Tag Archives: Token of Death

The Cry of the Banshee: 1887

the tempest rodin banshee

The Cry of the Banshee

There is now living in Bristol a Mrs. Linahan, an old Irish woman, who has not seen her own country for forty years. She is old, poor, bed ridden and suffering, but patient and cheerful beyond belief. Her strongest feeling is love for Ireland ,and she likes talking to me because I am Irish. Many a time, sitting in her little, close room, above the noisy street, she has told me about banshees and phookas and fairies, especially the first. She declares solemnly she once heard the cry, or caoin of a banshee.

“It was when I was a little young child,” she told me, “And knew nothing at all of banshees or of death. One day mother sent me to see after my grandmother, the length of three miles from our house. All  the road was deep in snow, and I went my lone – and didn’t know the grandmother was dead, and my aunt gone to the village for help. So I got to the house, and I see her lying so still and quiet I thought she was sleepin’. When I called her and she wouldn’t stir or speak, I thought I’d put snow on her face to wake her. I just stepped outside to get a handful, and came in, leaving the door open, and then I heard a far away cry, so faint and yet so fearsome that I shook like a leaf in the wind. It got nearer and nearer, and then I heard a sound like clapping or wringing of hands, as they do in keening at a funeral. Twice it came and then I slid down to the ground and crept under the bed where my grandmother lay, and there I heard it for the third time crying, “Ochone, Ochone,” at the very door. Then it suddenly stopped; I couldn’t tell where it went, and I dared not lift up my head till the woman came in the house. One of them took me up and said: “It was the banshee the child heard, for the woman that lies there was one of the real old Irish families – she was an O’Grady and that was the raison of it.’” English Magazine

Aberdeen [SD] Daily News 18 May 1887: p. 4

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Clapping and keening were a feature of Irish funerals; professional keeners called bean chaointe would cry of the merits of the deceased and the broken hearts of those left behind.

The “raison of it” was that banshees were said to be attached only to the oldest, noblest Irish families, usually meaning those prefaced by “O'” or “Mac.”

In some cases, families have been apprised of an approaching death by some strange spectre, either male or female, a remarkable instance of which occurs in the MS. memoirs of Lady Fanshaw, and is to this effect: “Her husband, Sir Richard, and she, chanced, during their abode in Ireland, to visit a friend, who resided in his ancient baronial castle surrounded with a moat. At midnight she was awakened by a ghastly and supernatural scream, and, looking out of bed, beheld by the moonlight a female face and part of the form hovering at the window. The face was that of a young and rather handsome woman, but pale; and the hair, which was reddish, was loose and dishevelled. This apparition continued to exhibit itself for some time, and then vanished with two shrieks, similar to that which had at first excited Lady Fanshaw’s attention. In the morning, with infinite terror, she communicated to her host what had happened, and found him prepared not only to credit, but to account for, what had happened.

“A near relation of mine,” said he, “expired last night in the castle. Before such an event happens in this family and castle, the female spectre whom you have seen is always visible. She is believed to be the spirit of a woman of inferior rank, whom one of my ancestors degraded himself by marrying, and whom afterwards, to expiate the dishonour done his family, he caused to be drowned in the castle moat.”

This, of course, was no other than the Banshee, which in times past has been the source of so much terror in Ireland.

However, sometimes  embarrassing errors occurred.

Amongst the innumerable stories told of its appearance may be mentioned one related by Mrs. Lefanu, the niece of Sheridan, in the memoirs of her grandmother, Mrs. Frances Sheridan. From this account we gather that Miss Elizabeth Sheridan was a firm believer in the Banshee, and firmly maintained that the one attached to the Sheridan family was distinctly heard lamenting beneath the windows of the family residence before the news arrived from France of Mrs. Frances Sheridan’s death at Blois. She adds that a niece of Miss Sheridan’s made her very angry by observing that as Mrs. Frances Sheridan was by birth a Chamberlaine, a family of English extraction, she had no right to the guardianship of an Irish fairy, and that therefore the Banshee must have made a mistake.

Strange Pages from Family Papers, T.F. Thistelton-Dyer, 1895

Mrs Daffodil and that person over at Haunted Ohio are both fascinated by tales of banshees. It is always useful to know one’s death omens. For other stories of banshees, both knocking and shrieking, please see A Banshee in IndianaThe Banshee of the O’Dowds, The Banshee Sang of Death, and A Banshee at Sea 

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


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.


The Open Grave: 1890s

german gravestone with skull

Whilst, some years ago, I was on a visit in Berkshire, and spent some days with my friends, Mr. and Mrs. Lonsdale, the former told me a remarkable occurrence which had happened a few years previously.

Mr. Lonsdale’s brother, an army officer, had returned from India after a long absence, being invalided, and was expected in the evening at The Hall which was only about half a mile distant from the railway station.

The train was due to arrive at 9.15, and Mr. Lonsdale, accompanied by his wife. walked slowly down to meet and greet the arrival, the carriage being sent to bring the party back.

On the way from The Hall to the station they had to pass the old church, which was surrounded by the village burial ground. It was a beautiful moonlight night, and they could not help observing a new-made open grave. As they had not heard of any death in the neighbourhood, they were surprised, the more so as the grave seemed next to their family plot.

The train arrived, but without the expected guest. They drove back to their house, concluding he had missed the train or bad been delayed on his way from Portsmouth to London. Next morning a telegram announced the death of the officer, who had been landed very ill and had died the previous evening, at 9.15, at Portsmouth.

The strange thing was that there did not exist any open grave as seen by Mr. and Mrs. Lonsdale at the very moment the death took place.

Three days afterwards the body was buried at the spot where the relatives had in vision seen the open grave.

The Occult Review, November 1912

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  In Japan it is said that summer is the best time for ghost stories, since they give the reader a chill. Mrs Daffodil hopes that this simple supernatural tale will offer at least a mild frisson.

Phantom graves are something of a rarity in the ghost story canon, although there is a good deal of folklore about phantom funerals and phantom coffin-making.  There are also a few stories of phantom tombstones–equally as prophetic as the story above.

“She’s come for me.” A Mother’s Spirit: 1891

Mother and Son, thanks to thegraphicsfairy.com!

Mother and Son, thanks to thegraphicsfairy.com!

Saw His Mother’s Spirit

[Illegible (Mass.) Cor. Globe-Democrat.]

The following story is vouched for by ten or twelve of the most respectable citizens of the place: Harvey Samson, the 15-year-old son of R.B. Samson, prominent in commercial circles, died of lingering consumption at his father’s residence in the suburbs on last Tuesday night. He was fully conscious up to the time he drew his last breath, and several times on the day before he died expressed his fear of death, always adding that this arose from no dread of the hereafter, but from a purely physical shrinkage from the Unknown, and that if he could only have had his mother with him he would lose all such fear. Mrs. Samson, to whom Harvey had been devoted and enjoyed and even unusual degree of companionship with, has been dead for over two years.

On Tuesday morning he said to his aunt, Mrs. Josephine Burwel, that he had prayed that his mother might be allowed to come for him and guide him into the spirit land, and that he believed she would come. That evening about the twilight hour, and a short time before the end, the dying boy sprang up in bed with a glad cry turned toward the door, which had just blown open, and, with outstretched arms, appeared the next moment to clasp some one ardently to his breast.

Dr. Osborne, who was attending him, and who was alone with him at the moment, inquired of him what it was.

“It is my mother, “ the boy replied, with a tender smile at the chair close beside his bed. “She’s come for me.”

The doctor then advanced and felt the lad’s pulse, only to find him perfectly free from fever and wholly unexcited, but sinking fast. He called the family, who came to bid Harvey good-by. The boy then requested them to take away the light, except the small night lamp burning on a table near, as he said the glare kept him from seeing his mother plainly. When this wish was carried out, the afflicted family, Drs. Osborne and Cunningham, with the nurse and a friend or two, declare that they saw sitting beside Harvey, holding his hand and smiling on him, a woman clad in snowy garments, and in whom they had no difficulty in recognizing Mrs. Samson, who had been personally and well known to each and all of them. She remained distinctly visible for two hours and more, when she suddenly vanished, and on approaching the bed they found that the boy was dead.

The Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 18 January 1891: p. 6

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:   While it is not unusual for the dying to see visions of loved ones gone before, returning to fetch them away, this story is rare in that the mother’s apparition seems to have been visible to a whole host of witnesses. In some cultures, such pre-death-bed apparitions are called, appropriately, “fetches.”


For more stories of Victorian death-beds, see 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.