Some people swore that the house was haunted
. But I had heard several stories about ghost-riddenhouses already on our house hunting trip to Ireland. In a country steeped in ghost-lore, the localrealtor applied his gift of the gab to paint a scary picture of moving furniture, creakingfloorboards, and chill permeating rooms the minute he detected our interest in ghosts was piqued.This house, however, was different. Everybody went hush about it. ³Of course the house ishaunted,´ Maureen nodded passionately. ³I know the real story behind it.´Leaving Scariff on the road to Mountshannon, right behind a bend, a two-story gray stone houseloomed on the left hand side. Its dark bare windows had an abandoned, foreboding look. Fadedgreen curtains were always half-drawn, never closed. While the huge front lawn wasmeticulously mown whenever I drove by the landscaping was simple but well kept. A garden path leading up to the house was lined with beautiful specimens of truly blue hydrangea bushes.These had caught my eye initially. I wondered whether the house was for sale. It was obviouslyempty, but I hadn¶t dared to walk up to the door because of its eerie appearance. The farm buildings belonging to this house were situated across the road. A huge old oak tree towered over the roadside gate, the tree trunk protected by steel bars. Why was there a steel enclosure aroundthe tree?Ghost stories stand and fall with the trustworthiness of the person who vouches she knows it ongood authority. And that in Ireland is usually the friend of a cousin once removed. Maureen,however, was the grand niece of Michael Collins, the Irish freedom fighter and civil war hero,and had lived in Scariff all her life.³In 1923, the times of the troubles, when Ireland was torn by a civil war, there lived a family of five who were IRA supporters,´ Maureen said. ³One dark night when all were in bed, there wasterrible knocking of rifles on the door. It was the Black and Tans, the most feared and viciousBritish brigade, that all but terrorized local communities. Their primary task was to make Irelandhell for the rebels to live in. They meant business. Suspecting traitors in this house, they brokedown the door, and killed the whole family bar a son of nine years of age who managed toscramble out during the bedlam. He stole away and hid across the road in the tall tree, whichsaved his life. As the only survivor, he takes care of house and lawn, and protects the tree inmemory of the tragedy.´ It was hard to imagine the atrocity that happened in such a peacefulcountryside. ³So, yes, everybody knows that the house is haunted. That has to be expected after so many killings.´³Do you think I could talk to the owner? Maybe he¶d be happy to sell the object of such tragicevents.´³No, I wouldn¶t advise you to. He is a bit funny in the head, you know. In fact, for him
nothingwas ever the same again after that.