The Banshee

This story was collected by my informant from a man he was talking to in Dublin who said that he had encountered the banshee first hand. The banshee is one of the Irish Si spirits who whose wail is a signifier to whoever hears it that someone in their family, or perhaps even they themselves are about to die. Her wail is reminiscent of old-time funeral wails, but because, as my informant explained,“there is something slippery about time for the banshee”, rather than wailing at the funeral as was customary, she wails before the death even happens.

“Ban” means woman in Gaelic and “shee” means one of the Si spirits–the ancestral spirits associated with the megalithic mounds. Thus, encounters with the Si spirits or the Banshee usually occur around the megalithic mounds. My informant explained that there are multiple banshees. Sometimes there are regional ones and sometimes there will be one that follows certain families around.

“I remember one time I was in Dublin I was talking to this guy who was the husband of Elane Hulanon, who was a professor at Trinity, and I was talking to him about the banshee and he said “oh yeah, one time I heard the banshee” so he was telling me that one time he had heard the banshee and um, and in a rural area, and sure enough when he found out that sure enough, I forget who it was, I think it was his uncle who had just passed away. So I thought it was kind of interesting cause it was like totally classic banshee story but told by a very educated person. And he firmly believed in it because he said he had experienced it. I don’t remember the whole story but he did say that the classic thing that he was walking and he heard the banshee wail which is the classic way that you encounter her, and he was sure that’s what it was, he got really worried and he went back and um, then he found out that his uncle had just passed away. It was kind of cool because it’s still going on in Ireland and he believed in the banshee because he had experienced it.”

The belief of banshees is still around today in Ireland, and as my informant explained in this particular case, belief in the banshee is not limited to uneducated individuals as one might assume. My informant explained the a lot of individuals in Ireland don’t necessarily believe in the Si spirits, but they don’t disbelieve in them either.


  • The Real Ghostbusters “Banshee Bake a Cherry Pie?” Season 2, episode 34. Air date: 10/28/1987. In this episode of The Real Ghostbusters a banshee is masquerading as an Irish pop-singer and is attempting to use her voice to take over the world.
  • J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, July 8, 1999. When being taught how to fight boggarts (a mythical creature that can imitate whatever you are scared of), a boggart imitates a banshee when being fought by the Irish character, Seamus Finnegan.