Our ghostly tale takes place on one of Dublin’s oldest streets, in one of the great houses which date back to the 17th century. The much over-looked, modern day Aungier street with its assortment of cafes, shops, bars and offices disguises a rich medieval past, hidden beneath contemporary shop fronts and facades. Conservation works are quietly taking place above ground floor units, restoring and protecting these great houses. 9/9a Aungier street, which houses a jewellers and estate agent on its ground floor is of immeasurable importance, being Dublin’s oldest residential building.
Concealed behind an inconspicuous blue door, a rickety staircase leads to the upper levels, where the layers of time are slowly being stripped back to reveal the very bones of this magnificent house. Faded wallpaper of various designs, one pasted over another, floor markings from past partitions & tiny nail holes in the walls from where pictures hung, speak of the former residents of this 350 year old atmospheric building. It was while researching the past occupants, that I came across a tale of haunted happenings and strange disturbances in an Aungier street mansion from the year 1853.
Two medical students by the names of Tom and Richard took up abode in the untenanted 9/9a Aungier street* which served as the perfect residence while completing their studies. It was not long before both began experiencing uneasy nights and disturbed sleep in the scantily furnished residence. Every second night, Richard awoke from frightening visions of an abominable figure which would move from the window towards the foot of his bed. Attempts to dispel these visions by way of a tonic before nightfall proved unsuccessful, and it was not long before Richard discovered Tom was experiencing equally uneasy nights.
One night, for a wonder, I was sleeping soundly, when I was roused by a step on the lobby outside my room, followed by the loud clang of what turned out to be a large brass candlestick, flung with all his force by poor Tom Ludlow over the banisters, and rattling with a rebound down the second flight of stairs; and almost concurrently with this, Tom burst open my door, and bounced into my room backwards, in a state of extraordinary agitation.
Overcome with anxiety and fear, poor Tom was unable to speak of the hideous vision which so unmanned him. The following morning, Tom had made the decision to visit his father while Richard sought alternative accommodation, both concluding moving out of the haunted dwelling was necessary.
A week elapsed before alternative quarters were secured on Digges street, in which time poor Richard was haunted by nightly occurrences of heavy footsteps descending the medieval staircase from the gloomy loft. Thankful of Tom’s return, Richard relayed his week of fearful nights over breakfast in the mansion before moving their belongings to their new residence.
Having recovered from his own night of horror in the Aungier street house, Tom decided to disclose the details of his vision to his good friend:
Without a start or fearful sensation of any kind, I waked gently, but completely. It was, as you have good reason to remember, long past midnight--I believe, about two o'clock. When sleep has been deep and long enough to satisfy nature thoroughly, one often wakens in this way, suddenly, tranquilly, and completely.
"There was a figure seated in that lumbering, old sofa-chair, near the fireplace. Its back was rather towards me, but I could not be mistaken; it turned slowly round, and, merciful heavens! there was the stony face, with its infernal lineaments of malignity and despair, gloating on me. There was now no doubt as to its consciousness of my presence, and the hellish malice with which it was animated, for it arose, and drew close to the bedside. There was a rope about its neck, and the other end, coiled up, it held stiffly in its hand.
"My good angel nerved me for this horrible crisis. I remained for some seconds transfixed by the gaze of this tremendous phantom. He came close to the bed, and appeared on the point of mounting upon it. The next instant I was upon the floor at the far side, and in a moment more was, I don't know how, upon the lobby.
"But the spell was not yet broken; the valley of the shadow of death was not yet traversed. The abhorred phantom was before me there; it was standing near the banisters, stooping a little, and with one end of the rope round its own neck, was poising a noose at the other, as if to throw over mine; and while engaged in this baleful pantomime, it wore a smile so sensual, so unspeakably dreadful, that my senses were nearly overpowered. I saw and remember nothing more, until I found myself in your room.
"I had a wonderful escape, Dick--there is no disputing that--an escape for which, while I live, I shall bless the mercy of heaven. No one can conceive or imagine what it is for flesh and blood to stand in the presence of such a thing, but one who has had the terrific experience. Dick, Dick, a shadow has passed over me--a chill has crossed my blood and marrow, and I will never be the same again--never, Dick--never!"
The handmaid, a local woman, was present for Tom’s recollection, and by its conclusion was quite unnerved. "It's often I heard tell of it," she now said, "but I never believed it rightly till now” She relayed the story of a former dweller in the house, a man by the name of Judge Horrocks, infamous for sentencing numerous souls to death by hanging. This most unpopular, and hateful judge came to his own unpleasant end, in the very house in which they stood, and was found hanging from the banisters in the great stairwell some years earlier.
In this cold light of day, Tom and Richard packed the remainder of their belongings, relieved to be leaving the haunted residence, the cause of immeasurable fear and torment.
“And so, we all sallied out together, each of us breathing more freely, I have no doubt, as we crossed that ill-omened threshold for the last time.”
To read the full tale of the haunted residence on Aungier street,follow the link here. *Although it is unconfirmed this ghostly tale occurred in 9/9a Aungier street, Nicola Matthews (Dublin Civic Trust) assures us it is most probably the location, as the character and layout of the interior relates to that of 9/9a.
Top image courtesy of the Irish Georgian Society.