Sunday, 29 April 2018

Lights Out at the Boxer's House

Not the boxer's house - just a lovely old thatched cottage.
Ian Edwards [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Back in January 2017, I posted the story “Baffling Lights at the Boxer’s House.” In short, in March 1936, in the townland of Aughamullan, County Tyrone, mysterious lights were appearing nightly in the former home of the recently deceased Michael Quinn. The Northern Whig newspaper sent a representative to the area, and “Baffling Lights at the Boxer’s House” was a facsimile of his report.
Recently, I came across another story about the events in Aughamullan.

Coalisland Ghost Story
To scare boys who were taking part in a late night shooting competition for a clock in the townland of Aughamullan, Coalisland, last week, three or four young men set their plan, which had more than the desired effect. People talked about what they had seen at an empty house, and of the mysterious lights which had twinkled at night, so much so that the story, which lost nothing in the telling, enticed a representative of the English Press to visit the scene for a bit of “copy,” and on Monday morning the English and Irish newspapers gave prominence to the following story, which was told in all sincerity to their representatives.
Aughamullan, which is on the shores of Lough Neagh, and the most populous townland in Dungannon Union, has become a centre of attraction by reason of the fact that in a house, now vacant, mysterious lights appear nightly.
When a Press representative visited the farmstead neighbours spoke with awe of the strange happenings.
James Herron, the nearest resident, said the former owner, Michael Quinn, who resided alone, visited his house about a fortnight ago and got a bag of turf which he carried home. Mr Herron’s son, Patrick, accompanied the old man, who was suffering from a severe cold, to the end of the laneway leading to the house. Next morning, when passing, he heard moans from inside the door of the farmhouse. He found Quinn lying, still clutching the bag of turf, and the old man died a few hours later. After the funeral lights appeared nightly at the two front windows, and seemed to move from the kitchen to the room and back again. He had seen the lights in the middle of the night.
At this point the story was taken up by Bernard McStravock, the local blacksmith, who is also a neighbour. Bernard said upwards of 400 people now assembled nightly to watch the lights. On Friday night several young men volunteered to search the house. As they approached the lights went out and a thorough search inside was made without discovering the cause. When they went back to the road the lights again appeared, and were brighter than ever.
A passing motorist put forward the theory that the lights were the reflex from the lighted windows of neighbouring houses, and all windows were blinded with meal bags, but it made no difference.
McStravock added that he was not personally uneasy about the lights, but the womenfolk were becoming alarmed. Quinn, he said, was a sturdily built man, had always loved a “scrap,” and had been in the ring in several parts of England and Scotland in his earlier days.
McStravock and others accompanied the Press representative to the house, which is mud-walled with thatched roof. The furniture is still there, and the kitchen dresser contains the usual quantity of delph and ornaments.
On Saturday night over 500 people again congregated at the little farm, which contains four-and-a-half acres. At 10pm, a bright light suddenly appeared in the kitchen window and resembled a spotlight. It was seen to move to the other front window, suggesting someone going about the rooms. Neighbours again thoroughly searched the building without result.
“Courier and News” Interview
A representative of the “Courier and News” (Dungannon) interviewed a well-known young man in that district, who stated that the whole thing was done for a joke.
“And, mind you,” he said, “it put the wind up some of the boys.”
The whole thing happened like this. Somebody bought a clock from a man going round. It was decided to have a shooting match for the clock. The competition began in a house near where Michael Quinn lived, and often there is a certain amount of talk about a house in which a lone man dies. Knowing that the boys were coming home late at night from the shooting match, several boys set out to scare them. They got into Quinn’s house, put a lighted candle inside a jam-pot to prevent it doing any harm, and placed it near the window, and when the “shooters” were leaving they saw the light and very soon established the belief that it could only be a ghost. Next day it was the talk of the country, and on the following night the mysterious light was placed in the empty house at a different window, and the townland at large began to talk about “the lights.” It soon became known that a relative of Quinn’s was making inquiries into the whole affair, and offered a good “hiding” to the first man caught acting the “johnnie,” and so the ghost story ends.
  • The Mid-Ulster Mail, 4 April 1936

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

And on that farm he had a ghost

It’s not easy being a farmer – or so I’m told. Between the early starts and late finishes, the mounting costs of feed and energy, the volatility of livestock prices, and having to “keep ‘er country” even though you don’t really want to, it really is a hard knock life.
With a "woo woo" here and a "woo woo" there ...
And then there are the ghosts.
Yes, that’s right: when it comes to hauntings, no one has suffered more than our farmers.
The first story comes from Cormeen, in County Monaghan, where, in 1908, a farmer – identified only as Hawthorne - and his family were being haunted by a ghostly “lady dressed in white.” She appeared on a nightly basis and would peer in through the windows before running through the house opening and closing doors. According to the Belfast News-Letter, she behaved “as if the place belonged to her, and she was paying a visit of inspection.” She never stayed long, though, “passing out of sight as suddenly as she came.” And she never “interfered” with any of the Hawthorne’s.
But the family were terrified and would only stay in the house at night if there were lights in every room. And the lights seemed to keep the “lady” away. But the family wanted a more permanent solution - so they moved to South Africa.
A few years later, in 1919, “great excitement” was caused by “ghostly manifestations” at a farmer’s house in the Clady district of County Donegal. The farmer – whose name isn’t given in the report – had recently bought the house from another farmer, a man who had always kept one room in the house locked. When the new owner unlocked this room, according to the Dublin Evening Telegraph, “this act is said to have disturbed a ghost, and caused it to show itself to people in the neighbourhood.”
As well as showing itself to people, the ghost was also fond of pulling the covers off beds. However, the only description of the ghost comes from the following – dubious in so many ways – story:
“A story is also told of a man who was going home with a load of coal. When his horse and load were passing the place where they mysterious figure was seen, the animal became frightened, and refused to go any further. The driver became alarmed at the state of affairs, but on collecting his wits, and looking through the space between the horse’s ears, he saw in front of him the figure of a large black man. The horse afterwards becoming frightened, bolted off, and smashed the shafts of the cart.”
Finally, in 1906, in Mullaghmena, County Tyrone, a farming family became the victims of some classic poltergeist phenomena. Or, as The Derry Journal put it, a farmer’s house “in that locality was under the spell of some evil or uncanny spirit.”
In December of that year, at about midnight each night, the family would be woken by a “queer noise.” And immediately following the “queer noise,” stones would rain down on the exterior of the house. Some of the stones would make their way into the house “in some mysterious way, the windows and doors being closed.”
After a few nights of this, the police began patrolling the area. And even though they were present on at least one occasion when it was raining stones, the police were at a loss to explain it.
“All the people in the district are terrified,” reported The Derry Journal, “and will not pass the house after night, but prefer to take a much longer route to their homes. Although the police have been very vigorous in their investigations they have not been able to obtain the slightest clue which might unravel the mystery.”
  • Belfast News-Letter, 5 November 1908
  • The Derry Journal, 17 December 1906
  • Dublin Evening Telegraph, 28 February 1919