Carrickfergus Castle a Norman castle located in the town of Carrickfergus in County Antrim in Northern Ireland. High on a rocky promontory it was once almost surrounded by the sea. The castle had an important military role until 1928 and over the centuries has seen a lot of military action as it has been at various time besieged by the Scots, Irish, English and the French. John de Courcy the conqueror of Ulster began building the castle some time between the years 1180 AD and 1204 AD. It has been added to over some 800 years and was used as a prison in the 18th century. Today the castle is maintained by the Environment and Heritage Service.
One of the ghosts said to haunt the castle in known as “Buttoncap”, a young soldier who was alive towards the end of the 16th century. It is thought that he met with a violent death. There are people who have said that this young man was unjustly and wrongly accused of the murder of an officer in the castle and afterwards was executed there. Another story in that he fell madly in love with the wife of another man and was murdered by the man he had wronged. Whatever the reason for his death he supposedly has remained at the castle and his spirit is still there today.
Castle Leslie located in Glaslough upbeat, Monaghan in Northern Ireland. It has been the home of the eccentric Leslie family for over 300 years and over successive generation it has played host to many celebrities such as Sir John Betjemen, WB Yeats, Mick Jagger and Paul McCartney. This castle was designed in the Scottish Baronial style by Charles Lanyon and W.H. Lynn in 1870 for Sir John Leslie, 1st Baronet MP.
In the castle the Red Room is said to be haunted by Norman Leslie who was killed during WWI. His mother Lady Marjorie who was sleeping in the Red Room awoke one night to see Norman’s ghost standing near the foot of her bed looking through some letters. After awhile the apparition of her dead son turned to look at her, smiled and then just faded away. Other strange happenings have also been reported as happening in this castle such as bells ringing by themselves and strange figures wandering down corridors.
Clonony Castle located near Shannon Harbour, a busy port on the Shannon River, Co. Offaly in Southern Ireland. This Norman style castle was built some time around the beginning of the 16th century by the McCoughlan clan. It rises over 50 feet into the sky. Clonony Castle was still being lived in until relatively recent times. The castle sits on a rocky outcrop at the SE corner of a bawn. (A bawn is the defensive wall surrounding an Irish tower house being the anglicised version of the Irish word badhún meaning “cattle-stronghold” or “cattle-enclosure”.)
The main ghost associated with Clonony Castle is that of a man who is surrounded by a strange, hazy, eerie glow. He stands at the top of the tower wearing old-fashioned clothes. The tall, skeleton like figure is usually seen by people driving by the castle.
Gormanston Castle in County Meath in Southern Ireland was owned by the Preston family – the Viscount Gormanston from 1363 AD until the time that it was sold to the Franciscan Friars in the late 1940s. A legend surrounding the castle is that whenever a Viscount Gormanston is about to die, scores of foxes surround the castle and stay nearby until the Viscount dies. In the Preston family records dating back to the 17th century it is recorded that in 1860 when the 12th Viscount was dying foxes were seen around the house for several days. There were quite a few under the Viscount’s window barking and howling all night. The foxes returned to their natural habitat only after the funeral.
The strangest thing about the foxes was that they apparently walked through the poultry not touching them and were never attacked by dogs as if they were somehow not of this world. This strange tale of the foxes is said to have begun during the 17th century when the then Viscount Gormanston had saved the life of a vixen and her young while in the process of a hunt. The first appearance of the foxes was when that particular Viscount was on his deathbed.
Huntington Castle located in County Carlow in Southern Ireland was built on the site of an Abbey which itself had been built on the site of a Druids Temple dating back to the 14th century. Huntington Castle was built by Lord Esmonde. It appears haunted as it has dark interiors, forbidding corridors with suits of armor, stuffed animals, family portraits and tapestries. It has been the home of the Durdin – Robertson family for the past 200 years. The castle stands on large grounds bounded by the Derry and Slaney Rivers. This castle was featured in the film “Barry Lyndon” made by Stanley Kubrick, who stayed at the castle. The oddest thing about Huntington Castle is that there is a dungeon containing an old temple to the goddess Isis – the Durdin. The Robertsons founded the Fellowship of Isis, a cult dedicated to the Egyptian goddess. Supposedly the family often entertained witches from other countries at ceremonies which took place in the temple. Another remarkable feature is the Yew Walk which most likely dates back to the 17th century.
The gnarled, interlocking branches of the trees form a kind of tunnel through which ghostly monks have been seen gliding. The ghost of the wife of Lord Esmond Ailish O’Flaherty has been seen in the garden combing her hair in the moonlight and sobbing. It was apparently here in life that she stood waiting for her husband and son to return from the wars. There is also a ghostly soldier who is thought to have served at the time of Oliver Cromwell’s rebellion. He has been heard knocking on the door. It appears that this soldier wanted to spy on the enemy and disguised himself in the uniform of the enemy for this purpose. Unfortunately for this soldier his fellow soldiers did not recognize him and shot him through the door grille through which his troubled ghostly face is now sometimes seen.
Killua Castle is located in Westmeath in Southern Ireland was once the family seat of the Chapman family from Leicestershire England. They were able to acquire such large lands in Ireland during the 16th century due to their illustrious cousin Sir Walter Raleigh. A later family member for distinguished service in Cromwell’s army was awarded the confiscated lands of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John at Killua. The Killua Castle is probably best known for being the family seat of the great T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia).
The castle is said to be haunted by a white ghost seen wandering around the ruins during the night. Some believe the apparition to be that of a land steward from the 18th century who swindled his master out of great sums of money. The man then supposedly drank all of his ill-gotten gains and committed suicide by throwing himself into the lake.
Leap Castle in Leap, Offaly was built in 800 AD by the O’Bannon family. The O’Bannons were the “secondary chieftains” of the territory and were subject to the ruling O’Carroll clan. Leap Castle stands on an ancient rock near the town of Birr guarding a strategic pass through the Slieve Bloom mountain range. This castle has been regarded by many to be the most haunted castle in Ireland due to its bloody history. In the 16th century feuding and bloodshed between warring clans was quite common. There have been stories that sometimes even guest who were invited for dinner at Leap Castle were massacred.
Above the hall of the great 14th century tower is what is known as the “Bloody Chapel”. Here it is said that “one-eyed” Teige O’Carroll murdered his brother at the altar. In one corner of this room is a secret dungeon (oubliette) into which unwary prisoners were thrown through a trap door. They were left to rot if they hadn’t already been skewered on the spike protruding from the floor. When the castle was destroyed by fire in 1922 cartloads of bones were removed. There is supposedly a network of dungeons carved out of the rock below the keep with secret chambers and bricked up areas. Human remains have also been removed from here. Visitors coming to this site have spoken of feelings of terror and a sense of evil. There have been those who have related encounters with a ghostly lady in a red gown.
The most frightening of encounters has been that of a small hunched creature which has appeared from time to time accompanied by the stench of rotting corpse and the smell of sulphur. This creature is referred to as “It” or the “Elemental”. In 1659 AD the ownership of Leap Castle passed through marriage from the O’Carroll family to the Darbys, an English family. It was fashionable in those days to dabble in the occult and Mildred Darby did so despite the haunted history of the castle. It is thought that because of her dabbling Mildred may have awakened the “Elemental”. In 1909 Mildred wrote an article for the Journal Occult Review, in which she described her terrifying ordeal. She says that she was standing in the Gallery looking down at the main floor when she felt a hand on her shoulder. The thing was about the size of a sheep. It was thin, gaunt, shadowy and its face was inhuman. Its eyes like black cavities stared into hers. A horrible smell overcame her – it was the smell of a decomposing corpse.
Today the castle is owned by Sean and Anne Ryan who acquired it in 1991 and started converting it into a family home. The work stopped when a ladder Sean was standing on seemed to mysteriously move away from a wall causing him to fall and fracture his knee. Later on in another accident Sean broke his ankle. They seemed not to be very welcome in the castle. However, today Sean and Ann seem to live in harmony with the ghosts of Leap Castle. A few years ago they discovered the ghost of an old man sitting in a chair by an old fireplace. The couple simply wished him a good day and went about their business.
The Alcock family lived at Wilton Castle in County Wexford in Southern Ireland from 1695 to just before the castle was destroyed by a fire in 1923. The story goes that a certain Harry Alcock died in 1840 and on the anniversary of his death, a ghostly carriage would come down the castle driveway. His ghost has also been seen on the roads surrounding the castle. Strange lights have been seen in one of the castle towers where an old former actress tragically burned to death.
The strangest occurrence was from the year that Captain Archibald Jacob lived nearby. He was apparently a magistrate in Enniscorthy at the time of the 1798 rebellion who was a tyrant and flogged and tortured many people in the parish. Legend has it that in 1836 Captain Jacob fell from his horse at the Black Stream between Wilton Castle and Clough Mills and was killed. Ever since his death his ghost has been said to haunt both this place and Wilton Castle.
So if the travel bug bites you take a trip to Ireland and tour some of these castles. You never know who you might bump into.