Note to reader: This is a ghost story and designed to be somewhat scary. Proceed to read at your own peril…
I do often get asked how I got the shock of white through my hair. I shrug my shoulders and tell them it’s the way God made me, but the real reason is because of an act of skulduggery that occurred in my youth.
I was a child of ten staying with my Grandmother in rural Connemara during the Halloween break. I was reluctantly sent to a neighbours house, not 200 yards away to socialise with some local children at a party for the evening.
I tapped the knocker on the old stone house. The door was answered by a tall thin woman with harsh facial features and dark hair pulled back in a tight bun. She wore an old fashioned dress and an apron. She looked me up and down before beckoning me inside without a sound. I followed her into a large kitchen. The party was made up of almost a dozen people, mainly children. Their chatter ceased upon seeing me. They commenced their talking but this time their voices were lowered and they spoke in their native tongue, making no attempt to conceal that they were talking about me. I sat quietly in an empty chair while no one approached me to speak.
Shortly after my arrival, the lady of the house began the party. She laid out food and set up games for the children that would not speak to me. She spoke in Irish but I could barely make out what she was saying because of her strong accent.
As the evening went on, I was becoming aware that I was being tricked by the others. The first realization was when we were apple bobbing. Blindfolded, I dipped my head in search of apples in the large tin basin, just as the others did before me. I could not feel the waxy apples against my skin for what felt like a long time. When at last, soaking wet, I pulled off the blindfold only then realizing that the apples had been taken out. The strangest thing of all was that they did not laugh at this joke but only looked at me in silence.
For the next game, an old tattered suitcase was pulled out onto a table. We had to stick our hands in one by one to guess the item by touch. The first few children pulled out random objects including a witches hat, a lollipop and a small branch. It came to my turn and I reached my hand in to feel something wet and mushy. The touch of it made me retch and I quickly retracted my hand in disgust. When the item was revealed it turned out to be a small rotting pumpkin. I looked at the hostess in disbelief and she stared at me back, unflinchingly.
I was longing to leave this strange gathering when it was decided that ghost stories would be told to end the night. We were ushered into a small room by the lady of the house and the lights were extinguished with the exception of a solitary candle.
A young girl with wiry blonde hair began telling a story in her distinct accent, adding even more strangeness to an already eerie atmosphere. She spoke of the banshee, a lonely spirit woman dressed in white with long white flowing hair. Her terrifying scream brought about death to a loved one whose ears fell upon it. The story became all the more frightening when she added that the banshees screams were heard over the years in the area, marking the death of some unfortunate locals. It didn’t help that she was looking at me throughout the duration of the tale.
When the story was concluded, all was silent. Spooked by our imaginations, no one told any more stories. The party broke up shortly after and the children sent home. The lady of the house ushered me out alone into the darkness while the others walked in the opposite direction.
I could barely see in front of me as I walked the gravel path, only lit by the moonlight. The cold stone walls guided my way back to my grandmother’s house. I was unnerved after the night’s events and my imagination ran wild with the story of the Banshee. I ceased to hear the voices of the others in the distance.
My heart pounded at the thought that the Banshee was coming for me. I quickened my step. I imagined her ghostly gaunt face and piercing wide eyes before she screamed. Surely she would approach a lone child walking in the dark with no one to help her. Each new thought quickened my heart rate.
In the darkness, I could barely make out the house. In two minutes I will be within the safety of my Grandmothers four walls.
I turned into the walkway of the house when I heard the sound of steps in the gravel. I instinctively turned around but could see nothing in the darkness except my breath. I began to run around the back of the house when a high pitched scream pierced the silence of the night and stopped me in my tracks.
My unconscious body was found at the side of the house shortly after and the next day I was brought home. I never spoke of the shock to anyone and I never returned to my Grandmothers house. The strangeness and trickery of that night never left me. It had scared me more than if I had encountered the Banshee herself.