Carrickfergus Castle is an imposing Norman structure, constructed in 1177 overlooking Belfast Lough. The castle has withstood numerous battles and sieges and remained in military use until 1928. It is now preserved and managed as an attraction by the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.
The authenticity of the castle’s main ghost story is open to question. There are multiple opinions on who the characters were, how the events panned out, and whether it happened at all.
In the 18th-century, a young soldier stationed at the castle fell in love with a local woman. The soldier had a reputation as a bit of a ladies’ man, but he promised to change his ways if she married him. The soldier was unaware, however, that his fiancé (possibly now-wife), also had a wandering eye. Indeed, she was having an affair with another man, the brother of the soldier’s commanding officer no less. On discovering that she had cheated on him, the young soldier was overcome with rage and attacked his love rival, stabbing him with his sword. As he lay dying, the wounded man recounted the event to his brother, but in his confusion, pointed out Timothy Lavery, an army drummer, as the man who had attacked him. Lavery’s only crime was that he looked remarkably like the real killer, but he was tried on the belief that he was responsible, and he was hanged for the crime.
However it came to be, the ghost of an army drummer is now said to haunt the area surrounding the castle well, and some claim that the sound of cries for mercy and lonesome drumming can also be heard on occasion. Over the years, the unfortunate soul has been affectionately referred to as “button cap”. This name was given on the belief that his army-issued hat featured a large button, but in reality – this detail has never been confirmed either.
Button Cap may not be the only ghost haunting the castle.
In 2016, a former resident of Northern Ireland returned from her home in Australia and visited Carrickfergus Castle with her daughter. On reviewing their photos later, they were shocked to discover what appears to be the figure of a young boy standing beside the daughter as she looked out of a window. They claim that there was nobody else there when the photo was taken.
Some tales I have come across also claim that a headless ghost walks the castle battlements, but I have not (so far) been able to confirm this.
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