The Apparition of James Haddock to Francis Taverner at Michaelmas, 1662
In the graveyard by the Parish Church of St Patrick, Drumbeg, is the grave of James Haddock who died in 1657. Five years later his ghost is said to made contact in a bid to ensure financial future of his son. The following version of the story entitled ‘The Apparition of James Haddock to Francis Taverner at Michaelmas, 1662’ was published in ‘Accredited Ghost Stories’ (1823) by T M Jarvis.
Francis Taverner, about twenty-five years old, a lusty, proper, stout fellow, then servant at large (afterwards porter) to the Lord Chichester, Earl of Donegal, at Belfast, in the north of Ireland, county of Antrim and diocess of Connor, riding late in the night from Hilbrough homeward, near Drum Bridge, his horse, though of good mettle, suddenly made a stand; and he, supposing him to be taken with the staggers, alighted to blood him in the mouth, and presently mounted again. As he was setting forward there seemed to pass by him two horsemen, though he could not hear the treading of their feet, which amazed him. Presently there appeared a third in a white coat just at his elbow, in the likeness of James Haddock, formerly an inhabitant of Malone, where he died near five years before; whereupon Taverner asked him, in the name of God, who he was? He replied, I am James Haddock; and you may call me to mind by this token, that, about five years ago, I and two other friends were at your father’s house, and you, by your father’s appointment, brought us some nuts; and therefore be not afraid, says the apparition: whereupon Taverner, remembering the circumstance, thought it might be Haddock; and those two who passed him he thought to be his two friends with him when he gave them nuts, and courageously asked him why he appeared rather to him than any other? He answered, because he was a man of more resolution than others; and, if he would ride his way with him, he would acquaint him with a business he had to deliver him; which Taverner refused to do, and would go his own way (for they were now at a quadrival), and so rode homewards. But immediately on their departure, there arose a great wind, and withal he heard very hideous screeches and noises, to his great amazement; but, riding forwards as fast as he could, he at last heard the cocks crow, to his comfort: he alighted off from his horse, and, falling to prayer, desired God’s assistance; and so got safe home.
The night after there appeared again to him the likeness of James Haddock, and bid him go to Eleanor Welsh (now the wife of Davis living at Malone, but formerly the wife of the said James Haddock, by whom she had an only son, to whom the said James Haddock had by his will given a lease which he held of the Lord Chichester, of which the son was deprived by Davis (who had married his mother), and to ask her if her maiden name was not Eleanor Walsh; and, if it were, to tell her that it was the will of her former husband, James Haddock, that their son should be righted in the lease. But Taverner, partly loath to gain the ill will of his neighbours, and partly thinking he should not be credited, but looked on as deluded, long neglected to do his message, till, having been every night for about a month’s space haunted with this apparition, in several forms (every night more and more terrible), which was usually preceded by an unusual trembling over his whole body, and great change of countenance, manifest to his wife, in whose presence frequently the apparition was (though not visible to her), at length he went to Malone, to Davis’s wife, and asked her whether her maiden name was not Eleanor Welsh? If it was, he had something to say to her. She replied there was another Eleanor Welsh besides her. Here upon Taverner returned, without delivering his message.
The same night, being fast asleep in his bed (for the former apparitions were as he sat by the fire with his wife), by something pressing upon him he was awakened, and saw again the apparition of James Haddock, in a white coat, as at other times, who asked him if he had delivered his message? He answered he had been there with Eleanor Welsh; upon which the apparition looking more pleasantly upon him bid him not be afraid and so vanished in a flash of brightness.
But some nights after (he having not delivered his message) he came again, and, appearing in many formidable shapes, threatened to tear him in pieces if he did not do it. This made him leave his house where he dwelled, in the mountains, and betake himself to the town of Belfast, where he sat up all night at one Prince’s house, and a servant or two of the Lord Chichester’s, who were desirous to see or hear the spirit. About midnight, as they were all by the fireside, they beheld Taverner’s countenance to change and a trembling to fall on him, who presently espied the apparition in a room opposite to him where he sat, and took up the candle and went to it, and resolutely asked him, in the name of God, wherefore it haunted him? It replied, because he had not delivered the message, and withal threatened to tear him in pieces if he did not do it speedily; and so, changing itself into many prodigious shapes, it vanished in white, like a ghost; whereupon Francis Taverner became much dejected and troubled, and next day went to the Lord Chichester’s house, and, with tears in his eyes, related to some of the family the sadness of his condition. They told it to my lord’s chaplain, Mr, James South, who came presently to Taverner, and, being acquainted of his whole story, advised him to go at this present time to Malone, to deliver punctually his message, and promised to go along with him. But first they went to Dr. Lewis Downes, then minister of Belfast, who, upon hearing the relation of the whole matter, doubted at first the truth of it, attributing it rather to melancholy than any kind of reality; but, being afterwards fully satisfied of it, the only scruple remaining was, whether it might be lawful to go on such a business, not knowing whose errand it was; since, though it was a real apparition of some spirit, yet it was questionable whether of a good or bad spirit: yet, the justice of the cause (it being the common report the youth was wronged) and other considerations prevailing, he went with them. So they three went to Davis’s house where, the woman being desired to come to them, Taverner did effectually do his message, by telling her he could not be quiet for the ghost of her former husband, James Haddock who threatened to tear him in pieces if he did not tell her she must right John Haddock, her son by him, in a lease wherein she and Davis, her now husband, had wronged him. This done, he presently found great quietness in his mind, and, thanking the gentlemen for their company, advice, and assistance, he departed thence to his brother’^s house, at Drum Bridge, where, about two nights after, the aforesaid apparition came to him again and, more pleasantly than formerly, asked if he had delivered the message? He answered, he had done it fully. It replied that he must deliver the message to the executors also, that the business might be perfected. At this meeting Taverner asked the spirit if Davis would do him any hurt? To which it answered at first somewhat doubtfully, but at length threatened Davis if be attempted any things to the injury of Taverner; and so vanished away in white.
The day following. Dr. Jeremiah Taylor (Born 15 August 1613 – Died 13 August 1667), Bishop of Down Connor, and Dromore, was to go to keep court at Dromore, and commanded me who was then secretary to him to write for Taverner to meet him there, which he did; and there in the presence of many, he examined Taverner strictly in this strange scene of Providence, as my lord bishop styled it; and, by the account given him both by Taverner and others, who knew Taverner and much of the former particulars, his lordship was satisfied that the apparition was true and real, but said no more there to him, because at Hilborough, three miles from thence, on his way home my lord was informed that my Lady Conway and other persons of quality were come purposely to hear his lordship examine the matter. So Taverner went with us to Hilborough, and there, to satisfy the curiosity of the fresh company, after asking many things anew and some over again, my lord advised him to ask these questions the next time the spirit appeared: — Whence are you? Are you a good or a bad spirit? Where is your abode? What station do you hold? How are you regimented in the other world? And what is the reason that you appear for the relief of your son in so small a matter, when so many widows and orphans are oppressed in the worlds being defrauded of greater matters, and none from thence of their relations appear, as yon do, to right them?
That night Taverner was sent for to Lisburn, to my Lord Conway’s, three miles from Hilborough, on his way hence to Belfast, where he was again strictly examined in the presence of many good men and women of the aforesaid matter, who was ordered to lie at my Lord Conway’s all night; and, about nine or ten o’clock at night, standing by the fireside with his brother and many others, his countenance changed, and he fell into a trembling, the usual prognostics of the apparition; and, being loath to make any disturbance in his Lordship’s house, he and his brother went out into the court, where he saw the spirit coming over the wall, which, approaching nearer asked him if he had done his message to the executors also? He replied he had, and wondered it should still haunt him. It replied he need not fear; for it would do him no hurt, nor trouble him anymore, but the executor, if he did not see the boy righted. Here his brother put him in mind to ask the spirit what the bishop bid him, which he did presently; but it gave him no answer, but crawled on its hands and feet over the wall again, and so vanished in white, with a most melodious harmony.
Note. — 1. That Pierce, at whose house and in whose presence the apparition was, being asked whether he saw the spirit, said he did not, but thought at that time he had a mist all over his eyes. 2. What was then spoken to Taverner was in so low and hollow a voice that they could not understand what it said. 3. At Pierce’s house it stood just in the entry of a door; and, as a maid passed by to go in at the door, Taverner saw it go aside and give way to the maid, though she saw it not. 4. That the lease was hereupon disposed of to the boy’s use. 5. The spirit at the last, appearing at my Lord Conway’s house, revealed somewhat to Taverner
which he would not discover to any of us that asked him.
This Taverner, with all the persons and places mentioned in the story, I knew very well; and all wise and good men did believe it, especially the Bishop and the Dean of Connor, Dr. Rust.
Your humble servant,