Ghostly goings on top it all off on holiday from hell

What sounded like an idyllic break in the Irish countryside turned out to be anything but for Leona O'Neill and her family, who hired a holiday home that felt as if it were already occupied

One of our sons woke us at 4am saying that his brother was breathing heavily in his ear; when the brothers were checked, they were in a deep sleep
Leon O'Neill

LAST week we found ourselves in the wilds of Wicklow, in a holiday home, up a mountain in the middle of nowhere.

When I booked this break in January I was terribly busy at work and craved the peace and quiet only the countryside could afford me.

In the months that followed I visited and revisited the website, dreaming on the days when I was actually running past myself what it would be like, sitting on a beautiful wooden veranda, sipping chilled wine while my perfectly behaved children sat quietly just soaking in the stunning beauty of the Irish countryside.

It's been a few years since we took the kids away on holiday. How I would love to take them to Florida or Spain but a mix of it being so expensive I'd have to remortgage my house and the fact that Isis are reigning down their terror on every tourist spot on the globe persuaded me that an Irish Staycation would be our best bet.

I most certainly had my rose tinted spectacles on when I imagined us embarking on the five hour journey 'down south', full of hope, brimming with excitement and the promise of total relaxation.

In reality, it wasn't any of that. There was fighting, there was stopping at the side of the road while various people were sick, there was complaining about being hungry, thirsty, bored and fed up with travelling.

There was also a lot of questions about the exact number of miles it was until we reached our destination.

When we reached our holiday home there was excitement for around 20 minutes as people looked at the scenery and the lovely house up the mountain which backed on to a forest.

Then the stark reality of the situation hit home. The teenager was the first to lose his mind.

There was a note from the home owner that the wifi was on the blink. She might as well have written a note saying that, while we were driving to Wicklow, she had sneaked into our house and killed the boy's beloved guinea pigs, smashed his Batman mug before setting fire to his bed.

The boy went through every stage of grief, from denial to anger to extreme sadness to maniacal laughing before he accepted that the digital devices he brought with him were as much use as a chocolate fireguard and that he might have to spend the holidays, God forbid, having to converse with his family.

The next to fall was the middle child, my footballer. Used to training for at least three hours a day, every day, and playing matches four days a week, a day into our holiday all that pent up energy had to be released somehow.

He drove us insane with his running around that cabin at high speed, being an insufferable daredevil and trying to climb up the various cliff-like surfaces that the danger signs warned against.

Then there was the creepiness. This holiday home was in the middle of nowhere. We literally had sheep for neighbours.

When you looked out the window at night all that was seen was advanced darkness and a big creepy dark and mysterious forest.

None of our 'Norn Iron' phones worked, and there was no phone in the holiday home. We had all the kids in one room, and myself and the husband had the other.

On the first night my five-year-old daughter had a nightmare and woke the house with a blood-curdling screaming – fabulous dramatics that were perfect for staying in strange house in the middle of nowhere with no contact with the outside world.

She insisted on coming in and sleeping beside me. An hour later the middle son woke with a bad dream and asked, for the first time in nine years, to sleep in beside me.

The husband was despatched to sleep in the boy's bed in the other room while the son built a pillow barricade on the bed between his sister and me, and himself.

The two of them drifted off to my left and I closed my eyes to sleep. Then I heard something growl in my right ear – no joke.

After sitting with the light on for half an hour, trying to rationalise it – it was the teenager playing a prank with his mobile phone, it was my imagination – I turned off the light again.

The boy child started shouting to his little sister who was at the other edge of the bed, behind the pillow barricade, wrapped in my arms and nowhere near him to stop tickling him.

Lights on, no-one near him. An hour later the girl child started laughing in her sleep and wriggling about, mumbling about someone tickling her.

It's fair to say there was little sleep had that night. Or indeed over the course of the next few nights. Spooky things kept happening.

There were doors slammed in the middle of the night and no-one was there, footsteps in the hall with no apparent owner and people getting tickled in their beds.

The smallest boy child woke us one night at 4am saying that his brother was playing a trick on him by breathing heavily in his ear and waking him up.

When the brothers were checked, they were in a deep sleep. There will come a time when we'll be able to laugh at all this. But it's not now.

Now is the time for booking a romantic weekend away, just the two of us, sans kids and sans poltergeists.

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