banshees, Guardians of Erin, Ireland, Judith Sterling, leprechauns, paranormal, St. Patrick's Day, The Cauldron Stirred, YA series
Last time, I brought you along for the ghost hunt on my first trip to Ireland. There are more stories where that came from! My Irish cousins shared a wealth of information about my great-grandfather, Michael Patrick—who emigrated from Ireland in 1914—and his siblings. Through fortune and loss, the family became fast friends with Irish luck. One example concerned Michael’s brother, who missed his boat to America (the Titanic) but arrived unscathed on the Lusitania.
Luck was one thing. What really intrigued me was the revelation that our family had encountered the supernatural on both sides of the Atlantic. I’d had experiences my whole life, but they didn’t start with me. Here are three which occurred long before I was born.
(1) Michael’s sister, Brigit, was promised to a young man who immigrated to America. As soon as he saved enough money to set up house, she was to join him. But once he left, she moved to Dublin, “took up with” a bricklayer, and became pregnant. Nine months later, she was back home and in the throes of childbirth. The doctor delivered a healthy baby, then headed off into the night. A short while later, pain seized Brigit, and contractions began anew. A second baby was born without the doctor’s aid. Brigit died soon afterward.
In America that same night, her betrothed awoke and bolted upright. Brigit stood at the foot of his bed, staring down at him. She held his gaze for maybe a minute, then disappeared.
The next day, he sent a transatlantic cable to her family, relating the event and asking if she was all right. They were as shocked by his account as he was by her death.
(2) One night, Michael and his mates were enjoying a round of drinks at the pub. The door swung open, and another friend burst into the room. He was wild-eyed, drawn, and out of breath. Michael ushered him to their table.
The friend dropped onto a chair and raked a hand through his hair. He glanced over his shoulder, then blurted out his tale. He hadn’t slept for days. He’d stolen the golden comb from a banshee, and now she chased him to reclaim it.
The group exchanged dubious looks and scratched their heads…until the man opened his coat. Popping up from the inside pocket was a sparkling, gold comb.
He jumped up from his chair. “Did ye hear that?”
The others shook their heads.
“She’s here! She’s found me.” He darted out of the pub.
The next morning, he was found dead, spread out on his back, fully dressed, atop his perfectly made bed. His coat lay open, and his attire was the same as the previous evening in all ways but one. The golden comb was gone.
Tradition holds that banshees attract humans with gold or silver combs. Then the banshee spirits the person away to another dimension…which is a pretty accurate description of death.
(3) One soft night, while still in Ireland, Michael plodded home. The street was deserted until a “little man” appeared atop the stone wall and padded toward him. A chill ran down Michael’s spine; something wasn’t right. He averted his gaze. A moment later, he felt compelled to look up. The man was gone. Then a flicker of movement across the road caught his eye.
There, on the opposite stone wall, stood the little man. He’d traversed the distance in the blink of an eye. He stared at Michael, who avoided his gaze again. Seconds later, Michael glanced his way, but the man had vanished for good.
My great-grandfather had no doubt he’d seen a leprechaun. According to legend, if you keep your eye on one, he can’t escape, but the minute you look away, he disappears. That encounter stayed with Michael the rest of his life, and his eyes sparkled as he shared it with his grandson, my dad, who later shared it with me.
Is it any wonder a leprechaun pops up in my Guardians of Erin series? It’s a way to honor Michael’s memory, and it’s just plain fun! I recently turned in the edits of The Cauldron Stirred (Book One of the series) to my editor. I’ll keep you in the loop as the book heads toward publication. Happy St. Patrick’s Day!