There’s been a lot of talk about things of an otherworldly nature in my house recently. Robin’s researching a lot into pre-Christian religions and Irish Folklore for a project he is working on and it’s led to some pretty interesting discussions.
For Folklore Sake
I’m not a big believer in the other side; psychics and mediums infuriate me and I have no time for anyone who believes in Homeopathy and Auras. All in all, I’m a pretty sceptical guy. That being said, I can tell you of two local places where you can hear the wail of a Banshee. Irish Folklore is a subject that whether you believe in it or not, is treated by most with some level of sincerity. Even though I don’t believe in Banshees or any other ghosts or ghoulies for that matter, I still can’t help but get a little edgy when I find myself in one of those locations. It’s almost inherent reaction.
We all love a good ghost story, but you wouldn’t have to search for long to find someone who swears that their story is truth. Anyone in the Coleraine area can tell you of the mysterious patches of blood that are found on the floor of the often locked Mussenden Temple, and everyone has a friend of a friend who has seen the ghost of 16th Century highwayman Cushy Glen on the Windyhall Road, known locally as the Murderhole Road as a result of his exploits. These are stories we all hear growing up on the North Coast of Ireland. But are they really only stories? And why are we so willing to believe in anything that goes bump in the night?
Well turn down the lights and gather around. Let me tell you a story.
The Tale of the Mosside Witch
Mosside is a village not too far from Coleraine. Not much bigger than a hamlet, it’s a ‘blink and miss it’ sort of place. The most interesting thing about it is one road leading out of the village. Sisurrounded by dense woodland on either side, for half a mile or so nailed to or dangling from these trees are dozens of cuddly toys. Some new, some unidentifiably old.
The story goes that many many decades ago, a horrible old hag lived in the woods the end of the road. During the night of a waning moon, the witch would creep into the village and abduct a sleeping child to kill and harvest her magical power from. For as long as anyone could remember this was the status quo, and anyone who ventured into the woods to confront her was never seen again. The only protection the villagers seemed to have was that a child would never be taken if it slept clutching a teddy bear.
The townspeople having figured this out decided to gather up all the children’s cuddly toys to have them blessed and then hung from the trees at the entrance to the village, forming a protective barrier the witch would be unable to cross. The plan worked and the crone was banished from the village. Rumour has it she still lurks in the forest to this day, plotting her revenge against the town and waiting for an unsuspecting child to wander out past the Mosside Bears. To this day, the villagers keep her at a safe distance by adding more bears to the trees to protect their children.
It’s a great story; one I love getting the chance to tell. Especially on a dark night out on the very same Teddy-laden road from the tale. The primary reason I love telling it is because I helped create it.
The Teller of Tall Tales
At 16, my cousin and I stumbled upon the Mosside Bears for the first time. We wondered why cuddly toys were hanging along such a low travelled road on the outskirts of a sleepy village. Google failed to offer any insight so we decided to create our own explanation. All good ghost stories need an element of truth; so we found a destroyed, abandoned ruin tucked away in a corner at the far end of the road. We had our witch’s lodgings.
We took a few friends out there after dark one night, showing them the trees and telling our tale. That’s where we thought the story would end. It wasn’t. Our friends told some of their friends, who told some of their friends and on it went. For the next few weeks, it seemed like all we did was take people out to retell the story of the Mosside Witch.
Word spread like wildfire. If you ask anyone around our age about the bears nailed to trees on a nearby country road, chances are you’ll be told of the Mosside Witch. Over time the story will get embellished and contorted through countless retellings. It’ll be passed on to kids who will tell their friends and eventually, there’ll be a new urban legend being discussed over pints in the local pubs.
Very Superstitious – The Writings on the Wall
There’s plenty of people who claim to have heard the Banshee’s wail, and even more who claim to know someone else who has. With tales of local folklore, it’s hard to discern the truth from the fiction. After all, it could just be a story concocted by some bored teenagers looking for a night’s entertainment. The joy and enjoyment are shrouded in the mystery of never really knowing.
Got a spooky tale from your local area? Ever experienced something yourself? Share your story in the comments below.