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1801, August 6: Sir Jonah Barrington and the Disembodied Voice

In 1830, Sir Jonah Barrington [1760-1834], Irish judge, lawyer, and politician, published his personal memoirs. He had known many an intriguing character, and had many an adventure, sometimes humorous and sometimes dangerous... but he also had an encounter with something which he was never able to offer an explanation for.

        In 1801, Barrington and his wife lived in Dunran, County Wicklow, Ireland, near the Mount Kennedy home of their close family friend Robert Cuninghame, dubbed the 1st Baron Rossmore for his services as a soldier and a General, and who had served as the Commander-in-Chief of Ireland from 1793 to 1796. Lord Rossmore was born in Scotland in 1726, but had moved to Ireland at an early age; at the time of this incident, he was essentially retired, and living a not-so-quiet life with frequent visits from friends and relatives, and weekly dinner parties. Lady Barrington ran into Lord Rossmore at Dublin Castle on August 5 of that year, and he insisted that she and her husband join him at just such a party on the following day, which both she, and later her husband, heartily agreed to.

        The Barringtons retired for the evening at midnight, but Mr. Barrington was awoken about two in the morning by an odd sound. I quote:

       "I listened; it occurred first at short intervals; it resembled neither a voice nor an instrument; it was softer than any voice and wilder than any music, and seemed to float in the air. I don't know wherefore, but my heart beat forcibly: the sound became still more plaintive, till it almost died away in the air; when a sudden change, as if excited by a pang, changed its tone: it seemed descending. I felt every nerve tremble; it was not a natural sound, nor could I make out the point whence it came."

        Sir Barrington woke his wife, and she heard the strange sounds as well. As the noise continued, along with the lack of an explanation for it, both Barringtons became more and more disturbed by it. They went to a large window that overlooked a garden, and both noticed immediately that the sound now seemed to be clearly coming from a plot of grass directly below their window. Lady Barrington asked that a maid be called, but the strange noises scared her even more than the Barringtons.

        After about a half-hour, and then a "deep, heavy, throbbing sigh" seemed to come from the patch of ground below the window, followed by a sharp, but low cry... and then, very distinctly, "Rossmore -- Rossmore -- Rossmore!" The maid fled in terror. The Barringtons, rather shakily, returned to bed, and soon all was silent around them again. Lady Barrington tried to explain the matter away, and came up with a number of guesses as to what it was; she made Sir Barrington promise to not mention anything about it at the party later that day for fear of being laughed at. Both eventually got back to sleep.

        Around seven that morning, Sir Barrington was awakened by a strong rap at his bed chamber door. The sun was up; still nervous about the odd occurrence during the night, and still not quite awake, Barrington rose and walked to the door. One of his servents had just heard terrible news; though seemingly in good health, Lord Rossmore had died fairly suddenly during the night... at about two-thirty in the morning.

Call of the Banshee

        Though Barrington never names his experience as such himself, it is a definite match for the supernatural being told of in Ireland called a Banshee. The Banshee is a ghostly or magical woman who sings laments for people before they die; and it is generally believed that any great and prominant person who lives in Ireland can have their deaths predicted by her sad laments. It is hard to believe that Barrington himself, an Irish countryman, would not know of the Banshee's legend, but he may have avoided naming the event as such to try and prevent any possible ridicule, something his wife was concerned about. The maid, no doubt, had come to the conclusion it was a banshee... before she ran.