This is not a blog about ghosts but with Halloween coming up, I can’t refrain from telling this true one.
Ghost stories stand and fall with the trustworthiness of the person who vouches she knows it on good authority. And that in Ireland is usually the friend of a cousin once removed.
Leaving Killaloe, where we purchased our abode, on the road to Scarriff, there is a 2-story stone house on the left hand side. Its dark bare windows give the property an abandoned, foreboding look while the huge front lawn is always meticulously mown and the landscaping simple but well kept. In full view in front of the downstairs windows are several beautiful specimens of truly blue hydrangea bushes. These caught my eye while we were still farm hunting.
I wondered whether it was for sale because it was obviously empty, but I didn’t dare to walk up to the door and find out. The farm buildings belonging to this house are across the road. A huge sycamore tree towers over everything at the roadside gate, the tree trunk protected by heavy steel bars. I wondered what the obviously expensive enclosure was about.
Pauline, the guarantor of this story, my one time housekeeper and later friend, who likes a good yarn but is generally a reliable person, told me about the drama behind this house. She is, by the way, the grand niece of the Irish freedom fighter and hero Michael Collins.
In 1923, the times of the troubles, when Ireland was torn by a civil war, there lived a family of five who were IRA supporters. One dark night when all were in bed, there was terrible knocking of rifles on the door. It was the Black and Tans, the most feared and vicious British brigade, that all but terrorized local communities. Their primary task was to make Ireland hell for the rebels to live in. They meant business. Suspecting traitors in this house, they broke down the door, and killed the whole family bar a son of 9 years of age who manage to scramble out during the bedlam. He stole away and hid across the road in a tall tree, which saved his life. As the only survivor, he takes care of house and lawn and protects the tree in memory of the tragedy that befell his family.
Is the house haunted? Yes, everybody knows that and well, what do you expect after so many killings? Could I talk to the owner? No, he is a bit funny in the head, has never been the same since.
While we didn’t buy that house, I drove by it regularly, and each time couldn’t help remembering the horror that occurred in such a peaceful rural area.