“My Connemara Ghost” By J.E.M.

ghost story

“My Connemara Ghost” was first published in “The People’s Friend” in January 1910.

As with a few of these stories, the author is something of a mystery. The story was simply attributed to “J.E.M.”

Judging by its position in the magazine, and this reticence to include a full name, it could be that the story was written by a member of staff, to fill up some blank space in an issue.

Nevertheless, we like it. And we hope you like it too!

Almost immediately after my marriage, a good many years ago now, I accompanied my husband, who was a Resident Magistrate, to his district, which lay in the heart of beautiful Connemara.

It was a great change to me, accustomed as I had been to all the gaieties and bustle of a large city, but very soon I learned to love the delightful freedom of my Irish country life and to feel and fully appreciate the undeniable charm of the people.

The brooding melancholy characteristic of the lovely scenery took a firm hold of my heart and imagination, and I found it easy to understand the quaint superstitions and beliefs of the peasantry.

When driving along at night in our side car I caught the pale ghost-like gleam of light on a distant pool, and listened to the faint musical trickle of water in the bog, or the soft sighing whisper of the tall bulrushes suddenly caressed by some wandering breeze.

Our very unpretentious house, square and white-washed, was rather lonely, as it stood in its own grounds some distance from and looking down on the poor little village, so my husband was anxious that I should have a friend to stay with me when on the last day of the year he was obliged to go to Galway on official business, which would detain him there for a few days.

However, I laughed at his suggestion that I might be afraid to stay alone in the house with only our two young maids, for I did not consider myself a nervous woman and saw no cause at all for fear.

It was raining heavily when he drove away in the morning and continued to do so all day without ceasing. Unable to get out I became heartily tired of my own company and went upstairs to bed much earlier than usual and fell asleep almost immediately.

Suddenly I awoke with a start. Striking a light I saw from the little clock near that it was just twelve.

“The very witching hour,” I thought, leaning back on my pillows and feeling pleasantly inclined to fall asleep again.

The wind had risen, and now drove great masses of black cloud violently across a pale, ineffectual moon.

Hearing drowsily the dash of the rain against the window panes and the mournful wail of the wind about the house, I became conscious of another sound, a curious dull, hollow roll which seemed to come from the dining room beneath.

Raising myself on my elbow I listened intently, and again heard that most unaccountable sound. What could it be?

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Jumping out of bed, I slipped on a dressing-gown and thrust my feet into a pair of soft slippers, my first impulse being to awaken the servants, but alas! I knew by experience what a difficult feat that was; besides, I would have to pass the dining room to get to them.

So taking matches and a candle I opened my door and went out on to the landing, and leaning over the balustrade gazed fearfully down into the dark well of the staircase, but nothing was to be seen, and all was quiet for a minute.

Then again came that strange rolling noise, this time accompanied by a dull thud!

I felt that I must ascertain the cause of these sounds, and with fast-beating heart and shaking knees crept downstairs as softly as I could, when suddenly there was a sharp clink of glass, so distinct that I knew the dining room door must be open, though no light came from it.

Then a new fear seized me, and all the most horrible ghost stories I had ever heard crowded confusedly back to my memory. Could it be that some former inhabitants of the house had returned in spirit to their earthly haunts, and were now “seeing the New Year in” more convivially than it was possible to do in their last drear abode by pledging each other in my husband’s best whisky?

With hands that trembled so I could scarcely strike a match I lit my candle and, pushing the door further open, went boldly in.

The homely sounds of the clock ticking on the mantelpiece fell soothingly on my excited nerves, and raising the light I looked apprehensively about, but neither ghost nor robber was to be seen.

The windows were closed and shuttered, and the room looked exactly as I had left it.

Just then I heard a soft “miouw”, and one of my Persian kittens came and rubbed itself caressingly against my feet.

As I glanced at it I was again startled by the odd rolling sound. Peering down into the shadows whence it seemed to proceed, I saw an oval soda water bottle rolling along the polished floor with my other kitten in full pursuit!

After cannoning against a second bottle, the first one ended its wild career with a dull thud against the wooden skirting of the wall.

This, then, was the prosaic cause of my absurd fear!

Two of these bottles had been put down at the end of the sideboard, and the kittens, finding how easily the rolled on the smooth surface, had had an exciting midnight game!

Suppressing a sudden hysterical inclination to laugh, I fled upstairs again and threw myself on the bed, but the feeling of giddiness and singing in my ears, and the cold perspiration that broke out on my forehead told me how very real the strain on my nerves had been.

The cheerful morning sunshine was streaming in on me when I woke, and I felt greatly ashamed of my ridiculous panic of the night, but since that experience I have been much more lenient in my judgement on the woman with nerves.

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Iain McDonald

Iain is Digital Content Editor at the "Friend", making him responsible for managing flow of interesting and entertaining content on the magazine's website and social media channels.