When Colonel Thomas Bushe retired from the British army around 1850, he moved to the old family home, called Glencairn, in southern Ireland. He imagined a quiet life of retirement; instead, he found that he had inherited a ghost.
Colonel Bushe had heard rumors that the house was haunted, but he did not believe in ghosts. He went about the business of making the house livable. He tried to hire some local people to work as servants. Although they were willing to work there during the day, none would agree to sleep in the house at night. This annoyed the Colonel. Rather than give in to their silly request, he hired servants from other areas of Ireland, servants who knew nothing about the Glencairn ghost.
It wasn't long before they asked to sleep elsewhere, too. Colonel Bushe became impatient. He had seen no ghost and decided that his servants were jumping to conclusions.
"What are you afraid of" he asked them. They told him they had heard footsteps coming from the top floor of the house when no one was there. They had heard noises in the attic when the attic was empty. One servant also reported seeing a young woman in a white gown who disappeared as soon as she was spotted. After this, the ghost had become known as the White Lady of Glencairn.
The Colonel laughed at their stories, but he wrote to an old friend, Wallace Simon, who was interested in ghosts and invited him for a visit. In a few days, Mr. Simon arrived.
On Mr. Simon's first night ,he and the Colonel were awakened by the sound of doors opening and closing. They also heard footsteps on the floor above them, near the attic door.
The next morning, they began their ghost hunt. They searched the upper floors carefully, but found nothing that could explain the noises. The Colonel wondered if the servants had been playing tricks on him. After Mr. Simon left, the Colonel was still certain that no ghost existed.
A few nights later, though, he was awakened by the sound of footsteps. As he listened to the sound of footsteps approaching his bedroom door, Colonel Bushe decided that a servant must have come to fetch him for some emergency. When the footsteps stopped outside his door, he waited to hear a knock.
Instead, the door handle turned and a young woman, dressed in a flowing white nightgown, stepped into his room and began to walk slowly toward his bed. The Colonel was so surprised that he couldn't speak.
The woman clutched her chest with both hands. In the moonlight that streamed through the window, the Colonel saw a gaping wound in the center of her chest. Around her hands, he could see that her gown was soaked in blood. A moment later, she turned and ran from the room. The Colonel heard footsteps on the stairs, then the attic door opened and closed.
The next morning, he searched the attic carefully. He rummaged through old trunks and cartons before he came across a small wooden box. Inside, he found a smaller metal box which was tightly sealed. Next to the metal box was a tattered piece of paper on which a message was written: the box had belonged to the daughter of a former owner of Glencairn who had died many years earlier in Rome. She wished the box to be buried in the gardens at Glencairn.
The girl's name was Roselyn, and she had taken ill at Glencairn. When her illness had become worse, she was sent to Italy to recover. But she became even sicker there and pleaded to return to Glencairn. Before her return trip could be arranged, Roselyn died and was buried in Rome. Her dying wish was for something dear to her to be placed in the box and buried at Glencairn, but the records did not indicate what that object was.
"Why hasn't this box been buried in the gardens?" Colonel Bushe asked himself He then wrote Mr. Simon and asked him to visit as soon as possible to help put the ghost to rest.
When Mr. Simon arrived a few days later, the Colonel told the servants that the two men were not to be disturbed. Then they locked themselves in the drawing room and placed the small box on the table in front of them.
"This holds the answer to my ghost," the Colonel said. Since there was no key, the Colonel took a poker from the fireplace and pried off the lock. His hands were shaking as he lifted the lid.
"But it's just a scrap of cloth," Mr. Simon said.
Inside was a piece of yellow fabric. The Colonel lifted a corner of the cloth and peered under it.
There was a dried white rose and under it--a well-preserved human heart, taken from Roselyn's body upon her death.
Without a word, the Colonel closed the box. He and Mr. Simon took it to a secret corner of the garden and buried it.
At last, Roselyn's dying wish was granted. Her ghost was never seen again.
Copyright © James M. Deem. Originally published in Ghost Hunters (Avon, 1992). All rights reserved.