Posted in Offaly

Ireland’s Most Haunted: Leap Castle

One Friday night about two months ago, I started reading up about Leap Castle (pronounced ‘Lep’) and the incidents that led to it becoming the most haunted castle in Ireland. Some even say it’s the most haunted castle in the world.

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Pics (c) Tara King

Anyway, the following morning I took a notion and decided to go see the place. Turns out it’s a private residence but I figured “fuck it, I’ll knock on the door anyway!”

The owner, Sean Ryan (the man in the picture above), invited us in straight away, sat us down and told us stories about the castle by candlelight!

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That sculpture you see sitting in the wall arch was actually once the figurehead on the prow of a ship! Pic (c) Tara King

Sean and his family live in one of the castle’s wings and have had first hand experience of the hauntings.

At night, they hear footsteps, doors opening and closing. Sometimes they even hear chatter, but have never been able to decipher what the voices are saying.

When they walk in the direction of where the chatter is coming from, it moves further away!

Most recently, some visitors to the castle have felt something touch their shoulder.

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Pic (c) Tara King

Sean told us that he and his family never felt threatened by the presence that shares the castle with them.

They never felt as though they were surrounded by anything sinister which is surprising when you hear how the castle came to be haunted.

When Sean sat us down, he started off by explaining the gruesome story behind Leap castle’s reputation.

The first murder occurred in 1532 when the castle was owned by the psychotic O’Carroll family. Following the death of their chieftain, a feud erupted over who would take over the leadership.

The dispute resulted in Teige O’Carroll storming into the chapel where his older brother, Fr Thaddeus, was celebrating mass at the time.

Chanting the last rites as he approached the altar, Teige plunged his sword into Thaddeus, killing him instantly.

That room is now known as the Bloody Chapel.

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The Bloody Chapel. Pic (c) Tara King

It is believed that Thaddeus still haunts the chapel to this day. In fact, when the castle was lying in ruin, people claimed to have seen the Bloody Chapel light up late at night.

While the nature of Thaddeus’s death was horrendous, it wasn’t the only barbaric murder that took place in the chapel.

Hidden in the corner of the Bloody Chapel is a hole in the wall that leads to a dungeon known as an Oubliette. (It can still be seen to this day.)

The definition of an Oubliette is “a secret dungeon with access only through a trapdoor in its ceiling.”

At the bottom of Leap’s Oubliette lay a dungeon lined with sharp wooden spikes.

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Pic on left – The Bloody Chapel. Arrow points towards the Oubliette entrance. Pic on right – Close up shot of the Oubliette. Pics (c) Tara King

When the O’Carrolls reigned supreme, they used to drop their enemies (and sometimes unwanted guests) down through the hidden trapped door above the Oubliette so they would plummet on to the spikes and endure as slow and painful a death as possible.

On one occasion, the O’Carroll’s hired over 30 men from Northern Ireland’s McMahon clan to train them in techniques that would help them win a battle against their enemies.

They were successful and managed to bludgeon their enemies with ease thanks to the training they received from the McMahon’s.

When time came to may payment to the McMahon’s, the O’Carroll’s invited them to Leap, insisting that they throw them a banquet as a gesture of thanks for helping them achieve victory over their enemies.

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The spiral staircase in Leap. Pic (c) Tara King

The McMahon’s accepted the invitation and arrived at Leap in anticipation of the festivities.

A huge banquet was laid out, and the McMahon’s settled in, completely unaware that their seemingly ‘generous’ hosts had in fact poisoned their food in a bid to avoid having to make the promised payment.

Faced with a room full of dead bodies, the O’Carroll’s dropped each one into the Oubliette to join the rest of their grisly collection.

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Quenched candles in the Bloody Chapel. Pic (c) Tara King

It has also been said that some of the McMahon’s were decapitated by the O’Carroll’s who then kicked the heads around the garden. Not surprisingly, the McMahon’s are believed to haunt Leap to this very day.

(The discovery of the Oubliette bodies was made in 1922, when workmen at Leap came across dozens upon dozens of skeletons.)

bAfter taking us through the history of the Leap’s haunting’s, Sean brought us out to the castle conservatory which he transformed into the most beautiful indoor garden.

The views of the landscape from this wing are also amazing!

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The conservatory. Pic (c) Tara King

Handing us each a flashlight, Sean then directed us to the spiral staircase and said we could wander up to the top of the castle and spend as much time as we wanted taking pictures.

He was honestly THE most accommodating host I have ever met.

2.pngWe got to see the castle’s old rooms, all of which were decked out in their original style.

As you can see from the photos, we also got to access the infamous Bloody Chapel at the top of the castle.

While there, we climbed on to the roof but I’m not quite sure that’s allowed (let’s just say it took A LOT of effort; it’s very difficult to get up there) so I wouldn’t advise it unless you have zero fear of heights.

As you can see from the image below, the way out to the roof is a little claustrophobic, so if you don’t like enclosed spaces, then it definitely wouldn’t be a good idea to venture up there.

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Pic (c) Tara King

I took loads of shots up there but the pictures really don’t do the views enough justice.

This place is ALL kinds of amazing!

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Rooftop views! Pic (c) Tara King

When we arrived back down, Sean sat us down again and told us more stories about the hauntings.

By that point the rain was pelting outside, the open fire was lit, and the atmosphere was actually spine tingling! 

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Pic (c) Tara King

Can’t believe that such a spontaneous trip turned out to be so amazing!!

As it turns out Sean actually holds pre-booked tours so if you have ever thought about visiting Leap, definitely do it! It’s incredible! I would strongly advise pre-booking a tour however.

Don’t just rock up to the place like we did because the gates are very often closed and you may not get in. 

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