Friday, October 26, 2012

The House of Mystery.

There is a lovely rustic house on the banks of the River Shannon in Baile An Taibhse a small rural village in County Clare. It is shown on records as far back as 1715. It was previously owned by the McDermott family until 1975 and was said to have had a tragic and sordid history whilst under their ownership. Was it this history that some say caused it to have been possessed by evil forces?

In the year 1975 a good, gentle man called John Murphy killed his entire family and then in desperation killed himself. Was it murder-suicide or was there some other darker force at work?

John Murphy was not a local man but those who knew him did not believe him capable of such horrific crimes. When the last remaining member of the McDermott family had died the house had been placed on the market but due to its dark history there was no local interest. However, it was seen by John Murphy who yearned for a simpler life and bought by him in 1975. He was at the time living in England and as soon as the papers were signed he, his wife and three children relocated. As a painter he was able to work from home, setting up a studio in one of the out buildings. May of 1975 was for the time being a happy time.

They say John had an interest in the supernatural and that he began to research the history of the house. Was it this interest that set the wheels in motion? His mental health began to suffer, he began to hear voices and he became paranoid suffering from feelings of persecution. His family became withdrawn and isolated; they refused to talk with their neighbours deciding instead to remain indoors as much as possible.

It was round the end of October when it happened. John had a huge row with some of the locals; the reasons are lost in time. He stormed off and went home, later that night and for the next two nights passerby’s said they heard raised voices, yelling, angry voices, and then....

The police called at the house, receiving no answer they forced an entry, what they found caused some of the officers to become violently sick....It was a terrible sight. Dressed only in their nightclothes, Yvonne (the wife) and the three children (Claire, age 8; Anne, age 5; and Sabrina; age 4) were brutally murdered. Yvonne’s throat had been slit; a later autopsy indicated that this had been done after death. All the children had knife wounds. To make matters worse all four bodies had been propped up against the wall in a sitting position, eyes wide open, staring up at the ceiling where John Murphy was hanging from an electrical cord tied to a wooden beam. He was covered in blood.

Yvonne and the children had been murdered in their own bedrooms and their bodies moved to the room in which they were found by the police. Above each of these four victims was a message, written in their own blood. The murder weapon turned out to belong to John Murphy and the police decided that it was an open and shut case. One of murder and suicide. Case closed.

However, unless John had superhuman powers how did he get up to the ceiling? No ladder was present, no chair, no way he could have possibly have lifted himself up never mind tie the cord round his neck. Even so, he was a quiet man, non-violent. Had he become mentally ill and finally cracked? Had evil forces made him mentally ill? Was he under some demonic possession from the house? How did he end up hanging from the beam? Did some evil force kill him once he had carried out the murders? So many unanswered questions. None of the locals will talk about the house even now. It is known that John had argued with some of the locals just before the murders, were they the victims of some horrific crime and cover-up. The house and its reputation conveniently perpetuating folklore and keeping the truth hidden.

Some years later, the mystery of the house and the tragic events were still generating a lot of interest, in fact it had become quite infamous, so much so that a group of young people decided they would carry out their own investigation. They planned to break into the now boarded up house and spend a few nights there to see what they could discover.  At first all went well, they set up the equipment they had bought in order to assist them in their endeavours and they settled down for the night. Some locals reported hearing angry voices, raised voices quarrelling, just like before. Of course no one realised that there was anyone in the house, they just thought it was the sounds of the house and its history and hurried pass.

Eventually, worried that no communication had been received from any of the young people their families decided to gain access to the house. The equipment was still running and there was even music playing on the radio. The young people, however, were nowhere to be found. They had simply vanished without trace.

Had the house claimed more victims? Did the evil forces within the walls of the house drive them away, if so where were they? Had they been murdered because they had discovered the secret of the previous killings? Again so many unanswered questions.

We may never know the truth, the truth lies buried within the walls of the house and the house remains silent. Some say as you walk past on a lonely winters evening you can hear moaning coming from the house. Or is it just the wind. I’ll let you decide.

Sleep well. Oh and Happy Halloween.


Jack O’Lantern.

According to Irish folklore, a man named Jack, well known for his drunkenness and quick temper, got very drunk at a local pub on Halloween. As his life began to slip away the Devil appeared to claim Jack's soul. Jack, eager to stay alive, begged the Devil to let him have just one more drink before he died. The Devil agreed. Jack was short of money and asked the Devil if he wouldn't mind assuming the shape of a sixpence so Jack could pay for the drink and after the transaction the Devil could change back.

Seeing how the Devil is quite gullible in almost all of these folk tales, he agreed again to help Jack out and changed himself into a sixpence. Jack immediately grabbed the coin and shoved it into his wallet which just happened to have a cross-shaped catch on it. The Devil, now imprisoned in the wallet screamed with rage and ordered Jack to release him.

Jack agreed to free the Devil from his wallet if the Devil agreed not to bother Jack for a whole year. Again, the Devil agreed to Jack's terms. Realizing he now had a new lease on life, at least for a year, Jack decided to mend his ways. For a time Jack was good to his wife and children and began to attend church and give to charity. Eventually, Jack slipped back into his evil ways.
The next Halloween as Jack was heading home the Devil appeared and demanded that Jack accompany him. Once again Jack, not too eager to die, distracted the devil by pointing to a nearby apple tree. Jack convinced the Devil to get an apple out of the tree and even offered to hoist the Devil up on his shoulders to help him get the apple. The Devil, fooled once again by Jack, climbed into the tree and plucked an apple. Jack took out a knife and carved a cross into the trunk of the tree. Trapped once again the Devil howled to be released and told Jack he would give him ten years of peace in exchange for his release. Jack, on the other hand, insisted the Devil never bother him again. The Devil agreed and was released.

Almost a year later Jack's body, unable to withstand his evil ways, gave out and Jack died. When Jack tried to enter Heaven he was told that because of his meanness he would not be allowed in. When Jack attempted to gain entry into Hell, the Devil, still smarting from years of humiliation, refused Jack admission. However, being the kind Devil that he was, he threw Jack a piece of coal to help him find his way in the dark of limbo. Jack put the piece of coal into a turnip and it became known as a Jack O'Lantern. On Halloween if you look you can still see Jack's flame burning dimly as he searches for a home. Of course when Irish people went to America they discovered the pumpkin and as it was easier to carve it soon replaced the turnip.


The Bogeyman.

Many years ago parents would sometimes threaten their children with the words “if you don’t behave, the bogeyman will get you”. However, who or what was the bogeyman?

A bogeyman might live under the bed, in a wardrobe/closet, in a dark cupboard under the stairs or anywhere that might be dark or spooky. If you looked through the keyhole you may see an eye looking back at you...that may be the bogeyman looking back at you.

Bogeymen can appear as shadowy figures you see out of the corner of your eye but when you look there is nothing there.  They can change shape to look like black dogs, weirdly shaped trees with branches shaped like claws or glowing eyes that appear in the dark of night.  They may even stand behind you, causing you to feel uneasy sending a shiver up your back.

The bogeyman is a general term for a frightening figure that was used to frighten the vulnerable and the word itself may derive from the old Anglo-Saxon word Boh, meaning demon. This may also have given rise to the custom of creeping up behind someone and shouting “Boh” or “Boo” meaning “The devil is behind you”.

 Here in Ireland our bogeyman was also known as Bloody Bones or Rawhead and this bogeyman has spread throughout the U.K. and North America presumably through the Irish diaspora (Diaspóra na nGael).

Bloodybones was believed to live in places near water and this may be why he may be found under the sink hiding in the cupboard near the water pipes.  It was said that Bloody Bones would reward good children but naughty children would be taken down through the sink hole or drainpipes into the drains or sewers and there they would be drowned.

This Samhain/ Halloween be careful, if you see a rock that looks as if it has hair on it then it may just be a bogeyman. You may see a black dog covered in scabs or scars, is it really a dog? When you are out for a walk in the woods and you hear a noise or you are standing by a lake and you suddenly feel uneasy, who knows what may be lurking in the undergrowth or beneath the dark waters.  The bogeyman can take many shapes so don’t look over your shoulder.

Sweet dreams.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Poor Tailor.

                 Here is a story that I've told to children and they seem to enjoy it. I hope you do too.

                                                                     The Poor Tailor.

Once upon a time there was a poor tailor. His house was full of cloth – beautiful, beautiful cloth. But none of it was for him. It was all waiting to be turned into clothes for other people.

 Then one day he looked out of his door and there on his doorstep was a big bundle of beautiful red cloth – a present for the tailor.

 Well, straight away he took that cloth inside and he spread it out on his big table and he got out his scissors. And he began to snip.

 Snip, snip, snip. Snippety, snip, snip…

 And out of that cloth he made a...coat.

 It was a wonderful coat. He loved that coat. He wore it in the Spring and the Summer and the Autumn and the Winter. He wore it and he wore it and he wore it…until one day it was all worn out.

And he was just about to throw it away, when he had an idea. He spread the coat out on the table and…he got out his scissors and...

Snip, snip, snip. Snippety snip snip.

Out of that coat he made a...waistcoat.

Oh, what a waistcoat it was. He was so smart in that waistcoat. He wore it to all the best parties. He wore it and he wore it and he wore it…until one day it was all worn out.

And he was just about to throw it away, when he had an idea. He spread the waistcoat out on the table and…he got out his scissors and…

Snip, snip, snip. Snippety, snip, snip…

Out of that waistcoat he made a...hat.

Well, he loved that hat. He wore it in the sun and the rain and the wind and the snow. He wore it and he wore it and he wore it…until one day it was all worn out.

And he was just about to throw it away, when he had an idea. He put the hat on the table and…he got out his scissors…

Snip, snip, snip. Snippety, snip, snip…

Out of that hat he made a...hanky. A handkerchief.

He sneezed in that hanky and he sneezed in it and he sneezed in it and he sneezed in it, until one day it was all worn out.

And he was just about to throw it away; because there is nothing you can make out of a tiny little hanky....when he had an idea...he got out his scissors...

Snip, snip, snip. Snippety, snip, snip...

Out of that hanky he made...a button. His lucky button, he kept that button until he became an old, old man.

One day that button was all worn out. He was just about to throw it away when he had an idea.

This time he left his scissors in his pocket.

Out of the button and the hanky, the hat and the waistcoat, the coat and the beautiful red cloth that had been left as a present for the tailor he made....A Story.

And it is that story that I have just told you.
I hope you enjoyed it and you may even tell it yourself.  Keep smiling.




Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Little Dandelion.

The little dandelion.

Once upon a time, long, long ago, the flowers had a huge argument about which of them were the most beautiful, the most special, and the most loved by the humans and by the fairies. The argument lasted for weeks, with each flower claiming to be the most beautiful and the most loved. Finally, all of the flowers agreed that the only way to settle the argument was to let the Flower Fairies decide.

The Flower Fairies sent the wisest, gentlest and kindest fairy to settle the problem and to give one plant her blessing and the title of the "most perfect" flower. The little Fairy decided to test each flower by asking them one question.

The first flower the Fairy talked to was the Rose.

 "Where would you most like to live?" she asked it.

"I would like to climb the castle wall." said the Rose. "And then kings and queens and nobles would pass by everyday and exclaim over my beauty, my scent and my delicate nature."

The Flower Fairy walked sadly away from the Rose.

Next the Fairy came to a tulip, standing tall and proud.

 "Where would you most like to live?" she asked the Tulip.

 "Oh, I want to live in a public garden" said the Tulip. "Where everyday people would come and admire my wonderful colours and see how straight and tall I stand."

 Once again, the Fairy walked away feeling sad.

She walked until she came to a forest. There she found some Violets. She asked them

 "Where would you most like to live, little Violets?"

 "Oh" said the violets quietly "We like it here hidden in the woods where no one can see us and where the trees keep the sun from dulling our beautiful colour."

The fairy thanked the Violets and walked on looking for more flowers to talk to.

She talked to the Tiger Lily who was much too wild and fierce.

She talked to the Sunflower who barely answered her because all she wanted to do was be warmed by the sun.

The little Flower Fairy talked to the Orchids who only wanted to be taken out to dances and she tried to talk to the Daffodil but it was too busy looking at its own reflection in the water to speak to her.

The little Fairy, with tears in her eyes, was ready to give up and go home when she came to a field with bright fluffy yellow flowers on long thin stalks. The leaves were long and jagged and very close to the ground. But the flowers....oh how happy and cheerful they looked in the field!

"Little one" said the Flower Fairy "What are you called and where would you like to live?"

"I am a dandelion" said the little flower."I'd like to live where ever there are children. I want to live beside the road, and in the meadows, and push up between the sidewalks in the cities, and make everyone feel happier when they see my bright colours."

The Dandelion chattered on happily saying

 "I want to be the first flower that the children pick in the spring and take to their mothers.  I can even tell if a child likes butter by being rubbed under their chins, and if a child makes a wish and blows my seeds, I could carry that wish on the wind."

The Flower Fairy smiled brightly and said "Little Dandelion, you are the most perfect and special flower of all and you shall have your wish! You will blossom everywhere from spring till autumn, and be known as the children's flower."

And that is why the dandelion arrives so early and pushes her head up everywhere and why she is so loved by children all over Ireland.

Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Pig With A Wooden Leg.

The Pig With A Wooden Leg.

A journalist became lost on the back roads and stopped at a farm to get directions. As he was talking to the farmer he noticed a pig with a wooden leg. "How did the pig get a wooden leg?" he asked the farmer.

"Well", said the farmer, "that's a very special pig. One night not too long ago we had a fire start in the barn, and that pig set up a great squealing that woke everyone, and by the time we got there he had herded all the other animals out of the barn. Saved them all."

"And that was when he hurt his leg?" asked the journalist anxious for a story.

"Nope, he pulled through that just fine." said the farmer. "Though a while later, I was back in the woods when a bear attacked me. Well, sir, that pig was nearby and he came running and set on that bear and chased him off. He saved me for sure."

"Wow! So the bear injured his leg then?" questioned the journalist.

"No. He came away without a scratch. Though a few days later, my tractor turned over in a ditch and I was knocked unconscious. Well, that pig dove into the ditch and pulled me out before I got cut up in the machinery."

"Ahh! So his leg got caught by the combine?" asked the journalist.

"Noooo. We both walked away from that one." says the farmer.

"So how did he get the wooden leg?" asked the journalist?

"Well", the farmer replied, "A pig that good, you don't want to eat him all at once”!


The Storytellers New Coat.

The Storyteller's New Coat

The storyteller dreamt of a new coat.  He dreamt of that coat so many times he convinced himself that he could not tell stories without it.  In fact he simply could not live without one.

So he began to search for it. Day and night, far and wide. He searched so hard that he forgot to tell the wonderful stories that he knew, in time he lost the skill, He had  forgotten how to sit by a roaring fire and how to say those magic words:

"Once upon a time"

Then one day, while he was wandering the road’s of Ireland, he found it, the perfect coat. And my, was it perfect?

The collar was perfect. The buttons were perfect. The pockets couldn’t be more perfect! It was a perfect coat. It would be perfect for telling his stories in!

The storyteller bought it there and then, he placed it on is back and admired himself in the mirror. He put the collar up, he put the collar down. He put his hands in the pockets; he took his hands out of the pockets. It was perfect!

It was then the storyteller realised that to be a perfect storyteller, he would have to have new boots. How could he perform the perfect story in the perfect new coat and still wear his worn out old shoes.

So again he searched, and  again he forgot to tell his wonderful stories.

Well he searched in Belfast, Ballina and Bantry. He searched in Castlebar, Cork and Charlestown, Tipperary and Tralee. He searched in Limerick, Galway and Mayo! But it was on the Clare Island that he found the perfect boots.

And my, were they perfect? He bought them there and then. He stamped up and down in them he marched like a soldier and danced like a cowboy......Yee Haa.....They were perfect, the most perfect pair of boots the storyteller had ever worn.

And the storyteller stood in front of the mirror, he admired his perfect new boots, he admired his perfect new coat and he was just about to go and tell his stories when he realised that to be a PERFECT storyteller, he would have to have a new hat.

How could he perform in the perfect new coat and the perfect new boots without a perfect new hat? So again he searched for the hat. Forgetting to tell his stories. All the hats he tried were no good. They were all too ordinary, too fancy, too dull or too plain, but then on a market stall in Westport he found it. The perfect hat. Tall and thin, black silk that gently caught the breeze, with a Peacocks feather in the side.

Well he bought it there and then and placed it on his head and looked as fine as any Storyteller who could possibly tell a tale.

And the storyteller looked at himself in the mirror, admired his perfect new hat, his perfect new boots, his perfect new coat and he readied himself to go!

It was then that the storyteller realised he had forgotten all of his stories. So obsessed had he become with finding the perfect new coat, the perfect new boots, the perfect new hat, that he had forgotten all his stories, every single one, every single line, every word. He was a storyteller without a tale!

In the autumn the storyteller sold his new coat to pay for food for his belly.

In the winter the storyteller sold his new boots to pay for wood for his fire.

In the spring the storyteller sold his new hat to buy a new book of tales.

And in the summer the storyteller began to tell again!


So remember, Work with what you have or you may not work at all!