HALLOWEEN SPECIAL: IRELAND AND THINGS THAT GO BUMP IN THE NIGHT

Dullahan

Every film and TV nightmare has a real beginning and Ireland is the place to find them. Here are the most well-known horror movie monsters brought to life!

WEREWOLF

Werewolves were often used as the weapons of the Ancient Celtic Warriors, sent out in battle to tear apart the enemy, their blood-curdling howls sending the cowards running. It is unusual therefore to find that The Vatican have documented a case from 1182, telling of a peaceful Christian Werewolf!

A priest was travelling to the South of Ireland who was sat by his campfire when a great hulking shape emerged from the still of the night, matted fur, dripping from its jowls, sharp pointed teeth glistening in the light of the fire.

The clan of this wolf man had been cursed by an Abbot some years earlier and every seven years two of his family would turn into werewolves and be banished into the forest.  The werewolf’s wife was dying and the priest delivered the last rites.  As his wife died she reverted back to her human form.  Despite his best efforts the priest was unable to ever again find the werewolf or his clan.

VAMPIRE

We have already heard about the female vampire, the Dearg Due, however long before that was the Chieftain Vampire, Abhartach from Derry. A cruel and sadistic warrior, he was finally slain by a rival clan and buried standing up as was the tradition.  The next night however, he was back inflicting more torment on the village than ever before.

Once again he was killed and buried, only to rise once more, draining the blood of his servants before terrorising the locals again.  Finally the rival Chief consulted a druid and took down Abhartach with a sword made of Yew, burying him for the last time head first, never to rise again, or so we are lead to believe.

WITCH

Petticoat Loose was a hideous beast of a woman from Tipperary. She was large, angular and over six feet tall with a strength to match her stature.

Her name came from her raucous behaviour while drinking and dancing and only one man would wed her.  She was named as a witch as the milk from her herd was said to turn blue when put in tea.  She was also accused of murdering her husband and died during a drinking game and so was buried without priest or ceremony.

Years later she would be seen at the roadside terrorising travellers by jumping on their carts.  One refused and she climbed on, stating she was weighted on every limb by magic.  The cart sagged and the horse dropped dead. A priest banished her to the mountain lake to empty it with a thimble, yet she still escapes now in the form of a half-human, half-horse.

EVIL LEPRECHAUN

Leprechauns don’t always wish you ‘Top of the Morning’ and willingly give up their gold. Some of them can be downright nasty, like the Red Man.

Dressed head to foot in red with a nasty yellow complexion, this magical being delights in evil mockery and torment, imparting evil waking nightmares on unwilling victims, making them believe they are carrying corpses and being forced to dine on old hags.

The only way to try and protect yourself is to cry out that you will not be mocked, however the Red Man’s magic is strong and this may not be enough.

HEADLESS HORSEMAN

The Dullahan is one of the Sidhe, or fairy beings. It is a headless horseman, with a steed of pure black, carrying its head beneath one arm.  When out on business, the Dullahan adorns his horse and wagon with funeral apparel and brandishes a whip made from a human spine. The wheels are made from the bones of men and he lights his way with candle filled skulls, the light illuminating the dark, beady eyes and rictus grin on his dismembered head.

Stay well away from this horrific sight, for if he stops in front of you, the gaping mouth says your name and you are dead.

ZOMBIE

In Roscommon in the eighth century, deviant burials took place outside of the cemetery walls. The bodies of several locals were unearthed with their limbs broken and folded in over their torsos, appearing to clutch a large rock embedded in their stomachs.

A pebble was wedged firmly in each jaw and they were buried in the opposite direction to the consecrated burials.  The reason?  These individuals were believed to be zombies, rising up to walk the earth, spreading fear and disease.

The pebble was to prevent the spirit returning, the mouth being the portal for an evil spirit to return.  The bones were smashed and body weighted with rock to ensure their feet never touched solid ground again.

HELLHOUND

Shucks, or Devil Dogs have long been written about in Irish history. They are black as the night, large, with glowing red eyes, some with cloven hooves instead of paws.

Primarily they are raised to protect treasure such as the one that breathes fire at Castle Biggs in Tipperary, others simply to forewarn of death.

BANSHEE

Banshees have forever been known as portents of death, however there have been sightings of these wailing spirits seeking death for revenge and torment.

This evil being has the appearance of a wretched old hag, dress shredded, matted grey hair, pointed rotting teeth and long, yellow fingernails. If she sets her mind to have you as her prey, she will stalk you, forcing you to listen to her soul wrenching scream of despair until you go insane and your own soul is lost in the depths of her evil cry.

Of course of you are lucky, you will have a quick death by looking into her blood red eyes, filled with enough loathing and agony to kill you instantly.  For those who have been strong enough not to succumb to either? She will rip you to death with her bare hands.

So if you find yourself in Ireland, curled up by the fire watching the latest horror, remember – it could be happening for real just outside your window.

banshee

WEREWOLVES OF OSSORY

Celtic Werewolf

In 1182, a priest set out from Ulster to the south of Ireland on official Holy Business with his squire. They travelled from morning until dusk, when they moved from the road and into the edge of the forest to seek shelter. As it grew dark the squire lit a fire as much to protect them from anything lurking in the trees as for warmth, as the priest was on a mission and knew the Devil would be out to try and to lure him from his path.

As the squire slept, the priest sat by the light of the fire, the noises of the forest all around him. He suddenly looked up realising there was no sound, just eerie silence. A snap of a branch startled the priest and he moved closer to the flames as he heard a raspy voice call out;

“Father, do not be afraid, I mean you no harm.” The priest called back out into the trees “Move into the light my son and I shall have no need to be afraid.” With this there was some shuffling and the priest squinted into the darkness but could see nothing. The voice said “I fear my physical appearance will cause you distress and I do not wish to see you alarmed, I merely seek the help of a Holy man.” The priest replied “My son I have travelled this country and seen the damage and deformity that illness and disease can cause. I will not be alarmed.”

With this a great hulking shape emerged from the still of the night, matted fur, dripping from its jowls, sharp pointed teeth glistening in the light of the fire. The priest was terrified, yet stayed calm so as not to cause further anguish to his squire who was now awake and cowering in fear behind a tree. Without a doubt the priest knew before him was a wolf-man. He had heard stories of the same being used as weapons among the Ancient Kings of Ireland as they battled one another.

“Explain yourself and know I am protected by the Lord God,” said the priest. “Father, I too am a Christian. Years ago my clan were cursed by Abbot Natalis. Every seven years, two of our clan are transformed into werewolves and banished to the forest. When we return after seven years, two more take our place. The sin for which my clan was punished has long been forgotten but we remain cursed.” The priest knew of Natalis and his severe methods of forcing Christianity upon a Pagan land. The wolf-man continued, “My wife and I were very old on our turning and she now lies wounded and dying in the forest. I beg of you to administer the Last Rites so she may die a Christian and pass into heaven. “

The priest agreed and leaving his squire behind followed the werewolf into the forest. As they approached a hollow in the trees, the priest could make out the outline of the she-wolf. As he neared he could hear her shallow rasping breaths. “Help me father and hear my contrition” she begged.

“I want to”, said the priest “but first I need proof that you are indeed human under your fur.” With this the she-wolf used her last ounce of strength to tear fur and skin from her front leg and paw so the priest could see she was indeed, a dying old woman. He hurriedly gave her the Last Rites as she died.

The grateful werewolf took the priest back to his squire and the priest promised to call again. He informed his bishop who in turn reported to Rome, documented in 1185. Despite his best efforts the priest was unable to find the werewolf or his clan again.