Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Ghost of Helena Blunden

Helena’s ghost is famous as the “Ghost of the Old Irish Linen Mill.” She died in the spring of 1912 in a tragic fall. 

Many people feel that her spirit haunts the linen mill where she worked. Today the employees at the printing company that is based out of this Belfast mill have reported eerie and unusual encounters with Helena’s ghost.

Helena Blunden was born in 1816 in Ireland, shortly after her family moved to England where she grew up. When she was 16 years old, her family moved back to Ireland. 

They settled in a small house in the old market area of Belfast. Her uncles arranged for her to work at a linen mill near their new home.

Helena was a hard worker and had a cheerful personality. She quickly became popular among her mill co-workers. Helena loved to recite poetry and plays while working. She also was an excellent dancer. 

Her favorite occupation was singing songs that were popular in London music halls at that time.

Helena worked a 60-hour workweek, Monday through Saturday. She kept her spirits up with the thought that one day she would work as an entertainer upon the stage. Her father encouraged her aspirations, but her mother frowned upon her eldest daughter’s ambitions. 

Her fellow mill workers especially appreciated Helena’s talents because she entertained them by reciting, dancing, singing, which broke up the monotony.

The mill that Helena worked for was new and struggling, so they went out of their way to impress. It was their double damask linen tablecloths that were used in the fancy first-class dining room on the Titanic. 

The mill workers to finish special orders for their employers often worked on Sundays. It was on one such Sunday in April of 1912 that Helena was working to help complete a special order for Argentina.

Helena was especially she was to attend a concert at the Grand Opera house that evening. In anticipation, she sang while she worked. 

At 2:00 p.m. Helena realized that her work would not be done by 6:00 p.m. Concerned, she realized that there would not be enough time between finishing her job and going to the concert. She kept her shoes on so she would be ready to leave as soon as her work was done.

In April the mill’s temperature would start to rise. In the spinning room on the top floor where Helena worked the heat was often intolerable. 

This heat resulted in condensation forming on the walls and floors. 

An older mill worker, Margaret Maxwell, who could no longer do her usual work in the flax house, was assigned in the afternoons to wipe and mop the moisture off the mill's walls and stairs. 

Margaret was a tough woman who in her youth had brawled with both women and men in the street.

She defied anyone who dared to walk on her floors as she mopped. She frightened the younger workers in the mill, and she had taken an immediate dislike to Helena’s optimism. 

She was often heard deriding Helena’s songs. The two women had clashed on more than one occasion.

On this Sunday at 7:00 p.m. Helena finally finished her work and headed down the flight of stairs joyfully, she didn’t see the mop that Margaret had left on the steps. 

Margaret listened to Helena’s shriek and watched as she tripped and fell over the banister and down to the ground floor. When Margaret approached, Helena was dead.

A printing company is housed in the mill’s pure Flax House today. One of the companies’ workers, Paul McAvoy started to hear thumps, boxes moving, doors opening with no one entering, and footsteps on the building’s wooden floors. 

At first, McAvoy did not think much about it, but then the ghost touched him. 

One Sunday morning as he ran the press, he heard what he thought was a co-worker entering the pressroom. He didn't look up from his work until he felt someone tap him on his right shoulder four times. Startled, he realized no one was in the room with him.

Since, he has heard a female voice call his name, especially in the mill’s basement. When he and fellow workers investigate, no one is there or outside. 

McAvoy feels the ghost is a woman because her voice is feminine, and she walks softly on the mill’s wooden floors. He has stated that this ghost does not frighten him. Many feel this spirit is Helena Blunden.

One eerie occurrence that happens regularly involves the printing company's lights and radios. 

Each evening as the company is closed down for the day the lights and radios are all turned off, but inevitably the next morning the lights are on, and the radios are blaring as the first employee enters. 

The sightings of Helena's ghost are so frequent a web camera was placed in the building and left on for 24 hours, seven days a week, for over a year. During this time Helena’s apparition was spotted between eight to twelve times a month.

One final note: a linen bundle was discovered by accident that contained a 100-year old recording with a newspaper review of Helena Blunden’s singing talent. This recording is Helena singing “Pie Jesu,” it was made in January of 1912 just three months before her tragic death.

Here is a link to the recording:

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