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True Irish Ghost Stories: Haunted Houses, Banshees, Poltergeists, and Other Supernatural Phenomena (John D. Seymour) online
CHAPTER IV POLTERGEISTS
"Some twenty years ago Mr. M----, through the death of a relative, fell in for a legacy of about a hundred pounds. As he was already in rather prosperous circumstances, and as his old thatched dwelling-house was not large enough to accommodate his increasing family, he resolved to spend the money in building a new one.
"Not long afterwards building operations commenced, and in about a year he had a fine slated cottage, or small farm-house, erected and ready for occupation: so far very well; but it is little our friend M---- anticipated the troubles which were still ahead of him. He purchased some new furniture at the nearest town, and on a certain day he removed all the furniture which the old house contained into the new one; and in the evening the family found themselves installed in the latter for good, as they thought. They all retired to rest at their usual hour; scarcely were they snugly settled in bed when they heard peculiar noises inside the house. As time passed the din became terrible--there was shuffling of feet, slamming of doors, pulling about of furniture, and so forth. The man of the house got up to explore, but could see nothing, neither was anything disturbed. The door was securely locked as he had left it. After a thorough investigation, in which his wife assisted, he had to own he could find no clue to the cause of the disturbance. The couple went to bed again, and almost immediately the racket recommenced, and continued more or less till dawn.
"The inmates were puzzled and frightened, but determined to try whether the noise would be repeated the next night before telling their neighbours what had happened. But the pandemonium experienced the first night of their occupation was as nothing compared with what they had to endure the second night and for several succeeding nights. Sleep was impossible, and finally Mr. M---- and family in terror abandoned their new home, and retook possession of their old one.
"That is the state of things to this day. The old house has been repaired and is tenanted. The new house, a few perches off, facing the public road, is used as a storehouse. The writer has seen it scores of times, and its story is well known all over the country-side. Mr. M---- is disinclined to discuss the matter or to answer questions; but it is said he made several subsequent attempts to occupy the house, but always failed to stand his ground when night came with its usual rowdy disturbances.
"It is said that when building operations were about to begin, a little man of bizarre appearance accosted Mr. M---- and exhorted him to build on a different site; otherwise the consequences would be unpleasant for him and his; while the local peasantry allege that the house was built across a fairy pathway between two _raths_, and that this was the cause of the trouble. It is quite true that there are two large _raths_ in the vicinity, and the haunted house is directly in a bee-line between them. For myself I offer no explanation; but I guarantee the substantial accuracy of what I have stated above."
Professor Barrett, in the paper to which we have already referred, draws certain conclusions from his study of this subject; one of the chief of these is that "the widespread belief in fairies, pixies, gnomes, brownies, etc., probably rests on the varied manifestations of poltergeists." The popular explanation of the above story bears out this conclusion, and it is further emphasized by the following, which comes from Portarlington: A man near that town had saved five hundred pounds, and determined to build a house with the money. He fixed on a certain spot, and began to build, very much against the advice of his friends, who said it was on a fairy path, and would bring him ill-luck. Soon the house was finished, and the owner moved in; but the very first night his troubles began, for some unseen hand threw the furniture about and broke it, while the man himself was injured. Being unwilling to lose the value of his money, he tried to make the best of things. But night after night the disturbances continued, and life in the house was impossible; the owner chose the better part of valour and left. No tenant has been found since, and the house stands empty, a silent testimony to the power of the poltergeist.
Poltergeistic phenomena from their very nature lend themselves to spurious reproduction and imitation, as witness the famous case of Cock Lane and many other similar stories. At least one well-known case occurred in Ireland, and is interesting as showing that where fraud is at work, close investigation will discover it. It is related that an old Royal Irish Constabulary pensioner, who obtained a post as emergency man during the land troubles, and who in 1892 was in charge of an evicted farm in the Passage East district, was being continually disturbed by furniture and crockery being thrown about in a mysterious manner. Reports were brought to the police, and they investigated the matter; but nothing was heard or seen beyond knocking on an inside wall of a bedroom in which one of the sons was sleeping; this knocking ceased when the police were in the bedroom, and no search was made in the boy's bed to see if he had a stick. The police therefore could find no explanation, the noises continued night after night, and eventually the family left and went to live in Waterford. A great furore was raised when it was learnt that the hauntings had followed them, and again investigation was made, but it seems to have been more careful this time: an eye was kept on the movements of the young son, and at least two independent witnesses saw him throwing things about--fireirons and jam-pots--when he thought his father was not looking. It seems to have been a plot between the mother and son owing to the former's dislike to her husband's occupation, which entailed great unpopularity and considerable personal risk. Fearing for her own and her family's safety, the wife conceived of this plan to force her husband to give up his post. Her efforts were successful, as the man soon resigned his position and went to live elsewhere.
[Footnote 7: _Proceedings_, S.P.R.]