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.