Two years ago, I would have looked at you askance if you’d told me that I’d finish up writing a book about moving statues (or more correctly, a book whose plot turns on a moving statue incident [phenomenon?] in a small village in Co. Cork). It was an excellent – and from my point of view, life-changing – RTÉ Radio documentary that sparked something in me. In the documentary, ‘The Summer of Moving Statues‘, a garda who has become over the years one of Ballinspittle’s most vocal ‘witnesses’ and defenders, described a number of chilling incidents that took place at the height of Bellinspittle’s fame during the summer of ’85. Apparently, not everyone who went to see the statue of the Virgin move got what they bargained for. Some people were seen to practically flee the grotto in tears or looking very shaken. The garda described groups of people who saw the statue change into “a male figure . . . so distinct and frightening . . . a male figure with its hands over its face . . . the fingernails on this figure . . .” He also spoke of a woman in the middle of the throng of people “crying hysterically . . . and she said: ‘He’s all blood’.”
These reports stopped me in my tracks, made the hairs stand up at the back of neck, and also got me thinking.
“Wouldn’t that make a great book? You go to see a moving statue and instead of seeing something good, something holy, you get the living daylights scared out of you.”
From then on, my imagination ran riot and The Grotto was born.