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Haunted Houses In Conn's Half

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

From a very early period a division of Ireland into two "halves"

existed. This was traditionally believed to have been made by Conn

the Hundred-fighter and Mogh Nuadat, in A.D. 166. The north was in

consequence known as Conn's Half, the south as Mogh's Half, the line of

division being a series of gravel hills extending from Dublin to Galway.

This division we have followed, except that we have included the whole

of the
ounties of West Meath and Galway in the northern portion. We had

hoped originally to have had _four_ chapters on Haunted Houses, one for

each of the four provinces, but, for lack of material from Connaught, we

have been forced to adopt the plan on which Chapters I-III are arranged.

Mrs. Acheson, of Co. Roscommon, sends the following: "Emo House, Co.

Westmeath, a very old mansion since pulled down, was purchased by my

grandfather for his son, my father. The latter had only been living in it

for a few days when knocking commenced at the hall door. Naturally he

thought it was someone playing tricks, or endeavouring to frighten him

away. One night he had the lobby window open directly over the door. The

knocking commenced, and he looked out: it was a very bright night, and as

there was no porch he could see the door distinctly; the knocking

continued, but he did not see the knocker move. Another night he sat up

expecting his brother, but as the latter did not come he went to bed.

Finally the knocking became so loud and insistent that he felt sure his

brother must have arrived. He went downstairs and opened the door, but no

one was there. Still convinced that his brother was there and had gone

round to the yard to put up his horse, he went out; but scarcely had he

gone twenty yards from the door when the knocking recommenced behind his

back. On turning round he could see no one."

"After this the knocking got very bad, so much so that he could not rest.

All this time he did not mention the strange occurrence to anyone. One

morning he went up through the fields between four and five o'clock. To

his surprise he found the herd out feeding the cattle. My father asked

him why he was up so early. He replied that he could not sleep. 'Why?'

asked my father. 'You know why yourself, sir--the knocking.' He then

found that this man had heard it all the time, though he slept at the end

of a long house. My father was advised to take no notice of it, for it

would go as it came, though at this time it was continuous and very loud;

and so it did. The country people said it was the late resident who could

not rest."

"We had another curious and most eerie experience in this house. A former

rector was staying the night with us, and as the evening wore on we

commenced to tell ghost-stories. He related some remarkable experiences,

and as we were talking the drawing-room door suddenly opened as wide as

possible, and then slowly closed again. It was a calm night, and at any

rate it was a heavy double door which never flies open however strong the

wind may be blowing. Everyone in the house was in bed, as it was after 12

o'clock, except the three persons who witnessed this, viz. myself, my

daughter, and the rector. The effect on the latter was most marked. He

was a big, strong, jovial man and a good athlete, but when he saw the

door open he quivered like an aspen leaf."

A strange story of a haunting, in which nothing was seen, but in which

the same noises were heard by different people, is sent by one of the

percipients, who does not wish to have her name disclosed. She says:

"When staying for a time in a country house in the North of Ireland some

years ago I was awakened on several nights by hearing the tramp, tramp,

of horses' hoofs. Sometimes it sounded as if they were walking on

paving-stones, while at other times I had the impression that they were

going round a large space, and as if someone was using a whip on them. I

heard neighing, and champing of bits, and so formed the impression that

they were carriage horses. I did not mind it much at first, as I thought

the stables must be near that part of the house. After hearing these

noises several times I began to get curious, so one morning I made a tour

of the place. I found that the side of the house I occupied overlooked a

neglected garden, which was mostly used for drying clothes. I also

discovered that the stables were right at the back of the house, and so

it would be impossible for me to hear any noises in that quarter; at any

rate there was only one farm horse left, and this was securely fastened

up every night. Also there were no cobble-stones round the yard. I

mentioned what I had heard to the people of the house, but as they would

give me no satisfactory reply I passed it over. I did not hear these

noises every night."

"One night I was startled out of my sleep by hearing a dreadful

disturbance in the kitchen. It sounded as if the dish-covers were being

taken off the wall and dashed violently on the flagged floor. At length I

got up and opened the door of my bedroom, and just as I did so an

appalling crash resounded through the house. I waited to see if there was

any light to be seen, or footstep to be heard, but nobody was stirring.

There was only one servant in the house, the other persons being my host,

his wife, and a baby, who had all retired early. Next morning I described

the noises in the kitchen to the servant, and she said she had often

heard them. I then told her about the tramping of horses: she replied

that she herself had never heard it, but that other persons who had

occupied my room had had experiences similar to mine. I asked her was

there any explanation; she said No, except that a story was told of a

gentleman who had lived there some years ago, and was very much addicted

to racing and gambling, and that he was shot one night in that house. For

the remainder of my visit I was removed to another part of the house, and

I heard no more noises."

A house in the North of Ireland, near that locality which is eternally

famous as having furnished the material for the last trial for witchcraft

in the country, is said to be haunted, the reason being that it is built

on the site of a disused and very ancient graveyard. It is said that when

some repairs were being carried out nine human skulls were unearthed. It

would be interesting to ascertain how many houses in Ireland are

traditionally said to be built on such unpleasant sites, and if they all

bear the reputation of being haunted. The present writer knows of one, in

the South, which is so situated (and this is supported, to a certain

extent, by documentary evidence from the thirteenth century down) and

which in consequence has an uncanny reputation. But concerning the above

house it has been found almost impossible to get any information. It is

said that strange noises were frequently heard there, which sometimes

seemed as if cartloads of stones were being run down one of the gables.

On one occasion an inmate of the house lay dying upstairs. A friend went

up to see the sick person, and on proceeding to pass through the bedroom

door was pressed and jostled as if by some unseen person hurriedly

leaving the room. On entering, it was found that the sick person had just

passed away.

An account of a most unpleasant haunting is contributed by Mr. W. S.

Thompson, who vouches for the substantial accuracy of it, and also

furnishes the names of two men, still living, who attended the "station."

We give it as it stands, with the comment that some of the details seem

to have been grossly exaggerated by local raconteurs. In the year 1869 a

ghost made its presence manifest in the house of a Mr. M---- in Co.

Cavan. In the daytime it resided in the chimney, but at night it left its

quarters and subjected the family to considerable annoyance. During the

day they could cook nothing, as showers of soot would be sent down the

chimney on top of every pot and pan that was placed on the fire. At night

the various members of the family would be dragged out of bed by the

hair, and pulled around the house. When anyone ventured to light a lamp

it would immediately be put out, while chairs and tables would be sent

dancing round the room. At last matters reached such a pitch that the

family found it impossible to remain any longer in the house. The night

before they left Mrs. M---- was severely handled, and her boots left

facing the door as a gentle hint for her to be off. Before they departed

some of the neighbours went to the house, saw the ghost, and even

described to Mr. Thompson what they had seen. According to one man it

appeared in the shape of a human being with a pig's head with long tusks.

Another described it as a horse with an elephant's head, and a headless

man seated on its back. Finally a "station" was held at the house by

seven priests, at which all the neighbours attended. The station

commenced after sunset, and everything in the house had to be uncovered,

lest the evil spirit should find any resting-place. A free passage was

left out of the door into the street, where many people were kneeling.

About five minutes after the station opened a rumbling noise was heard,

and a black barrel rolled out with an unearthly din, though to some

coming up the street it appeared in the shape of a black horse with

a bull's head, and a headless man seated thereon. From this time the

ghost gave no further trouble.

The same gentleman also sends an account of a haunted shop in which

members of his family had some very unpleasant experiences. "In October

1882 my father, William Thompson, took over the grocery and spirit

business from a Dr. S---- to whom it had been left by will. My sister was

put in charge of the business, and she slept on the premises at night,

but she was not there by herself very long until she found things amiss.

The third night matters were made so unpleasant for her that she had to

get up out of bed more dead than alive, and go across the street to Mrs.

M----, the servant at the R.I.C. barrack, with whom she remained until

the morning. She stated that as she lay in bed, half awake and half

asleep, she saw a man enter the room, who immediately seized her by the

throat and well-nigh choked her. She had only sufficient strength left to

gasp 'Lord, save me!' when instantly the man vanished. She also said that

she heard noises as if every bottle and glass in the shop was smashed to

atoms, yet in the morning everything would be found intact. My brother

was in charge of the shop one day, as my sister had to go to Belturbet to

do some Christmas shopping. He expected her to return to the shop that

night, but as she did not do so he was preparing to go to bed about

1 A.M., when suddenly a terrible noise was heard. The light was

extinguished, and the tables and chairs commenced to dance about the

floor, and some of them struck him on the shins. Upon this he left the

house, declaring that he had seen the Devil!" Possibly this ghost had

been a rabid teetotaller in the flesh, and continued to have a dislike to

the publican's trade after he had become discarnate. At any rate the

present occupants, who follow a different avocation, do not appear to be


Ghosts are no respecters of persons or places, and take up their quarters

where they are least expected. One can hardly imagine them entering a

R.I.C. barrack, and annoying the stalwart inmates thereof. Yet more than

one tale of a haunted police-barrack has been sent to us--nay, in its

proper place we shall relate the appearance of a deceased member of the

"Force," uniform and all! The following personal experiences are

contributed by an ex-R.I.C. constable, who requested that all names

should be suppressed. "The barrack of which I am about to speak has now

disappeared, owing to the construction of a new railway line. It was a

three-storey house, with large airy apartments and splendid

accommodation. This particular night I was on guard. After the constables

had retired to their quarters I took my palliasse downstairs to the

day-room, and laid it on two forms alongside two six-foot tables which

were placed end to end in the centre of the room."

"As I expected a patrol in at midnight, and as another had to be sent out

when it arrived, I didn't promise myself a very restful night, so I threw

myself on the bed, intending to read a bit, as there was a large lamp

on the table. Scarcely had I commenced to read when I felt as if I was

being pushed off the bed. At first I thought I must have fallen asleep,

so to make sure, I got up, took a few turns around the room, and then

deliberately lay down again and took up my book. Scarcely had I done so,

when the same thing happened, and, though I resisted with all my

strength, I was finally landed on the floor. My bed was close to the

table, and the pushing came from that side, so that if anyone was playing

a trick on me they could not do so without being under the table: I

looked, but there was no visible presence there. I felt shaky, but

changed my couch to another part of the room, and had no further

unpleasant experience. Many times after I was 'guard' in the same room,

but I always took care not to place my couch in that particular spot."

"One night, long afterwards, we were all asleep in the dormitory, when we

were awakened in the small hours of the morning by the guard rushing

upstairs, dashing through the room, and jumping into a bed in the

farthest corner behind its occupant. There he lay gasping, unable to

speak for several minutes, and even then we couldn't get a coherent

account of what befel him. It appears he fell asleep, and suddenly awoke

to find himself on the floor, and a body rolling over him. Several men

volunteered to go downstairs with him, but he absolutely refused to leave

the dormitory, and stayed there till morning. Nor would he even remain

downstairs at night without having a comrade with him. It ended in his

applying for an exchange of stations."

"Another time I returned off duty at midnight, and after my comrade, a

married Sergeant, had gone outside to his quarters I went to the kitchen

to change my boots. There was a good fire on, and it looked so

comfortable that I remained toasting my toes on the hob, and enjoying my

pipe. The lock-up was a lean-to one-storey building off the kitchen, and

was divided into two cells, one opening into the kitchen, the other into

that cell. I was smoking away quietly when I suddenly heard inside the

lock-up a dull, heavy thud, just like the noise a drunken man would make

by crashing down on all-fours. I wondered who the prisoner could be, as I

didn't see anyone that night who seemed a likely candidate for free

lodgings. However as I heard no other sound I decided I would tell the

guard in order that he might look after him. As I took my candle from the

table I happened to glance at the lock-up, and, to my surprise, I saw

that the outer door was open. My curiosity being roused, I looked inside,

to find the inner door also open. There was nothing in either cell,

except the two empty plank-beds, and these were immovable as they were

firmly fixed to the walls. I betook myself to my bedroom much quicker

than I was in the habit of doing."

"I mentioned that this barrack was demolished owing to the construction

of a new railway line. It was the last obstacle removed, and in the

meantime workmen came from all points of the compass. One day a powerful

navvy was brought into the barrack a total collapse from drink, and

absolutely helpless. After his neckwear was loosened he was carried to

the lock-up and laid on the plank-bed, the guard being instructed to

visit him periodically, lest he should smother. He was scarcely half an

hour there--this was in the early evening--when the most unmerciful

screaming brought all hands to the lock-up, to find the erstwhile

helpless man standing on the plank-bed, and grappling with a, to us,

invisible foe. We took him out, and he maintained that a man had tried to

choke him, and was still there when we came to his relief. The strange

thing was, that he was shivering with fright, and perfectly sober, though

in the ordinary course of events he would not be in that condition for at

least seven or eight hours. The story spread like wildfire through the

town, but the inhabitants were not in the least surprised, and one old

man told us that many strange things happened in that house long before

it became a police-barrack."

A lady, who requests that her name be suppressed, relates a strange sight

seen by her sister in Galway. The latter's husband was stationed in that

town about seventeen years ago. One afternoon he was out, and she was

lying on a sofa in the drawing-room, when suddenly from behind a screen

(where there was no door) came a little old woman, with a small shawl

over her head and shoulders, such as the country women used to wear. She

had a most diabolical expression on her face. She seized the lady by the

hand, and said: "I will drag you down to Hell, where I am!" The lady

sprang up in terror and shook her off, when the horrible creature again

disappeared behind the screen. The house was an old one, and many stories

were rife amongst the people about it, the one most to the point being

that the apparition of an old woman, who was supposed to have poisoned

someone, used to be seen therein. Needless to say, the lady in question

never again sat by herself in the drawing-room.

Two stories are told about haunted houses at Drogheda, the one by A.G.

Bradley in _Notes on some Irish Superstitions_ (Drogheda, 1894), the

other by F.G. Lee in _Sights and Shadows_ (p. 42). As both appear to be

placed at the same date, _i.e._ 1890, it is quite possible that they

refer to one and the same haunting, and we have so treated them

accordingly. The reader, if he wishes, can test the matter for himself.

This house, which was reputed to be haunted, was let to a tailor and his

wife by the owner at an annual rent of £23. They took possession in due

course, but after a very few days they became aware of the presence of a

most unpleasant supernatural lodger. One night, as the tailor and his

wife were preparing to retire, they were terrified at seeing the foot of

some invisible person kick the candlestick off the table, and so quench

the candle. Although it was a very dark night, and the shutters were

closed, the man and his wife could see everything in the room just as

well as if it were the middle of the day. All at once a woman entered the

room, dressed in white, carrying something in her hand, which she threw

at the tailor's wife, striking her with some violence, and then vanished.

While this was taking place on the first floor, a most frightful noise

was going on overhead in the room where the children and their nurse were

sleeping. The father immediately rushed upstairs, and found to his horror

the floor all torn up, the furniture broken, and, worst of all, the

children lying senseless and naked on the bed, and having the appearance

of having been severely beaten. As he was leaving the room with the

children in his arms he suddenly remembered that he had not seen the

nurse, so he turned back with the intention of bringing her downstairs,

but could find her nowhere. The girl, half-dead with fright, and very

much bruised, had fled to her mother's house, where she died in a few

days in agony.

Because of these occurrences they were legally advised to refuse to pay

any rent. The landlady, however, declining to release them from their

bargain, at once claimed a quarter's rent; and when this remained for

some time unpaid, sued them for it before Judge Kisby. A Drogheda

solicitor appeared for the tenants, who, having given evidence of the

facts concerning the ghost in question, asked leave to support their

sworn testimony by that of several other people. This, however, was

disallowed by the judge. It was admitted by the landlady that nothing on

one side or the other had been said regarding the haunting when the house

was let. A judgment was consequently entered for the landlady, although

it had been shown indirectly that unquestionably the house had had the

reputation of being haunted, and that previous tenants had been much


This chapter may be concluded with two stories dealing with haunted

rectories. The first, and mildest, of these is contributed by the present

Dean of St. Patrick's; it is not his own personal experience, but was

related to him by a rector in Co. Monaghan, where he used to preach on

special occasions. The rector and his daughters told the Dean that they

had often seen in that house the apparition of an old woman dressed in a

drab cape, while they frequently heard noises. On one evening the rector

was in the kitchen together with the cook and the coachman. All three

heard noises in the pantry as if vessels were being moved. Presently they

saw the old woman in the drab cape come out of the pantry and move up the

stairs. The rector attempted to follow her, but the two servants held him

tightly by the arms, and besought him not to do so. But hearing the

children, who were in bed, screaming, he broke from the grip of the

servants and rushed upstairs. The children said that they had been

frightened by seeing a strange old woman coming into the room, but she

was now gone. The house had a single roof, and there was no way to or

from the nursery except by the stairs. The rector stated that he took to

praying that the old woman might have rest, and that it was now many

years since she had been seen. A very old parishioner told him that when

she was young she remembered having seen an old woman answering to the

rector's description, who had lived in the house, which at that time was

not a rectory.

The second of these, which is decidedly more complex and mystifying,

refers to a rectory in Co. Donegal. It is sent as the personal experience

of one of the percipients, who does not wish to have his name disclosed.

He says: "My wife, children, and myself will have lived here four years

next January (1914). From the first night that we came into the house

most extraordinary noises have been heard. Sometimes they were inside

the house, and seemed as if the furniture was being disturbed, and the

fireirons knocked about, or at other times as if a dog was running up and

down stairs. Sometimes they were external, and resembled tin buckets

being dashed about the yard, or as if a herd of cattle was galloping up

the drive before the windows. These things would go on for six months,

and then everything would be quiet for three months or so, when the

noises would commence again. My dogs--a fox-terrier, a boar-hound, and a

spaniel--would make a terrible din, and would bark at something in the

hall we could not see, backing away from it all the time.

"The only thing that was ever _seen_ was as follows: One night my

daughter went down to the kitchen about ten o'clock for some hot water.

She saw a tall man, with one arm, carrying a lamp, who walked out of the

pantry into the kitchen, and then through the kitchen wall. Another

daughter saw the same man walk down one evening from the loft, and go

into the harness-room. She told me, and I went out immediately, but could

see nobody. Shortly after that my wife, who is very brave, heard a knock

at the hall door in the dusk. Naturally thinking it was some friend, she

opened the door, and there saw standing outside the self-same man. He

simply looked at her, and walked through the wall into the house. She got

such a shock that she could not speak for several hours, and was ill for

some days. That is eighteen months ago, and he has not been seen since,

and it is six months since we heard any noises." Our correspondent's

letter was written on 25th November 1913. "An old man nearly ninety died

last year. He lived all his life within four hundred yards of this house,

and used to tell me that seventy years ago the parsons came with bell,

book, and candle to drive the ghosts out of the house." Evidently they

were unsuccessful. In English ghost-stories it is the parson who performs

the exorcism successfully, while in Ireland such work is generally

performed by the priest. Indeed a tale was sent to us in which a ghost

quite ignored the parson's efforts, but succumbed to the priest.