The ghost Captain of McGinty House

According to my parents the following story is as true as the beard on a leprechaun. According to my sister it is quite probable but may wander up and down a distant tangent at times. According to my children the whole story is a pack of lies and a product of an overactive imagination. I’m Otis McGinty and I didn’t want to wait till the end of this to tell ye that! Otis McGinty.

In June of 1932 Sean and Juliet McGinty were blessed with twins named Maureen and Otis. Things were well at the McGinty house.

Three weeks to the day after the children were born, Juliet McGinty complained of smelling pipe tobacco in certain rooms of the house. She had warned here husband not to smoke around the babies and confronted him on the matter in his den on the ground floor.

Sean assured his wife that he had not been smoking and that he could indeed curb his vices where the children were concerned. The conversation proceeded to the point of a boiling argument — then both participants let it expire. Juliet did not believe her husband and Sean wondered if the family life was really for him.

Since immediately after the confrontation the outlawed pipe tobacco disappeared from the air. Juliet was convinced that her husband had been the culprit. Sean attempted to forget the entire matter — but this was not to be.

Once again Sean McGinty smelled pipe smoke, but this time it was confined to his den. It was also accompanied by various inexplicable circumstances. Each morning Sean would awake to find the creations of some phantom interior decorator. Doors were ajar, chairs pushed over, lamps moved across the room and in each case the air was dominated by the sweet smell of that now familiar tobacco. Nothing else was touched anywhere else in the house during those first days.

While walking into town one morning Sean met Mrs. Dunn, a long-time neighbor, who the locals all over Waterford said “was in cahoots with the fairies.”

“Good day to ye,” bowed Sean nervously.

“And to ye, Sean McGinty,” returned Mrs. Dunn.

” Is something a botherin’ ye me boy?” asked the woman.

“Nothing I can’t take care of meself,” Sean assured her.

“How are the children?” continued Mrs. Dunn.

“Oh, it doesn’t bother the children,” sighed Sean. “It seems to aim it hostilities at Juliet and I…”

Sean stopped dead in the middle of his sentence — looked at Mrs. Dunn and wondered why he had told her anything. She stared back into his face and said:

“And what is it, Mr. McGinty?”

“We don’t know, Mrs. Dunn,” admitted Sean.

“Tell me more,” said the old woman in a suddenly quite proper tone.

Sean had worried about the strange occurrences in their home from the beginning when he felt that the destructive games were aimed at him. Soon after, he was almost relieved when Juliet complained of finding different possessions moved around in the bedroom, kitchen and throughout the house.

“Aren’t you talking to me?” teased Mrs. Dunn.

“I’m sorry, but you’ll think I’m crazy,” said Sean, coming quickly to his senses.

He then began to tell his very attentive acquaintance what had transpired during the last few days. She nodded her head at appropriate places and Sean could not tell if she was really listening or not. Then she broke into the conversation.

“Has it broken anything or hurt anyone?” she frowned in a reassuring fashion, her old woolen coat wrapped around her like a holdout scarecrow in a cornfield fashion show.

“No,” answered Sean, realizing that he had a non-violent houseguest as least.


Captain McGinty?

Captain McGinty?

“Then he likes it where it is,” laughed Mrs. Dunn. “He’s only playing games with ye. Your visitor is a poltergeist. He may be gone tomorrow or may stay forever.”

Sean wandered home not at all soothed by the old woman’s quick appraisal of the situation. The next few days saw an increase in the activities of the ghostly boarder. This time the activity was centered around the children, especially Otis. Both McGintys would find toys placed in the children’s cribs, extra covers placed on them at night and Juliet had often expressed a great feeling of peace and contentment in the nursery. The poltergeist had transformed himself into an overprotective nanny– one who confined his pipe smoking exclusively to Sean’s den.

Although Juliet had been skeptical of the old woman on the road she was now beginning to wonder if there might be an answer in what she had said. Did Mrs. Dunn possess an eerie knowledge of the spirit world as the locals said? She certainly maintained a close interest in matters at the McGinty house. Maybe she should come to dinner.

When Sean McGinty went to Mrs. Dunns cottage to invite here to dinner he found her deep in research and ritual. Not wanting to disrupt her uncanny procedures he waited outside. From within the dilapidated cottage he heard her sing:

Of shamrocks and hemlocks

And leprechaun stew

Tell us what strangers

Lurk yonder blue.

Give us the secret

Through babes in their sleep

Relieve the poor suffering

Of souls in the deep.

 Sean finally knocked on the door and was beckoned inside.

Mrs. Dunn made no explanation and graciously accepted the dinner invitation saying that she especially looked forward to seeing the children and Juliet, as well as partaking in the McGinty meal.

On the night of the dinner the table was decorated with white linen, silverware from Boston and large candlesticks in crystal. Mrs. Dunn congratulated Juliet on her wonderful taste but both knew it was only passing conversation. The entire house seemed to be waiting for one more uninvited guest to arrive.

“I hope you like lamb,” said Sean jokingly as he helped Mrs. Dunn situate herself at the table.

“My favorite,” she smiled.

As Juliet descended the stairs from the children’s bedroom the candlelight began to flicker — then one by one the candles went out. Juliet had not noticed the spectacle and asked her husband why it was so dark in the room. He sat quietly, stunned by the presence of his resourceful houseguest.

“Don’t worry,” confided Mrs. Dunn. “He’s just showing us how clever he can be.”

Juliet relit the candles, sat down and they all began to eat.

“If we only knew who it was…” started Mrs. Dunn when she was interrupted by a deafening crash upstairs. The three rushed up the stairway fearing for the safety of Otis and Maureen. Juliet arrived first and found everything to be quite calm. The noise of the crash had not disturbed the sleeping children. As Juliet walked back out into the hall she heard a strange song come from the infant’s room. It was a salty jig that reminded her of some of the songs she had learned as a young girl in Wexford. When she turned around she saw a small, rusty music box resting precariously on the dressing table. She had never seen it before. She left the room as chills ran down her spine.

“A music box,” started Juliet as she made here way to the light coming from the master bedroom. As she arrived in the doorway she saw Sean and Mrs. Dunn staring at a broken mirror on the floor. The paint behind the mirror had faded and on that very spot was crayoned the words Captain Padriac.

Juliet put off telling the music box story.

Things had calmed down during dinner. Mrs. Dunn left the McGinty house an hour later. Even the mysterious old woman was shaken by the events of the evening. She was determined to found out who this Captain Padriac might be and what he wanted of the McGintys. She had a growing concern that the poltergeist has chosen these people for a reason and the hoped it was an honorable one.

The next morning Mrs. Dunn arrived unannounced for tea. She pleaded with the McGintys to make a trip to county records in search of some clue as to the character Padriac. Although the two were somewhat reluctant to face the problem, Mrs. Dunn convinced them to accompany her. They bundled up the twins and made their way out into the Irish winter rain.

County records in Waterford yielded no clue to their dilemma. In fact the woman at the desk was quite suspicious of the unlikely trio who asked such persistent questions about such an enchanted character.

When the McGintys arrived home they felt a stronger presence than ever before. They also found the words Spanish Armada scribbled on the kitchen wall. They stepped up their research and poured over available records in Dungarvan, Lismore, Bantry and Wexford, especially scrutinizing families existing during the time of the sinking of the Spanish Armada off the coast of Ireland.

Finally the name McGuerdy popped out of Mrs. Dunn’s mouth. She had heard the name before and associated it with Wexford Town in the adjacent county. Another trip was planned.

The night before the journey to Wexford another message appeared on the kitchen wall. It said simply “I loved Otis.” When Mrs. Dunn was informed of this latest occurrence she was quite afraid.

She knew about leprechauns tricking people out of their children. She insisted that Sean confront this ghost with what little information was apparent.

The poltergeist was not talking as Sean asked him his surname. The children slept peacefully as Mrs. Dunn stood vigil over them.

The name McGuerdy was quite common in Wexford as the McGintys found out quickly. After many hours of research Mrs. Dunn had a vision of a ship’s captain who was grieving at the loss of a loved one. She persisted in studying the history books until she came upon an account of a sea captain who had gone mad upon hearing of the death of his son. The son had been hung by the British for allegedly aiding the survivors of the great Spanish Armada, who wrecked in an attempt to invade England. The son’s name was Otis.

Mrs. Dunn was quite relieved and told Sean to confront the ghost with this information when he returned home. He must find out if the spirit were friend or foe.

The best was to do that (according to Gaelic legend) is to welcome the intruder into one’s home, telling it that it is welcome to stay as long as it likes. The spirit, who is looking for some way to detach himself from this earth may then be able to gain the peace that he is searching for.

Sean agreed and began talking freely to Padriac whenever he smelled the pipe smoke. He felt the presence grow. After reading more on Captain McGuerdy Sean began to feel for the distant relative who had lost his son so long ago. He left tobacco on a table in the den for Padriac and filled a glass of stout for both of them. He even offered the ghost his favorite chair.

“You’re welcome here, Uncle Padriac,” said Sean. “You can stay as long as you like.”

And slowly things began to settle down, as the poltergeist seemed at peace with the new arrangement.

Mrs. Dunn kept her protective ritual over the children and listened intently to the rusty music box in the nursery. One day the music box stopped in the middle of a catchy bagpipe number and Otis woke up and began to play.

From that day on the McGintys experienced no further visits from intrusive fairies, (with the possible exception of cousin Michael, the last in a long line of pale-faced undertakers from County Wexford).

As Maureen and Otis grew their parents retold the story of Uncle Padriac. Mrs. Dunn moved into the McGinty house as she became older and was treated as the children’s grandmother. She died in 1949 exhorting Sean and Juliet to pray for her soul. She spoke of wandering the fairy world searching for her just peace.

“If you run into Padriac tell him he left his music box,” said Juliet one morning, “but tell him he doesn’t have to come retrieve it.”

That afternoon Mrs. Dunn died.

According to my parents who still live in Waterford, Mrs. Dunn was a displaced banshee who had been sent by someone in the spirit world to perform a kind act. According to my sister, who sits on the Irish Parliament, Captain Padriac was an Irish freedom fighter who was probably hiding from the British at the McGinty house.

According to my children Padriac and Otis Jr. the whole story is a pack of lies, fanned by senseless Irish superstition– but those non-believers can’t account for one thing — I’ve still got the music box.

-Otis McGinty


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