Oct 31

East Wall tales of terror

 East Wall tales of terror 


“For Whom the Banshee Howls” is the totally and utterly true story of the last sighting of a Banshee in Dublin City, which actually took place in our community of East Wall . Read on if you dare.


Census – Third 218 Seven Towers Anthology

For whom the Banshee howls


Everyone has heard of the Banshee, which is a supernatural creature that is native to Ireland. Mythology and supernatural fiction the world over have similar tales, such as the German Lorelei, but the Banshee is a uniquely Irish phenomenon. The Banshee is a messenger of death, and legends say that when her fearsome wailing is heard somebody nearby will die. She roams the countryside, and anyone out on their own at night, anywhere in Ireland (especially if you have an Irish surname, or a name beginning with Mac or O) should beware if they hear a horrible wailing. It could be her, or so the ancient warning goes.


The Banshee has been described as a woman with very long hair. She wears long flowing robes and continuously combs her hair in accompaniment to her wailing. She is not necessarily ugly or frightening in appearance, but radiates a supernatural aura, and anyone seeing her is struck with a feeling of dread, if not simply outright fear. But truth be told, she’s more often heard than seen. Many Banshee stories tell of the terrifying wailing, while in only a few is she actually seen by anybody. The wailing is said to begin late in the evening, and will continue until some unfortunate has passed away. Sometimes the Banshee is known to sit on a windowsill,

crouched tight, combing away and wailing until death comes to call on

somebody within. Details of her behaviour also vary – in some accounts she

wails mournfully while almost absent-mindedly combing slowly, as if lost in

thought or in her own personal tragedy. At other times she is described as

combing furiously, aggressively dragging the comb through her hair while

her wailing matches this pace, louder and more piercing, and she glares at

any witnesses freezing the very blood in their veins. Verifiable, detailed

accounts are too rare to reach any guaranteed conclusion, but it is likely

that the difference in behaviour may be dependent on the form of death she

is foretelling, the more violent and tragic this is forcing her on to a more

grotesque display.


In the 21st century are we too sophisticated to believe in this “Angel

of Death”, or has her wailing simply got lost in the hustle, bustle and noise

of the modern world? Did Banshees ever really exist or are they just a myth?

Well, throughout history people have sworn that they are real. Tales of

Banshees can be traced to the early eighth-century (13 hundred years ago),

and even today in 2011 belief in the Banshee is common in many parts of

Ireland. And while the countryside she is said to have roamed in olden days

may have given way to towns, housing estates, motorways and retail parks

who is to say that the Banshee has not survived unchanged and her grim

duty remains the same? Truth be told, it would appear that the Banshee

could adapt, and while predominantly a rural phenomenon, reports from

urban locations are not unknown, and occurrences in even the bigger cities,

while rare, are not completely unheard of. And even in our capital tales of

sightings of the Banshee do exist. The most recent of these took place within

living memory, and is as authentic as any you will hear in the wilds of

Connemara or the “far flung Kerry Mountains”.


You probably heard of a part of Dublin called East Wall. It’s located

down by the Port, and if nothing else you will have passed through it to visit

the Point Depot, or the O2 as it’s now called. During the Celtic Tiger years,

regular readers of the property supplements would marvel at the area, as it

was a constant source of “success stories”. House prices soared, development

land was amongst the most expensive in the country and shiny new high

rise buildings rose up all around. No patch of land was considered too small

to build on by the property developers and financiers who cast their greedy

gaze in an Eastern direction. Historical buildings, traditional industries and

much loved local landmarks all fell to the conquering army of “the property

market” and overpriced apartments, hotels and empty office buildings rose

phoenix-like from the rubble to take their place. Despite this “prosperity”

and scramble for land, there was one spot in East Wall that remained

untouched and elicited no interest, let alone a bidding war. While far lesser

properties were snapped up at ridiculously inflated prices, this strategically

placed site was never placed on the market. And more tellingly, nobody ever

tried to chase down the owners to make them “the offer of a lifetime” that

was common currency in those crazy days. The house stands at the junction

of Seaview Avenue and Church Road, the community’s main thoroughfare.

It stands out as unique, not just because it was unaffected by the world

changing around it, but by its very appearance. As one of the older houses

in the area it has a peculiarly antiquarian look, made more unusual by the

modifications and additions made in nearer days. At the side of the house,

the windows have been completely bricked up, as has a small door there.

The front of the house is secured tighter than the ‘Joy’. A heavy iron gate

from the street leads into a caged tunnel of sorts to cross the small front

garden, and up the seven steps to another caged door, through which is the

many-locked hall door. With locks on the gate and doors, it looks just as if a

section of a prison was lifted away and attached to the front of this old

house. But it was not always like this, and was once beautiful, with an

abundant flower garden, and was the source of much admiration (and not a

little jealousy) in East Wall at that time. So what happened, and why did it

change? It is in the explaining of this history that we will hear of the most

recent appearance of the Banshee within Dublin city, and discover how this

now deserted house is central to the chilling tale. These events occurred on

the 31st of May, seventy years ago.


The house was occupied by a very well respected family by the name

of McDonald. The father, James, was the local doctor here in East Wall. His

beautiful wife Eleanor was a trained school teacher, and had spent some

years working in the local Wharf school. As was the custom of the day, she

had to give up her profession when she married, and now devoted her time

to raising their three adorable children.

It was late in the evening on that last day of May, when the good

doctor was suddenly called to visit the house of a very sick man. Remember,

70 years ago, medicines were not as effective as they are these days so

people often died from illnesses that would not be considered fatal now. If

anybody wants to do a little bit of maths, can you figure out roughly what

year this was occurring in, and what was going on in the world at that time?

Exactly, World War two was raging, with fighting going on all over Europe.

Ireland was a neutral nation, but a state of emergency had been declared,

and rationing was in effect. Medicines were in short supply, so the doctor

would have to work extra hard, and use all his medical skills to save the



The doctor set out for the sick man’s house which was located on

Abercorn Road, which was on the other side of the railway track, near Sheriff

Street. The exact number of this house has been lost to time, unfortunately.

He promised his wife that he would be as quick as he could, but he knew

how sick the patient was and how hard it would be to save him, so he would

probably stay for much of the night. Knowing how committed to his profession

her husband was, Eleanor knew he would not return until he had done

everything he possibly could. She decided to take herself and their three

children over to stay with her mother in Newcomen Cottages in the North

Strand. If you know a little restaurant called “LET’S Eat” on the Strand,

there’s a lane beside it, and Newcomen Cottages could be found up that

lane. That’s where her mother lived.

During “the emergency” items such as coal and lamp oil were in

short supply. As a result of this scarcity, and also due to war time security

measures, the streets were not lit up at night as normal and most houses

would remain in complete darkness. For the doctor, this meant a not too

pleasant journey as he walked over Johnny Cullen’s hill to reach the patient’s

house, with visibility very poor.

When the doctor arrived at the house of the sick man, the mans wife

brought him straight to the patient’s bedroom. The room was dark; a small

candle barely illuminating an area near the patient, while all else was deep

in shadow. Even in this poor lighting Dr. McDonald could see that the man

in the bed was very, very sick. His face was deathly white and there was a

bluish tinge to his lips. A dreadful wheezing noise came rattling from the

man’s throat. It didn’t take a medical professional to see that he was close to

death, and the doctor quickly set to work to do what he could.

Suddenly, a dreadful moaning was heard outside the window. The

woman of the house rushed in to the bedroom screeching “Please don’t take

him, please don’t take him” as the dying man gasped for air. The woman ran

to the bedside locker and pulled out a small vial of holy water and began to

sprinkle it around the dying man, and splash it towards the window. The

sick man suddenly sat up in the bed clutching at his chest. As if his illness

was not bad enough, the latest burst of activity had startled him, and he

was now experiencing a massive heart attack. The doctor slowly eased him

back down onto the bed, and anxiously administered to him, his sole focus

on dealing with the effects of the heart attack. His task was not helped by

the events surrounding him – the moaning continued, persistent and

mournful, and strangely affecting. The wife had dropped to her knees, and

was pushed up against the wall under the windowsill. She was begging and

pleading, repeating over and over “Please don’t take him, please don’t take

him”. Despite these less than ideal conditions, Dr McDonald was the

consummate professional and overcame the chaotic and bizarre events and

remained steadfast in his work. As the evening progressed he not only

addressed the heart attack, but stabilised the man’s other symptoms. As he

worked throughout the passing hours, the environment around him had

changed, but he was too focused on the task at hand to chart the events.

The wailing had subsided and eventually ceased. The woman of the house

had stopped her pleadings and replaced them with mumbled prayers and

gratitudes to the Holy Father, his son, the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the

saints. The doctor’s sense of dread, the chill and the hairs standing on end

at the back of his neck all relaxed, though he’d been so single-mindedly

committed to his patient that these had barely registered with him.

The patient was now stable, and comfortable in his bed. All was quiet

and the lady of the house composed herself. She praised the doctor for his

work, and was insistent he would not leave the house “without a cup of tea

at least”. Exhausted by his efforts and the lateness of the hour he was more

than happy to oblige before setting off on the dark and wearisome journey

home. Sipping on the tea, his mind began to consider the events of the

night. He enquired as to what the woman’s hysterical behaviour was all

about, and gently admonished her for adding to the difficulty of his task.

She was surprised that the doctor had not understood but was eager to

explain. Had he not heard the Banshee howling outside the house, there to

foretell her husband’s death? The undisputed fact that this was a house of

“great devotion”, the sprinkling of the holy water and her powerful prayers

were all that had saved his soul. While she was genuine in her appreciation

of the doctor’s great skill, she was clear that this was only incidental to the

“great miracle witnessed here tonight”. The doctor simply nodded, not

believing a word of it. He knew that it was his medical skills that had saved

the man. Of course, the strange howling of that animal (dog, cat, or whatever

it was) had been unsettling, and accompanied by the woman’s hysteria it

had slightly shaken him. He was over it now. He was a man of science, and

had no regard for the supernatural or daft superstitions. Dublin was still a

relatively young city, and in working class areas such as this there were

many whose family had started out as rural labourers. Their traditions and

their old superstitions had come to the city with them, and some had yet to

shake off this ignorance. But he was too polite to argue this point, and

besides, the man’s life had been saved and with time he may even return to

good health. That’s what was most important, and he was content to let the

woman believe as she wished. It was time to head back to his own house.

The area was in almost total darkness now, and it was with great

difficulty that Dr McDonald made his way home. With visibility so poor, if he

hadn’t known the route so well it would have been near impossible. He crossed

over Johnny Cullen’s Hill, which spans the railway track and connects East

Wall with North Wall. He then made his way onto Church Road and started

heading slowly towards his house, stepping carefully. Suddenly he heard a

clattering noise on the ground nearby, as if something had been dropped. It

was too dark to see anything, but he quickly checked his medical bag and

reassured himself that it was still closed and nothing had fallen out. Despite

the strange occurrences of earlier he thought nothing of this incident and

continued on. It happened again, with the clattering louder and obviously

nearer. In the darkness he could still see nothing, and this time he did begin

to feel a little uncomfortable at least. “Hello, is there somebody there?” he

asked quietly, hoping to hear an animal scuttling away. Not a sound could

be heard in reply. If the source of the noise was a person, hopefully it was a

courting couple in a nearby garden, now remaining quiet to avoid further

embarrassment. He walked on, and there was another clattering, this time

louder again and undoubtedly right in front of him. He felt, or possibly sensed

that there was an object near his foot, and he bent to pick this up. It appeared

to be a comb, quite large and very rough, as if carved out of raw wood. He

could only feel its shape, but not properly see it – if it was a comb it was very

old and not something that could be bought in a modern shop. With events

of the evening intruding again on his mind, he remembered some more of

the legend of the Banshee. It was said that if anyone found or was touched

by a Banshees comb they would soon pass into the spirit world or faerie

realm. He realised he had been standing still, clutching the object and thinking

this ridiculous nonsense. He became angry with himself, a man of science

being affected like this. No doubt this was a toy, dropped by a child earlier in

the day and he had kicked it in the dark. His tiredness, his exertions and the

dark of the night were taking its toll. He needed to get into his house and

have some much needed sleep. He stepped on, moving swifter now towards

his final destination.


A soul-chilling sound pierced the night, a piteous wail that clutched

at his heart. The sound chilled him to the very centre of his being, for he

knew that it was a sound not of this earth. He did not even try to rationalise

what he was experiencing, all his previous held certainties fading as the

very blood seemed to freeze in his veins. He blessed himself and rattled off a

quick prayer and hurried to cover the remaining few feet to reach his home.

In the pitch dark he reached his goal, and stumbled against the railings. At

that very moment, perhaps as cloud cover broke, the moon illuminated his

house, and the grotesque presence that awaited him. He gasped in terror at

the thing that sat perched on his front doorstep. It was an old woman,

dressed in rags that crouched there and in her wizened ancient hand she

held a small black comb. With her head bent low, she combed her tangled

grey hair and moaned that eerie moan again.

The old woman slowly raised her head and stared at the good doctor.

Her eyes, despite all that had occurred up to now, were what unnerved him

the most. They were completely black, not like the colour, just a pure and

total absence of any light or life at all. She pointed her long finger at him

and wailed again, more soul-rattling and terrifying than ever.

The doctor was frozen to the spot, and could not move. He closed his

eyes so he didn’t have to see that awful stare, and covered his ears so he

didn’t have to hear her terrible screams. How long he stayed like that who

can tell. But eventually he sensed a change in the atmosphere. He reluctantly

opened his eyes, and she was gone. He slowly began to move his hands from

his ears, cautiously, because he could still hear a wailing but subtlety different

than that which had held him rooted to the spot.

And suddenly, reality intruded. The sound was real, not supernatural,

and there was a screeching in the sky above his head. He looked up and saw

three large aeroplanes passing overhead, very low. He tried to make sense of

what he was seeing and hearing. In those days it was unusual to see planes

flying over East Wall, and more so German war planes, for that is what they

were. The sheer strangeness and terrors of the night finally took their toll on

the doctor, and he collapsed in a faint on the pavement. It would be many

hours before he was revived, and only then would he discover the true horrors

of that faithful night.


On that night 70 years ago, on May 31 1941 the terrible bombing of

the North Strand took place. Despite the fact that Ireland was a neutral

country, and not involved in the war, German planes dropped 4 large bombs

on the North Strand, destroying over 300 houses, and killing 28 people.

Many more were injured and the impact on this tight-knit community was

devastating. It was nothing supernatural, but very real evil that was present

in Dublin that night.


One of the streets destroyed was where Newcomen cottages had stood,

and amongst those who died there was the doctor’s wife, her mother and the

doctor’s children. The doctor was now convinced that he had been haunted

by a Banshee and knew why she had appeared. She had wailed outside the

house on Abercorn Road but did not expect the old man to die. She had

followed the doctor, throwing her combs, but was not there to witness his

death. She was there to warn him, and wail and mourn at the death of his

family, each and every one of which was to die that very night.

After that night, Dr McDonald was never the same. The tragedy was

too much for him, and he could never forget the horrors that he witnessed,

the terrors of the supernatural, and the real tragedy of human war. He no

longer practised medicine, and in fact refused to even talk to anyone in East

Wall. What eventually happened to him nobody can remember for sure, and

there are two opinions that hold currency with locals. Some claim he moved

to Leitrim, to live on his own away from anybody. It has been said he is still

living there now, almost 100 years old, but that in the 70 years that have

passed he has never spoken a single word to anybody.

The other story, less common, seems more likely to be true, looking at

the house. It is said that he first bricked up the door and windows at the

side of the house. He next put the bars on the windows at the front. He then

had the cage built that surrounds the front door. Once the work was complete,

he locked the front gate, locked the cage, walked through the hall door, and

having closed and locked it behind him never left the house again.

And there ends of the history of the house, and those associated with

it. Or does it? There are those that say that on May 31st of any year, you

can stand outside, and at the right time, when the night is at its darkest …

a heartbreaking moan and chilling wails can be heard echoing through the

walls within this house. Is it Dr McDonald’s ghost still mourning the loss of

his family and crying out on their anniversary, or is it the Banshee’s wail?

Your humble scribes have never ventured to that particular spot on the

appropriate night, and there are many more like us in East Wall.

Maybe you dear reader will be brave enough to listen next year, and

you will of course let us know?


“For Whom the Banshee Howls”  was written by Caitriona Ni Cassaithe and Joe Mooney for the 2010 Halloween festival , and was published in “CENSUS 3: The Third Seven Towers Anthology” in 2012. Copyright is retained by the authors. This story was first published in Census 3 The Third Seven Towers anthology

For more tales of terror, follow link to see some great spooky stories written by the children in third class , St Josephs co-ed. 





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