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Group I

Scary Books: True Irish Ghost Stories
: St John D Seymour

We commence this group with stories in which the phenomena connected with

the respective deaths were not perceived as representations of the human

form. In the first only sounds were heard. It is sent as a personal

experience by the Archdeacon of Limerick, Very Rev. J. A. Haydn, LL.D.

"In the year 1879 there lived in the picturesque village of Adare, at a

distance of about eight or nine miles from my residence, a District

/> Inspector named ----, with whom I enjoyed a friendship of the most

intimate and fraternal kind. At the time I write of, Mrs. ---- was

expecting the arrival of their third child. She was a particularly tiny

and fragile woman, and much anxiety was felt as to the result of the

impending event. He and she had very frequently spent pleasant days

at my house, with all the apartments of which they were thoroughly

acquainted--a fact of importance in this narrative.

"On Wednesday, October 17, 1879, I had a very jubilant letter from my

friend, announcing that the expected event had successfully happened on

the previous day, and that all was progressing satisfactorily. On the

night of the following Wednesday, October 22, I retired to bed at about

ten o'clock. My wife, the children, and two maid-servants were all

sleeping upstairs, and I had a small bed in my study, which was on the

ground floor. The house was shrouded in darkness, and the only sound that

broke the silence was the ticking of the hall-clock.

"I was quietly preparing to go to sleep, when I was much surprised at

hearing, with the most unquestionable distinctness, the sound of light,

hurried footsteps, exactly suggestive of those of an active, restless

young female, coming in from the hall door and traversing the hall. They

then, apparently with some hesitation, followed the passage leading to

the study door, on arriving at which they stopped. I then heard the sound

of a light, agitated hand apparently searching for the handle of the

door. By this time, being quite sure that my wife had come down and

wanted to speak to me, I sat up in bed, and called to her by name, asking

what was the matter. As there was no reply, and the sounds had ceased, I

struck a match, lighted a candle, and opened the door. No one was visible

or audible. I went upstairs, found all the doors shut and everyone

asleep. Greatly puzzled, I returned to the study and went to bed, leaving

the candle alight. Immediately the whole performance was circumstantially

repeated, but _this_ time the handle of the door was grasped by the

invisible hand, and _partly_ turned, then relinquished. I started out of

bed and renewed my previous search, with equally futile results. The

clock struck eleven, and from that time all disturbances ceased.

"On Friday morning I received a letter stating that Mrs. ---- had died at

about midnight on the previous Wednesday. I hastened off to Adare and had

an interview with my bereaved friend. With one item of our conversation I

will close. He told me that his wife sank rapidly on Wednesday, until

when night came on she became delirious. She spoke incoherently, as if

revisiting scenes and places once familiar. 'She thought she was in

_your_ house,' he said, 'and was apparently holding a conversation with

_you_, as she used to keep silence at intervals as if listening to your

replies.' I asked him if he could possibly remember the hour at which

the imaginary conversation took place. He replied that, curiously enough,

he could tell it accurately, as he had looked at his watch, and found the

time between half-past ten and eleven o'clock--the exact time of the

mysterious manifestations heard by me."

A lady sends the following personal experience: "I had a cousin in the

country who was not very strong, and on one occasion she desired me to go

to her, and accompany her to K----. I consented to do so, and arranged a

day to go and meet her: this was in the month of February. The evening

before I was to go, I was sitting by the fire in my small parlour about

5 P.M. There was no light in the room except what proceeded from the

fire. Beside the fireplace was an armchair, where my cousin usually sat

when she was with me. Suddenly that chair was illuminated by a light

so intensely bright that it actually seemed to _heave_ under it, though

the remainder of the room remained in semi-darkness. I called out in

amazement, 'What has happened to the chair?' In a moment the light

vanished, and the chair was as before. In the morning I heard that my

cousin had died about the same time that I saw the light."

We now come to the ordinary type, _i.e._ where a figure appears. The

following tale illustrates a point we have already alluded to, namely,

that the apparition is sometimes seen by a disinterested person, and

_not_ by those whom one would naturally expect should see it. A lady

writes as follows: "At Island Magee is the Knowehead Lonan, a long,

hilly, narrow road, bordered on either side by high thorn-hedges and

fields. Twenty years ago, when I was a young girl, I used to go to the

post-office at the Knowehead on Sunday mornings down the Lonan, taking

the dogs for the run. One Sunday as I had got to the top of the hill

on my return journey, I looked back, and saw a man walking rapidly after

me, but still a good way off. I hastened my steps, for the day was muddy,

and I did not want him to see me in a bedraggled state. But he seemed to

come on so fast as to be soon close behind me, and I wondered he did not

pass me, so on we went, I never turning to look back. About a quarter of

a mile farther on I met A. B. on 'Dick's Brae,' on her way to church or

Sunday school, and stopped to speak to her. I wanted to ask who the man

was, but he seemed to be so close that I did not like to do so, and

expected he had passed. When I moved on, I was surprised to find he was

still following me, while my dogs were lagging behind with downcast heads

and drooping tails.

"I then passed a cottage where C. D. was out feeding her fowls. I spoke

to her, and then feeling that there was no longer anyone behind, looked

back, and saw the man standing with her. I would not have paid any

attention to the matter had not A. B. been down at our house that

afternoon, and I casually asked her:

"'Who was the man who was just behind me when I met you on Dick's Brae?'

"'What man?' said she; and noting my look of utter astonishment, added,

'I give you my word I never met a soul but yourself from the time I left

home till I went down to Knowehead Lonan.'

"Next day C. D. came to work for us, and I asked her who was the man who

was standing beside her after I passed her on Sunday.

"'Naebody!' she replied,' I saw naebody but yoursel'.'

"It all seemed very strange, and so they thought too. About three weeks

later news came that C. D.'s only brother, a sailor, was washed overboard

that Sunday morning."

The following story is not a first-hand experience, but is sent by the

gentleman to whom it was related by the percipient. The latter said to


"I was sitting in this same chair I am in at present one evening, when I

heard a knock at the front door. I went myself to see who was there, and

on opening the door saw my old friend P. Q. standing outside with his gun

in his hand. I was surprised at seeing him, but asked him to come in and

have something. He came inside the porch into the lamplight, and stood

there for a few moments; then he muttered something about being sorry he

had disturbed me, and that he was on his way to see his brother, Colonel

Q., who lived about a mile farther on. Without any further explanation he

walked away towards the gate into the dusk.

"I was greatly surprised and perplexed, but as he had gone I sat down

again by the fire. About an hour later another knock came to the door,

and I again went out to see who was there. On opening it I found P. Q.'s

groom holding a horse, and he asked me where he was, as he had missed his

way in the dark, and did not know the locality. I told him, and then

asked him where he was going, and why, and he replied that his master was

dead (at his own house about nine miles away), and that he had been sent

to announce the news to Colonel Q."

Miss Grene, of Grene Park, Co. Tipperary, relates a story which was told

her by the late Miss ----, sister of a former Dean of Cashel. The latter,

an old lady, stated that one time she was staying with a friend in a

house in the suburbs of Dublin. In front of the house was the usual grass

plot, divided into two by a short gravel path which led down to a gate

which opened on to the street. She and her friend were one day engaged in

needlework in one of the front rooms, when they heard the gate opening,

and on looking out the window they saw an elderly gentleman of their

acquaintance coming up the path. As he approached the door both

exclaimed: "Oh, how good of him to come and see us!" As he was not shown

into the sitting-room, one of them rang the bell, and said to the maid

when she appeared, "You have not let Mr. So-and-so in; he is at the door

for some little time." The maid went to the hall door, and returned to

say that there was no one there. Next day they learnt that he had died

just at the hour that they had seen him coming up the path.

The following tale contains a curious point. A good many years ago the

Rev. Henry Morton, now dead, held a curacy in Ireland. He had to pass

through the graveyard when leaving his house to visit the parishioners.

One beautiful moonlight night he was sent for to visit a sick person, and

was accompanied by his brother, a medical man, who was staying with him.

After performing the religious duty they returned through the churchyard,

and were chatting about various matters when to their astonishment a

figure passed them, both seeing it. This figure left the path, and went

in among the gravestones, and then disappeared. They could not understand

this at all, so they went to the spot where the disappearance took place,

but, needless to say, could find nobody after the most careful search.

Next morning they heard that the person visited had died just after their

departure, while the most marvellous thing of all was that the burial

took place at the very spot where they had seen the phantom disappear.

The Rev. D. B. Knox communicates the following: In a girls'

boarding-school several years ago two of the boarders were sleeping

in a large double-bedded room with two doors. About two o'clock in the

morning the girls were awakened by the entrance of a tall figure in

clerical attire, the face of which they did not see. They screamed in

fright, but the figure moved in a slow and stately manner past their

beds, and out the other door. It also appeared to one or two of the other

boarders, and seemed to be looking for some one. At length it reached the

bed of one who was evidently known to it. The girl woke up and recognised

her father. He did not speak, but gazed for a few moments at his

daughter, and then vanished. Next morning a telegram was handed to her

which communicated the sad news that her father had died on the previous

evening at the hour when he appeared to her.

Here is a story of a very old type. It occurred a good many years ago. A

gentleman named Miller resided in Co. Wexford, while his friend and

former schoolfellow lived in the North of Ireland. This long friendship

led them to visit at each other's houses from time to time, but for Mr.

Miller there was a deep shadow of sorrow over these otherwise happy

moments, for, while he enjoyed the most enlightened religious opinions,

his friend was an unbeliever. The last time they were together Mr. Scott

said, "My dear friend, let us solemnly promise that whichever of us shall

die first shall appear to the other after death, if it be possible." "Let

it be so, if God will," replied Mr. Miller. One morning some time after,

about three o'clock, the latter was awakened by a brilliant light in his

bedroom; he imagined that the house must be on fire, when he felt what

seemed to be a hand laid on him, and heard his friend's voice say

distinctly, "There is a God, just but terrible in His judgments," and all

again was dark. Mr. Miller at once wrote down this remarkable experience.

Two days later he received a letter announcing Mr. Scott's death on the

night, and at the hour, that he had seen the light in his room.

The above leads us on to the famous "Beresford Ghost," which is generally

regarded as holding the same position relative to Irish ghosts that Dame

Alice Kyteler used to hold with respect to Irish witches and wizards. The

story is so well known, and has been published so often, that only a

brief allusion is necessary, with the added information that the best

version is to be found in Andrew Lang's _Dreams and Ghosts_, chapter

viii. (Silver Library Edition). Lord Tyrone appeared after death one

night to Lady Beresford at Gill Hall, in accordance with a promise (as in

the last story) made in early life. He assured her that the religion as

revealed by Jesus Christ was the only true one (both he and Lady

Beresford had been brought up Deists), told her that she was _enceinte_

and would bear a son, and also foretold her second marriage, and the time

of her death. In proof whereof he drew the bed-hangings through an iron

hook, wrote his name in her pocket-book, and finally placed a hand cold

as marble on her wrist, at which the sinews shrunk up. To the day of her

death Lady Beresford wore a black ribbon round her wrist; this was taken

off before her burial, and it was found the nerves were withered, and the

sinews shrunken, as she had previously described to her children.