Sunday 23 July 2017

There's a ghost in my house

A ghost called Hugh is said to haunt Kinnitty Castle
A ghost called Hugh is said to haunt Kinnitty Castle

Shilpa Ganatra

It's unsurprising that Halloween originated in Ireland, with our turbulent and rich history. As school taught us all, October 31 was believed to be the day that the doors of the underworld were opened, and the dead walked the earth.

But when it comes to things that go bump in the night, there's plenty of spooky goings-on throughout the year. From the legend of banshees to the government-recognised phenomenon of fairy circles, there are few better places to convince the sceptic of the paranormal than this very country.

Here are the spookiest ...

Leap Castle, Co Offaly

Some call Leap Castle the most haunted place in Europe -- and with its violent past and confirmed sightings, it's easy to see why.

The castle was built in 1250 and once it was in the hands of the Darby family it was used as a place to execute its enemies. Off the chapel lies a dungeon with a trap floor -- and eight foot under, rows of spikes that pierced the victims, killing them, as they were left to rot.

The room was discovered around the 1900s, and it took three cartloads to remove the bones of the murdered. When Mildred Darby dabbled in the black arts at this time, she unwittingly unleashed a spirit that is believed to have died this way; in 1909, she described it in the journal Occult Review: "I was standing in the Gallery looking down at the main floor, when I felt somebody put a hand on my shoulder. Its face was ... inhuman. It was the smell of a decomposing corpse."

The "Bloody Chapel" earned its name in the most gruesome way. Following the death of their father in 1532, Teige O'Carroll killed his brother, a priest, while he was holding Mass in a bid for power. Since then, passers-by have reported seeing the chapel illuminated, even when unoccupied.

After an exorcist visited the castle, the spirits have stopped being malevolent, but remain. It's now occupied by Sean Ryan, his wife Anne and their daughter. Aside from the odd "accident", the family live happily alongside the 'visitors'.

Glin Castle, Co Limerick

Today, Glin Castle is a four-star hotel, but there are three uninvited guests.

The poltergeist, who lives on the third floor, was discovered in the 1960s. Manager Bob Doff explains: "The housekeeper and cook were upstairs in one of the rooms when they heard clattering from the landing. When they opened the door, the noise stopped, but this strange phenomenon continued." The poltergeist only appears to women but Henry, a builder from the 1820s who fell from scaffolding during the castle's renovation, is a more frequent visitor. He appears on the stairs, often with his ropes, and is so fully-formed that visitors often think he's real.

The third ghost, believed to be the 20th Earl Of Glin, appears in the smoking room sitting in an armchair.

With this much spooky activity under one roof, it's no wonder the famed ghost hunter Prince Michael of Greece is planning a visit next year.

The Hell-fire Club, Dublin

More of an urban legend than a verifiable story, the Hell-Fire Club came to Ireland in 1735 and allowed the members to indulge in drinking, orgies and more, under the guise of Satanism. The devil himself is reported to have made more than one appearance at the branch in Rathfarnham.

The first sighting involves a stranger seeking shelter there on a stormy night, and when his hooves were spotted by a member who then began screaming, the stranger disappeared with a clap of thunder. The second story is documented in The Neighbourbood Of Dublin, published in 1912 and written by St John Joyce. "Shortly after the house was built, the roof was blown off one night in a tremendous storm -- by the agency of the devil it was popularly believed, on account of the sacrilegious conduct of the builder in desecrating the old carn."

Kinnitty Castle, Co Offaly

Kinnitty Castle is haunted by a relatively newly discovered spirit, a monk called Hugh. While both visitors and staff can testify to his existence, he speaks exclusively to Margaret McCann, a staff member.

"He says that I remind him of someone called Mary Kelleher, though we don't know who she is," Margaret explains. "I'd consider him a friend, though I would be scared of doing wrong by him. But most of the time, he's there while I'm working and it doesn't bother me."

Margaret understands that his purpose is to ensure the monks who once inhabited the castle were not forgotten.

"He's also predicted a few events that have come true, like saying that the hotel would be known globally, six weeks before [TV3's] Most Haunted asked if they could film here."

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