Banshees and Ghost Hunting

Ancient tower with crowsBanshees… should ghost hunters look for them?  In my opinion, the answer is no, but not for the reasons you might expect.

A March 2011 episode of Destination: Truth focused on a Banshee, or a “hotbed” of Banshees at Duckett’s Grove Castle in County Carlow, Ireland.

Looking for a Banshee is like looking for a Guardian Angel.  (The spiritual kind, not the Guardian Angels organized by Curtis Sliwa and his wife.)

A Banshee will find you, not vice versa.

I began writing about Banshees in 1999:  Banshee – Ghost, faerie or something else?

The Banshee’s cry

I have heard a Banshee, and it’s not something I’d want to hear again.  Others’ first-person descriptions of the Banshee’s wail — described as keening, from the Irish word caoine — are equally chilling.

In many modern-day reports, the Banshee cries through someone living.  It’s similar to something in science fiction and horror movies: The person (usually female) opens her mouth and a terrible cry emerges.  It sounds nothing like the person’s actual voice.  It’s more like the worst combination of fingernails on a blackboard, mixed with someone dragging a bow across a squeaking violin string.

That’s worth repeating: It sounds nothing like the person’s actual voice. If you think, “Oh, he (or she) must be faking it,” you’re probably not hearing a Banshee.  The sound isn’t even close to human.

Death and the Banshee

Banshees protect families with Irish ancestry.  Generally, they’re not seen or heard when they’re quietly successful with their protection efforts.

The only time you’re likely to hear or see a Banshee is if she’s anguished because she can’t prevent a tragedy in “her” family.

Banshees, ghosts, clones and quantum theories

Almost every family with Irish ancestry has their own Banshee.  That’s the theory, anyway.  (I explained more about that in my 1999 article, linked above.)

However, those who see the Banshee and know their family history… they always describe her as a known ancestor, usually from before the 1700s.

That’s where this becomes odd:  It appears that every household with Irish ancestry has a Banshee… but within one family line, they’re all the same ancestor.

That leaves just a few possibilities.  These are among the most likely:

  1. It’s one spirit but she’s protecting thousands of households.
  2. The spirits are different (and may or may not be spirits of ancestors), but they choose a common ancestral image that the family may recognize.
  3. It’s one spirit and she’s cloned herself as a spiritual protector.
  4. From her own time,  she’s able to visit multiple times & places (parallel realities) and — as a time traveller — try to change future outcomes.
  5. Something’s paranormal is occurring, but the Banshee stories influence how the encounter is perceived and told to others.

Ghost hunting for Banshees?

Banshees are ghosts only in the sense that — according to many reports — each one looks like someone who was once alive… a real person.

So, they could be called ghosts.

However, this isn’t a spirit that you can help to “cross over.”

If you hear or see a Banshee

Banshees don’t cause death or tragedy.  They’re simply able to see the likelihood of tragedy, and they’re already mourning.

This is important: Even if you see or hear a Banshee, the tragedy can still be avoided. As any good psychic will tell you: The future isn’t set in stone.

The Banshee can’t prevent whatever-it-is, but you (or someone else) might be able to.

At the very least, immediately leave the site where you encounter the Banshee.  Tragedy is imminent.  If the Banshee remains behind,  it’s not your tragedy and you can avoid being part of it.

On the other hand, hearing or seeing multiple Banshees at once usually indicates a tragedy involving someone with a high profile… a politician or a church leader.  You’re less likely to prevent that from occurring.

Nevertheless, if you’re looking for a Banshee, you’re looking for trouble.  At best, it’s a waste of time to launch a paranormal investigation to encounter a Banshee.

At worst, you could be putting yourself in harm’s way.  An encounter with a Banshee usually means that something very bad is likely to happen.

Though some have speculated that a Banshee is related to the faerie called “the little woman of the hearth” or to the Green Lady traditions, the Banshee is more likely to be a distinct kind of entity… and not appropriate for ghost hunting.

Irish travel tips for ghost hunters

Duckett’s Grove Castle is a great location for ghost hunting.  The location is tremendous and picturesque… and a little eerie.

The castle has an amazing history that includes money, power struggles and tragedy, and more than one family curse. Several incidents from the castle’s past could lead to hauntings.

Ireland is a wonderful place to explore if you’re a ghost hunter or a paranormal researcher.  Banshees are best avoided, but Ireland’s rich history and haunted sites offer more active ghostly encounters than most countries.

Photo credit: Steve Ford Elliott, Mountshannon, Co Clare, Ireland Eire

Duckett’s Grove Banshees – Ireland

Banshees… what do they really look like?

Banshees near Duckett's Grove Ireland - ghost huntingThat was the subject of a video at SyFy’s Destination: Truth website, related to their 2011 St. Patrick’s Day show from Ireland.

In that live show broadcast from the magnificent castle, they investigated Duckett’s Grove in County Carlow, Ireland.

Travel tips: Duckett’s Grove is off the R418 near Rainestown.  The site is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and admission is free.

If you’re going there, also explore Castledermot cemetery and monastery ruins, off the N9.

They’re about 6km from Duckett’s Grove Castle, and well worth a visit.

If you’re especially courageous (or foolhardy), continue to Castledermot and investigate the ring fort at Mullaghrelan wood near Kilkea, not far from Athy.

This YouTube video of Duckett's Castle is at https://youtu.be/Nbl9jNW6HdY

The mini-vlog from the Destination: Truth episode about Banshees was brief and while it wasn’t entirely inaccurate, it could be misleading unless you conduct further paranormal research.

In that short discussion, the Banshee was described as usually being female, usually having blond hair, and usually wearing a shroud.

Only one out of those three is generally (but not always) correct:  Most Banshees seem to be female.

The truth

Banshees have been reported (and studied) for many years. The best academic study was published by Patricia Lysaght as the 1986 book, The Banshee: The Irish Death Messenger

Here are a few key points from my encounter with a Banshee, first-person accounts, and Lysaght’s study:

  1. A Banshee (bean sidhe) is seen more often than she’s heard.
  2. Banshees are usually reported wearing gowns — white, black, or green — but some appear to wear a shroud. (Compare her with ‘Green Lady’ ghosts.)
  3. If the Banshee is actually wearing a shroud (distinguished from a gown because a shroud will partially covers the head of the Banshee), the hair color won’t be visible.
  4. The hair color of the Banshee is usually related to the hair color of the person (or ghost) she seems to represent.   Most Banshees seem to represent a specific ancestor related to the family (or household) she protects.
  5. Almost every family with Irish ancestry has a family (or household) Banshee.

For more information about real Banshees and when they appear, see my 1999 article, Banshee – Ghost, faerie or something else?

To learn far more about Duckett’s Grove Castle and its ghosts, see Duckett’s Grove Castle, Ireland – Ghost Hunting Tips.

According to the popular lore, Duckett’s Grove Castle is “cursed” with a Banshee. In this case, the woman was one of the owner’s mistresses.  Discover the other, older curse on the Duckett family in The Duckett Family Curse.

Photo credit: damin, USA

The Duckett Family Curse

Duckett family curse - ghost huntingDuckett’s Grove in Ireland — featured in a March 2011 episode of Destination: Truth –  isn’t the only haunted location associated with the Duckett family.  A little paragenealogy reveals an interesting history.

The Duckett family’s ancestral homes was Grayrigg Hall, a medieval manor estate in Cumbria, England.

In the 17th century, Grayrigg Hall was owned by Justice Anthony Duckett (1636 – ca. 1692).  Duckett was known for being a persecutor of the Quakers a very new and controversial religion in that era.

One legal case involved Francis Howgill, a Quaker who’d refused to take an oath of allegiance (to King Charles II) and was sent to prison.

Anthony Duckett was one of the magistrates when Howgill was sentenced to jail.

The Origin of the Duckett Family Curse

During Howgill’s imprisonment, he was released for a couple of days to attend to some business at home.  While there, he visited Justice Duckett at Grayrigg Hall.

After the magistrate expressed surprise on seeing the prisoner, Mr. Howgill delivered this curse:

“…I am come with a message from the Lord. Thou hast persecuted the Lord’s people, but His hand is now against thee, and He will send a blast upon all that thou hast, and thy name shall rot out of the earth, and this thy dwelling shall become desolate, and a habitation for owls and jackdaws.”

Shortly after that, the Duckett family began to have problems.  All of Anthony Duckett’s male children died without heirs.  The estate failed and it was sold, around 1685, to a neighbor and family friend, Sir John Lowther.

The Duckett Family’s Irish Connection

That was around the time Anthony Duckett’s cousins began acquiring land at Duckett’s Grove in Ireland.

It seems that both the Duckett family and Grayrigg Hall itself were equally cursed.  In the 1777 book, The history and antiquities of the counties of Westmorland and Cumberland, here’s how Grayrigg Hall was described:

Grayrigg Hall being the ancient manor house, was a strong old building, in a quadrangular form, adapted for defence more than for convenience. It is now totally in ruins, most of the lead and timber thereof having been removed to Lowther.

So, the original (and possibly cursed) Grayrigg Hall is now gone.  If you’re looking for its location, here are the coordinates:  Latitude 54.3711, Longitude -2.6496

Another Grayrigg Hall was built near the church.  (Don’t confuse it with the old, reputedly haunted Grayrigg.)

If you’re looking for the remnants of the haunted Grayrigg Hall, visit Lowther Castle.  As described in the 1777 book, timber and lead from Grayrigg were used to expand Lowther Castle.

The "lost castle" of Lowther is in this YouTube video at: https://youtu.be/YvMy3kUwZnI

Did the curse continue there?  It seems as if it did.

According to Simon Marsden’s website, Lowther Castle was inherited in 1784 by Sir James Lowther, the 1st Earl of Lonsdale, also known as “Wicked Jimmy.”

By the time of his death in 1802, Lowther’s young wife had died, he had no children, and depression had driven him to madness.  His ghost has been reported at Lowther Castle.

To learn far more about Duckett’s Grove Castle (Ireland) and its ghosts, see Duckett’s Grove Castle, Ireland – Ghost Hunting Tips.

Next, here’s the full text of the Grayrigg Hall story and curse, from The Haunted Homes and Family Traditions of Great Britain, by John Henry Ingram, published in 1884.

GRAYRIGG HALL.

In Ducketiana it is stated by Sir G. B. Duckett, that not a vestige remains of those extensive foundations which, a hundred years ago, attested the solidity and importance of the Westmoreland Ducketts’ residence, the Manor House known formerly as Grayrigg Hall.

A strange story is told of the last member of this opulent family, who inhabited this fine old English mansion ere it was dismantled.

The narrative has been detailed with great similarity in various works, such as Ferguson’s Early Cumberland and Westmoreland Friends, and Backhouse’s Life of Howgill, and is popularly known as “The Quaker’s Curse and its Fulfilment.”

Francis Howgill, a noted member of the Society of Friends, resided at Todthorne, near Grayrigg, in Westmoreland, about the middle of the seventeenth century.

At one time he travelled about the south of England preaching, and when he visited Bristol, in company with his compatriot, John Camm, his preaching was made the occasion of great rioting.

In 1663 he returned to his own neighbourhood, whither his reputation had apparently preceded him, for, upon arriving at the market-place of Kendal, he was summoned to appear before the Justices, who were holding a court in a tavern.

They tendered Howgill the oath of allegiance when he came before them, and as he refused to take it they committed him to confinement in Appleby jail.

It may be pointed out, as a matter of history, that in the earliest days of the brotherhood, members of the Society of Friends were often subjected to severe penalties and much persecution for their refusal to conform to the taking of judicial oaths.

At Appleby the judges of Assizes also tendered Howgill the same oath and, on his refusal to swear it, ordered him to be indicted at the next Assizes. Meanwhile they offered to release him from custody if he would give a bond for his good behaviour in the interim, but this he refused to do, and therefore was re-committed to prison.

During his imprisonment a curious incident happened. Howgill was allowed by the magistrates to go home toGrayrigg for a few days on private affairs, and in the course of the time he was at liberty the Quaker felt himself compelled to visit a justice of the name of Duckett, residing at Grayrigg Hall, who was a great persecutor of the Quakers, and was, also, one of the magistrates concerned in committing him to prison.

Francis Howgill, on this occasion, was accompanied by a friend who, over the initials “J. D.” would appear to have left a written report of the interview.

Justice Duckett expressed much surprise at seeing Howgill, and said to him, ” What is your wish now, Francis? I thought you had been in Appleby jail.”

Howgill replied to this effect, “No, I am not, but I am come with a message from the Lord. Thou hast persecuted the Lord’s people, but His hand is now against thee, and He will send a blast upon all that thou hast, and thy name shall rot out of the earth, and this thy dwelling shall become desolate, and a habitation for owls and jackdaws.”

When Howgill had delivered this message, the Justice trembled, and said, ” Francis, are you in earnest?” To which Howgill responded, “Yes, I am in earnest, it is the word of the Lord to thee, and there are many now living who will see it.”