There are many haunted locations in the beautiful land of the Emerald Isle. However, it seems to be a general consensus on every source you check that without a doubt that Leap Castle comes in at number one.

Have you visited the castle? Do you have any personal experiences from the castle that you can share as a comment to this article?


Leap Castle is located in County Offaly, near the East Coast and Midlands Region, north of Roscrea on R421. It’s actually considered one of the most haunted places in Europe. Leap Castle’s bloody history includes murder and massacre of guests and of inhabitants.

Here are some of the ghosts captured at the location:

  1. The Red Lady is a ghost reported to walk the halls holding a dagger raised in a menacing manner. She first appeared in the time the Darby’s took over the castle and is described as a very tall woman clothed in a red silk dress. A strange luminescence has been seen radiating within her. People who have encountered her comment on how cold the room becomes when she is near. She is thought to be a woman captured by an O’Carroll. She was raped which resulted in a baby being born. The baby was killed by the O’Carroll who raped her, reasoning that they couldn’t afford to feed the child. Distraught, the woman then killed herself with the same blade that was used to murder her baby. She haunts the “blue room”, which was always used as the nursery. She has been seen sobbing at the foot of children’s beds in this room.
  2. The sinister “Elemental Spirit” referred to as only the “It”. The entity is shrouded in mystery and intrigue. The first encounter with it, the origin and exact nature of the “Elemental” are unknown, however many theories have circulated throughout the years.
    • *One theory is that it was put there by the druids long before the castle was built. It was to protect the sacred sight they used for initiations and druidic “magick”.
    • *Another theory is that Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, who was a renowned magic practitioner (who had attempted to take over the castle on several occasions), put the Elemental there to burn the castle from the inside.
    • *Lastly there is the theory that it was Mildred Darby, who dabbled in the occult. Her activities focused on séances and automatic writing. There are those who believe that her “dabbling” is what either awoke or summoned the Elemental, as it was around this time that 150 bodies were discovered in the Oubliette. It took three cartloads to haul them out. It is said that the huge release of emotional energy linked to the spirits of the Oubliette may have been enough to wake the dormant spirit. It was after this that Mildred Darby herself would have a terrifying encounter with the Elemental.
    • She herself described her ordeal in a 1909 article for the Journal Occult Review:
  • “Suddenly two hands were laid on my shoulders. I turned round sharply and saw, as clearly as I see you now, a gray “Thing” standing a couple of feet from me with its bent arms raised as if it were cursing me. I cannot describe in words how utterly awful the “Thing” was. It’s very indefinableness rendering the horrible shadow more gruesome. Human in shape, a little shorter than I am, I could just make out the shape of the big black holes like great eyes and sharp features, but the who figure-head, face, hands and all was gray, unclean, bluish gray. Something of the color and appearance of common cotton wool. But, oh! So sinister, repulsive and devilish. My friends who are clever about occult things say it is what they call an “Elemental”. The thing was about the size of a sheep, thin, gaunt and shadowy in parts. Its face was human, or to be more accurate, inhuman. In its vileness, with large holes of blackness for eyes, loose slobbery lips, and a thick saliva-dripping jaw, sloping back suddenly into its neck! Nose it had none, only spreading cancerous cavities. The whole face being a uniform tint of gray. This too was the color of the dark coarse hair covering its head, neck and body. Its forearms were thickly coated with the same hair, so were its paws, large, loose and hand-shaped, and it sat on its hind legs, one hand or paw was raised, and a claw-like finger was extended ready to scratch the paint. Its lusterless eyes, which seemed half decomposed, and looked incredibly foul, stared into mine, and the horrible smell which had before offended my nostrils, only a hundred times intensified, came up to my face, filling me with a deadly nausea. I noticed the lower half of the creature was indefinite and seemed semi-transparent, at least, I could see the framework of the door that led into the gallery through its body.”


No matter the theory it all seems to fall back to someone who practiced dark magic creating the Elemental. The encounters with it continued and were last reported in 2006. Whatever the entity is, it seems to make its presence known when people begin to provoke it.

One of the most gruesome murders to take place in the castle occurred in 1532, in a room above the main hall of the castle. This room is now known as “The Bloody Chapel”. The original castle is thought to have been built around 1250, being the principal seat of the fearsome Ely O’Carroll clan. In the aftermath of the death of Chieftain Mulrooney O’Carroll in 1532, a bitter succession dispute arose over the leadership of the clan. The dispute came to an abrupt end when ‘one-eyed Teige O’Carroll’, who as mass was being celebrated in the room, stormed in chanting holy rites and drove a sword into the back of the priest (who was also his older brother), Thaddeus. Breathing his last, the fatally wounded priest fell in front of his family onto the altar.

The priest’s spirit is said to haunt the Bloody Chapel and is thought to be one of Leap’s earliest ghosts. Even centuries later as the castle lay in a state of ruin, passers-by have seen the window of the room light up suddenly late into the night.

Remember the three cart loads of skeletons that were located? This is where the discovery was made, in the Bloody Chapel. In 1922 workers found an oubliette in a secret dungeon hidden behind a wall in the corner of the chapel. During exploration of this dark hole, they made a horrific discovery. Human skeletons were amassed on top of wooden spikes. Possibly either prisoners or unsuspected guests of the O’Carroll’s would have been dropped down through the hidden trap door above the oubliette where they would have had their lungs punctured by the wooden spikes below. They would be left to die a horrific death within earshot of their “gracious” hosts.

One of the most infamous but most treacherous killings involved 40 members of the northern McMahon clan, who had been hired by the O’Carroll’s to train them in new methods of warfare. The McMahon men attended a feast at the castle in celebration of a victory of a rival clan of the O’Carroll’s. What the mercenaries didn’t know is that their ruthless employers had poisoned their food to avoid paying their bill. The ghosts of the McMahon clan are said to haunt Leap Castle to this day.

In the 1600’s ownership passed to the Darby family when the daughter of the O’Carroll chieftain fell in love with an English Captain Darby. Their son, Jonathan (“Aka Mad Captain Darby”), hid vast treasures in the grounds of the castle during the English Civil War. The two servants who helped him hide the treasures were later murdered to assure their silence. Darby was later imprisoned for treason. Years later when he was released, due to the turmoil of his time in captivity, he was unable to locate his treasure.

While the Darby’s were living in England in 1922, Leap Castle was burnt out and destroyed by the IRA. The castle lay in ruins until it was purchased by the now current owners, Sean & Anne Ryan, in 1991. Sean restored the castle and has experienced frequent sightings of the numerous spirits of Leap. They, however, (thankfully), have never encountered the Elemental.

Some of the other ghosts reported there are of two little girls named Emily & Charlotte. For some reason, it is hard to find any information about them. Then there is the one of the murdered women. She has been seen and heard since the time of the Darbys living there. She is believed to have been murdered by an O’Carroll. She is described by Mildred Darby as wearing very few clothes, having a red cloth over her face and screaming loudly twice before disappearing. Sean Ryan, the present owner has also heard a woman screaming.

Then there is the Governess and the Old Man. The governess (or nanny) is seen in the main hall and often with the two ghost girls, Emily & Charlotte. She is described as wearing Victorian-era attire. No information as to whether they interact with people or just going through their life motions (aka residual hauntings as opposed to intelligent hauntings).

The old man is described as wearing a green cut-away coat, knee breeches and having bright shoe buckles. He holds a leather bag in his hand and often times is seen with a little old woman with skinny hands, long black mitts, wearing an old fashioned dress. Both are sometimes seen with an old man dressed like a priest.

Tours are offered. For information contact Sean Ryan at phone 0868690547 or email The castle website is


I am a published author that specializes in stories of paranormal, supernatural and children's books. My books are available as Kindle or paperback versions on Amazon. I have had many personal paranormal experiences besides having the best (late) Grandmother who could spin the best ghost stories ever.

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