From bumps in the night to poltergeist farms, this is a book that will take the reader into the chill of the dark across the beautiful country of Tyrone. On the way you will meet a lady who reputedly haunts a locked room in Knocknamoe Castle Hotel in Omagh, the ghost of Philly's Phinest and even a haunted bed. The third book by Cormac Strain in this much-loved series, Haunted Tyrone is a must for everyone who has ever wondered if there is, in fact, anything strange out there…
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By Cormac Strain
The History PressCopyright © 2014 Cormac Strain
All rights reserved.
BUMPS IN THE NIGHT
There's a fine little village in Tyrone called Gortin (pronounced Gort-Chin), nestled snugly in the Sperrin Mountains. Not too far outside it, in the direction of Plumbridge, lies the farmhouse where our first story takes place.
In February 2012 Tim Elis, a Dubliner by birth, had travelled to the area on business. He explains what happened next:
I met my client in Omagh, which is only a handful of miles from where a college friend of mine lives. I studied with Dan McCullagh in Dublin at the turn of the century from1998 until 2004. We were good friends and kept in touch, so after meeting my client in Omagh, I rang Dan. He gave me rough directions to his house (I say rough directions, because – to be frank – he lives in the middle of nowhere).
Dan's house is a big old farmhouse dating back to the mid-1800s – but I didn't know that at the time. All I knew was that it was getting dark and I had to get myself to a place called Gortin, where Dan would be waiting for me, and I'd follow him from there on in.
The journey itself didn't really take as long as I thought it would, and brought me through some beautiful countryside, up a mountain and cut right through a forest (the Gortin Glens Forest Park I, was later to learn) before exiting out the other side. Down the other side of the mountain I went and then, as if out of nowhere, the quaint little village of Gortin appeared. I spied Dan's car and sent him a quick text (one can never be too sure – the last thing I wanted was to end up following a complete stranger).
Satisfied it was in fact Dan, I followed the tail lights of his Honda Civic, never letting it out of my sight. When I said earlier that Dan lived in the middle of nowhere, I probably didn't stress how far into the middle of nowhere it was. In fact, it had been quite a while since I'd been there so I had forgotten just how far into the abyss we were going. Small mountainous roads lead us on and on, with rickety wire fences atop half-hidden old stone walls, eaten up by the soil and grass which seemed determined to reclaim as much as it could. Eventually we arrived. Thankfully I am a seasoned traveller of Irish roads – otherwise that experience would have put me off driving for life. I never realised roads got so narrow.
'Here we go!' said Dan, as he got out of his car and proceeded to lock it.
'Is that force of habit?' I asked. 'Surely if someone stole your car they'd either crash on those roads or be going so slow you could catch them up with a jog?'
'Ha ha,' said Dan sarcastically. 'I see your sense of humour is still terrible.'
'At least I live in an actual society,' I replied, to which Dan let out a burst of laughter.
'Ah,' he said, 'it certainly is a far cry from the city of Dublin. You won't find a clamper for miles up here.'
Dan invited me into the house, where his wife Aisling already had a fire blazing and a sturdy stew on the boil. I was starving and the smell of food just made me all the more hungry. After greeting Aisling – who, like every Irish person, just knew the right time to 'stick on' the kettle, regardless of dinner being almost ready – Dan and I engaged in small talk for a few minutes. The catching up would happen later, more than likely over a few pints.
'What do you do for a pub around here?' I asked. 'It's like you're in the middle of nowhere.'
'Ah, you know Tim,' replied Dan, 'you were always one for jumping to conclusions. Just because it's dark outside doesn't mean that there isn't a pub over the road. Granted you'll get a few stares since you aren't local, but it was one of the prerequisites before we moved here. "Find a place with a pub near it" was at the top of the list.'
That's the Dan I remembered. Always one step ahead.
'Good,' I replied. 'We've a lot to talk about, and talking makes me thirsty.'
Then it was time to tuck into the stew. Homemade stew, homemade bread and warm, sugary tea ... the kind of things health fanatics might frown upon, but probably a good choice of sustenance for this kind of mountain living.
As we ate, I asked about the house – and what a house! It was big, it was old and it had a certain je ne sais quoi about it. I asked how Dan had managed to acquire it.
'It was an uncle's, believe it or not. Left to me in his will, even though I had hardly ever met him. He was my godfather and considering I never saw him at my communion or confirmation, I assume he thought he'd make up for it by giving me the house. He was quite a queer fellow though. According to the family history he bought this place in the mid-1960s. Apparently he was quite an outgoing character, but he had more downs than ups in life and so he moved in here and cut himself off from everyone. In fact, when we were kids, it was rumoured amongst our other cousins that this place was haunted. Ha ha! Haunted, imagine that! That'd be a turn up for the books.'
I couldn't help but notice the quick glance that passed between husband and wife.
'I thought you said that you were looking for a place "with a pub near it"? I asked, slightly confused. As I looked to Dan for an answer, Aisling busied herself with the pot of stew.
'Some more, Tim?' she inquired, before Dan could answer my question.
As Aisling was filling my plate with more stew, Dan gave me the background history on the house – and blatantly seemed to be avoiding my question. Maybe I had caught him out. Maybe he was boasting a bit when he mentioned choosing a place near a pub, so best probably to let that line of discussion go in case it's embarrassing, I thought.
'... which is where the servants quarters were. That's been converted to a storeroom years ago though,' Dan continued, completely oblivious to my internal thinking.
Having finished our meal, I helped with the dishes before Dan suggested going for a pint. 'You two go on,' said Aisling. 'I've got some EastEnders to watch'. 'Be careful walking on that road at this time of night', was the last thing we heard before the front door closed and we were in the chilled night air.
There's no real need to give a detailed outline of the pub or the drinks, other than to say it was a friendly establishment where everyone really did know everyone else's name – bar mine of course. I was the stranger 'from down south'. The hours flew by and before I knew it, we were wandering back down the road to Dan's house. I hadn't actually drank very much as I was on the road the following morning. Plus, I'm not much of a drinker. Dan, on the other hand, must have drunk 6 or 7 pints and was certainly under the influence. I tried to get him to talk about the house, but all he would say to me on the way back was he hoped I got a good night's sleep though, it seemed from his expression, that might not happen. If you've ever been in that situation where you are sober and you are trying to have a conversation with a drunk person, you'll understand why I gave up trying. I just went along with what he said.
Aisling, thankfully, was still up when we got back. Dan trotted on up to his bed, leaving me standing in the hallway until Aisling came out of the kitchen, switching off the lights as she did, and gave me directions to my bedroom. It was called the Guest Room – suitably enough – and apparently had been designated as such since the house was built.
To stay on schedule, I needed to be on the road by 10 a.m. at the latest so I didn't need to be told twice where my room was. Making my way there I noticed the thick, thick walls with the deep-set widows, indicating the age of the house. As the stairs reached the third floor where my room was and I looked at the long winding corridors, I realised just how big the house was. It was massive. And cold. It was like I'd left reality behind me. There was a chill in the air and the atmosphere was almost like I was in a different building. I had to remind myself I was a grown man and not a child as I looked for the appropriate door marked 'Guest Room'.
I found it without too much delay, opened the door and immediately felt the warmth. Aisling had left the heater on so the room was very cosy. The electric blanket was also on, so at least I knew I wouldn't have to worry about the chill anymore.
It was around half-past midnight by the time I was settled in bed and it probably wasn't too long afterwards that I was fast asleep. The room was comfortable, as was the bed, and it felt safe and secure so there wasn't anything keeping me awake.
Well, there wasn't anything until around 2 a.m., going by the time on my smartphone. I was woken by thumping in the walls. I say 'in the walls' because that's just what it sounded like. Groggy with sleep, I paid no heed – there was a bathroom on this floor and one on the floor below so maybe it was the pipes. The next time I awoke – well, this is what I thought at the time – it was daylight and I could smell breakfast. A good old Ulster fry up, it seemed from the smell of freshly cooked bacon. I showered, got myself ready and went downstairs.
Both Dan and Aisling were there, almost ready to tuck in. 'Ah great,' said Aisling. 'I was about to call you. Sleep well?'
'Yes,' I replied, 'though there was a bit of thumping going on, musta been around 2a.m. Those water pipes make a bit of a racket!'
'Erm ... that room is nowhere near the water pipes' said Aisling, giving Dan that same kind of glance she had the night before.
'You know what Tim?' joked Dan. 'I think you met Louis, my uncle. Did anything else happen?'
'No,' I said. 'Not that I remember.'
'Think harder,' said Tim. 'Think about it over breakfast because I have a story for you before you go.'
Eating breakfast, the strangest things were going on in my mind. I had thought I had had a full, good night's sleep, but now when I thought of it, I remembered I'd actually been woken up every hour or so. First had been the walls banging around 2 a.m. Then there were the walls banging plus two different kinds of knocking noises around 3 a.m. I remember sitting up in the bed – still half asleep – but then I fell back to sleep again. At 4 a.m. I had actually got out of bed and – low and behold – actually recorded the sounds on my phone ... on video no less. I had checked every wall, trying to fathom the source of the three different sounds. But when I checked one wall for the source of the banging it sounded like it was coming from a different wall. The same thing happened when I looked for the source of the chipping sound and the tapping noises.
All this information flooded my brain. I was astounded with that I had experienced and I was even more astounded that I seemed to have forgotten about it.
'Holy c**p, Dan,' I said. 'We're going to need to talk about this'.
'I didn't want to mention it to you last night,' Dan explained, 'since not everyone who sleeps in there gets to experience it. It only happens to some people. Usually more scary than your experience though. I once had a friend of mine who knocked on our bedroom door and asked if it was OK if he slept downstairs. He was hearing footsteps and everything.'
Footsteps! Another memory sprung up. 'It's just dawned on me I heard footsteps too. This sounds crazy, but I woke up to the sound of someone walking backwards and forwards between the bed and the wall. As far as I remember, I think I sat up in bed, told it to f**k off and let me sleep, and then somehow went back to sleep again.'
'That's the same place the last fella heard someone walking. It freaked him out completely too. Now I don't know if people just forget about the incidents during the night or if they experience nothing, but one person described seeing a man and that man looked just like my uncle. I've never slept there so I've never had such an experience, but I might now, just to see what happens.'
I was only half listening. Had I told a ghost to go f**k off? And then go back off to sleep?
No matter, it was time for me to go, time to travel back to Dublin and take this weird tale with me.
'You're more than welcome back anytime, Tim' were Dan's words to me as I left. 'Don't worry though ... next time I'll put you in the other spare bedroom.'
'Yeah, next time,' I thought. I had a sneaking suspicion 'next time' wasn't going to be any time soon.CHAPTER 2
DREAMS OF AN OLD HAG
We all have dreams, no matter if we remember them or not. Dreams are the mind's way of making sense of the day that's passed. Well, most of the time anyway.
Imagine if you kept having the same dream, of the same person but every dream was a continuation of the last ... and each one more terrifyingly real than its predecessor. Imagine the dreams haunting you during the day and making it all the more difficult to separate imagination from reality. This is what happened to Anne McGrath of Dungannon in County Tyrone, a thirty-five-year-old mother. She recalls:
As a youth, I could probably have been described as impetuous. When I turned eighteen I had already decided I was moving out of the family home with the intention of getting a job locally and starting life. In my mind, if I were to be an adult, then it was best to get up and do that, rather than waiting around. Shortly after my eighteenth birthday I upped sticks, said farewell to my parents and moved. OK – so I only moved a few miles away, but in the mind of eighteen-year-old me I may as well have been moving country.
I got a job at a local supermarket and moved into a flat at the top of a three-storey building with my best friend Maeve. She too had turned eighteen and had decided to be as daring as I, and move out of the family home and begin a life of her own. It's certainly not something I would encourage my own daughter to do. As I say, I was impetuous – and that's not always a good thing.
Nothing would scare me in those days. I remember Maeve and I would rent out scary movies, and it would be me who'd be laughing the whole way through whilst Maeve would be hiding behind the sofa. In the gradual change that happened my bravado disappeared.
I had a string of minor bad occurrences shortly after we had moved into the flat, and it all seemed to start after I had bought a particular painting. Meticulously painted, it depicted a bridge and the people on it, dark clouds overshadowing it. It was in itself a bit depressing looking, but that wasn't what interested me. I just thought it was really well painted and very detailed.
Maeve wasn't too happy with the painting and even went as far as doing some research on it. She found the painting was of a bridge in England where people committed suicide. I can't say it was directly linked to our bad luck, but I almost lost my job, Maeve actually did lose hers (both instances were due to pure bad luck rather than anything else) and then we ended up losing the flat itself. Before we left, Maeve threw the painting out the window. She had decided she was moving back to her parents so I was now left on my own.
I found alternative accommodation, but the place I moved to was pretty dire. I knew no one there and it was a horrible place. The rewards of impetuousness.
Though Maeve was now living at home, I still hung out with her and her friends. Maeve's friends lived in a block of flats which was almost as much of a dive as the place I lived in. Actually theirs was worse in reality. Hardly any of the lights in the building worked and there were a bunch of weirdos who lived downstairs. I'm still convinced that the strange things I experienced later were directly linked to what these people were doing.
I arrived at Maeve's friends' flat one night as I was to meet Maeve there. The whole gang of us were going out that night. The door was answered by one of the people living downstairs and as I went in I could see into their flat. It was dark and murky in there and all of them were quietly sitting on the floor in a circle, each with an arm stretched into the centre of the circle. The door closed before I could get a better look. I went upstairs to where Maeve and her friends were.
On our way back down, I asked one of the girls what the people downstairs were at. As we got to the bottom of the stairs, she knocked on the flat door, peeked in and asked, 'What are yous doing?'
'We're messing with this Ouija board,' was the reply.
I was amazed as I could see the thing their hands were on moving about. I wasn't too sure if it was doing it itself or if they were making it do it – I couldn't quite fathom the point of the exercise but it didn't really matter (at that time) too much to me. Not like now. I don't even feel comfortable saying that word 'Ouija'.
The next evening, Maeve rang me and asked had I heard what had happened the night before after we had left. I obviously hadn't. It transpired that after we had left the word 'flat' had been repeatedly spelled out. They all had assumed it meant the flat they were in. But when two of their friends, who had arrived by car, went to leave, all the tyres on their car were flat. I still didn't care. It was all bunkum anyway, just like the movies Maeve and I used to rent out. It was that night though, that the dreams started.
Excerpted from Haunted Tyrone by Cormac Strain. Copyright © 2014 Cormac Strain. Excerpted by permission of The History Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
1 Bumps in the Night 6
2 Dreams of an Old Hag 13
3 Lady in a Locked Room 20
4 The Black Jacket 29
5 The Little Girl's House 37
6 Philly's Phinest 45
7 Poltergeist Farm 52
8 The Woman at the Window 60
9 The House on the Corner 68
10 The Bed 76
11 And Finally… 85
About the Author 92
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