This week, my article “Six ghosts to make the headlines” appeared in the Irish Examiner newspaper. It included an 1853 incident from Cork, where it was believed that a ghost was stoning a cottage. There was more to this story than I could cover in the limited space of the article (I only had about 200 words per story). So, I’m posting an earlier draft of this one; it includes some additional details, including the ghost’s raison d’être.
I hope you enjoy.
On the evening of Tuesday, 13 September 1853, a crowd of 2,000 gathered at St Finbarr’s Cemetery in Cork City to wait for a ghost that was supposedly making its way there from the Quaker Cemetery.
The ghost was that of a Quaker lady who had been buried in the Quaker Cemetery, and not St Finbarr’s, as she’d wanted. And every night since her burial, she had been throwing stones at the home of Mr Hughes, whose only crime was living in the cottage adjoining the Quaker Cemetery.
It was a crazy story, but it took hold and spread very, very quickly. And after the first night of ghostly vandalism, hundreds began gathering at the Quaker Cemetery in the hope of seeing the ghost.
RIC Head Constable Crowley was desperate to solve the mystery. In a meeting with the mayor, he reported that he had uniformed officers on crowd control duty and plain-clothes officers mingling with the crowds to find the culprit. He had a list of all those living in the area and he planned to bring every one on of them in for questioning. He was also using his own money to bribe people for information.
But despite Crowley’s best efforts, the invisible stone thrower continued its nightly antics - and the crowds continued to grow.
It peaked on the evening of Tuesday, 13 September, when crowds gathered to see the ghost make its own way to St Finbarr’s.
The ghost never appeared, of course.
While the nightly stone throwing continued, the press lost interest. But Head Constable Crowley didn’t. He had men hiding in the area, and at 5pm on Friday, 14 October, one of his officers finally caught the culprit in the act.
It was Catherine McCarthy, the Hughes’s servant.
When she appeared in court the following day, McCarthy, whom one paper described as a “dirty looking Cinderella,” offered no plausible reason for her actions.
The Constitution, 15 September and 18 October 1853
The Cork Southern Reporter, 15 October 1853
The Limerick and Clare Examiner, 17 September 1853