"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

This report of versatile and particularly disruptive Irish ghosts comes from the "Spiritual Magazine," May 1, 1868:

We should be glad to have a verification of the curious facts stated in the following extract from the Derry Standard:—

EXTRAORDINARY AND MYSTERIOUS OCCURRENCES.—In this age of common sense and disbelief in superstition, to find circumstances impossible to explain by ordinary criteria, awes and astonishes more than mere rustics. Such circumstances have been occurring in the village of Tillymoan, situated about a mile from Claudy, Strabane. 
The house of a man named Speers has been the object of some mysterious destructive agency for weeks past. The owner was threshing oats in the barn, and in every sheaf he found two or three small stones—this went on so long that he found himself compelled to cease. Then he was startled by a noise in the stable, and he went in there carrying his flail with him, which he dropped behind the horse, that he might fetch away a tub from the animal's head, and lo! the flail disappeared, and has not since been found. Then the kitchen fire got scattered through the floor; the plates and dishes were smashed off the dresser, and the pots and cans began to walk about through, the apartments. Then stones began to fly in all directions, cutting every one daring enough to approach the haunted dwelling. The panes of glass next began to be smashed; so, for safety, the windows were taken out and locked up in a press; but the mysterious visitors were too wise, for soon press, windows and chairs were smashed to pieces. The turf-stacks kept oscillating like a poplar tree; hammering constantly resounded from the chimney, and the stones kept flying in all directions, pelting and cutting and bleeding those venturous enough to risk visiting the place. 
On Friday evening week the crowds gathered distinctly saw a pot come flying through the door and fall in smashed pieces on the street. A religiously-inclined inhabitant of the locality volunteered to lay the Evil One, and so he repaired to the spot in vaunted hopes of success. Alas for human calculation! The stones rattled about his ears in the fated kitchen, they fell on his wrists, spraining them; and on his feet, hurting them. The combat was too unequal, his opponents were invisible, so he considered retreat justifiable. 
Strange to say, the disturbances ceased on Sunday last, from about 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., when they began with renewed vigour. Not alone in the house, but through the owner's lands—though no farther—do the stones pelt away the crowds. The circumstance is an extraordinary one, and is creating an extraordinary amount of excitement far and near. For miles round the people flock to see and certify regarding the unusual wonder. The people have fled the house, and all about it and within are in fearful confusion. The event deserves notice and investigation from its many peculiarities.  
We find the following extract in a subsequent number of the same paper:—

The Late Mysterious Proceedings At Tillymoan, Claudy.—The excitement in connexion with the above mysterious affair has not in the least subsided, but, on the contrary, has spread to such an extent, that on last Sunday and the preceding one large crowds from Strabane, Lifford and surrounding district, flocked to the residence of Speer, in whose house, it will be recollected, the mysterious work of destruction has been going on, to witness, as some of them expressed it, the performance of the Tillymoan ghost. However, I believe they were all, with one exception, sadly disappointed in their expectations, as the ghost was not at home to any of the numerous visitors who called to make his acquaintance. 
One person, a most respectable farmer, who resides in the next townland to where Speer's house is situate, told me that while talking to Mrs. Speer on Wednesday, he observed smoke issuing from a portion of the roof which suddenly broke out in a bright red flame. The application of a few buckets of water had the desired effect, when all became tranquil again. To shew, he said, that this could not possibly be the result of accident, or of any mischief-making person, none were in the house at the time, with the exception of Mrs. Speer and himself. On Wednesday morning last, a little boy, who is an inmate of Speer's residence, was kindling the fire, when the coals were suddenly lifted off the hearth and scattered in all directions through the house. 
On Monday last, an incident, calculated to create much fun, occurred. Two policemen, who were passing through the locality, seeing a large crowd collected round Speer's, thought they too would go and see for themselves. They accordingly proceeded to the house, which they entered, and where a great many neighbours were already assembled. One of the constables finding no chairs or any other substitute for a seat, (those articles having been all previously smashed) leaned over an old chest, when with a loud, long crash in went the lid, precipitating the unfortunate guardian of the peace to the bottom, where he lay for some considerable time to the evident enjoyment of some of the on-lookers, while more taking it for the commencement of performance, beat a hasty retreat from the dreaded premises. Scarcely a day has passed for the last fortnight without some fresh manifestation of the presence of the terrible, yet invisible mischief-maker. Surely it is a subject calculated in many respects to excite curiosity, and one for many reasons calling for a strict enquiry into the whole affair.
If there was this "strict enquiry," I have found no record of it.


  1. There never seems to be a sequel to these events, rarely articles relating a scientific investigation, or even an unscientific one. That probably suggests that either the disturbances stopped, or they weren't genuine in the first place.

    If these were genuine, I feel sorry for the Speers family; they must have had all their property destroyed.

    1. Yes, it gets pretty frustrating to never find any resolution to most of these incidents. These alleged poltergeist episodes usually stop on their own eventually. When I have read of investigations being made, those are generally pretty inconclusive.

  2. I delved into this case a while ago and in the various accounts of the the story we find the answer as to why the story petered out.

    The story was first reported on March 24 in the Irish press, after which it was published in several Irish and English newspapers between that date and the first week of April. In May it hit 'Spiritual Magazine'. I have 31 newspaper clippings, but most simply copy the original accounts in the 'Derry Journal' or the 'Newry Telegraph', which is the first, March 24th, source.

    So why did the reporting stop? On Wednesday 4 April the 'Derry Journal' reported how in the weekend before that date, on a Saturday night or Sunday morning, his house had mysteriously burned down. The newspaper wrote: "The haunted house was completely destroyed, having been burned to the ground." An inquiry was made by several gentlemen, but "They made every inquiry into the affair, but failed to elicit anything calculated in the slightest degree to throw any further light on the subject."

    But was it a mysterious fire, the kind that for instance Vincent Gaddis talks about and the kind we encounter more often in the literature about poltergeists? That might have been the case.

    On 28 March the 'Derry Journal', the source of the 'Spiritual Magazine', wrote: "One person, a most respectable farmer, who resides in the next townland to where Speer's house is situated, told me that while talking to Mrs. Speer on Wednesday, that he observed smoke issuing from a portion of the roof which suddenly broke out in a bright red flame. The application of a few buckets of water had the desired effect, when all became tranquil again. To show, he said, that this could not possibly be the result of accident, or of any mischief-making person, none were in the house at the time with the exception of Mrs. Speer and himself."

    The 'Derry Journal' also mentioned that on another occasion a little boy was kindling the fire when "coals were suddenly lifted off the hearth and shattered in all directions through the house, four of the largest falling on the bed where Mrs. Speer was lying at the time." The bed took fire and she ordered the boy to leave the coals outside, but "lo. they were instantly removed and reinstated on the hearth by some invisible agency."

    Or was there a human agency at work? On 12 June 1868 the 'Tyrone Constitution' reported how Speer was embroiled in a lawsuit against one William John Rippy "for the felonious burning of a straw stack, the property of Joseph Speer, of Tillymoan..." Rippy was dutifully arrsted, and bailed out. Meanwhile, "The matter still continues to cause anxiety to the people in the neighbourhood of Tillymoan who are anxious ti find out the real 'ghost'.

    Best regards,

    Theo Paijmans

    1. Seriously, Theo, is there any Fortean episode where you don't have an encyclopedic file about it? :)

  3. Would you believe that for each case I delve into, I learn of about a hundred other cases that elude my grasp??)


Comments are moderated. The author of this blog reserves the right to delete remarks from spammers, trolls, idiots, lunatics, jerks, and anyone who happens to annoy me on days when I've gotten out of bed the wrong way. Which is usually any day ending with a "y."