Tuesday, March 17, 2009

St. Patrick's Spooky Emerald Isle...

Today, we celebrate St. Patrick's Day in much of the world. Some rivers flow green like the lager at festive pubs. Covers and leprechauns reign supreme in the streets. We try our best at speaking Gaelic only to butcher the words with alcohol-tainted breath. And for a brief while, many people consider themselves unofficial "citizens" of Ireland (or √Čire, if you want to be precise).

Legends loon large in Ireland. Many of us know about tales of the mischievous, not-so-friendly leprechaun and the bean sidhe ("banshee") wailing as a harbinger of death. Iconic images of nature spirits and ghosts permeate our recollections of Irish culture. The soft, warm, sweet scent of burning peat on a cold day drifts our thoughts to haunting legends, forgotten Druid culture, and empty castles.

Ghost stories are abundant in Irish mythology and folktales. Entire websites are devoted to the paranormal lore. On Irelandseye.com, you can find an abundance of information on the country as well as its spooky places. The site offers a webcam for the Leprechaun Watch where you can try your luck at capturing a glimpse of nature spirits; for those solely interested in departed souls, the GhostWatch section tells the tragic haunting of Helena Bunden at a linen mill, complete with sightings of her ghosts and a few incredibly EVPs.

Visitors to Ireland can enjoy many tours and haunted places. One story—the execution and subsequent haunting of Bishop John Atherton—I have included in my upcoming book. But there are too many others out there, waiting to be read about and experienced. Dublin is one such extremely haunted city. And from Dublin, there's the interesting story of a haunted site: the former location of a theater.

Fishamble Street Theatre, near the remnants of Proudfoote's Castle, opened back in 1741. It is still remembered today as the site of the premiere preformance of Handel's Messiah. Many great performers graced its walls and left their impressions on the building. The haunted history of the playhouse began in the early 1800s when strange knockings were frequently heard, centered around the Green Room. Every night at 10:00 precisely, the sounds would be heard emanating from the wall for fifteen minutes. The story survived through oral tradition from a worker in the mid-19th century and was later written about in John Dunne's A Ghost Watcher's Guide to Ireland. Most of Fishamble Street has been leveled, yet the story survives. A wide range of other Dublin haunts, including Fishamble, can be found on the Paranormal Database.

So don't let the Guinness cloud your mind too much on this holiday. There are spirits out there, looming among the gravestones and ruins between the Atlantic Ocean and the Irish Sea. If you can't be there, just snuggle up in bed tonight with a good book of Irish ghost stories.

1 comment:

Jeanne said...

Hi Ken
When my husband and I honeymooned in Ireland, we know that we experienced some inexplicable events.
It started in the West of Ireland at a cemetery in Aghadoe. It was a Protestant one and as we took pictures I got the distinct feeling that we weren't wanted there. We shrugged it off and went on to our next stop to Yeats' tower. It's actually an old mill where he and his wife, Georgiana lived. We took pictures of the place and his grave. Then visited Westport House, another Protestant place. As my husband stood at the bottom of the double-winged staircase to take a picture, he saw that the film count had stopped moving. Instead of going into a darkened room and try to save the roll, he ripped open the back of the camera and exposed the entire roll of film.
I watched him do this from the top of the stairs and it was as if he was moving in slow motion.
He told me later that he felt as if someone else was directing him.
Of all the over 200 pictures we took, this was the only roll we lost.
And this was the roll that had the cemetery on it.