crafted a long career for himself which has seen him don more than a few hats.

An award-winning writer, podcaster, and journalist, Robins’ 2021 podcast The Battersea Poltergeist enjoyed great success, followed by his hugely popular BBC Radio series ‘Uncanny’ in the same year which has had three seasons so far.

Robins is especially thrilled about his upcoming visit to Leeside because a lot of his family origins lie in Blackrock in Cork city where his great grandparents used to run a newsagent.

“My grandad's mother, the family legend about her is that she was the first 'lady driver' in Cork, and she was this opera singer who used to drive around Cork in her car,” he laughs.

Robins’ live show combines the magic and drama of theatre with the real-life accounts of some of the most chilling cases he’s investigated over the years, as well as opening the floor to the live audience who will be given the opportunity to safely share their own stories of paranormal encounters.

“We're used to watching scary movies, but there's something about being in a theatre and being scared, grabbing onto your mate or partner next to you. It's very exhilarating,” says Robins.

“I love the fact that our audiences are drawn from both believers and sceptics. Both those groups of people seem to enjoy trying to solve these puzzles equally, just in different ways.”

Historically, Robins has some theories on what factors could cause certain cultures or populations to be a little more receptive or tuned in to the paranormal than others. Through his extensive research and travel, Robins has learned how history, religion, and even the landscape of a place can play a role.

“There are definitely areas of the world where there are greater concentrations of ghost stories,” he explains.

“I'm from the north east of England and there's a really strong tradition of ghost stories there as well. I would argue that a lot of it is to do with the lived experiences of the people in that region and I think in regions where there has been trauma and suffering there are often more ghost stories.

“You could look at Ireland, Scotland, Wales – these places where people have been forced to suffer, where there has been injustice and tragic death.

“I think a sceptic might argue that ghost stories are our way of processing all of that trauma, and I think a believer would argue that where there is death and trauma and injustice, there are ghosts to avenge it.

“Ireland is a very religious country and I think religion and paranormal are coming from slightly different perspectives but in search of the same answer – trying to make sense of our role within the universe and what happens to us after we die,” adds Robins.

From the firmest believer to the most hardened sceptic, we all have an opinion on ghosts and the paranormal, and Robins is not out to debunk or shout down either side, he just wants to present people’s stories and to enjoy the mystery they conjure.

“It's a delicious mystery this,” says Robins. “All of us love debating it and a little bit of me wonders if, even if you don't believe in ghosts existing, you secretly wish that they did.

“Nobody in their right mind would find themselves sitting in a pub and debating the existence of unicorns or trolls or pixies, but even the most hardened sceptic would be drawn into a conversation about the existence of ghosts.

“As a sceptic you could argue that it's some kind of comfort blanket or barrier between us and the horrors of the idea of death being the end and the finality of death.”

When it comes to the many accounts Robins has heard in his work, he says he is struck by an “amazing consistency” from story to story, as though somebody were describing something as universal as a rainstorm.

He explains: “When you hear these descriptions from people of these experiences, for instance in the case of poltergeists, people describe it happening in stages. They begin with a sense of presence and then it moves on to small noises and then bigger noises and objects moving – it follows this progression.

“The thing I find exciting is the detective work in trying to make sense of it and whether it really is something paranormal or whether it's something we can explain environmentally or psychologically,” he adds.

In pop culture, Robins says the perception of the paranormal is changing rapidly and shifting away from the more “pantomimey” night vision riddled silliness we’ve come to know.

“Before I started making my shows, there was still a sense of paranormal being slightly laughed at and looked down on by a lot of people in the mainstream,” he says.

“I think paranormal broadcasting had been defined in a certain way, like these shows that use night vision cameras and they're camped out in a castle, and you had mediums channelling ghosts on command.

“I'd like to think that the shows I've made have slightly changed the discourse and moved the dial on a bit and now we can talk about it in a slightly more sensible, level headed way while still maintaining that excitement of these amazing stories,” adds Robins.

Danny Robins brings his show ‘Uncanny: I Know What I Saw’ to Cork Opera House on 30 June. Tickets cost €35 plus fees, and are available to book at Doors are at 8pm.