With Halloween coming up, we thought we'd take a look at all things spooky and Irish – in that order. Ireland has a strong history of associating with mythical and supernatural creatures like fairies as well as other more sinister beings - the banshee, the pooka, or everyone's favourite, the leprechaun, to name just a few. Our 'real life' history also stretches back thousands of years with lots of wars, struggles, and interesting stories. So naturally there are bound to be a few ghostly happenings in certain parts of the country (if you believe that kind of thing, of course). Whether you're a skeptic or a believer, we've rounded up 10 Irish sites that are purported to be 'haunted' – either way, they definitely make very spooky stories!
Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin
Kilmainham Gaol, just outside of Dublin's city centre, was built in 1796, replacing an older prison nearby. Between then and its closure in 1924 it housed a number of interesting characters, not least among them some now famous political figures who had fought during the 1916 Rising and struggle for independence. For that reason, and because some of those political rebels were actually executed there, Kilmainham is considered to be a very eerie, spooky, and haunted place. Former prison guards have reported numerous times that some lights, particularly those in the chapel, would flick on up to three or four times during the night. Unidentified footsteps have also been heard along the corridors; guards have reported hearing footsteps approaching from behind them as they walk along. Apparently, many children have also flat out refused to enter the building too, but that's probably down to the fact that it doesn't exactly look like a playground!
Charleville Castle, Offaly
Charleville Castle, in the heart of Ireland's midlands in county Offaly, dates from 1798 and was built among the oldest woodlands in Ireland; a landscape the ancient druids would once have frequented. It was also the site of an ancient monastic site back in the 6th century, so the area has clearly had a mystical and maybe even magical vibe for a long time. It was the home of the Earls of Charleville, the first of which was Charles William Bury. The hauntings are said to originate with the third Earl, who's daughter died tragically in the main staircase of the building in 1861, aged eight. Her spirit still wanders the halls, with guests often hearing the voice of a child singing, laughing, and screaming during the night. Some have even seen a figure of a little girl, wearing a blue and white dress with blue ribbons in her hair.
Renvyle House, Galway
Renvyle House was originally a country manor, but is now a beautiful hotel on the shores of the Atlantic in county Galway. It's also famous for its ghosts that refused to leave, even after the building was destroyed by the IRA in the 1920s! Its most significant owner was the well known writer, politician, athlete and general character, Oliver St. John Gogarty, who played host to many famous Irish figures over the years including James Joyce, Winston Churchill, and W.B. Yeats (who also had his honeymoon there). The most often sighted ghost in Renvyle is that of a pale young boy with red hair, allegedly one of the Blake family who previously owned the house. During one of his stays, Yeats held a seance to try to communicate with the boy, who told him that he doesn't like strangers in his house. Another friend of Gogarty's was not so lucky; when he attempted an exorcism, he was thrown to the ground, a thick mist descended on the room, and he claimed to have seen the boy ghost strangling himself.
Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin
Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin opened in 1832 as the first cemetery designated to Irish Catholics since the introduction of the Penal Laws (a series of laws banning Catholics from participating in various aspects of life such as attending university, involvement in politics, conducting public masses, etc.). Over the years many notable Irish men and women have been buried there including Daniel O'Connell, Michael Collins, Brendan Behan and Christy Brown. Although you may think it's riddled with ghostly appearances, only one regular sighting has been reported – the ghost of a dog! The Newfoundland dog refused to leave the grave of his master, John McNeill, after his death, and still frequents the area as an otherwordly figure. Rumour has it that he can also be spotted wandering the grounds of St. Patrick's Cathedral, not too far away.
Charles Fort, Cork
The foreboding structure of Charles Fort, teetering on the water's edge in the seaside village of Kinsale, county Cork, is the perfect location for a horror movie. Built in the 1670s, this sprawling fortress was used as a British Army barracks for over 200 years, and eventually fell into disrepair after being up by British forces during the Irish civil war in 1922. It's more well known for being the location of one of Ireland's most famous ghosts, the White Lady of Kinsale. She had married a soldier at the barracks, and they spent the night there after the ceremony as he was on watch duty. The day's celebrations had tired him out however and he fell asleep. His comrades followed protocol when they found him sleeping on the job, shooting him dead. His new bride, utterly distraught, then flung herself from one of the towers. She still wanders the grounds in her white wedding dress, and if you believe the stories, she's very nice to children, but likes to push soldiers down steps.
St. Michan's Church, Dublin
St. Michan's Church is situated on the fringes of Dublin's city centre in Smithfield, where the very first human settlement of the area began. Its history stretches back some 1000 years; the original church was built in 1095, although the structure that stands today is a result of restoration work that took place over several centuries. The reason it has such a chilling reputation however, is its crypts. The five burial vaults underneath the church have mummified remains from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries, including two leaders of the 1798 Rebellion and the 400 year old skeleton of a nun. Yes, you can go down and see them, but beware; visitors have stated hearing disembodied voices whispering all around them in the crypts, as well as ice cold fingers touching their necks, faces and arms.
Grace Neill's Pub, Down
By all accounts, Grace Neill's pub in county down is a typical, homely, cozy Irish pub that serves up cold drinks, hot food and warm welcomes for locals and visitors alike. Dating from 1611, the pub saw many shady characters come through its doors during medieval times, from smugglers and pirates to soldiers and local farmers. The jewel in the crown was Grace Neill herself, a jovial woman who loved to chat to her customers from across the bar. According to mediums who have visited the bar, Grace is still there, trying her best to communicate with punters from another world. Ghostly happenings that visitors have reported include a whiskey bottle suddenly shattering for no apparent reason, glasses sliding across tables, lights switching on and off, and the distinctive smell of pipe smoke, which Grace was known to partake in during her later years.
Loftus Hall, Wexford
Loftus Hall is a grandiose country mansion on the Hook peninsula in county Waterford. It was built in the 1870s by the Loftus family and over time served as a convent and school for young nuns in training. Among other beautiful assets, the hall has a grand staircase that has the same design as just 2 others in the entire world; one in the sunken Titanic ship and one in the Vatican. It's much more well known for its eerie ghost stories, however. In 1766 the Tottenham family were staying in the mansion while the Loftus family were away. A shipwreck one night brought a mysterious young man to the door, who the family's daughter Anne promptly fell in love with. The mysterious man inadvertently revealed his cloven foot one night, and when Anne questioned him, he shot through the roof. Distraught at losing her lover, Anne took to bed in the tapestry room and never left again. Her ghost and some mischievous poltergeist activity said to be caused by the mysterious cloven footed man still wander the corridors of Loftus Hall.
Trinity College, Dublin
Trinity College in the heart of Dublin city is Ireland's oldest and most reputable university. Students over the years have included Oscar Wilde, Robert Emmet and three of Ireland's Presidents, among many others. It was founded in 1592, and was expanded over subsequent centuries. There are two prevailing ghost stories about the college; the first involving an old provost of the college, Archbishop Narcissus Marsh. He acted as guardian for his young niece, and when she eloped with a curate from a distant English parish, he allegedly died in the college from a broken heart. The other more grisly tale involves a grumpy student named Edward Ford. One night his fellow students decided to play a prank and throw stones at his bedroom window in the Rubrics building. In retaliation, he shot at them, but missed. They somehow acquired some guns of their own and fired back, fatally shooting him. In spite, he is said to wander the rubrics building and the grounds surrounding it after dusk to this day.
Kilkenny Castle, Kilkenny
Kilkenny Castle was built in 1195 by the first Earl of Pembroke to protect the city behind it from any boats that came along the river who may have been up to no good. Naturally, it has seen its fair share of trouble and strife over the centuries. The Parade Tower, the starting point of the visitor's tour and the location of former dungeons for prisoners is reputed to be crawling with ghosts. There is only one door and windows that don't open, yet an electronic visitor counter (that staff insist is in perfect working order), clocks up to 100 visitors going in and out of the closed and locked door at night. There have also been reports of a 'blue lady' who appears on the main staircase and in the gardens.
If we haven't scared you off by now, maybe we can interest you in some of our handmade Irish Jewelry. You'll see many pieces that include symbology rumoured to have protective powers!