Saturday, October 22, 2005

The Tyrone Ghost Story

Lord Tyrone and Lady Beresford were born in Dublin. They were left orphans in their infancy to the care of the same person, who brought them up in the principles of Deism. Their guardian dying when they were about fourteen, they fell into very different hands, and even means was tried to convince them of the truth of revealed religion, but in vain.

Though separated, their mutual affection remained unalterable. After some years they made a solemn vow to each other, that whichever should die first, would (if permitted by the Almighty) appear to the other and declare what religion was most approved by God.

Lady Beresford shortly after married Sir Martin Beresford. One morning she came down unusually pale with black ribbon round her wrist. Sir Martin asked whether she was ill, and whether she had sprained her wrist she replied she was well, and conjured him never to enquire the cause of her wearing the ribbon. She expressed anxiety for the arrival of the post.

Sir Martin asked whether she expected letters. She said she expected to hear that Lord Tyrone was dead; that he died last Tuesday at 4 o'clock. Sir Martin tried to comfort her, and assured her she was deceived by some idle dream.

The letter arrived conveying the intelligence of Lord Tyrone's death, which had happened at the precise time Lady Beresford had specified.

She then informed Sir Martin that she had to announce to him that she should shortly give him a son, an event that had long and ardently desired. In some months Lady Beresford was delivered of a son; she had before given birth to two daughters. Sir Martin survived this event but four years.

After his death Lady Beresford shur herself very much up, she visited no family but that of the clergyman of the village. His family consisted of himself, his wife, and a son, who, at the time of Sir Martin's death, was quite a boy; to this son, however, she was in a few years married.

He behaved to her in the most scandalous manner. After having given birth to two daughters. Lady Beresford insisted on a separation from her profligate husband. After a few years she was induced by his entreaties to pardon and once more live with him, and in time became the mother of another son.

The day she had lain in a month, she sent for Lady Betty Cobb, her intimate friend, requesting her and a few friends to spend the day with her, as it was her birthday; among others, was the clergyman by whom she was baptized. Having observed that she was forty-eight that day, the clergyman assured her she was only forty-seven: telling her he had had frequent disputes with her mother on the subject, and had a few days before searched the register, which proved him to be right and her only forty-seven instead of forty-eight.

'You have signed my death warrant,' said she, and requested the company to leave her, as she had many things to settle before she died. She requested that Lady Betty Cobb and her son by Sir Martin (who was about twelve years old), would come to her, as she had something to communicate to them.

When the attendants were withdrawn, she said,'I have something to communicate to you both before I die, a period which is not far distant. You, Lady Betty, are no stranger to the friendship which always subsisted between Lord Tyrone and myself; we were educated under the same roof, and in the same principles of Deism. When my friends afterwards tried to persuade us to embrace the revealed religion, their arguments, though insufficient to convince, had power to stagger our former faith. In this perplexing state of doubt, we made a vow to each other that whichever died first should (if permitted) appear to the other and declare what religion was most acceptable to the Almighty. Accordingly, while Sir Martin and I were asleep, I woke suddenly and found Lord Tyrone sitting by the bed-side. I screamed, and endeavoured to wake Sir Martin. " For Heaven's sake," said I, " by what means, or for what purpose, came you here at this time of night ?

"Have you forgot your promise ? " said he; "I died last Tuesday, at four o'clock, and have been permitted by the Supreme Being to appear to you to assure you that revealed religion is the only true faith and the only means by which we can be saved. I am further suffered to inform you that you are with child of a son who shall marry my daughter. Not many years after his birth, Sir Martin will die; you will be married again to a man whose ill conduct will make you miserable; you will bring him two daughters and afterwards a son, in childbed of whom you will die in the forty-seventh year of your age."

" Just Heaven," I exclaimed, " and cannot I prevent this?" "Undoubtedly, you may," said he, "you are a free agent, and may prevent this by resisting every temptation to a second marriage; but the passions are strong; hitherto you have had no trials; you know not their power. More I am not permitted to say; but if, after this warning, you persist in your infidelity, your lot in another world would be miserable indeed."

" May I not ask," said I, " if you are happy ? "Had I been otherwise, I should not have been permitted to appear to you." "I may then infer that you are happy; when the morning comes, how shall I be convinced that your appearance has been real, and not the phantom of my imagination?"

" Will not the news of my death be sufficient to convince you ?" " No," returned I, "I might have had such a dream, and that dream by accident come to pass. I wish to have some stronger proof of its reality."

“You shall," said he; then waving his hand, the bed-curtains, which were of crimson velvet, were instantly drawn through a large hook of ivory, by which the tester of the bed, which was of an oval form, was suspended. "In that," said he, " you can't be mistaken; no mortal arm could have done this." "But we are sleeping, and people have much greater strength then than when awake. I may fancy I have done it in my sleep. I shall still doubt."

" You have a pocket-book, on the leaves of which I will write; you know my handwriting." He wrote. " Still," said I, " I may in the morning have my doubts; though waking I cannot mistake your hand writing; sleeping I may."

"You are hard of belief. I must not touch you; it would injure you irreparably; it is not for spirits to touch mortal flesh." "I do not regard a slight blemish." "You are a woman of courage. Hold out your hand." I did; he touched my wrist: My hand was cold as marble. In an instant the sinews shrank up, every nerve withdrew. "Now," said he, "while you live, let no mortal eye behold that wrist; to see would be sacrilege."

He stopped: I turned to him again; he was gone. During the time I converse with him, my thoughts were perfectly calm and collected; but the moment he was gone, I felt chilled with horror; the bed trembled under me; I endeavoured to awake Sir Martin, but in vain.

In this state of horror and agitation, I lay for some time when, a shower of tears coming to my relief, I dropped asleep.

'In the morning Sir Martin arose as usual without perceiving the situation in which the curtain remained. When I awoke, I found Sir Martin already gone. I went into the gallery adjoining our apartment, and took from thence a very large broom used for sweeping the cornices: by the help of this, though not without difficulty, I took down the curtain, as I imagined this extraordinary appearance would excite
enquiries among the servants which I wished to avoid.

I then went to my bureau, locked up the pocket-book, and took out some black ribbon, which I bound round my wrist. When I came down, the agitation of my mind had left an impression on my countenance too strong to pass unnoticed by Sir Martin. He enquired the cause of my visible disorder. I told him I was well, but informed him that Lord Tyrone was no more; at the same time entreated him to drop all enquiries about the black ribbon round my wrist.

He kindly desisted from all importunity, nor did he ever after enquire the cause. You were born, my son, as had been foretold, and four years after your ever-to-be-lamented father expired in my arms.

'After this melancholy event, I determined, as the only means by which I might avoid the dreadful event of the prediction, for ever to abandon society, and pass the remainder of my days in solitude; but few can endure to exist long in a state of perfect sequestration. I commenced an intercourse with one family only, nor could I foresee the fatal consequences that afterwards ensued.

Little did I imagine that their son, their only son, was the person intended by fate for my undoing. In a few years I ceased to regard him with indifference; I endeavoured by every means to conquer a passion the fatal consequences of which, if ever I should yield to its impulse, were too well known; and I fondly imagined I had overcome its influence, when the event of one fatal moment undermined my fortitude, and plunged me into that abyss I had so long determined to shun.

(He had frequently solicited his parents for leave to go into the army, and at length obtained their per mission. He came to bid me farewell before departure: the moment he entered the room he h! on his knees at my feet, told me he was miserable and that I alone was the cause. At that instant my fortitude forsook me. I gave myself up for lost, I considered my fate as inevitable; and without further hesitation consented to a union, the result of which I knew to be misery, and its end death.

After a few years were passed, the conduct of my husband amply warranted my demand of a separation, and I hoped by this step to avoid the fatal accomplishment of the prophecy; but won over by his strong entreaty, I was prevailed on to pardon and once more to reside with him, though not till after I had, as I imagined, passed my forty-seventh year, but I have this day heard from indisputable authority that I am but forty-seven this day.

Of the near approach of my death I entertain not the least doubt, but I do not dread its arrival: armed with the prospects of Christianity, I can meet the King of Terrors without dismay, and without a tear bid adieu to the regions of mortality for ever.

When I am dead, as the necessity of its concealment closes with my life, could wish that you. Lady Betty Cobb, would unbind my wrist and take from thence the black ribbon, and let my son and yourself behold my arm.'

Lady Beresford here paused for some time, but renewing the conversation she entreated her son to behave so as to merit the honour he would in future receive from a union with the daughter of Lord Tyrone.

Lady Beresford then expressed a wish to lie down on the bed, and endeavoured to compose herself to sleep. Lady Betty Cobb and her son called the attendants to watch their mistress, and, should they observe the slightest change in her, instantly to let them know.

An hour passed; all was silent: they listened at the door; everything was still, but in about half-an-hour the bell rang violently. They flew to the apartment, but before they reached the door they heard the servant exclaim, ' Oh she is dead, my mistress is dead.'

Lady Betty sent the servants out of the room; she approached the bed of Lady Beresford with her son ; he knelt by his mother's bedside. Lady Betty lifted up her hand, unbound the black ribbon exactly in the state Lady Beresford had described,—every sinew shrank up, and every nerve withered.

N.B. Lady Beresford's son, as had been predicted, is married to the daughter of Lord Tyrone: the black ribbon and pocket-book are in the possession of Lady Bettv Cobb in Ireland, or Marlborough Buildings, Bath: who, together with the Tyrone family, will assert its truth, and by whom the above narrative is stated, and was transcribed at Tallerig, on July 24th, 1794, by the Honourable Mrs. Maitland. (Copy of a Copy taken in 1801.)


Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

There's an alternative but similar account tomorrow. What strikes me about both is the focus on "scientific" evidence about ghosts - both in the account itself and the careful recording of the evidence trail at the end.

The nature of the tale also makes me think of Greek tragedy - the inevitability of fate. And this is hardly conventional Christianity.

1:21 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This story (which has many injections from older stories) originated in Gillhall (Older name Gill Hall) and is dated to October 1693 on what appears to be sound evidence. Gillhall stood in a rambling estate of some thousands of acres two miles west of Dromore in Co.Down. Its former ownner, Lord Clanwilliam, left it about 1908, having lived there only a year with his bride, who apparently felt the place gave her the shivers.It burned down mysteriously one night after being abandoned for many decades. I have stood in the room where the ghost is said to have appeared (a very plain room) and know some unpublished details connected with the story, having been brought up on a neighbouring estate. Photographs of the house, both external and internal, appear in 'An Archeological Survey of County Down' HMSO 1966.

5:53 PM  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

Thanks for putting a place to the story, and more details if anyone wants to follow it up. I'm not surprised there are older versions - it is clearly a morality tale.

1:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm 13 and doing this as an assignment, but the evidence, and the supernaturalness... It's hard to know what to believe! I reckon it's pretty believable though.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous Isobel Loves Ghosts said...

Hi I'm Isobel and i'm 11, yr 6. I love ghost stories although i get a bit freaked out. i read about The black ribbon in a book at our school library. i immeadiatly grabbed a compute hoping to find a comment I can leave about it.

I did not read the whole but in my book it said she had a "withered arm"
if you know what a withered arm looks like or you can describe it can you please email me at


7:35 AM  
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9:26 AM  
Blogger Scion in Hallows said...

Lady Beresford (The Hon Nichola Sophia Hamilton) is my 6G grandmother and I believe the tale to be true, although there are some inaccuracies here. Sir Martin was,in fact, Sir Tristram (my 6G grandfather). John Power was the 3rd Earl of Tyrone of the first creation and the younger brother of James (the 2nd Earl) who was my 6G grandfather and the father of Catherine Power, the heiress of Curraghmore, my 5G grandmother and one of the most important ladies in Irish history. Against all the odds the defeated the Irish Government in the courts in a case of male primogeniture to reclaim the Tyrone Title (in the second creation) for her husband Marcus and with her wealth transformed the fortunes of the Beresford Family in Ireland.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Jason Fraser said...

According to an old family tree doc I have she is my 7x great grandmother. Through the gorges family line that then married into the graham family line.

3:45 PM  

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