Cooneen is a small town in west Fermanagh.
It is more famous for it's ghost than anything else.
Back in the 1940's a family had to leave
Cooneen and emigrate to America to escape the wrath of this ghost
which terrorised them and despite numerous holy men who exercised
many exorcisms on their home the ghost refused to budge.
Eventually the house had to be closed up and the windows and
doorways were bricked up as was the normal practise in such
events. Whether this was to keep the supernatural in or to keep
the curious and unwary out the result seemed to work OK.
As the years passed the tales of this
haunting abounded. Local drama groups staged plays about it and
even the BBC's Wilfred Pickles narrated it on radio and scared the
wits out of his listeners.
More years passed and by now it's the 60's.
The Cooneen Ghost had been forgotten about apart from a few old
folk who spoke in hushed voices and turned an unusual pallor when
reminded of the times this ghoul struck dread into every living
creature in the town of Cooneen. Now that was only silly
superstition and who could possibly believe those silly tales of
ghosts and poltergeists. Certainly not the young, brave lions of
the 60's and certainly not the clever men-of-the-world showband
It was 1964 or 1965 when the Skyrockets
played Cooneen Carnival. I remember the carnival went on into
early October, probably because the weather was fine or perhaps
not to clash with a neighbouring parish. On the night we played
it was warm and when we finished for the night we packed up and
loaded up the band bus.
Tea for the band had been arranged at the
home of one of the carnival committee members and since the house
was only a short way from the marquee we decided to walk.
After the meal we left the house and we
were standing on the road chatting and having a smoke. One of the
boys just remembered and said "Isn't this the town with the
haunted house". Our conversation immediately changed to the
Cooneen Ghost. Someone said he knew where the haunted house was so
we decided to walk to it since it was only a few hundred yards up
Now as everyone who ever played in a
showband knows there was always a few hangers on who travelled
with the band. These were fellows who helped carry the instruments
in order to get free admission to the dance. In other words there
were eight in the band and another four or five hangers on, so a
fine body of twelve or thirteen brave men proceeded up the road in
search of this ghostly house.
Eventually we reached the top of the narrow
street which was poorly lit by a solitary, flickering, street lamp
and there before us stood a large manor-like building silhouetted
against a cloud covered moon. Two large pillars stood as sentries
supporting a wrought iron gate which was half open as though it
was inviting us in.
So this was the abode of the dreaded Cooneen
Ghost. Was it really imprisoned behind those stark walls ?. We
ventured closer. Everybody was silent. A silence only broken by
whispers of "Yea it sure looks spooky" and "Couldn't you imagine
bats flying around it" and other such utterances as from a Vincent
Price movie. A chilly breath of air touched us causing some to
shiver. Silence ! One could almost hear the silence.
I remember getting a feeling of another
presence apart from all of us. The only way I could describe it
is, if you shut your eyes tight and hold your hand about an inch
from your face. Even though you can't see it you can feel it's
there. Well that's how I felt. I was scared, no, I was petrified.
Nobody wanted to admit it, we were all petrified.
Then, suddenly someone started to run. Now,
nobody wanted to be left behind so there was a frantic charge down
that dark road. Not only did nobody want to be left behind but
nobody wanted to be last in the race to the safety of our bus.
Upon reaching the bus we jammed each other in the doorway trying
to get in and eventually everyone was in, the door closed, we were
You know how your imagination can play all
sorts of tricks ? Well I put it down to a trick of my imagination
when I felt certain I saw the ghostly figure of a woman move in
the overgrown garden in front of that house. This was just before
the stampede started down the road for the bus. I never said
anything at the time because as I said I thought it must have been
Many years passed and I was back in
Enniskillen on holiday. I happened to meet one of the boys from
the Skyrockets. We talked about what we were doing now and soon
the chat came round to the old times. We laughed at the thought of
thirteen grown men running for dear life that night in Cooneen.
That's when I said "You know Paddy I never told anyone this,
but......." He stopped me there and said..... "So you saw her
© Ivan McBride