Cyhyraeth: The Dreaded Groaning Spirit

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The Cyhyraeth, a Welsh death omen, heralds impending death with eerie cries, occasionally accompanied by ominous phenomena like Corpse Candles, writes MARK REES


Listen… can you hear it? A doleful cry is drifting on the wind. At first, it is faint—a dull door-squeak of a sound barely registering over the crashing waves. But it does not remain quiet for long. Building to a deafening crescendo, an otherworldly scream rings out along the coastline, making hairs stand on end and chilling the blood of entire villages.

It is an omen that the community know well, and one that they dread hearing, because they know it can only mean one thing: a body will soon be making its way to the graveyard.

This fateful noise is the calling card of the Cyhyraeth, a Welsh death omen that is heard rather than seen, but is no less deadly despite being invisible. In the nineteenth century, folklorists described it as a ‘crying’ or ‘groaning’ spirit, with an unmistakable wail that brought misery to entire neighbourhoods.

Its wail was instantly recognisable, although at the same time each Cyhyraeth was unique, because the eerie noise was believed to be an amplified version of the soon-to-be-deceased’s own voice, offering a small clue as to who in the area might soon be shuffling off this mortal coil.

What is Cyhyraeth?

A particularly loud spirit, it has long been heard along the Glamorganshire coast, drifting inland from the distant sea.

Much like the waves, the moaning increases and decreases in volume with the ebb of the tide, sometimes creeping up on an unsuspecting victim before surprising them with a sudden deafening cry.

If one death omen wasn’t bad enough, the Cyhyraeth is occasionally accompanied by corpse candles, ominous lights that hover on the water and foreshadow a wreck. Combined, the glowing orbs and sinister screams serve as a warning that many might perish at sea that night, and the bodies will soon be washed ashore.

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The Cyhyraeth is equally deadly inland, rattling windows and opening doors as it moans through the streets at night. Unlike on the coast where the sound is heard by large groups of people, it might be more selective in the towns and cities, visiting a single property to deliver some bad news for at least one inmate, and possible serving as a warning of an upcoming epidemic.

Cyhyraeth in Cardiff

In one account from Cardiff, a boy heard a sobbing sound coming from the churchyard of St Mellons Parish Church while running an errand.

He attempted to find its source but couldn’t locate it. The weeping seemed to move around the graves from one location to the next, before finally settling in a third spot.

Sometime afterwards, a coffin was brought to the churchyard to be buried, but when the bearers carried it to the designated plot, they discovered it had already been claimed. They had no choice but to move the coffin to another plot, only to find that their second choice had also been snapped up.

They finally took the corpse to a third location and gave the poor soul a proper burial, which also happened to be the same place where the boy had heard the crying coming to a halt. Another witness claims to have seen a spirit sitting on an old stone cross nearby.

While the Cyhyraeth might be encountered on land or shore, sometimes by many people and sometimes by one, as the locals knew only too well, while each one was unique, the result was always the same: death was coming soon.

Have you or someone you know encountered the Cyhyraeth? Tell us about it in the comments section below!

Mark Rees
Mark Rees

MARK REES is an author, journalist, and host of the Ghosts and Folklore of Wales podcast. His books include Ghosts of Wales: Accounts from the Victorian Archives and Paranormal Wales. The article above includes reworded extracts from Paranormal Cardiff, published November 2023 by Amberley.


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