Medieval castles have always held a fascination for those who love history, legends, and hauntings. The beauty of an ancient castle tends to hide the mysterious legends and ghostly tales till one is inside and begins to feel the past closing in on them. Leap Castle, in County Offaly, Ireland, is one such castle that has the beauty of the medieval architecture,and an enigmatic aura of mysteries and ghosts -- it is considered the most haunted castle in Ireland.
The castle was built in the fourteenth century and originally named "Leap of the O'Bannons". The O'Bannons, secondary chieftains of the territory ruled by the O'Carroll clan, built the castle as a fortress on an enormous solid rock, as if it is sitting upon a throne. It still stands like a guardian over the beautiful countryside surrounding it. The history of the castle is filled with turbulent years of battles and horrendous happenings that have left haunting memories that linger on throughout the castle, from top to bottom.
Leap Castle was attacked by the Earl of Kildare and partially demolished in 1516. The O'Carroll clan regained possession around 1557, twenty-five years after their chieftain, Mulrooney O'Carroll, died.
After Mulrooney died, family feuding arose as to who should be the clan leader. Two brothers who constantly fought for leadership against each other, ended their battles in what is now called "The Bloody Chapel". One brother was a priest. During a mass he was holding for family members, his brother rushed in with his sword drawn and brutally murdered the priest. The spirit of the priest still wanders throughout the halls and the chapel.
A small room just off the chapel is the source of haunting from spirits who suffered a horrible death. An unsuspecting person would be led into the room then shoved toward a large hole in the floor, where they fell upon huge spikes eight feet below. If they were lucky, they would die immediately. Some did not and suffered unimaginable pain. Their bodies were left there to rot. None were ever removed until 1922, when workmen were cleaning out the cellars and dungeon after a fire. It took three cartloads to remove all the bones of the gruesome discovery.
Charles O'Carroll was the last chieftain of the O'Carroll clan at Leap Castle. Being at war with the Earl of Tyrone, Charles asked the MacMahon clan of Monaghan for assistance. After a battle in which the MacMahon clan had fought with the O'Carrolls, Charles held a feast in their honor. That night, as the MacMahon clan slept in the castle, they were all murdered by the O'Carroll clan. It is not surprising that the spirits of the MacMahon clan also roam the halls and haunt Leap Castle.
Ownership of the castle passed, through marriage, from the O'Carroll family in 1659 to the Darby family from England. Johnathan and Mildred Darby, descendants of the English family, moved into Leap Castle in the late nineteenth century. It was not long before they encountered the most difficult ghostly apparitions to tolerate -- the "Elemental".
This creature has a horrific odor like that of rotting meat or a decomposing corpse. It is all hunched down into a grotesque shape and looks half human, half animal. It may be a shape-shifter, transformed from the "Lady in Red". The lady seems to be the most powerful and malevolent of all the spirits in the castle. Those who have seen her claim that she is quite tall with a lovely face. She is dressed in a billowing red gown and often appears on a balcony overlooking the sitting room on the first floor. One psychic said he saw her face lose the beauty as she transformed into the Elemental, the hideous creature that torments people and creates an atmosphere of heaviness, terror and evil.
The first recorded experience of the Elemental, was in the late nineteenth century as experienced by Mildred Darby. Mildred liked dabbling in magic, holding seances, etc. An article, written by Mildred, appeared in the Journal Occult Review in 1909. She explained in detail what had happened. When standing on the balcony above the sitting room, she felt a hand touch her shoulder. When she turned, she saw the hideous creature, its vacant black eyes staring into her own. She was overcome by extreme nausea from the horrendous odor of the Elemental. It is believed that playing around with the black arts by the innocent Mildred, who must have thought it fun, had opened a door to the dark side which allowed the evil creature to enter.
Sometime in 1970, an Australian purchased the castle and hired a white witch from Mexico to perform an exorcism in the castle. After many hours, she emerged and said the spirits were no longer malevolent, but did not wish to leave.
Interview With Sean Ryan, Current Owner Of Leap Castle
Walking Tour and Spoken History with Sean Ryan