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Armagh woman breathes life into local ghost stories she heard as a child

Whether you love it or hate it, you can say one thing for the spooky season – it offers an opportunity to be creative. Some go all out on home décor, others get crafty with costume and the rest – at the very least – will try their hand at pumpkin carving.

However, animator-extraordinaire – and rather aptly named – Andrea Shine has out shone us all this Hallowe’en with her animated folklore-inspired film shorts.

Born in Limerick but raised in Armagh, Andrea had grown up hearing tall tales of Green Ladies, blinded priests and spirits trapped in bottles (not of the alcoholic variety!).

Spellbound by the stories she heard, she has collected a ‘library of folklore’ over the years and, with October being her favourite month in the year, she felt compelled to put her knowledge and talent to good use.

Andrea said: “Armagh is a county full of story tellers. I have a couple of books on ghost stories about the bottle in the wall and the priest who lost his eye, just stories we’ve grown up with.

“Armagh always had a lot going on around Hallowe’en when I was growing up but, since Covid, things seem to have quietened down. I just wanted to make people feel spooky and tell a few of the old stories.”

Perhaps the most often told, the tale of The Green Lady, is a poignant one for Andrea. Her animated Green Lady, whose real name was Bellina Prior, wears a melancholy expression to encapsulate the tragedy of the tale.

“We get caught up with the ghost story and the sensational aspect of it all. It’s easy to forget that a real human being existed, and her story is tragic.”

For those who are unaware of the story, Andrea’s animation is accompanied by a detailed caption, part of which states: “In the year 1888, 21 year old Bellina Prior was at home babysitting a local child. At some stage during the night the poor child was found in the boiler where she had sadly drown.”

The caption outlines rumours about Bellina’s character, a reputation for ‘fainting fits and moments of shock’, her being confined to an asylum for a period of 20 years and her sad demise, by alleged poisoning, at the hands of her own mother at their shared home on Vicar’s Hill.

The caption ends: “These rumours I cannot confirm or deny, but what I do know is that the house on Vicar’s Hill has seen much tragedy, and I can only hope that all who lived and died there have found peace.”

In another animated short, Andrea depicts a spooky encounter which her Grandmother had as a young girl in Benburb.

Andrea explains: “My Granny had always told us this story about coming home from a dance. She was cycling along a dark road and just ahead of her at a crossroads, underneath the signposts, were two large, red eyes staring back. She wears this red-eyed dog chased her home!

“I have told this story so many times over the years and at least six people have told me they have either had a similar experience or have known someone who has.

“There was one night I was telling it to an older man in a local pub and he said, so matter-of-factly, “ah, that’ll be the Hound of Benburb”, just like it was common knowledge!”

Despite teaching part-time at Belfast Met and part-time self on a self-employed basis, working on her own folklore-inspired feature film and completing her first major feature film which had its Irish premier in July of last year Andrea insists on creating in her ‘free time’.

She laughed as she said: “I have two more ghost story shorts which I’ve still to release. I have one about a ghost on the road to Eglish and one about not playing cards after midnight. I suppose, I’m just doing it for the craic really… and to stay relevant!”

Andrea kindly supplied Armagh I with her latest release of the ghost on the road to Eglish.

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