I began writing this post to get the word out that I’ve released a new Irish ghost story, An Unbidden Visitor, yesterday. When better to do so than during the St Patrick’s week celebrations? I got a surprise this morning when I checked the listing on Amazon and found that it is already ranked in the Top 100 Historical Fiction Short Stories. So, do I still need to announce its release?
Well, maybe I’ll tell you a bit about where the idea for the story came from. Since I write historical fiction, the ideas for many of the stories I write come from snippets I hear or read about past events in the county where I live.
Not long after my husband and I moved to rural county Fermanagh, more than a decade ago, I first heard the tale of the Cooneen ghost, a poltergeist that local lore says drove a widow, Bridget Murphy, and her six children from their farm cottage and across the sea to America at the beginning of the last century. The events happened in a farm cottage only a couple miles from where I live and one Sunday when we were out for a walk in a forested area at Mullaghfad, we went to see the house. At the time, it was in the middle of a forestry plantation and could barely be glimpsed from the road (the forest was felled a few weeks ago, leaving the house starkly visible amidst the deforested fields). We jumped over a small ditch beside the road and picked our way through the trees until we came to a greying, run-down yet forbidding building in a small clearing. Although we saw nothing otherworldly that day, the house had an eerie atmosphere and I wouldn’t have volunteered to remain there after dark.
After visiting the house, the story intrigued me even more and did a bit of delving into the tale of the Cooneen ghost. It’s not difficult to find articles online about it but they can be confusing. Details conflict and the tale seems to have grown as it was re-told over the years. So I went back to earlier sources. I read contemporary local newspaper articles (1913) and Shane Leslie’s Ghost Book (first published in 1955) to get the story more or less as it was originally told.
As I delved into accounts of the events at the farmhouse, I could see the scenes and the Murphy family in my mind. I couldn’t help wondering about the family and what must it have been like to live in their house. And how it felt to have their friends and neighbours withdraw from them in fear.
This imagining was the starting point for my fictional story, An Unbidden Visitor, which was released yesterday. Although I have used some artistic licence in my telling of the story, I have stayed as true to the real account as I could.
An Unbidden Visitor – March 1913: Struggling to make ends meet, widow Bridget Murphy finds life in rural Ireland difficult, raising six children while farming her small acreage. With the help of neighbours and friends, Bridget is able to cope with the many arduous tasks and chores required of her.
When an unnatural and terrifying force invades their house, threatening their family, Bridget is surprised to see so many backs turning on her. Fearing for themselves, those she once counted on for help and support will not risk their safety for her. The one solid pillar is Father Smyth, the priest who stands alongside their family in the battle against the uninvited and fearsome poltergeist. But, prayers alone won’t run the farm. Will Bridget find a way to save her home and her family before there’s nowhere left to turn?