Hitchcock would have loved it; Maigret would have relished it; even the immortal Sherlock Holmes would hardly have dismissed it as “elementary”. And it all happened last week on a County Down farm!
Like all good tales of mystery the setting was simple – in the course of renovations a few floor boards were to be replaced in one of the apartments in the very old dwelling house on the farm.
But as the first frayed pieces of timber were ripped away a mystified joiner came face to face with a “skeleton” on top of the mouldy soil. Further investigation immediately revealed a well preserved horse’s skull.
The hunt was on and as the boards were lifted the “sepulchre” threw up eight more “heads”.
Anxious to prevent an invasion by those who might be interested in the discovery, the family wish to remain anonymous and Mrs “X” talked to FarmWeek only on condition that her identity would not be disclosed.
“Yes, we were a wee bit surprised,” she declared in what must be the under statement of the year. “Now we are making discreet enquiries about the whole thing.”
Mrs “X” added: “This is a very, very old house with a great deal of history attached to it. As far as we can make out the floor in question is at least 150 years old so the horses’ heads may have been buried up to two centuries ago.”
Her husband took the “happening” in his stride and was quite prepared to have the bones lifted and dumped but she intervened and decided that the skulls should remain under the new floor.
“Put it down to superstition if you like,” she mused, “but that’s how I felt about it. I was agreeable to one head being given to people who may unravel the mystery but the others must remain undisturbed. As I say I don’t really know why.”
Mrs “X” continued: “There is a suggestion that the heads were put into the floor originally to improve the musical qualities of the room for dancing and there may be something in this.”
A family friend, Mr Noel Mills, who was invited along to take pictures, talked enthusiastically about the find.
“The practice of burying horses’ heads below dwellings were fairly common in rural Ulster during the 18th and early 19th century,” he stated. “However, few such sites have been found intact.”
Mr Mills also suggested that the intention was to amplify the sound in the room during music or dancing sessions.
Mr Mills added: “A second school of thought would attach a religious significance to these burials but personally I prefer the ‘musical’ explanation.”
There, for the moment, at least, the mystery rests.