Monday, 19 March 2018

The Wicklow Weird Winged Thing

We don’t get a lot of winged weirdies in Ireland. So I was almost giddy when I came across the following story, which appeared in The Wicklow People of 14 July 1900 [originally published in Truth magazine – date unknown].
Truth Says – A lady, who says that she has been a regular of Truth for many years, reports to me a most mysterious occurrence at Dublin of which she was recently an eye witness, and which she felt it her duty to reveal:
On a Sunday evening, at about twenty minutes to six o’clock, witness was sitting in a window overlooking a broad and much frequented thoroughfare. The evening was beautifully calm, with a light silvery haze in the air, and a few fleecy clouds in the sky, when she observed far up in the sky a black spot. Its shape was irregular, and it remained motionless. The writer fixed her eyes on it, and never removed them for fully five and twenty minutes, when to her surprise [She must have been surprised – Ed Truth] there swooped down from out of the black spot an immense Thing, with wings spread, which seemed about 25 feet from tip to tip. Flapping these wings slowly, it moved in a northerly direction over the city, and was lost to sight. In the meantime the black spot wholly disappeared.
Weeks passed, and although the writer often watched for the strange visitant she saw nothing more. On the evening of last Trinity Sunday, however, when sitting in the same window, at precisely the same hour as before there was the same black spot in the same place in the sky, motionless. The writer again fixed her eyes on it for about the same space of time as before, when down came the enormous Thing as before, out of the Spot. It sailed away slowly, this time in the direction of Bray, County Wicklow.
NB – The wings were of a creamy colour, no feathers were visible, nor did there appear any thing like a body with them.
I think I may say, without boasting, this is one of the most remarkable experiences of this kind ever reported to the editor of a newspaper, unless in the Sea Serpent season. When I first read it I felt for the moment like the poet in Mr Gilbert’s ballad, who
Couldn’t help thinking
The man had been drinking
But on looking back, and seeing that the lady had been a regular reader of Truth for many years, I at once dismissed this theory. That being so and my correspondent having enclosed her name “as a guarantee of good faith,” the question at once arises whether the “strange visitant” is of a natural or supernatural character. It may be a portent connected with the war in South Africa or the Boxer outbreak. It may have something to do with the re-union of the Irish Party, or the Crisis in the Church. Which it may be I leave to wiser heads than mine to explain, though I cannot help remarking that the appearance of the phenomenon on Trinity Sunday is significant. At the same time, should anyone in the neighbourhood of Bray, Co. Wicklow, notice a pair of featherless wings flapping about overhead without a body, my advice is “Do not hesitate to shoot.”
My giddiness was short lived, however. It seems that, shortly after the original article appeared, a “Dublin contemporary” wrote to the magazine with his – annoyingly plausible – theory.
My readers will doubtless have fresh in their memories the strange experience of the Dublin lady, who on a recent Sunday afternoon beheld in the sky a mysterious Thing, consisting of a pair of wings without a body, which evolved itself out of a Black Spot in the firmament, and, swooping over the city, flapped off on its featherless pinions in the direction of Bray, Co Wicklow. A Dublin contemporary furnishes a very rationalistic explanation of the phenomena. It seems that on several Sunday afternoons someone has been flying a big kite over Dublin. As the kite attained a great altitude, it presented the appearance of a black spot, motionless in the sky, and when it was hauled down it might have assumed, to an imaginative eye, the appearance of a winged Thing, flapping away in the distance. For the sake of the lady who had the vision, I trust that this may be the correct interpretation. Things might easily have been worse.
As always, if anyone can add to this story, or has other Irish winged weirdie stories to share, please get in touch.
The Wicklow People, 14 July 1900
The Wrexham Advertiser, 21 July 1900

Sunday, 11 March 2018

A Monster in Monaghan

Drumate Lake, near the town of New Bliss in County Monaghan, is quite a small lake. It covers only 11 hectares and is 4 metres deep at its deepest. Yet, in August 1944, it was big enough to hide a monster.
Genuinely, this is the only photo I could rescue off the SD card!
The early descriptions of the monster were quite basic: it was said to be 15 feet long, and it made a rumbling noise when it dived under the surface of the water.
It was first seen by some men who were fishing from the shore. It appeared as “a black patch a few inches above the water.”
Soon after this first sighting, some local farmers - armed with shotguns - rowed out to look for the beast. They were in luck: soon after their search began, the monster broke the surface, 20 yards from the boat. One of the farmers, P J Clerkin, fired both barrels of his shotgun. The creature rose partly out of the water before diving and making its weird rumbling noise.
Two hours later, the creature appeared at another part of the lake. It was immediately shot at by another farmer, Joseph Dickson.
According to reports, a total of six shots were fired at the monster during the initial sightings. It’s not recorded if any of the shots found their mark.
A number of newspapers covered the story, but they all appeared to have used the same Press Association report. Only the Belfast News-Letter attempted to independently verify the story: “When the ‘News-Letter’ made enquiries at the Bewbliss police barracks last night, however, all knowledge of the ‘monster’ was denied.”
The next reported sighting - there may have been other sightings, but they weren’t reported - occurred at the end of August. Arthur Davidson and three other men were in a boat on the lake looking for the monster when it surfaced - only two yards away from their position. It goes without saying that Davidson tried to blow its head off.
He explained: “I was out in a boat with three other men searching for the monster. Seeing it over the edge of the boat, I fired. It gave a splash and raised a big wave on the water. Then it disappeared.”
But in the time between the creature surfacing and Davidson scaring the bejesus out of it, Davidson managed to get a good look. He said that, though it wasn’t fully visible, it was about seven feet long; it had two arms that ended in either claws or webbed feet; it had a tail that was 18 inches long and six inches wide; and it moved in the water “aided by its arms.”
According to all of the newspapers that covered this encounter, all bathing in the lake and fishing from boats had stopped. But was it fear of the monster or fear of being shot by a farmer that stopped the water based fun? It’s a question that no one asked.
So, August 1944 was a month that would have kept a Fortean clipper busy. But it did make one of our neighbours a tiny bit jealous. The following appeared in the “Bats in the Belfry” column of the Daily Record on Wednesday, 30 August 1944:
“Are the tycoons of Scottish tourism asleep? Only the other day Brazil announced the appearance of a sea-serpent off her coast [1], and now Eire has proclaimed the presence of a small wyvern or gryphon in a County Monaghan Lake.
“Considering that the success of a modern tourist industry depends almost entirely on monster-appeal, it is a trifle chawing to find Brazil and Eire getting in on the ground floor with inferior phenomena while Albyn keeps mum about the curvaceous colossus of Loch Ness.”
Whatever it was in Drumate Lake, if there ever was anything to begin with, it stopped appearing after the Davidson encounter.
But, if you know otherwise, please let me know.
  1. Something was making appearances off the coast of the Brazilian state of Maranhāo in August 1944. A “U.S. naval observer” had described it as "a gigantic sea-serpent.” Whatever it was, the Maranhāo fishermen were refusing to to put to sea.

  • Belfast News-Letter, 19 August 1944
  • Daily Record, 30 August 1944
  • Fishing in Ireland (
  • The Gloucestershire Echo, 10 August 1944
  • The Newcastle Journal, 29 August 1944
  • The Nottingham Journal, 19 August 1944

Friday, 2 March 2018

The Black Pig of Kiltrustan

The following story appeared in The Roscommon Messenger on 4 May 1918. It was covered by a number of other papers, but the Messenger really went to town on it.
It’s a mad tale that The Irish Times believed existed only in the imagination of the journalist who “reported” it [1]. However, it was reported as news – and it’s one of my favourite stories.
Mysterious Occurrence at Kiltrustan
Said to be “The Black Pig” Referred to in St Columcille’s Prophecy
Our Strokestown correspondent writes: - On Wednesday evening last the town of Strokestown was all astir over a strange story that was told by some people from Kiltrustan, a little over two miles away, who had come to town. According to the story told by these respectable people a little girl named Beirne, aged about 12 ½ years, saw what she described as a black pig come up out of a crack or small hole in the ground near the schoolhouse, and commence to walk about the stump of an old tree that had been cut down recently in a little grove convenient to the public road.
and its peculiar movements attracted the little girl’s attention for some minutes, after which she ran down to the school and told the teacher (Mr Beirne), who came to the spot but failed to see the animal, the child persisting all the time that it was there and actually walking across the master’s boots. Other children of the same age and younger were called, and each of them cried out simultaneously, “Oh, look at the black pig,” “She is eating grass,” she is spitting,” she is walking on your boots,” etc. The news spread rapidly through the district, and a large number of men and women gathered to the spot, but all of them declared that they could see nothing but the grass and old trees. On Thursday the place was
from the town and districts around, including some priests. The little girls who claimed to have seen the strange animal on the previous day were requisitioned, and again declared that they could see the pig quite plainly walking around the old tree stump, but on this occasion accompanied by six little bonhams, three of them trotting on each side of her. Again the adults present stated that they could see nothing unusual, but the children insisted that the pig and bonhams were there all the time, and that some of those present had actually touched the pig with their hands when they stretched them forth. The same children, and others from a good distance away, stated that they again saw the pig and young ones on Friday last, but not since. The place was
It has been decided to close the school until the excitement dies down. There are many stories going the rounds as to the cause of the strange appearance of the pig, and the children undoubtedly must have seen it, because no amount of cross-examination could shake them in their description of what they saw, and there is not the slightest chance of their having invented it, because some were brought from a distance and not allowed to communicate in any way with those who claimed to have seen it first. A number of old people who studies
say that the “black pig” is referred to in them as an evil omen for Ireland, and that she is to travel through a certain part of the country west of the River Shannon before being killed or banished. Others say that the appearance of the pig is the forerunner of a rising in the North to fight against Home Rule. The affair has caused a great sensation in this district, and is the chief topic of conversation amongst all classes.
A remarkably strange and interesting story is revealed as the result of further investigation into the circumstances connected with the mysterious appearance at Kiltrustan, Co Roscommon, of the famous black pig of the prophecies. Kiltrustan is situated almost midway between Strokestown and Elphin. It is a district boasting of numerous historical associations: its importance as an agricultural centre is at the present time considerable, and its situation has long been identified with the course of the boundary fortifications of ancient Ulster, otherwise known as the Valley of the Black Pig. Mr William F De Vismes Kane, of Drumreaske Castle, Co Monaghan, was the author of an interesting work on
He was an historian and antiquarian of much repute, and many of his works deal exhaustively with Co Roscommon. He gives a detailed description of the race or valley of the Black Pig – a great embankment and ditch which he traces with remarkable accuracy westward from Co Monaghan. Attached to the peculiar name are numerous legends, the main drift of which is that a demon, exorcised by St Patrick, assumed the shape of a black pig, and raging westward through Ireland, tore up a deep furrow with its snout. Following the deep track that the animal; left behind, St Patrick at length succeeded in running it down on the banks of the Shannon. The track left behind by the black pig afterwards formed the site of
mainly erected as a defensive boundary between certain provinces, but still retaining the title of the Black Pig’s Valley. It is a strange coincidence that on the same day that Mr Kane died suddenly at his residence the Black Pig was first stated to be observed at Kiltrustan. The circumstances of its appearance are rather peculiar. Creta demesne adjoins the main road leading to Kiltrustan National School; a right of way off the main road connects with the residence of a respectable resident of the district, a Mr Hughes. Beside this right of way, and a few yards from the road boundary, there is a small plantation which, according to local tradition, is haunted, mysterious lights having been occasionally seen, and weird sounds heard, at night time. Contrary to the wish of some of the old people in the neighbourhood, two young men cut one of the trees in the plantation. Both of them are now understood to be ill, and their
referred to so significantly in St Columcille’s Prophecy.
1 Sorry, I didn’t record a date for this in my notes.
The Roscommon Messenger, 4 May 1918

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Fitzgerald's Fabulous Folbane Encounter

In the latter half of the nineteenth century, the part of Donegal that Michael Fitzgerald called home (go to the Glenveagh National Park website to get an idea of the locale) was prone to extreme weather events. Lightning strikes that tore up the hills and torrents of rain that washed away mountainsides were not uncommon, according to Fitzgerald’s records.
But the events of 6 August 1868 surpassed anything he had experienced before. In fact, they were beyond what most people would have experienced before. The members of the Royal Meteorological Society were intrigued, and an account of Fitzgerald’s fabulous encounter was read at their meeting of 20 March 1878.
“Notes on the occurrence of Globular Lightning and Waterspouts in Co. Donegal, Ireland.” By M. FITZGERALD (Communicated by ROBERT H. SCOTT, F.R.S.)
The following is my experience of Waterspouts and Lightning:- On the 6th of August, 1868, this neighbourhood being free from the dense black clouds that hung over the mountains of Glenswilly and Glendoan, I went up the latter glen to note anything worthy of observation. On arriving at Meenawilligan, the sky was so black over Bintwilly (Bin Tuile, the height of the floods), where lightning and thunder were following each other in rapid succession, that I turned homewards in case the rain should overtake me. When I reached Folbane, on looking behind, I noticed a globe of fire in the air floating leisurely along in the direction of Church Hill. After passing the crown of the ridge, where I first noticed it, it descended gradually into the valley, keeping all the way about the same distance from the surface of the land, until it reached the stream between Folbane and Derora, about 300 yards from where I stood. It then struck the land and re-appeared in about a minute, drifted along the surface for about 200 yards, and again disappeared in the boggy soil, reappearing about 20 perches further down the stream; again it moved along the surface, and again sunk, this time into the brow of the stream, which it flew across and finally lodged in the opposite brow, leaving a hole in the peat bank, where it buried itself.
If it had left no marks behind, I confess that, as I had never seen anything of the kind before, I should hesitate to describe its movements, which surprised me much at the time, but the marks which it left behind of its course and power surprised me more.
I at once examined its course, and found a hole about 20 feet square, where it first touched the land, with pure peat turned out on the lea as if it had been cut out with a huge knife. This was only a minute’s work, and, as well as I could judge, it did not occupy fully that time. It next made a drain about 20 perches in length and 4 feet deep, afterwards ploughing up the surface about 1 foot deep, and again tearing away the bank of the stream about 5 perches in length and 5 feet deep, and then hurling the immense mass into the bed of the stream, it flew into the opposite peaty brink. From its appearance till it buried itself could not have been more than 20 minutes, during which it travelled leisurely, as if floating, with an undulating motion through the air and land over one mile. It appeared at first to be a bright red globular ball of fire, about 2 feet in diameter, but its bulk became rapidly less, particularly after each dip in the soil, so that it appeared not more than 3 inches in diameter when it finally disappeared. The sky overhead was clear at that time, but about one hour afterwards it became as dark as midnight. Thunder and lightning accompanied the darkness, and such torrents of rain fell as I have never seen fall before or since, except on the 5th of August this year (1877), when another waterspout fell on the village of Church Hill. On the 20th June, 1877, two waterspouts fell near Bintwilly, which is 1,112 feet above sea level. From time immemorial this hill has been famous for waterspouts, as its name indicates – The Mountain of Floods. Flying clouds passed by it till about 11 a.m. After this they settled upon its summit, and gradually darkened until the mountain became obscured in pitch darkness, lit up occasionally by lightning, succeeded by thunder.
About 12.30 a vivid flash of lightning struck and tore up the hill-side for a considerable distance between the Bintwilly and Meenirroy road. This was immediately followed by a loud peal of thunder, and succeeded by such a torrent of rain that the flood came rushing abreast down along the whole mountain side about 6 feet high, carrying everything before it. The rain lasted only 15 minutes, and then the sky and the mountain became as clear as ever. The brightness was, however, of short duration, for the clouds soon collected again over and around Bintwilly; but this time the darkest clouds (some of which were as black as ink) rested over Glendoan until about 1 o’clock p.m., when a flash of lightning tore up the solid rocky bed of Crologhy River. Thunder and torrents of rain followed immediately. The rain of the first waterspout was confined to the south side of Bintwilly, while that of the second extended from the summit of Glenveagh Mountains to Bintwilly. The area of the first rainfall was about half a mile square; the second followed the south side of the mountain range through a space about three miles long and a quarter of a mile wide. The second waterspout lasted about 20 minutes; and both in the course of 35 minutes destroyed over £2,000 worth of county property on the roads.
Fitzgerald, M. (1878) Notes on the Occurrence of Globular Lightning and Waterspouts in County Donegal, Ireland, Quarterly Journal of the Royal Meteorological Society, 4 (27), 160 - 161

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Dark Days and a Phantom Town

Some Fortean events are memorable because of the reactions they provoked. Fear. Terror. Wonder. Awe. Confusion. Disbelief. Loose bowels.
With that in mind, I believe that the following events are worth remembering, not because they are the most mystifying of Fortean incidents - they’re obviously not, all have been readily explained - but because of how they made the witnesses feel.


On Saturday, 6 August 1927, just before 11am, a strange darkness fell over the town of Coleraine. It had been a sunny morning, but very quickly, homes and businesses were resorting to “artificial illumination.” 
The darkness had a strange quality. The town’s older residents had never seen anything like it before. And though the town was never in total darkness, and the incident lasted only 10 minutes, it had quite an effect on the people of Coleraine. According to The Derry Journal: “The strange occurrence, which was the subject of general conversation, greatly disturbed many people, some imagining that ‘The Last Day” was at hand.”
Some thunder and heavy rain brought the event to a close. 
It would be easy to mock the good people of Coleraine. But a few years later …
Sunday, 16 January 1955, had been a “slightly foggy” day in London until “a belt of darkness” descended and plunged some parts of the city into “pitch black” darkness. It was so dark that “people caught in the unlit streets groped their way along fences and walls.”
Some women queuing outside East Croydon Bus Station screamed when the darkness reached its peak. A woman carrying a baby dropped to her knees and prayed. While outside Croydon Town Hall, a man was shouting: “This is the end of the world.”
There was nothing to worry about, of course. According to the Weather Bureau, it was “a cloud composed of London smoke which became trapped between a northerly wind and a south-easterly. The temperature was such that it descended in a dense cloud, between a mile and two miles across.”
They added: “Such a concentration of smoke, although not unique, is a rare phenomenon.”
Like the earlier Coleraine incident, the London darkness lasted about 10 minutes.


At 3pm on Sunday, 2 August 1908, a small town appeared on the sea, about 6 -7 miles from Ballyconnelly, in Connemara. 
Individual houses could be discerned. There was a mix of sizes and architectural styles. Some houses had been “dismantled,” leading one journalist to opine: “ … as if even this strange land of sunshine on the crest of the western ocean had been the scene of misery and devastation.”
The town remained visible until 6pm.
Only a handful of people saw the town appear. But by the time it disappeared, hundreds lined the shore. And though many regarded the phenomenon “as the reflections in the water of some city far away,” just as many were disappointed that the town had not come to stay.
“The crowd gazing anxiously out on the ocean from the shore wondered if their eyes had not betrayed them, but they had all seen the vision in the broad daylight only a few miles from the shore, and they regarded the legend of ‘Hy-Brazil’ as no longer an imaginative story from the region of fables.”
The Belfast Weekly News, 13 August 1908
The Derry Journal, 8 August 1927
The Dundee Courier and Advertiser, 17 January 1955

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Random Fortean Stuff

I laboured long and hard over this introduction. But I have flu and I’m eager to get back to feeling sorry for myself. So, here’s some random Fortean stuff:


On 1 September 1854, Hugh McCartney was working in a field near the townland of Duntybrian, in County Derry, when he saw an object fluttering out of the sky. He thought it was a white butterfly and watched its progress until it landed. “To his astonishment it proved to be a white stone, one ounce in weight, and the exact shape of a boy’s kite.”
According to the report in the Limerick and Clare Examiner, the stone looked like flint but may have been calcined gypsum, and the markings on the “kite” were “like what might be done with a chisel, or by the long continuous action of water.”
Limerick and Clare Examiner, 6 September 1854


In August 1883, while demolishing a house on Bishop Street in Derry, workers found a hand hidden between the ceiling and the roof. Though the hand had been “torn from the wrist,” it  “was in an excellent state of preservation” and was “evidently that of a female of good position.” According to The Belfast Weekly News, the nails on the hand were “three-eighths of an inch longer than an ordinary finger nail.”
And on Tuesday, 8 May 1906, a policeman found a woman’s hand in Belfast’s Ormeau Park. According to The Dublin Daily Express, “Enquiries are proceeding into the matter, but there is no explanation forthcoming as yet.”
The Belfast Weekly News, 18 August 1883
The Dublin Daily Express, 9 May 1906


On the evening of Wednesday, 31 October 1906, Eliza Gillespie (12) and Willie Thompson (10) claim that, while playing “in the vicinity of East Twin Island,” they saw a policeman kill himself. They said he took of his tunic and wrapped it around a large stone, hung it from his neck with a piece of cord and walked into the water, where he disappeared. 
The area was searched immediately but no body was found; and enquiries at police stations failed to find anyone unaccounted for. 
The Irish Independent, 3 November 1906


In the current issue of Phenomena Magazine (available free at, Cormac Strain reports on the Legend Seekers' investigation of an alleged UFO crash in the Curlew Mountains, near the County Roscommon village of Boyle, in May 1996. 

The article, The Star That Fell, is well worth a look. And if you’re interested in reading more, try Conspiracy of Silence: UFOs in Ireland, by Dermot Butler and Carl Nally, or Paranormal Ireland by Dara de Faoite. Both books have chapters on the Boyle incident.
Phenomena Magazine, December 2017 (Issue 104)

Sunday, 7 January 2018

New Year Clear Out!

I thought I’d begin 2018 with a bit of a clear out.
Since beginning this blog, I have accumulated a pile of news items that, though interesting, I haven’t been able to use on the blog. Most of these stories ended up in the pile for one of three reasons: they weren’t really Fortean (even though I have adopted quite a broad definition for the blog); they didn’t happen in Ireland; or they were just too short to publish as standalone posts (Fortean Ireland may be free, but I like to give value for money).
Anyway, I feel that most of these stories are too good to waste. So, here are two from the pile. I hope you enjoy them.


On a November day in 1945, on a beach near Angry, County Donegal, a small child found a corked bottle. It had a message inside:
“This is a note. I hope it will be picked up by someone so that they will let my mother know. It is from her son who is at present aboard HMS Hood. They are coming fast mother. I have no time to write anymore. Good-bye mother.”
The note was signed: “Donal McDonald, Ben Becula, Craitoney, South Uist.”
Sinking of HMS Hood by J.C. Schmitz-Westerholt
The HMS Hood had been destroyed at the Battle of the Denmark Strait in 1941. The loss of the Hood was a major blow to the British war effort, and the cost in lives was immense. Of the 1418 men on board that day, all but three perished.
So when Donal McDonald’s note was passed to local woman Bella Boyle, it must have weighed heavily on her that this note was from one of those terrified sailors – a sailor who had reached out to his mother in his final moments.
She immediately sent a copy to the address given by the sailor.
Given the nature of the message, Mrs Boyle may have expected a reply from a very grateful Mrs McDonald. But she didn’t get one.
And she never would. A journalist, intrigued by the story, travelled to the small island in the Outer Hebrides and discovered that, though there were four McDonalds living on Ben Becula, none of them were connected to a Donal McDonald. In fact, no one knew of a Donal McDonald.
Who - or what - was behind this cruel trick was never discovered.
Belfast News-Letter, 20 November 1945
The Londonderry Sentinel, 20 November 1945


Ghosts don’t usually surrender, but that’s exactly what happened near Kilkenny in 1883.
In January of that year, a ghost began haunting a stretch of road on the outskirts of the town, frightening people and horses alike. But the sudden appearance of a ghost made some of the locals very suspicious.
And so, one night, a “party of young men” set out to solve the mystery.
They had no luck that first night, but on the following night their luck changed – as did the ghost’s. They found the spook at its usual haunt, appropriately robed in ghostly white. And as the men - who were all armed with stout sticks - approached, the ghost tried to scare them off with a couple of “woos.”
Sensing – quite correctly – that these men were immune to “woos”, the ghost made a break for it. But after a bit of a chase – three quarters of a mile, to be exact - the very exhausted ghost surrendered.
And what was the ghost? It was just a man looking for a job; a man who believed that the best way to get a job was to scare the current jobholder into retirement.
The “ghost” was very lucky: he was unmolested and the mob let him go instead of handing him over to the police.
Usually, though, these things don’t end well. For example, in 1875, in Hampton Wick, a fifteen-year-old shop boy called Frank Williams was sentenced to one month in prison with hard labour after he was unmasked as the stone-throwing ghost that had plagued a local shop owner.
And in 1926, an ex-soldier received multiple stab wounds after he covered himself with a white tablecloth and walked up to the sentry on duty at a Royal Marines base in Deal, Kent.
Belfast Telegraph, 30 September 1875
Dublin Daily Express, 19 January 1883
Larne Times, 20 November 1926