Leap Castle

Leap Castle
Roscrea, Offaly, Ireland.

Leap Castle was built in the mid-13th-century on a site that is believed to have been inhabited since Neolithic times, and one which may have also been used during druidic ceremonies. The castle has come under siege, been fought over by feuding family members, been attacked, and rebuilt, then burnt out, and restored. It has been a site of battle, murder, destruction, and torture. Little wonder that rumours of the castle being haunted have circulated for hundreds of years.

In 1994, Sean Ryan and his wife began work to restore and preserve what is now considered to be one of Ireland’s most haunted properties and to inhabit the castle as their private, family home. The family welcomes enquiries from those wishing to arrange a visit, but do not expect them to be concerned by the abundance of phenomena that they encounter on a regular basis – it is just part and parcel of their routine at this stage.

One of the most famous hauntings relates to a spirit referred to as “the Elemental” or simply as “It”. Not all ghosts and hauntings can be attributed to the soul of one human being or an animal. Sometimes dark entities can manifest following a catastrophic loss of life and the intensity of the grief and destruction associated with it or following an activity carried out with intense focus and the darkest of intentions. “It” may well be one such entity. No one knows who or what caused “It” to manifest. Some believe it may be connected to the druids who used the site before the castle was built. Others blame Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Kildare, who had early designs on the castle and attempted to seize it on a few occasions. He was known to practice the dark arts and may have used his craft to create a negative force within the castle to do his bidding. Another theory arises from the gruesome discovery of an oubliette in the early 1900s.

The Gothic novelist, Mildred Darby (nee Dill), lived at Leap Castle following her marriage to Jonathan Darby in 1889. She conducted several séances, and it was around this time that the oubliette was discovered in the chapel. An oubliette (deriving from the French “oublier” or “to forget”) was a hidden dungeon chamber into which enemies and unwanted guests would be dropped through a trapdoor and left to rot. At Leap Castle, those unfortunate enough to have been dropped would have been impaled on the 8-foot spikes at the base of the shaft. As many as 150 bodies were removed during the works. The unearthing of these souls and her experimentation through her séances may have led to Mildred’s own encounter with the Elemental which she recalled in the Occult Review in 1909:

Suddenly, two hands were laid on my shoulders. I turned round sharply and saw, as clearly as I see you now-a grey ‘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, its 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 big black holes like great eyes and sharp features, but the whole figurehead, face, hands, and all-was grey-unclean, blueish grey, something of the colour 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 grey. This too was the colour 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 lustreless 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 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.

In 2002, a cameraman was filming at the castle and recalled how he was charged at by a white mist and felt a sharp pain in his ribcage as the energy passed through him. He felt unwell for the remainder of the shoot and the audio equipment stopped working too. Other visitors have encountered feelings of threat, the energy of a bull that is ready to charge at them from the darkness at any moment, a foul smell, and strange animalistic noises.

Strangely, the Ryan family themselves have never encountered the Elemental in all the years that they have lived at Leap Castle, but then they respect the many ghostly energies around them and do not seek them out or provoke them. Ghost hunters be warned!

The castle chapel where the oubliette was discovered is known as “The Bloody Chapel”. For more than a hundred years there have been reports of a mysterious light streaming from the upper windows of the deserted chapel. Even the burning of the building during the Irish Civil War did not put a stop to the reports of light emanating from the derelict shell. In 1532, a bitter battle broke out between members of the O’Carroll family over who should succeed Mulrooney O’Carroll as head of the clan. One of the O’Carroll brothers was a priest and began saying a mass at the chapel before one of his siblings arrived. Enraged that the service had commenced before he arrived, the priest was slain in front of his family by his own flesh and blood. His ghost has been spotted on many occasions in and around the chapel. According to the owner of Leap Castle, another male spirit haunts this space. He has been spotted in the Bloody Chapel and walks down the stairs towards the dungeon.

Notwithstanding the number of bodies removed from the dungeons and the fact that brother would slaughter brother, it would certainly appear that some members of the O’Carroll clan who seized the castle from the founding O’Bannons, were particularly nasty, especially towards women. A female form in a red dress has been spotted on many occasions throughout the years. It is believed that she was held against her will by the O’Carrolls and that she was raped by a family member resulting in her becoming pregnant with his child. When the child was born, the family claimed they could not afford the costs associated with a baby and killed the poor child. In anger and grief, the new mother killed herself using the same dagger that was used to kill her child. She appears, still carrying the bloody dagger, and those who have witnessed her, report feelings of intense cold. The ghost of a semi-naked woman, another woman who was murdered by a member of the family in the 16th-century, has also been spotted running for her life and she screams before disappearing.

The ghost of an eleven-year-old girl has been seen falling from the battlements of Leap Castle. Witnesses believe this may be one of two young girls who have been named Emily and Charlotte who have been seen playing together in the Main Hall and on the spiral staircase. Sometimes the two girls are accompanied by a nanny. The ghost of an elderly man has also been spotted sitting by the fireplace in the great hall.

The shell of a former Priest’s House can also be found on the site. Again, targeted during the Irish Civil War, the building already had a reputation for being haunted. Guests staying the house before it was destroyed claimed to have felt the weight of another sleeping body on top of them, while the ghost of a monk has also been spotted walking in one end and out of the other.

Venue Name
The Leap, Roscrea, Offaly, E53 VK51, Ireland

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Ghost Advisor Rating
Admission Policies
Open By Arrangement Only
Restricted Access
Donations Welcome
Suitable For Adults
Private Property - Open But Please Respect
Facilities & Services
Guided Tour Only

Additional Notes

Leap Castle is a private family home but the owner does sometimes accommodate tours by arrangement.

Users should always undertake their own checks before traveling to Leap Castle or any other location listed on this website, to ensure that it will be open and accessible.

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