In the summer of 1985, Ballinspittle, County Cork received international attention when locals claimed to have witnessed a statue of the Virgin Mary moving spontaneously.

A woman named Kathy O’Mahony appeared on television to claim that she had seen the statue of the Virgin Mary moving gently in the grotto of the little town of Ballinspittle.

O’ Mahony, one of the most devoted caretakers of the local shrine, was tending the almost life size statue of the Virgin in the grotto when she claimed it began to breath and move. “She started breathing and looking about from side to side,” O’Mahony told the press.

As news of the phenomenon spread, close to 100,000 pilgrims and spectators flocked to the site of the statue that summer alone. Many of the visitors claimed that they observed similar movements.

The Catholic clergy in Ireland maintained a neutral stance regarding the authenticity of the claims, and the phenomenon was never scientifically confirmed.

But three decades on, the site is still drawing visitors, this year’s 30th anniversary bringing with it renewed interest.

Witness testimony helped to craft a compelling story.

As John Murray, who was the town’s garda sergeant at the time, recalled to the Irish Examiner, the day following the initial reports, he went to the shrine to inspect.

“The following morning I went up there and checked out that statue. I felt like someone was playing tricks on me and I was amazed to find no wires or trickery there at all.

“I was so convinced this was a hoax I had searched behind the statue and also tried to move it,” he said.

“It wouldn’t budge.”

O’Mahony has also stood by her account, saying, “You meet many skeptics and they don’t believe it, but as far as I am concerned it is there for everyone to see.”

However, researchers from University College Cork’s Applied Psychology department have concluded that the apparitions were optical illusions, dubbed “The Ballinspittle Phenomenon.”

“People sway when standing still for a period of time and what they are looking at appears to move,” a report noted, also raising the point that the statue seemed to only move when it was dark out.

This has not deterred visitors.

Do you believe the story of the moving state at Ballinspittle? Have you ever been there? Share your thoughts in the comment section, below.