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True Irish Ghost Stories: Haunted Houses, Banshees, Poltergeists, and Other Supernatural Phenomena (John D. Seymour) online
CHAPTER IX LEGENDARY AND ANCESTRAL GHOSTS
Whatever explanations may be given of the various stories told in our previous chapters, the facts as stated therein are in almost every case vouched for on reliable authority. We now turn to stories of a different kind, most of which have no evidence of any value in support of the _facts_, but which have been handed down from generation to generation, and deserve our respect, if only for their antiquity. We make no apology for giving them here, for, in addition to the interesting reading they provide, they also serve a useful purpose as a contrast to authenticated ghost stories. The student of folklore will find parallels to some of them in the tales of other nations.
Lord Walter Fitzgerald sends us the following: "Garrett oge" (or Gerald the younger) "Fitzgerald, 11th Earl of Kildare, died in London on the 16th November 1585; his body was brought back to Ireland and interred in St. Brigid's Cathedral, in Kildare. He was known as 'the Wizard Earl' on account of his practising the black art, whereby he was enabled to transform himself into other shapes, either bird or beast according to his choice; so notorious was his supernatural power that he became the terror of the countryside.
"His wife, the Countess, had long wished to see some proof of his skill, and had frequently begged him to transform himself before her, but he had steadily refused to do so, as he said if he did and she became afraid, he would be taken from her, and she would never see him again. Still she persisted, and at last he said he would do as she wished on condition that she should first of all undergo three trials to test her courage; to this she willingly agreed. In the first trial the river Greese, which flows past the castle walls, at a sign from the Earl overflowed its banks and flooded the banqueting hall in which the Earl and Countess were sitting. She showed no sign of fear, and at the Earl's command the river receded to its normal course. At the second trial a huge eel-like monster appeared, which entered by one of the windows, crawled about among the furniture of the banqueting hall, and finally coiled itself round the body of the Countess. Still she showed no fear, and at a nod from the Earl the animal uncoiled itself and disappeared. In the third test an intimate friend of the Countess, long since dead, entered the room, and passing slowly by her went out at the other end. She showed not the slightest sign of fear, and the Earl felt satisfied that he could place his fate in her keeping, but he again warned her of his danger if she lost her presence of mind while he was in another shape. He then turned himself into a black bird, flew about the room, and perching on the Countess's shoulder commenced to sing. Suddenly a black cat appeared from under a chest, and made a spring at the bird; in an agony of fear for its safety the Countess threw up her arms to protect it and swooned away. When she came to she was alone, the bird and the cat had disappeared, and she never saw the Earl again."
It is said that he and his knights lie in an enchanted sleep, with their horses beside them, in a cave under the Rath on the hill of Mullaghmast, which stands, as the crow flies, five miles to the north of Kilkea Castle. Once in seven years they are allowed to issue forth; they gallop round the Curragh, thence across country to Kilkea Castle, where they re-enter the haunted wing, and then return to the Rath of Mullaghmast. The Earl is easily recognised as he is mounted on a white charger shod with silver shoes; when these shoes are worn out the enchantment will be broken, and he will issue forth, drive the foes of Ireland from the land, and reign for a seven times seven number of years over the vast estates of his ancestors.