Where I grew up there was not an over abundance of people my own age and those that WERE my age were largely discouraged from associating with me and my brother and sister on account of being protestant, all the other kids in our area went to a different school anyway. As a result I got to know the older folks in the area a lot better than most kids would have and got to hear all the stories passed down through the family for several generations. When a 105 year old man tells you stories about things his grandfather encountered you're hearing a bit of living history and you pay attention.
I assume that most of the people on my friends list who aren't irish themselves don't buy into the whole idea that Ireland is brimming over with leprechauns and their crocks of gold (I fucking wish, twenty kilos of pure gold is about the only way to afford a house in this country nowadays). FYI, the aran sweaters we wore in ireland as a kid were not the aran sweaters you get in "Irish" stores in America, the ones we had were knitted from the wool of sheep who had barbed wire for fleece - not comfortable. The "wee folk" of the stories I heard were more along the vein of those presented in Terry Pratchett's "Lords and Ladies" than the little fucker you have on lucky charms. According to the stories I was told, people left out a saucer of milk for the faeries not because they held any love for the winged little bastards but because not doing so would mean they'd go in and scare your cattle and sour the milk, or cause pregnant cattle to miscarry. The Banshee was a very real fear for these people and I've heard literally dozens of seperate stories where horrible howls were heard outside houses where someone died shortly afterwards. This happened not more than a mile from where I lived.
I saw one or two ghosts during my childhood too, far too vividly for it to have been a trick of the light, we're not talking some half-seen shape from the corner of the eye, we're talking about a transparent figure standing not more than a couple of yards away from me in a graveyard. Come to think of it, the second time I saw one I was about fourteen and somewhat less given to flights of fancy and there were three different abandoned houses around our place where even the adults would not go, no way, no how.
There was a church and graveyard right across from where I lived and the priest lived in a small house just up the road from us, about 100 yards. We had several priests, one who I have mentioned before as being the git who told my mother I was going to hell for being a protestant. His successor was a very very nice man though, a real saint for all intents and purposes with never a cross word crossing his lips and spent all his spare time visiting his parishioners. One thing that will stay with me forever is the time, one very hot summer, maybe around 1989 or 1990, the front wall of his house was covered in flies, there must have been millions of them covering the entire front of the house, windows and all. It was a pretty scary thing to see and no other house anywhere around suffered anything like it. A few weeks later the priest died shortly after getting up in the morning and he was badly missed. The one who came afterwards is an equally wonderful person and I've enjoyed meeting him several times but that's not the point. It was almost certainly a coincidence that the two events occured so close together but as my uncle pointed out to me, one of the many names of satan is "the lord of the flies". I'm not sure I buy into the idea that the flies were some kind of omen or anything but it scared the shit out of me nonetheless.