Spooky stairs: A scene from the 'Amityville Horror' movie

Niall O'Dowd column / Halloween: Made in Ireland / Click here

This Halloween, Irish hauntings are getting religious.

The demonologist who investigated the infamous Amityville murders has been called to Ireland to help out a Belfast family who believes they’re being visited by an anti-Catholic ghost.

But this isn’t just your ordinary specter – the family claims they are being visited from an angry Unionist from beyond the grave.

The Fitzpatricks of north Belfast say that the ghost of the controversial Unionist politician Richard Dawson Bates, who died over 60 years ago, may be haunting them because they are living in his former house – and they are Catholic.

Maria Fitzpatrick and her twins sons Nathan and Carl, 22, have heard strange noises and have noticed mysterious smells. The family claims to have seen human-shaped figures, heard breathing and human cries in empty rooms and have smelt tobacco smoke.

They say these unexplained happenings first occurred about five years ago after one of them brought a Ouija board into the house.

The Irish family is so disturbed by their ghoulish visitor that they’ve hired ghost hunter Lorraine Warren, of the Amityville investigation fame, to look into their claims. Warren will be in Belfast for an event on November 19, and plans on stopping by the Fitzpatrick home.

The Fitzpatricks have confirmed that they live in a house that used to belong to Bates (1876-1949), who was Northern Ireland’s first minister of home affairs. The politician, who was known to have a strong hatred toward Catholics, lived in the property for over 30 years in the early 1900s.

Bates was involved with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) during the anti-Home Rule campaign of 1912-1914. He then became a minister in Northern Ireland’s government in 1921.

The Protestant politician made no secret of his prejudice against Catholics. G.C. Duggan, a former Northern Comptroller and Auditor-General has said that: “Such a prejudice against Catholics that he made it clear to his permanent Secretary that he did not want his most juvenile clerk or typist, if a Papist, assigned for duty to his ministry.”

Bates is said to have remained “vigorously suspicious” of Catholics right up to his death.

“He was an absolute bigot and he hated Catholics with a passion,” Nathan Fitzpatrick told the Irish News of Belfast. “He was a chain smoker and we’ve all smelt smoke in this house even though none of us smoke.

“I was wondering is it him? Because we’re the first Catholic family ever to have lived in this house.”

Ghost hunter Warren agrees that the Fitzpatricks have something to worry about.

“When they said about smoke – that is one type of infestation that is quite common – smells of perfume or tobacco,” she said.

“I first worked with this family five years ago and, after some advice I gave them, it all stopped. But it has started again so I’m going to see what is needed.

“I hope this man is not going to hold it against me for coming over because I’m a Roman Catholic too.”