“Raising her hands above her head she uttered a cry, which as she fell to the floor died away in an agonising heart-breaking sob.”

Allen Foster tells the true story of the woman in the unfinished painting

In his 1932 memoirs Random Recollections of a Reporter veteran newspaperman, John B. Hall, wrote about a strange experience he had twenty years before. Hall had been accompanying a group of foreign dignitaries on a tour of Ireland and found himself in a seaside town he does not name on the north coast.

On reaching the hotel they found that two of the group were, through an oversight, without rooms, so Hall and his travelling companion volunteered to give up their room in the hotel. The pair were lodged in a large house a short distance away from the hotel.

The dwelling occupied a lovely site overlooking the sea, but was quite derelict and only used as an overflow of the hotel in the summer season.

At 11pm, Hall and his friend, a no-nonsense, unsuperstitious MP were conducted to their room in the old house. It was large and airy and made cosy with the help of a welcoming fire. Like the rest of the house the furnishings were old and worn, but the massive ‘four-poster’ beds provided were comfortable and the men soon fell into a deep sleep.

Sometime in the early hours they were woken up by the heavy sounds of someone rapidly ascending the stairs.

By now the fire had burned low and the faint light of dawn shone into the room. Suddenly the door was flung open. A woman swiftly moved to the window and looked out ‘with terror-stricken eagerness’.

Then, raising her hands above her head, she uttered a cry, which, as she fell to the floor, died away in an agonising heart-breaking sob. Hall later described the woman as young and beautiful.

Continue reading in this week’s Ireland’s Own