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