A short story I wrote based on one of the stories surrounding the supposedly haunted Hellfire Club in the Dublin mountains.
Father Casey’s brush with he Devil took place on the night of June 27th, 1739. He arrived at the farmhouse, to which he had been summoned, shortly before sunset. A young man’s body lay on the stone floor, pale and motionless. Around him stood three farmers. The orange light from the candles that were dotted around the room flickered, only partially revealing their faces.
The young man had been found only hours earlier, face down in the stream at the back of the house. He had arrived the previous afternoon and didn’t say much, other than asking for somewhere to sleep, and disappeared later that evening. One of the farmers was sure he had seen him walking up towards Montpelier Hill, to the old hunting lodge. They said he didn’t look like the usual type to be heading up there. The usual types always arrived on horse back, wearing black cloaks, with collars covering their faces. A group of such riders had arrived the night before the young man ventured up towards the house.
“I’m telling you Father, they killed him,” said one of the farmers. He was standing immediately over the body and wringing his tweed hat between his hands. “Will you come up there with me and find out what’s going on?”
“Would this not be a matter better served by the constable, or perhaps the watchmen?” said the clergyman, looking around the room. The farmers had all averted their gaze.
“There’s stuff that goes on up there Father,” said another farmer. “The constable won’t be any use to you in that place.”
The first farmer interjected: “I just want to go up and ask them if the know what happened. He was a nice young lad, we talked for a little while yesterday before he left. It’s the least I can do.” He let out a heavy sigh. “They will likely be a bit more open to it with you there Father.”
“And it has to be tonight?” asked Father Casey, to which the third farmer finally broke his silence.
“Yes Father. They’ll be gone tomorrow,” he said.
And so, both the priest and the farmer who had summoned him trudged up towards to the old house, guided only by the dull light of a glass lantern. The journey was a treacherous one. Surrounding the house was a forest of coniferous trees, rocky ditches and prickly bushes. Dogs barked in the distance, and wind rustled through the branches overhead. Rain filled horse shoe prints decorated the ground around them.
“Tell me,” said the priest, “who owns this house?”
“I don’t know if anyone really owns it anymore,” said the farmer. “It was built by some rich fella a few years back. Connelly I think his name was.” He paused to catch his breath. “A few years after he died, these strange looking lads started showing up,” the farmer continued. “Seen some strange things around here, flashing lights and all that. Never happened before they came along.”
The farmer and his companion reached a clearing. A wide open grassland, surrounding a large stone house. The roof of the building was a solid rock arch. Constructed after the original roof was blown during a great storm, the farmer had said. The north face of the building was wide and flat, with a stone bay protruding slightly.
A fiery orange glow came from the windows of the upstairs of the building. The flickering light only briefly illuminated the dark crevices that lay at the foot of the building. They heard singing as they approached. The sound of mens voices, loud and raucous.
The farmer lead the way to the door of the building. He thumped three times. They waited. He thumped again, three more times. The singing coming from the upstairs of the building stopped. Moments later the wooden door creaked and groaned, before opening to reveal a tall man. The shape of his body was masked by the dark cloak draped over his shoulders. His face was beyond the reach of any of the light present.
The dark man stepped aside and opened his cloak, gesturing towards the inside of the building. The farmer stepped in, looking left and right as he did. The priest followed closely behind, clutching the small wooden cross that hung around his neck.
“Please, join us in the dining room,” said the tall man as he closed the door behind them. “We are just about to eat. Any and all guests are always welcome here.”
“We’re not here to eat,” said the farmer, and took his tweed hat off. “I just want to ask you if you seen a young man up here yesterday? He was a smart looking’ guy.”
Their host simply bowed his head and raised his palms. Two men, masked by the shadows, leaped out and grabbed the farmer and the priest. With the tips of silver knives pressed against their throats, they lead the two men to the dining room upstairs.
Once in the dining room, the farmer and the priest were seated at a large wooden table. A lavish banquet lay before them. A skewered pig acted as a center piece, surrounded by jugs of wine, grapes and cheese. Father Casey counted ten men in total, all cloaked.
On the back wall of the room there was a large stone fireplace, where a timber fire burned brightly, spitting embers towards the men. In front of the fire, at the head of the table, was a large wooden seat. It had engravings around the edges. Strange runic markings that the priest had never before seen the likes of.
The cloaked men took their seats around the table and sat in silence. A cool breeze blew in through the window and circled the room, before dissipating. Then came a soft purring sound. Father Casey looked to his left to see a large black cat enter the room. It looked at him as it strolled towards the table, before leaping up into the head seat and facing the room.
Leaning in closer, the priest saw the cats head change. Its ears had become twisted horns. Fiery red eyes stared out at the bowed heads of the cloaked men. Its lip were scared and torn, revealing a row of sharp teeth.
Father Casey stood up and tried to back away from the table, but was stopped by two cloaked men. They forced him to sit down again, with one remaining stood over him. He reached for the cross around his neck, remembering that he had brought holy water with him. He slid his hand into his coat pocket and grasped the bottle of blessed water. His fingers worked the cork from the mouth of the bottle. With his free hand he made the sign of the cross on his forehead, before performing the same gesture towards the cat, which glared at him and let out a deep hiss.
The priest jumped from his seat to the floor, landing hard on his knees. He pulled the water from his pocket and emptied it towards the cat. “From all evil, deliver us, 0 Lord,” he yelled.
Chaos erupted on the room. One of the cloaked men fell backwards into the fire, before leaping across the room, spreading the flame that had caught his cloak. The priest continued his chant: “From all sin, From your wrath, From sudden and unprovided death, From the snares of the devil,” In the midst of the chaos he could hear only the screams of the farmer and the screeching of the cat. The stench of sulfur engulfed him and smoke clogged the air. He fell to the floor and crawled towards the exit.
The smoked cleared as the priest descended the stairs. On the other side of the front door he found a body. Bloody and limp. It was the farmer, who must have fallen from the window. Deep claw marks lined his face and neck, and he drew shallow breath. The priest hoisted him up, one arm over his shoulder, and made his way down the hill.
The next morning, The Hellfire Club, as it would come to be known, stood a ruin on top on Montpelier Hill. The flames had died down only after gutting the building. Its inhabitants fled. The old hunting lodge would never be occupied again.
The farmer never recovered from his encounter with the dark cat. It is said to haunt The Hellfire Club, watching all who enter. Father Casey never returned to Montpelier Hill, though he has never been truly free of his experience there.