Tuesday, 21 January 2014


The Girl said her friends in the village – the other girls that go to her Catholic school – were trading stories of the ban-shee, unhappy spirits whose wails can be heard in the night. I was rather pleased that kids here still do that a bit; this used to be a country rich with folklore, almost every old building and patch of road and river having its own legends. Since the coming of television, though – here and everywhere –people no longer spend the evenings telling stories. Such legends are fading away here, along with the ability to tell them.

What sort of stories do they tell? I asked. “Oh, they’re too long to tell here,” The Girl said diffidently.

You know what banshee means? I said. She did – it means “lady spirit” in Irish. I never hear about male spirits, I told her. 

“Well, sometimes there are far-shees,” she said – it would probably be spelled “fir,” in Irish, with a little diacritic over the “I,” but she pronounced it more like “far.”

Why don’t we ever hear about them? I asked.

“Well, they never share the same places,” The Girl said. “There are a lot more shee than there are abandoned homes, so a lot of them haven’t found a home to haunt yet.”

What do they do?

“Well, they have to sit around in someone’s shed, haunting that for a while,” she said.

So they’re like hermit crabs, waiting for a larger shell to come empty? I asked.

“Well, just until they find a house they like,” The Girl said. “You can see them sometimes, just sipping tea and reading the newspaper.”

I wonder how much of this was local legend, her friends, or just her having fun – probably a combination, I thought. Are they looking through the real estate section? I asked her.  

“Violent crimes,” she said primly. “That puts a house in the ‘haunted’ category, and allows shee to move in.”

It wouldn’t be haunted by the people who actually died there? I asked.

“Would you want to stay in the same place you died?” she asked.  

A fair point, I said. Why don’t they ever share their sheds together?

“Well, occasionally a far-shee and ban-shee might meet and find true love,” she said. “And then they could live in the same house – sipping tea together, reading the newspaper, and scaring people together.”

Awww, I said. It’s nice to know there’s still hope for everyone, even beyond the grave.

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