From A Window
An old Irish tale of Victorian Liverpool related by Tom Slemen


In the month of May, 1866, Liverpool was hit by a cholera epidemic which killed hundreds. One of these unfortunate victims was a beautiful raven-haired girl who'd just turned 16, and her name was Maureen Allen. Maureen was the youngest member of an Irish family that had recently settled in Rose Place in the Everton district of the city.

Maureen was laid in a coffin, and the Irish custom of observing a 'wake' commenced, even though the authorities were opposed to this, because they didn't like the idea of a body that had died of cholera being put into an open coffin, but the Allen family told the powers-that-be to mind their own business, and the wake went ahead, as did the ritual drinking, feasting and lamentation, which went on all night during such occasions. On the evening of the wake at around 7 o'clock, every member of the Allen family headed for a pub in Great Homer Street to drown their sorrows. George's 19-year-old niece, Shannon, who had only been in Liverpool for a week, volunteered to mind the house.

At eight o'clock that night, Richard O'Hare, an old friend of George Allen - who was the father of the deceased girl - knocked on the front door of the Allen's family home in Rose Place. O'Hare wasn't aware that Maureen had died, and he hadn't seen the girl since she was a toddler. O'Hare knocked again and there was no answer, and he was about to turn away, when one of the bedroom windows of the house opened with a grating sound. A girl looked out and smiled.

"Do the Allens live here sweetheart?" O'Hare asked the girl.

"Yes, they've all gone down the pub." said the girl.

O'Hare asked what pub that was, and the girl told him it was on the corner of Great Homer Street. "Thankyou sweetheart." O'Hare said and he started to whistle and made his way to the pub. When he got there, he said to George, "Hello there, and how is life treating you?"

George Allen tearfully told his friend that he'd just lost his daughter, and O'Hare said he was so sorry, and hugged his friend and his wife.

When the Allens returned to the house they could get no answer. George said, "Shannon, open the door girl." through the letterbox, but Shannon never replied. "That girl has been more of a hindrance than a help since she came over." George told his friend, and he delved into his pockets looking for the keys.

"Shannon will be the girl I talked to this evening. She's a real beauty George. Her hair was blacker than yours and her voice was like silk." said O'Hare, staggering behind his friend.

"No," said George, "Shannon's a redhead. You've called at the wrong house."

"I called here George, and a girl with long black hair came to that window up there." said O'Hare, pointing up at the open window with a solemn look.

Shannon suddenly came down the road, arm in arm with a local boy. When she saw her angry uncle and his family and Mr O'Hare, she told the boy to scarper. The boy kissed her and hurried away in the other direction.

"Where the hell have you just been? You're supposed to be minding the house!" George Allen roared at her.

"I only went to the corner to post a letter to my father, that's all Uncle George." said Shannon, unaware that she had a love bite on her neck plain for all to see.

"This actress here is Shannon." George told his friend O'Hare.

"George, that wasn't the girl who spoke to me at the window." O'Hare whispered, but Mrs Allen and her three sons overheard him and they drew nearer out of curiosity.

"Are you sure Richard?" asked Mr Allen, perplexed.

O'Hare said: "As true as God's in Heaven George. May I never draw another breath, but the girl who spoke to me from that window had black hair. She looked nothing like your lovely niece here."

"You've been to the wrong house. You've been talking to Billy Jones's daughter next door you old reprobate." George reasoned, and he nodded for Shannon to open the door with the keys he'd entrusted her with.

But when O'Hare went up to the room where the girl had talked to him from the window, he nearly fainted. The girl he had talked to was lying dead in her coffin in that room. She was Maureen Allen.

George and his sons set upon O'Hare when he said he'd talked to Maureen, but they attacked him more out of fear than rage.

"Throw him out." George commanded and his three sons lifted O'Hare up by his armpits and were about to show him the door when Mrs O'Hare said, "Wait!"

The boys stopped in their tracks and looked at their mother.

Mrs Allen said: "Richard O'Hare has done some things in his past but he has never been a liar. Now look, the window's open and so are the curtains. I distinctly remember drawing those curtains as it's the custom to do so in a wake, and that window was shut. And secondly, Richard didn't know Maureen was at rest in this room, but he said this was the room she spoke to him from. And finally, he described Maureen to a tee, and we all know Billy Jones's fat daughter is nothing like Maureen."

"What are you getting at Maggie?" George asked his wife, and seemed very edgy.

"Someone opened the curtains and window in this room." said Mrs Allen, and she glanced at Shannon, who was standing in the doorway.

"I didn't Aunt Maggie, before the Seven Sacraments. I can't even come into the room where our Maureen is. It distresses me to see her lying there." said Shannon.

"Then who opened the window and curtains then?" asked Mr Allen once again. "I told you George, " said Richard O'Hare, "before All Mighty God, it was Maureen."

And as Richard finished the sentence, a strange icy draught passed through the room and the curtains fluttered...


From Tom Slemen's Haunted Liverpool 3 (Bluecoat Press)