Friday, August 2, 2013

Ireland: Haddock's Ghost

By far one of Ireland’s most famous and well-documented ghost stories is about the Haddock Ghost. This story is a classic case of a ghost who returns to right a wrong. 

A man by the name of James Haddock, a farmer who lived in Malone just miles from Belfast, returned in spirit form after his death in 1657 in order to demand justice be done and the rightful heir to his property receive it. What is interesting about this case is Haddock’s ghostly appearances were even deemed true by the celebrated bishop of the time Dr. Jeremy Taylor.

James Haddock’s will stipulated that his wife, Arminell should receive his manor house and the area that surrounded it. His young son John Haddock was to receive the rest of his property when he turned 21. 

The executor of the will was a man by the name of Jacob Davis. Several years after Haddock died Davis married Arminell. She and Davis had a son. Davis then unscrupulously altered Haddock’s will making his own son the beneficiary of the land instead of John Haddock.

Jacob Davis might have succeeded with this deception except for several very unusual events. Late one night on Michaelmas * Francis Taverner a good friend of James Haddocks was heading home to Malone from Hillsborough when his horse stopped suddenly on the Drum Bridge near Brumbeg. Francis dismounted trying to coax his horse to continue when he was startled to see a figure in a white coat standing next to his elbow. 

Dumbfounded he realized this man resembled his old friend James Haddock who had died five years before.

This ghostly figure pleaded with Francis to help his son get his rightful heritage. Stunned Taverner refused, jumped on his horse and galloped quickly off the bridge.

“Where upon there arose a great wind and withal he heard hideous screeches and noises to his amazement.”

Once home, Taverner fell to his knees and asked for God’s protection. But after midnight the next night as Taverner sat with his wife by the fire Haddock appeared once more. Francis's wife didn’t see Haddock’s ghost as he once more appealed to her husband for help. He pleaded with Taverner to go to his widow and tell her that justice must be done for their son John. Again, Taverner resisted so Haddock’s ghost visited him every night for the next month. 

Shaken to his core, Taverner left Malone and went to Belfast to take refuge with a friend but Haddock’s ghost followed him. This time he demanded that Francis go to Arminell and upbraid her for what she had done to their young son. He told Francis if he did not do this there would be dire consequences.

Now desperate, Taverner confided in his chaplain, John South who then told the vicar of Belfast, Dr. Lewis Downes. These three men then went to Malone to convey the ghost’s message to Davis. But Davis shamelessly refused to surrender the land at which point Haddock’s ghost told Taverner to take the matter to court.

“Francis had spoken to the ghost of the futility of such proceedings, as he had no witness. ‘Never mind’ said the ghost, ‘I will be present and appear when called upon’.”

The case to return the estate to John Haddock was held in Carrickfergus. The opposing council abused Taverner and challenged him to call on his spectral witness if he could. This man then called facetiously for the ghost to appear, “James Haddock!” “James Haddock!” As this man’s tone became higher with his third summons, “James Haddock!” He received an unexpected response:

“An extremely loud clap of thunder shook the courthouse to its foundation. Then a ghostly hand hovered over the witness box and a spectral voice exclaimed, ‘Is this enough?’”

Jacob Davis sheepishly left the courthouse amidst jeers from the onlookers. He never made it home for on his way he was thrown from his horse and broke his neck. 

After this, Haddock’s ghost never again bothered Francis Taverner. The entire countryside hearing about these unusual events resulted in Bishop Taylor holding an inquiry into the matter. After he heard all the witness’ accounts he deemed the case to be true.

“… the only ghost who ever answered a summons in a court of law.”

There is one final curious note to this story. James Haddock who was buried in the Drumbeg Parish Church graveyard in the 17th century has a tombstone that will not stand upright. Even after repeated attempts to place it in an upright position this tombstone continues to fall down. It still lies flat in the family plot today surrounded by moss and grass.

*  Michaelmas or “Feast of Saint Michael and all Angels” occurs on September 29th. Because it is near the equinox in the Northern Hemisphere it is associated with the beginning of autumn.

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