Friday 25 October 2013

Ghost Stories of 17th Century Down and Antrim

by W. Pinkerton.

THE popular legends, impressions, and beliefs of our forefathers, with respect to matters which, for want of a better word, I may term supernatural, are neither the least instructive nor the least interesting of the subjects legitimately comprised within the wide domain of the archaeologist; and as, probably, they are disappearing faster than other more substantial relics of the olden time, a notice of a few of them may be worthy of a place in this Journal, and may "point a moral," if it do not altogether "adorn a tale."

Some five and-thirty years ago, the story of "Haddock's ghost," as it was popularly termed, was pretty generally known by the old inhabitants of the humbler class in Belfast. Whether it be still a fire-side legend in that much improved town, or its recital be now confined to winter nights, turf fires, and terrified listeners at the "Drumbridge," I have no opportunity of knowing. But having, when a child, had the questionable advantage of sitting, fascinated for hours, at the feet of a very Gamaliel in ghost-lore, I well remember the traditionary story; and it may be interesting to compare it with, and observe how much it differs from, that which may be termed the official record. The latter may be found in a rare and little-known work, Joseph Glanvil's Saducismus Triumphalus [1]

Glanvil was a man of great piety and learning, a voluminous writer, and rector of the Abbey Church at Bath. He was also one of the earlier Fellows of the Royal Society, and, by his strenuously advocating the then new system of experimental philosophy -- the appeal to living nature and demonstrable fact -- against the dogmatic and mystical philosophy of Aristotle, did good service in the cause of infant science, while he involved himself in controversies which lasted his life-time. Though he had thus surmounted some of the prejudices of his period, he still had a firm belief, founded on strong religious principles, in ghosts and witches; and there being, even then, a sceptical feeling on these matters, greatly advanced by Webster's work, The Displaying of Supposed Witchcraft[2] Glanvil thought it his duty to write the Saducismus Triumphatus, as an antidote to what he termed the growing Sadduceism and Atheism of the age. For, just as geologists have, in our own days, been termed Atheists, so this ready expression was, in the seventeenth century, as illiberally applied to the humane individuals who endeavoured to abolish the practice of burning silly girls and crazy old women for the alleged crime of witchcraft. Glanvil, being cut off by a fever in his forty-fourth year, did not live to publish this work, but it was edited by a friend and kindred spirit, Dr. Henry More, also a clergyman and voluminous writer of the period. Bishop Burnet says that More was "an open-hearted and sincere Christian philosopher, who studied to establish men in the great principles of religion against atheism, which was then beginning to gain ground, chiefly by reason of the hypocrisy of some, and the fantastical conceits of the more sincere enthusiasts."[3] We now come to learn how this Irish ghost-story found its way into an English book. More had been tutor to Sir John Finch, and also to his sister, who married Edward, Earl of Conway, third Viscount of Kilultagh. Lady Conway, who corresponded with her old tutor, wrote More an account of the matter from Lisburn, where she then resided with her husband. Subsequently, More wrote to a Mr. Alcock, secretary to the celebrated Bishop Jeremy Taylor, for a fuller relation, and it is Alcock's reply that I have termed the "official account," in contradistinction to the traditionary story of Haddock's ghost.

I may just add, here, that Lady Conway was an excellent Latin scholar, and a woman of great abilities and acquirements; and, as a clue to her character, I may further observe that she was a patron of the empiric Valentine Greatrakes, who resided with her for a considerable period at Ragley, her seat in Warwickshire. Van Helmont,[4] too, a mystical and paradoxical writer on medicine and philosophy, who was said to have discovered the philosophers' stone, lived with her at Ragley until her death. Though at last, greatly to the distress of Dr. More, she adopted the religious principles of the Society of Friends, she left her old tutor £400.

Having cleared away this preliminary matter, I now come to Alcock's "relation."

"At Michaelmas, 1662, Francis Taverner, about twenty-five years old, a lusty, proper, stout, tall fellow, then a servant at large (afterwards porter) to the Lord Chichester, Earl of Donegall, at Belfast, in the North of Ireland, county of Antrim, and diocese of Connor, riding late in the night from Hilbrough homeward, near Drum-bridge his horse, though of good metal, suddainly made a stand; and he, supposing him to be taken with the staggers, alighted to bloud him at the mouth, and presently mounted again. As he was setting forward, there seemed to pass by him two horsemen, though he could not hear the treading of their feet, which amazed him. Presently there appeared a third, in a white coat, just at his elbow, in the likeness of James Haddock, formerly an inhabitant in Malone, where he died near five years before. Whereupon Taverner askt him, in the name of God, who he was? He replied, I am James Haddock, and you may call to mind by this token: that, about five years ago, I and two other friends were at your father's house, and you, by your father's appointment, brought us some nuts; and therefore be not afraid, says the apparition. Whereupon Taverner, rememb'ring the circumstances, thought it might be Haddock; and those two who passed by before him, he thought to be his two friends with him, when he gave them nuts; courageously askt him why he appeared to him rather than any other. He answered, because he was a man of more resolution than others; and if he would ride his way with him, he would acquaint him with a business he had to deliver him. Which Taverner refused to do, and would go his own way (for they were now at a quadrivial), and so rode on homewards. But immediately on the departure there arose a great wind, and withal he heard very hideous screeches and noises, to his great amazement; but riding forward as fast as he could, he at last heard the cocks crow, to his comfort; he alighted off from his horse, and falling to prayer, desired God's assistance, and so got safe home."

As may be supposed the traditionary story is more imaginative, and is flavoured with a spice of almost poetic horror that is not found in Alcock's parenthetical "relation." According to tradition, Taverner, or Tavney, as I have heard the name pronounced, was a neighbouring farmer, who knew Haddock well in the flesh, but never saw him in the ghostly form, except his hand on an occasion to be presently mentioned. Riding home from Belfast market, Tavney, at a particular part of the road, felt something behind him on his horse. From the mouldy smell of the grave, and the "eery' feeling that came over him, Tavney instinctively knew that his co-rider was something not of this world. Accordingly, he addressed it in the formula prescribed for such occasions -- "In the name of the Father &c. &c. who or what are you?" The reply was, "I am your old friend Haddock," and then the ghost proceeded to relate what caused it to revisit the pale, glimpses of the moon -- namely, the welfare of its son, as related by Alcock, to whom I now return.

"The night after, there appeared again to him the likeness of James Haddock, and bid him go to Elenor Welsh (now the wife of Davis, living at Malone, but formerly the wife of the said James Haddock, by whom she had an onely son, to whom the said James Haddock had, by his will, given a lease which he held of the Lord Chichester, of which the son was deprived by Davis, who had married his mother,) and to ask her if her maiden name was not Elenor Welsh; and if it were, to tell her that it was the will of her former husband, James Haddock, that their son should be righted in the lease. But Taverner, partly loath to gain the ill-will of his neighbours, and partly thinking he should not be credited but lookt on as deluded, long neglected to do his message, till having been every night, for about a month's space, haunted with this apparition in several forms, every night more and more terrible, (which was usually preceded by an unusual trembling over his whole body, and a great change of countenance manifested to his wife, in whose presence frequently the apparition was, though not visible to her), at length he went to Malone to Davis's wife, and askt her whether her maiden name was not Elenor Welsh; if it was, he had something to say to her. She replied there was another Elenor Welsh besides her.[5] Hereupon Taverner returned without delivering his message. The same night, being fast asleep in his bed (for the former apparitions was as he sate by the fire with his wife), by something pressing upon him he was awakened, and saw again the apparition of James Haddock, in a white coat as at other times, who askt him if he had delivered his message. He answered he had been there with Elenor Welsh.[6] Upon which the apparition, looking more pleasantly upon him, bid him not be afraid, and so vanished in a flash of brightness.

"But some nights after (he having not delivered his message), he came again, and appearing in many formidable shapes, threatened to tear him in pieces if he did not do it. This made him leave his house, where he dwelt in the mountains, and betake himself to the town of Belfast, where he sate up all night at one Pierce's house, a shoemaker, accompanied with the said Pierce and a servant or two of the Lord Chichester's, who were desirous to see or hear the spirit.[7] About midnight, as they were all by the fireside, they beheld Taverner's countenance to change, and a trembling to fall on him, who presently espied the apparition in a room, opposite to him where he sate, and took up the candle and went to it, and resolutely askt it, in the name of God, wherefore it haunted him. It replied, because he had not delivered the message, and withal threatned to tear him in pieces if he did not do it speedily; and so changing itself into many prodigious shapes, it vanisht in white like a ghost. Whereupon Francis Taverner became much dejected and troubled, and next day went to the Lord Chichester's house, and with tears in his eyes related to some of the family the sadness of his condition. They told it to my Lord's chaplain, Mr. James South, who came presently to Taverner, and being acquainted of his whole story, advised him to go this present time to Malone to deliver punctually his message, and promised to go along with him. But first they went to Dr. Lewis Downes, then minister of Belfast, who, upon hearing the relation of the whole matter, doubted at first of the truth of it, attributing it rather to melancholy[8] than anything of reality. But being afterwards fully satisfied of it, the onely scruple remaining was, whether it might be lawful to go on such a business, not knowing whose errand it was; since though it was a real apparition of some spirit, yet it was questionable whether of a good or of a bad spirit. Yet the justice of the case (it being the common report the youth was wronged) and other considerations prevailing, he went with them. So the three went to Davis's house, where the woman being desired to come to them, Taverner did effectually do his message, by telling her that he could not be at quiet for the ghost of the former husband, James Haddock, who threatned to tear him in pieces if he did not tell her she must right John Haddock, her son by him, in a lease, wherein she and Davis, her now husband, had wronged him. This done, he presently found great quietness in his mind; and thanking the gentlemen for their company, advice, and assistance, he departed thence to his brother's house at Drum-bridge; where, about two nights after, the aforesaid apparition came to him again, and more pleasantly than formerly, askt if he had delivered his message. He answered he had done it fully. It replied that he must do the same message to the executors also, that the business might be perfected. At this meeting, Taverner asked the spirit if Davis would do him any hurt; to which it answered at first somewhat doubtfully; but at length threatned Davis if he attempted anything to the injury of Taverner, and so vanisht away in white.

"The day following, Dr. Jeremie Taylor, Bishop of Down, Connor, and Dromore, was to go to keep Court at Dromore, and commanded me, who was then secretary to him, to write to Taverner to meet him there, which he did. And there, in the presence of many people, he examined Taverner strictly of this strange scene of Providence, as my Lord styl'd it; and by the account given him both by Taverner, and others who knew Taverner and much of the former particulars, his Lordship was satisfied that the apparition was true and real; but said no more there to him, because at Hilbrough, three miles from thence on his way home, my Lord was informed that my Lady Conway and other persons of quality were come purposely to hear his Lordship examine the matter. So Taverner went with us to Hilbrough, and there, to satisfie the curiosity of the fresh company, after asking many things anew, and some over again, my Lord advised him, the next time the spirit appeared, to ask him these questions -- Whence are you? Are you a good or a bad spirit? Where is your abode? What station do you hold? How are you regimented in the other world? And what is the reason that you appear for the relief of your son in so small a matter, when so many widows and orphans are oppressed in the world, being defrauded of greater matters, and none from thence of their relations appear as you do to right them?

"That night Taverner was sent for to Lisburne to my Lord Conway's, three miles from Hilbrough, on his way to Belfast, where he was again strictly examined, in the presence of many good men and women, of the aforesaid matter, and was ordered to lie at my Lord Conway's all night; and about nine or ten o'clock at night, standing by the fireside with his brother, and many others, his countenance changed, and he fell into a trembling, the usual prognostic of the apparition; and being loath to make any disturbance in his Lordship's house, he and his brother went out into the cour where he saw the spirit coming over the wall; which, approaching nearer, askt him if he had done his message to the executor also; he replied he had, and wondered it should still haunt him. It replied he need not fear, for it would do him no hurt, nor trouble him any more, but the executor,[9] if he did not see the boy righted. Here his brother put him in mind to ask the spirit what the Bishop bid him, which he did presently; but it gave him no answer, but crawled on its hands and feet over the wall again, and it vanisht in white, with a most melodious harmony."

NOTE. -- "(1.) That Pierce, at whose house and in whose presence the apparition was, being askt whether he saw the spirit, said he did not, but thought at that time he had a mist over his eyes.[10] (2.) What was then spoke to Taverner was in so low and hollow a voice that they could not understand what it said. (3.) At Pierce's house it stood just at the entry of a door; and, as a maid passed by to go in at the door, Taverner saw it go aside and give way to the maid; though she saw it not. (4.) That the lease was hereupon disposed to the boy's use. (5.) The spirit at the last apparition, at my Lord Conway's house, revealed somewhat to Taverner which he would not discover to any of us that askt him."

"This Taverner, with all the persons and places mentioned in the story, I knew very well, and all wise and good men did believe it, especially the Bishop, and Dean of Connor, Dr. Rust.

Witness, Your humble servant, THOMAS ALCOCK."

"It will not be amiss," says Dr. More, "to set down here what Mr. Alcock addes by way of postscript in his letter:-- 'There is an odd story,' saith he, 'depending on this, which I cannot chuse but tell you. The boy's friends put the trustees and executor on this apparition's account into our court, where it was pleasant to hear my Lord talk to them on the whole matter. The uncle and trustee, one John Costlett,[11] forswore the thing, raild on Taverner, and made strange imprecations, and wisht judgements might fall on him if knew of any such lease; but the fear of the apparition's menaces by Taverner, scar'd him into a promise of justice at least. About four or five years after my Lord died, and the noise of the apparition was over, Costlet began again to threaten the boy with law, &c. But being drunk at Hillhall, by Lisburne, coming home he fell from his horse and never spoke more. This is a sad truth to my knowledge."

It does not clearly appear how Haddock's son was wronged in the matter of the lease, but fortunately there is another account of the affair in Richard Baxter the celebrated non-conformist divine's Certainty of the World of Spirits.[12] -- He says:-- "The elder Countess of Donegall,[13] a lady pious, discreet, and credible, told me, that one of her husband's tenants (near Belfast where he was Lord) agreed with him for to put his son's life with his own, in a renewed lease of a farm and he paid part of the money, and dyed before the lease was made and sealed. His wyfe marryed another man, and paid the rest of the money out of her second husband's purse, and therefore put in his son's life, instead of her son by the former husband, into the lease. The Earl of Donegall going into England, and being then in the West, a servant of his in Ireland, his porter, a stout lusty man was haunted with the apparition of the woman's first husband, telling him that he must go to his wife and tell her that she should have no rest till his son's life were put in the altered lease. He askt why he spoke to him, and what he had to do to meddle in it? It answered him, 'thou art a fit man for it, and thou shalt have no rest till thou do it.' The man delayed, and was still haunted with the apparition. He went to the minister of the town, and told him of it, who counselled him to see the woman. She told him that she took it to be just, that her husband, that paid most of the money, should have most of the benefit of the lease; and, perhaps not believing this man, delayed, till some trouble (I remember not what) molested herself. In short, the porter and she had no rest, till she had drawn a new lease with the name of the first husband's son, and sent it into England to the Earl of Donegall, who sealed it, and so altered accordingly."

According to the tradition, as already observed, the ghost held communication with Taverner, by mounting on horseback behind him, at a particular part of the road. It also always left at a certain spot, and both of these places, in the vicinity of the Drum-bridge, were traditionally known and pointed out to my informant in the early part of the present century. After several visitations of this description, Taverner was induced, not by menaces, but by earnest solicitations, to speak to Davis about the lease. Davis not being inclined to comply with the wishes of the ghost, the latter urged its reluctant "medium" to bring the case to a trial. "What will be the use of that?" said Taverner, "I have no witnesses." -- "Never mind," replied the ghost, "I will be present, and appear when called upon." After much solicitation Taverner consented; the trial came on at Carrickfergus, and this part of the story is related with somewhat of dramatic effect. The opposing counsel brow-beated and upbraided Taverner for inventing an absurd and malicious story against his neighbour Davis, and ended by tauntingly desiring him to call his witness. The usher of the court, with a sceptical sneer, called upon James Haddock, and at a third repetition of the name, a clap of thunder shook the court-house to its foundation; a hand was seen upon the witness-table, and a voice was heard saying:-- "Is this enough." Of course the terrified jury exclaimed their complete satisfaction, and gave an immediate verdict in favour of young Haddock. Davis, amidst the execration of the crowd, slunk from the court, and on his way home fell from his horse and broke his neck. On the same evening Taverner had his last visit from the ghost. It mounted behind him at the accustomed spot, and warmly thanked him for his services. Taverner, wishing to know how his old friend was "regimented" -- as worthy Bishop Taylor phrased it -- in the other world, said, "Now, Haddock, I want to ask you one question:-- Are you happy in your present state?" "If," replied the ghost, in a voice of anger, "you were not the man you are, I would tear you in pieces, for daring to ask such a question." It then went off in a flash of fire, and Taverner was relieved from its visits from that time.

The next story in the Saducismus Triumphatus is "the relation of David Hunter, neat-herd to the Bishop of Down and Connor, at Portmore, in Ireland." This also is told by Mr. Alcock, in the following words:-- "David Hunter, neat-herd at the Bishop's house, at Portmore, there appeared to him one night, carrying a log of wood into the dairy, an old woman, which amazed him, for he knew her not; but the fright made him throw away his log of wood, and run into the house. The next night she appeared again to him, and he could not chuse but follow her all night, and so almost every night for near three-quarters of a year. Whenever she came, he must go with her through the woods at a good round rate; and the poor fellow lookt as if he was bewitcht and travelled off his legs, and when in bed with his wife, if she appeared, he must rise and go; and, because his wife could not hold him in his bed, she would go too, and walk after him till day, though she saw nothing. But his little dog was so well acquainted with the apparition, that he would follow her as well as his master. If a tree stood in her way. he observed her always to go through it. In all this while she spake not.

"But one day the said David, going over a hedge into the highway, she came just against him, and he cryed out, 'Lord bless me, I wish I was dead; shall I never be delivered from this misery?' At which, -- 'And the Lord bless me too,' says she, 'it was very happy you spoke first, for till then I had no power to speak; that is why I have followed you so long. My name,' says she, 'is Margaret; I lived here before the war, and had one son by my husband. When he died I married a soldier, by whom I had several children, which that former son maintained, else we must have all starved. He lives beyond the Bann-water; pray go to him and bid him dig under such a hearth, there he shall find twenty-eight shillings. Let him pay what I owe in such a place, and the rest to the charge unpayed at my funeral."

I am afraid to tax the reader's patience by giving this long-winded relation in full. Suffice it to say that the neat-herd at first declined to do the old woman's bidding; but she, taking the law in her own hand, gave him a sound drubbing, thus compelling him to obey her behests, and then vanished with the usual musical honours. Alcock finishes his letter as follows:--

"This account the poor fellow gave us every day as the apparition spoke to him, and my Lady Conway came to Portmore, where she askt the fellow the same questions, and many more. This I know to be true, being all the while with my Lord of Down, and the fellow but a poor neat-herd there."

More adds what he terms an "advertisement" to these stories. He says:-- "It is no small confirmation of the truth of these two last stories, in both which my Lady Conway is mentioned in that I received two letters from that incomparable Lady, out of Ireland, touching them both. The former is dated Lisburne, March 3, 1662, wherein she writes thus:-- 'I have spoken lately with two simple country people, who have been much perplexed with two several persons who have died lately. The stories are too long to relate; but the circumstances are such as I know not how to misbelieve the stories. The persons cannot be suspected to have any design, and were altogether unacquainted in the families of them that appeared, and wholly ignorant of those things in them that they now relate, and have charge to sollicite the amendment of some miscarriages by some persons intrusted, which they could never hear of, as is supposed, by other means. There are many other probabilities, but all evaded by several persons here.'

"And to give you a taste of their goodly evasions," Dr. More ironically continues, "I will transcribe a passage out of the other letter of the said excellent Lady, dated Lisburne, April 29, 1663, wherein she writes thus:-- 'The relation I sent you of two in this country is certainly as liable to as little exception as any one should meet with: as may appear by the diligent search some have made for a flaw of objection against the parties, who, after all, they confess, must needs appear perfectly uninterested, and impossible to have had from any concerned what they have delivered. But they believe that either drunkenness or desperate melancholy did by chance enable them to light upon greater truths than themselves thought of.'[14] "Thus far that excellent person," continues the worthy Dr., "and it was enough for this noble Lady onely to recite their solution of the phenomenon into melancholy or drunkenness, it being so trifling and silly that it wanted no other refutation than the mere recital. That drink may discover the secrets of him that is drunk, as the poet observes, is reasonable enough; but that a man being drunk is better capacitated to understand the secrets of another man or of his family, is so wild a paradox that no sober man can admit it. And what is melancholy but a natural drunkenness when it ferments?

"And yet I dare say this was the very best of their evasions; which being no better against these two stories, and the stories so sifted and examined (to say nothing of others) by a person of so quick a wit, impartial a judgement and sagacity as I know that excellent Lady to have been, I may confess that to me it is a confirmation as strong as I can desire for the main strokes of the stories, of which I retain some memory, having heard a more particular account of them from her Ladyship, presently upon her return from Ireland some sixteen years ago. Nor do I doubt but Mr. Alcock has approved himself a faithful reciter of them as to the main; nor can there any one rightly be deemed more fit and able, he being present at the examination of Taverner, and dwelling at Portmore with the Bishop of Down, whose servant Hunter was."

Whether Taverner was a knave, and invented the story, or a simpleton, and imagined it; -- whether he was the dupe of an interested friend of young Haddock; or really did see a ----------- well I shall say ---------- a something not dreamt of in our philosophy, would be vain and fruitless subjects for speculation. But, that he told the story, and that Bishop Taylor took cognisance of the matter in the Ecclesiastical Court, as related by Alcock, there is every reason to believe. Consequently, we have an interesting comparison of written record with vulgar tradition, neither perfectly agreeing with each other, yet each having points of resemblance common to both. The record, in its description of the first interview, mentions the equestrian[15] character of the ghost that is always assigned to it in the tradition. In the former, the matter was the subject of inquiry at the Ecclesiastical Court at Lisburn; in the latter, at the Assize Court at Carrickfergus. Taverner of the record, at his last interview, questioned the ghost with respect to its spiritual welfare, and so did Tavney of the tradition. The expressive menace -- "tear in pieces" -- is used by the ghost in both accounts; and while, in the written one, we read that Costlett was killed by a fall from his horse, tradition, with more poetical justice, assigns that fate to Davis. The scene in the court-house is a mythical addition, probably founded on a more ancient legend, as it bears a close resemblance to the appearance of Michael Scott in the banquet-hall of Branksome Castle:[16] or tradition may have mixed up Haddock's story with another ghostly affair that occurred a few years later in the same neighbourhood, and actually occasioned a trial at the assize-courts in Downpatrick. Baxter tells this story in the work we have already quoted, and his informant was a Mr. Emlyn, living in Belfast at the time the occurrence took place.

This Mr. Emlyn, another voluminous writer, was no other than the learned English divine, so memorable for the persecutions and sufferings he underwent through his bold, conscientious, and uncompromising championship of Arianism. In early life he became chaplain to the previously-mentioned Lady Donegall, and, in 1683, saw from the windows of her house in Lincoln's-Inn Fields the execution of the unfortunate patriot, Lord William Russell. The following year he accompanied Lady Donegall to Belfast, where she married a wealthy inhabitant of the town, Sir William Franklin "who lived in great state and splendour." Emlyn resided for some time in the house of Sir William as chaplain. He was on terms of intimate friendship with Claudius Gilbert, the Rector of Belfast and frequently preached in the Parish Church. Now for his story:--

"There having been a long contest between Lemuel Matthews, Arch-deacon in the County of Down, and Cladius Gilbert, Minister, of Belfast, about their right to Drumbeg, a small parish within four miles of Belfast, it proved very troublesome to the parishioners, who generally paid their dues to Mr. Gilbert, the Incumbent in possession; but the said Arch-deacon claimed the same to be paid to him also, for which he procured a warrant; and in the execution of it by his servants, at the house of one Charles Loslin, they offered some violence to his wife, who refused entrance to them, and who died within a few weeks after the injury received. But, she being otherwise an infirm woman, little notice was taken of her death, till that some time after, by her strange appearance to one Thomas Donelson (a spectator of the violence done to her) she affrighted him into a prosecution of Robert Eccleson, the criminal. She appeared divers times, but chiefly upon one Lord's-day evening, when she fetch'd him with a strange force out of his house into the yard and field adjacent. Before her last coming (for she did so three times that day) several neighbours were called in, to whom he gave notice that she was again coming, and beckoned him to come out; upon which, they went out to shut the door, but he forbad it, saying that she looked with a terrible aspect upon him when they offered it. But his friends laid hold on him and embraced him, that he might not again go out. Notwithstanding which (a plain evidence of some invisible power) he was drawn out of their hands in a surprising manner, and carried about into the field and yard as before, she charging him to prosecute justice; which voice, as also Donelson's reply, the people heard, though they saw no shape. Upon this the said Donelson deposed what he knew of the said violence, before Mr. Randal Brice, a neighbour justice, and confirmed all at the assizes at Down, in the year 1685 (as I remember), where the several witnesses were heard and sworn, and their examinations were entered into the records of that assizes, to the amazement and satisfaction of all the county, and of the Judges, whom I have heard speak of it at that time with much wonder: insomuch, that the said Eccleson hardly escaped with his life, but was burnt in the hand. All this I heard spoken of myself with universal amazement, at the time when transacted, living in Belfast at that time; and I should not have been beholden to any to have believed this relation, that had been there and at the trial at Down."

So far Emlyn; but Baxter, wishing to get further particulars, wrote to Gilbert, and the following is the concluding part of the latter's reply. After giving an account of the apparition, similar to the above, and the names and number of the witnesses, he says:-- "The said Donelson repaired to his landlord, the next justice, Mr. Randal Brice, who brought the several examinations to Sir William Franklin in Belfast Castle, which said depositions were carried to Dublin, and there recommended to the special care of Judge John Lindon, who was to come down the next assises to Down, and the said trial and examinations of the witnesses were there managed by James Macartney, Counsellor, in the behalf of James Loslin, the plaintiff, to the admiration of all the bench, and of the company there, in my sight and audience. So that the matter was notoriously known and believed through the whole county. Nor was there any cause of suspecting any fraud therein, they being all plain honest neighbours, well known to me and my parishioners, in the parish of Drumbeg, in the County of Down, and Province of Ulster."--

Almost afraid that these stories of the past have extended to an unwarrantable length, I shall conclude, in the words of an old writer, saying that-- "although there are several things in the preceding relations, which I do not understand, yet this is no objection to me, as my understanding is not the adequate measure of truth."


1. Saducismus Trivmphatus: or full and plain Evidence concerning Witches and Apparitions. In two Parts. The First treating of their Possibility, the Second of their real Existence. By Joseph Glanvil, late Chaplain in Ordinary to his Majesty, and Fellow of the Royal Society. London, 1681.

2. The Displaying of supposed Witchcraft, wherein is affirmed that there are many sorts of Deceivers and Impostors, and Divers Persons under a Passive Delusion of Melancholy and Fancy. But that there is a corporal League made between the Devil and the Witch, or that he sucks on the Witche's Body; or that Witches are turned into Cats, Dogs, rain Tempests, or the like, is utterly denied and disproved. Wherein also is handled: The Existence of Angels and Spirits; the Truth of Apparitions; the Nature of Astral and Syderal Spirits; the force of Charms and Philters, with other abstruse matters. -- London, 1677.

3. How different from the general opinion of the present day? Without descending to a pun, I may say that the tables now are turned; for "the fantastical conceits of the more sincere enthusiasts" are new considered to be an over-credulousness, instead of a scepticism, as regards spiritual manifestations.

4. This was Mercurius Van Helmont, author of Paradoxical Discourses concerning the Macrocosm and Microcosm of the greater and lesser World, and their Union; and son of Baptiste Van Helmont, author of A Ternary of Paradozes; the Magnetic Cure of Wounds; the Nativity of Tartar in Wine; the Image of God in Man.
Both father and son wrote several other works of a similar description, but the above two, being translated from the Latin, were best known in England.
As Lady Conway suffered severely from pains in her head, it is probable that Greatrakes and Van Helmont were her medical attendants. Ward, in his Life of Dr Henry More, (London, 1710,) says that "She went into France on purpose to have her cranium opened (but none durst adventure it, though they opened her jugular arteries, in order to the curing her disease.")(!)

5. This answer is very characteristic of the evasive manner of shirking a direct question, so frequently adopted by persons of the Elenor Welsh class, at the present day.

6. The "servant at large" here shirks the ghost's question, as Elenor Welsh had evaded his own. In fact, he deceived the ghost, causing it to look "more pleasantly upon him," and vanish "in a flash of brightness." If Taverner had read the "Tempest," he might have said  of the ghost as Trinculo said of Caliban:-- "By this good light, this is a very shallow monster."

7. How natural! The organ of wonder was in full play long before phrenology was thought of; and people were desirous of hearing ghosts, long before spirit-rapping was invented. What an invaluable "medium" Taverner would have made!

8. Melancholy was the old term for Hypochondriasis.

9. Spirits certainly have a method of managing matters, totally different from mere mortals. Why the ghost did not go to the executor in the first instance, without troubling poor Taverner, is an incomprehensible puzzle admitting of only one solution -- namely -- that it could not act except through a medium.

10. Probably on that eventful night the shoemaker and his guests had been following the prescription of the the landlady of France, for curing love and the colic -- "Keeping their spirits up by pouring spirits down," and consequently might have had a mist over their eyes.

11. The late Major Fox, many years Town-Major of Belfast, and who rose from the ranks, used to relate that, when a private soldier, his comrade was a man named Crosley, who was a descendant of one of the persons concerned in the affair of Haddock's ghost. In all probability, the major's comrade was a descendant of above-mentioned Costlet: the name in course of time might readily be corrupted to Crosley.

12. Certainty of the World of Spirits: Fully evinced by unquestionable Histories of Apparitions and Witchcrafts, Operations, Voices, &c., proving the Immortality of the Soul, the Malice and Miseries of the Devils and the Damned, and the blessedness of the Justified. Written for the conversion of Sudducees and Infidels. -- London, 1691.

13. Widow of Arthur first Earl of Donegall.

14. This is something like an early idea of "clairvoyance."

15 Leaving Burger's spectral trooper, that abducted the unfortunate Leonore, out of the question, as a foreigner, I do not recollect any example of our native ghosts speaking -- they mostly coming under the category of headless-horsemen, except Haddock's, and the ghost of Maxwell, Laird of Crool, near Dunbar, in Scotland. This last story long formed a popular chap-book in the border counties of England and Scotland; and was first published in a work of some standing -- the "American Magazine," London, 1785. Maxwell's ghost appeared (always on horseback) to several persons, but particularly to a Mr. Ogilvie, clergyman of Innerwick. Its object was to make restitution for frauds and forgeries committed in the flesh, but Ogilvie would not undertake to deliver any message; shrewdly observing that as the ghost could ride, there was nothing to prevent him from writing a full confession of its delinquencies. It replied, in the usual vague manner attributed to spirits:-- "I may convince you of the reasonableness of it afterwards." They had long conversations, however, on spiritual matters; and it is a curious fact that there really is a remarkable resemblance between the revelations of the other world, related by Maxwell's ghost and those "rapped out" by spirits at the present day. The most startling, however, is this:-- Mr. Ogilvie asked the ghost some questions respecting its horse, and the spiritual nature of the lower animals. The reply was that he neither rode a horse, nor the ghost of a horse, but one Andrew Johnston, an old tenant, in the shape of a horse! Ogilvie, astonished, inquired if death did not level all distinctions between landlord and tenant, servant and master, &c:-- "True," replied the ghost, vague as ever, "but you do not take up the matter!" 

16 As might be expected, a near relationship existed between the Scottish and Northern Irish superstitions. The goblin page of the "Last Minstrel," had a counterpart in Island-Magee.

The above article is reproduced from the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. 3, 1855.

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