Charles Fort is an imposing 17th-Century structure located on the water’s edge near Kinsale harbour, County Cork. Following the Irish Civil War, the Fort was largely left abandoned until it was identified as a National Monument in 1971. A gradual restoration of the Fort was undertaken over the subsequent decades, and today the Fort is open to the public.
The haunting at Charles Fort arises from a shocking family tragedy.
When widower, Colonel Warrender, became Commander of the fort, he moved there with his only daughter, Wilful. Wilful was engaged to a young soldier and they married soon after her arrival at the Fort.
On their wedding night, during a romantic walk along the ramparts, Wilful noticed some beautiful flowers on the rocks below and expressed a wish that she should have some. One of the guards volunteered to climb down and get her a flower if her newlywed husband would take his place on guard while he did so. This was agreed and the young soldier asked his bride to return to their room and to wait for him there.
The climb down to retrieve the flowers took longer than expected, and after an hour of waiting for the guard to return, the young soldier fell asleep. Colonel Warrender was known to be an extremely strict commander, and while doing one last round before retiring for the night – he spotted what he thought was a guard asleep while on duty. He was infuriated and demanded that the guard stand up at once. But now in a deep sleep, the young soldier did not hear the Commander’s warning and when he did not stir, the angered Commander took out his pistol and shot him without a second thought.
The Commander approached the dead watchman, only to discover in the moonlight that it was in fact his new son-in-law. Medical attention was sought, but it was too late – he was already gone.
On learning that she had been widowed on her wedding night and by her own father’s hand, Wilful was overcome with grief and rage and threw herself from the battlements. Later that night, her father also took his own life.
Wilful now appears as a lady in white, wandering through the vast fortress. Witnesses have spotted her – still dressed in her wedding gown – ascending the stairs in the building she shared with her father, before vanishing into thin air. She was also spotted around children whose parents were stationed at Charles Fort, smiling down at them from a stairway and watching over them as they slept. Many soldiers reported hearing disembodied groans and spotting her walking through walls. More recent witnesses have included the manager of a local hotel, who claimed to have seen her one New Year’s Eve while looking out a window over towards the Fort. Another was out running near the Fort and felt a hand interlock with his while securing his shoe and leaning on a wall.
While she is benevolent towards most who encounter her, she has been known to attack. Two witnesses claim to have been knocked unconscious by the angry spirit when she threw them down the stairs. Both witnesses were male military personnel, and it is believed they are most likely to incur her wrath.
In 1922, the fort’s medical officer reported that he was physically dragged from outside his room and thrown down a staircase. During the assault, he caught sight of a young woman in a wedding dress. A year later, another officer was retiring for the night and reported feeling a cold wind before being lifted off the ground and then thrown down the stairs by an unseen force.
A white rabbit was said to be another ghost that was spotted when the fort was still active. The phantom rabbit was said to approach guards who had fallen asleep on duty and awaken them from their slumber, protecting them from almost certain execution if caught. Once their target was awake, the kindly spirit would simply vanish.
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