Tag Archives: banshee

The Banshee of the Fitzgeralds: 1760s

An Irish Ghost Story

By Kate Bell

The tale I am about to relate is strictly true. It was told to me by a young lady whose grandmother, or grandaunt, or great-grandmother, had been the heroine. I am not quite certain which of the three, but it was some ancestress or relative. I wish to be particular on this point, because I know how much more interesting it must make the story.

About 60 years ago then—more or less (I know it must have been a long time ago because there were rebels in Ireland then) armed bands of men, most absurdly called ‘Whiteboys,’ though they were full-grown villains of the blackest die, roamed over certain districts of Ireland, doing all the mischief they could, burning houses, shooting men, ill-treating women and children, rousing Catholics against Protestants, tenants against landlords, and, in fact, everybody, who had nothing, against everybody who had anything. The special objects of the Whiteboys’ hatred were the landed proprietors. These persons were not at that time greatly to be envied. Inheriting, for the most part, heavily mortgaged estates, they inherited also a talent for spending money, far beyond any capacity for gathering it. When, at last, their tenants refused to pay any rent at all, and the excited state of the country made it dangerous to attempt to force them, why, the result was that the majority of the ‘landed gintry’ of Ireland found themselves finally ‘landed’ in the ‘Encumbered Estates Court.’

Mr Fitzgerald was a landed proprietor, who lived at Kilbally-something House, near the small country-town of Ballykillsomething else; (the final syllable does not matter much in these Irish names). Although a Protestant, Mr Fitzgerald had hitherto lived on amicable terms with his tenantry. He was known to be a just and kind-hearted man, and besides, (which was of much more importance in the eyes of the Irish poor) he came of a ‘rale ould family,’ a family of sufficient dignity to possess a ‘Banshee’ of its own. Therefore although the majority of the tenants had ceased to pay any rent, they were forbearing and generous enough not to shoot their landlord, and, as long as he ‘kept quiet,’ did not mean to do him any harm. So the wives of the poorer tenants still went up to the kitchen of the big house for a chat, and still resorted to ‘the misthress’ when they needed help, or medicine, or a word of good advice, the latter two, however, being much oftener asked for than taken.

A few years before the (unknown) date of my story, Mr. Fitzgerald had married Annie O’Byrne, the daughter of a neighbouring country gentleman. Many men envied him the prize, for Annie was one of the belles of the county and as good as she was pretty. Picture her to yourselves, my readers if you can! for she is the heroine of this tale, generous, bravo, and witty, impulsive, loving, and loveable; in fact, a perfect specimen of that most charming of all feminine creatures, the true Irish lady. Annie had been brought up almost entirely in her own native county, the only exception being two seasons spent at a fashionable boarding school in Dublin. There was one branch of her education not attended to at that boarding school. This neglect, afterwards turned out to be of the greatest use to her, as we shall see. In her early childhood, Annie had learnt from the nurses aid servants who surrounded her, many of the wild legends and superstitions of her native country and many also of its touching ballads. Possessing a vivid imagination and retentive memory, she could, in later years relate some wild story of the district in such a manner as to thrill her auditors with pleasing horror, or sing some touching Irish ditty till tears came to their eyes but her special talent lay in imitating the mournful ‘keen’—that heart-breaking wail of the Irish mourner.

Mrs. Fitzgerald was of course a great favourite amongst the tenants, both on her father’s and husband’s estates. Her intimate acquaintance with their habits and modes of thought, and her knowledge of their native language gave her great influence. Her ready sympathy in their troubles quite won their hearts, those warm and loving Irish hearts, which yet often so cruelly belie themselves under the evil influences of ignorance–and superstition!

Ballykil——-House was situated on a terrace commanding a lovely view of the surrounding country. The lawn studded with clusters of Arbutus and Hydrangea, and bordered by two fine avenues of Elm and Ilex, sloped gradually down till it reached the high road, beyond which, stretched an undulating plain, where the fields and hedges glistened with that vivid green, so peculiar to the Emerald Isle.

Ballykil__ House was a large and comfortable mansion though, (like many of the Irish country houses of that time) standing much in need of repair. The sitting-rooms were all on the ground floor, and so also ware the kitchens and servants offices, The latter lay at the back of the house, and were reached by a long passage, having been built out from the main edifice. The old-fashioned vaulted stone floored kitchen had three large windows on each side, looking out on the one hand, into the glen before mentioned, and on the other into the shrubbery. The windows had no shutters, but were crossed by two or three iron bars, an unusual precaution in those days, for burglary was not a vice of the Irish peasantry, nor even petty theft. Upstairs there were the sleeping rooms of the family and servants. Mr. Fitzgerald’s domestic establishment had been greatly reduced since the real troubles had begun, and consisted at present of only three female servants and one man, the latter acted as groom, gardener and general messenger.

One summer evening, Mr. and Mrs. Fitzgerald were sitting on the terrace in front of their house, admiring the glories of the sunset rays gilding the fair scenes before them, and discussing the state of affairs in general and the state of their own district in particular.

‘ How happy we are,’ said Mrs. Fitzgerald ‘to be so quiet and peaceful here.’

‘Long may it last!’ replied her husband, ‘but there are floating rumours, that the Whiteboys have been seen in the neighbourhood, and if so; farewell, to peace!’

‘I do not think they would do us any harm at any rate,’ observed Annie, ‘for none of our people would join them, we are not rich enough to tempt an attack for the sake of plunder, and I do not think there is one man in the district, who harbours ill-feeling or revenge against us.’

‘You forget Con Bourke,’ answered Mr. Fitzgerald; ‘I was obliged to turn him out as he had not paid rent for three years; he was thoroughly bad, or I might have left him alone, but I found he was spreading mischief and persuading the tenants not to pay any rent, vowing vengeance. I have never ventured to eject another tenant since.’

‘But you know dear, Con came from another part of the country,’ remarked Mrs. Fitzgerald eagerly ‘he was not one of our own people and besides that, he is gone to America.’

‘I hope so, but I doubt the fact,’ replied her husband, ‘and if the Whiteboys should ever attack us I fancy we shall have to thank Con Bourke. But who is this coming up the avenue?’

As he spoke, a man appeared, riding in haste. On reaching the house, he dismounted and handed Mr Fitzgerald a letter. Annie, watching her husband while he read saw his face grow suddenly grave and anxious. He turned quietly, however, to the messenger saying, ‘Take your horse round to the stable for a feed, O’Hara, and send Jerry here to me.’ Only when the man had disappeared did Mr Fitzgerald relieve his wife’s curiosity. ‘This is a letter from the High Sheriff, my dear Annie, calling on me to repair at once to the town, both as a magistrate and as an officer of militia, to assist in keeping order and to protect the inhabitants against an expected attack by the Whiteboys. The militia has been called out in the immediate neighbourhood already, Sir George says.’

Annie turned pale, for danger threatened her husband. ‘And how does Sir George know of this attack?’ she asked. ‘He has received an anonymous communication, informing him that a large band of rebels intend entering the town to-night, where they expect to be joined by a number of malcontents. Their object is to seize the gaol, and burn it down after having set free the prisoners, especially that last batch of rebels. However, I must go at once, but I cannot bear to leave you here alone, Annie I don’t know what to do.’

‘I am not in the least afraid,’ replied Annie, bravely. ‘You know I am quite safe amongst our own people, and as the Whiteboys will be occupied with the attack on the town there is no fear of them. I am far more anxious about you, my dear husband, who are going into danger. However it is your duty to go at once, and I will not keep you back by my foolish fears.’

‘You should have been the wife of a soldier, my dear,’ said her husband, kissing her, and while Mrs Fitzgerald went into the house to make some preparations for his departure, Mr Fitzgerald gave his orders to Jerry, who now appeared breathless with excitement.

‘Bring round the car at once, Jerry, put on your uniform and load your gun, there may be fighting in store for us. The Whiteboys are expected in the town to-night.’ Jerry grinned with delight at the prospect of a shindy, for he was a soldier in his master’s regiment of militia.

In less than a quarter of an hour the car was at the door, and master and servant, both, armed, but with large top boots concealing their uniforms, mounted one on each side, and away rattled the old jaunting car down the avenue. ‘God bring you back safe to me again, darling,’ had been Annie’s last words as she had been bravely struggling to  keep back the tears that would glisten in her eyes as she bade good-bye. As Mr Fitzgerald looked back up the avenue to wave a last farewell, he saw his wife still standing on the terrace. The last rays of the setting sun were falling on her sweet face and crimsoning the long curls of her hair tossed back from her brow, as she held one child high in air to kiss its hand to papa, and the other child clung timidly to her dress. Mr. Fitzgerald never forgot that scene, for his wife’s hair was grey ere she stood on that terrace again.

When the car had disappeared Mrs Fitzgerald went into the house and occupied herself busily till night came on; determined not to give way to her sorrow and anxiety. The elder of the two children, little Aileen, had. been feverish and restless during the day and her mother determined to keep the child with herself for the night. Before retiring to rest, Annie drew back the curtains of her window, and looked out. The wind had risen, and heavy masses of cloud swept across the sky, obscuring at intervals the light of the newly risen moon. All seemed quiet in the direction of the distant town, and breathing one more prayer for her husband’s safety, Annie lay down to sleep. An hour or two later Aileen awoke, and became more and more restless in spite of the medicine and cooling drink administered by her mother, till finding sleep impossible, Mrs Fitzgerald rose and throwing on a long white dressing-gown, sat down in aa armchair by the bed-side, prepared for a night watch. After a time little Aileen cried for more ‘nice drink,’ but there were no more lemons in the room so Annie, giving the little girl the last drop left in the tumbler, told her to be quiet and be a good child while mama went to fetch some for her. Then, drawing back the curtains that the child might see the moonlight, Mrs Fitzgerald took the candle and left the room.

Having descended to the dining-room, and finding no lemons on the sideboard, Annie suddenly remembered that there were some in a pantry which opened off the kitchen, and at once she hurried there to get them. As she left the dining-room a draught, by the shutting of the door, blew out her candle.

‘This is unfortunate!’ said Annie to herself ‘especially as I have no matches. However, it is moonlight so I can grope my way to the kitchen where I shall find both matches and candles on the chimney piece.’ So leaving her own candle on the Hall table, she hurried down the long dark passage leading to the kitchen. Mrs. Fitzgerald had told her husband truly that she was not afraid, for personal fear had really never crossed her mind, and her only personal anxiety was lest the child should become frightened at her long absence.

On opening the door, Annie found the kitchen almost in total darkness. Only a few streaks of light only, lay across the floor, the moon being half obscured at the moment. The rest of the floor was darkened by heavy shadows from the shrubbery. As she groped her way to the chimneypiece Mrs. Fitzgerald for the first time, experienced a sensation of awe and loneliness, aptly turned eerie and this feeling increased when, after searching on the chimneypiece (where, she knew the cook always kept her matches, she could find none. She was still standing in the deep black shade thrown by some shrubs across the upper end of the kitchen, when the moon suddenly emerged, bright and clear, from behind the clouds and all the floor before her lay in one broad expanse of soft and silvery light, crossed by bars of shadow.

Delighted at the sudden change Annie looked up, and out of the barred windows, looked up—and saw at every window human faces—faces, that looked white and ghastly in the moonlight, pressed against the bars, fierce eyes that seemed to be piercing that corner of black shadow where one white speck appeared—faces that were cruel, coarse and brutal! eyes that haunted Annie to her dying day.

The shock was so great, that for one instant her heart and brain seemed turned to stone, she could not breathe or stir. Then, like a lightening flash, the whole truth burst upon. her. ‘The Whiteboys the cruel Whiteboys they will kill us all! they will burn down the house,’ but then the first thought of the woman’s heart was ‘my children ! Oh god! save my children,’ and in that brief moment an agonized though silent prayer went up to Him. who, heareth in the time of trouble.’ But she must act as well as pray, and what can she do? Poor Annie! surely terror must have driven her mad! Loosening the knot of her black hair till it fell in waving masses to her waist, throwing her arms above her head,  and there clasping and wringing her hands and uttering one long low wail of agony she suddenly emerged into the light. Those hardy men were terror stricken at the sight; some with a cry of horror turned and fled, others hid their eyes and whispered to their companions behind them; for fast as those faces disappeared from the windows others took their place, at first incredulous, but soon on all there came the same blank look of awe and dread. Truly they saw a weird sight!

What was that ghostly, awful figure wandering up and down, and round and round that gloomy vaulted room, keeping her lonely watch at dead of night. White feet gleaming on the cold stone floor, white garments floating to the ground! Pale hands, now folded patiently upon her breast, now wrung as if in bitter agony! A white and ghastly face! whose fixed blue eyes gazed at them, with such a wild and mournful, but yet stony gaze, that the bravest amongst that murderous band, shuddered as they looked: and ever and anon, there rang out upon the breathless silence, that shrill and mournful keen, that wailing deathsong which thrills the Irish heart.

What could this be but the Banshee?—the ‘Banshee of the Fitzgeralds!’ that sad spirit who appears only to announce the approaching death of one of that family which she loves and guards; and who mourns bitterly over the fate which she alone foresees, but has not power to avert. Woe to the man, who disturbs that spirit in her night watch or who interrupts her ‘keen’ of sorrow

There were amongst those men however, some more determined and less superstitious than the rest, and although even they, dared not enter the house which that spirit walked, yet they said ‘Let us wait a while perhaps she will disappear soon, and then we must make haste, seize what we can, and burn the house down.’ And Annie heard them!

The band retreated to the glen, from whence two or three of the boldest returned at intervals to look in; but the spirit walked still! still wept and wailed, and wrung her hands only each time they came, the wail was lower and feebler, the step slower and more solemn. At last the boldest gave way, and came no more. For the Irish peasant will face danger in any earthly form, but let the terror take a ghostly shape and he is the veriest coward! With gloomy fears and lowered voices, the baffled Whiteboys slowly slunk away and disappeared down the glen.

Annie Fitzgerald unfortunately, did not know that the men she feared had gone at last, and she still dreaded their return. It was past midnight when she had left her room that night, and now the clock was striking three. The moon sank down below the verge of the horizon, but a faint light still lingered on the sky, and so the Banshee walked still! near to the windows, where the glimmer of her white garments might be seen; only the wail had ceased at last. The voice was gone indeed she walked mechanically now. The faint red gleam of early dawn appeared. The chirping of the awakening birds sounded from the shrubberies. Slowly, oh, how slowly, the blessed light of day crept up the eastern horizon, bringing release to a brave weary creature whose strength was well-nigh exhausted. Then, only, did Annie feel that she was saved. She knew that the Whiteboys dare not wait for daylight, and so, casting one last shuddering look at those barred windows, she left the kitchen, and walked steadily down the long passage. When she reached the foot of the staircase, strength failed her, brave Annie gave way at last and fell senseless on the floor. There the servants found her a short time afterwards. Roused by the crying of little Aileen, the nurse had run down to her mistress’ room, where she found the child alone, crying out for her mama who she said had left her ‘such a long long time ago.’

Fortunately little Aileen must have fallen asleep immediately after her mother had left the room, and had not awakened till daylight appeared. Nurse calling down the other servants, immediately went in search of her mistress, and was horrified to see the white heap lying at the foot of the staircase. They carried Annie to her bed, and tended her lovingly till her husband’s return a little later, when he found his wife, whom he had left so bright and well, senseless and speechless Immediately Jerry was despatched for the doctor and also to bring the parents of Mrs. Fitzgerald, who lived a few miles away. The servants could give no reason for the condition in which they had found their mistress, and all seemed most mysterious. Presently, however, the cook ran up to say that there were numerous footsteps outside the kitchen, as if a number of men had come up from the glen and returned thither. Mr Fitzgerald at once suspected that the Whiteboys, instead of attacking the town made their way to his house, and that the letter to the sheriff had been only part of a plot to mislead him and others; for no alarm or attack had occurred in the town during the past night. Before the doctor arrived Mrs Fitzgerald recovered consciousness sufficiently to relate with tolerable clearness what had happened. This enabled her husband to send messages to the town giving information as to the direction the band had taken their steps having been traced after leaving the glen.

Very brief was poor Annie’s gleam of intelligence; she soon relapsed into unconsciousness again, and a severe illness followed. For weeks she lay in brain fever, struggling with dreadful phantasies, haunted incessantly by those faces and eyes, and wailing on monotonously that dolorous ‘keen’ she had often practised in her merry childhood, but which now wrung the hearts of the loving watchers by her bedside learning, as they did, from her ravings, all the concentrated agony which she had endured on that dreadful night. But if the wife had prayed earnestly for her husband in his hour of danger, so now his prayers for her were answered; and Annie recovered to be more than ever the beloved wife, mother, and daughter, and in addition to become henceforward the heroine of the county.

The long hair which had played its part was shaved off during her illness, and when Annie’s locks grew again, they were grey. But some thought this only added to the beauty of the sweet face, which, had grown more thoughtful and grave then of yore. Many years passed ere Mrs Fitzgerald could be persuaded to relate her story to any but her husband. As the terror and suffering of that night passed away in the past, she would occasionally, however, tell the tale to some of her children and dear friends at their very earnest request.

It seemed to her, she said, as if in immediate answer to her prayer for help, that thought had come into her mind. By a sudden inspiration, knowing as she did the superstition of the Irish poor, and knowing how mysterious and ghostly she must appear in that lonely room at dead of night, she had acted—for the very last time in her life—the part of Banshee and strength had been mercifully given her to bear a mental strain for three long hours, which might well have driven her mad.

Soon after Mrs Fitzgerald’s recovery, the band of Whiteboys, which had threatened Kilbally—— House, was captured by two and threes, having dispersed about the country. It appeared that Con Burke, inspired by revenge, had induced them to attack his late landlord’s house, informing them that there were plate and jewels of great value in the house (an invention of his own) and rousing their indignation against Mr. Fitzgerald as a ‘tyrant’ Landlord and, a ‘heritic.’ As those Whiteboys were all from a different part of Ireland, they believed him, their only aim indeed, being plunder and destruction. All the men acknowledged the terror they had felt at sight of the ghost!

Most of the prisoners wore transported. Only a few of the greatest criminals amongst them suffered death, but from that time, the district remained quiet and Mr. Fitzgerald enjoyed many happy years in peace with the noble woman whose courage had saved to him his wife, his children, and his home.

Auckland Star, 27 May 1876: p. 7

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  While this story was published in the 1870s, the “Whiteboys” protested the injustices of landlords in the 1760s. The authoress, with a romanticised view of the Irish countryside, voices some unfortunate common prejudices about the “superstitions” of the “peasants,” as well as a bit of dismissiveness for the lower orders.

The “keen” or caoine was the Irish funeral lamentation uttered at wakes and funerals. It was, indeed, heart-breaking. Here is an early 20th-century description:

The cries of lamentation usually take the form of questions which are asked in a half-singing, half-reciting and sobbing voice. “Mo cushla machree (pulse of my heart), why did you die from me ? Wasn’t it you that was the best of husbands and fathers, giving joy to all that knew you, and wouldn’t those that love you go through fire and water to save a hair of your head from being hurt ? ” The piercing wail of a mother for a favourite son is most heartrending to hear. “Ah, Michael, mo ville astore (my ten thousand treasures), sure your like was not to be found on all the broad acres of Ireland, and your death has cast a shadow on the country that no sun will ever disperse.”

The Banshee or Bean Sidhe is the Irish death messenger. She may appear as an old woman washing the bloody clothes of the soon-to-be-dead or as a younger woman with long red hair. She keens or wails in the manner of Irish mourners, announcing an imminent death.  The Fitzgeralds as well as the O’Neills, the O’Donnells, and the O’Briens, were among the ancient families of Ireland said to have their own personal banshees. It was said that the banshee might even cross the water to wail for members of those families who had sailed to America.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

A Spectre on the Golf Links: 1861

R&A_Clubhouse,_Old_Course,_Swilcan_Burn_bridge

Continuing the Olympic theme of “sport,” to-day Mrs Daffodil welcomes that sporting person from Haunted Ohio with a tale of a ghost at the hallowed links of St. Andrews.

Of the Bodach-Glas, or “dark grey man,” whose appearance is said to herald the approach of death to certain clans in Scotland, and of which Sir Walter Scott has made such effective use in Waverley when relating the end of his hero, Fergus Mac Ivor, we have the following well-authenticated instance of its having been seen in our own day.  The late excellent and justly popular Earl of Eglinton, whose sudden death was truly felt as a national loss in Scotland, and who is famed for an attempt to revive an ancient custom of mediaeval times by the tournament held at Eglinton Castle in 1839, was engaged on the 4th of October, 1861, in playing, on the links of St. Andrew’s, at the national game of golf. Suddenly he stopped in the middle of a game, exclaiming,” I can play no longer, there is the Bodach-Glas. I have seen it for the third time; something fearful is going to befall me.” Within a few hours, Lord Eglinton was a corpse; he died the same night, and with such suddenness, that he was engaged in handing a candlestick to a lady who was retiring to her room when he expired. Henderson, in Folk Lore, mentions that he received this account of Lord Eglinton’s death from a Scotch clergyman, who endorses every particular as authentic and perfectly true.

Singularly enough this much-lamented nobleman had a warning only a few months previous, concerning his second wife’s sudden death, conveyed, however, on this occasion by a dream. He had married in November, 1858, the Lady Adela Capel, only daughter of the Earl of Essex. Shortly after her confinement in December, I860, he left home to attend a wedding, and during his absence dreamed that he read in the Times newspaper an announcement of Lady Eglinton’s death on a day not far distant. The dream affected him a good deal, and his dejection on the day following was apparent to everyone. He returned home at once, and found his wife progressing favourably, and his alarm subsided. Soon after, the countess caught cold from having removed to another room; illness came on, and her husband was aroused one night with tidings that she was in a dangerous state. It was the last day of the old year, and the very morning indicated in his dream. Lord Eglinton rose up, as he afterwards expressed it, with a yell of agony. Before nightfall his wife expired.

Apparitions: A Narrative of Facts, Bourchier Wrey Savile, 1880, pp. 146-9

Archibald William Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton [1812-1861] has been best remembered for his inspiration to host a re-enactment of a medieval jousting tournament in 1839. It was a sincere attempt—the “knights” actually seriously trained to joust and some wore real medieval armor, but the event has gone down in legend and song for its extravagances and misfortunes: horrifically bad weather, gridlock from the crush of visitors, and leaking/collapsed banqueting tents.

Lady Eglington was Lord Eglinton’s second wife. She died in December 1860, at age 32. He was 49 when he died in October 1861.

The Bodach-Glas  is described as a spirit on horseback by Robert Chambers, commenting on Sir Walter Scott:

The original of the Bodach Glas, whose appearance proved so portentous to the family of the Mac-Ivors, may probably be traced to a legend current in the ancient family of Maclaine of Lochbuy, in the island of Mull, noticed by Sir Walter Scott in a note to his “Lady of the Lake.” * The popular tradition is, that whenever any person descended of that family is near death, the spirit of one of them, who was slain in battle, gives notice of the approaching event. There is this difference between the Bodach Glas and him, that the former appeared on these solemn occasions only to the chief of the house of Mac-Ivor, whereas the latter never misses an individual descended of the family of Lochbuy, however obscure, or in whatever part of the world he may be.

The manner of his showing himself is sometimes different, but he uniformly appears on horseback. Both the horse and himself seem to be of a very diminutive size, particularly the head of the rider, from which circumstance he goes under the appellation of “Eoghan a chinn bhig,” or ” Hugh of the little head.” Sometimes he is heard riding furiously round the house, where the person is about to die, with an extraordinary noise, like the rattling of iron chains. At other times he is discovered with his horse’s head nearly thrust in at a door or window; and, on such occasions, whenever observed, he gallops off in the manner already described, the hoofs of his steed striking fire from the flinty rocks….Like his brother spirits, he seems destined to perform his melancholy rounds amidst nocturnal darkness, the horrors of which have a natural tendency to increase the consternation of a scene in itself sufficiently appalling. Illustrations of the Author of Waverley, Robert Chambers, 1884

You’ll find the original Scott text here. Obviously there was a good deal of variation in the behavior and appearance of the Bodach-glas, not unlike the several varieties of banshee.

One wonders what, if any, statute in the R&A’s Rules of Golf covers a ghost in the fairway. “Outside Agency,” perhaps? Or more to the point:

“The course authorities may, under Rule 33-7, disqualify any player who acts in serious breach of etiquette, thereby violating the ‘spirit of the game’. Such serious breaches include actions made with intent to injure other players or disturb/distract them while making their play.”

One couldn’t get much more disturbing/distracting than being a harbinger of death. Where was the rules official? The Bodach-Glas should have been ordered off the course immediately.

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Although the Old Course is open to the public, and one cannot ban an evil spirit on the grounds that It is not a member, Mrs Daffodil heartily concurs with that ruling. It would be most distracting for the serious sportsman if ominous apparitions were allowed to, in a manner of speaking, “lay one dead” at one’s feet.

In America, golfers have enough trouble dodging man-eating alligators in water-hazards and, from what Mrs Daffodil hears from His Lordship, who is an enthusiastic amateur player, it is a wonder more laggardly players who refuse to let others “play through,” are not “accidentally” hit by a 3-iron and buried in a bunker. Mrs Daffodil hears that golfing towels are excellent for wiping fingerprints from the fatal club and a discreet, well-tipped caddie can have a bunker immaculately raked in moments.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

A Titanic Banshee: 1912

(c) Burton Art Gallery and Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

The Wail of the Banshee, Clifford Boucher James, (c) Burton Art Gallery and Museum; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

A TITANIC BANSHEE

Mother Saw Apparition of Son Who Sailed on Lost Vessel

Dublin, June 22. The Banshee has reappeared in Banagher. A priest in Tullamore vouches for the authenticity of the following story:

A young man named Tynagh decided on emigrating to America in opposition to the wishes of his mother, whose only son he was, and the morning on which he left home for Queenstown she refused to shake hands with him. The parting scene between the mother and son was a very sad one, and tears rained down the cheeks of the former, whose grief was agonizing. They parted, the mother still declining to take her boy’s proffered hand, and saying she would not do so until his return, when she promised him a hearty handshake. He sailed on the ill-fated Titanic and the moment the big ship went down Mrs. Tynagh heard a noise outside her house which startled her, and caused her to look towards the door. Just then she saw the figure of her son approaching her in the same attire he wore the morning he left. She wondered very much at his sudden return, and thinking he had changed his mind, with outstretched arms and gladness in her heart, she rushed forth to embrace him, exclaiming, “Have you come back again, Tom?” when suddenly the figure vanished. Young Tynagh was amongst those who perished in the terrible disaster, and the sympathy of the district for miles around is extended to his widowed mother.

Augusta [GA] Chronicle 23 June 1912: p. 3

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Mrs Daffodil fears that the American press was paltering with the truth in the headline, as they are wont to do. To be Relentlessly Informative, unless the “noise” his mother heard was a scream, the ghostly young man was what is known as a “crisis apparition,” rather than a Banshee, as Mrs Daffodil is informed by that para-knowledgeable person over at Haunted Ohio, who has written about the many portents of the Titanic disaster. Still, a poignant tale, to be sure. There is just one slight problem with it: there was no Tom Tynagh on the Titanic’s passenger list. However there was a Patrick Shaughnessy, age 24, from Tynagh, who sailed from Queenstown. Mrs Daffodil cannot explain the discrepancy, although there is always the possibility that the story was made up as a cautionary tale to young men to be kind to their mothers and not run off to America.

Mrs Daffodil has written previously of the ghost of Captain Smith of the Titanic, seen by a former shipmate, in a street in Baltimore.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

Some Christmas Ghosts of the British Isles: 1907

Some Christmas Ghosts

Queer Pranks of Uncanny Spirits That Make Their Appearance Each Yuletide.

Ghosts and other preternatural apparitions have always been recognized as among the essential factors of a good old-fashioned Christmas. Our forefathers loved to gather round their mighty fires in their ill-lit halls at Yuletide to listen to the histories and legends of their ancestors, whom, when their imaginations had been sufficiently inflamed, they would seem to see in the flesh once more, flitting across dark corridors and peeping from behind the wind-shaken arras.

So, in course of time, men grew to look for ghosts at Christmas as naturally as for mistletoe and holly berries. And the ghosts obligingly made a note of our requirements, more especially as they were surer of a sympathetic reception at that time of year than any other. A man may be cynical, if you like, on August bank holiday, on Christmas eve never! Christmas became the fashionable time for haunting. No self-respecting ghost could afford to be out of the swim at that season of the year. Thus we find that specters of old established reputations–ghosts who may almost be said to have retired from business–will put in an appearance at Christmas if on no other day in the year.

coach

There is a wicked Jemmy Lowther, for instance, otherwise known as the “bad Lord Lonsdale” of whom indeed, history makes no record, but whose iniquities are still recounted with bated breath (or used to be) by the people of Westmoreland. For centuries this notorious spirit energetically haunted the Whole county frightening his descendants out of their wits, raising unearthly dins, scaring nurse girls and teasing cattle. Now in more dignified style he contents himself with riding as a phantom coach and six at full speed across the country, generally at Christmas-time. No one ever seems to have seen him or his equipage, but the sound of the wheels, the snorting of the steeds, and the objurgations hurled by his lordship at his invisible coachman serve to remind the country people at the festive season that he is not “laid” forever beneath Wallow Crag as they had the impudent assurance to suppose.

hearse from Boone County Recorder 1908

 

Queen Anne Boleyn and her less famous sire have also given up haunting for many years past; and if they are to be seen at all it is at Christmas they must be looked for. Like Lord Lonsdale, both these personages revisit the glimpses of the moon in coaches. The luckless Queen drives down the avenue at Blicking Hall, holding her head in her lap in a hearse-like conveyance drawn by four headless horses with headless coachmen and grooms to match. Poor, pretty, flighty Anne Boleyn! You little thought that yours would become a shape to frighten lovers in their evening rambles, and send the children screaming to their nurses! Her father, Sir Thomas Boleyn. is also a headless specter, driven by headless horses. He has to cross 40 bridges and drive through 40 gates till someone courageous enough can be found to open or to shut — we forget which — one or all of these before him. The headless driver in the coach-and-six is a frequent apparition in Ireland. On Christmas Eve, when a family is seated at the board expecting a belated guest, the noise of wheels will be heard. There will be a rush to the door, it will be flung open and in the darkness without the spectral coach will be seen driving away — sure harbinger of misfortune for host or guest.

A legend of this kind must materially contribute to the enjoyment of the Irish Christmas dinner!

headless horseman

Then there is the spectral headless horseman of Wyecoller Hall, near Colne. This ruined mansion was the seat of the Cunliffes de Billington, a family which became extinct in 1819, in fulfillment of a curse laid upon it by the murdered wife of one of its members. Every Christmas a headless cavalier, in seventeenth century costume, gallops wildly up the road to the hall. He dismounts and enters, making his way with echoing footfall up the stairs. Fearful screams are heard, the tragedy is re-enacted and the horseman reappears to gallop frantically away over hill and dale, as if the devil were at his heels.

Watton Priory, photograph by JohnArmagh

Watton Priory, photograph by JohnArmagh

Yorkshire is infected by ghosts and these never fail to gratify the legitimate expectations of the Christmas holiday-maker. Between Driffield and Beverly is the old Gilbertine priory of Watton. There are several uncomfortable legends connected with this venerable pile, and it is not easy to identify the various spectral visitants who haunt the place. There was an erring nun, who was walled up according to the humane fashion of those days, and some declare they have seen her. The most authentic apparition, however, is that associated with a wainscoted bed room connected with the moat by a secret passage. In this room a Royalist lady took refuge with her child when the mansion was attacked by a marauding band of Roundheads. Her retreat was discovered and the Puritans, incensed by her haughty replies, dashed out her child’s brains and struck off her head. Now the poor lady comes once a year to sleep in the oak-paneled room and next morning the bedclothes are found-disturbed and bearing the impression of her fair form; and if any one occupies the bed she appears at the foot headless, in bloodstained garments with her child in her arms, standing motionless for a while, and then vanishes.

Calverley Hall, photo by Betty Longbottom

Calverley Hall, photo by Betty Longbottom

Another victim of the barbarous practice of the bad old times was Walter Calverley, who was pressed to death at York in 1604. There is a painful story of his begging his old servant to sit on the stones with which the life was being slowly crushed out of him. “A pound o’ more weight lay on, lay on!” The servant obliged his request, and was hanged for his good nature. Calverley seems to have nourished (and not unnatural) considerable ill-will against the human race. He used to gallop about on a headless horse, running down any luckless folk he met in his path. Then he was “laid.” But a clergyman who visited Calverley hall about Christmas time was unpleasantly reminded of the dead criminal’s post-mortem activity. The reverend gentleman felt something creep on to his chest as he lay in bed, pressing him very hard, and was then thrown three times on to the floor. Other pranks has Calverley played, such as tolling the bell toward the close of the year from midnight till dawn. The weight on the chest of which the clerical gentleman complained is a sensation not unknown about Christmas time, and is not always to be ascribed to supernatural causes.

The north of England has not a monopoly of ghosts. Once upon a time, at Bisham Abbey, on the Thames, lived a learned lady, the wife of Sir Thomas Hoby and afterwards of John Lord Russell. As ill-luck would have it, the eldest son of this Elizabethan blue stocking was an idle urchin, so averse to learning that he used deliberately to spill ink over his copy books. If much learning had not made Lady Russell mad it had made her extremely irascible, and she chastised the bad little boy so severely that he died. Dr. Lee, author of “Glimpses of the Supernatural” states that “in taking down an old oak window-shutter of the latter part of the sixteenth century a packet of antique copy books of that period was discovered pushed into the wall between the joints of the skirting, and several of these books on which young Hoby’s name was written were covered with blots, thus supporting the ordinary tradition.” The unnatural mother is now seen at Christmas gliding through a certain chamber, and washing bloodstains from her hands. Her little victim is never seen, and sleeps soundly, where tiresome masters and mistresses and copy books are not.

Glamis Castle in the Snow, Morris's Country Seats, 1880

Glamis Castle in the Snow, Morris’s Country Seats, 1880

Glamis Castle, in Forfarshire, has a whole staff of ghosts and we are not sure that their visitations are confined to any particular season of the year. That wicked person, Earl Patie, [sic] may be relied upon to return to his ancestral hall at Christmas time. For was it not on a dark and stormy winter night — possibly Christmas eve — that he announced his intention of playing cards, although it was the Sabbath? The righteous Scots properly recoiled with horror from such a proposal, and Earl Patie retired grumbling to his room, declaring that he would welcome the devil himself as a partner. The invitation was responded to with alacrity. A tall, dark stranger appeared, and the reckless thane offered, if he were the loser, to sign a bond for whatsoever his mysterious guest might ask. They played with a zest. A butler who incautiously peeped through the keyhole, had his eye blinded by a sudden streak of flame; and Patie having lost the game, the stranger vanished with a bond for what the carl did not precisely know. Five years later he died and as his spirit continued to return to play cards with the dark stranger in the old chamber this was bricked up and remains the “Secret Room of Glamis Castle.”

No wandering, troubled spirit has more claim upon our credulity and our sympathy than the hapless Lady Bothwell, who returns every year to Woodhouselee, upon the Esk. Her husband, James Hamilton, or Bothwellhaugh, lost his lands as a result of his devotion to the ill-fated Mary Queen of Scots. His wife retired with her infant child to her own personal estate of Woodhouselee, not knowing that this had been given by the Regent Murray to a creature of his, the Lord Justice Clerk Bellenden. This man came to Woodhouselee while the household was asleep and had the brutality to turn the lady and her infant out in the woods in their nightclothes. Next morning Lady Hamilton was found wandering a raving lunatic, the child dead in her arms. She died herself a few days later. Her husband swore to be avenged, and laying his plans carefully, shot Murray, Mary’s traitor brother, in the streets of Linlithgow. Men bore the wrongs done by process of law to those they loved less patiently than they do now. But still poor Lady Bothwell walks in piteous guise the park of Woodhouselee.

Prince Rupert at Edgehill

Prince Rupert at Edgehill

If supernatural apparitions are to be considered as they undoubtedly are, indispensable features of Christmas entertainment then the good people of Edge Hill, near Keinton, in Northampshire, had good reason to think themselves highly favored at Christmas, 1641. A battle between Cavaliers and Roundheads had taken place at this spot a month or two previously and to the amazement and horror of the villagers the action was fought over again almost every evening during Christmas week by spectral warriors. First the sound of drums, as afar off, would be heard, then the tramping of armed men, the trampling and neighing of horses, the firing of guns; then the rival hosts would appear in the air and the battle would be repeated in all its details. King Charles I. sent some of his officers to investigate the phenomenon, and they declared that they recognized among the ghostly warriors several of their old comrades who had fallen in the engagement.

In the same county of Northampton (says Mr. Thistleton Dyer) there still lingers the belief that the ghosts of suicides and of unfortunates buried at cross-roads with “stakes in their insides” have a particular license to wander about on Christmas eve, and to wreak their vengeance on defenceless persons.

Ghosts are generally believed by the country folk to be more spiteful at this season than at any other. In Ireland, however, the banshee who is usually more a friend of the family than otherwise, selects this time for a visitation.

Yes, most of us see ghosts at Christmas time. They do not all come to us in dreadful guise, clanking their chains and showing ghastly wounds. Most of us see ghosts of a different kind ; by the Christmas fireside and at the Christmas board, we seem to see dim, dear faces of husbands, wives, parents, children, old sweethearts and old friends whom we shall never greet in the flesh again. We are perhaps too busy to give them a thought during the rest of the year; but then they come back to haunt us. We would not be without them. And most of us, I suspect, are prone to unlock the haunted chambers in our hearts and hold sweet, sad converse with the inmates at the merry Christmastide.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 21 December 1907: p. 12

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Quite the embarrassment of ghostly riches! Of course, this was written as pleasant holiday entertainment. Several distasteful details are omitted, such as the grewsome fate of the Nun of Watton’s lover and the fact that Walter Calverley, far from being the “victim of the barbarous practice of the bad old times,” murdered his two children, nearly murdered his wife, and was riding hell-for-leather to murder a third child when he was captured. Any punishment was richly deserved.

Mrs Daffodil, who visited Glamis in her earlier career as lady’s maid, is clucking her tongue over the mangling of the name of the notorious 15th-century “Earl Beardie.” To be fair, several of the Lords Glamis were named Patrick; perhaps the journalist, in that over-familiar American way, thought “Patie” was an appropriate nickname.  Mrs Daffodil wishes her readers bright Yuletide spirits and the happiest of New Years to come.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Banshee Sang of Death: 1850s

The Wail of the Banshee, Clifford Boucher James, Burton Art Gallery and Museum

The Wail of the Banshee, Clifford Boucher James, Burton Art Gallery and Museum

A case of Banshee haunting that is somewhat unusually pathetic was once related to me in connection with a Dublin branch of the once powerful clan of McGrath. 

It took place in the fifties, and the family, consisting of a young widow and two children, Isa and David, at that time occupied an old, rambling house, not five minutes’ walk from Stephen’s Green. Isa seems to have been the mother’s favourite–she was undoubtedly a very pretty and attractive child–and David, possibly on account of his pronounced likeness to his father, with whom it was an open secret that Mrs McGrath had never got on at all well, to have received rather more than his fair share of scolding.

This, of course, may or may not have been true. It is certain that he was left very much to himself, and, all alone, in a big, empty room at the top of the house, was forced to amuse himself as he best could. Occasionally one of the servants, inspired by a fellow-feeling–for the lot of servants in those days, especially when serving under such severe and exacting mistresses as Mrs McGrath, was none too rosy–used to look in to see how he was getting on and bring him a toy, bought out of her own meagre savings; and, once now and again, Isa, clad in some costly new frock, just popped her head in at the door, either to bring him some message from her mother, or merely to call out “Hullo!” Otherwise he saw no one; at least no one belonging to this earth; he only saw, he affirmed, at times, strange-looking people who simply stood and stared at him without speaking, people who the servants–girls from Limerick and the west country–assured him were either fairies or ghosts. 

One day Isa, who had been sent upstairs to tell David to go to his bedroom to tidy himself, as he was wanted immediately in the drawing-room, found him in a great state of excitement.  

“I’ve seen such a beautiful lady,”he exclaimed, “and she wasn’t a bit cross. She came and stood by the window and looked as if she wanted to play with me, only I daren’t ask her. Do you think she will come again?” 

“How can I tell? I expect you’ve been dreaming as usual,” Isa laughed. “What was she like?”  

“Oh, tall, much taller than mother,” David replied, “with very, very blue eyes and kind of reddish-gold hair that wasn’t all screwed up on her head, but was hanging in curls on her shoulders. She had very white hands which were clasped in front of her, and a bright green dress. I didn’t see her come or go, but she was here for a long time, quite ten minutes.”  

“It’s another of your fancies, David,” Isa laughed again. “But come along, make haste, or mother will be angry.”  

A few minutes later, David, looking very shy and awkward, was in the drawing-room being introduced to a gentleman who, he was informed, was his future papa.  

David seems to have taken a strong dislike to him from the very first, and to have foreseen in the coming alliance nothing but trouble and misery for himself. Nor were his apprehensions without foundation, for, directly after the marriage took place, he became subjected to the very strictest discipline. Morning and afternoon alike he was kept hard at his books, and any slowness or inability to master a lesson was treated as idleness and punished accordingly. The moments he had to himself in his beloved nursery now became few and far between, for, directly he had finished his evening preparation, he was given his supper and packed off to bed.  

The one or two servants who had befriended him, unable to tolerate the new regime, gave notice and left, and there was soon no one in the house who showed any compassion whatever for the poor lonely boy.  

Things went on in this fashion for some weeks, and then a day came, when he really felt it impossible to go on living any longer.  

He had been generally run down for some weeks, and this, coupled with the fact that he was utterly broken in spirit, rendered his task of learning a wellnigh impossibility. It was in vain he pleaded, however; his entreaties were only taken for excuses; and, when, in an unguarded moment, he let slip some sort of reference to unkind treatment, he was at once accused of rudeness by his mother and, at her request, summarily castigated.  

The limit of his tribulation had been reached. That night he was sent to bed, as usual, immediately after supper, and Isa, who happened to pass by his room an hour or so afterwards, was greatly astonished at hearing him seemingly engaged in conversation. Peeping slyly in at the door, in order to find out with whom he was talking, she saw him sitting up in bed, apparently addressing space, or the moonbeams, which, pouring in at the window, fell directly on him. 

“What are you doing?” she asked, “and why aren’t you asleep?” 

The moment she spoke he looked round and, in tones of the greatest disappointment, said: “Oh, dear, she’s gone. You’ve frightened her away.”  

“Frightened her away! Why, what rubbish!” Isa exclaimed. “Lie down at once or I’ll go and fetch mamma.”  

“It was my green lady,” David went on, breathlessly, far too excited to pay any serious heed to Isa’s threat. “My green lady, and she told me I should be no more lonely, that she was coming to fetch me some time to-night.”  

Isa laughed, and, telling him not to be so silly, but to go to sleep at once, she speedily withdrew and went downstairs to join her parents in the drawing-room.  

That night, at about twelve, Isa was awakened by singing, loud and plaintive singing, in a woman’s voice, apparently proceeding from the hall. Greatly alarmed she got up, and, on opening her door, perceived her parents and the servants, all in their night attire, huddled together on the landing, listening. 

“Sure ’tis the Banshee,” the cook at length whispered. “I heard my father spake about it when I was a child. She sings, says he, more beautifully than any grand lady, but sorrowful like, and only before a death.” 

“Before a death,” Isa’s mother stammered. “But who’s going to die here? Why, we are all of us perfectly sound and well.” As she spoke the singing ceased, there was an abrupt silence, and all slowly retired to their rooms.  

Nothing further was heard during the night, but in the morning, when breakfast time came, there was no David; and a hue and cry being raised and a thorough search made, he was eventually discovered, drowned in a cistern in the roof.

The Banshee, Elliott O’Donnell, 1920

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: The author, Mr O’Donnell, who helpfully apends his lengthy Irish pedigree in an appendix, says that his clan, like so many others, has its own unique banshee. Mr O’Donnell tells us more about this supernatural entity:

The name Banshee seems to be a contraction of the Irish Bean Sidhe, which is interpreted by some writers on the subject “A Woman of the Faire Race,” whilst by various other writers it is said to signify “The Lady of Death,” “The Woman of Sorrow,” “The Spirit of the Air,” and “The Woman of the Barrow.”

It is strictly a family ghost, and most authorities agree that it only haunts families of very ancient Irish lineage. Mr McAnnaly, for instance, remarks (in the chapter on Banshees in his “Irish Wonders”): “The Banshee attends only the old families, and though their descendants, through misfortune, may be brought down from high estate to ranks of peasant farmers, she never leaves nor forgets them till the last member has been gathered to his fathers in the churchyard.”

Mr O’Donnell further states that each clan has its own, unique banshee, each with its own peculiar manner of expression:

As a rule, however, the Banshee is not seen, it is only heard, and it announces its advent in a variety of ways; sometimes by groaning, sometimes by wailing, and sometimes by uttering the most blood-curdling of screams, which I can only liken to the screams a woman might make if she were being done to death in a very cruel and violent manner. Occasionally I have heard of Banshees clapping their hands, and tapping and scratching at walls and window-panes, and, not infrequently, I have heard of them signalling their arrival by terrific crashes and thumps. Also, I have met with the Banshee that simply chuckles–a low, short, but terribly expressive chuckle, that makes ten times more impression on the mind of the hearer than any other ghostly sound he has heard, and which no lapse of time is ever able to efface from his memory.

For another Banshee story at the Haunted Ohio blog see this link.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.

 

The Banshee of the O’Dowds: 1899

The Banshee, Omen of Death, Lurks in the Dark.

The Banshee, Screaming of Death, Lurks in the Dark!

THE BANSHEE

Foretold His Death Every Fine Moonlight Night.

“Great Scott, man, why don’t you kill that cat!” said I to my host, as a nerve-tearing howl came up from the back fence.

“That isn’t a cat,” he said, as he settled more comfortably on the porch railing and puffed at his cigar meditatively. “It’s the family banshee. Been in the O’Dowd family for 50 generations, and as I’m not only the head of the house, but the last surviving member, I get the full benefit. Must be very annoying to visitors. Very sorry, old man, but I can’t stop it.”

   “A banshee!” said I, eyeing my friend O’Dowd with a new interest. “Why, I thought the howling of the banshee was a sure forerunner of death.”

   “Used to be,” he answered in a bored sort of way.  “When I first heard that I hustled right off to the doctor’s. He said I needed a little toning up and gave me forty-seven dollars’ worth. But when I applied for an insurance policy the insurance doctor told me I was sound as a drum, so I quit.

“About that time, too, my uncle, MacSandy MacSwart, died, leaving me the head of the MacSwarts also, and the Scotch apparition appeared on the scene. This takes the form of a bright red light, and its coming foretells long life and prosperity to the head of the MacSwarts. There has always been bad blood between the Irish and the Scotch branches of my family, but I never imagined it extended to the ghosts. But it does. The first night the red light appeared the banshee howled all night, predicting my death within the year—there it goes again—does sound remarkably like a cat, doesn’t it? And the red light flared up so brightly that a ten-blow fire alarm was turned in, and I had to furnish cigars to the entire department.

   “I’ve got the ghost that runs the red light well in hand now; so it’s of some real service. Obliging enough to help out at amateur tableaux; sees me home from the club and turns on a glimmer at the keyhole. But I can’t do a thing with the banshee.

“Of course, with the two of them working I can’t tell a thing about when I’m going to die, but there was a curious thing happened not long ago….”

   “Dan,” said Mrs. O’Dowd, suddenly appearing in the doorway, “don’t you hear that McMannis cat again? If you don’t succeed in hitting that cat tonight I’m going to lay in a complaint myself. I can’t stand it.”

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 28 May 1899: p. 28

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: You will find more posts on a more sober banshee visit here and other tokens of death here.

 

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.