If you are looking for a haunted castle, then this is your gaff. I challenge even a total skeptic to stay a night in the place and not walk away with the heebie jeebies.
By Nicole Buckler
Ross Castle is in the middle of nowhere in the northern reaches of County Meath. Situated on eerie Lough Sheelin, it was built in 1536 but then destroyed in the turbulence of subsequent years, and restored in 1860. To say this place has a long and sometimes bloody history is quite the understatement. Throughout the middle-ages this region has been the battle ground between the Anglo-Saxon conquerors to the east and the Celtic Irish to the north and west. Even in times of peace the castle had its fair share of suicidal heartbroken maidens and handsome young men falling to their deaths on the lake.
There are three rooms in this tower, all haunted up to the ceiling beams.
The castle is in an amazing part of Ireland: one of rolling hills, pristine lakes and fertile farming country. Despite its postcard appearance, the castle emanates the most unusual vibe. I cannot write about it in any other way. Upon arrival, it seems normal enough for a landmark property. It is a tower-style castle, a stronghold originally built and rebuilt for defense against the local Irish population. And then it has a modern-day ground floor extension that has all the mod cons like a kitchen, sitting room with roaring fire and a banquet table. It is full of antiques, stuffed animals and wolf furs. It looks like a normal interesting historical property that American tourists cannot get enough of. And yet…
The tower, which houses two guest rooms, is just so…how do I describe it? I want to use the word creepy. But it isn’t. The room I stayed in, the lower tower room, has a beautiful four-poster bed, a quirky little bathroom built into a crevasse in the wall, and jaw-dropping views across Lake Sheelin. It has antique furniture, and that musty smell that all historical buildings seem to not be able to shake. It was spacious, comfortable, and warmed very well by the heaters which blasted the room with heat even on one of the coldest days of the year. And yet…
The whole place just feels haunted…even the garden!
When I went to bed that night, in an alpha state or in proper sleep, I’m not sure which, I became aware of someone (something?) touching my closed eyelids with their fingers. It was like a child’s hands, exploring my face. I “felt” someone standing by the bed. I got up with a fright and threw on the light…but nothing. No one was there. Was it a dream? Was it a child-like ghost? I was weirded out, there are no two ways about it.
I am a skeptic at heart. But I just couldn’t shake a new and deeply strange feeling. It was a feeling that I still don’t have words for. Humans need to invent some new words to cover it and fast. I felt like the room was definitely haunted, but not by anything or anyone who meant harm. It was more like being in a room with someone who is very very weird. It makes you uncomfortable for a variety of reasons but they aren’t doing anything wrong so you pretend everything is normal. Even years later I STILL FEEL WEIRD ABOUT IT.
The bed where I had my ghostly experience.
I didn’t sleep much more that night, and decided to have a panic attack about what would happen if there was a fire. The tower, when it was built hundreds of years ago, did not have to meet the requirements of health and safety jobworths. Back then there would be no hope of escape if the place lit up. The windows, while affording amazing views over the loughs, were built originally to be an arrowslit. They are a thin vertical aperture in a fortification through which an archer would shoot anyone would might dare to besiege the castle. Unless I got anorexic and quickly, there would be no escape for me if the whole place did go up in smoke. I tossed and tuned all night, thinking about the person standing over me and touching my eyelids, and the possibility of being fried in a tower fire. It was a night like no other. Of course, I had many dreams of being trapped in a fire.
Arrowslit windows. There is no escape out of the tower unless a person cuts off external bodyparts and squeezes through.
In the morning my spouse woke up to say that he spent the night panicking about a fire. IT WAS SO WEIRD, we are not worriers of this ilk. It wasn’t like us to obsess over such things. That is the point of course; the tower was taking us over and giving us thoughts that weren’t our own. It was just a FEELING that got transferred onto us. And it is for this reason that Ross Castle attracts paranormal groups and other people who want a ghostly experience.
Owner Benita Walker does not live in the castle, however she is close by if needed. When you stay there you have it all to yourself, if there are no other guests. As she was leaving the castle I had a feeling of wanting to hold onto her leg and not let her go home. But I forced myself to look around, making the mistake of reading the guest book and taking in other people’s account of the strange things that have happened. One couple had exactly the same fire nightmare. What is with the fire nightmares? I found out afterwards that there had been a fire in the castle, and I decided that didn’t want to know the rest of the story.
Many people have reported the furniture moving. Others have reported whisperings. Benita says, “An English couple came here, I left a key out for them, and told them they would have the place to themselves. Upon arrival, they heard talking upstairs, so they went to see who was there, and there was no one! They were delighted because they came for a ghostly experience!”
It isn’t just the guests that have experienced ghostly visions and experiences. The staff have seen some weird stuff going on around them. Benita herself has not seen anything she thinks passes as concrete proof. But there are some things that have fazed her. She says, “One night I came down to mop the floors, and all of the doors were shut. And I heard this most outrageous bang, like someone had forcefully shut the doors. But I checked, and all the doors were shut. The door started slowly and creakily opening by itself. And that’s when I said, hmmm I had better be going! I’m not particularly ‘paranormally’ but that did scare me.” This is an interesting anecdote, considering that the guest book is full of experiences of very loud BANGS in the night but with no explanation.
Benita’s staff have their stories too. “My cleaning lady had something happen to her. She was cleaning the room and she was up at the very top room in the tower. She realised she had brought up the wrong bin so she threw the wrong bin down to the lower floor, intending to put it into the room when she came down again. But when she got down to the lower room she could not find the bin. She looked everywhere, and even went all the way to the ground floor thinking it had fallen all the way down. She was really confused, and then when she DID find it, it was in its usual spot, inside the room, behind the door. Right where it always was.” The cleaning lady is convinced that it was the work of a resident spirit.
There are other historical stories that are known around the area. There is a church on an island on the lake. Hundreds of years ago, every winter the lake would freeze over, and you could take a carriage and go across the lake. One day a funeral was taking place, and they had the priest in front and the whole procession after him. The ice cracked, and the whole procession went down except the priest in front. Many people say that every 100 years, you can see an appartition of the black funeral crossing the lake. Apparently it was last seen 25 years ago. If you want to try to watch it, the window in the tower is exactly where you want to be.
Some isolated islands on the lough where many people have seen the mysterious funeral procession.
The most strange story took place hundreds of years ago. The Lord and Lady of the castle had a little son, but they had to go on a day trip and they left the baby with a nanny. While the lord and lady were out, the baby died of natural causes. The nanny, fearing for her life, thinking she would be blamed and hanged, needed to find a solution. The nanny was very afraid so in fear she went out to seek a substitute baby to replace the dead baby in the crib. Life was a lot harsher back then, and she hoped that someone would give up their baby for a better life. There was a travelling family in the area, and she went to them, and asked them if they wanted to give their baby up for adoption to the Lord and Lady? Seeing the advantage the baby would have in life, the baby was handed over. The nanny replaced the baby, and it passed as the Lady’s own baby upon her return.
The little boy grew up to be the next Lord, known as the Black Baron. He himself carved quite the chunk of history out for himself. But what of the baby that died? Where is the dead baby’s body? Is it on the castle grounds? A Swedish psychic who stayed at the castle picked up on the baby story. She feels that baby’s spirit is still there. She also feels that many children’s spirits roam the castle, from the desperate times of the famine.
If you want the real experience of a haunted castle, this is genuinely your place. If a sceptic like me can leave utterly heebee-jeebied out, then you will too.
To find out more about the castle, its history, and its most famous ghosts, click here.
Some of the ghost stories as they appear in the Ross Castle guest book are below.
May the creepiness be ever in your favour!