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Ghosts of the Emerald Isle

Erin Go Bragh and Slainte everyone! A Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all. I love this holiday. It is one of my very favorites, a day to show my Irish pride and revel in Irish culture. And what better day to engross yourself in some supernatural tales from across the pond. The Irish always have a flair for the dramatic and of course we all know some very famous poets and writers that have come from old Eirinn. It is no surprise that sometimes their otherworldly tales can have you at the edge of your seat. I’ve scoured the web and some of my personal collection of ghost books to find you a few neat little yarns. So pull up a chair, a nice tall pint, and maybe a good friend or two and read on.


The legend of Lord Tyrome and Lady Beresford – This one I found at and have paraphrased here in my own words. Lord Tyrone was born John Le Poer and Lady Beresford Nichola Sophia Hamilton.


From a young age these two orphaned children were raised by a stern, strongly atheist guardian but it only served to cement their faith further. The pair promised each other that whoever should die first, that person would visit the other and prove that there was in fact a life beyond this one. When the children grew up they grew apart and Nichola married into a wealthier family. One night, she awoke with terror to find her foster brother standing by the bedside. She managed to stifle a scream at his pleading to be quiet, and he revealed to her that he had died and held to their long-kept promise. He also passed along to her certain pieces of information about future events that would come to pass. Confused and fearful that this was all a terrible dream, Lady Beresford asked for proof, at which point Lord Tyrone suddenly seized her wrist in his hand. The flesh on her wrist withered and left a deformity that she would carry with her for the rest of her life tied up under a silk kerchief. It was proof enough certainly, and definitely more than she had wanted. After his disappearance she mulled over the foreboding predictions he had made to her.

Her husband would soon die and she would remarry to have four children. But after the last was born, she would die on the day of her forty seventh birthday. Through the years her foster brother’s predictions all came to pass one by one and left her in trepidation of her final birthday. But on her forty-eighth birthday she decided to throw a party and celebrate having finally escaped from fate’s harsh pronouncement. At the party was a priest who had been an old family friend and had known her since they were young. When she triumphantly cheered for living to forty-eight he gently reminded her, “No my dear, you are only 47.” Having looked at her birthday in the church register only a few days before, he was absolutely certain of the fact. Shrieking in shock and horror she exclaimed “You have signed my death warrant!”, subsequently shut herself in her room and began to write out a will. She died later that night as predicted those many years ago.

Notes: Tales of predictions and omens from beyond the grave are rampant in Irish folklore. And I am sure some of you older readers may know, after about 35 it does get rather difficult to keep track of how old you are. I’ve been known to slip by a year myself. :)


Visits from people at the moment they died is a common staple in Irish ghost stories. Here is another chilling example. As someone who has been in a building in which a doorknob turned by itself, this story strikes home perhaps a bit too much. I found this one in a book by John D. Seymour called “True Irish Ghost Stories”:

“On Wednesday, October 17, 1879, I had a very jubilant letter from my friend, announcing that the expected event had successfully happened on the previous day, and that all was progressing satisfactorily. On the night of the following Wednesday, October 22, I retired to bed at about ten o’clock. My wife, the children, and two maid-servants were all sleeping upstairs, and I had a small bed in my study, which was on the ground floor. The house was shrouded in darkness, and the only sound that broke the silence was the ticking of the hall-clock.
“I was quietly preparing to go to sleep, when I was much surprised at hearing, with the most unquestionable distinctness, the sound of light, hurried footsteps, exactly suggestive of those of an active, restless young female, coming in from the hall door and traversing the hall. They then, apparently with some hesitation, followed the passage leading to the study door, on arriving at which they stopped. I then heard the sound of a light, agitated hand apparently searching for the handle of the door. By this time, being quite sure that my wife had come
down and wanted to speak to me, I sat up in bed, and called to her by name, asking what was the matter. As there was no reply, and the sounds had ceased, I struck a match, lighted a candle, and opened the door. No one was visible or audible. I went upstairs, found all the doors shut and everyone asleep. Greatly puzzled, I returned to the study and went to bed, leaving the candle alight. Immediately the whole performance was circumstantially repeated, but this time the handle of the door was grasped by the invisible hand, and partly turned, then relinquished. I started out of bed and renewed my previous search, with equally futile results. The clock struck eleven, and from that time all disturbances ceased.
“On Friday morning I received a letter stating that Mrs. — had died at about midnight on the previous Wednesday. I hastened off to Adare and had an interview with my bereaved friend. With one item of our conversation I will close. He told me that his wife sank rapidly on Wednesday, until when night came on she became delirious. She spoke incoherently, as if revisiting scenes and places once familiar. ‘She thought
she was in your house,’ he said, ‘and was apparently holding a conversation with you, as she used to keep silence at intervals as if listening to your replies.’ I asked him if he could possibly remember the hour at which the imaginary conversation took place. He replied that, curiously enough, he could tell it accurately, as he had looked at his watch, and found the time between half-past ten and eleven o’clock—the exact time of the mysterious manifestations heard by me.”


The Banshee

The wailing banshee

The wailing banshee

What Irish ghost story collection would be complete without the famous banshee? The name in Gaelic translates roughly to “woman of the barrows” and it is sometimes spelled “beansidhe” which seems to point to close ties with the “sidhe” or faerie folk of Irish lore. Of all the many folktales and legends, she is probably the most chilling, especially because of our own fear of mortality. For the banshee brings the warning of certain death. She can appear in many guises and go from beautiful woman to old crone. Legends say that she is seen by the water washing human limbs, heads, and clothes until the water runs red with their blood, all the while weeping and wailing, a sound that is said to chill you right to the bone if heard. Banshees are often said to be attached to great historical Irish families and multiple banshee sightings foretell the death of a very holy person. On top of her weeping, she is also seen as a mournful young woman brushing her hair and has been known to directly give warnings to someone of their imminent death. Even in modern days there are supposed sightings of the banshee. Here is one of the oldest and best known banshee stories. I found it here: The story was sent in from a Mr. T. J. Westropp, but I have heard a few similar ones from my own family and acquaintances. I think this sums up a banshee experience nicely so I will simply paste this story as is here for you.

“My maternal grandmother heard the following tradition from her mother, one of the Miss Ross-Lewins, who witnessed the occurrence. Their father, Mr. Harrison Ross-Lewin, was away in Dublin on law business, and in his absence the young people went off to spend the evening with a friend who lived some miles away. The night was fine and lightsome as they were returning, save at one point where the road ran between trees or high hedges not far to the west of the old church of Kilchrist. The latter, like many similar ruins, was a simple oblong building, with long side-walls and high gables, and at that time it and its graveyard were unenclosed, and lay in the open fields. As the party passed down the long dark lane they suddenly heard in the distance loud keening and clapping of hands, as the country-people were accustomed to do when lamenting the dead. The Ross-Lewins hurried on, and came in sight of the church, on the side wall of which a little gray-haired old woman, clad in a dark cloak, was running to and fro, chanting and wailing, and throwing up her arms. The girls were very frightened, but the young men ran forward and surrounded the ruin, and two of them went into the church, the apparition vanishing from the wall as they did so. They searched every nook, and found no one, nor did anyone pass out. All were now well scared, and got home as fast as possible. On reaching their home their mother opened the door, and at once told them that she was in terror about their father, for, as she sat looking out the window in the moonlight, a huge raven with fiery eyes lit on the sill, and tapped three times on the glass. They told her their story, which only added to their anxiety, and as they stood talking, taps came to the nearest window, and they saw the bird again. A few days later news reached them that Mr. Ross-Lewin had died suddenly in Dublin. This occurred about 1776.”

This idea of three knocks and birds bringing bad omens has also held strongly in my family. Three knocks is said to be a warning of a death. The belief that things often happen in threes is also strong in Irish culture. Ravens are generally bad news, and one banging at your window is no better. But in a way I think the legend of the banshee is a sad one. For all the poor woman is trying to do, in her terrifying way, is to warn of an impending death that she has no control over and to share in the mourning for the loss of one of Ireland’s own.

I actually wrote this little poem about the banshee for a contest and I’d like to share it with you because there is no more appropriate day than this!

Dark are the shadows of grief-cloaked night.
My hands, they are calloused
Torn by bloodied clothes
My tears fall upon them
As I wash them clean
Grief and pain flow away
In my tear filled waters.
And into my heart

My back is bent
With the weight of grief
I bear to lessen your load
I sing death’s song
Notes of loss and notes of pain
Sorrow’s song of nevermore
Keened in the crisp night air

You fear me,
My weeping, my grief
Makes your hearts grow cold
The warning foretold
Despite your will
The day has come
Of eternal sleep
Alone, feared, I grieve
For a soul lost to Ireland
One less star in her crown

I am the banshee, the wailing woman
My cries fill the night
As I absorb your sorrow
It is all that is left
For me to feel.
Do not fear me
You, beloved of Eirinn
For it is at your deathbed
That I cry my tears
Pray that your soul
Goes ever onward
And forgive an old woman
That washes and wails.

~ by Laura


The Dullahan – “Ireland’s scariest headless coachman”

The last haunting figure of Irish lore I would like to share with you (though there are so many!), is the headless coachman of the death coach. Believe it or not, I actually came across this little legend in the movie “Darby O’Gill and the Little People”, a classic that I used to watch every year as a kid. But it turns out that there is a rich heritage of ghost stories concerning the “death coach”. Also called the “Dullahan”, it is Ireland’s version of the headless horseman.

Ireland's terrifying headless coachman

Ireland’s terrifying headless coachman

The Dullahan is actually the most gory and possibly the most chilling of them all, which is why I have left him for last. Unlike the banshee the Dullahan can foretell anyone’s death and can even determine who will be next to die after his intended target. He is a headless horseman riding a headless horse.

Dullahans are headless. Although the dullahan has no head upon its shoulders, he carries it with him, either on the saddle-brow of his horse or upraised in his right hand. The head is the colour and texture of stale dough or mouldy cheese, and quite smooth. A hideous, idiotic grin splits the face from ear to ear, and the eyes, which are small and black, dart about like malignant flies. The entire head glows with the phosphoresence of decaying matter and the creature may use it as a lantern to guide its way along the darkened laneways of the Irish countryside. Wherever the dullahan stops, a mortal dies.

Legend has it that even if you are not the intended target of a dullahan, you are still in a heap of trouble. If you are a witness to one of its crazy midnight rides and see too much, it may throw blood on you which is a sure indication that you will now be next in line. It may also opt to take your eyes out with its whip. Its head is equipped with supernatural sight, enabling it to be able to see for miles. In some areas he is said to be the driver of a coach before which all gates and latches open no matter how well they were fastened, so there is no keeping him at bey. It is allowed to speak just once on each ride and so it calls out the name of the intended deceased, sucking out his or her soul in the process. During certain Irish festivals lore has it that it is ill advised to go out at night, and to keep your shutters drawn lest you see something you are not intended to.

This little short tale comes from storyteller W. J. Fitzpatrick from County Down, and it tells of a chilling sight indeed.

“I seen the dullahan myself, stopping on the brow of the hill between Bryansford and Moneyscalp late one evening, just as the sun was setting. It was completely headless but it held up its own head in its hand and I heard it call out a name. I put my hand across my ears in case the name was my own, so I couldn’t hear what it said. When I looked again, it was gone. But shortly afterwards, there was a bad car accident on that very hill and a young man was killed. It had been his name that the dullahan was calling.”

It seems there is only one small thing that can save you from a run in with a dullahan. Like most creatures of fairy lore that are sensitive to certain metals, the dullahan has an irrational fear of gold as told in this story from

“A man was on his way home one night between Roundstone and Ballyconneely. It was just getting dark and, all of a sudden, he heard the sound of horse’s hooves pounding along the road behind him. Looking around, he saw the dullahan on his charger, hurtling towards him at a fair speed. With a loud shout, he made to run but the thing came on after him, gaining on him all the time. In truth, it would have overtaken him and carried him away had he not dropped a gold-headed pin from the folds of his shirt on the road behind him. There was a roar in the air above him and, when he looked again, the dullahan was gone.”


Ireland is so rich with these legends that it has been so difficult to choose but a few. But there is always next year! I hope you have enjoyed these little snippets. May you all have a wonderful and fun-filled St. Patrick’s Day. Slainte!



Strange Scents in the Air

Sweet smell of roses

Musty and cloying

Drifts along the walls

And over my bed


Darkness surrounds me

An uncomfortable stillness

Though I cannot see

I know something is there.


Breath caught in my chest

Icy fingers touch my arm

And I suddenly realize

I don’t wear perfume!

Perfume Bottle

The sense of smells peaks to us of mom’s homemade cookies, of lovers’ perfumes, and of things gone sour. It is both comfort and warning, sometimes welcome, and sometimes unwanted. But have you ever experienced a paranormal smell? Along with our four other senses, people also tell stories of experiencing phantom smells.

Some go as far as to say the smell of sulphur means you are in the presence of something demonic or unpleasant, and that the smell of roses is a good omen. Some report smelling a scent familiar to a lost loved one. Opinions differ and I will be the first to admit nothing about this is an exact science, at least not yet. But I’ll tell you a few places where I have encountered odd smells that I do not believe were naturally made.

There is an old estate called Sagtikos Manor that used to belong to the Gardiner family here on Long Island. Now it is run as a historical museum but I have made lots of trips out there at night to walk the grounds, use some equipment, and see if I could catch anything. Me and two friends were in the gazebo area outside what was once a garden but is now a field of grass with a fountain. Out of nowhere this odd strong scent of roses came up. Everyone smelled it but the odd thing was the cent seemed to move around, being stronger in one place and then moving to another nearby. Following the scent we worked our way back to the enclosed field where we found it covered in a thick mist that had not been there before. This is where the scent led us and then mysteriously vanished. We never smelled it again. Below are pictures of the gazebo and of the main building.

Sagtikos Gazebo Sagtokis sized

My grandmother passed away when I was five. It was a loss I still feel to this day. When I was just a year or two old my grandmother said to my mother, “She will be the only grandchild to remember me.” And it was true. She died of pancreatic cancer just a few years later. One of the scents she used to love was roses. My mother tells me she used to have rose scented perfume and the odd thing is, I love it too. In fact I share a lot of mannerisms and loves with my grandma, whose name, coincidentally, was Rose.

The reason that I bring this up is that I feel she came to visit me one day. I was in my dorm room at college feeling stressed and overwhelmed by assignments, loneliness, homesickness, and general college nerves. I was still a freshman and was a bit overwhelmed by it all as it was such a drastic life change for me. I remember feeling really worried this one morning over an exam coming later that day. I was lying in bed, watching the sun stream through the blinds, when all of a sudden the room was bathed in this light scent of roses. It seemed to immediately lighten the room and I almost felt as it were surrounding me like an embrace.

I remember saying out loud, “Grandma”? I felt strangely comforted as if she were really there telling me everything would be alright and was filled with a sense of peace and even happiness. The smell dissipated a moment later but the feeling didn’t leave me for the entire day. Though I cannot say for sure, and I know there are other explanations, I sincerely feel that on some level I knew that was her way of getting a message to me.

There is one more story I can share with you. One of the things me and my husband love to do is to explore abandoned buildings that have a connection to history. And we happened to have been blessed by having not one but three psychiatric hospitals in various states of abandonment here in Suffolk County. We spent many, many countless hours exploring every corridor. I do not recall which building we were in anymore, though I know it was Kings Park State Hospital.

One of the things I love to do is wander off a bit by myself and just listen to my surroundings. When no one is around me making a racket I feel like I can really hear the whole building, all the creaks, groans, and aging history. The general feeling of the building descends on me like a cloak and I can almost feel the history.

This is exactly what I did on this one day. I went into another hallway and wandered farther and farther away from my husband just letting my feet take me where they will. All of a sudden I thought I heard a footstep which was followed by some sort of a clinking sound. Frightened that someone else might be in the building I ducked into a doorway and crouched down behind the door, listening intently. There were a few other subtle noises as of someone were wandering around at the end of the hallway but I determined that they weren’t likely to be police or vandals based on their quietness.

Suddenly the strongest scent of cigarettes wafted by me, which to me confirmed that there really was a person there. At the same time, my husband caught up with me from the other end of the hall. I mentioned to him about the smoke and we decided to just come out and approach the other person, since they were in a dead end and neither party seemed to mean each other any harm, so might as well get it over with so we could both stop hiding from each other. It’s sort of the way with fellow explorers once we recognize our own kind, if you know what I mean.

But as we got to the end of the hall which let out into a day room, there was no one there. The smell of cigarettes was still there, thick and cloying in the air, however there was no smoke. Now it is possible, were they a crafty explorer, that they could have found a way to slip past into a stairwell but these doors creak loudly and I believe I would have heard them. So I am left to wonder, could that smoke have come to us through time? I suppose we will never know.

Having done a bit of reading online about this, it looks like the consensus is rosewater scents indicate female hosts, cigar or smoke smells indicates a male spirit, and sulphur and rotten eggs indicates something unsavory. These seem to be the most popular consensus. However, here’s a funny little story that will put some doubt back into your minds.

In Oyster Bay there is an old house that goes back to Revolutionary War days and is run now as a museum. It is also rumored to be quite haunted. One of the main stories comes from the museum interpreters who report smelling apple pie being baked in the kitchen. They even go so far as to feel it is a rite of passage. Every new docent is only officially a part of the museum family once they smell the phantom apple pie being baked for them. Well this was many years ago when I was a wet-behind-the-ears brand new paranormal researcher and was on an outing with one of the Long Island groups. We split up with radios, and being the newbie, all I carried was my own camera. I remember being so excited and so eager to actually have an experience.

I wandered into the hallway outside the kitchen and stopped dead in my tracks. I could smell it, the famed apple pie baking smell. And it was strong. I could almost imagine the ghost of the African American servant that they say is the phantom baker standing over the old oven. I thought to myself, if she was truly in there, I didn’t want to ruin the moment until someone with better equipment could get down here and take some readings. So I turned the corner, and in the whispering voice Peter Venkman uses in the Slimer scene in Ghostbusters, I said:

“Hey guys?”

“Yeah what’s up?”

“I smell it. The apple pie…it’s here…in the kitchen. Could someone come down with equipment please?” It was all I could do to keep the excitement out of my voice.

But all of a sudden, despite my best attempts at sounding calm, five sets of footsteps pounded all the way from the second floor, down the stairs, and everyone ran into me in the hallway leading to the kitchen. Apparently I was not the only one who was excited. We all poured into the kitchen like eager ghost-hunters. But what we found was not a ghost. On the counter sat a large dish of apple-cinnamon potpourri. We had a good laugh at that one, and it was certainly a lesson to me not to jump to conclusions and not to take things at face value.

So how about you all. Have you ever experienced something supernatural through smell alone?

Welcome to Shadow Watch – An Introduction

Hello and welcome to Shadow Watch. You are probably here because like myself, you find the unknown so irresistible. Whether you simply love hearing or reading stories or have had an experience with something supernatural yourself, I hope that we can share this love of the unknown together.

I’ll be honest right up front and tell you I fall into the latter category. Although I love a good ghost story any time, it Is my own personal experiences that have drawn me in and have asked of me the question, why? But I’ll tell you more about that later.

I’ve always been fascinated with the world. It is such a place of wonder. Even today when it seems science has everything well under wraps, there are still strange and mysterious things like the dual slit experiment, where light actually behaves differently when it is being watched. When I was a small child I loved fairies. Science has only very recently discovered why the rocks mysteriously move on their own at the Racetrack Playa of Death Valley.

My uncle, who was reared in Ireland, used to fill my head with stories of Leprechauns. And on every St. Patrick’s Day morning I used to rush out into the woods behind my elementary school at dawn in hopes of catching a glimpse of one, because he told me St. Patrick’s Day was when they came out to check on their pots of gold. I didn’t want to catch one, and I didn’t want their gold, but my child’s heart just wanted to see one for real, to know that there was such an interesting thing in the world. And of course who didn’t grow up on Peter Pan and joined their voices with hundreds or thousands of other kids in yelling “I DO believe in fairies!” so that Tinkerbell would not die. To this day, there is just a slight bit of superstition in me, and I will never say “I don’t believe in fairies” out loud, as unlikely as they may be.

So even though a lot of our early beliefs, superstitions, and ideas about the world have faded in the light of science and discovery, I still truly believe this world to be a place of wonder. And this sense of awe and wonder of course extends to the amazing stories of the supernatural, a topic that is so very widespread that I can’t help but believe at least to an extent. How could so many people, including myself, be wrong?

My interest in the paranormal began at around age five with a very strange experience, an experience which lit a flame within me to find out more. I was sleeping in a bunk bed, the top of which was used for toy storage as I was an only child at that time. Something woke me in the middle of the night and I opened my eyes to see a woman coming into my room. She wore an old fashioned looking calico print dress that ballooned around her legs as if draped over one of those old fashioned hoops. On her shoulders was a deep navy blue shawl with tassels. I could not see her face because it was obstructed by the bunk bed. The oddest thing about her though was that her entire body was glowing in a bluish hue.

Contrary to what you would think, for some reason, I was not fearful, and I am still unsure why to this day. An image like that at my bedside these days would scare the slippers right off of me! She made a move as if to tuck me in to bed, bending down over my covers. I don’t actually remember if she pulled the covers up, or just made the motions. The only thought that went through my head was “That’s not mommy.” It was a mantra that kept repeating as I watched her straighten up and leave the room. As soon as she was no longer in the doorway, I leapt from my bed, determined to find out who the strange glowing lady was, but she was gone. When I told her, I don’t remember my mother being very phased by my story but it stuck with me for a very long time.

Since then I began to have other experiences, some frightening, and some not. When I reached the first grade and was allowed to visit the school library, ghosts was the first thing I asked to look up. I had learned to read at the age of two, so once the librarian was convinced I could handle it, she allowed me to go into the book sections for older grades and gave me free run of the library. For this I am still thankful because it also deepened my love of books. I found a book on ghosts and poltergeists there which scared but also thrilled me with the stories. From then on I was hooked. I read everything I could get my hands on. Not only did I find it enlightening but it also told me I was not alone.

This was also the era of shows like “Unsolved Mysteries”, “In Search of”, and books on the unexplained by Time Life. There was so much fascination with the unknown on TV, in books, and even on the radio with Coast to Coast. But it was “GhostBusters”, my all-time favorite movie that first breeched the topic of studying, trapping, and even ridding a place of ghosts. In my opinion it inspired ghost hunters all over way before TAPS was even a twinkle in a producer’s eye. Many years later I even joined a few paranormal research and ghost hunting groups and eventually started my own. It is still a pipe dream of mine that paranormal research will someday reach a level even close to the technology depicted in that hilarious but intriguing 80’s movie.

And that is all what has brought me to Shadow Watch. It was an old username of mine on a ghost forum once but to me it symbolizes my hunt and thirst for understanding of the unknown. I chase the shadows of things only glimpsed, in hopes that someday we can bring them out into the light. I hope you will continue to read, comment, and join me on this amazing journey. Until then, Happy Haunting!