Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Ghosts, Haunted Houses and the Supernatural

In the south east of Ireland, on a flat peninsula that thrusts out into the Celtic Sea, a fine house – a mansion indeed – stands dramatically and alone. It can be seen from upwards of twenty miles away. It has quite a history, including an association with the British Royal Family in the latter part of the 19th century. Like so many fine old houses in Ireland it has fallen into disrepair as so many did when English rule ended. For a while it was occupied by an order of nuns. When they moved out it was sold and for a brief time it became a hotel. Then towards the end of the 20th century it was left unoccupied and at the mercy of thieves and vandals – and the elements which can be fiercely destructive there.

In the end it was sold on – to become a tourist attraction of a rather dubious brand: visitors are encouraged to come to experience ‘the most haunted house in Ireland’ and even to stay the night in its bleak, empty rooms.

It is, of course, yet another example of the sad phenomenon of the foolish and gullible being relieved of their money. Anyone with intelligence and discernment knows that all ghost stories are pure myth – concocted nonsense created with the cynical intention of achieving power over the credulous either with the intention of scaring people away from somewhere where the public are unwelcome, or conversely to attract them, usually with the intention – as in this instance – of making a profit out of them.

The house remains a virtual wreck. The upper floors are apparently so unsafe that they are ‘out of bounds’ to visitors. One has to give credit to the ingenuity of its owners. What else could have been done with this once fine old house other than to demolish it?

So, what is the particular myth in this case that successfully attracts so many visitors with nothing better to do? Well, it was put about that at a particular house party the Devil appeared, and when identified for what he was he made a quick exit through the ceiling, leaving a hole. And in a country where belief in the supernatural is still – tragically – very much ongoing – there is no shortage of people prepared to be gulled by this sort of nonsense. An no doubt many of them will move on next to one of the many sites where the Virgin Mary – or another of the Roman Catholic pantheon -  is said to have made an appearance, to salve and soothe themselves after having had the pants near scared off them.

Yet one should not make light of them and the thought of them being hoodwinked. Some people are actually quite seriously damaged by such experiences, and in particular the vulnerable and suggestible. I am not aware the proprietors take any serious steps to identify those who could be so harmed and deny them entry. Worse – small children are among the visitors, although I daresay there is an age limit imposed.

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