The following text is an extract from our new book, Haunted Cork, available to purchase from The History Press Ireland.
The Ghosts of Charles Fort
Colonel Warender was one of the first governors of Charles Fort. A fierce disciplinarian, the Colonel quickly developed a reputation for harsh punishment for any soldier who stepped out of line, normally by lash or death by firing squad. Living with him in the fort was his daughter Wilful, a young lady of great beauty and manners. Needless to say, she quickly caught the eye of several of the officers at the fort, and after a period of courting, became engaged to Sir Trevor Ashurst. The Colonel approved of the relationship, believing Sir Trevor to be a good officer whose dedication to the army was matched only by his love for Wilful.
The day of the wedding was soon upon them. Being a proud and dutiful father, and not wishing to waste the opportunity to show off his fort, Warender invited high ranking officers from around the region. The ceremony was perfect, filled with much pomp and circumstance, the alcohol flowed freely, and the guests danced until the sun hovered over the horizon.
After much merriment, dance and wine, the newlyweds wanted to be alone. They slipped away from the party unnoticed and walked along the battlements to watch the sunset. Just as the embers of the sun were finally fading, Wilful spotted some flowers growing in the rocks many metres below. Commenting on how beautiful they looked, and how wonderful they would be in their new quarters, Wilful asked her new husband to fetch them for her. Wanting to please his new bride, Sir Trevor agreed to climb down and pick the blooms, providing Wilful return to the warmth of the party. After she had left, Sir Trevor realised that he may have made a mistake. His head was spinning from the copious mugs of beer and wine recently enjoyed, and his thin ceremonial uniform did little to stop the cold wind. Looking around he spied a nearby sentry huddled in a large overcoat and promptly ordered the man to fetch the flowers in his place. The sentry was not happy to carry out the command; he knew if caught away from his post, Colonel Warender would be furious and would carry out his legendary swift and brutal punishment. Sir Trevor understood the sentry’s protests and compromised, offering to don the sentry’s coat and stand guard while the man made his way down the cliffs to gather the bouquet. The sentry reluctantly agreed, left Sir Trevor and slowly descended down the cliff. Sir Trevor stood guard, and as his eyelids fell heavy, sat and wrapped himself under the warm overcoat before falling asleep.
Back at the party Colonel Warender realised that the festivities would soon end and the opportunity to show off his fort had not yet arisen. He quickly gathered the highest ranking guests and led them out into the garrison for a tour. At every sentry post Warender would call out and in turn was saluted by an immaculate soldier. The guest’s compliments filled Warender’s ears. The group eventually neared the end of their tour and approached the section of fort where Wilful had spotted the flowers. Warender called out to who he thought was the sentry sitting in his overcoat a few metres away, but there was no response. Again Warender called out, and again no reply. Enraged by the display of insolence, Warender drew his pistol and shot the man dead. The gunshot quickly brought other soldiers to the scene, Warender ordering them to drag the body to the parade ground and summon everyone in the fort to see what happened to those who shirked their duty. As the soldiers and wedding guests mustered, Warender ceremoniously lifted the lifeless man’s head and starred into Sir Trevor’s dead eyes. Wilful stood nearby, and overcome with grief, she fled to the battlements where she had last seen her husband and blindly threw herself onto the rocks below. The Colonel, realising what he had done, quietly walked away still holding his pistol. A few minutes later another shot rang out – Warender had taken his own life.
Perhaps the first documented sighting of Wilful took place around the 1820s. Major Black commanded the fort and one summer evening he spotted a young woman in a white dress by the door of his quarters. As the white figure began to ascend a nearby staircase, Black thought she must be lost and tried to follow her. As he neared the figure, he hesitated, realising something was wrong. The woman’s clothing looked out of place, old fashioned, and her footsteps made no sound on the stone floor. Black composed himself and once again set off after the woman, watching her quietly slip into a bedroom. He entered a few seconds later, but the room was devoid of life. The incident played on his mind and while later discussing the encounter with a fellow officer, Black was told that the woman in white had been seen a few days previous. A young child of a soldier had been playing just outside the Major’s quarters and had seen a ghostly woman in white inside the room.
As the century progressed, the phantom woman appeared to become more aggrieved. A doctor who fell down a set of stairs reported that the ‘accident’ had happened as a result of being dragged and pushed by an unseen force. Just before losing consciousness, he had looked up and spotted a woman in a wedding dress quickly moving away. A short time later another officer reported seeing the white woman in his room. As he approached, a sudden gust of wind caught him off balance. The officer was pushed down a corridor and then he too was thrown down a staircase.
After this time no more physical attacks were reported. Maybe during this period the ghostly bride was reaching out to the living, looking for salvation? Wilful’s ghost is now believed just to manifest on warm summer evenings, when the flowers are in bloom, gazing out across the battlements from where she leapt...
Haunted Cork is now available from The History Press, and features dozens of paranormal encounters and stories...