Most Haunted Castle in the world is a hefty title to carry. But when you hear these stories, you’ll see that the title is well-earned.
There is no shortage of haunted places in Ireland, and castles are certainly no exception. Whether you’re looking for a chilling ghost story or simply an interesting place to visit, here is a damn spooky story for you.
Lately, Leap Castle in Co Offaly is getting quite the reputation for ghostly occurrences. This castle has a long and bloody history that includes everything from murder to torture. The most disturbing find at this castle is that of the oubliette.
During the renovation of the castle in the 1900s, workers found an oubliette behind a wall in the chapel. An oubliette is a secret dungeon with access only through a trapdoor in its ceiling. At the bottom of the shaft were many human skeletons amassed on wooden spikes. When cleaned out, it took three cartloads to remove the bones. Today, the dungeon is now covered over in order to keep people away from it. It is believed that the previous owners, the O’Carrolls, would drop guests through the trap door to be impaled on the spikes 8 feet below.
A small gold pocket watch found at the same time, dating from the mid-1800s, shows how recently the oubliette may have been used.
It is no wonder that ghosts are said to knock about this place. It is believed to be one of the most haunted places in all of Ireland, with several ghosts said to reside there including an elemental creature known as “It,” which was once imprisoned deep below the castle dungeons by its owner. The creature is described as being about the size of a sheep with a human face, black holes for eyes and a nose and giving off the smell of a rotting corpse.
There are also stories of a bloody figure that has been seen roaming the halls. The castle is also said to be home to a dark spirit that inhabits the dungeon. This spirit is said to be the cause of many strange occurrences in the castle, including the death of a man who was crushed by a falling chandelier.
Legend has it that these ghosts are the spirits of those who lost their lives within the castle walls, and they roam the halls and grounds seeking vengeance on those who wronged them in life. Many visitors have reported seeing shadowy figures lurking near the site, as well as hearing strange noises and unexplained sounds.
Most Haunted Castle – Back History
There are varied accounts as to when exactly the main tower/keep was constructed; ranging anywhere from the 13th century to the late 15th century, but it was most likely around 1250 AD. It was built by the O’Bannon clan and was originally called “Léim Uí Bhanáin” (as was the fertile land around the castle which was associated with the Bannon clan), or “Leap of the O’Bannons.”
The O’Bannons were the “secondary chieftains” of the territory and were subject to the ruling O’Carroll clan. There is evidence that it was constructed on the same site as another ancient stone structure that may have even existed during Neolithic times.
The Annals of the Four Masters records that the Earl of Kildare, Gerald FitzGerald, tried unsuccessfully to seize the castle in 1513. Three years later, he attacked the castle again and managed to partially demolish it. However, by 1557 the O’Carrolls had regained possession.
O’Carrolls and Murder
Following the death of Mulrooney O’Carroll in 1532, family struggles plagued the O’Carroll clan. A fierce rivalry for the leadership erupted within the family. The bitter fight for power turned brother against brother. One of the brothers was a priest. While he was holding mass for a group of his family (in what is now called the “Bloody Chapel”), his rival brother burst into the chapel, plunged his sword into him and fatally wounded him. The butchered priest fell across the altar and died in front of his family.
In 1659, the castle passed by marriage into the ownership of the Darby family. One of these, called Jonathan Charles Darby, let his wife Mildred hold séances. Mrs Darby was a writer of Gothic novels: which led to publicity about the castle and its ghosts.
The castle was set alight during the Irish Civil War in 1922.
Australians and the Castle
In 1974 the now ruined castle was bought by Australian historian Peter Bartlett, whose mother had been a Banon. Bartlett, together with builder Joe Sullivan, carried out extensive restoration work on the castle up to the time of his death in 1989.
Since 1991, the castle has been privately owned by the musician Sean Ryan and his wife Anne who continue the restoration work.
Most Haunted Castle: Ghost story
This ghost story appears on the castle’s website:
The Red Lady
One of the spirits encountered from the time of the Darbys is known as The Red Lady. She has been described as a very tall woman clothed in a red dress. She has been seen carrying a dagger in her hand, raised in a menacing manner. A strange luminescence is seen radiating within her. People encountering this spirit have commented on an immense cold filling the room and permeating into their heart. It is thought that the woman was captured by an O’Carroll and subsequently raped. The baby born as a result was then killed by the O’Carroll, reasoning that they could not afford to feed the child. Distraught, the woman then killed herself with the same blade.
Other Red Lady Stories
A guest of the Darbys submitted their account to The Occult Review:
“On the 31st of October, I went to my bedroom about 11pm. During the night, the time was 12.45 am, as I subsequently saw by my watch, I felt that I was awakened by somebody in my room. It was pitch dark and at first, I could see nothing: I was wide awake with an extraordinary cold feeling at my heart that rapidly increased in intensity. Almost immediately I felt, as much as saw that there was a tall figure in the middle of the room. My first impression was that O’Connoll* himself was there, as no other member of the household would correspond to the height. “What is it?” I asked.
“There was no answer, but now I could see, dimly at first and with increasing distinctness, that the tall figure was clothed from head to foot in red, and with its right hand raised menacingly in the air. To my utter astonishment, I could see that the light which illuminated the figure was from within, having very much the effect of the dark lantern used in a photographer’s room. As the figure advanced towards me the light increased, and I could see distinctly that the form was that of a very tall woman holding some sort of a weapon, knife or dagger in her hand. “What is it?” I asked again, adding “Who is it?” and then hurriedly struck a match and lit my candle. As the flame of the match and candle illuminated the room I looked all around. The room was empty.
*The name O’Connoll was used by the author of the letter, obviously to preserve the anonymity of the castle with Mildred Darby’s wishes.
Mildred Darby makes mention of this spirit in her article Kilman Castle: The House of Horror.
She says, “There is a tall, dark woman, in the historic scarlet silk dress that rustles. She haunts the blue room, which always used to be the nursery, and sobs at the foot of the children’s beds.”
Most Haunted Castle: Other Ghost Stories
Two little girls named Charlotte and Emily are reported to run up and down the spiral staircase. Emily died after she fell from the battlements on the top of the castle’s tower and Charlotte can still be seen running around after her sister and calling her name.
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
Like ghost stories? Then check out these spooky tales from Ireland.