A true story of mystery and suspense at Murlough...
It is the deep dark dead of night, the lugubrious midnight hour. The sky is a blurring oil slick of Prussian blue and indigo. Two volunteers (henceforth described in the first person for obscure reasons) sit perched on a wooden picnic bench, smoking menthol filters and gazing up at veiled wisps of cloud cloaking, uncloaking a heavy tallow moon. Mournful howls echo through the woods at North Point in a slow sad liturgy of beautiful, endless longing. They could be wolves, given it’s a full moon, but on reflection the Beast of Murlough is supposed to be a big cat, not a canine, and no dog ever sounded so heartbroken, or distinctly maritime.
I wonder if its owls, but She says seals. Owls hooting cannot tug at the core of one’s very being like this (though maybe they do in Siberia?) We listen, seriously, discussing whether it is the sound of seals calling out for a mate, or calling out after a long-lost mate, or even engaged in mournful congress, and if so whether they are enjoying it or not? I ponder this and come to the conclusion that if such things happened, David Attenborough would have told us about it by now. Such things only remind me that I am leaving Murlough in a week, and really, really do not want to.
Suddenly, my companion starts, draws breath and goes rigid; she has seen something in the bushes. “Rose, look...” she whispers.
Over in the small copse by the dark, imposing Christian house, two red eyes twinkle, flash, sway and blink back at us. They are too large to be the cat, too high up for a fox, or badger. They move with a determined intelligence. They are not human. A dreadful and glorious sense of horror tugs insistently at my guts; the air has become very still, very lucid; we could be characters in that film, the one they say is based on a true story... We laugh nervously, then, uttering excited expletives in hushed voices, we scurry indoors. From inside, lights off, pressed against the window, we continue to watch our watcher.
The eyes do not turn from us; they blink back, unhurried, unconcerned, feigning disinterest. I am not fooled; they are pretending to hunt, scanning us from the periphery of vision, biding their time. The luminescence shifts from red to green and back again, flickering slightly like marsh-light; a will’o’the wisp, drawing us out of our brick and stone safety into the wilds. I picture us, two intrepid, yet woefully naive, young women being lured out, across the reserve, under the mountain by some cantankerous or lusty spirit. Does Slieve Donard have a faery hall beneath its lush green carpet? Undoubtedly.
After what seems like ages we come to an agreement, we will go out and meet this moon-eyed stalker, this crepuscular-creature that refuses to emerge from the thicket. We don our boots and pad out across the stableyard, decelerating our pace with each metre from the warm doorway. At the rusty wrought iron gate my companion pauses at the invisible line she cannot cross, waiting to see if I’ll go first. She is strikingly beautiful in this moment of thrilling trepidation, her hair is soft-spun gold in the moonlight, so I take a mental picture in case one or both of us is consumed, or possessed by something supernatural in the near future. Inching forward we approach the bushes, ready to scream, ready to run, keeping our eyes fixed on the unmoving, unearthly shining orbs...
..a crisp packet in the tree.
For more adrenalin-fuelled adventures and daring real-life mystery come to Murlough NNR, where we are littered with intrigue!