An Evil Spirit In Llandysilio Church Montgomeryshire
: STORIES OF SATAN, GHOSTS, ETC.
: Welsh Folk-lore
The history of this Spirit's proceedings is given in Bye-Gones, Vol.
ii, p. 179, and the writer's fictitious name is Gypt.
This church, says Gypt, was terribly troubled by a Spirit in times
gone by, so I was informed by a person who took me over the church, and,
being curious to hear the story, my guide related the following:--
To such extremes had things come that it was resolved to send for a well
known and expert person to lay the Spirit. But the Spirit nearly
overcame the expert, and the fight continued hard and fast for a long
time. The ghost layer came out often for fresh air and beer, and then
was plainly seen, from his bared arms and the perspiration running down
his face, that there was a terrible conflict going on within the church.
At last success crowned the effort, and the Spirit, not unlike a large
fly, was put into a bottle and thrown into a deep pool in the River
Verniew, where it remains to this day, and the church was troubled no
Gypt adds:--As a proof of the truth of the story, my informant showed
me the beams which were cracked at the time the Spirit troubled the
In these tales we have a few facts common to them all. An Evil Spirit
troubles the people, and makes his home nightly in the church, which he
illuminates. His presence there becomes obnoxious, and ultimately,
either by force or trickery, he is ejected, and loses his life, or at
least he is deposited by his captors in a lake, or pool of water, and
then peace and quietness ensue.
There is a good deal that is human about these stories when stripped of
the marvellous, which surrounds them, and it is not unreasonable to ask
whether they had, or had not, a foundation in fact, or whether they were
solely the creations of an imaginative people. It is not, at least,
improbable that these ghostly stories had, in long distant pre-historic
times, their origin in fact, and that they have reached our days with
glosses received from the intervening ages.
They seem to imply that, in ancient times, there was deadly antagonism
between one form of Pagan worship and another, and, although it is but
dimly hinted, it would appear that fire was the emblem or the god of one
party, and water the god of the other; and that the water worshippers
prevailed and destroyed the image, or laid the priest, of the
vanquished deity in a pool, and took possession of his sacred enclosures.
It was commonly believed, within the last hundred years or so, that Evil
Spirits at certain times of the year, such as St. John's Eve, and May Day
Eve, and All Hallows' Eve, were let loose, and that on these nights they
held high revelry in churches. This is but another and more modern phase
of the preceding stories. This superstitious belief was common to
Scotland, and everyone who has read Burns has heard of Alloway Kirk, and
of the unco sight which met Tam o' Shanter's eye there, who, looking
into the haunted kirk, saw witches, Evil Spirits, and Old Nick himself.
Thus sings the poet:--
There sat auld Nick, in shape o' beast;
A towzie tyke, black, grim, and large,
To gi'e them music was his charge.
But in Wales it was believed that a Spirit--an evil one--certainly not an
Angel of Light, revealed, to the inquisitive, coming events, provided
they went to the church porch on Nos G'lan Geua', or All-Hallows' Eve,
and waited there until midnight, when they would hear the Spirit announce
the death roll for the coming year. Should, however, no voice be heard,
it was a sign that no death would occur within the twelve succeeding
months. A couple of tales shall suffice as illustrative of this
A Spirit in Aberhafesp Church announcing the death of a person on Nos
Mr. Breeze, late governor of the Union House at Caersws, told me that he
had heard of a person going to Aberhafesp Church porch, on All-Hallows'
Eve, to ascertain whether there would be a death in that parish in the
A couple of men, one of whom, I believe, Mr. Breeze said was his
relative, went to the church porch before twelve o'clock at night, and
sat there a length of time without hearing any sound in the church; but
about the midnight hour, one of the men distinctly heard the name of his
companion uttered by a voice within the church. He was greatly
terrified, and, addressing his friend, he found that he had fallen
asleep, and that, therefore, fortunately he had not heard the ominous
voice. Awaking his companion, he said--Let's go away, it's no use
waiting here any longer.
In the course of a few weeks, there was a funeral from the opposite
parish of Penstrowed, and the departed was to be buried in Aberhafesp
Church yard. The River Severn runs between these two parishes, and there
is no bridge nearer than that which spans the river at Caersws, and to
take the funeral that way would mean a journey of more than five miles.
It was determined, therefore, to ford the river opposite Aberhafesp
Church. The person who had fallen asleep in the porch volunteered to
carry the coffin over the river, and it was placed on the saddle in front
of this person, who, to save it from falling, was obliged to grasp it
with both arms; and, as the deceased had died of an infectious fever, the
coffin bearer was stricken, and within a week he too was a dead man, and
he was the first parishioner, as foretold by the Spirit, who died in the
parish of Aberhafesp that year.
According to Croker, in Fairy Legends of Ireland, vol. II., p. 288, the
Irish at Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas, after decorating the graves
of their ancestors:--Also listen at the church door in the dark, when
they sometimes fancy they hear the names called over in church of those
who are destined shortly to join their lost relatives in the tomb.
It is not difficult to multiply instances of Spirits speaking in
churches, for legendary stories of this kind were attached to, or were
related of, many churches in Wales. One further tale therefore, shall