Sunday 22 October 2017

WATCH:'The Addams Family of Kilkenny' invite public to tour their 17th Century haunted house

Shankill Castle after dark is not for the faint-hearted

Jason Kennedy

Jason Kennedy

Not every family would agree to buy a castle with a dark and sad history, but that's exactly what the Cope family from Kilkenny did.

The tower house, located around an hour's drive from Dublin, was rebuilt in 1708 by Peter Aylward, who bought the house from his wife's family.

In the many years, between then and now, the castle has seen its fair share of tragedies and atrocities, including the shooting of a local priest and the murder of two Cromwellian soldiers.

When Alyward himself died, his body was stolen from the on-site graveyard only a night or two after he was buried.

Nowadays, the castle has a reputation for being a place you would not like to visit after dark. There have been numerous sightings of spectres haunting the castle grounds.

However, these legends don't phase the Cope family, who currently reside in the beautiful but ominous castle.

"People probably think we're the Addams family of Kilkenny," Sybil Cope jokes.

"I'd actually welcome that."

In order to fund the castle's upkeep, the Cope family frequently throw the impressive abode's doors open to the public. There are artists retreats, B&Bs and family events throughout the year.

One of their biggest annual events is the Scare Fest Halloween tour.

It would be fair to assume a candle and lantern-lit tour of a 17th century castle with a reputation for hosting otherworldly entities that go bump in the night would cause enough fright. The Cope Family, however, do not.

At various points throughout the tour, actors jump out or bang doors in nearby rooms. Some are there to explain the castle's rich history. More are there just to give you a good fright.

See how our Independent.ie reporters faired in the video above. SPOILER: They screamed a lot.

Sybil, one of the Cope family children, created Scare Fest along with her brother Reuben a few years ago. At that point, there were only two competing ventures like that in Ireland. This year, at Halloween time, it's a very saturated market.

"We want to keep the integrity of the house. Always. That's our main aim. The reason to do the tours and open up the house is to keep the house here," she said,

"We do it so we can fund roof repairs or whatever things have to be done, because it's such a huge expense to live here.

Although many people have had the wits frightened out of them during the tour, Sybil says there's one that always springs to mind.

"One year, a guy thought he'd be really good and scare his friends himself. He skipped ahead and hid in a bush, but what he didn't realise was the bush was actually one of our team dressed as a bush," she said.

"He leaned against the bush ready to scare his friends, then the bush turned around and gave him a big smile. Then he fainted.

"Our Death went to give him a hand up, but he looked up and sees Death's face and hands coming towards him and he faints again."

For Sybil though, living in a castle with such a reputation, is simply normal life. Her family moved into the castle when she was only two-years-old. The mysterious noises and feeling that she's not along in seemingly empty rooms are par for the course.

"There are creaks and noises and all kinds of footsteps and weird things, but you take it with a pinch of salt. It's part of the house and that's all it is," she said.

"I don't get a negative feeling in this house. I'm sure there are places where there are really bad energies and negative ghosts, but I don't get that here."

For more information, visit the Shankill Castle website here.

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