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True Irish Ghost Stories: Haunted Houses, Banshees, Poltergeists, and Other Supernatural Phenomena (John D. Seymour) online
CHAPTER VII BANSHEES, AND OTHER DEATH-WARNINGS
Mr. Westropp informs us that at sight or sound of this coach all gates should be thrown open, and then it will not stop at the house to call for a member of the family, but will only foretell the death of some relative at a distance. We hope our readers will carefully bear in mind this simple method of averting fate.
We may conclude this chapter with some account of strange and varied death-warnings, which are attached to certain families and foretell the coming of the King of Terrors.
In a Co. Wicklow family a death is preceded by the appearance of a spectre; the doors of the sitting-room open and a lady dressed in white satin walks across the room and hall. Before any member of a certain Queen's Co. family died a looking-glass was broken; while in a branch of that family the portent was the opening and shutting of the avenue gate. In another Queen's Co. family approaching death was heralded by the cry of the cuckoo, no matter at what season of the year it might occur. A Mrs. F---- and her son lived near Clonaslee. One day, in mid-winter, their servant heard a cuckoo; they went out for a drive, the trap jolted over a stone, throwing Mrs. F---- out, and breaking her neck. The ringing of all the house-bells is another portent which seems to be attached to several families. In another the aeolian harp is heard at or before death; an account of this was given to the present writer by a clergyman, who declares that he heard it in the middle of the night when one of his relatives passed away. A death-warning in the shape of a white owl follows the Westropp family. This last appeared, it is said, before a death in 1909, but, as Mr. T. J. Westropp remarks, it would be more convincing if it appeared at places where the white owl does _not_ nest and fly out every night. No doubt this list might be drawn out to much greater length.
A lady correspondent states that her cousin, a Sir Patrick Dun's nurse, was attending a case in the town of Wicklow. Her patient was a middle-aged woman, the wife of a well-to-do shopkeeper. One evening the nurse was at her tea in the dining-room beneath the sick-room, when suddenly she heard a tremendous crash overhead. Fearing her patient had fallen out of bed, she hurried upstairs, to find her dozing quietly, and there was not the least sign of any disturbance. A member of the family, to whom she related this, told her calmly that that noise was always heard in their house before the death of any of them, and that it was a sure sign that the invalid would not recover. Contrary to the nurse's expectations, she died the following day.
Knocking on the door is another species of death-warning. The Rev. D. B. Knox writes: "On the evening before the wife of a clerical friend of mine died, the knocker of the hall-door was loudly rapped. All in the room heard it. The door was opened, but there was no one there. Again the knocker was heard, but no one was to be seen when the door was again opened. A young man, brother of the dying woman, went into the drawing-room, and looked through one of the drawing-room windows. The full light of the moon fell on the door, and as he looked the knocker was again lifted and loudly rapped."
The following portent occurs in a Co. Cork family. At one time the lady of the house lay ill, and her two daughters were aroused one night by screams proceeding from their mother's room. They rushed in, and found her sitting up in bed, staring at some object unseen to them, but which, from the motion of her eyes, appeared to be moving across the floor. When she became calm she told them, what they had not known before, that members of the family were sometimes warned of the death, or approaching death, of some other member by the appearance of a ball of fire, which would pass slowly through the room; this phenomenon she had just witnessed. A day or two afterwards the mother heard of the death of her brother, who lived in the Colonies.