There are few things as enjoyable as a really good ghost story, but, unfortunately, the interest created means an unhappy time for the victims.
This is the case at Articlave, near Castlerock, which I visited on Tuesday, writes our representative.
Here, for the last five months, according to the occupants of a house there, mysterious happenings, have been going on, and visitors have come from all over Northern Ireland to get to close quarters with something, which, they say, has never been accounted for, and the result has been that Mr and Mrs Ross, the tenants of the place, have had their house full almost every night for about a month.
Wildly exaggerated stories of occurrences at the house have been spread abroad, and whilst it is all very entertaining and amusing the plight of the family has been forgotten by the public.
To end this annoyance the family, who are of a highly-respectable class, have closed the door to all curiosity-mongers, and especially reporters, who are taboo, and anybody who goes there in future will see or hear nothing, for they will not be admitted.
The family are tired of the unwelcome publicity given them, and effective measures have been taken to stop them.
In fact, the door would not have been opened to me had the occupants known who I was, but, after explaining that my mission was to help draw attention to the position of the family, and after a lot of persuasion on the relatives I was admitted to the ‘haunted house.’
Mrs Ross explained to me that she had been greatly annoyed through reports appearing in the Press gained under false pretences.
At any rate I am able to state that I believe the affair is passing away now, and as there has been little recurrence of the mysterious happenings since Christmas, there is little doubt that in a short it will be forgotten. By the time I had reached the house I was ready to believe anything.
Seated comfortably before a roaring fire in the hospitable home of the Rosses my first impression was that the family were coming though their painful ordeal, which would drive most people crazy, extremely well.
They were perfectly calm, and went about their duties as if nothing had ever happened in their house, whereas stories as related by them were enough to raise the hair on the head of the most incredulous.
Apparently in September last there was a mysterious burning, quite explainable in itself, but not when followed by the happenings such as the nightly pin-pricking of Jean, the little daughter of the house, with pins, moving of their own volition; utensils, such as cans, hurling themselves through space without any apparent propelling force, and the slashing of coats as if by knives.
Those are the whole facts, and I found of sifting and thoroughly investigating various accounts which I had heard that as actually stated here they are correct.
What amazed me and everybody who has been in the house is the astoundingly calm manner in which everything is discussed by this family, and this says much for their nerves.
Had I experienced one-tenth of what was related to me I might not have recovered from the shock to tell the tale.
When I left the house on Tuesday evening after being there about three hours under its kindly roof I confess I was almost persuaded there was really ‘something in it’ and I felt sorry for the people concerned.
But when one has slept on a thing like this and weighed up all the evidence as I did yesterday and consulted with highly respectable people in Londonderry who were present when tests were carried out, as I did last night, one begins to see that there is little that could not be rather easily explained and the good people of the house need not be alarmed.
Sitting in that house on Tuesday for three hours, and although surrounded by friendly folk, one would expect something to happen if things were as stated, but there was not the least disturbance of any kind, and nothing appeared so remote. Nor was there any air of tension or expectancy on my part.
During my stay the little girl came tripping in from school, and a brighter, more intelligent girl I have seldom seen. She seemed even above the average intelligence for eleven years.
I questioned her, but never caught her out. It was strange, however, that the jagging with the pins never occurred when she was asleep, a natural time for any evilly-disposed opponent.
The pricking went on sometimes while the girl was sitting at the fire, and the pins are supposed to be different from those used by the household.
It was explained to me that while a stranger was in the house there would be no pricking, and I promptly pointed out that at such a time the girl’s mind would be directed away from herself.
There being no signs of pricking in the kitchen, I suggested that the girl should be put in bed as an experiment, but unfortunately the bed was not prepared then.
I was then willing to wait until bedtime, but the girl was being taken away to another district that night.
Only sometimes was there pricking when the girl was away on her last holiday a short time ago, and nothing was left behind her.
What is the real explanation of the pricking is hard to say, but it is clear there is a mischievous spirit about, although not necessarily supernatural.
A solution, which is worth a trial, and which should help, would be a change of environment for the girl for a considerable period, and those in the house on Tuesday readily agreed to that suggestion, as the girl needs building up, they said.
Another most peculiar thing is that the pins appeared through the bed clothes and also the girl’s clothing point first.
One cannot jag with the head of a pin.
When I queried this statement the unsatisfactory answer was given that some of the pins were knitting needles.
When I entered the house I was a little bit nervous, or rather, expectant, and it was certainly surprising and pleasing not to see the occupants starting at every sound or with nerves frayed.
When I left I was frankly puzzled but, I had one strong belief, and this was, fortunately, confirmed up to the hilt, when by pure accident last night I met and discussed with people of standing in Londonderry, who had watched experiments on a number of occasions in the girls’ bedroom, the whole circumstances.
These gentlemen, one of them really anxious to meet something supernatural, or a spirit of some sort, paid several visits and watched and assisted in experiments but to say the least, the results were not only negative but farcical.
Tappings, which were heard in the house were accounted for quite simply, and were apparently of human origin.
The answers - ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ code, arranged by the spirit were only available for the most childish questions.
The slashing of the front of a coat, which I was shown, the ‘flying’ of boots and shoes and caps into the fire are quite possibly, and probably due to human agency, but there appears to be no evidence as to any person or persons having a motive for playing these tricks.
Members of the family have suffered a great deal of annoyance over the affair, according to their statements, and whoever is responsible ought to feel ashamed of themselves at the mischief they are working.
Again, there has been mention of little fires in various parts of the house, but what an extraordinary thing it is that not one of these fires has gained much headway, and always they have been extinguished in a few minutes, before any great damage is done.
The pins which are doing night-pricking are different from those used in the house but it is easily proved there is nothing devilish about them. Last night I met in Londonderry a man who had carried out several tests and seized two of the pins. He had had them in his house ever since, and two more inoffensive pins were never made. There they repose in a drawer without any ill-will towards anybody.
However, the occurrences have not been had since Christmas, and Mrs Ross is hopeful that they will die away, never to return. A thorough test is what is wanted, but it seems clear to the family themselves never tried that,
The purpose of this article is to help, not to amuse the curious, and if it has the effect of keeping away the plague of unwanted visitors and to aid in the solution it will have achieved its aim.
These are the full facts, honestly stated and commented upon and nothing remains but to thank Mrs Ross and certain members of the household for their kindness and for an interesting afternoon.
The police are taking no interest in ‘the ghost’ now, but they did go to the house on once occasion, and there is an amusing story, although it is probably on par with all the other silly yarns about cows riding on bicycles, pigs with tall hats and smoking and playing banjos, which have been foolishly circulated.
The story, which appeared in a Coleraine newspaper, is that a constable was left alone in the kitchen to keep a lookout.
He was sitting gazing into the fire in his stockinged soles when a voice came out of the shadows and said - ‘There is only you and me here.’
The constable said nothing, but thought his ears had deceived him. Again the voice, this time quite close, repeated - ‘There is only you and me here.’
The constable was alarmed, and, making a grab for his boots, he replied - ‘Wait a second until I get my boots and there will only be you here.’
There is nobody who had investigated the circumstances but would agree with the sentiments expressed in the letter from ‘Unbeliever’ in last Saturday’s Sentinel.
This article, which first appeared in the Sentinel on Thursday, January 10, was unearthed by local historian Trevor Temple during his researches.