Northern Ireland – or Ulster if you prefer – boasts some particularly scary and creepy haunted houses. None more so than the derelict Boom Hall in Derry. Built in 1779 by John Alexander (one of the family who founded of the Bank of Ireland), the Hall stands on the banks of the River Foyle. The land on which it stands is itself haunted, apparently by Captain Browning. His ship -the Mountjoy - was one of three which managed to break through the wooden boom, which Jacobean forces had erected a a barrier across the river, to prevent food reaching the besieged city in 1689. Sadly, Captain Browning died of the wounds he had received in the battle to relieve the city.
His ghost can be seen when the weather turns misty over the water. He appears as a tall, upstanding – if almost transparent - figure dressed in a dark blue tailcoat trimmed with gold braid.
The estate of Boom Hall passed through a number of hands, from John Alexander’s grandson to Lord Caledon (a distant relative),followed by a wealthy merchant named Daniel Baird. Eventually it was requisitioned by the Navy for use by the WRNS during World War II. Latterly, the house fell into disrepair, ending up with the daughter of the last owner, Michael Henry McDevitt. She closed most of the Hall while she lived there. Now it is in a dangerous state, but proves to be a magnet for paranormal investigators who sometimes get more than they bargained for. The online newspaper, Derry Now , reported a few days ago that two ghost hunters became trapped there and had to be rescued by the Northern Ireland Fire Service!
One tragic story of the house concerns a young girl related to the house’s owners. She had become romantically involved with a young groomsman employed in her home in England and her parents had decided that such an unsuitable match could not continue. They removed her to Boom Hall. The young man though was determined and followed her there. He hid in the stables and they secretly met there until they were discovered. The girl was confined to her bedroom with the door locked. The young man got away and the girl grieved for her lost love.
A few weeks later, her bedroom went up in flames and all efforts to save her failed. When the flames were eventually extinguished, the family fully expected to find her poor charred body – or at least the ashes of it. But nothing was found of her. Maybe she escaped and eloped with her young man, for she was never heard of or seen again. Well, not alive anyway.
It wasn’t long before people started reporting ghostly sightings of her, walking along the corridor at the top of the house. One servant said the girl had appeared to her, whispered something unintelligible and then taken her by the hand to the stables. There the servant found a brooch which had belonged to the girl. She took it to her mistress who identified it and took it to mean the girl had escaped.
She has been sighted on a number of occasions since and ensures the diehard ghosthunters’ fascination with the Hall remains firmly in place.