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Miscellaneous Supernormal Experiences

The matter in this chapter does not seem, strictly speaking, to come
under the head of any of the preceding ones: it contains no account of
houses or places permanently haunted, or of warnings of impending death.
Rather we have gathered up in it a number of tales relative to the
appearance of the "wraiths" of living men, or accounts of visions,
strange apparitions, or extraordinary experiences; some few of these
have a purpose, while the majority are strangely aimless and
purposeless--something is seen or heard, that is all, and no results,
good or bad, follow.

We commence with one which, however, certainly indicates a purpose which
was fulfilled. It is the experience of Mrs. Seymour, wife to one of the
compilers. When she was a little girl she resided in Dublin; amongst the
members of the family was her paternal grandmother. This old lady was not
as kind as she might have been to her grand-daughter, and consequently
the latter was somewhat afraid of her. In process of time the grandmother
died. Mrs. Seymour, who was then about eight years of age, had to pass
the door of the room where the death occurred in order to reach her own
bedroom, which was a flight higher up. Past this door the child used to
fly in terror with all possible speed. On one occasion, however, as she
was preparing to make the usual rush past, she distinctly felt a hand
placed on her shoulder, and became conscious of a voice saying, "Don't be
afraid, Mary!" From that day on the child never had the least feeling of
fear, and always walked quietly past the door.

The Rev. D. B. Knox sends a curious personal experience, which was shared
by him with three other people. He writes as follows: "Not very long ago
my wife and I were preparing to retire for the night. A niece, who was in
the house, was in her bedroom and the door was open. The maid had just
gone to her room. All four of us distinctly heard the heavy step of a
man walking along the corridor, apparently in the direction of the
bathroom. We searched the whole house immediately, but no one was
discovered. Nothing untoward happened except the death of the maid's
mother about a fortnight later. It was a detached house, so that the
noise could not have been made by the neighbours."

In the following tale the "double" or "wraith" of a living man was seen
by three different people, one of whom, our correspondent, saw it through
a telescope. She writes: "In May 1883 the parish of A---- was vacant, so
Mr. D----, the Diocesan Curate, used to come out to take service on
Sundays. One day there were two funerals to be taken, the one at a
graveyard some distance off, the other at A---- churchyard. My brother
was at both, the far-off one being taken the first. The house we then
lived in looked down towards A---- churchyard, which was about a quarter
of a mile away. From an upper window my sister and I saw _two_ surpliced
figures going out to meet the coffin, and said, 'Why, there are two
clergy!' having supposed that there would be only Mr. D----. I, being
short-sighted, used a telescope, and saw the two surplices showing
between the people. But when my brother returned he said, 'A strange
thing has happened. Mr. D---- and Mr. W----(curate of a neighbouring
parish) took the far-off funeral. I saw them both again at A----, but
when I went into the vestry I only saw Mr. W----. I asked where Mr.
D---- was, and he replied that he had left immediately after the first
funeral, as he had to go to Kilkenny, and that he (Mr. W----) had come on
_alone_ to take the funeral at A----.'"

Here is a curious tale from the city of Limerick of a lady's "double"
being seen, with no consequent results. It is sent by Mr. Richard Hogan
as the personal experience of his sister, Mrs. Mary Murnane. On Saturday,
October 25, 1913, at half-past four o'clock in the afternoon, Mr. Hogan
left the house in order to purchase some cigarettes. A quarter of an hour
afterwards Mrs. Murnane went down the town to do some business. As she
was walking down George Street she saw a group of four persons standing
on the pavement engaged in conversation. They were: her brother, a Mr.
O'S----, and two ladies, a Miss P. O'D----, and her sister, Miss M.
O'D----. She recognised the latter, as her face was partly turned towards
her, and noted that she was dressed in a knitted coat, and light blue
hat, while in her left hand she held a bag or purse; the other lady's
back was turned towards her. As Mrs. Murnane was in a hurry to get her
business done she determined to pass them by without being noticed, but a
number of people coming in the opposite direction blocked the way, and
compelled her to walk quite close to the group of four; but they were so
intent on listening to what one lady was saying that they took no notice
of her. The speaker appeared to be Miss M. O'D----, and, though Mrs.
Murnane did not actually hear her _speak_ as she passed her, yet from
their attitudes the other three seemed to be listening to what she was
saying, and she heard her _laugh_ when right behind her--not the laugh of
her sister P.--and the laugh was repeated after she had left the group a
little behind.

So far there is nothing out of the common. When Mrs. Murnane returned to
her house about an hour later she found her brother Richard there before
her. She casually mentioned to him how she had passed him and his three
companions on the pavement. To which he replied that she was quite
correct except in one point, namely that there were only _three_ in the
group, as M. O'D---- _was not present_ as she had not come to Limerick at
all that day. She then described to him the exact position each one of
the four occupied, and the clothes worn by them; to all of which facts he
assented, except as to the presence of Miss M. O'D----. Mrs. Murnane
adds, "That is all I can say in the matter, but most certainly the fourth
person was in the group, as I both saw and heard her. She wore the same
clothes I had seen on her previously, with the exception of the hat;
but the following Saturday she had on the same coloured hat I had seen on
her the previous Saturday. When I told her about it she was as much
mystified as I was and am. My brother stated that there was no laugh from
any of the three present."

Mrs. G. Kelly sends an experience of a "wraith," which seems in some
mysterious way to have been conjured up in her mind by the description
she had heard, and then externalised. She writes: "About four years ago a
musical friend of ours was staying in the house. He and my husband
were playing and singing Dvorak's _Spectre's Bride_, a work which he had
studied with the composer himself. This music appealed very much to both,
and they were excited and enthusiastic over it. Our friend was giving
many personal reminiscences of Dvorak, and his method of explaining the
way he wanted his work done. I was sitting by, an interested listener,
for some time. On getting up at last, and going into the drawing-room,
I was startled and somewhat frightened to find a man standing there in a
shadowy part of the room. I saw him distinctly, and could describe his
appearance accurately. I called out, and the two men ran in, but as
the apparition only lasted for a second, they were too late. I described
the man whom I had seen, whereupon our friend exclaimed, 'Why, that was
Dvorak himself!' At that time I had never seen a picture of Dvorak, but
when our friend returned to London he sent me one which I recognised
as the likeness of the man whom I had seen in our drawing-room."

A curious vision, a case of second sight, in which a quite unimportant
event, previously unknown, was revealed, is sent by the percipient, who
is a lady well known to both the compilers, and a life-long friend of one
of them. She says: "Last summer I sent a cow to the fair of Limerick, a
distance of about thirteen miles, and the men who took her there the day
before the fair left her in a paddock for the night close to Limerick
city. I awoke up very early next morning, and was fully awake when I saw
(not with my ordinary eyesight, but apparently _inside_ my head) a light,
an intensely brilliant light, and in it I saw the back gate being opened
by a red-haired woman and the cow I had supposed in the fair walking
through the gate. I then knew that the cow must be home, and going to the
yard later on I was met by the wife of the man who was in charge in a
great state of excitement. 'Oh law! Miss,' she exclaimed, 'you'll be mad!
Didn't Julia [a red-haired woman] find the cow outside the lodge gate as
she was going out at 4 o'clock to the milking!' That's my tale--perfectly
true, and I would give a good deal to be able to control that light, and
see more if I could."

Another curious vision was seen by a lady who is also a friend of both
the compilers. One night she was kneeling at her bedside saying her
prayers (hers was the only bed in the room), when suddenly she felt a
distinct touch on her shoulder. She turned round in the direction of the
touch and saw at the end of the room a bed, with a pale,
indistinguishable figure laid therein, and what appeared to be a
clergyman standing over it. About a week later she fell into a long and
dangerous illness.

An account of a dream which implied an extraordinary coincidence, if
coincidence it be and nothing more, was sent as follows by a
correspondent, who requested that no names be published. "That which I am
about to relate has a peculiar interest for me, inasmuch as the central
figure in it was my own grand-aunt, and moreover the principal witness
(if I may use such a term) was my father. At the period during which
this strange incident occurred my father was living with his aunt and
some other relatives.

"One morning at the breakfast-table, my grand-aunt announced that she had
had a most peculiar dream during the previous night. My father, who was
always very interested in that kind of thing, took down in his notebook
all the particulars concerning it. They were as follows.

"My grand-aunt dreamt that she was in a cemetery, which she recognised as
Glasnevin, and as she gazed at the memorials of the dead which lay so
thick around, one stood out most conspicuously, and caught her eye, for
she saw clearly cut on the cold white stone _an inscription bearing her
own name:_

Claire S.D--
Died 14th of March, 1873
Dearly loved and ever mourned.
R.I.P e

while, to add to the peculiarity of it, the date on the stone as given
above was, from the day of her dream, exactly a year in advance.

"My grand-aunt was not very nervous, and soon the dream faded from her
mind. Months rolled by, and one morning at breakfast it was noticed that
my grand-aunt had not appeared, but as she was a very religious woman it
was thought that she had gone out to church. However, as she did not
appear my father sent someone to her room to see if she were there, and
as no answer was given to repeated knocking the door was opened, and my
grand-aunt was found kneeling at her bedside, dead. The day of her death
was March 14, 1873, corresponding exactly with the date seen in her dream
a twelvemonth before. My grand-aunt was buried in Glasnevin, and on her
tombstone (a white marble slab) was placed the inscription which she had
read in her dream." Our correspondent sent us a photograph of the stone
and its inscription.

The present Archdeacon of Limerick, Ven. J. A. Haydn, LL.D., sends the
following experience: "In the year 1870 I was rector of the little rural
parish of Chapel Russell. One autumn day the rain fell with a quiet,
steady, and hopeless persistence from morning to night. Wearied at length
from the gloom, and tired of reading and writing, I determined to walk
to the church about half a mile away, and pass a half-hour playing the
harmonium, returning for the lamp-light and tea.

"I wrapped up, put the key of the church in my pocket, and started.
Arriving at the church, I walked up the straight avenue, bordered with
graves and tombs on either side, while the soft, steady rain quietly
pattered on the trees. When I reached the church door, before putting
the key in the lock, moved by some indefinable impulse, I stood on the
doorstep, turned round, and looked back upon the path I had just trodden.
My amazement may be imagined when I saw, seated on a low, tabular
tombstone close to the avenue, a lady with her back towards me. She was
wearing a black velvet jacket or short cape, with a narrow border of
vivid white: her head, and luxuriant jet-black hair, were surmounted by a
hat of the shape and make that I think used to be called at that time
a "turban"; it was also of black velvet, with a snow-white wing or
feather at the right-hand side of it. It may be seen how deliberately and
minutely I observed the appearance, when I can thus recall it after
more than forty years.

"Actuated by a desire to attract the attention of the lady, and induce
her to look towards me, I noisily inserted the key in the door, and
suddenly opened it with a rusty crack. Turning round to see the effect of
my policy--the lady was gone!--vanished! Not yet daunted, I hurried to
the place, which was not ten paces away, and closely searched the stone
and the space all round it, but utterly in vain; there were absolutely no
traces of the late presence of a human being! I may add that nothing
particular or remarkable followed the singular apparition, and that I
never heard anything calculated to throw any light on the mystery."

Here is a story of a ghost who knew what it wanted--and got it! "In the
part of Co. Wicklow from which my people come," writes a Miss D----,
"there was a family who were not exactly related, but of course of the
clan. Many years ago a young daughter, aged about twenty, died. Before
her death she had directed her parents to bury her in a certain
graveyard. But for some reason they did not do so, and from that hour she
gave them no peace. She appeared to them at all hours, especially when
they went to the well for water. So distracted were they, that at length
they got permission to exhume the remains and have them reinterred in the
desired graveyard. This they did by torchlight--a weird scene truly! I
can vouch for the truth of this latter portion, at all events, as some of
my own relatives were present."

Mr. T. J. Westropp contributes a tale of a ghost of an unusual type,
_i.e._ one which actually did communicate matters of importance to his
family. "A lady who related many ghost stories to me, also told me how,
after her father's death, the family could not find some papers or
receipts of value. One night she awoke, and heard a sound which she at
once recognised as the footsteps of her father, who was lame. The door
creaked, and she prayed that she might be able to see him. Her prayer was
granted: she saw him distinctly holding a yellow parchment book tied with
tape. 'F----, child,' said he, 'this is the book your mother is looking
for. It is in the third drawer of the cabinet near the cross-door; tell
your mother to be more careful in future about business papers.'
Incontinent he vanished, and she at once awoke her mother, in whose room
she was sleeping, who was very angry and ridiculed the story, but the
girl's earnestness at length impressed her. She got up, went to the old
cabinet, and at once found the missing book in the third drawer."

Here is another tale of an equally useful and obliging ghost. "A
gentleman, a relative of my own," writes a lady, "often received warnings
from his dead father of things that were about to happen. Besides the
farm on which he lived, he had another some miles away which adjoined a
large demesne. Once in a great storm a fir-tree was blown down in the
demesne, and fell into his field. The woodranger came to him and told him
he might as well cut up the tree, and take it away. Accordingly one day
he set out for this purpose, taking with him two men and a cart. He got
into the fields by a stile, while his men went on to a gate. As he
approached a gap between two fields he saw, standing in it, his father as
plainly as he ever saw him in life, and beckoning him back warningly.
Unable to understand this, he still advanced, whereupon his father looked
very angry, and his gestures became imperious. This induced him to turn
away, so he sent his men home, and left the tree uncut. He subsequently
discovered that a plot had been laid by the woodranger, who coveted his
farm, and who hoped to have him dispossessed by accusing him of stealing
the tree."

A clergyman in the diocese of Clogher gave a personal experience of
table-turning to the present Dean of St. Patrick's, who kindly sent
the same to the writer. He said: "When I was a young man, I met
some friends one evening, and we decided to amuse ourselves with
table-turning. The local dispensary was vacant at the time, so we said
that if the table would work we should ask who would be appointed as
medical officer. As we sat round it touching it with our hands it began
to knock. We said:

"'Who are you?'

"The table spelt out the name of a Bishop of the Church of Ireland. We
asked, thinking that the answer was absurd, as we knew him to be alive
and well:

"'Are you dead?'

"The table answered 'Yes.'

"We laughed at this and asked:

"'Who will be appointed to the dispensary?'

"The table spelt out the name of a stranger, who was not one of the
candidates, whereupon we left off, thinking that the whole thing was

"The next morning I saw in the papers that the Bishop in question had
died that afternoon about two hours before our meeting, and a few days
afterwards I saw the name of the stranger as the new dispensary doctor. I
got such a shock that I determined never to have anything to do with
table-turning again."

The following extraordinary personal experience is sent by a lady, well
known to the present writer, but who requests that all names be omitted.
Whatever explanation we may give of it, the good faith of the tale is
beyond doubt.

"Two or three months after my father-in-law's death my husband, myself,
and three small sons lived in the west of Ireland. As my husband was a
young barrister, he had to be absent from home a good deal. My three boys
slept in my bedroom, the eldest being about four, the youngest some
months. A fire was kept up every night, and with a young child to look
after, I was naturally awake more than once during the night. For many
nights I believed I distinctly saw my father-in-law sitting by the
fireside. This happened, not once or twice, but many times. He was
passionately fond of his eldest grandson, who lay sleeping calmly in his
cot. Being so much alone probably made me restless and uneasy, though I
never felt _afraid_. I mentioned this strange thing to a friend who had
known and liked my father-in-law, and she advised me to 'have his soul
laid,' as she termed it. Though I was a Protestant and she was a Roman
Catholic (as had also been my father-in-law), yet I fell in with her
suggestion. She told me to give a coin to the next beggar that came to
the house, telling him (or her) to pray for the rest of Mr. So-and-so's
soul. A few days later a beggar-woman and her children came to the door,
to whom I gave a coin and stated my desire. To my great surprise I
learned from her manner that such requests were not unusual. Well, she
went down on her knees on the steps, and prayed with apparent earnestness
and devotion that his soul might find repose. Once again he appeared, and
seemed to say to me, 'Why did you do that, E----? To come and sit here
was the only comfort I had.' Never again did he appear, and strange to
say, after a lapse of more than thirty years I have felt regret at my
selfishness in interfering.

"After his death, as he lay in the house awaiting burial, and I was in a
house some ten miles away, I thought that he came and told me that I
would have a hard life, which turned out only too truly. I was then
young, and full of life, with every hope of a prosperous future."

Of all the strange beliefs to be found in Ireland that in the Black Dog
is the most widespread. There is hardly a parish in the country but could
contribute some tale relative to this spectre, though the majority of
these are short, and devoid of interest. There is said to be such a dog
just outside the avenue gate of Donohill Rectory, but neither of the
compilers have had the good luck to see it. It may be, as some hold,
that this animal was originally a cloud or nature-myth; at all events, it
has now descended to the level of an ordinary haunting. The most
circumstantial story that we have met with relative to the Black Dog is
that related as follows by a clergyman of the Church of Ireland, who
requests us to refrain from publishing his name.

"In my childhood I lived in the country. My father, in addition to his
professional duties, sometimes did a little farming in an amateurish sort
of way. He did not keep a regular staff of labourers, and consequently
when anything extra had to be done, such as hay-cutting or harvesting, he
used to employ day-labourers to help with the work. At such times I used
to enjoy being in the fields with the men, listening to their
conversation. On one occasion I heard a labourer remark that he had once
seen the devil! Of course I was interested and asked him to give me his
experience. He said he was walking along a certain road, and when he came
to a point where there was an entrance to a private place (the spot was
well known to me), he saw a black dog sitting on the roadside. At the
time he paid no attention to it, thinking it was an ordinary retriever,
but after he had passed on about two or three hundred yards he found the
dog was beside him, and then he noticed that its eyes were blood-red. He
stooped down, and picked up some stones in order to frighten it away, but
though he threw the stones at it they did not injure it, nor indeed did
they seem to have any effect. Suddenly, after a few moments, the dog
vanished from his sight.

"Such was the labourer's tale. After some years, during which time I had
forgotten altogether about the man's story, some friends of my own bought
the place at the entrance to which the apparition had been seen. When my
friends went to reside there I was a constant visitor at their house.
Soon after their arrival they began to be troubled by the appearance of a
black dog. Though I never saw it myself, it appeared to many members of
the family. The avenue leading to the house was a long one, and it was
customary for the dog to appear and accompany people for the greater
portion of the way. Such an effect had this on my friends that they soon
gave up the house, and went to live elsewhere. This was a curious
corroboration of the labourer's tale."

As we have already stated in Chapter VII, a distinction must be drawn
between the so-called _Headless_ Coach, which portends death, and the
_Phantom_ Coach, which appears to be a harmless sort of vehicle. With
regard to the latter we give two tales below, the first of which was sent
by a lady whose father was a clergyman, and a gold medallist of Trinity
College, Dublin.

"Some years ago my family lived in Co. Down. Our house was some way out
of a fair-sized manufacturing town, and had a short avenue which ended in
a gravel sweep in front of the hall door. One winter's evening, when my
father was returning from a sick call, a carriage going at a sharp pace
passed him on the avenue. He hurried on, thinking it was some particular
friends, but when he reached the door no carriage was to be seen, so he
concluded it must have gone round to the stables. The servant who
answered his ring said that no visitors had been there, and he, feeling
certain that the girl had made some mistake, or that some one else had
answered the door, came into the drawing-room to make further inquiries.
No visitors had come, however, though those sitting in the drawing-room
had also heard the carriage drive up.

"My father was most positive as to what he had seen, viz. a closed
carriage with lamps lit; and let me say at once that he was a clergyman
who was known throughout the whole of the north of Ireland as a most
level-headed man, and yet to the day of his death he would insist that he
met that carriage on our avenue.

"One day in July one of our servants was given leave to go home for the
day, but was told she must return by a certain train. For some reason she
did not come by it, but by a much later one, and rushed into the kitchen
in a most penitent frame of mind. 'I am so sorry to be late,' she told
the cook, 'especially as there were visitors. I suppose they stayed to
supper, as they were so late going away, for I met the carriage on the
avenue.' The cook thereupon told her that no one had been at the house,
and hinted that she must have seen the ghost-carriage, a statement that
alarmed her very much, as the story was well known in the town, and
car-drivers used to whip up their horses as they passed our gate, while
pedestrians refused to go at all except in numbers. We have often _heard_
the carriage, but these are the only two occasions on which I can
positively assert that it was _seen_."

The following personal experience of the phantom coach was given to the
present writer by Mr. Matthias Fitzgerald, coachman to Miss Cooke, of
Cappagh House, Co. Limerick. He stated that one moonlight night he was
driving along the road from Askeaton to Limerick when he heard coming up
behind him the roll of wheels, the clatter of horses' hoofs, and the
jingling of the bits. He drew over to his own side to let this carriage
pass, but nothing passed. He then looked back, but could see nothing, the
road was perfectly bare and empty, though the sounds were perfectly
audible. This continued for about a quarter of an hour or so, until he
came to a cross-road, down one arm of which he had to turn. As he turned
off he heard the phantom carriage dash by rapidly along the straight
road. He stated that other persons had had similar experiences on the
same road.

Next: Legendary And Ancestral Ghosts

Previous: Banshees, And Other Death-warnings

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