Balladeer’s Blog’s month-long celebration of Halloween hurtles toward its finale next Wednesday night. This time around I’ll examine the tale of Sean na Sagart aka John of the Priests, who should have been the lead character in several horror films by this point.
Sean was born John Mullowney around 1690 AD in Derrew, Ireland. By his teens he was living beyond his means, often drinking and carousing. He financed his hard-partying lifestyle through multiple crimes, with various accounts claiming he was a masked Highwayman or a burglar or even a rustler and horse-thief.
It IS certain he was arrested for stealing horses and was sentenced to death by hanging in Castlebar, Ireland. Recognizing what an amoral creature was before them, the authorities offered Sean a very dirty job in exchange for escaping death on the gallows – becoming a Priest Hunter/ Killer.
The Penal Act of 1709 had decreed that Catholic Priests plus higher and lower clergymen must take the Oath of Abjuration and recognize Great Britain’s Protestant Queen Anne as the supreme religious authority in England AND Ireland. Refusing to do so merited summary execution.
Thus began the career and dark legend of Sean na Sagart. Sean spent roughly the next 17 years hunting, capturing and killing renegade Catholic Priests, Bishops, and Cardinals.
Since Catholic schools were forbidden, outlaw Hedge School Teachers were also fair game. Sean’s bounty varied according to the rank of his clergy member victims. If he ever backed out of this career as a Priest Hunter it was back to the gallows for him.
WHY A HORROR STORY? For multiple reasons in a variety of storytelling approaches. First, if played strictly true-to-life it would make for a very ironic twist on the horror subgenre of Witchfinder General flicks, which always featured crazed, sadistic clergymen hunting and torturing confessions out of “witches.” And
Second, if played like a period slasher film Sean na Sagart could chalk up a body count to rival Mike Myers and other slice and dice killers (his victims ran to the dozens). One of this Priest Hunter’s famed methods of dispatching his victims involved sneaking into a confessional in disguise, then stabbing the Priest to death through the partition with either a knife or sword. Another method was to fake being a dying man and having a Priest summoned to his bedside, where he would kill them.
As a slasher Sean could either be featured during his actual spree or maybe the movie could start with his real-life murder followed by him somehow returning from the grave as an unstoppable killing machine.
Other potential stylistic approaches:
** Make it in the spirit of the hybrid samurai/ horror films featuring The Son of the Black Mass, reviewed previously here at Balladeer’s Blog.
** Play it like a dark, twisted version of Judge Dredd set in the 1700s as Sean na Sagart plays judge, jury and executioner to various Priests, Bishops, etc. Since pistols were already around by this point there could even be a proto-Spaghetti Western feel, like in the horror-tinged Cutthroats Nine or Django Kill.
** Use it as a graphic “mondo”study of the casual cruelty of the time period, using similar story elements to those employed by Victor Hugo in his Gothic Horror tale The Man Who Laughs. Sean’s blood-soaked profession would lend itself well to such an approach.
** Go for all-out horror-comedy style like in Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter. Both Sean AND his clergymen targets could fight it out in spectacularly choreographed sword fights. The mis en scene would provide the horror while the dialogue and over-the-top action would provide the humor.
Eventually, in 1726 Sean na Sagart was killed at the funeral of one of his priestly victims. Some accounts say at the hands of the Priest he had hoped to kill at the ceremony while others say at the hands of an entire enraged mob of Catholics. +++
FOR ISABELLA OF EGYPT, FEATURING A GOLEM, A MANDRAGORE, A LIVING DEAD MAN, A GYPSY WITCH AND A JEWISH SORCEROR CLICK HERE
FOR MORE HALLOWEEN ITEMS CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/category/halloween-season/
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