The following is a standard ghostly-goings-on-scare-a-family-from-their-home story that, for most of the newspapers that covered it, required only a couple of paragraphs to tell. Over at The Derry Journal, however, one journalist saw it as a chance to shine.
SUPPOSED SPECTRAL VISITS AND MYSTERIOUS SOUNDS
From time to time the Derry constabulary have had rather knotty problems submitted to them for solution, but it is open to doubt if they ever had placed before them a “case” so queer and uncanny as that which is presently having the attention of the acutest members of the Bishop Street Station force. It is often difficult enough, in all conscience, to get at the real root of disturbances happening in the open, during wide daylight, and usually traceable to a sudden ebullition of temper among a group of persons whom controversy causes to adopt dangerous methods. However, when the peace of a household is repeatedly disturbed and a certain measure of alarm is raised only in the gloom of night and only through manifestations of an occult nature, the difficulty of satisfactory investigation is ten-fold increased.
An extensive section of a thickly populated district in Derry city has been thrown into a state of consternation by a series of extraordinary and mysterious nocturnal occurrences. Faint rumours of peculiar noises having been heard within an inhabited house in the vicinity of the thoroughfare known as Hogg’s Folly made themselves felt about a week ago. At first they were discredited as being the outcome of a practical joke. These reports of a man and his family being most strangely disturbed at night in their residence continued in circulation despite a general tendency among people in the quarter to set them down as childish and as not having foundation in fact. Still the rumours persisted, and when a neighbour spoke jocularly to a member of the family concerned about the alleged mysterious happenings in their house the answer given was in no humorous vein. Though the inhabitants of the house were for obvious reasons inclined to allay undue alarm, yet the prevalent reports were corroborated with circumstantiality. As a consequence, excitement in the neighbourhood increased and it became common knowledge, by this time, where the abode which caused all the commotion was situated.
The house which, by the way, within the past two or three days has been hurriedly vacated by the family who dwelt there stands, as the last of a street row, on a little eminence at the junction of two thoroughfares, namely Hollywell Street and Hogg’s Folly. It is a plain-built but substantial two-storied structure, having a frontage lighted by five windows. In exterior aspect its walls contrast favourably with those of some adjoining houses, since they are freshly and neatly whitewashed. In brief the building might be described on the view as a very suitable cottage for an artizan’s family. It seems that there is a cellar beneath the ground floor of the cottage, and it is from this cellar that uncanny noises have been for some time emanating nightly. Patient and cool attempts to trace the origin of this mysterious visitation were made but the investigators were baffled and yet remain so.
Not only have these inexplicable noises been heard by the inmates of the house, but the ghostly din manifested itself so loudly after midnight on two nights of last week that it reached the ears of neighbours dwelling on the opposite side of the street. Disquieting, as these incidents undoubtedly were, it appears that they alone did not determine the family to leave the place. On one of the nights the spectral figure of a woman was seen passing slowly from one apartment to another within the house.
This latter remarkable circumstance was among the particulars made known to the police when a report of the extraordinary affair was conveyed to them. The phantom female figure was described as been clothed in a flowing robe.
Then the question was put – “Of what colour?”
“Of pearl grey colour,” was the reply.
The house was visited on Saturday by Sergeant Quinlivan, Sergeant Morrow, and by other members of the Bishop Street constabulary who, indeed, owing to the information they got, have been pretty constantly in the neighbourhood for the past four or five days engaged in the language of the young lads living in the locality, “Watching for the ghost.”
Indeed the spectacle in the street of nights recently, was wholly uncommon and not without aspects of weirdness. A number of young men who heard the news of the mysterious noises decided to test the truth of the matter for themselves by waiting at a little distance from the house outside on the road till after the midnight hour. They appeared cheerful enough at the outset, but as twelve o’clock drew nigh loud talk gave way to low whispers. The more timid left before the clock chimed, while those who remained after twelve listened with bated breath. Some stated subsequently they heard no sounds from the house. Others asserted positively that they heard the sounds of “heavy footsteps in the cellar,” though at that time it was known that the cellar was absolutely unoccupied.
Each night the listening crowd assumed larger proportions, and towards the end of the week the thoroughfare was quite filled with people discussing the mystery for which no solution has yet been found.
From inquiries made it appears that the house was occupied by a tenant with his wife and three children till Thursday last. On that day they removed to another dwelling, but a good deal of their furniture was left behind until Saturday when it was conveyed to their new abode. The family declare they were quite comfortable in the house they left were it not for the mysterious nocturnal disturbances.
It is said that the family kept a dog in the cellar and on the nights when the strange sounds were heard the animal tore at the floor frantically with his paws so that quite a large hole would be found thus scooped out in the mornings. This incident suggested to some practical reasoners that rats might have been at the bottom of the mischief, but a very careful search since made in the cellar has failed to detect the slightest traces of these rodents.
It is now alleged as a curious coincidence that a previous tenant left the place less than a year ago. His decision was suddenly come to, and he declined to discuss – even with his wife – his reasons for leaving on the very day after he had arrived home late one night.
At present the “ins and outs” of the extraordinary affair form the chief topic of conversation for numerous citizens, especially those living in the vicinity of the place concerned.
One of Hood’s finest poems gives an exceptionally vivid description of an empty habitation, and the pedestrian passing along yesterday by the house under notice was reminded by the silent look of the place of the lines:--
“No dog was at the threshold, great or small,
No pigeon on the roof – no household creature –
No cat demurely dozing on the wall,
Not one domestic feature
No human figure stirr’d, to go or come,
No face looked forth from shut or open casement,
No chimney smoked – there was no sign of Home
From parapet to basement.”
A strange thing in much that is singular in these eerie occurrences, or imaginings plus the occurrences is the conduct of the house dog – a glut with a litter of whelps. The animal, usually gentle and quiet, suddenly develops intense excitement, and sets as if protecting its offspring, whilst there is no visible cause for its disturbed and anxious condition.
We give the case in its details as investigated, leaving our readers to form their own judgement between imagination and manifestation.
The Derry Journal, 10 August 1908