Thoor Ballylee is a tower house dating to the late 15th / early 16th century. In the early 20th century, the building was part of the Coole Estate, which was owned by the Gregory Family. Lady Augusta Gregory was a good friend of WB Yeats and he became enchanted by the castle when he saw it. Yeats purchased the property in 1917 and used it as his summer home for the next twelve years. The old tower eventually fell into ruin after Yeats and his family left in 1929 and work only began to restore it in the 1960s. In 1965, the Yeats Tower was officially opened, with the tower refitted to show how it would have looked during the tenure of Yeats.
Given its proximity to the Streamstown River, Thoor Ballylee is prone to flooding. Serious damage was sustained after floods in 1995, 2009/10, and again in 2015. Fears were expressed after the 2009 flood that the building could not be restored due to a lack of government funds. A voluntary group was then established and they now manage the property, ensuring that this important monument will be preserved for future generations, in spite of the ongoing war with Mother Nature.
Yeats was an avid believer in the paranormal and he expressed a belief that the property was haunted by an Anglo-Norman soldier. He claimed that the figure would often appear floating by the stairs. When the tower reopened as a museum, the curator also encountered “a ghostly form” in the same area, and his dog refused to enter parts of the building.
In 1989, David Blinkthorne visited the property and took a photo in the deserted first-floor dining room. When he had the photo developed, he was shocked to discover the shadow of a child standing in the empty room. Some have speculated that this may be the ghost of Yeats’ son, but his identity has never been confirmed.
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