This one is kind of creepy... Bizarre Encounters with Real Banshees By: Brent Swancer It is interesting how tales of ghosts and spirits differ across cultures. Every country seems to have its own version of ghouls and wraiths that seem to be embedded within their own unique psyche and lore, but which are claimed to be seen by numerous witnesses and which are taken to be as quite real by the people who embrace these tales. One very rich vein of spooky lore that has entwined itself with very real accounts is the tale of the Irish spirit called the banshee. It is a shrieking, horrific entity that one would not want to meet, and by all accounts it seems to be far from confined to mere myth and legend. Holding a very prominent place in the spooky lore of Ireland is the entity known as the banshee. The word comes from the Old Irish ben síde, baintsíde, meaning roughly “fairy woman” or “woman of the fairy mound,” and describes a sinister female spirit known to herald the approach of death through her unearthly screaming, sobbing, wailing, or keening. In the lore banshees are always female, but can take many forms, names, and powers depending on the particular local tradition. In some tales she is depicted as a filthy old hag, whereas in others she is conversely said to appear as a young maiden of exceptional beauty, and still others she is more animalistic or monstrous, with the head of a bird or hare. One old description of a banshee sighting reads: The clothing, eye color, and hair differ depending on the tale, and likewise, the size of the banshee can range wildly, from towering 8 feet or more, down to a diminutive 3 or four feet. They are often said to have their arrival preceded by crows, screeching cats, or howling dogs. Yet, no matter what form she takes she is always considered to be a grim harbinger of imminent death, piercing the night with her ominous howls. Of course this all sounds like scary stories confined to lore, but there have actually been numerous accounts of real encounters with the wailing banshee, or at least something very much like it, going all the way up to modern times. One popular account mentioned in the book True Irish Ghost Stories supposedly occurred back in the early 1900s, when a member of a family in Cork told of how her esteemed family had been plagued by a banshee. She says of these incidents: Such accounts clearly illustrate the disturbing habit for the banshee to appear as an omen of doom, and another earlier report also mentioned in the book True Irish Ghost Stories further shows this trend. The account comes from 1894, and concerns the odd experience of a boy at a boarding school. It is written: From the 1940s we have two spooky accounts of what seem to be banshees, or something very similar. The first happened along a dark cemetery road called Old Howard Street, in the town of Fulton Place. It was here that an elderly man was suddenly bedridden by some mysterious debilitating disease, after which scores of squawking crows began to congregate around the home for reasons no one could fathom. One evening when the man had visitors over to see him in what seemed to be his last hours there was apparently a knock at the door, and when one of the visitors opened the door she saw “an old hag-like woman with long white hair and a long white dress, who was wringing her hands and sobbing,” only to turn to come rushing at the house with an ear splitting scream before vanishing into thin air. According to the story, the old man died just a few hours later. The other account comes from a woman in the town of Bogside, who claimed the encounter had been witnessed by her grandfather and his son. The grandfather had been having severe pain in his tooth at the time, but had been putting off seeing a dentist about it. One evening the son was walking along when he heard a wailing sound coming from down the street, which seemed to be coming from a hunched over figure he took to be a crying child, but as he drew closer soon saw was actually a hideous, wizened old woman. As the son approached, the ancient-looking woman cried out and vanished. The son was sure that the lady had been a banshee, and tried to warn his father to go see a dentist, but he died before he could. Such strange reports continue all the way up to more modern times. One poster on Reddit says that her mother once relayed a terrifying experience to her. She says of her family’s experiences with the banshee: Another report from YourGhostStories is from a witness that says her family was haunted by a banshee when she was a young girl in Ireland, and that it would follow her into more present day. It started one day years ago when her grandfather had fallen ill and a very strange visitor would come a knocking. She says: Equally frightening is an account from True Ghost Tales, from a woman who said this happened at a place in Ireland called Bean Nighe. The witness says she had gone down to the cliffs by the river one day to contemplate life and unwind. As she sat there gazing out across the countryside she caught a glimpse of what appeared to be a woman in a white dress with flowing white hair washing something in the water at the river side. Focusing in on this stranger, the witness could see that it appeared that the woman was washing rags soaked with blood, and that the water turned crimson every time she wrung the cloth out. She says of what happened next: An interesting part of banshee lore is that they are not even necessarily confined to Ireland at all, and that they may follow families across the globe far and wide, grabbing onto them with their talons, and there are reports from other places as well. One witness on Reddit claims that his family moved to New York City back in the 1950s from Ireland, and he says that they were mostly strictly Catholic but that they would often speak of the banshee of their homeland. At darker times they would claim that not only was the banshee real, but that one had long stalked their family for generations. It apparently did not stay in Ireland when they had moved, because the witness had a rather unnerving experience one evening in New York, of which he says: Another portent of doom. Another case from New York was relayed on Your Ghost Stories, from a witness of Irish descent, who says that her whole life she has heard that the women on her side of the family have had experiences with banshees. Although she says that she herself has not experienced it, her retelling of her family’s encounters is chilling indeed. She says: Is this all just spooky lore or is there anything else to it? Do these wailing spirits from Irish lore exist beyond the confines of legend, and do they actually occasionally stalk out from the darkness to frighten and terrify? Are these reports imagination, hoaxes, ghostly encounters merely mixed up with banshee lore, or the real deal? Whatever the answers may be, the banshee has a prominent place in the beliefs of these people, is ingrained within the paranormal landscape, and there will most likely be more reports to come for some time, these strange entities screaming in the night, bringing mayhem with them. .