Tuesday, 27 December 2016

The Tyrone Mystery Man

My apologies for the lack of material over the last few weeks; long hours at a dull job combined with the malaise caused by the long hours at a dull job have seriously derailed my routine. Anyway, as a peace offering, I’m posting a couple of phantom attacker reports from January 1942.  Enjoy!
A series of nocturnal and mysterious incidents which have occurred in Fintona and district recently have plunged the peaceful town into a state of extreme fear and dread. The first incident occurred to a maid who was on her way home at night from her employer’s house, and when passing through Kiln Street a light was shone suddenly on her face and she was struck on the cheek. The frightened girl returned to her employer’s house, where she was provided with an escort, but the mysterious assailant had disappeared.
Next the mystery man was seen in the hours of darkness, to enter and leave a local ambulance on several occasions, although the doors had not been opened. On one occasion the mysterious visitor, wearing a long light-coloured coat, was observed standing against a high hedge, but when the person to whom he appeared flashed a strong torch on his face the light failed to reveal anyone.
On resident declares that he saw the same figure in broad daylight walking right through an iron shed and entering by and emerging from unbroken walls.
He has been seen in several streets of the town, but he does not confine his activities to these, as his latest exploit was to pull a lady of her bicycle on the Barr Road, and when she called to her husband, who was ahead of her, no man could be discovered although a thorough search was made.
One of the most fantastic versions is that he has appeared on several occasions with the light coat but appeared to have no head at all. Many ladies are afraid to go out after dark.
Two weeks later, the Derry Journal provided the following update.
Latest reports show that there is still no solution to the mysterious happenings in the district by the appearance of a tall man with long white coat, whose doings have been agitating the public for several weeks. One resident thought he had discovered a clue to the hiding place of the mystery man when he noticed that straw provided for livestock had been carried away. This was traced to a vacant cottage in Ecclesville Demesne, where a bed of straw was found, but there is no sign of a man in the vicinity.
It would seem that the mysterious visitor has been guilty of minor assaults on his victims.
A report has come to hand that the mystery man was set upon by a resident of Tonagh, who got the better of the fight and left him hors-de-combat on the roadside. The Tonagh man went to a house for assistance to bring him to a place of detention, but when he returned the mystery man could not be found.
While no one yet would appear to have got a close-up view of his face, in every instance he is described as tall, with a light-coloured overcoat, muddy boots and a cap.
  • Derry Journal, 2 & 16 January 1942

Monday, 5 December 2016

The Tree of Lights at the Bog Chapel

On 21 August 1879, fifteen people witnessed an apparition of the Blessed Virgin, Saint Joseph and Saint John the Evangelist on a wall of the Church of Saint John the Baptist, in Knock, County Mayo.
Regardless of what was actually behind the event, 137 years later, 1.5m pilgrims make the journey to Knock each year. In 1979, Pope John Paul II celebrated Mass there, as well as praying at the apparition wall. Mother Teresa even visited. In 1985, this small village even got its own airport.
I mention this because I want you to spare a thought for the Bog Chapel in Kilmallock, County Limerick - and all the other small, rural Irish churches you’ve never heard of - whose own strange events came in the shadow of the events in Knock.
The following comes from The Derry Journal of 15 September 1880.
The Catholic Church near Kilmallock, known as the Bog Chapel, in which supernatural appearances are stated to have been seen on more than one occasion during the past week, is nightly resorted to by hundreds. Respectable and intelligent persons allege that they have seen distinctly apparitions of the Blessed Virgin.
On Saturday night there could not have been less than eight hundred people at the church. Preaching on the gospel of the day at the church, the Rev. Mr Fitzgerald, one of the clergymen, impressed upon the extraordinarily large congregation present the obligation of loving and adoring above and before all things God in the blessed Sacrament. He told them that in the fervour and enthusiasm of their devotion to His Blessed Mother they should always bear in mind that great precept. At the same time he told them that there was no surer or better means of obtaining grace from God than through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin.
The parish priest, the Rev. Mr Clory, fearing an accident might result from overcrowding, has deemed it advisable to close up the building every evening at 6 o’clock, but the people congregated outside. Whether the weather be inclement or otherwise they keep watching for hours together, reciting the rosary and litany of the Blessed Virgin.
During the whole time the most intense religious fervour prevails. The clergymen generally leave the church as soon as the doors are closed, but the majority of the people remain until midnight, and many do not leave for their homes until morning is breaking.
A labourer named Torpey, a very intelligent man of his class, states that on Wednesday week he saw lights distinctly in the church at the Blessed Virgin’s altar like stars. On returning from the church some of the party who were with him saw something like stars in the trees. He also saw them. They then went on their knees and recited the rosary. The man who offered up the rosary then asked, if it was God’s will, that they should be favoured with some manifestation such as was seen elsewhere by other people.
The word, he says, was not out of his mouth, when the whole yard shone with a frightful light, and he never saw anything like it before. He went into the chapel every night since, but he did not see either lights or figures, though others state they have seen them.
A tree in which the lights are stated to have been originally seen has been chopped to bits by the country people in order that they might take pieces away.
  • The Derry Journal, 15 September 1880