If like me you identify as an introvert and consider yourself as something of a misanthropist, you’ve probably dreamt at one point or another of escaping to a deserted island somewhere and living in peace and solitude, free from the stresses of the modern world. The fantasy of running off to some tropical paradise in the South Pacific might sound attractive, but anyone who’s watched ‘Castaway’ will probably realise why this isn’t a good idea.
Still, there are more practical options closer to home – dozens of small uninhabited islands of various descriptions dotted across the British Isles, including a number scattered off the west coast of Ireland. Occasionally you’ll see a custodian or caretaker job advertised, looking for single people or couples willing to live and work on an isolated island for extended periods of time, perhaps to maintain holiday cottages off season or to guard protected nature reserves.
Surprisingly, you’ll often get hundreds or even thousands of applicants going for such jobs. It seems the life of solitude and the idea of returning to a simpler life appeals to many. As it happens, I was lucky enough to secure such a position, although perhaps ‘lucky’ isn’t the right word to use, given what I subsequently went through.
Now, I’m sure you’ve all read accounts of individuals unwittingly taking jobs they find online; positions paying big money but requiring no previous experience, qualifications or references. Predictably, when these gullible or desperate people take on the role, they find themselves embroiled in some kind of paranormal event which puts their life at risk. Well, I suppose I am one of those gullible fools who got sucked in, but I didn’t go into the situation completely blind.
I’ve been a believer in the supernatural from a young age. I was something of a troubled child, being on the autistic scale and experiencing what they called emotional and behavioral difficulties. They didn’t understand me back then, you see. I was a confused and scared kid who frequently acted out. What my parents, teachers and doctors didn’t understand is that I have a special gift. To quote the famous movie – ‘I see dead people’.
My first visitation occurred shortly after my fifth birthday. Our family lived in an old house, dating back to the late 19th century. One night I was visited in my bedroom by a young, pale-faced boy dressed in Victorian clothes. He simply appeared in my doorway in the middle of the night; a ghostly apparition illuminated by my night light. I remember being startled but not afraid. I didn’t know who this kid was, but somehow I knew he meant me no harm.
The boy introduced himself, saying his name was David and explaining that he had once lived in the house. David asked me if I wanted to be friends. Not wanting to upset him, I said yes. My acceptance seemed to make David happy, and he invited me to meet him the next morning underneath an old oak tree planted in our back garden.
I accepted his invitation and – more out of curiosity than anything else – I kept the appointment, finding David waiting for me under the shade of the large tree, still wearing the same old-fashioned clothing and with a big smile plastered across his otherwise ghostly white face.
We talked for a while before playing a game of conkers. I won, but David took his defeat with good grace, congratulating me on my victory. I quickly got the impression that he was very lonely and wanted a friend more than anything else. I remember an awful sadness came over David when it was time for me to leave. He’d been cheerful and friendly up until that point, and so his sudden change in mood was unexpected.
He wished me farewell and said he hoped we could play again soon. Then, his face dropped, as he turned and slowly walked out from the shade and into the sunlight. To my immense surprise, he simply disappeared without a trace as soon as the first rays of sunlight shone upon him.
David was a sporadic visitor in my life over the next number of years. I grew older and bigger, but he never did. We chatted and played, and every time he would vanish into thin air, and I never knew whether I would see him again. Looking back, I understand how sad and lonely David really was, and to this day I regret not being able to help him.
Honestly, I don’t know whether he knew he was dead.
I told my parents about him and they took the story with good humour. After all, it wasn’t unusual for young children to have imaginary friends. But David wasn’t the only spirit I made contact with during my childhood, and the more I told Mum and Dad, the more concerned they became.
Eventually they sent me to a child psychologist, who told me that all these paranormal entities only existed in my own head. I knew this wasn’t true, but over time I learnt to keep my visions a secret from others. I had a gift most living people could not understand, and my connection with the other side frightened them.
It wasn’t until I reached adulthood that I discovered I wasn’t alone. Thanks to the wonders of the internet and social media, I found a network of fellow travelers – psychics, mediums, ghost hunters and cryptozoologists – a community as fascinated with the supernatural as I was. I felt at home with these people; finally my beliefs were validated and my gifts recognised.
Over the years I’ve visited dozens of haunted locations all across Britain and Ireland, and I’ve encountered numerous ghosts and spirits in various shapes and forms. It would be fair to say that most of the entities I’ve encountered have not been as friendly as David. Some will go to great lengths to remain hidden, while others are outright hostile to the living. Nevertheless, I’d never felt I was in any physical danger – that is, not until I visited the island.
Now, I’m not going to tell you the name of the island, nor give away many clues as to its location. Once you hear my full story you’ll understand why. I don’t want anyone else visiting the island and going through what I did. Suffice to say, it’s located somewhere off the west coast of Ireland. The island is small, but its more than just an offshore rock; being roughly 300 hectares in size.
At its height, the island was home to a couple of hundred residents, but the population dwindled after the Great Famine, and the island was eventually abandoned during the 1950’s. This was in large part due to the isolation and rough terrain, which meant it was nearly impossible for the locals to etch out a living. But there was another reason which is rarely mentioned these days.
The island is rumoured to be a hub for paranormal activity and ghostly visitations, with accounts dating back for centuries. Now days, the island is privately owned by a mysterious shell company with alleged links to the Irish government. The owners wish to keep the island private and so have imposed a blanket ban on any visitors, a ban which is strictly enforced by private security working in conjunction with the police.
The locals avoid the place like the plague as they all grew up hearing stories of hauntings and bizarre occurrences. However, the Irish ghost hunting community have long wished to visit the island and have made numerous applications for permission, all of which have been firmly declined. This is where I came in.
My plan was to act as a ‘Trojan Horse’, obtaining the official caretaker role so I could use it as a cover to live on the island and discreetly carry out my own investigation. I needed to do some ‘spring cleaning’ before I submitted my application, wiping my social media of any references to my amateur ghost hunting career. I didn’t want my future employers to carry out an online search and guess my true motivations.
I was also rather creative in drafting my CV, inventing previous positions and providing phony references. I’d like to point out that I’m not usually a dishonest person, but I was so determined to make it onto the island that I was prepared to bend the rules somewhat.
As it happened, I had an easier time obtaining the position than I’d initially thought. Perhaps the island’s dark reputation scared off a lot of prospective applicants. My interview was done over the phone and was fairly straight forward. My interviewer was a mysterious character who introduced himself as Mr Black and spoke in a muddled accent that was hard to place.
The questions he asked were mundane and generalized, perhaps deliberately so. There was no mention of the island’s tragic history or reputation for paranormal activity, nor were there any cryptic or mysterious rules imparted to me. The actual duties of the position were also rather vague. I was told there would be some light maintenance tasks but that my main role was simply to maintain a presence on the island and to ‘keep an eye on things’, whatever that meant.
Mr Black implied that I would have a lot of spare time on my hands, which was fine by me, since I would have plenty of time to carry out my investigations. He also told me that they needed someone to start as soon as possible, because the situation had suddenly become vacant. This sounded ominous, but I just assumed the previous caretaker had seen something scary and had done a runner.
At the end of the short interview, Mr Black informed me in an emotionless tone that my application was successful and he was happy to offer me the position. I tried to contain my elation as I graciously accepted his offer. I couldn’t believe my ruse had worked and I’d gotten my foot in the door. Of course, I had no idea what I’d actually let myself in for.
I traveled to a small port town on the west coast where I was told a boat would transport me out to the island. Security was tight and so all my luggage was subjected to a thorough search by a burly security officer. I’d anticipated this and so had not packed any of the ghost hunting equipment I would usually bring on my investigations, such as my EMF meter, EVP voice recorder, or even low-tech aids such as a Ouija board.
I have a gift for contacting the dead, but spirits and wraiths don’t always want to be found, and so these aids can prove crucial. But my new employers would surely discover my true intentions and withdraw their job offer. And so, I would have to rely on my particular set of skills once I was on the island. Likewise, I had no protection against what came from the other side, other than a small gold crucifix I’d inherited from my late grandmother. Obviously, I believe in life after death, but I wouldn’t consider myself a Christian in the true sense of the word. The gold necklace was in fact little more than a family keepsake.
We set sail early on a Saturday morning, making the short sea journey across to my destination. The transport was little more than a converted fishing trawler manned by a skeleton crew. The captain was one of those old sea-dog types, complete with the scruffy white beard and a weathered face, likely the result of years of working on fishing boats coupled with heavy drinking.
He was stand-offish and somber throughout the journey, speaking in whispered tones to his crew members. None of the crew would speak to me during the trip. In fact, they could barely look me in the eye. The captain made it clear that they would be dropping me off on the jetty along with my luggage and supplies and would be departing immediately after.
Neither he nor any of his crew had any intention of setting foot on the island. I knew that the locals feared this place and understood why, so I wasn’t too concerned by the crew’s behaviour. However, I wasn’t happy at the prospect of having to drag all of my luggage and food supplies from the jetty up to my accommodation.
As promised, the boat made a quick departure, with the captain shouting from the deck, saying they would return in 5 days with fresh supplies. It turned out to be an eventful week.
I don’t have a map of the island, nor would I share it if I did. I can however disclose some details regarding its geography and architecture. The short and worn-out wooden jetty is located on the eastern side of the island, closest to the mainland. The caretaker’s cottage where I stayed is about 200 yards from the jetty. The house is small and fairly basic but has the amenities necessary for a comfortable stay, including its own generator and oil-powered heating.
It doesn’t have an internet connection or any phone coverage of course, but there is a two-way radio which can be used to contact the mainland in case of an emergency. My larder was well stocked with canned goods and a limited supply of perishables, and I had an ample batteries and candles in case of a power outage.
On the island’s south side is a short stretch of sandy beach, and on the hill above the beach stands the ruins of a tenth century monastery, built by a religious order seeking isolation from the corruptions of the outside world, allowing them to study and pray in peace. It was common during the Middle Ages for monks to live and work in such remote locations. This particular monastery had been destroyed centuries ago, and now all that remained were the foundations.
The north of the island is home to sheltered caves where sea birds nest, while on the west coast lies a steep cliff face one hundred foot high, constantly battered by the powerful waves of the cold North Atlantic.
In the centre of the island, one will find the ruins of a small village that was once home to the island’s small farming community.
As recently as the 1950’s, there were several cottages still occupied, some consisting only of one room heated by a turf fire under a thatched roof. Only a handful of elderly residents remained by the middle of the twentieth century, and those holdouts either passed away or emigrated to the mainland, leaving their homes to gradually crumble, as nature slowly reclaimed the land.
The final location of note is the old manor house, once home to the Burke family; the often absent Anglo-Irish family who owned and ruled the island for close to two centuries. The grand, three story gothic house was burnt to the ground during the 1920’s under disputed circumstances, and all that remains today are bare walls, still scorched as a result of the powerful flames which engulfed the building all those long decades ago.
And so that’s it, the island in a nutshell. It is beautiful in an austere and harsh sort of way. The views over the Atlantic are spectacular and awe inspiring. But the weather can be brutal and the high winds intense. Nothing much grows on the island and it would be very difficult to live off the land. But I hadn’t come here to farm or admire the views.
I knew I was the only living person on the island – but, as soon as I stepped off the jetty, my sixth sense began screaming inside of my head, warning me that I definitely wasn’t alone.
I spent the afternoon exploring the island, wrapping up warm to protect myself against the elements. The weather was frightful, with the wind blowing a harsh gale and the lashing rain becoming ever heavier. Nevertheless, I persevered with my walk, only returning back to the refuge of my cottage when the wind got so heavy I could barely stand.
Retreating to my sanctuary, I changed out of my wet clothes and set a fire to warm myself up. I hadn’t seen anything out of the ordinary during my first tour of the island. No ghouls had jumped out to say hello. Nevertheless, I did get the distinct feeling I was being watched.
This wasn’t an unusual experience for me. Whenever you enter a haunted place or location, the spirits inhabiting it will often watch from the shadows without revealing themselves. Nevertheless, it felt different this time. I sensed something that made me feel…uncomfortable, like a malevolent force was stalking me, observing me, and attempting to learn my weaknesses.
I’m not the paranoid type and have learnt to trust my instincts, and so I knew I would need to keep my wits about me.
That evening I settled down in front of the fire and tried to relax and unwind, doing my best to put the events of that afternoon behind me. There was a chance I would experience a paranormal event sometime during the night, but spirits tend to work to their own timetables, and so I decided to be patient and let them make the first move.
In the absence of anything better to do, I searched the cottage and discovered a small collection of books stored in an old cupboard. Presumably they had been left behind by the previous caretaker when he left his position. The collection included a few classic novels, books of poetry, and non-fiction such as local history. I’m not a big reader, but there was one work relating to the history of the island which piqued my interest.
I returned to my chair by the fireplace with the book in hand and began flicking through the pages. I was surprised when a sheet of paper hidden within the book’s cover came loose and fell to the floor. Curious, I reached down and picked up the paper, raising it up to the light to see better.
Upon the page was a hastily drafted note, consisting of untidy scribbles that looked like they’d been written by someone with little time or under extreme stress. With some difficulty I was able to transcribe the content, which read as follows –
“If you’re reading this, I’m most likely dead already…A cliché I know, but I’ve been under a lot of stress, so give me a fucking break! I’m the former caretaker of this island. I thought this would be an easy job, little work for good pay. But my employers didn’t tell me the truth about this place, and I was incredibly naïve.
You’re probably expecting me to impart knowledge that will save your life – a set of rules you must follow if you want to survive. Well – I’m very sorry – but I’ve got nothing. The truth is, you were fucked as soon as you stepped off the jetty.
Sure, I can tell you something about the ghosts and ghouls you’ll encounter…But why spoil the surprise? Besides, the spirits are prisoners here – victims of circumstance who’ve been trapped for all eternity. He rules this God-forsaken place with an iron fist. Nothing gets past him, and no-one escapes his grasp. You can’t beat him. Believe me, I’ve tried…
After I write this letter, I intend to take my own life. It’s the only way out I can see. I hope that my body is washed out to sea, allowing my soul to escape this hellish prison…If you are religious, please pray for me…”
The note ended there. It was not signed or dated, and so there was no indication of who wrote it or when. It could have been a hoax or some kind of sick practical joke. This thought passed my mind briefly, but in my heart, I believed the note was genuine. I’d assumed that my predecessor had gotten scared and quit, returning safely to the mainland to resume his life. But now it seemed like he had died here – alone, afraid, and desperate.
I felt tremendous sympathy for this poor person and anger at my mysterious employer. I knew in advance what I was getting myself into, but my predecessor went in blind, having been fed to the wolves so to speak. I vowed then and there to expose this shadowy organisation for what they had done to him.
The hastily written suicide note hadn’t told me much, but it did confirm what I’d already suspected – there was something else here, an entity more powerful and dangerous than your average spirit, which had some kind of hold over this small, abandoned island.
I’ll admit to feeling a cold chill run through me as I re-read the note, before I folded the paper and carefully placed it in my pocket. What I was facing here on the island was likely to be my greatest challenge yet, and I genuinely feared for my safety, given the tragic outcome for my predecessor. But I wasn’t going into this blind and I believed that my special abilities and sixth sense would see me through.
In retrospect, I now realise I was over-confident. Nevertheless, I struggled to sleep that night, sitting up in my single bed, listening as the wind battered against the walls of my cottage. My mind kept on going over the cryptic words contained within my late predecessor’s hastily scrawled letter.
What was it that dwelt here, on this abandoned island? What could be so powerful that it could entrap and control spirits? I didn’t know but imagined I would find out soon enough. After several hours, I eventually managed to doze off, only to be rudely awoken in the early hours.
I shot up from my bed when I heard it, having to quickly remember where I was and what I was doing here. I heard shouts from outside my bedroom window – men crying out and screaming, metal clashing against metal. It sounded like there was a full-scale battle going on.
I experienced a sudden rush of adrenaline, part fear and part excitement. This is it, I thought. The spirits had crossed into our plane of existence, allowing me to hear and hopefully see them. I quickly jumped out of bed and got dressed, grabbing my heavy coat and torch as I rushed outside.
It was no longer raining, but heavy winds continued to blow across the land, and it was bitterly cold. I walked in the direction of the sounds that appeared to be coming from the south of the island, noting how they became more intense the closer I got. Before long I could hear the agonized screams of men in extreme pain. I wondered what horrifying scene awaited me, but I knew I had to press on.
I marched over a small hill and was shocked and dismayed by what I witnessed. The site of the old monastery – it was on fire. Fierce flames rose up into the cold night sky, engulfing the old ruins and surrounding vegetation. This wasn’t just a vivid dream or paranoid delusion. I could actually feel the heat of the flames against my skin and smell the smoke in my nostrils.
I stood on the hillside, transfixed as I looked down upon the mighty fire. I could still hear the sounds of battle, but they were diminishing, suggesting that the slaughter was almost over. Suddenly, I saw a shadowy figure moving quickly in my direction, running away from the flames. I shone my torch towards the running figure and saw him clearly for the first time.
What I witnessed was clearly not a living person. It was the spirit of a middle-aged man, thin and gaunt, and with a face that looked ghostly pale. He was dressed in dark brown robes, covering his body from head to toe, and I noted a wooden crucifix hanging from his neck. I quickly concluded that this man was a monk, or at least had once been.
He continued to run but was clearly struggling, panting in exhaustion as he fled from the flames. Suddenly, a second figure emerged from the shadows, chasing after the fleeing monk and quickly closing the gap. I shone my light upon the newcomer, revealing what I can only describe as a medieval warrior, dressed in a thick leather tunic and wearing a metal helmet to protect his head.
He held a mighty war axe in his muscular right arm, and I noted how the blade was already drenched in blood. He sported a bushy and unkempt beard, and his face was screwed up with rage. He screamed with an inhuman hatred as he charged, and I could only watch on in shocked horror as he set upon the defenseless monk from behind, digging his mighty axe into his back.
The monk screamed out in agony as he fell to the ground. I saw the pain in his eyes as he desperately tried to crawl along the blood-soaked grass, wheezing as he struggled to take each breath. The warrior stood over him, savoring the monk’s suffering as he reached down and pulled his axe from his victim’s back.
The warrior laughed sadistically before striking his helpless victim again and again, butchering the monk without mercy whilst spraying his blood in all directions. Eventually, the monk stopped moving. With his grizzly task completed, the axeman raised his head and looked in my direction, apparently only noticing me for the first time.
I stood on the hill watching this cruel entity as he glared back at me across the void. To my horror, I saw that his eyes were jet black, soulless and seemingly devoid of any trace of humanity. He glared at me with those dark, hate-filled eyes and shot me a cruel and sadistic smile.
In that moment, a wave of terror overcame me. I’d felt fear before of course, having encountered hostile spirits that scared me. But never before had I feared for my physical safety…for my life. My instincts told me to run and that’s what I did. I heard a blood-thirsty roar and the thump of boots. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the warrior chasing after me with his axe in hand. Clearly, he meant to do the same to me as he’d done to the monk.
I ran for my life, as quick as my legs would carry me, fleeing to the only place I could, back to the sanctuary of the caretaker’s cottage. I barely made it, my blood pumping and breath short as I ran into the house, slamming the door shut and locking it behind me.
A moment later, I heard a heavy bang on the other side of the door, closely followed by a cruel laugh…and then, nothing but silence.
I didn’t sleep a wink that night, instead barricading the doors and windows whilst standing guard with a fire poker. It was a long and terrifying night, but there were no further incidents before the first light of dawn. With considerable trepidation I unlocked the door the next morning and ventured outside, still holding the fire poker in hand, although I reckoned it would provide little to no protection against a vengeful spirit.
I immediately spotted the warrior’s axe, its head buried in my front door, and with bloody fingerprints covering its wood handle. I experienced an icy chill as I reached out to touch the weapon, noting how the steel was cool and the blood still wet.
As it happened, the axe was the only evidence left of the events of the previous evening. I retraced my steps across the island but found no footprints other than my own, no dead monk or trails of blood, and no evidence of a fire. I felt both frightened and excited after considering the implications. What I’d witnessed the previous night was akin to a time bubble, with malevolent spirits recreating a violent event from the island’s troubled history.
I was able to confirm my suspicions after returning to the cottage and referring to the book on local history. I discovered how the monastery had been built during the 9th century but was subjected to a vicious attack by Viking raiders in the year 923 A.D, with berserkers ransacking the monastery for treasure and relics, before putting all the monks to the sword and burning the structure to the ground. Clearly, the blood spilt on this land had left a lasting stain, a tragic legacy enduring through the centuries.
The rest of the day was quiet, but I fully expected another incident that night. But my encounter with the Viking berserker had been too close, and I realised I would need to be more careful next time, observing from a safe distance whilst not revealing my presence to the spirits.
Despite my close shave I was determined to find out more. I rested up that afternoon, managing to get some sleep during the daylight hours and forcing myself to eat, in spite of the fact my stomach was in knots.
I sat up all night waiting and I wasn’t disappointed. Shortly after 1 am, I heard shouts emanating from close by, somewhere to the north. Cautiously leaving my cottage, I crept across the land, following the sounds of shouts and pained cries. The ominous noise brought me to the location of the old village, where I discovered a small fire burning inside one of the ruined cottages.
I crept closer but made sure to keep out of sight, staying low and hiding behind a rock as I watched events unfold. I had my torch with me but didn’t dare use it, lest I give away my location. Instead, I needed to rely on the moonlight and dim illumination provided by the fire.
I saw a figure approaching the cottage, a man dressed in a metal armor looking like it dated from the Tudor era, and carrying a long war-pike with a sharp point at its end. The soldier’s face was briefly illuminated by the moon, and to my horror I noted his jet black eyes, the same as I’d seen on the Viking berserker.
He marched with determination, making his way to the ruined cottage and proceeding inside. What happened next was obscured from my view, but I heard a ruckus and a voice crying out, and a moment later the Tudor soldier came back out, dragging a hapless victim out with him.
The prisoner was dressed only in soiled undergarments. He appeared disheveled and in a state of shock, with blood pouring from his broken nose. I noted how his skin was darker than that of an Irishman.
The victim cried out in pain but received no mercy. I recognised the language he spoke as he pled for his life. It was Spanish. I didn’t understand all of his words, but I thought he was reciting a prayer. The Tudor soldier smacked him with the back of his hand and kicked him hard in the stomach, forcing him down to his knees.
The soldier laughed cruelly, raising up his pike and holding it over the back of the Spaniard’s neck. He slowly but firmly drove the blade downwards, slicing through flesh and bone. I looked on in sickened dismay as the Spaniard’s eyes rolled up in his head and his mouth filled up with dark blood.
A moment later, the soldier pulled his weapon free, and his victim’s limp body fell to the dirt. The killer laughed once again as he watched his victim die a horrible death. I needed to hold my hand over my mouth to stop myself from crying out. Instead, I did nothing – simply hiding and watching as the killer lingered over his victim.
Finally, the soldier lifted his pike and moved on, marching away from the cottage until he simply disappeared into the dark night, as his wicked spirit passed back across to the other realm.
When I was satisfied it was safe, I moved from my hiding place and returned to the relative sanctuary of my cottage, still traumatised by what I’d just seen. Unable to rest, I rifled through the history book and discovered the tragic story of the lost Spaniard.
In 1588, the Catholic King of Spain Philip II raised a mighty Armada of 130 warships, sending them north to invade England and overthrow their Protestant Queen, Elizabeth I. However, the Spanish suffered a surprise defeat in the English Channel and were forced into a long retreat, sailing through the North Sea and rounding Scotland, eventually hitting the west coast of Ireland.
During this leg of their voyage, a combination of rough weather and poor navigation resulted in two dozen Spanish ships going down off the rocky coastline, leaving a trail of devastation reaching from Antrim down to Kerry. And one of the ships – La Muerte – hit the rocks off the west side of my island during a fierce storm.
Muerte’s crew and soldiers attempted to make it to shore, but the waves were so intense that they all drowned…all except for one – a single Spaniard who survived and found himself stranded on the island. Being a fellow Catholic and an enemy of England, the Spaniard gained the locals’ sympathy, and he was hidden and protected for a time. However, the Spaniard was ultimately betrayed by a farmer’s son who claimed a hefty reward from the English Crown in return for giving up the Spaniard’s location.
A party of English soldiers was dispatched to the island, and the Spaniard was quickly found and killed on the spot. This was the brutal slaying I’d witnessed that night. My heart went out to the poor man, who died scared and alone so far from home. And now his spirit was trapped in this God forsaken place, condemned to relive his horrible death over and over again.
First the Viking and the Monk, and now the English Soldier and the Spaniard…the violence I’d witnessed was taking its toll upon me, and I dreaded to think what horrors I would be forced to witness in the days and nights to come.
The next morning, I walked back out to the village to investigate. The weather had improved somewhat, and the winds had died down, for which I was grateful. As I expected, there were no signs of the violent events of the previous night, and the Spaniard’s body had disappeared without a trace. Still, I had an ominous feeling as I walked through the ruins of the old village, a presence I hadn’t experienced before during the daylight hours.
Suddenly I heard a new sound carried by the morning air, a soft sobbing which came from a small, wrecked cottage on the edge of the village. The structure was little more than bare stone walls overgrown by vines and grass, but there was someone inside – a woman by the sound of it, and she was clearly in distress.
I cautiously walked forward but then stopped dead in my tracks when I saw a figure approaching down the laneway. The newcomer was a tall man dressed in a black police uniform, complete with a peaked cap and heavy boots. He carried a long baton in his right hand, swinging it back and forth with menacing intent as he marched.
He whistled as he came, acting like he didn’t have a care in the world, but when I looked into his eyes I saw darkness, the same soulless black orbs as I’d seen on the Viking and the English Soldier from the previous nights. It didn’t take a genius to work out the connection. These were all wicked spirits, possibly under the control of a greater and more powerful demonic entity.
I was caught out in the open, standing in the middle of the road in broad daylight with no cover in sight. Nevertheless, the policeman showed no interest in me, instead proceeding straight to the cottage, banging his baton aggressively against the stone wall.
The ghoulish policeman tapped his foot impatiently as he waited. I heard the sobbing grow louder, and eventually a solitary figure emerged from inside the small cottage. The woman’s appearance shocked and distressed me greatly.
It was difficult to determine her age, given her far her health had deteriorated, although I guessed she was a young woman, or had been at the time of her death. She was so emaciated that the skin was practically hanging from her bones, and I reckoned there wasn’t an ounce of fat on her entire body.
I looked into her eyes and saw nothing but misery, pain, and an intense hunger. She was dressed in filthy rags and clutched a blanket close to her breast. I dreaded to imagine what was wrapped inside it. She looked up at the baton-wielding policeman, her eyes welling up with tears as she pleaded with him.
Predictably, the cruel policeman had no sympathy, instead grabbing the poor woman by her straggly hair and physically dragging her away from the cottage doorway and towards the lane, using his baton to smack her hard on the back of her legs, forcing her to walk forward.
I felt anger rising in the pit of my stomach as I watched the policeman continue to abuse the woman, as she struggled with each step he forced her to take. I knew it wasn’t wise to intervene in a paranormal event, but I couldn’t stomach standing idly by and watching this heinous crime.
I stepped forward, determined to intervene, although I didn’t know whether this would even be physically possible. Suddenly, the starved woman collapsed by the roadside, seemingly unable to continue. The unsympathetic policeman showed no compassion, literally kicking her while she was down.
I rushed past him and went to the woman’s aid, not knowing what I could do but feeling I needed to at least to try. As soon as I approached, my nostrils were filled with the foul stench of death, almost making me retch. The poor woman’s appearance was even more pitiful close up, her face emaciated and her eyes sunken.
She attempted to open her bone-dry lips and speak, but she could not produce any words. Instead, she exhausted her remaining strength to lift her pencil thin arms, holding aloft whatever was wrapped in the tattered old blanket she carried with her.
With some trepidation, I reached out with a shaking hand, gently touching the blanket and feeling the rough fabric against my skin. I slowly pulled the rag back before recoiling in horror and disgust by what I saw underneath – a dead baby, its skin appearing like leather and its tiny body wasted away to almost nothing. I could not determine the baby’s gender, but his or her eyes were shut forever.
This was the most tragic and heart wrenching sight I had ever witnessed. The mother looked up at me with pleading eyes. She wanted me to save her child, but it was already too late. I was so caught up in the tragic scene that I forgot all about the cruel policeman, that was until he was right on top of me, glaring down upon me with his jet black eyes, holding his baton aloft, ready to strike.
He opened his mouth to reveal a gaping hole and spoke in an otherworldly voice, shouting – “Get back, you rotten cur!”
And then he swung his baton, striking me hard on my forehead. I suffered a blinding pain within my skull and fell backwards, landing heavily in the dirt. I must have blacked out for a moment, but when I came to, my head was still throbbing, and when I reached up to touch my forehead, I felt a trickle of blood coming from an open wound – real pain, and real blood.
After I regained my senses and managed to stand, I soon discovered that the spirits had disappeared – the mother and her dead baby, the sadistic policeman…all were gone.
I sluggishly managed to make my way back to the cottage, where I used the first aid kit to patch up my head wound. Luckily, my injury wasn’t as bad as I feared it might be, once I washed away the blood. Still, the policeman’s assault had proved what I previously suspected – that the spirits here could do me physical harm.
Once I had rested and recovered, I picked up the history book, although I already knew which tragic historical event I had witnessed. The Great Famine. The result of a potato blight and criminal negligence by the British government and Anglo-Irish landlords, resulting in the deaths of over 1 million people and the emigration of close to 2 million in the years that followed.
Ireland is a country with a tragic history, but the famine of the 1840’s was by far the most devastating event, its grim legacy lasting even to the current day. Unsurprisingly, my island had not escaped the devastation, at its population was reduced from over 200 to less than 50 in only ten short years.
And there was another cruel twist to the island’s history during this era. The family that owned the island back then was named Burke. However, the landlord during the famine was absentee, meaning he lived in luxury in England whilst relying on local agents to collect rent from his starving tenants, and using the constabulary to evict those who could not pay.
This was the scene I had witnessed being recreated by the spirits – a starved mother and her already deceased baby, forced from their home and left to die by the roadside. She was one of the thousands who’d suffered the same horrific fate during the famine.
I felt both saddened and angered by what I’d witnessed, but also afraid. My visions were becoming more vivid…more real. It was now clear that I was in physical danger, and I dreaded what would come next.
I rested for the rest of that day and the night. Mercifully, the spirits left me alone that night, although perhaps they were just toying with me. I waited until dusk before venturing out and walking the island, hoping to pre-empt the next paranormal event. I walked along the eastern side of the island, somehow believing I would find someone or something out there. I wasn’t disappointed.
What I heard was a soft singing coming from the direction of the old manor house, a sorrowful ballad sung by a woman. The sad words drew me in, like a siren leading a sailor towards the rocks. I felt a powerful draw pulling me towards the manor house, and I threw caution to the wind as I followed the sound.
I saw her standing on a small hill to the rear of the ruined building, looking out to sea and the mainland beyond. The woman was dressed all in white, her long blonde hair flowing in the wind, and her deep blue eyes filled with sorrow and mourning. She was undoubtedly very pretty, or at least had been when she was alive, and her singing voice was a thing of beauty.
I didn’t recognise the song, but the words moved me, almost bringing a tear to my eye. As I approached, I half expected a violent event to play out before me, for some variety of hellish ghoul to appear and do something unspeakable to the lady in white. But this did not happen.
As I walked closer, the spirit woman acknowledged my presence for the first time, turning to face me, her long dress flowing as she did so. And then she spoke.
“Do not worry good sir. My time has not arrived quite yet. I still have a few moments to savor before my demon comes for me.”
I stood glued to the spot, awestruck and astonished by the woman who stood before me, and had just spoken directly to me. Now, I had communicated with spirits before of course, but never so clearly. This was like having a one-to-one conversation with a real person. But I couldn’t forget that this woman was dead, and she didn’t belong in this world.
The lady was radiant, almost glowing, but her eyes were lacking something – the glint one would expect to see in the those of a living, breathing human being. I opened my mouth but struggled to find the words.
“…What…who are you?” I asked nervously.
She scoffed dismissively before answering.
“Is this what passes for manners in your time, young sir? Standards seem to have dropped considerably since my demise…Well, I suppose its left to me to introduce myself. My name is Lady Elizabeth Burke, and I am – or rather was – the last owner of this house.”
She nodded to the crumbling ruin behind her, before looking back out to the sea, sorrowfully casting her dead eyes upon the far distant mainland. It took me a moment to get my thoughts in order and figure out the connection.
“You’re related to Lord Burke. The landlord who evicted his tenants during the famine.” I stated.
She nodded her head in shame.
“My grandfather,” she confirmed, “A cruel and greedy man. I believe he only set foot upon this island twice in his whole life, and he cared nothing for the people.” She shook her head before continuing, “My father had no sons, so I inherited the house and estate. I considered myself a strong and independent minded woman and took part in protests for women’s suffrage during my youth.
I was determined to do things differently, to make up for the wrongs committed by my grandfather. I made this place my home and tried to treat my tenants fairly…but, the Irish have long memories…”
She sighed aloud. I was listening intently as she told her sad story. I hadn’t asked to hear her tale, but I felt she needed to tell it.
“The country changed dramatically after the Great War. There was a revolution, followed by a civil war. I should have left the island while I had the chance, but I was too stubborn. Pride was my sin, I suppose…”
She fell silent for a time as a terrible sadness seemed to come over her. I felt it necessary to prompt her.
“How did you die?” I asked.
I swore I saw a tear drop from her eye as she replied in an emotional tone.
“It was the 23rd August 1922. A hot summer’s night as I recall. He came shortly after dusk – just a local boy with hatred in his heart, seeking vengeance for the suffering of his ancestors. He set the house on fire…I couldn’t escape…”
I lowered my head, my heart saddened by this woman and her tragic tale. It wasn’t just the circumstances of her death that saddened me, but the fact that she was still trapped here, almost a century later. I didn’t wish to add to the woman’s suffering, but there were still questions I needed answers to.
“You are the first spirit who has spoken to me, why is this so?” I inquired.
“I died more recently than the others you’ve encountered thus far.” she replied, “I was the youngest of the spirits here on the island, that was until the man who came before you…But you’ll meet him yourself soon enough.”
She looked me in the eye before speaking her next words, her cold eyes bringing a chill down my spine.
“Besides, I wanted to show myself to you, and to speak with you. I saw you go to the aid of the starving mother. You tried to help her. You have compassion young sir, although little good it will do you here…”
I gulped, deeply concerned by what she was telling me. However, this did lead nicely to my next question.
“What is it that keeps you here?” I asked with a quaking voice, half fearing the answer I would receive, “Why can’t you pass over?”
She surprised me by laughing out loud before replying. “He hasn’t revealed himself to you yet. Of course he hasn’t. He enjoys toying with his victims first you see. The locals call him Dullahan – the headless horseman. Some say he’s an embodiment of the Celtic God of Death, while others maintain he’s a demon come up from Hell. Legend has it, he once ruled the mainland, but was banished to this island during the time of Saint Patrick.
“And so, here he has remained, trapping and imprisoning anyone foolish enough to step into his domain. Fools like me…” She paused to glare directly into my eye before continuing, “And now you…”
In that moment I felt a primal terror, and for the first time I truly questioned my decision to come here. I noticed how the sun had set, cloaking the island in darkness. The Lady sighed again, before performing a half curtesy and bidding me farewell.
“Now, if you’ll excuse me good sir, I have a prior engagement to attend.”
With that, she gracefully turned on her heels and walked back towards the manor house, her dress and hair blowing in the cold evening’s air, until her physical form disappeared, melting away into the night.
I was still in a state of shocked confusion as I made my way back to the cottage. What I’d seen and heard, the terrible truths which the late Lady Burke had revealed to me – I couldn’t come to terms with it, now realising without doubt that I was in over my head.
I was oblivious as I wandered through the fields, and as night fell upon the island. A war-like cry in the distance was enough to bring me back to reality. I looked back to the ruined manor house, seeing a shadowy figure rapidly approach, carrying something burning in his right hand. He looked like nothing more than a child, a teenage boy wearing a peaked cap and with a red bandanna barely covering his mouth and nose.
He sprinted across the field, quickly covering the distance as he sprinted towards the house. The crudely built fire-bomb he carried looked like a sod of burning turf, with fencing wire pushed through to make a throwing handle. As he came closer to his target, I saw the blackness in his eyes, the same demonic look I’d witnessed before with the other entities, those sent to torment and destroy.
I could only look on in horror as the boy tossed his firebomb through the empty window frame of the house, cheering with sadistic glee as the flames quickly spread though the building’s interior. And then I saw her again – Lady Burke, now stood on the upper floor of the manor house, looking out wistfully as the fire tore through the structure below her.
She didn’t attempt to flee or save herself, merely seeming resigned to her terrible fate, reliving the nightmare she’d suffered so many times before. I saw the flames rising and experienced a surge of adrenaline, momentarily believing I could rescue Lady Burke from her terrible fate.
I sprinted towards the inferno, making it as far as the house’s front entrance, before the thick smoke and intense flames forced me back. I coughed and spluttered, struggling to see through the smoke as I looked upwards, seeing Lady Burke for the last time, looking into her sad, lost eyes as she moved away from the window, calmly turning around and walking into the flames, accepting her fate and eternal damnation.
My clothes still stank of smoke and my eyes were stinging by the time I made it back to the cottage. Nevertheless, I grabbed hold of my history book, determined to find out the whole story of that fateful night during the summer of 1922.
This was a time of political turmoil throughout Ireland. After the Great War, a violent revolution began, with the Irish Republican Army pitted against British forces. The Irish republicans won, but their revolution was incomplete, with the Anglo-Irish Treaty partitioning the island and forcing Southern representatives to take an oath of allegiance to the British Crown.
A resulting split in the republican movement led to a brutal civil war. In the chaos which followed, some sought revenge on old enemies, with many of the hated ‘big houses’ owned by Anglo-Irish landlords being burnt to the ground. While the war raged on the mainland, resentment brewed on the island, and the manor house was set ablaze in an arson attack, killing Lady Burke, and adding yet another chapter to the island’s tragic history.
There were tears in my eye as I finished reading. None of this was news to me of course. However, what Lady Burke had told me certainly was new information and it wasn’t good. I now knew what was happening on the island went well beyond any of my previous experiences with the paranormal.
These dark eyed entities held malicious intent, and they were capable of physically hurting the living, as the baton-wielding policeman who attacked me had already proved. But it wasn’t just these evil spirits I had to worry about now, it was the supernatural deity that controlled them – Dullahan, the Ancient Celt’s God of Death.
This was an entity with powers way beyond anything I’d previously encountered. I couldn’t sleep that night; tossing and turning, and jumping at every sound. For the first time in years I was truly afraid. It wasn’t just death I feared. After all, I know for a fact there is an afterlife. What did terrify me was the prospect of my spirit being trapped in this hellish place, tormented for all eternity by this wicked deity.
I still had two nights to get through before the fisherman would return, and I had no doubt that Dullahan would come for me before then. My only hope was to fight him, to discover his weakness. I needed information, and there was still a missing piece to the puzzle.
My predecessor. The former custodian who’d left the note for me to find, before taking his own life by jumping off the western cliffs. If his spirit was still trapped here, then I needed to seek him out and find a way to communicate with him. I believed this was my only hope of survival.
I didn’t dare to leave my sanctuary until dawn, fearing the creatures that I knew stalked the fields and beaches under the cover of darkness. After sunrise, I cautiously made my way through the rock-strewn fields and ruined buildings, approaching the cliffs on the island’s western side.
Peering over the edge, I saw the sheer drop, almost one hundred feet down to the sharp rocks below. I watched, mesmerised by the sights and sounds of the mighty waves crashing against the cliffside. The strong gale shook me as I looked out to sea. To the west there was nothing but open ocean, the mighty Atlantic, and no land between here and America.
I didn’t hear him approach and was taken completely off guard, the shock of hearing him speak almost sent me over the cliff’s edge.
“I wouldn’t recommend it.” He said.
I jumped, turning around to see a solitary figure standing about 6 feet behind me, his pale skin barely illuminated by the morning sun. He appeared as a man about my age, dark haired and with stubble on his chin. He wore modern clothes; denim jeans, white trainers, and a black bomber jacket. I wouldn’t have guessed he was dead if I hadn’t already known.
True, his eyes were lacking something, and on closer inspection I realised his spark of life was gone. But otherwise, he appeared just like a living and breathing human being. Then again, he was the most recently deceased spirit, which also explained how he was able to communicate with me so clearly.
I stood there, frozen to the spot and just staring at him, unable to think of what to say to this poor wretch. In the end, it was the spirit who broke the silence.
“What’s the matter mate? You look like you’ve seen a ghost?”
He surprised me again by laughing at his own joke. It seemed he’d retained his sense of humour, despite his terrible situation. I struggled to open my mouth, forcing the words from my lips.
“You’re the old custodian. You left the note for me to find…”
The spirit nodded his head solemnly, before confirming what I’d already guessed.
“Yeah, that was me mate. Didn’t do you much good though, did it? You still came out here to find me. Still, your fate was sealed as soon as you set foot on this God forsaken rock.”
I felt a cold chill run through me upon hearing those words. There was a lump in my throat as I forced myself to reply.
“What is your name?” I asked sheepishly.
The spirit looked puzzled by the very question, pausing before making his response.
“Well, around here they just call me the ‘custodian’ or ‘the mainlander’, but back when I was alive, I was called Davy. That’s what my friends knew me as anyway…” He laughed again before continuing, “I guess you’re the closest thing I have to a friend here, so Davy it is, I reckon!”
I didn’t quite know what to make of Davy. In all my years as a paranormal investigator, I’d never encountered a spirit like him.
“You took your own life.” I stated in a matter-of-fact tone, “Threw yourself off the cliff.”
He lowered his head, a sadness evident in his otherwise dead eyes as he spoke.
“Yeah, I did so. Believe it or not, it seemed like my best option at the time. I thought I could escape him, but I died as soon as my body hit the rocks, and now I’m trapped here…forever. A plaything for that sick fuck to torment until the end of days.”
I nodded my head sympathetically. I did feel bad for Davy – of course I did. His fate was horrifying. But, at the same time, I needed information from him, to learn the truth of what I was facing.
“You mean Dullahan, don’t you? He’s the one who’s keeping you trapped here.”
Davy snorted before replying. “Yeah, it’s him. It’s always been him. A headless horseman crossed with an ancient Celt God, ruling over an army of demonic minions. They didn’t mention him in the job description, did they?”
I could tell Davy was frightened, even if he was masking it with humour. He may be dead, but he remained in constant fear of this vile entity. Nevertheless, I needed to push for more.
“There must be a way to defeat him. He’s got to have a weakness.”
“None that I could find,” Davy replied, with a hint of anger evident in his voice, “Do you think I would have killed myself, if there’d been any other way?”
He paused, pointing to the gold crucifix I wore around my neck, the family keepsake I’d forgotten all about.
“You can put your faith in Jesus if you want. It might help, but I wouldn’t bet on it!”
Needless to say, I wasn’t reassured by his advice. I wanted to pump him for more information, but there was no more time.
Davy looked up at the rising sun with a deep sorrow in his eyes, as he stepped forward towards the cliff’s edge.
“I would love to stay longer and chat, but alas I have a prior engagement.”
I became anxious, frantically looking from side-to-side as I scanned the horizon.
“Your tormentor…is he coming for you?” I asked fearfully.
He stopped just inches from the cliff’s edge, turning to face me with a wicked grin on his lips. I looked into his eyes and was shocked to see they’d turned jet black.
“I killed myself, remember?” he answered, his voice suddenly becoming deep and disconnected, “I am my own tormentor.”
And a second later, he stepped off the edge. I gasped in disbelief, peering down just in time to see Davy fall, his form hitting the rocks below, before he disappeared beneath the crashing waves.
By the time I’d watched my predecessor jump from the cliffs I’d realised two things. Firstly, I knew that I had to get off this island, otherwise I would die here, and my spirit would be trapped in this hell until the end of time. But I also knew I would have to wait until the fisherman returned with his boat, and he wasn’t due for another 24 hours.
That meant I had to survive another day and night on the island. My only link to the mainland was the two-way emergency radio in my cottage. But try as I might, I couldn’t get in contact with anyone, as my frantic SOS calls were answered by nothing but static. I felt certain that Dullahan was responsible. Whoever or whatever he was, Dullahan clearly called all the shots out here.
He’d been toying with me thus far, showing me his power and demonstrating what terrors awaited me under his cruel dominion. Dullahan surely realised this was my last night in his realm, and so he would come for me after nightfall, seeking to claim my soul before the first light of dawn.
Its an odd thing, but I spent that final day in a state of relative calm, despite the extreme danger I found myself in. The sun was shining, and the winds had died down, allowing me to walk the island, taking in its unique sights and sounds one last time.
It really is a beautiful place, set right on the edge of the world. I could sense the spirits as I walked through the fields, along the beaches, and past the ruins. I heard them call out to me, their voices carried by the light breeze. There was so much tragedy here of course – the wars, the famine, and all the evil Dullahan had inflicted over the centuries. But in spite of all this pain and suffering, there were happy memories here, a triumph of the human spirit and the will to survive against all the odds.
But nevertheless, the ghosts trapped here yearned for freedom, dreaming of being able to pass over to the other side. They begged for my help, pleading to be set free. My heart bled for them, but there was nothing I could do. I was fighting for my own survival after all, and frankly I didn’t expect to live to see another day.
The hours passed by slowly as I watched the sun set on the western horizon, over the rough waters of the mighty Atlantic. I returned to the cottage as darkness gradually crept across the island. I wasn’t naïve enough to think I would be safe there, but it was the only place on the island connected to the modern world, and I wanted to read the history book again under an electric light, in the last-ditch hope of finding something – anything – that might help me in the fight to come. But there was nothing. I was truly alone.
I awoke in the early hours to an unholy din. Jumping up from the sofa, I took a moment to regain my senses. I couldn’t believe that I’d fallen asleep. This hadn’t been my intention, but I was so exhausted that I must have dropped off.
The sound I heard was horrifying, something akin to the unholy screech of a banshee, interspersed with a cruel high-pitched cackle, a sadistic laughter which drowned out every other sound. I felt an icy chill of terror pulsating through me when I realised what this surely meant. Dullahan was here. My time had come.
The ominous noises grew louder and closer. I heard the sound of horses galloping, and of men crying out for bloody murder. It seemed like the legions of hell were descending upon me.
I found myself frozen to the spot, the terror I felt was so all encompassing. I considered barricading the doors and windows of my small cottage and hiding myself away in the vain hope I could survive the night. But I knew this was pointless. Dullahan controlled everything on this island, and he would find a way in. Besides, despite my fear, I had the fire of defiance in my belly, and so I decided I would rather face this monster head on.
A moment later, I opened the front door before cautiously stepping out. The first thing I noticed was how cold it had become, freezing in fact. The temperature on the island seemed to have dropped by several degrees in a matter of minutes. The next thing that hit me was the foul stench – similar to rotting flesh. The smell was so bad that it made me retch.
When I looked up, I saw him for the first time – his hideous carriage illuminated by the moonlight. I can honestly say that I’ve never seen anything so horrifying and vile in my entire life.
Dullahan is in fact a headless horseman. Dressed all in black, he literally held his decapitated head in his skeleton-like left hand. The head itself consisted of rotting flesh, having the colour and consistency of mouldy cheese. And yet, it was still alive – his mouth forming a wicked and impossibly wide grin, stretching from cheek to cheek and revealing rotten yellow teeth.
And his eyes were filled with malice and hatred, constantly darting from side-to-side until they eventually focused upon me, appearing like the hungry eyes of a predator sizing up its prey.
The wagon he rode upon looked like something from a twisted nightmare. The horses were black and emaciated, their shredded flesh falling from the bone. I noticed how Dullahan held what looked like a removed human spine in his right hand, which he apparently used as a whip.
The wagon itself was of a macabre design, stitched together with assorted body parts. Its covering looked like it was fashioned from dried human skin, and the wheels appeared to be made from bone. The carriage was adorned with funeral objects, including skulls containing lit candles, their dim light shining a path for the hellish vehicle.
Behind the carriage stood Dullahan’s demonic minions, the four black-eyed malevolent spirits I’d previously encountered – the Viking Berserker, the Tudor Soldier, the Policeman, and the Young Rebel. They were all armed with their weapons of choice, and all stared right at me with their cold, dead eyes. But all four held back. Clearly, they were subservient to Dullahan and completely under his control. My soul was his to claim, and so his minions were only here to watch.
I was still trying to take in the terrifying scene before me when Dullahan omitted another cruel, shrieking cackle from his severed head. The din was so loud that I thought my head would explode, as I dropped down to my knees and covered my ears with my hands.
The hideous laughter continued unabated, but I fought through it, getting back on my feet and raising my head to meet my assailant’s eye. If I was going to die, I wanted to at least go with some dignity. I screamed my lungs out, trying in vain to be heard over his vile laughter.
“Begone foul beast! Leave me be!” I cried.
I don’t know what I expected to achieve by this outburst. Certainly, Dullahan was not impressed. Instead of retreating, he lashed out – swinging his whip and striking me hard across my chest. I experienced a sharp burst of intense pain, screaming out in agony as I fell backwards, landing heavily on my back.
I almost passed out from the pain, but when I opened my eyes, I was horrified to see him standing over me, holding aloof his hideous severed head in one hand while reaching out for me with the other. I was helpless, completely at his mercy…and of course, Dullahan has no mercy.
My panicked brain was running on overdrive, as the fight or flight impulse kicked in. Suddenly, I remembered what Davy had told me, his flippant advice about putting my faith in a higher power. So, with a shaking hand, I reached for the small gold crucifix hanging around my neck, holding it aloft in the minuscule hope that it would offer me some protection. I didn’t expect it to work of course, but I was desperate and out of options.
The sight of the cross had no visible affect upon Dullahan. He simply continued to laugh, reaching out with his bony hand and grabbing the cross, roughly pulling my necklace free. I was sure he would kill me there and then, but the strangest thing happened. I watched in astonishment as the beast’s hand began to burn, and he cried out in pain and confusion, dropping my grandmother’s necklace in the process.
Suddenly, all hell broke loose. Dullahan retreated, still screaming as he fled back towards the wagon with his severed head in hand. But the horses had already bolted, tearing across the fields and forcing their headless master to chase after them in a most undignified manner.
At the same time, the four evil spirits descended into a blind panic, fleeing in all directions, as they suddenly understood what it was like to be afraid.
I was truly astonished by this sudden turn of events and couldn’t believe I’d survived. With some difficulty, I pulled myself up, still feeling the pain from the strike of Dullahan’s whip. I reckoned I had a couple of cracked ribs, but this was a problem for later.
I looked up to the small hill overlooking the cottage and saw two figures standing there, watching me from afar. The light wasn’t great, but I recognised them nonetheless – Lady Burke and Davy, the lost spirits I’d encountered and spoken with over the previous days. I couldn’t tell for sure, but I thought they were smiling down upon me, proud that I had fought back and won.
However, I believed my victory would be short-lived. For the rest of the night, I hid away in the cottage, listening to the distant sounds of Dullahan’s hellish screams, and thumps of his horses’ hooves as they tore across the land. I fully expected the demon to return and finish what he’d started, and I didn’t think I’d survive to see the first lights of dawn.
And yet, somehow, I did.
Needless to say, I was standing on the jetty first thing, and I jumped onto the boat as soon as it arrived, leaving my luggage and possessions behind. None of that mattered anymore. I needed to get off the island, because I wouldn’t survive another night there.
I greeted the aging captain as my long-awaited saviour. He looked very surprised to see me still breathing. Our trip back to the mainland passed by mainly in silence. The fisherman didn’t say much, but I did notice the thin smile on his dry lips.
And, when we reached land, he patted me firmly on my back, and he said – “Well done, young man.”
After I got fixed up and went home, I made numerous attempts to track down my ‘employer’ and to contact the mysterious Mr Black, the man who’d interviewed me over the phone and offered me the job of custodian. Unsurprisingly, I had no luck. The original job advertisement had disappeared, Mr Black’s number was disconnected, and I found no trace of the corporation anywhere online. Predictably, I never received any salary.
Although I have little solid information to impart, I hope my cautionary tale will go some way to exposing this shadowy organisation, and in time we may be able to discover their true origins and aims. But this isn’t the only reason I’m sharing my story.
You see, I’m going back to the island. You probably think that I’m crazy or perhaps suicidal, but I have my reasons, and I’m not going unprepared. I’ve done my research – reading the ancient texts and folklore. I now know it wasn’t the sign of the cross that forced Dullahan to flee, it was the gold. This is his weakness.
And so, when I return, I will go armed with an arsenal of expensive and unusual weapons. I need to do this, to put an end to his evil reign once and for all, and to free all the poor souls trapped in endless loops of pain and suffering. I couldn’t live with myself if I didn’t at least try.
That said, I’m going back in the full knowledge that I might not survive this time, and my soul could become trapped like all the others. If the worst happens, I want my family and friends to understand why I’ve done this.
There’s not much more for me to say, other than to quote a well-known Irish blessing that I feel is somehow appropriate –
‘Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal.’
Good luck, and I hope we meet again.
Credit : Finn MacCool
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