Read an Excerpt
"What a lovely room," said Miss Selwyn to her hosts, Lieutenant Colonel Richards and his wife. The bedroom she was talking about was on the fourth floor of Belgarde Castle in Dublin County, Ireland.
The centuries-old castle stood on the site of what once had been a monastery for Dominican monks. Many of the thick stone walls were part of the original building, although sections had been rebuilt and modernized over the years.
Miss Selwyn, the headmistress of a girl's school in southern England, was pleased with the bright and open room in which she would spend her summer visit. She especially loved the view from the bedroom's window, which looked out over a tree-lined walk and a sunken garden. Many years before, the walk had been part of a side road that connected to the main highway near the castle.
One night during her visit, Miss Selwyn woke up feeling very afraid. Her fear grew as she became aware of a loud rumbling noise. It sounded like a heavy carriage with horses approaching the castle right beneath her window.
As the sound grew louder, the headmistress remembered that there was no road outside and no place where any type of vehicle could drive. Yet she distinctly heard carriage wheels and the sound of hooves!
She was too afraid to get out of bed and look out the window. Instead, Miss Selwyn reacted as many people would have in a similar unexplainable situation. She pulled the covers over her head and prayed for her safety.
The mysterious carriage noises gradually ended, and Miss Selwyn fell into a sound sleep. The next morning sunlight lit up her room, and she looked out at the beautiful garden below. "It's so peaceful and lovely now," she thought. "And last night was so frightening. I must find out what happened here."
After breakfast, the headmistress related the details of her experience to Mrs. Richards, who listened politely to the story. Then Mrs. Richards apologized that she hadn't explained about the coach to Miss Selwyn before. "Almost every member of the family has heard it so often that we're used to it," she told the astonished woman.
Apparently about two hundred years before, the owner of the castle was a well-known judge in the area. He sentenced a criminal to death, and after the execution the man's friends plotted revenge.
As the judge drove home in his carriage late one evening, several men cut off the vehicle, grabbed the horses, pulled the coachman down, and shot the footman. The men surrounded the judge in the carriage and repeatedly shot him until his dead body slumped across the seat. The horses became frightened by the gunfire and galloped home at full speed in terror.
With no coachman to slow them, the horses thundered down what was once part of the avenue that went by the castle beneath Miss Selwyn's window. They eventually slowed down and stopped outside the main entrance to the house. That night the servants discovered the bloody body of their master in the carriage.
For some unexplainable reason, that terrible experience has been reenacted again and again for many of those visiting or living at Belgarde Castle. In his book Between Two Worlds, D.A. MacManus says that he believes the case of the death coach is "a pure echo from the past, the repetition of an incident just as it occurred."
Many people have heard the sounds of the runaway horses and carriage late at night. But no one has been courageous enough to look upon the frightening sight. Would they gaze upon four terrified horses pulling a carriage of blood and death? Would they see the bullet-ridden ghost of the unfortunate judge sprawled across the seats? No one knows.
Miss Selwyn had the chance to look at this ghostly scene from the past. But she pulled the covers over her head instead. What would you have done?
Copyright © 1995 by Phyllis Raybin Emert