Leap Castle has been dubbed as the most haunted place in all of Ireland, and certainly possesses a particularly bloody history. Located in the County Offaly, just outside the town of Roscrea, it was built in the middle of the thirteenth century by the O’Bannon clan and became known as Leim Ui Bhanain or Leap of the O’Bannon’s.

The History of Leap Castle

The O’Bannon’s were subject to the ruling O’Carroll clan. It is recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters that in the early sixteenth century the Earl of Kildare, Gerald Fitzgerald attempted to seize the castle but was beaten back by the O’Carroll’s. Around the same time a fierce and bitter battle fomp3Playerr succession ensued amongst the O’Carroll’s which turned them against one another. One brother murdered another, who was a priest, in what has since become known as the ‘Bloody Chapel’ while he was conducting a ceremony.

Another source of evil which may have contributed to the present existence of spirits was discovered in the late nineteenth century. It was an oubliette, a dungeon that is only accessible from a high one square meter hatch in the ceiling, that had spikes placed at the bottom of the shaft from which prisoners were flung onto. If they were not killed instantly they were left gored upon the spikes, until dead from their wounds, but not before suffering from dehydration. It took several workers several days, over three cartloads to carry out all the human bones still at the bottom of the shaft. Many other bones had been neatly stacked against the outer walls of the dungeon. It is because of this bloody history, that the castle had gained the reputation of being one of the most haunted locations in Ireland, as well as Europe. The castle was eventually gutted by a fire of unknown origin and boarded up by the locals living in the vicinity, who then completely avoided going anywhere near the castle.

In 1659, the castle passed into the ownership of the Darby family, of which many bearing the Darby name, became the High Sheriff’s of King’s County (present day, County Offaly). In the late 1800s, Mildred Darby had become involved with the occult and believed responsible for releasing one of the most vile, evil and disturbing of spirits, thought to be an elemental.

It has been reported that trespassers have been kept at bay at the castle, by an apparition of a small hunched figure seen lurking about the chapel and dungeon. Often accompanied by the stench of rotten flesh and of sulfur, it has sent many running from the premises.

The castle was sold in the 1970s to an Australian, Sean Ryan, who attempted to have it exorcised, with no success. Although the exorcist insists the spirit is no longer be malevolent. As Sean has since had several suspicious incidents occur since then, and long after he the castle restoration work had begun, and is not entirely convinced.

The Bloody Chapel

The Bloody Chapel is the home to many of the spirits of Leap Castle. People passing the Castle at night have reported bright light streaming out of the upper windows. This occurrence has been reported since the time of the Darbys. When the castle was left a burnt out shell after the 1922 burning, this event was also reported by passers by. Even now, neighbours have telephoned the Ryans and informed them of the Chapels illumination. Strange smells of rubber have also been reported during peoples visit to the upper hall.

One of the most well known is referred to as the O’Carroll priest. After the death of Mulrooney O’Carroll in 1532, a fierce power struggle developed within the remaining O’Carroll family. Brother fought against brother to gain Chieftainship. Legend has it that an O’Carroll murdered his brother, a priest whilst performing a mass in the upper hall of the Castle. It is believed that the priest started the mass before the arrival of his brother and this was considered to be a great insult. The angered O’Carroll then flew into a rage a slaughtered his brother where he stood. The Priest has been seen on many occasions in the Bloody Chapel. This spirit has also been seen lurking on the stairway below and also leaving the chapel via the western door to the bartizan and down the northern stairs.

The Oubliette

One of the more sinister features of the Bloody Chapel is the oubliette. The oubliette is a small chamber located in the North-Eastern corner of the Bloody Chapel. It is thought that the original use for these chambers was to store valuables. They were also used as a place to hide in the event of a siege. The O’Carrolls however, used this chamber for a more sinister purpose. They modified this chamber to serve as a small dungeon where prisoners were thrown in, dead or dying. The entrance to the chamber is a narrow hole originally fitted with a form of trap door. The name is derived from the French “to forget”.

Once someone was thrown into the oubliette, they were simply forgotten about. The O’Carrolls were said to be an extremely cunning and brutal clan, stopping at nothing to achieve domination. Legends tell of several occasions where the O’Carrolls would employ other clans as mercenaries to kill off nearby threats. Upon completion of the job the mercenaries were invited back to Leap Castle for a celebratory feast. Unfortunately for the mercenaries, the feast was poisoned and their throats were cut. The corpses were then thrown into the oubliette. 39 of the O’Neil clan are said to be disposed of in this fashion. In 1599, another deadly deed occurred at Leap Castle. Charles O’Carroll, the last chieftain at Leap, was at war with the Earl of Tyrone and hired the MacMahon clan, from Monaghan as mercenaries. After they had fought for him, the O’Carrolls held a feast for the mercenaries. They were then murdered in their sleep. The MacMahon clan are said to haunt the great hall at Leap Castle.

During the occupation of Leap Castle by the Darbys, the oubliette was cleaned and the contents removed during some of the renovations carried out. It is said that three cartloads of skeletons were removed from the oubliette during this period. Some believe that since this gruesome discovery, an emotional shock-wave was sent through the castle and the many spirits including the Elemental were woken from their dormancy.

Sean Ryan speaks of a man who seems to live in the oubliette. He leaves the Bloody Chapel on occasion and is said to wander down to the lower levels of the castle.

An Elemental Suspected

Leap Castle has been shrouded in mystery and intrigue for hundreds of years, and the exact nature of the occurrences highly suspect. However, an Elemental force as the ‘prime suspect,’ seems to be the most widely accepted possibility, although numerous other theories also been circulated over the years.

It is purported as the most likely source for the Elemental’s presence today is that of Mildred Dill Darby.

Mildred had married Jonathon Charles Darby, who had inherited Leap Castle after his grandfather William Henry Darby died in 1880 and he was the only surviving heir. Mildred was thought to have been drawn Wicca (a  nature-oriented practice derived from pre-Christian religions), and as a novice had started dabbling with ancient Wiccan spells, designed to summon the earth spirits, through activities focused on séances and automatic writing.

It is thought that her inexperience with the occult, she may have inadvertently awakened, or summoned, an Elemental force. And since the horrific discovery of the Oubliette had not yet occurred. As the oubliette within the castle’s walls was not known to exist until the early 1900s, when stumbled across by a group of workmen restoring a section of the internal castle walls. Carting out several cartloads of human remains (bones that had piled at the bottom of the shaft).

It then suddenly became obvious that Mary Darby may had been responsible by the release of emotional energy, possibly linked to spirits trapped in the Oubliette by the Elemental Entity, enough to wake up the dormant spirit.

This excerpt is believed to be taken from Mildred Darby’s journal, of her terrifying encounter with the Elemental.

“Suddenly, two hands were laid on my shoulders. I turned round sharply and saw, as clearly as I see you now– a gray ‘Thing’, standing a couple of feet from me, with it’s bent arms raised as if it were cursing me. I cannot describe in words how utterly awful the ‘Thing’ was, it’s 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 figure-head, face, hands and all was gray–unclean, blueish gray, something of the color 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. It’s face was human, or to be more accurate, inhuman, in it’s 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 gray. This too, was the color of the dark coarse hair covering its head, neck and body. It’s forearms were thickly coated with the same hair, so were its paws, large, loose and hand-shaped; and it sat on it’s hind legs, one hand or paw was raised, and a claw-like finger was extended ready to scratch the paint.  It’s lusterless 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 a 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.”

A letter sent by Mildred Darby to Sydney Carroll on 28 Nov 1915

“The last appearances of the Elemental were on Nov 25th 1915 and I deduce again last November from the gait of my husband really wild with rage, or perhaps fright? Coming into my room at Midnight it flew into me again, “dressing up things to try and frighten me.”  On the 25th Nov 1915, two of our servants knowing the ‘master’ would be out late and that I was driving that afternoon had invited ‘friends,’ two soldiers from the Barracks at Birr, distant to the other side of 6 miles. They came rather late and my husband came home early so the visitors had to be kept out of his sight in the lower regions of the castle, in one of the wings (of the Priests House) and we were unable to show them the center tower – the very lofty hall.

At 7.15 my husband and I went up to dress for dinner, my room was in extremity of the house from kitchens, his dressing room next door to mine. Whilst dressing I was startled by a loud yell of a terror stricken male and female voices apparently coming from the hall – and I ran out to see the cause.My husband was out first, well ahead of me. I at his heels passed through the corridor wing and onto the gallery wing that surrounds two sides of tall hall. Two lamps on the gallery and two more in hall below. It was on the gallery, leaning with ‘hands’ resting on the rail I saw the Thing – and smelt it only too well.

At the same moment my husband pulled up sharply about 10 feet from the Thing, and half turning let fly a volley of abuses at me ending up “Dressing up a thing like that to try and make a fool of me. And now you’ll say I’ve seen something and I have not seen anything and there is nothing to see, or ever was. This last speech without a pause, begun waving one hand at the Thing end up by stalking back to his dressing room still abusing me for trying to give him a fright. As he was speaking to the Elemental it grew fainter and fainter until it disappeared. By the sounds from my husband’s room I judged he was employed as I was myself in preparing an empty spot for our coming dinner.He never made any inquiry as to the yell that called us both out, and from that day to this has not mentioned the incident to me.

I heard from our servants that when we went to dress for dinner they had brought their friends just to show them the hall, when all four has suddenly seen ands melt the Elemental looking down at them from the gallery. We all got such a turn, we couldn’t help letting out a bawl then fled to servants quarters where all 4 were very

The Most Haunted Team

One of the cameraman from the filming crew of the television show Most Haunted, describes his encounter with an unknown entity, presumed to be the same elemental encountered during the filming of the television documentary, 18 June 2002.

“I traveled to Leap Castle in order to make a show for a local TV network and this was my first time in the notorious castle I had heard so much about.  So the show went well but I wanted to try the UV on the camcorder whilst still shooting.I had sensed something down the old access to the battlements earlier and never went down.  I climbed the stairs with the camcorder in front, the light from the UV allowed me to see about 6 ft ahead and no more so I climbed slowly. I opened the Gothic style door and made my way slowly down the narrow passage, about 10ft in I thought I saw something move and I lifted my head, I could feel something was wrong but I had no idea what.

This time with the camera dropped I thought I saw a glow come from around the corner and then it went back in.I stood and studied this for a while and thought it may be a side effect of the UV which can be common, a few steps more and my body was weakening fast, it was a strange sensation.  Suddenly this mass of white like mist raced around the corner like a bull, even the rubbish on the floor scattered as it approached at speed. The passage was tight and I turned to my left to try and get out but it was too late, I felt the pain as if something had just pierced under my right rib cage and went all the way through to the back.

This startled me a little and we proceeded to arrange shooting in the cellars. he audio refused to tape again in the cellars and I felt really odd, I was sweating heavily and was becoming very weak and drowned in dread.  Right after the incident in the tunnel it felt as if a hole in my chest had been punctured on a spiritual level and my life was seeping into the stones.  In order to describe it and let the reader understand they would have had to experience a large blood loss sometime in their lives.  As they felt the blood drain this weakness would become prominent, other words they were experiencing the onset of death……I was dying.”

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