Ghosts in Ireland, like ghosts all round the world, can attach themselves to families or in particular family members. The Derrygonnelly farmhouse ghost seemed to do just that.
This haunting of a family, in particular their daughter, takes place in a Derrygonnelly farmhouse just outside Enniskillen in County Fermanagh in the late 19th Century.
The Derrygonnelly farmhouse
Farmhouses around the 19th Century in Ireland typically consisted of a living room, which would have also been used as a kitchen, and two rooms off to the side which would have been bedrooms divided out among the family.
Of course there would have been no such thing as electricity and if you were lucky oil lamps would have been the order of the day. All cooking and heat would have come from a large open fire burning mainly wood and turf, the latter being dug in the summer and stored away for the colder months.
This farmhouse consisted of the farmer who was widowed (mortality was very high in Ireland around this time), his son and four daughters. The eldest of these children was Maggie who was around twenty when the haunting started and they seemed to centre on her.
Stories of haunted farmhouses are two a penny in Ireland but what makes this one unique is not the haunting but the fact that it was investigated by some high-powered ghost watchers, including Sir William Barrett, a former president of the Society for Psychical Research (SPR) and also a distinguished scientist and Fellow of the Royal Society.
The farmhouse ghost
The first signs that anything was amiss was when loud rapping and scratching sounds could be heard throughout the night. Then objects started to move about, items would be found outside the farmhouse, especially after a night of continuous banging and rapping noises. Lamps and candles proved impossible to keep in the cottage and were always found outside in the morning.
The father, a Methodist, was told to leave a Bible open, its pages weighted down by stones in the room that Maggie and her sisters occupied. This was to be to no avail as the stones were removed and indeed the pages of the Bible were found ripped out.
Sir William Barrett visited along with Mr. Thomas Plunkett from Enniskillen and in his report, quoted in part by Peter Underwood in the Gazetteer of Scottish and Irish Ghosts states:
After the children except the boy and Maggie had retired to bed Maggie lay fully clothed on top of the bed so that her arms and legs could be seen at all times. The rest of us settled around the kitchen fire when faint rapping sounds could be heard these got louder apparently coming from the walls, the ceilings and other parts of the bedroom to which the door had been left open.
On entering the room with a lamp the noises stopped but commenced again once the lamp had been placed in the windowsill. I kept the boy and his father by my side and asked Mr. Plunkett to look around outside. I eventually was able to approach the bed where I saw the younger children asleep and Maggie lying motionless whereas the noises were still as loud as ever. Under close inspection there was no explanation for the noises or items moving. Suddenly a pebble landed on the bed beside Maggie with no matter of explanation.
Barrett visited the farmhouse on the next three nights with other members of the SPR and the events were the same with the noises repeating themselves. Additional experiments were carried out by Barrett and others prompted by the farmer Barrett asked questions the answers being given by a number of raps, every time the correct number of raps was given.
Finally one of Barrett’s companions Rev. Maxwell Close read some passages from the Bible first to tremendous din which gradually got fainter until the noises disappeared by the time he got to the Lord’s Prayer. After that the Derrygonnelly haunting came to a stop.