Mullingar Arts Centre opened in 1998 on a site with a long and sometimes bloody history. In the 12th-century, a castle was constructed on the site and this remained until its replacement by the county jail in 1789. A tunnel used to link the building with the courthouse across the road and this was used to transfer prisoners, sometimes on a one-way route to their place of execution at the jail gate. In one particularly gruesome week, ten men were hanged at the Mullingar Gaol. Executions were moved behind closed doors in 1868 but they continued at the site until 1885. The jail itself closed in 1900 and the county hall was built on the site just over a decade later. It is this building that is now home to the popular arts centre.
For many years it was believed that the ghosts of some of those who were executed on the site haunted the basement where the dressing rooms are located, but according to staff, performers, and patrons, strange activity has been reported throughout the building. Witnesses have seen doors opening and closing by themselves, watched figures passing through walls, heard footsteps emanating from empty rooms, and reported objects moving of their own accord. On one occasion, Christmas music was being piped through the building, and it continued to play, even after the sound system had been turned off.
The ghost of a man has been seen in the auditorium. One patron arrived at a performance only to find him sitting in his seat. He sat elsewhere until an interval and when he asked about the stranger that had taken his place, his confused friend in the next seat told him that nobody had been sitting there. Other guests, however, did report seeing the mysterious man. A team of visiting paranormal investigators, also detected the presence of a spirit in the auditorium, sitting alone on one of the rows in the empty theatre.
Investigators have recorded a variety of incidents during their visits to Mullingar Arts Centre. Researchers reported feeling distinctly unwelcome in some of the rooms, while shadows were seen moving by a doorway and an investigator was shoved by unseen hands. A visiting psychic claimed to have experienced a malevolent entity on the lower floor, while another became unwell during their visit and was forced to leave.
Just a short distance from the arts centre is a building that was once referred to by locals as “the haunted house”. In February 1846, a farm labourer by the name of Brian Seery was convicted for the attempted murder of a local landlord and was hanged at the old gaol. It is widely believed that Seery was innocent of the crime. On the day of his execution, one witness was looking out of the window of a nearby property when the ledge they were leaning on gave way and they plummeted to their death on the street below. The face of the dead person was seen on many occasions, staring out that window towards the site where the gallows once stood, and now the entrance to Mullingar Arts Centre.
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