Growing up in Ireland, my family used to scare me with tales of the screeching banshee. According to Irish tradition, the bean-sidhe (woman of the fairy), commonly known as the banshee, is a crying woman that brings with her suffering and death.
Memories of this odious howling woman had been buried in the depths of my subconscious for years until the recent release of Corin Hardy's The Hallow brought all my childhood nightmares flooding back.
Hardy's depiction of the Irish fairy creatures in the woods were even more terrifying than the imaginings of my 10 year old self.
Details of the banshee vary depending on whose Irish grandparent is telling the story. Although the common factor is always that the she is a sign of death, here are the three main variations of the legend:
1. The Warning
The first legend goes that the banshee does not ‘bring’ death but warns that death is near for a loved one. Although her cry is harrowing, she is supposedly there as an escort to ensure that the loved one passes safely to the other side.
2. The Soul of a Brutally Killed Woman
The second, is that the banshee is the ghost of a young woman who was brutally killed and died so horribly that her spirit is left to wander the world. She watches her family and loved ones warning them with a chilling wail when a violent death is imminent.
This banshee appears as an old woman in rags with dirty grey hair, long fingernails and sharp pointed rotten teeth. Her eyes are blood red and filled with so much hatred and sorrow that to look into them will cause instant death. The Banshees mouth is permanently open as she emits a long and painful scream to torture the souls of the living.
3. The Death Cry
According to legend there are a few Banshees that relish in taking a life and will stalk their victim wailing and screaming at them to the point that the victim goes insane or dies. It has been told that this Banshee has ripped many a brave man to death with her bare hands.