Leap Castle, Ireland
The peaceful, little town of Coolderry rests in the Irish countryside in the county of Offaly. Perhaps its largest structure is a half-ruined castle with a dark and bloody history that has earned it a reputation of being one of the most haunted castles in the world. Today Leap Castle is open as a tourist attraction but has some spine-chilling stories that add to its appeal amongst the paranormal community.
The castle is believed to have been first constructed in 1250 (though this date is debatable) by the O’Bannon clan. During its long history, the castle has endured seizes, battles, murder and now is cloaked in mystery.
Part of Leap Castle’s dark past that has intrigued and fascinated many was uncovered during recent excavations. Inside a room coined the Bloody Chapel, for its own dark history, a small dungeon was uncovered. The dungeon consists of a small opening, which would have been a trap door used to drop victims down a small drop. It is told that spikes lay at the bottom of the dungeon awaiting those unfortunate enough to fall upon them. This type of dungeon is known as an Oubliette, derived from the French language meaning “to forget.” It is even rumored when the dungeon was uncovered it contained so much human skeletal remains, that three full cart loads were extracted from the small room. Adding up to approximately 150 bodies.
Knowing some of these dark tales it is easy to understand why Leap Castle is considered to be one of the most haunted castles in all of Ireland and even the world.
Haunted Leap Castle History
While there are many ghost stories of Leap Castle, one is particularly famous and responsible for giving the Bloody Chapel its name. During the 1500s a power struggle among the O’Carroll family broke out. Resulting from this, it is told that one man murdered his brother in the chapel, who was a priest. Supposedly he entered the chapel whilst the priest was leading a mass and drove his sword through his back. Leaving his own brother to bleed out and die on the floor in front of family and other onlookers. To this day, many sightings of a ghostly priest within the chapel and the stairway leading up to it have been made. Passers-by have also noted lights illuminating the top window of the castle, even when it was abandoned, believed to be the priest still residing within the chapel.
This is not the only murder that Leap Castle has seen occur within its walls. One other gruesome story of cold-hearted betrayal comes to mind. Legend has it that at one point the O’Carrolls had hired another clan to assist them in a battle against one of their rival clans. After claiming victory the O’Carrolls invited the clan they had hired to celebrate with a feast within Leap Castle. This clan accepted the invite, with 40 men attending, being poisoned by the food they ate and dying within the castle. This was a sly way that the O’Carroll’s could avoid payment. Since this mass murder occurred, many people have claimed those who died during this poison feast continue to remain at the castle to haunt its halls.
Ghosts aside, the most terrifying spirit to haunt Leap Castle is the infamous Elemental. This is a type of primitive spirit that may or may not be human in origin. It is very old, having been described by visitors to the castle for hundreds of years, yet its origin is unknown. Some believe that is arrived at Leap castle due to black magic, while others believe that it originated from an O’Carroll family member who died of leprosy, giving the spirit its horrible appearance. Though many have had frightening encounters with this Elemental Spirit at Leap Castle, the current owners have not. Whether the spirit is still there or just laying dormant, as it isn’t being provoked, remains a mystery.
There are many other spirits thought to roam the walls of Leap Castle, such as a woman and children who hang around the front room and another woman who is seen wearing red and usually holding a dagger. The combination of the castle’s history and strength of its ghost stories has led many to believe this to be one of the world’s most haunted castles.
Visiting Leap Castle
Leap Castle is a truly fascinating place and makes for a wonderful day trip. It is easily accessible to those with a car and costs just a few Euro to enter on a self-guided tour. The current owner is friendly and kind enough to allow visitors to pass through his house. He is doing great work to restore the castle to its former glory, as about half of the structure remains in ruins.
If you enjoyed this article and are looking for other haunted places in Ireland you can visit, I highly recommend reading up on the Dublin Hellfire Club.
Thanks for reading!