In my last post, The Potato Pinching Poltergeist on Old Town Hill, the people of Cookstown – and beyond – were mystified by the goings on at a house in the town. A number of theories – none of which involved acknowledging that a magician lived in the house – and precedents were proposed. This one, which appeared in The Belfast News-Letter on 23 November 1874, is my favourite.
|Greencastle Street, Kilkeel in 1936|
SIR – In your impression of Wednesday last there appeared a lengthened report of a ghost story from Cookstown, which seems rather inexplicable; but, perhaps, the following may help to be the means of unravelling the mystery.
Some years ago, in the neighbourhood of Kilkeel, an occurrence of a similar kind perplexed the inhabitants for many months. In a house there a series of depredations were committed exactly like those which are at present being perpetrated on Mr. Allen, of Cookstown. The windows were smashed among their hands, and, as in the present case, the broken glass was generally found outside, and a stone with which it appeared to have been broken inside. Clothes were destroyed, cows’ tails and pigs’ ears were cut off, and no clue whatever could be got to explain the matter. Often the minister would go and remain for a time with the afflicted family, and just among their hands a pane of glass would be smashed or some like deed done. The police were resorted to, as if their presence would frighten whatever demon haunted the scene. But all was no use. For months a guard was kept about the house night and day; but the unseen agent of the infernal regions (as many thought it to be) was able to prosecute his work of destruction without detection. Every morning when the police arrived in town the inquiring inhabitants were furnished with some additional turn of the ghost story. Some blamed the evil one, and others thought it might be the work of some ill-disposed neighbour. Few, however, were of the latter opinion, as it was utterly impossible that any neighbour could have done it without being taken by the police. However, the ghost was at last discovered, and he whom Burns styles “Old Clootie,” was set scot free. It appeared that there lived in the house a girl - a niece of the proprietor – and that she was in love with her cousin, who preferred some neighbour, and was not accustomed to stop at home with her. Either in revenge for this indignity, or in some mania, she became the agent of the above depredations, and she carried on the work so cunningly as to defy detection for months. However, one of the policemen at length caught her in the act of breaking a window, and she was taken prisoner, and afterwards confessed the whole thing. She broke the glass with a hammer, or something else, and then deposited a stone inside in order to shroud it in mystery. In short, she acted the part of a supernatural agent for a time quite as cleverly as that which your reporter represents to be at present in Cookstown.
– Yours, &c.,
Cloverhill, Belturbet, 20thNov., 1874
The Belfast News-Letter, 23 November 1874