Offaly, Ireland is home to one of the most haunted places in the country, Leap Castle. Come Explore its mystery with Haunted Journeys. Leap Castle, is considered to be the world's most haunted Castle.
With a turbulent and bloody history, used as a fortress, home, and tomb, there is no doubt that the remaining phantoms there share agony and despair. Yes, Leap Castle is home to many fascinating and sometimes horrific spirits, constantly trying to keep their secrets locked while attempting to keep the annals of their history within the halls of immortality. It dates back to the 13th century, it was built over another ancient stone structure, occupied by druids who used the property for initiation ceremonies. This area has been occupied consistently since at least the Iron Age (500 BC) and possibly since Neolithic times. Numerous attempts to seize the castle throughout the Centuries failed but some of the castle was demolished. Leap Castle was originally named Leim Ui Bhanain which means “Leap of the O’Bannons” which leads to the origin of its name and the calamitous circumstances surrounding it.
Leap Castle was built by the O'Bannon clan. The O’Bannons were an affluent clan from County Tipperary. As the legend goes, two of the O’Bannon brothers were contesting the chieftainship of their family. In order to determine who would be reigning chief, the siblings challenged each other to leap from a rock where the castle was to be built. The sole survivor would not only govern the clan but also be responsible for the castle’s construction….and so began Leap Castle’s saga of bloodshed. The O’Bannon rule over Leap Castle was not a long one, however, as the O’Bannons were subservient to the O’Carroll clan, a ruthless and domineering sect fueled by greed and power. The O’Carrolls’ seizing of Leap Castle launched a gruesome legacy of carnage that left a supernatural scar at the core of the castle’s menacing reputation. According to legend, many a massacre took place within the walls of Leap Castle at the hands of the O’Carroll clan.
In 1557 the O'Carrolls regained possession of the castle but following the death of Mulrooney O"Carroll in 1532 family struggles plagued the clan and 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 and it is reported that 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. One of the most notorious spirits of Leap Castle is that of the red lady, a very tall specter clothed in a fluttering red gown clinging to a sharp blade. The story behind the red lady is that she was imprisoned by the O’Carroll’s and repeatedly raped. She gave birth to a baby who was then murdered by the O’Carrolls. Overwhelmed with grief over the loss of her child, the red lady used the knife her phantom bears to put an end to her life of torment.
When the chief of the O’Carroll clan died and left no successor, a dispute developed between his sons, Thaddeus and Teighe, over who would rule. Thaddeus was a priest and was in the midst of mass when he was slaughtered by Teighe in what is now known as “The Bloody Chapel”. Legend has it the priest’s apparition can be seen wandering the bloody chapel as well as the stairway below. The O’Carrolls’ reign of torment and murder throughout their years over Leap Castle is one of legend. One of the most wicked slayings tied to the O’Carroll clan was that of the McMahon family. The McMahons were invited to a celebratory feast at Leap Castle in honor of the McMahon’s victory over one of the O’Carroll’s rival clans. Rather than pay their employers, however, the O’Carroll’s opted to poison the McMahons. The ghosts of the McMahons have been seen by many haunting the grounds of Leap Castle.
In 1659 the castle passed by marriage into the ownership of the Darby family. Mildred Darby, one of the wild captain’s ancestors was a gothic novelist who regularly performed séances within the walls of Leap Castle. It was Mildred Darby’s supernatural practices that awakened an elemental presence of incredible dark magnitude. Just what this elemental presence is manifested from is anybody’s guess. Some say that the elemental was put there by the druids even before Leap Castle was built in order to protect it while others say it is the spirit of one of the O’Carroll’s who died of leprosy. Mildred Darby claims to have seen this evil up close and described it as thin, gaunt and shadowy and emitting the smell of a rotting corpse. In the 1900s, an oubliette was discovered behind a wall in the chapel that contained human skeletons amassed on wooden spikes. So many, in fact, that it would take 3 cartloads to remove all of them. It is believed that the sadistic O’Carrolls would drop unsuspecting guests through the trap door to be impaled by a spear 8 feet below. The Darbys abandoned Leap Castle in 1922.
In 1974 the castle was bought by an Australian historian called Peter Bartlett whose mother had been a Banon, an actual ancestor of the founders of Leap Castle, the O’Bannons. Bartlett did extensive restorative work for fifteen years and claims to have witnessed poltergeist activity through much of it. He contracted a white witch to drive the spirits out of the castle. The witch claims that the spirits vowed to not cause any more trouble but insisted on staying in the castle. Bartlett’s renovation efforts were tragically cut short when he died in 1989.
The castle is now owned by a traditional musician called Séan Ryan and his wife. The Ryans have been plagued with freak accidents since living in Leap Castle. One resulted in a broken kneecap that delayed the restoration of the castle. Once the renovation resumed, another accident left Ryan with a broken ankle. The castle’s malevolent history and creepy inhabitants didn’t stop the Ryans from conducting their newborn baby’s christening in the haunted Bloody chapel. Perhaps this spiritually joyous occasion has softened the known negativity within its walls. This historical structure has garnished worldwide attention and has been featured on a number of television shows catering to an audience with a fascination for the supernatural including Ghost Hunters and TV’s Most Haunted.
Want to visit haunted Ireland for Halloween in 2020?
Join Haunted Journeys as we collaborate with Secret Ireland Tours for an amazing 9-day / 8-night tour that circles around the most haunted castles, abbeys, historic houses and, of course, pubs in the Emerald Island on the day she celebrates 3,000 years of bringing the world Halloween! Tour with a native Irish Lady that loves to share Ireland's secrets!
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