Ireland is said to be one of the most haunted places in all of Europe. Its rich history is riddled with ancient mythology, folklore and countless ghost stories that span the centuries, illuminating dark corners of its long and often brutal past.
Join us as we tour some of the country’s most of haunted locations, all of which are open for visitors, and if you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough you may just bump into some of Ireland’s most haunted history for yourself.
1. Charleville Castle
Charleville Castle has been visited by paranormal television shows and investigators alike; making it one of the more notoriously haunted properties in all of Ireland. Built in 1798 by the first Earl of Charleville William Bury, the castle remained in the family’s ownership until the 1960’s, when it was purchased by Bridget Vance. After starting renovating on the neglected property, workers soon began to claim that the renovations had awoken the spirits that reside in the castle.
One of the most active spirits that dwell in the castle is that of a child named Harriet who died on the main stairwell. Her ghost is regularly spotted going up and down the stairs. People also report experiencing a brush of cold air as they ascend, and hear her laughter when no one is present.
2. St. Michan’s Church
St. Michan’s Church in Dublin, was built in 1095, so it goes without saying that much of modern history has passed in and around this historic building. While it has many claims to fame, it is most well-known for being haunted. The catacombs below the church store the mummified remains of its former congregation. Nuns, church leaders and political figures are all preserved here, and can still be viewed by the public. It’s a warm space, but many people report feeling a cold hand on their neck as they enter the catacombs. Others report hearing whispers and feeling a presence, leaving many to wonder if the mummified corpses hold more than just the remains of the deceased.
3. Duckett’s Grove
Duckett’s Grove is a ruin and a national landmark, it’s also a home to some rather noisy otherworldly inhabitants. Visitors report hearing organ music and harmonious singing emanating from the grounds at night, as well as a hunting horn being blown on occasion. Much of the property was destroyed in a fire, but paranormal investigators from multiple television shows have visited the haunted location. Almost all of them come away with some evidence to support the lore that surrounds the estate.
4. Seafield House
Seafield House was built in 1978 by William Phibbs. The family were wealthy, prosperous and at the height of society. That was, until Owen Phibbs an eminent archaeologist, brought an Egyptian mummy into the house. Servants and residents alike saw things move without being touched; and were relentlessly tormented by a dark ominous figure. When the whole house began to house shook violently – all in the house fled in terror never to return. Eventually, in the early 1900s the house was handed over to a group of Jesuit priests who performed mass daily in an attempt to exorcise the poltergeist. Unable to rid the house of its infestation the house was sold once more in 1940.
Shortly after the house was dismantled and left as a roofless ruin. However, traveler beware, the dark figure has been spotted at Sligo Bay, laughing maniacally as it disappears into the sea.
5. Belvelly Castle
Belvelly Castle in County Cork is said to be haunted by Lady Margaret Hodnett. In the 17th century Lady Hodnett was beautiful, wealthy and something of a floozy with an extensive collection of mirrors. After one of her suitors, Clon de Courcy, became tired of waiting for her hand in marriage, he decided to force the issue by occupying the lands surrounding the castle. The siege went on for a year until she finally relented, but by that time much of Lady Margaret’s beauty had been starved away. Her suitor left her, and she responded by smashing all of the mirrors in the castle. To this day, her ghost can be seen by those who visit, wandering the halls and some say, cleaning the walls until they shine like mirrors.
6. Leamaneh Castle
The looming remains of Leamaneh Castle are almost as chilling as its terrifying past. In the 17th Century, Máire ní Mahon or Red Mary due to her flaming red hair, became one of the most infamous women in Irish folklore when she murdered her third husband by pushing him out a third-storey window. It’s said she went on to wed a total of 25 men, most of whom met early deaths in a similar fashion. She was eventually executed by townsfolk by being sealed alive into a hollow tree trunk where she starved to death. However, her story doesn’t end there. Red Mary’s vengeful spirit is said to still roam the land of her former home. Taunting cackles and screams are sometimes heard echoing from the walls of the castle by those brave enough to visit the ruins.
7. Kilmainham Gaol
Prisons and mental institutions are probably first and second on any list of buildings likely to be haunted, and the Kilmainham Goal is no exception. It was once the largest prison in Ireland, but was decommissioned in 1924 and has since been reopened to the public as a museum. Those who visit, however, may encounter more than just a tour guide. Tradesmen who worked on restoring the building told stories of hearing mysterious, unaccounted footsteps regularly. One was even pressed against the wall by an unexplained gust of wind. Children have been known to stop at its threshold and refused to go a step further onto the grounds, as if they can sense something.
8. Leap Castle
Leap Castle was built more than 400 years ago in 1532 and enjoys a long and bloody history, so it’s hardly surprising that there are many claims the castle is haunted. Among the many spirits that are said to reside at in the castle, the most famous is that of a dark and evil creature called an Elemental. It’s the size of a sheep and has a human face and black pools for eyes and it smells of rotting flesh. It appeared around the time an oubliette was discovered in the castle dungeon. The oubliette was used to execute prisoners who were pushed into a pit, falling eight feet onto spikes coming up from the floor. Then they were left to die, alone in agony. Within the uncovered pit the remains of over 150 bodies were found. Did the disturbed remains call the Elemental to the castle?
9. Ross Castle
Ross Castle has a bit of a Romeo and Juliet story behind it, though not so romanticized. The castle was built in 1533 by the Lord of Devon Richard Nugent, also known as “the Black Baron.” His daughter, Sabina, met an English gentleman and fell in love with him. The couple, who were not deemed a suitable match, were told that they could not be together. Hatching a plan they decided to elope, however, tragedy struck as the boat they were making their escape in capsized, killing Sabina’s beloved. When she awoke, she found her lover dead and cried out in distress. She died in the days following from shock and grief, but legend has it that her spirit still wanders Ross Castle to this day, searching for her lost love. Her piercing scream can be heard in the dead of night, sometimes waking people from sleep. The Black Baron has also been sighted on the property, roaming the grounds as he mourns for his dead daughter.
10. Captain Boyd’s Grave, St Patrick’s Cathedral
In 1861, Captain Boyd became a national hero after his valiant, yet ultimately doomed attempt to rescue the drowning crews of over hundred shipwrecked ships in Dublin Bay. He lost his life in the attempt but was praised as for his courage and his funeral cortege was the largest ever seen in Dublin. Among his many mourners, there was one that suffered the loss more than most; it was his dog which is said to have faithfully followed him everywhere he went. As the legend goes, the great Newfoundland starved to death waiting at his master’s grave. Over the years, visitors have regularly reported seeing a large black dog walking around the grave, even sitting and sleeping on the top of it, patiently waiting for its master’s return.
- Haunted Ireland, by Tarquin Blake.
- Haunted Castles of Britain and Ireland, by Richard Jones.
- Celtic Mythology: A Concise Guide to the Gods, Sagas and Beliefs, by Hourly History.
Read more on the Ghosts & Hauntings
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