True Irish Ghost Stories, by St. John D. Seymour and Harry L. Neligan, , at sacred-texts.com
This book had its origin on this wise. In my Irish Witchcraft and Demonology, published in October 1913, I inserted a couple of famous 17th century ghost stories which described how lawsuits were set on foot at the instigation of most importunate spirits. It then occurred to me that as far as I knew there was no such thing in existence as a book of Irish ghost stories. Books on Irish fairy and folk-lore there were in abundance—some of which could easily be spared—but there was no book of ghosts. And so I determined to supply this sad omission.
In accordance with the immortal recipe for making hare-soup I had first to obtain my ghost stories. Where was I to get them from? For myself I knew none worth publishing, nor had I ever had any strange experiences, while I feared that my friends and acquaintances were in much the
same predicament. Suddenly a brilliant thought struck me. I wrote out a letter, stating exactly what I wanted, and what I did not want, and requesting the readers of it either to forward me ghost stories, or else to put me in the way of getting them: this letter was sent to the principal Irish newspapers on October 27, and published on October 29, and following days.
I confess I was a little doubtful as to the result of my experiment, and wondered what response the people of Ireland would make to a letter which might place a considerable amount of trouble on their shoulders. My mind was speedily set at rest. On October 30, the first answers reached me. Within a fortnight I had sufficient material to make a book; within a month I had so much material that I could pick and choose—and more was promised. Further on in this preface I give a list of those persons whose contributions I have made use of, but here I should like to take the opportunity of thanking all those ladies and gentlemen throughout the length and breadth of Ireland, the majority of whom were utter strangers to me, who
went to the trouble of sitting down and writing out page after page of stories. I cannot forget their kindness, and I am only sorry that I could not make use of more of the matter that was sent to me. As one would expect, this material varied in value and extent. Some persons contributed incidents, of little use by themselves, but which worked in as helpful illustrations, while others forwarded budgets of stories, long and short. To sift the mass of matter, and bring the various portions of it into proper sequence, would have been a lengthy and difficult piece of work had I not been ably assisted by Mr. Harry L. Neligan, D.I.; but I leave it as a pleasant task to the Higher Critic to discover what portions of the book were done by him, and what should be attributed to me.
Some of the replies that reached me were sufficiently amusing. One gentleman, who carefully signed himself "Esquire," informed me that he was after "reading a great book of ghost stories, but several letters of mine failed to elicit any subsequent information. Another person offered to sell me ghost stories, while several
proffered tales that had been worked up comically. One lady addressed a card to me as follows:
(Name and address lost of the clergyman whose letter appeared lately in Irish Times, re apparitions")
As the number of clergy in the above village who deal in ghost stories is strictly limited, the Post Office succeeded in delivering it safely. I wrote at once in reply, and got a story. In a letter bearing the Dublin postmark a correspondent, veiled in anonymity, sent me a religious tract with the curt note, "Re ghost stories, will you please read this." I did so, but still fail to see the sender's point of view. Another person in a neighbouring parish declared that if I were their rector they would forthwith leave my church, and attend service elsewhere. There are many, I fear, who adopt this attitude; but it will soon become out of date.
Some of my readers may cavil at the expression, "True Ghost Stories." For myself I cannot guarantee the genuineness of a single
incident in this book—how could I, as none of them are my own personal experience? This at least I can vouch for, that the majority of the stories were sent to me as first or second-hand experiences by ladies and gentlemen whose statement on an ordinary matter of fact would be accepted without question. And further, in order to prove the bona fides of this book, I make the following offer. The original letters and documents are in my custody at Donohil Rectory, and I am perfectly willing to allow any responsible person to examine them, subject to certain restrictions, these latter obviously being that names of people and places must not be divulged, for I regret to say that in very many instances my correspondents have laid this burden upon me. This is to be the more regretted, because the use of blanks, or fictitious initials, makes a story appear much less convincing than if real names had been employed.
Just one word. I can imagine some of my readers (to be numbered by the thousand, I hope) saying to themselves: "Oh! Mr. Seymour has left out some of the best stories. Did he never hear of such-and-such a
haunted house, or place?" Or, "I could relate an experience better than anything he has got." If such there be, may I beg of them to send me on their stories with all imagined speed, as they may be turned to account at some future date.
I beg to return thanks to the following for permission to make use of matter in their publications: Messrs. Sealy, Bryers, and Walker, proprietors of the New Ireland Review; the editor of the Review of Reviews; the editor of the Proceedings of the Society for Psychical Research; the editor of the journal of the American S.P.R.; the editor of the Occult Review, and Mr. Elliott O’Donnell; Messrs. Longmans, Green and Co., and Mrs. Andrew Lang; the editor of the Wide World Magazine; the representatives of the late Rev. Dr. Craig.
In accordance with the promise made in my letter, I have now much pleasure in giving the names of the ladies and gentle-who have contributed to, or assisted in, the compilation of this book, and as well to assure them that Mr. Neligan and I are deeply grateful to them for their kindness.
Mrs. S. Acheson, Drumsna, Co. Roscommon;
[paragraph continues] Mrs. M. Archibald, Cliftonville Road, Belfast; J. J. Burke, Esq., U.D.C., Rahoon, Galway; Capt. R. Beamish, Passage West, Co. Cork; Mrs. A. Bayly, Woodenbridge, Co. Wicklow; R. Blair, Esq., South Shields; Jas. Byrne, Esq., Castletownroche, Co. Cork; Mrs. Kearney Brooks, Killarney; H. Buchanan, Esq., Inishannon, Co. Cork; J. A. Barlow, Esq., Bray, Co. Wicklow; J. Carton, Esq., King's Inns Library, Dublin; Miss A. Cooke, Cappagh House, Co. Limerick; J. P. V. Campbell, Esq., Solicitor, Dublin; Rev. E. G. S. Crosthwait, M.A., Littleton, Thurles; J. Crowley, Esq., Munster and Leinster Bank, Cashel; Miss C. M. Doyle, Ashfield Road, Dublin; J. Ralph Dagg, Esq., Baltinglass; Gerald A. Dillon, Esq., Wicklow; Matthias and Miss Nan Fitzgerald, Cappagh House, Co. Limerick; Lord Walter Fitzgerald, Kilkea Castle; Miss Finch, Rushbrook, Co. Cork; Rev. H. R. B. Gillespie, M.A., Aghacon Rectory, Roscrea; Miss Grene, Grene Park, Co. Tipperary; L. H. Grubb, Esq., J. P., D.L., Ardmayle, Co. Tipperary; H. Keble Gelston, Esq., Letterkenny; Ven. J. A. Haydn, LL.D., Archdeacon of Limerick; Miss Dorothy Hamilton, Portarlington;
[paragraph continues] Richard Hogan, Esq., Bowman St., Limerick; Mrs. G. Kelly, Rathgar, Dublin; Miss Keefe, Carnahallia, Doon; Rev. D. B. Knox, Whitehead, Belfast; Rev. J. D. Kidd, M. A., Castlewellan; E. B. de Lacy, Esq., Marlboro’ Road, Dublin; Miss K. Lloyd, Shinrone, King's Co.; Canon Lett, M.A., Aghaderg Rectory; T. MacFadden, Esq., Carrigart, Co. Donegal; Wm. Mackey, Esq., Strabane; Canon Courtenay Moore, M.A., Mitchelstown, Co. Cork; J. McCrossan, Esq., Journalist, Strabane; G. H. Miller, Esq., J.P., Edgeworthstown; Mrs. P. C. F. Magee, Dublin; Rev. R. D. Paterson, B.A., Ardmore Rectory; E. A. Phelps, Esq., Trinity College Library; Mrs. Pratt, Munster and Leinster Bank, Rathkeale; Miss Pim, Monkstown, Co. Dublin; Miss B. Parker, Passage West, Co. Cork; Henry Reay, Esq., Harold's Cross, Dublin; M. J. Ryan, Esq., Taghmon, Co. Wexford; P. Ryan, Esq., Nicker, Pallasgrean; Canon Ross-Lewin, Kilmurry, Limerick; Miss A. Russell, Elgin Road, Dublin; Lt.-Col. the Hon. F. Shore, Thomastown, Co. Kilkenny; Mrs. Seymour, Donohil Rectory; Mrs. E. L. Stritch, North Great Georges
[paragraph continues] St., Dublin; M. C. R. Stritch, Esq., Belturbet; Very Rev. the Dean of St. Patrick's. D.D.; Mrs. Spratt, Thurles; W. S. Thompson, Esq., Inishannon, Co. Cork; Mrs, Thomas, Sandycove, Dublin; Mrs. Walker, Glenbeigh, Co. Kerry; Miss Wolfe, Skibbereen, Co. Cork; Mrs. E. Welsh, Nenagh; T. J. Westropp, Esq., M.A., M.R.I.A., Sandymount, Dublin; Mrs. M. A. Wilkins, Rathgar, Dublin; John Ward, Esq., Ballymote; Mrs. Wrench, Ballybrack, Co. Dublin; Miss K. E. Younge, Upper Oldtown, Rathdowney.
ST. JOHN D. SEYMOUR.
February 2, 1914.