An Evil Spirit In Llandysilio Church Montgomeryshire

: 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

G'lan Geua'.

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

coming year.

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