Cork Island, Ireland is home to one of the most haunted places in the world, Spike Island. Come Explore its offerings with Haunted Journeys.
The history of Spike Island is diversified and intense, all plagued by the unsettling incidents of extreme mortality and tragedy. A Monastic settlement served the first usage of this property. In 635 AD, Saint Mochuada founded a monastery on this island . He spent a year on the island before leaving his three disciples to watch over the settlement. In 1178, a grant was provided to Saint Thomas's Abbey in Dublin, where the Church of Saint Rusien was constructed on Spike Island. The ruins of a church are reported to exist on Spike Island in 1774.
In the 18th century, Fort Mitchel, the star-shaped Fortress was built. It became a prison holding over 2300 prisoners. It was the largest prison in the world at the time and there has never been a larger prison in Ireland or Britain before or since. Its strategic location within the Irish Harbour benefited a good defense and prison purpose.
It became a full-scale prison in 1847 at the height of the Great Famine. It was used as a depot, for the purpose of housing prisoners before they were deported to Australia. This was a troubled time for Ireland. There was widespread starvation and homelessness. Through this extreme period of poverty, crime and unrest escalated rapidly. This escalated the prison's growth into what for a few years in the mid=19th century was the largest prison in the British Empire. It gained a reputation as "Ireland's Alcatraz". From 1847 to its closure in 1883, thousands had experienced the horrid of being imprisoned on this island. Although some inmates had committed serious and gruesome crimes, most of Spike's inhabitants her imprisoned for minor crimes, for instance, stealing, which was quite common during the famine. After the prison closed the island returned to being utilized as a military base. Queen Victoria first set foot in Ireland here in 1849 and for seventy years the town, in her honor, was also known as Queenstown.
In 1916, the facility was used again as a prison, with the capture of Aud's crew. Aud was a disguised German Ship holding guns to be used in the Rising. There were held here prior to being transferred to a camp in England. After the establishment of the Irish Free State, the Royal Navy retained control of the territory until the 11th of July 1938 when it was handed over to Ireland, remaining as a military base and prison under Irish rule. From here followed one of the most ruthless riots in prison history, the Riot of September 1, 1985.
Trouble broke out when the few officers on duty were quickly overpowered as Block A, one of the accommodation blocks, caught fire and was destroyed. Rioting prisoners armed themselves with slash-hooks and knives and took control of the pier. The Gardaí eventually were able to land in force and end the riot. After the prison riot that year, all families who lived on the island had to leave.
The prison would finally close its doors in 2004. Today, Spike Island is now an increasingly popular historical tourist attraction with tours departing from Cobh bringing tourists to explore the fort and its fascinating history, and yes, its hauntings.
The island had many different uses, from a monastery to a fortress and a prison. This blended history, some sacred and yet some terrifying. This is what classifies that Spike Island is one of the most properties in Ireland.
Convicts sent to serve a prison sentence on the island often never returned. The prisoner's agony was so intense that several tried to seek release through suicide. For this reason, it wasn’t for nothing that Spike Island became known as a ‘Hell on earth’ to some of its inmates. For years, the high death rate was blamed on the famine raging outside, but this was proved to be inaccurate. The discovery of a graveyard, which had been dug deeply recently, has unearthed over 1,300 convicts who died on the island between 1847 and 1883. Most succumbed to catastrophic public health conditions due to overcrowded conditions of 2300 held inmates. Others will tell you that the reason the buildings are such a physical and supernatural mess is because of the prison riot that took place in 1985.
Generally speaking, there are reports of several apparitions, including that of a period military soldier hanging out by the fireplace. There are footsteps, disembodied voices, unexplained noises. Lights will turn on and off on their own. Being in Ireland, there is, of course, that good old Irish banshee that is spotted near the ramparts. There is a spooky photo obtained by tourist, Louise Bunyan, taken in October 2018 in the abandoned jail section of the prison. This area held prisoners in the 1840s, 1920s and the 1990s. See the photo below in our second gallery. the image reveals the distinguishable shape of a man seemingly carrying something across the hall.
Research undertaken by UCC and the islands heritage team has uncovered several stories of ghostly reports including soldiers firing at seeming phantom intruders. Irish naval cadets stationed on the island in the 1980s reported strange occurrences disturbing their accommodation. Prison guards from the 1980s reported prisoners used to complain of a ‘black entity’ visiting their cells by night. A photo of this black shadow was captured in a 2016 image by photographer Shea Wolfe in an empty cell in the same abandoned cell block. (See below in our Gallery Two)
There is a white female apparition that is said to be one of the prominent phantoms on the island. Many have met the restless spirit of John Mitchel who was a prisoner at the jail. He appears as a white mist. Another specter that has been seen is that of a solider with (gruesome) two black holes that replace his eyes. One of the earliest stories of hauntings is over 100 years old. A little girl named Eileen lived here with her family. Her father was in serving in the Army. One day she saw, as she walking through the island, she saw a troubling site looking at her over a wall. It appeared to be human and very tall. But it was more grisly and slimy than anyone she has ever seen. Worst of all, replacing its eyes were too dark and cavernous holes! Frightened, Eileen stumbled and fell. She picked herself up and staggered to a nearby cottage and told her story. They told her that many folks had also seen the same thing in the same place, in fact, some soldiers of the Irish army on many gunshots at this entity without it having any effect.
There is a heart-wrenching story of little Ellen (Nellie) Organ, who lived in Spike Island. Although she was born in Waterford in 1903, she moved to Spike Island with her family, for her father was a soldier stationed there. She displayed a precocious spiritual awareness as soon as she could speak, constantly displaying her religious knowledge and spiritual passion. She adored the walk along with Spike Islands shoreline to the village church that she made often with her mother. Her mother tragically died of TB.
Nellie followed the same fate, an early death as a result of Toriello-Carey Syndrome disease which affected her jaw. Despite her severity of illness, her religious devotion grew. Ellen would begin to describe visions and conversations with God and Jesus. She displayed knowledge of the Trinity beyond her years. Incredibly, she could tell without fail whether or not a person had been to Mass and received Holy Communion. In spite of her illness, she was always said to be in good spirits and her positivity both inspired and upset the sisters that cared for her. At the age of 5, she gained special permission to take her First Communion shortly before her death. She died in 1908 and was buried in her communion dress at St Josephs's cemetery in Cork. She was moved to the Good Shepard's cemetery where she had spent her last days, per the request of the nuns that cared for her. On exhuming her body one year after her burial the priest and two men present reported she was found to be completely intact, unchanged in appearance as if she had been buried the day before. Even her jaw was unscathed. The story of Little Nellie is now back before the council of Rome, who is considering her for Sainthood. Her home and a tribute to her life with some of her belongings can be seen at Spike Island.
This property was featured on SyFy's Ghost Hunters International in 2010. Subsequent visits from GhostEire and Cork Paranormal Investigators have also been performed.
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