As October 31st looms closer, a subtle change creeps across the Irish landscape. An unnatural chill haunts the air and darkness falls too quick.
Pagan Ireland invented Halloween in the form of Samhain: the night when the veil between this world and the next is at its thinnest… allowing strange things to happen.
But Ireland is a spooky place at any time of the year – and we have the ghost stories to prove it.
Prepare yourself, for what you are about to read are no mere children’s tales; they are Ireland’s most terrifying ghost stories. And they are all the more alarming for being true…
The Dullahan-Headless Horseman
In the month of October, locals living in Ireland’s secluded rural areas make haste to be home before evening time fades to dark. For it is at this time that the deadly Dullahan stalks the land. Dullahan is an old Gaelic word, the nearest translation would be “Darkman”. The Dullahan is a foreteller of death, much like the Banshee.
He is a headless rider, carrying his own, hysterically laughing head, beneath an arm. His mount is a massive, black stallion with flame-red eyes. He shrieks in the night, emptying buckets of blood over people as he tears by. When he stops his steed, he bellows one name into the night and this person is found dead come dawn. The Dullahan’s only weakness is an absurd fear of gold. So should you find yourself wandering home on a chilly October evening, be sure to have a piece of gold about your person, because who knows, tonight the Dullahan could ride for you!
Loftus Hall: A Stranger in The Night
Our next tale brings us back to the time of Ireland’s grand houses. The curious tale of Loftus Hall takes place on the bleak and barren Hook Head peninsula of . In this desolate expanse the Marquis of Ely decided to build his grand house on top of the ruins of old Redmond Hall.
By the mid 18th century Loftus Hall was in possession of one Charles Tottenham, a wealthy landowner. Charles hated the dank and dreary Irish weather, so to pass the long, dark evenings he would invite other nobles to his beautiful home to play cards, sip brandy and stave off winter’s chill.
On one particular night, Charles’ guests had just arrived when a thunderous storm began to rage outside. A game of cards commenced. Then came a banging from the front door.
Bang. Bang. Bang.
Charles had bid the servants goodnight, so he answered the door himself. The turning of the handle revealed a tall, dark man of middling years, soaked through by the rain. From his dress, Charles thought him well-to-do and so invited him in to share in the warmth of his fire.
The stranger made no explanation of how he found himself in the storm and did not so much as offer his name. Eager to be civil, Charles invited the stranger to join their card game.
Hand after hand the stranger won without fail, laughing rudely after each victory. Hours passed and he acquired much of the wealth of the nobles around the table. One of Charles’ guests, a lady, dropped a card upon the carpet. Upon reaching down to pick it up, she spied the stranger’s feet. Or lack there of. For instead of human feet he had hideous, cloven hoofs. Noticing her horrified reaction the stranger’s face twisted to anger as he realised he had been found out. He bolted straight up through the roof of the mansion with a gargled shriek.
Even to this day, the hole remains in the roof of Loftus Hall. No repairs, no matter how thorough can seal the gouge made by the stranger, who has long since thought to have been the devil himself.
Dunluce Castle: Tragic Love
Perched atop a basalt outcrop, 100 ft above the toiling ocean in sits the ancient .
Many murky tales surround the castle. Hundreds of years ago an entire section of the kitchens broke and fell into the sea below killing many servants.
Our tale concerns the McQuillan family who held rule over the castle in the 16th century. Lord McQuillan had a strong-tempered daughter by the name of Maeve who fell hopelessly in love with an officer in her father’s army, one Reginald O’ Cahan.
Her father was furious, a mere officer was no match for a lord’s daughter. So he locked Maeve in the northeast tower. One fateful night Maeve broke free with the aid of Reginald. They fled to a beach where they stole a rowboat in a mad bid to escape her father’s wrath. A terrible storm rose up and wracked the coast, dashing Maeve, and her hopes of a life with Reginald, to ruin upon the rocks. They both drowned.
On certain nights you can hear Maeve wailing from the northeast tower, and her specter has been seen searching the ruins for her lost love.
Leap Castle: The Bloody Chapel
Widely considered Ireland’s most haunted castle, Leap Castle in Offaly could teach Tim Burton a thing or two about the macabre. Centuries of odd accidents, strange occurrences and ill-repute can all be traced back to one family: The O’Carrolls.
The O’Carroll clan built Leap circa 1250 as their family stronghold and it passed from generation to generation without incident. Until there came a time when two ambitious brothers vied for dominion over the castle and grounds. One brother was a priest, the other a successful military man. The two had never seen eye-to-eye.
The priest was giving mass in the chapel attached to the castle one evening when his brother burst through the doors and plunged his sword into his heart.
Brother killing brother is an unspeakable sin, a desecration of natural order. Since that day a relentless gloom clings to the castle. A mysterious ‘entity’ has ever since stalked the lower levels and dungeons of Leap.
During the 1900s workmen restoring the chapel discovered a hidden wall, concealing a room with a gruesome purpose. Instead of a floor, there was an eight-foot drop onto a wicked spike. The workmen removed layer after layer of human skeletons that were piled atop each other.
To this day locals dare not enter the castle grounds, but you can… If a strange and ghastly smell should trespass upon your senses, run as fast as you can or you may be another ghastly page in Leap’s history.
So take a care next time you venture into Ireland. For places have memories too. Ireland is an old, old land where every stone has its story and the ghosts of the past are always hungry for attention.
Happy from Ireland…
Londonderry’s Banks of the Foyle Hallowe’en Festival takes place from 27 – 31 October 2012.
Did you know that Ireland actually invented Halloween? We explain all…
There are tons of spooky special events being celebrated all around the island of Ireland for Halloween.