Good friend, and prolific author, Neil Arnold says: “There is nothing like a chilling ghost story,” adding that “one of my favorite ghoulish tales comes via Reverend Archdeacon St. John D. Seymour, and concerns a bizarre entity once said to have haunted an Irish castle.” The story, Neil notes “…‘is mentioned in True Ghost Stories by Marchioness Townshend and Maude Ffoulkes, who comment that ‘the truth of this story was vouched for to Mr. Reginald Span by the Vicar of the Anglican Church, Arizona, as it happened to some friends of his when they once rented a picturesque castle in the South of Ireland.'” And, with that said, read on. So the very weird saga goes, late one particular night, many years ago, a certain “Mrs. A’ was sitting alone in one of the castle’s bedrooms, awaiting the return of her husband. Suddenly, there was the distinct and unmistakable sound of one of the doors banging in the corridor outside the room. More disturbingly, footsteps could be heard, too. Someone or something was creeping around the old castle. Grabbing a lit candle, Mrs. A carefully and slowly opened the door and, to her eternal horror, saw a darkened, shadowy form heading towards the staircase.”
Neil added that evidently, the entity realized its presence had been noticed, and it turned to face the by now fear-stricken Mrs. A. It was at this point that her terror was elevated to stratospheric proportions: the thing was apparitional in nature, and possessed the head of a man, but the body of a mighty, hair-covered ape. For a moment or several, it glared malevolently at Mrs. A, before vanishing into nothingness. The story is not over, however. Several nights later, the woman’s husband also saw the animal-man, after his attention was drawn to the shadows of the landing, from where distinctly unsettling and creepy laughter was emanating. On looking up, Mr. A was confronted by a beast that – just as the man’s wife said – had the body of a large and hairy ape and the head of a man – and a most ugly man, too. Interestingly, Mr. A evidently got a better look at the creature than did Mrs. A, and he could see that the hair of the monster appeared to be of a red / brown color. In what sounds like some sort of bizarre nightmare, as the man headed up the stairs to confront the man-thing, the terrible laughter got louder and echoed through the old halls of the castle. Not surprisingly, at the last moment the man thought far better of his actions and raced for the safety of the bedroom.
For a few days, things were mercifully quiet. It was a situation that was not destined to remain so for too long, however. While arranging flowers one afternoon in the drawing-room, Mrs. A suddenly felt a pair of hands on her shoulders, and, thinking it was her daughter she spun around, only to be confronted by the cackling creature, looming over her at a height that easily exceeded six feet. Mrs. A screamed for help, and, as a friend came running, the strange and unearthly entity vanished into absolute nothingness – just as it had before. And for the family, by now enough was well and truly enough: they packed their bags and returned to the United States.
Perhaps of relevance to this story, noted Fortean and Dubliner, Ronan Coghlan, says that: “There is an Irish word, gruagach, which can mean a magician, giant or ogre, but that actually means ‘the hairy one.’ The question must be asked if this contains any sort of reminiscence of hairy man-beasts prowling the Irish countryside.” It may very well, given what Ronan has to say next: “A Norse work of the 13th Century mentions the capture of a wild man in Ireland with a mane running down its back.’ Ronan, as he always does, speaks correctly. The work in question was called Konungs Skuggsja, or, alternatively, Speculum Skuggsjo, and describes the Irish wild man by the name of the gelt, and his peculiar condition as geltacht. A careful examination of the old book reveals the following about this Irish entity:
“There is also one thing which will seem very wonderful about men who are called gelt. It happens that when two hosts meet and are arrayed in battle-array, and when the battle-cry is raised loudly on both sides, that cowardly men run wild and lose their wits from the dread and fear which seize them. And then they run into a wood away from other men, and live there like wild beasts, and shun the meeting of men like wild beasts. And it is said of these men that when they have lived in the woods in that condition for twenty years then feathers grow on their bodies as on birds, whereby their bodies are protected against frost and cold, but the feathers are not so large that they may fly like birds. Yet their swiftness is said to be so great that other men cannot approach them, and greyhounds just as little as men. For these people run along the trees almost as swiftly as monkeys or squirrels.
“Now, however, when he arrived out of battle, it was seldom that his feet would touch the ground because of the swiftness of his course, and when he did touch it he would not shake the dew from the top of the grass for the lightness and the nimbleness of his step, He halted not from that headlong course until he left neither plain, nor field, nor bare mountains, nor bog, nor thicket, nor marsh, nor hill, nor hollow, nor dense-sheltering wood in Ireland that he did not travel that day, until he reached Ros Bearaigh, in Glenn Earcain, where he went into the yew-tree that was in the glen. Thereafter, we are told, the gelt lived as a definitive outcast, roaming the land of Ireland in search of three things, and three only: Water to drink, water-cress to dine upon, and ivy-bushes on which to sleep.”
There is one final Irish story to relate here. Like the opening one in this chapter, it, too, comes from Neil Arnold. But, unlike that first case, this one is focused upon not an ape with the head of a man, but a group of men with the heads of apes, and a solitary one sporting the visage of a stag! Neil says of this truly bizarre saga: “Ghost stories are better suited to the soundtrack of a crackling log fire on a dark and stormy night. However, some spooky tales are so absurd that they are probably better off not told, in case they cause permanent nightmares. So bizarre is the story that one may feel that it stretches the limits of believability. But even so, let us visit County Waterford for an Irish ghost story. It was recorded that many years ago one Christmas Eve, a man named Eli Hayson was settling down for bed in his house which sat alongside the River Suir, when he heard sounds as if someone was running alongside the waterfront.
“Eli went to the window and peered out into the moonlit night and noticed that his brother Jack, who he thought was at sea on the Thomas Emery, running along the pathway by the river. Eli then noticed that out of the shadows came a group of men that seemed to emerge from the inky waters in pursuit of his brother. Eli could see that his brother was in some distress and tried to shout out to warn him, but to his horror he noticed he could not speak. It was only when his brother reached the door that Eli realized the true horror of the situation. The figures were clearly not all human; in fact, several of them had the head of an ape, and another the head of a stag perched on its shoulders. Were these merely masks? It didn’t seem so.”