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Nightmare in an Irish Youth Hostel

Nightmare in an Irish Youth Hostel

By mudswimmer

Are you troubled by a past event, the memory of
which causes the small hairs on the back of your neck
to rise? Whenever it returns to haunt you, do you
brush it aside as an elaborate hoax, a practical joke
that was played on strangers or the unwary? There
must be a logical explanation (for you, of course, are
not superstitious), but it eludes you. I know this
feeling well, for I am haunted by the memory of some
strange events which occurred in the dormitory of an
Irish youth hostel in the early hours of an Easter
morning many years ago when I was fifteen.

Occasionally, I tempted to believe that I witnessed a few
brief moments when normal life was suspended and the
supernatural intervened. Perhaps you would like to hear
about it before you settle down for the night?

Having a few days holiday, I cycled south from
Dublin with the intention of reaching Tipperary. With
luck, I would spend each night in a youth hostel in
basic but cheap accommodation. After a glorious day
in the Wicklow Mountains, my first stop was in the
Vale of Avoca. I remember a narrow and densely
wooded valley and passing the entrance to what
looked like a gold mine. At sunset, I found a lively
hostel with a party of cheerful Americans showing
everyone how to make French toast; something that
was a complete mystery to two French visitors. In the
morning, I continued my journey through roads
untroubled by traffic and the second night was spent
in a converted castle not far from Kilkenny. Another
opportunity to meet new faces, huddle over maps, and
compare the day’s events.

The following morning, Easter Saturday, I set off for
a hostel that was midway between Kilkenny and
Tipperary, but I lost my way and didn’t arrive until
nightfall. The building, a large farmhouse, stood
some distance from the road. I pushed my bike up a
grassy track expecting, at any moment, to see lights
winking through the trees. I anticipated laughter and
sounds of activity from the kitchen - perhaps even the
smell of burnt French toast. The house was locked,
dark and deserted; a notice on the door indicated that
the keys could be obtained from a nearby farm.

I collected them and opened the front door, only to be
greeted by a musty dank smell. This, clearly, was not
a popular hostel, but at least it had the usual
equipment and facilities. I lit a turf fire in the stove
and explored the rooms. Two short flights of stairs led
to the ‘men's dormitory’ - a large bleak room
containing half a dozen metal beds and a box of
blankets and pillows. After a meal, I sat alone in the
dining room and studied the hostel rules displayed
above the fireplace. I even toyed with the idea of
seeing how many I might break. Then I tried reading a
book, but it only increased my sense of isolation.
Occasionally, I glanced outside, but no one else came
up the path. Eventually, I took a final look at the stars,
closed the front door and went up to bed. The room
was cold, but tucked up in a sheet sleeping bag under
three blankets and a coat, I soon fell asleep.

I am dreaming. I am cycling alone along an endless
country road. It is a bog road bordered by fields of
rushes and stunted trees. There are no turnings or
junctions, farms or villages. Gradually, night falls but
I must keep riding. In the darkness, a pair of eyes
stares at me - they are filled with malice and could
belong to a bird of prey, possibly an eagle. I get off
the bike and hide. What happens next occurs
suddenly and with some violence. A long thin hand, it
might even be a claw, appears from nowhere and
hovers above me. Then, without warning, it plunges
down and grabs hold of my bedding. There is the
sound of a gale howling as the bedclothes are torn
from me. They fly upwards and disappear, and then
there is only silence.

I awoke with a start and sat bolt upright with my heart
beating like a drum. Then I gradually relaxed as I
realised that this was a nightmare. The house was
silent and the dormitory door was closed. As I settled
down again, I discovered that my coat and blankets
were missing and I assumed that they had slipped off
the bed. I groped around but could feel only the cold
floorboards. This was strange. Perhaps a latecomer to
the hostel had taken them? A waning moon shone
through the dormitory window and threw just enough
light for me to see around the room. I studied each of
the other five beds in turn, but they were empty. I
remembered the dream and became anxious and
confused. The bedding couldn’t have just disappeared
through a brick wall or a closed door, but it was no
longer in that room. Where could it have gone and
who could have removed it so swiftly?

I had never been so frightened in my life. I don’t
know how long I sat there shaking but, eventually, I
summoned the courage to get out of bed and open the
dormitory door. ‘Is there anyone there?’ I called
nervously, but my voice just echoed through the silent
house. Then I noticed a dark shape lying on a landing
halfway down the stairs; it was one of my blankets. I
thought that perhaps a dog had entered the room and
dragged the bedclothes down the stairs. At this point,
I hadn’t considered how an animal might open and
close a door, but what I saw next dispelled this notion.
Further down the staircase was my second blanket -
lying on top of the banister rail. As I stood shivering
in the hall, I became aware that the front door to the
hostel was wide open and there, in the entrance, lay
my third blanket. I completed this rather disturbing
treasure hunt with the discovery of my coat on a path
that led directly to the nearby woods. The coat, like
the blankets, looked as if it had been grasped tightly
from the way that the material was gathered. I
returned to the dormitory, barricaded the door with
one of the beds, and spent a restless and worrying
hour waiting for the dawn.

In the morning, I inspected the hostel thoroughly but
there were no signs of anything unusual having taken
place. Upon returning the keys to their custodian, I
asked him, very casually, if any visitors had ever
reported strange activities at night. The man shot me
an odd sort of look. ‘It is not a place I care to visit
after dark’ was his blunt reply.

I continued with my cycle tour and, that night, arrived at
another deserted hostel - a former shooting lodge deep
inside a wood on the side of a mountain. A different
key to collect but the same musty smell. A plaque on
the wall stated that the building had been bequeathed
by the late owner and close by was a picture of an
elderly lady. I stood in the doorway of the men’s
dormitory and peered in. Perhaps this had been her
favourite room? Perhaps it still was? I didn’t hang
around long enough to find out and fled down the
mountain to Cahir where I spent a less-eventful if
rather uncomfortable night on a bench in the railway

And there my story ends. Did I disturb a malevolent
spirit in the dormitory that night? Surely, there must
be a more logical explanation? Perhaps a large bird
was trapped in the room? An agile thief? Did I
sleepwalk? And why, after all these years, am I afraid
of... but I shouldn’t be troubling you with these
thoughts. You may have dark memories of your own
to explore. If so, go gently lest your search becomes
an obsession, for therein lies madness. Goodnight.

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About The Author
About This Story
21 Mar, 2011
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6 mins
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