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True Irish Ghost Stories: Haunted Houses, Banshees, Poltergeists, and Other Supernatural Phenomena (John D. Seymour) online

True Irish Ghost Stories: Haunted Houses, Banshees, Poltergeists, and Other Supernatural Phenomena by John D. Seymour


We have given various instances of ghostly phenomena wherein the witnesses have failed at first to realise that what they saw partook in any way of the abnormal. There are also many cases where a so-called ghost has turned out to be something very ordinary. Though more often than not such incidents are of a very trivial or self-explanatory nature (_e.g._ where a sheep in a churchyard almost paralysed a midnight wayfarer till he summoned up courage to investigate), there are many which have an interest of their own and which often throw into prominence the extraordinary superstitions and beliefs which exist in a country.

Our first story, which is sent us by Mr. De Lacy of Dublin, deals with an incident that occurred in the early part of last century. An epidemic which was then rife in the city was each day taking its toll of the unhappy citizens. The wife of a man living in Merrion Square was stricken down and hastily buried in a churchyard in Donnybrook which is now closed. On the night after the funeral one of the city police, or "Charlies" as they were then called, passed through the churchyard on his rounds. When nearing the centre he was alarmed to hear a sound coming from a grave close at hand, and turning, saw a white apparition sit up and address him. This was all he waited for; with a shriek he dropped his lantern and staff and made off as fast as his legs would carry him. The apparition thereupon took up the lamp and staff, and walked to Merrion Square to the house of mourning, was admitted by the servants, and to the joy of the whole household was found to be the object of their grief returned, Alcestis-like, from the grave. It seems that the epidemic was so bad that the bodies of the victims were interred hastily and without much care: the unfortunate lady had really been in a state of coma or trance, and as the grave was lightly covered, when she came to she was able to force her way up, and seeing the "Charlie" passing, she called for assistance.

An occurrence which at first had all the appearance of partaking of the supernormal, and which was afterwards found to have a curious explanation, is related by Dean Ovenden of St. Patrick's Cathedral, Dublin. "At Dunluce Rectory, Co. Antrim," he writes, "I had a strange experience. There was a force-pump attached to the back wall of the house, and many people drew water from it, as it was better than any obtained at that time in Bushmills. We used to notice, when going to bed, the sound of someone working the pump. All the servants denied that they ever used the pump between 11 P.M. and 12 midnight. I often looked out of the back window when I heard the pump going, but could not see anyone. I tied threads to the handle, but although they were found unbroken in the morning the pumping continued, sometimes only for three or four moves of the handle. On many nights no pumping was heard. The man-servant sat up with a gun and the dog, but he neither saw nor heard anything. We gave it up as a bad job, and still the pumping went on. After about two years of this experience, I was one night alone in the house. It was a calm and frosty night and I went to bed about 11.30 P.M. and lay awake; suddenly the pump began to work with great clearness, and mechanically I counted the strokes: they were exactly twelve. I exclaimed, 'The dining-room clock!' I sprang from bed and went down, and found that the clock was fast, as it showed two minutes past twelve o'clock. I set back the hands to 11.55 and lay in bed again, and soon the pumper began as usual. The explanation was that the vibration of the rising and falling hammer was carried up to the bedroom by the wall, but the sound of the bell was never heard. I found afterwards that the nights when there was no pumping were always windy."