On arrival in Northern Ireland, American troops made their way to a range of bases throughout Ulster. Many were in old stately homes, mansions, or the grounds of castles. In some cases, British soldiers had recently occupied the camps while others had lain vacant for years. In one part of rural Ulster, an old mansion house awaited the arrival of American soldiers in 1942. And, members of the British Army were not its only guests...
On 2nd March 1942, the second contingent of American troops arrived in Northern Ireland. They dispersed to locations across the country by rail, and some were bound for an eerie old converted mansion house at the foot of a wooded hill.
Gnarled trees marked the approach to the old house, and creaking branches heightened the trepidation of a visiting reporter from the Belfast Telegraph.
British troops had made use of the house as a base since early in the Second World War. Although the premises lay vacant for many years, several soldiers have reported seeing a guest… or more accurately, a ghost. Known as the “Old Squire”, the apparition is said to be a previous owner of the home. He appears around midnight.
Oh, I thought everyone knew about the ghost around these parts. He’s supposed to appear at midnight, make a tour around the billets, and – vanish.
As well as local residents, one British soldier also spoke of the spirit of the “Old Squire”. He told a reporter from the Belfast News-Letter that a fellow soldier on sentry duty had spotted the spook. The sentry called out, and reportedly opened fire, as the apparition came down a lane towards a disused graveyard. Of course, the gunfire proved ineffectual, as the sentry swore:
[I could] look right through him. He was transparent.
While some locals delighted in sharing ghost stories, others were more cautious:
Personally, I don’t believe in it. The countryside here does look a bit forbidding on a winter night, and nervous people are apt to imagine things. But, mind you, there are folk living here who firmly believe in the apparition and cannot be shaken from their convictions that they have seen it.
The same man responded to the reporter’s inquiry whether local girls were scared to come near the house:
No, I don’t think so. You see, the soldier chaps have been here for quite a time now, and it would take some ghost to keep the girls from the boys.
The haunted camp stood around a mile from a small village of 100 people, and about 10 miles from the nearest large town. Even before the arrival of American troops, E.N.S.A. would often entertain the British soldiers there with concerts and shows in the converted barn.
Whether visits from ghosts, girls, or the traveling E.N.S.A. shows, there would be plenty of high spirits at this particular camp.