The Nightmare Before Christmas

Thomas Dixie Elliot penned the following treat just before Christmas.

The Story You Are About To Read Is True

Last night Sharon and I accepted an invite to dinner at the home of our friends, Maureen and Michael; who live in Ballyarnett Village on the outskirts of Shantallow. We had a lovely meal and soon Michael and I began to partake in a few alcoholic drinks, well more than a few drinks.

The night passed quickly as the conversation jumped back and forth from this to that and the other. The drink had taken effect when I noticed that it was after one o'clock in the morning.

The time had come for us to go and we began to finish off our drinks when we all heard an unearthly wailing coming from outside.

"It sounds like a couple of cats are fighting out there..." Says I.

I was cut short as the wailing ended with a cackling laugh like that of a witch. Four sets of eyes widened as we all wondered aloud what the hell was that we had just heard.

I headed for the front door and looked out. The rain was teeming down and Christmas lights twinkled in the windows across the street, otherwise it was deadly silent. Michael searched upstairs and I then went round the back of the house. There was nothing other than the sound the wind but the wind doesn't wail like a cat and cackle like a witch.

We sat down and wondered what we had heard.

Fanny Wylie's bridge is but two or three miles, as the crow flies, from the house; on a back road leading to Donegal. The story goes that over the decades many a traveler on this road had been unfortunate enough to witness the apparition of an old Hag as they passed over the bridge in the dead of night.

A Banshee and the consequences of hearing one was talked about as we bid our good nights and left for home.

I read the Derry Journal as I took my breakfast this morning and one article in particular caught my eye...

"Shantallow's ancient burial site mystery."

A local archeologist, Ian Leith stated that he had received information of cairn burials being uncovered during the construction of Shantallow housing estate over 40 years ago. A skeleton was found inside but it was covered over again and work continued.

The plot thickened.

Shantallow has been inhabited since the early Bronze Age 2,500BC, long before the Shantallow House Bar. Many grave-like features have been unearthed in the area from Pennyburn to Culmore. Historians believe that the name Shantallow derives from the Gaelic 'Sean Tallamh' meaning 'Old Ground'. Others believe it means, 'Old Willow' and that such a tree possibly grew in the area before the housing estates came into existence.

Wasn't that house in the film Poltergeist built over an ancient tribal burial ground?

As my imagination ran away with me Sharon's phone rang. It was Maureen.

It turned out that similar to ET phoning home what we had heard last night was a case of the Banshee phoning Maureen's home.

Maureen's brother Colum McCallion, who had been visiting earlier, had gone and left his phone behind in the kitchen. We had been scared shitless by a frigging phone!!

  • The Story You have Read Is True and the names have not been changed to protect the eejits.


  1. Made my morning that! Cheers!

    Reminds me of being home alone one time and one of the kids toys decided to burst into life at about 3am. Brown trousers time!

  2. What the hell were you drinking...shoe Polish!

  3. We used to have a child's large wooden jigsaw set that had audio built in to when the child placed the piece in the right slot to encourage the child in its success....I never played with it, honest, anyway, usually in the very early hours of the morning it used to make this very weird and creepy noise for no apparent reason. It never made the same noise for any of its pieces. Initially we had no idea where it was coming from until one of those unplanned late nights and we were going to bed when it went off in the hall...scared the hell clean out of us but at least we knew where it was coming from. Never figured out why it kept doing it though. A few years later we handed it off to a charity shop.....probably scaring the shit out of someone else now!