Ghost of a Chance – A Wicklow Haunted House

All has been suspiciously quiet at Blather HQ in recent times, giving us just cause to run riot with any miscellaneous rubbish that we salvage from the in-tray overflow. Bear with us.
First up are our recent investigations into the strange column of light that we wrote about the Blather issue *Big Lights Out West*. Blather reader Peter McNally and in-house Blatherskites both made enquiries into the matter – with the Irish Meteorological service, i.e. Met Eireann. Once our pre-war (Crimean) typewriter is back on the road, we intend to furnish those fine meteorologists with a missive of inquiry, as our telephone investigations were met with vague response.

+Ghost of a Chance+
We did (as did Mr. McNally) learn that the occasionally manned weather station in Claremorris employs a strong search light – diameter of some 2 feet (0.6m) – that is played, at an angle, across clouds in an attempt to determine their altitude. The gentleman we spoke to was a bit vague about the exact location of the station. It is also unknown whether said station was manned on December 27th 1998. It’s hard to believe that other alleged witnesses could see such a lamp, given the locations of these people. We shall look into this further, as time allows.
More: *Big Lights Out West*
+Fame Strikes When You Least Expect It+
‘Investigating the Unknown’ from New Zealand, Cam Mathias has taken an interesting approach to the concept of running this new fortean zine, by conducting interviews with various folk in RealAudio. Recent topics include ‘alternative cancer treatments’, ‘rolling boulders on the moon’, and ‘transient lunar phenomena’. He’s even been good enough to interview Blather’s Chief Blatherskite Dave Walsh.
In a strange move for the usually sober *Irish Times*, they recently lent column space to the strange story of Nelly, the ghost of Coolmoney House, at the Glen of Imaal army camp in Co. Wicklow. Odder still, the affair was covered by Patsy McGarry, the *Irish Times* _Religious Affairs Correspondant_. The house, built in 1837, was due to be demolished by now, save for a sudden ‘intervention’, which some people claim emanates from the spirit world.
It seems that a Ms. Yvonne Croke (22), daughter of the camp’s Commandant Kevin Croke, has seen the figure of a young girl in Coolmoney House. McGarry notes that Ms. Croke ‘a riding instructor, has had previous psychic experiences’. Interestingly, in a later article, he refers to her as a ‘down to earth person’. We would suppose that when one is Religious Affairs Correspondent for the *Irish Times*, one comes across ‘all sorts’.
*Serving Girl*
Local sources have it – in a story similar to that tale of murder *The Collegians * – by Gerald Griffin (1803-1840), dramatised by Dion Boucicault into *The Colleen Bawn* – the ghost, i.e. ‘Nelly’ was a serving girl working at the house sometime in the last century and was made pregnant by a member of the gentry, who, in a move of incredible logic and intelligence, decided to avoid scandal by murdering her and casting her body from an upstairs window. She’s apparently been haunting the place ever since.
Ms. Croke says that she thought she saw a “slim figure” in or around the house on February 7th. She claims not to have known about the Nelly story at the time – something we would tend to question. Whilst driving past with her father a few days later, on the 10th, she saw the figure again, prompting her father, Commandant Croke, to request a prayer service from army chaplain Father Declan Foley.
Father Foley seems to be not only a regular when it comes to such situations, but there appears to be something of the fortean about him too, as he has prayed in houses where “something” might have been. As McGarry says, he likes the conditional mood – words such as ‘”might”, “could” and “may”, feature regularly in his vocabulary’.
The first *Irish Times* article to deal with the matter was published on Tuesday 16th February – on what seems to have been Sunday 14th, Ms. Croke saw ‘Nelly’ twice, ‘before the service and on a window-sill in the drawing-room behind Father Foley as he conducted prayers’, sprinkled holy water, and blessed the place. There was some 40 people present.
Her description was of Nelly ‘as a slim, young, pretty woman of about 15 or 16, who is [5’6-7″ (1.70m)], wore a plain white dress with a black belt and had shoulder-length black scraggly hair which was not kept very well. She had a faded appearance and looked like “a seethrough person”‘, but on second occasion, ‘Nelly’s expression was happier’, and she concluded that the ghost is at peace, and it ‘disappeared’ as Fr. Foley left the room. The article fails to mention whether *anyone else other than Ms. Croke saw Nelly*.
The article mentions a large mark on an upstairs floor, which some people reckon is a bloodstain – no word is made of laboratory analysis. Apparently all attempts to remove it have failed, plus, when new wood has replaced the old, the stain reappears. We would tend not to rest as much importance on stains as the on-site investigators. Only a few weeks ago, the Blather entourage was let loose in the catacombs of Mary Kings Close, in Edinburgh, a 17th century slum which has been covered up by 18th century architecture, and is now, for all intents and purposes, below ground (see the links below).
One of the rooms has what could be easily mistaken for blood streaming down the walls – on closer look it looks more like rusty dampness leaking from above. This (we were told) didn’t stop a panic when workmen were removing the valuables from the room, stored there for safekeeping during WWII, or crime novelist Ian Rankin from featuring the strange hooks embedded in the ceiling of the room in one of his murder plots… but we digress.
Coolmoney House – back in the Wicklow Hills, was used until 1990 by Army officers, but room 21a was not used – according to a Private Martin Moore, as this where ‘Nelly’ is said to have died.
Far be it from us to show *cynicism*, oh no, but on Saturday, February 20th, Mr. McGarry was back again, to tell us that *Nelly the ghost may have saved house she haunted*. The publicity has alerted An Taisce – ‘The National Trust for Ireland’ to the very existence of Coolmoney house, which they were previously unaware of, prompting talks of a preservation order, instead of the planned (and quite unexplained) demolition. Coincidence?
Dave (daev) Walsh
16th March 1999
*Army calls priest to pray for Nelly*
*Irish Times*, Tuesday, February 16, 1999 (Reg required)
*Nelly the ghost may have saved house she haunted*
*Irish Times*, Saturday, February 20, 1999 (Reg required)
The Collegians (
Gerald Griffin (1803-1840) was best known as the author of a very popular novel The Collegians.
Mary King’s Close

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