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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
In the Parish Church of Ardtrea, near Cookstown, is a marble monument and inscription in memory of Thomas Meredith, D.D., who had been a Fellow of Trinity College, Dublin, and for six years rector of the parish. He died, according to the words of the inscription, on 2nd May 1819, as a result of "a sudden and awful visitation." A local legend explains this "visitation," by stating that a ghost haunted the rectory, the visits of which had caused his family and servants to leave the house. The rector had tried to shoot it but failed; then he was told to use a silver bullet; he did so, and next morning was found dead at his hall-door while a hideous object like a devil made horrid noises out of any window the servant man approached. This man was advised by some Roman Catholic neighbours to get the priest, who would "lay" the thing. The priest arrived, and with the help of a jar of whisky the ghost became quite civil, till the last glass in the jar, which the priest was about to empty out for himself, whereupon the ghost or devil made himself as thin and long as a Lough Neagh eel, and slipped himself into the jar to get the last drops. But the priest put the cork into its place and hammered it in, and, making the sign of the Cross on it, he had the evil thing secured. It was buried in the cellar of the rectory, where on some nights it can still be heard calling to be let out.
A story of a phantom rat, which comes from Limerick, is only one of many which show the popular Irish belief in hauntings by various animals. Many years ago, the legend runs, a young man was making frantic and unacceptable love to a girl. At last, one day when he was following her in the street, she turned on him and, pointing to a rat which some boys had just killed, said, "I'd as soon marry that rat as you." He took her cruel words so much to heart that he pined away and died. After his death the girl was haunted at night by a rat, and in spite of the constant watch of her mother and sisters she was more than once bitten. The priest was called in and could do nothing, so she determined to emigrate. A coasting vessel was about to start for Queenstown, and her friends, collecting what money they could, managed to get her on board. The ship had just cast off from the quay, when shouts and screams were heard up the street. The crowd scattered, and a huge rat with fiery eyes galloped down to the quay. It sat upon the edge screaming hate, sprang off, and did not reappear. After that, we are told, the girl was never again haunted.
A legend of the Tirawley family relates how a former Lord Tirawley, who was a very wild and reckless man, was taken from this world. One evening, it is said, just as the nobleman was preparing for a night's carouse, a carriage drove up to his door, a stranger asked to see him and, after a long private conversation, drove away as mysteriously as he had come. Whatever words had passed they had a wonderful effect on the gay lord, for his ways were immediately changed, and he lived the life of a reformed man. As time went on the effect of whatever awful warning the mysterious visitor had given him wore off, and he began to live a life even more wild and reckless than before. On the anniversary of the visit he was anxious and gloomy, but he tried to make light of it. The day passed, and at night there was high revelry in the banqueting hall. Outside it was wet and stormy, when just before midnight the sound of wheels was heard in the courtyard. All the riot stopped; the servants opened the door in fear and trembling: outside stood a huge dark coach with four black horses. The "fearful guest" entered and beckoned to Lord Tirawley, who followed him to a room off the hall. The friends, sobered by fear, saw through the door the stranger drawing a ship on the wall; the piece of wall then detached itself and the ship grew solid, the stranger climbed into it, and Lord Tirawley followed without a struggle. The vessel then sailed away into the night, and neither it nor its occupants were ever seen again.