RICHARD FREEMAN describes another strange and menacing critter from his files. This time, a possible encounter with a pooka or phouka – an animal-like entity found in Irish folklore.
In 1997 in the Grayfield-Greencastle district four miles from Kilkeen in County Down, Northern Ireland, Louise Donnan and her niece Clare were driving along a certain section of road when they saw what appeared to be a big sheep up ahead. As they drew closer, they saw its coat was not wool but composed of what looked like rags. Both women felt a wave of revulsion as it turned its head to look at them. It ran over to the car, its round head level with Clare’s window. The only feature they could see through the tatty coat was one of its eyes.
‘We were both almost frozen with fear. The eye looking straight at us was reddish in colour and gave a terrible, wild, penetrating stare. When I looked at its eye I could almost see its mind working powerfully behind it, a mind not of an ordinary animal but of one with another sense, and evil I have never encountered before (or since).
‘I felt sick with fear but thankfully Clare was able to compose herself enough to accelerate the car and we took off at an impressive speed. Our relief was short-lived, as suddenly we felt a thud at the side of the car. To our horror this mad “animal” we thought we had gotten away from was running alongside the car and deliberately banging into us.’
After chasing the car, the thing abruptly stopped and the two women felt as if it had got to ‘the edge of its territory’. Neither drove anywhere near the area again.
Was this terrifying incident an encounter with the shape-shifting entity known as the Pooka?
[Katherine Briggs, in her Dictionary of Fairies (1976), defines a 'Phouka' as 'a kind of Bogey or Bogey-Beast ... who takes various forms, most usually a horse, but also an eagle or a bat'. According to Briggs the use of the word was a broad one, and could also be used for a Brownie-like hobgoblin or even the Devil himself. The ghostly giant rabbit in the James Stewart film Harvey was referred to as a pooka. - Ed.]