A WOMAN said she spent three years "terrorised by a dark spirit" after finding an abandoned painting and taking it home.

Mel Hamilton said from the moment she put the portrait in her house, things "took a turn for the worse".

She found the painting dumped by the side of a commercial bin in a Brighton street.

It had a broken frame but Mel, 55, thought it was a nice picture.

It was painted in 1973 and featured an attractive woman dressed in a white robe and covered in jewellery.

The Argus: The painting found in Brighton The painting found in Brighton

Mel, decided to save it from being thrown away with the rubbish and took it home, a decision she now regrets.

She said that within days of reframing and hanging it, "paranormal activity" started.

Mel and her partner split up and she moved out, taking with her just the clothes on her back, her dog and the painting.

The Argus: The painting was signed and dated The painting was signed and dated

She said: "That is the only thing I felt so drawn to, I loved it."

But her problems continued. One day after moving into a new apartment her old but otherwise healthy German shepherd dog died suddenly.

Soon after that, she said "dark and unexplainable" paranormal activity happened frequently in the flat.

The TV would change channels by itself and doors would open and slam shut.

The Argus: The rosary beads that were given to Mel The rosary beads that were given to Mel

On one occasion, Mel was awoken by the sound of keys opening her door.

She said: "The unexplainable began to happen.

"I would hear the door handles move and they keys go in and out. The TV changed the channel.

"This overwhelming darkness was awful and I was alone.

"It very quickly began apparent that something was amiss. Everything was going wrong, everything."

As a gardener, she liked buying new flowers but even that went wrong. Mel said she watched plants die before her eyes within hours of being in the flat.

She said it was as if a dark entity had attached itself to her with the intent of ruining her life - something not uncommon to researchers.

Paranormal investigators believe dark energy, or spirits, prey on people when they are at their most vulnerable.

Haunted antiques are not uncommon either. In 2018, a paranormal research centre for investigating haunted antiques opened in Hinckley, Leicestershire.

Run by paranormal investigator Neil Packer, the centre collects objects, mainly from antique centres, to see if they are haunted or hold attachments.

The research centre says: "Some have spirit attachments, others have spiritual energy but all with a story to tell."

READ MORE >> Ghost map of Brighton reveals the city's most haunted places

At the time, Mel, who lives in Ramsgate, was battling an alcohol addiction that she believes was propelled by the spirit in the flat.

She tried to tell people what was happening but they dismissed her as "drunk".

She said: "Things got really really unbearable. There was so much activity that I didn't want to live there.

"The energy in it was just so bad and so dark. I was a nervous wreck and covered in crosses. I went to a meeting and tried to sound rational but nobody believed me."

Three years after she discovered the portrait, she had enough, convinced it was a source of the dark energy in her life.

She got her son to throw it out and almost immediately after it was removed, the activity stopped.

Mel said: "I have peace, three years of sobriety, and a loving family. My home I am no longer scared of, and I have a very supportive new man.

"I wonder if anyone knows why she [the picture]was dumped. Part of me feels it was with a good reason, having experienced much terror."

Have you seen the painting before or do you know who used to own it? Get in touch at connor.stringer@newsquest.co.uk