Ireland is a country that has its fair share of ghosts. As well as being the land most associated with fairies, leprechauns and banshees, the Emerald Isle has also seen many cases of spirit hauntings over the years. Moreover, these hauntings have not just been confined to old churchyards either, but have also been reported in towns, cities, police stations and railways sheds. In addition, dozens of haunted castles and houses pepper the land.
Leap Castle, an old fortress belonging to the O’Carrolls near Bear in County Offaly, is said to be one of the most haunted castles in Ireland. A man sleeping there reported feeling a strange coldness gripping his heart, even though the room was not cold at the time. Then, standing at the foot of the bed, he was stunned to see the tall figure of a woman woman, dressed in red attire. As he reached for his matchbox to strike a match, the figure mysteriously vanished into thin air.
Another strange incident was the experience of the lady of Leap Castle. Whilst in the gallery that runs above the great hall, she felt two hands placing themselves on her shoulders. Simultaneously, there was a horrible stench of decay, like that of a decomposing corpse. When she turned around, she saw that standing right behind her was creature that resembled a human in form, though it couldn’t have been more than four feet high. The strange entity had two black holes where its eyes should have been. As the woman gazed in utter horror at the nameless thing, it just disappeared, as did the foul stench that accompanied it.
Other paranormal occurrences that have been reported at Leap Castle are: the ghosts of a little old man and woman, dressed in old fashioned clothes; a cowled figure, resembling a monk, walking through the window of a room in the castle; and – often described as the “Head Ghost” of Leap Castle – the spirit of a priest, who was murdered in castle’s chapel (the so-called “Bloody Chapel”) in 1532 by his own brother.
Ross House is a country residence just above Clew Bay, and there have been many reports of ghostly activity here. The spirit of a former maidservant has been sighted in the bedroom and on the stairs. Ghostly footsteps have been heard going up and down a staircase that is no longer there. Strange figures have been seen sitting before the fire in the drawing room, and at the window of the same room, a man once reported seeing a “terrible face.”
Rahona Lodge, at Carrigaholt, County Clare, was the summer home of the Keane family. In 1917, Charlotte Keane wrote of the ghostly apparition in the “little dark room facing west.” The house certainly did have a rather creepy atmosphere, as many locals would never venture near it at night.
A Phantom Train has been reported at a railway station, on the now closed-down line from Clones to Armagh. On a warm summer evening in 1924, two men were waiting for a train. It was quiet in the station, and there was nobody else there waiting but themselves.
As they sat there on a platform bench, they suddenly heard the sound of voices coming from inside the waiting room. The voices were hushed, and accompanied by strange moans and groans. These weird sounds grew louder and louder, until finally one of the men got up and pressed his face against the waiting room window, to see what on earth was going on in there. He was shocked to see that the narrow room, containing just two benches and a long table, had nobody in there at all. Then, when he resumed his seat, the man heard the sound of an approaching train. Raising themselves to their feet, they looked down the line. The noise reached a peak, and they involuntarily jumped back as they heard a terrifying scream, right when the engine seemed to rush past them with a loud whistle. However, despite the sound, no train appeared. The sound faded away, the tracks still as empty as before. The two men sank back down on the bench, looking at each other in utter shock and disbelief.
When the signalman came out of his office a few moments later, he told them that he himself had heard nothing, but then related to them the story of a man who had jumped in front of a train at the station a year before. When the man was brought, seriously injured, into the waiting room, nothing could be done to save his life, he sadly died there on the long table.
Charleville Castle is regarded as the finest Gothic Revival building in Ireland. Charleville castle is bordering the town of Tullamore, near the Shannon River. The castle is situated in Ireland’s most ancient primordial oak woods, once the haunting grounds of Ireland’s druids.
The word ‘druid’ in Gaelic means, “knower of the oak”. The castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of a young girl who fell down some stairs to her death in the early 1800s. The girl still roams around the castle, and can be heard in rooms above moving furniture around, laughing and talking. The castle has been the subject of many paranormal investigation groups from around the world.
The Shelbourne Hotel, situated in Dublin, has its own resident ghost. Whilst staying at the hotel in August 1965, Hans Holzer, the American ghost hunter, was in Dublin conducting an investigation of hauntings in and around the city, and was very surprised to come across this ghost in the hotel. Sybil Lee, the British medium, who, together with Holzer’s wife, was accompanying him on this investigation of Dublin’s ghosts experienced the ghost in her small top-floor room. Whilst lying awake in bed just after two o’clock in the morning, she heard a noise that sounded like a child crying. When she called out, “What is the matter?” she heard a small voice answer, “I’m frightened.” Then, when Miss Leek invited her to come into her room, she felt a small figure climb onto her bed, and a light wooly material brush against her cheek and her right arm. When she awoke in the morning, her arm felt numb, like a weight had been pressing on it. The next evening, Miss Leek spoke to the ghost, that of a girl aged seven. The ghost said her name was Mary Masters.
The following night, Miss Leek went into a trance and held a conversation with Mary. However, Miss Leek could recall nothing of the conversation when she came to again. Hans Holzer noted that the child seemed to be ill, perhaps from a cold or bad throat, and was asking for a big sister named Sophie. Holzer then came to the conclusion that the ghost was that of a child who had died in one of the group of houses that the Shelbourne Hotel had been constructed from. The child had died around 1846, and this was the date that Sybil Leek had found herself writing down the day before, though she didn’t know why.
By Alan Toner