A Banshee Tale

Built between 1815 and 1816, the Irish Centre on Mount Pleasant in Liverpool began its life as the Wellington Rooms, where the merchant princes of the city held innumerable dance balls and parties. Against this setting of fashionable high society, a well-documented supernatural incident took place in the Spring of 1849.
Robert Ogden, a stout Mulberry-faced gentleman, and his friend John McLauchlan, both of Leveson Street in Toxteth, were turned out of the Wellington Rooms at almost two in the morning because of drunkenness and rowdyism. Upon leaving the building, they were unable to find a carriage to take them home, and rain began to pelt down. At this point, Mr Ogden noticed a woman in a black gown and grey cloak with long white hair, standing next to one of the Grecian pillars of the Wellington Rooms. Her head was bowed and her hair covered her face. As the men walked on, the woman followed, and she began to sob. McLauchlan, an Irishman, trembled, for he knew she was a banshee – a Celtic apparition whose wailing announces an impending death. He told Ogden what the woman was and urged him to hurry home, but the corpulent old man went directly to the crying woman and lifted her hair.
The face of an old crone looked back with deep red eyes. The irises of those eyes were black, the eyes of doom. Ogden knew the entity was not a human, and he stumbled backwards, then turned to see the intoxicated McLauchlan feeling his way along the walls of a school on Hope Street, trying to run, but unsteady on his feet. Ogden thought his pounding heart would explode as he tried to catch up with his friend. They never said a word until they reached Leveson Street, panting and wheezing. The banshee soon appeared at the top of the street. The men went to their homes and bolted the doors, and the messenger of death sat on the steps of Number 7 – McLauchlan’s house. For hours she remained there in the pouring rain, head bowed, wailing at the top of her voice. At half-past four the crying stopped, and upon the next morning, McLauchlan’s wife never awakened. She had died in her sleep. A fortnight later, the banshee was seen in the wee small hours, crying under the window of Number 20 Leveson Street, and days afterwards a psychopath named John Gleeson Wilson killed the lady who lived at that house, along with her two young sons and the maidservant.

©Tom Slemen 2006.