US-based guest writer HEATHER ANDOLINA tells a personal family tale of the Irish banshee in North Carolina
Ireland is home to a plethora of supernatural beings, but none excites the imagination more than the mournful, beautiful banshee. The word banshee is the anglicized version of the Gaelic bean sidhe, which simply means faerie woman. A banshee attaches herself to certain Irish and Scottish families. According to ancient Irish and Scottish tradition, she is also a female death spirit that manifests to herald an approaching death in the family. Her woeful cries are warnings of impending death to the family members who hear it.
Banshees are very protective of their respective families, so much so that they have been known to follow Irish families as they immigrated to other countries. For instance here in America, there are a few American folktales about banshees. One example is the banshee of Marrtown, West Virginia. It is said that upon the deaths of a husband and wife, Thomas and Mary Marr, a banshee’s sorrowful cries were heard even though they died years apart. Another well-known American banshee tale comes from Edgecombe County, North Carolina. A banshee is said to haunt the muddy Tar River, still mourning the death of David Warner who was unjustly killed by British soldiers during the American Revolution.
I too have a personal story about a banshee in America. About three years ago, a shop called, Laughingbrook Spellcrafting and Ancestral Arts opened in Huntersville, North Carolina and I stopped in one day to check it out.
Upon entering the store, I immediately felt a watchful presence. I thought to myself, is this place haunted? As if reading my mind, the proprietress of Laughingbrook, Gabriella Tebbens (Gabi from here on out) asked me if I was okay. Being relatively forthright, I asked her if the place was haunted. She laughed and said no, but she did have a banshee. Gabi is of Irish and Italian descent, I too have Irish ancestry and Gabi thinks that might have been why her banshee made its presence known to me. Intrigued, I wanted to know more about Gabi’s banshee, so we decided to meet over lunch.
A few weeks later, I met Gabi and her daughter, Neve Cromer, for lunch to learn more about their banshee. Gabi, like me, felt a presence that seemed to follow her around. At first she thought it was the spirit of her sister, who passed away while Gabi was in college, but she’s felt her sister’s presence before and it didn’t quite feel the same. Shortly before opening the shop, Gabi was asked to speak at the Piedmont Pagan Pride conference here in Charlotte. While sitting at a discussion panel, she felt the unmistakable presence around her, and in a low, soft whisper she heard the word, banshee, in her ear. That’s when Gabi knew that the presence was a banshee.
The banshee has been a fixture at Laughingbrook ever since its opening and she comes and goes like the wind. Most often the banshee is felt, but a few people have seen Gabi’s banshee like Jarissa Wichy, a friend of Gabi’s. I think this quote from author Elliott O’Donnell describes Gabi’s banshee nicely, “Banshees, whether good or bad, are just as individual as any member of the family they haunt.” I feel very lucky to have been in the presence of such a noble spirit and I learned that the Emerald Isle isn’t the only place to have an unexpected encounter with an Irish death omen.
HEATHER ANDOLINA is a Charlotte, North Carolina-based historian with a Bachelors and Masters degree in History. She does paranormal investigations in her free time is currently working on a book about her personal paranormal experiences.