You may want to get a drink and settle in because this is a long post filled with family lore.
Well, I’ll begin at the beginning!
From an early age I had the ability to see and hear things that most others could not.
My mother and grandmother had the same ability. My grandmother and I were unfazed by paranormal sights and sounds we observed, but it absolutely terrified my mother.
When I was very young, about five, I got my first taste ghostly images; some would suggest residual energy, scuttling about at various locations, even in broad daylight.
Sounds coming from the old disused forge as though a blacksmith were fashioning a horseshoe on the anvil, or, over at the old beetling mill, near midday, the sounds of voices and the sounds of machinery. However, as soon as I touched the door to push it open, all the noise stopped. The inside was as I knew it was, collapsed rotten timbers with stinging nettles growing up through them. In the early hours of the morning my little dog religiously started growling, shortly thereafter the clanking sounds of steel buckets being lifted, followed by the sound of footsteps going up the steps and returning after maybe ten minutes. The thing was, there were no steel buckets at the gable of the house, but my grandmother knew the answer, stating that a neighbour who had passed over before I was born, did exactly as I described every morning at that time, going up the road to the hand cranked pump to fetch two pails of water before going to her work in the linen mill.
When my grandfather, on my mother’s side, was seventeen, he was awakened from his sleep to see a very tall man dressed in black Victorian clothes and top hat standing at the side of his bed looking at him. The visual exchange continued for three minutes or so before the spectre slowly faded away. This gent seems to follow my family over distance.
I have never seen him myself but my grandmother and mother have seen him on numerous occasions, miles apart, both day and night. Interestingly, my youngest son was travelling home on a particular road with a friend in the car, when he phoned me and asked was there a ghost on the road, he couldn’t believe it when I described what he had saw. Yes, the tall man in black.
Another interesting phenomenon happens when the death of a family member is imminent. The window or door gets knocked. The day before my grandfather died the window got three sharp knocks, heard by all present, and when my cousin was killed in Holland my youngest son heard the door being knocked and arose to answer. I heard nothing and would have seen anyone approach the door. Again when my father’s dad died the upstairs window of the room I was in received three sharp knocks. Sure enough word soon came that he has passed away suddenly.
One morning a robin flew in through the kitchen window and landed in my hand pausing before flying out again. I mentioned it to my mother, she said, that’s the sign of a death. She was dead a week later.
My youngest brother had just got into bed when he became aware of someone standing at the side of his bed. Looking up he saw a young blond haired youth smiling down at him, but when this youth reached out his hand to touch my brothers head, he immediately shook hands with Joe Brown (editor: not sure what this means) and made a hasty dash to our parents room.
He could not be pacified saying that the youth was still there on the landing looking through the doorway. I spoke to him the next day and the description he gave was of my uncle that I’m named after. He was killed at work when he was sixteen. When I showed my brother a picture of him he confirmed that he was the smiling youth.
Following on from that, the day my uncle was killed, my dad, his younger brother, was gathering potatoes for a neighbour farmer when he suddenly stood upright in the field looking up to the main road. He told me years later what he saw – a horse drawn hearse driven by his brother with his father dead in the back. He started screaming, my daddy’s dead, my daddy’s dead, and took off running for home. The farmer, who confirmed this account was true, followed him down the laneway home, and when my dad turned into the front yard of the house the first person he saw was his father. So convinced was he that his father was dead he ran off screaming you’re dead, you’re dead. It took his mother an hour to get it through that it was his brother who was dead.
When I was about nine years of age I had an encounter with a most amazing phenomenon. There I was sitting outside our front door, perched on the milestone, stargazing as usual, when out of the corner of my eye I saw what looked forever like a torch with weak batteries, moving this way, and that, as it travelled towards me through the wooded area off to my left. We lived where three roads met, ….. as it was called locally, and the road off to the left was a comparatively new construction. In years gone by, prior to it being built, a traveller would have found it necessary to divert via the high wooded area to skirt a marshy section of low lying land that extended down to the river.
As the ball of light approached the road, it remained about fifteen feet in the air and gradually descended to near road level. The embankment had been cut away to facilitate the new road at this point, which, with hindsight, accounted for the light remaining high in the air, obviously it was seeing the geography of the area as it was in its time period.
Now I realised it was not a torch. It was not held by any human hand – being a self-propelled ball of light about the size of a man’s head, emitting a soft golden glow. As it moved across my field of view, from left to right, I then observed it had a body which resembled an inverted V and reached down approximately two inches above the road. From the “neck” down, a blue light was emitted, similar in hue to blue steel, and spread out downwards to the “waist” like veins or arteries. I noticed that a transparent membrane covered the body, I could see it shimmering like a heat haze effect, and could see the embankment through it. As the creature moved away from me it reverted back to the torch like ball of light. I noticed the orb had the movement mannerisms typical of a man’s head when walking. At this point, I called my mother out. She promptly declared it was someone with a torch, but if it was, how could she have seen the round shape of the light when it was travelling away from her? I continued to watch as it travelled on up the …, eventually turning left and up the long lane towards a neighbour’s house. Over distance, about three hundred yards, it appeared to emit a blue light similar to that seen from an electric arc welder, the orange glow was gone. Again I called my mother out, and this time she realized it was no torch, and seemed frightened, saying, “there was always talk about that house”, meaning in local opinion it was haunted. In addition, and based on third party accounts of other peoples encounters with this creature I have established that it covers in excess of one mile on its travels. It demonstrates intelligence in that it negotiates several bends, some of them ninety degree to arrive at its destination. I first saw this creature in 1961 and enquiries established that it has been wandering about for generations before I was born. Not having lived there for more than thirty years I cannot comment on its present day activity, but I see no reason to assume it has ceased its nightly excursions. I also have reason to think it may be present just beyond the wooded area during the day, a spirit, like the stars cannot be easily seen in bright light, but one can sense and feel a coldness at a particular location, supported by the behaviour of my little dog who refused to travel that road after 17:30 hours, and often sat looking up the road barking and appearing very agitated. I once carried him up towards the location and he went crazy trying to escape from my arms eventually biting me to get away. I stood my ground and he reluctantly made his way back to me, the hair standing on his back and snarling looking at something standing beside and to my left, always ready to run.
When I was young the neighbours would call to our home for a bit of criac and banter.
I would sneak down the stairs and crawl under the table to listen to the conversations especially if John …. was there. John was a no nonsense type of guy. If he told you tomorrow was Christmas you hung up your stocking, or if he said it was raining you knew there was no need to check. John’s word was solid gold.
He too had first seen this Spirit when he was a young man returning from a local dance with a friend, but on this occasion it took the form of a man walking between them, but a man who’s feet made no sound. Both took to their heels and ran all the way home. John’s friend would never walk that road again, preferring to travel an extra two miles to get home. On several occasions throughout his life John saw what was referred to locally as “The Light”, the same creature I saw when I was nine.
The Haunted Cottage
Well I remember ‘twas a dark wintry night
A story of haunting told in firelight bright
Just a wee humble cottage, not so far away
We only go near it in the bright light of day
Old John McCaffery was the man who spoke He assured his audience that it wasn’t a joke He told of that evening when he took a stroll To visit Jimmy McCann for he lived all alone The door creaked and groaned as he went in Welcome young man, said his old friend Jim Listen; says Jim, it’s coming near nine o’clock Now don’t be scared but prepare for a shock Then sure enough as the cuckoo clock called Banging and thuds dust came from the walls Then kettle and pot lids vibrated and rattled In the scullery the sound of breaking bottles When the table they sat at shot over the floor Poor John jumped up he couldn’t take any more Out the doorway he raced like a terrified child He ran all the way home the best part of a mile.
I remember that when John talked about the haunted cottage, you could have heard a pin drop.
I remember my uncle telling the story about the night he was walking home from a football match down a narrow single track laneway.
Behind he heard the sound of hob nail boots, so he stopped and called out for whoever it was to catch up. There was no reply and the footsteps had stopped, nor was there any sign of who it was. He resumed his journey and the footsteps resumed too, so, he thought it was someone acting the eejit and decided to run the quarter mile to the end of the road, he being young and fit. There was no way someone wearing hob nail boots could keep up with him. So he took to his heels, laughing to himself at making a fool out of whoever was following him.
When he got to the end of the laneway he was grinning to himself, but over the beating of his heart the sound of hob nail boots were still following. He knew there was no way any man wearing boots could have kept up with him, so off he ran again. Home was only a few hundred yards away, and such was his fear that he jumped the fence and almost took the door off the hinges, slamming it shut and sliding the bolt and turning the key.
He peeped out the window and saw the gate open, and then something unseen pushed forcefully on the door making it creak and crack.
This was the last straw for my uncle. He charged into the bedroom, jumped over his brother to get next the wall, and lay there, clothes and all with the bedclothes over his head. During the course of the week, a member of the clergy was consulted, his view was that it was a test of faith, and if my uncle had faced his pursuer and recited the Lord’s Prayer he would have been left in peace.
I’m not so sure about that opinion as clergy tend to fill your head with little white mice, tell you something rather than nothing.
My grandmother, on my dad’s side told me the story about the events leading up to my uncle’s death when he was only sixteen.
The night before they were visited by his uncle Felix, and as he was saying his goodbyes, my uncle said, goodbye Felix, goodbye. Felix turned, looked at him and said, God Gerry, you would think you were never going to see me again.
My grandmother told me that morning at 4:30 the trees were full of magpies which was unusual, and as my uncle and his father walked up the road to get their lift to work, she saw a large red light following them up the road.
My grandfather told me of the time his brother died in Scotland.
He was asleep in bed when something started squeezing and crushing him, so much so he had difficulty breathing, eventually he managed to throw his legs out of bed and sit up, slowly the pressure on his chest ceased.
Two days later word came that his brother had died at precisely the time my grandfather had been awakened from his sleep.
Much has been said about the Banshee, and well I remember the night the local community heard first-hand what they sound like.
The terrible wail first came from the direction of the hill where my aunt lived, then it switched to the direction of the railway cuttings about a mile or so distant. My aunt thought it was a sheep being mauled by a dog and went to the hedge at the back of her house.
What she saw was no dog, but a small hooded figure wailing. She said it was so loud she had to cover her ears. Most folk would say if you hear a Banshee it means your death is imminent, but my aunt is now 86 years of age and none of the many folk who heard it that night died as a result.
There have been other accounts of the Banshee cry locally, but that is the only one I have heard myself.
Beginning the Conversation
I’m exhausted from reading all these coming and goings Gerry. I realize this is because they involve so many people and are over a large period of time. Nonetheless, there seems to have been a lot of paranormal action in your neck of the woods.
This is part of Gerry’s story. There is more but I’d be interested to know what you think about these paranormal events. I’m sure I’m not giving anything away when I say, these paranormal events in Ireland.