Posted by Ciaran Walsh on August 22, 2018

A man of Vision: Fr Bartholomew Cavanagh ( 1821-1897), Parish Priest of Knock and Aughamore in 1879.

This is man who may have engineered an apparition using a magic lantern. The site of the “apparition” is visible in the background. Photo: Knock Shrine.
The latest post on the blog examines new evidence supporting the claim that the apparition said to have occurred in Knock in 1879 was in fact a slide show engineered by the parish priest (pictured above).

It  builds on research into the Dublin Anthropometric Laboratory, drawing on an investigation of the role played by James Hack Tuke in the organisation of a survey of fishing Grounds in the West of Ireland in 1890. This survey laid the foundation for the programme of ethnographic fieldwork undertaken by the Laboratory in one of Tuke’s main areas of operation, Mayo and Connemara.
Sketch showing distribution of relief tickets in the turf market in Westport. From Illustrated London News, March 6th, 1880. Source Mayo Library.

Tuke visited Knock in 1880, 6 months after the apparition occurred and 6 weeks or so after the first report was published in the press. Tuke claimed that the “apparition” involved the use of a lantern projector to “depict” the Blessed Virgin as in a “vision.”

This connected with a conversation I had some time ago with Stan Mason, grandson of Thomas Mason, the man who recalled providing the parish priest in Knock with a lantern projector around the time of the apparition.

It seemed obvious to me that Knock was more slide show than apparition.

The announcement that the Pope was going to Knock as part of his visit to Ireland (2018) prompted a review of the literature on the apparition of 1879.

The findings are posted on Ballymaclinton, which is sort of appropriate given that the blog was inspired by a fictional village that was created as a showcase for the “Real” Irish during the Franco-Brititish exhibition in London in 1908.

The most surprising finding is that church authorities were sceptical of reports of an apparition and commissioned Francis Lennon, Professor of Mathematics and Natural Law in Maynooth, to investigate the possibility that a lantern projector was used.

He concluded that the “apparition”was created using some form of optical device but he was overruled.

John MacHale, Archbishop of Tuam, decided that the witness statements were trustworthy and set about establishing Knock as a site of Marian apparition and pilgrimage.

The story was published in the Tuam News in January 1880.
A lantern projector in action. Source: Martyn Jolly.

So, the question has to be asked: If the apparition was a slide show, as the evidence suggests, why is Pope Francis visiting Knock?

Maybe it is a case of history repeating itself and maybe it is a case of the optics of pilgrimage. For more go to Ballymaclinton.
Ciarán Walsh


I have been to Lourdes 28 times and everything it was special and special things happened to me.

I have been to Knock on fewer occasions and I have to say Knock leaves me cold and dry.

But, of course, my opinions and experiences are by no means definitive or final.

However, this projection / lantern story raises very serious questions about the integrity of Knock.

The fact that the PP had invested in a lantern before the “apparition” casts serious doubts about the apparition.

The fact that the PP himself did not go to investigate the apparition suggests that he knew more than he was letting on.

The fact that the Maynooth investigator favoured the lantern theory is significant.

Archbishop McHale had every religious and financual motive for wanting it to be true – as do his successors today.

What other Catholic site has gotten them 13.5 million in recent times?

The PP who had the lantern may have been a cynical and faithless cleric pulling a pastoral and financial stunt.

I’ve never been a Knock man and probably will never be unless Our Lady appears to me and reprimands me for my lack of Knock faith.

The hierarchy and clerics have encouraged mariology and indeed mariolotary over the centuries as their weapon of control over women.

All Catholic women must be like Mary – a servant and a virgin.

And hence women cannot be priests.

The humblest priest can do what Mary Queen of Heaven and earth cannot do.

She cannot command Christ to appear on earth – whereas the simplirst priest can.

A priest has greater power than Mary.

And Mary still does Father Dick’s bidding everyday at Knock.

And she is a great money maker.

Woman’s Body”” Poem by Frances Croak Frank

Woman’s Body

Did the woman say,

When she held him for the first time in the dark of a stable,

After the pain and the bleeding and the crying‘

This my body, this is my blood’?

Did the woman say,

When she held him for the last time in the dark rain on a hilltop,

After the pain and the bleeding and the dying,

‘This is my body, this is my blood’?

Well that she said it to him then,

For dry old men,

Brocaded robes belying barrenness,

ordain that she not say it to him now.