Leap Castle- Haunted by A Bloody Past (History & Travel Tips)

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Leap Castle is a stunning Gothic style castle in County Offaly, Ireland. Numerous stories of spirits and intriguing ghost tales surround the castle. A brutal and bloody history gives rise to many stories about wandering spirits in the castle. Due to the frequent reports of paranormal activities around Leap Castle, it is regarded as one of Ireland’s most haunted locations.

By now, you must be curious to know more about this haunted castle. So, let’s explore some interesting facts and more information about this Gothic structure and what makes it a famous Irish tourist attraction.

The tenth season Halloween special of Ghost Adventures from Travel Channel was filmed in the castle.

The front view of Leap Castle.
The front view of Leap Castle. Leap Castle_Offaly (11) flickr photo by laoiscyclist.blogspot.com shared with no copyright restrictions using Creative Commons Public Domain Mark (PDM)
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Frequently Asked Questions

FOR HISTORY | BEAUTIFUL IMAGES | INTERESTING FACTS | TRAVEL TIPS

Early History

Early Construction of Leap Castle (11th-15th Century)

The construction date of Leap Castle’s tower is a subject of significant debate, with some saying it was built in the 1250s and others saying it wasn’t until the 1500s. There is no known correct answer. However, it is widely acknowledged that the defensive tower house of the castle was built over an Iron Age settlement site.

Leap Castle as the O’Bannon’s Residence (16th Century)

Leap Castle’s most well-known part in history began in the 16th century when the O’Bannon family chose the site as its residence. Leim Ui Bhanain, or “Leap of the O’Bannons,” is how the castle came to be named. According to history, two O’Bannon brothers vying to rule the clan settle their conflict by a contest of ability: leaping over the castle’s site to determine who would retain power. The heroic survivor became chief after the brothers leaped off the rocks where the castle was later erected.

Leap Castle was later taken over by the O’Carroll family, who frequently used it to carry out rivalry-related killings and even assassinate one another. As the O’Carroll heirs slaughtered their warriors and dinner guests before being assassinated by vengeful relatives, the castle transferred from generation to generation. There are rumors that the victims’ ghosts still wander Leap Castle.

A look of the inside of Leap Castle.
A look of the inside of Leap Castle. DSC00943 flickr photo by Michnessiest shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Leap Castle as Darby’s Residence (17th Century)

Cromwell’s soldier Jonathon Darby obtained the castle in 1649 as a reward for his support in the continuing conflicts in Ireland. Some sources even assert that Darby wed a daughter of the O’Carroll family. Leap Castle remained home to the Darby family for several generations.

Destruction of Leap Castle (20th Century)

Leap Castle was burned down and destroyed in 1922 during the Irish Civil War. An Australian descendant of the O’Bannon family, Peter Bartlett, bought the abandoned castle in 1974. Before his passing in 1989, he started the castle’s renovations. Later, a couple, Sean and Anne Ryan decided to buy the castle. Leap Castle is still privately held by the Ryan family, who are working on the castle’s reconstruction.

Some part of the Leap Castle.
Some part of the Leap Castle. DSC00946 flickr photo by Michnessiest shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Ghost Stories Associated with Leap Castle 

The violent and gruesome deaths that have occurred at Leap Castle in the past have prompted several horror stories about incidents that took place there. The castle is linked to a variety of narratives, these are a few of the most famous:

Screaming Woman 

According to reports, Darby saw a woman and heard her screams while visiting Leap Castle. Darby saw the paranormal figure while walking towards the back staircase; when she opened the door, she heard someone coming upstairs. The ghost of the murdered woman walked past her to the window and then fell with a heavy shriek. The current castle owner, Ryan, is also said to have heard a woman’s screams.

Oubliette or the Dungeon 

In one of the Bloody Chapel’s corners is a tiny room called the oubliette. Its original function was as a safe for valuables but it could also be used as a siege cover. The word “Oubliette” means “to forget” in French. The O’Carrolls stopped thinking about someone after throwing them into the chamber.

Behind a chapel wall, during renovations to the castle in the 1900s, workers discovered this oubliette. They found that there were numerous human skeletons stacked on wooden spikes at the bottom of the shaft. It required three cartloads to discard the bones after cleaning. The dungeon is currently covered to prevent access by outsiders. The O’Carrolls allegedly dropped visitors through the secret door to be killed eight feet below on the spikes. The mid-1800s date of a little gold pocket watch discovered simultaneously demonstrates how recently the oubliette may have been utilized.

A view from Leap Castle's courtyard.
A view from Leap Castle’s courtyard.DSC00958 flickr photo by Michnessiest shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Bloody Chapel

It is said that many of the lost souls who reside in Leap Castle can be found lingering around the Bloody Chapel. A significant number of individuals who travel by the castle after midnight have witnessed light emanating from the higher windows of the structure, creating an eerie atmosphere. 

During the competition for leadership, one of the O’Carroll brothers is said to have brutally put an end to the life of the O’Carroll priest. The story comes from the Bloody Chapel, adding to its mysterious tales. According to the legend, the priest began a ritual before the brother arrived, which was considered very disrespectful at the time. The brother killed the priest in cold blood in front of everyone.

There have been sightings of what is said to be the priest’s soul hanging around on the staircase close to the chapel.

Red Lady 

Another terrifying ghost story is of the Red Lady. An O’Carroll clan member supposedly took her prisoner after being kidnapped by one of their members.

She allegedly gave birth to one of the O’Carroll children after being sexually harassed by multiple members of the family. This made the O’Carrolls unhappy, and they expressed their displeasure by stating that they could not pay for her for another month.

It is speculated that one of the clan members used a dagger to kill the youngster. It is reported that the understandably distressed mother seized the blade and proceeded to take her own life.

Over the years, several people have reported seeing the “Red Lady.” It is said that she is a very tall woman who always wears red. Rumors have it that she always carries the blade used against her child.

A look at Leap Castle interior.
A look at Leap Castle interior. Leap Castle_Offaly (9) flickr photo by laoiscyclist.blogspot.com shared with no copyright restrictions using Creative Commons Public Domain Mark (PDM)

Emily and Charlotte 

There have been sightings of a young girl named Charlotte and another named Emily reportedly climbing and descending the winding stairway. It is believed that they lived in the castle in the 17th Century. Emily was killed when she fell from the battlements on the top of the castle’s tower; Charlotte can still be seen chasing after her sister and shouting out her name.

Numerous witnesses claim to have seen a girl fall from the castle, but she vanishes before touching the ground. In contrast, Charlotte has been seen by many people walking with a deformed leg and dragging it behind.

The Elemental 

Unquestionably one of the intriguing ghosts in Leap Castle is the Elemental. There is a lot of mystery and suspense surrounding this spirit. Although the first contact, origin, and precise nature of the Elemental is a mystery, many speculations have developed over the years about what might have happened. 

Before the castle was built, it was often believed that the Elemental was positioned there by druids to protect the sacred spot used for initiations and druidic sorcery. 

Another idea is that an invading troop left the Elemental to set the Castle on fire from within. Gerald Fitzgerald Earl of Kildare is allegedly the offender. He was a well-known magician who had repeatedly attempted to seize the castle’s control.

According to local folklore, the Elemental is the ghost of an ancient O’Carroll who passed away from leprosy in the castle. This is supposed to cause the rotting face characteristics and a horrible odor accompanying the spirit’s presence.

It is said that Mildred Darby provoked the spirit of Elemental due to her occult dabbling. She saw the Elemental for the first time, around sheep-size, with a human visage, dark holes for eyes, and a rotten corpse-like odor. However, the current owner has never said to have any sight of the elemental. 

Current Times

Leap Castle is currently regarded as one of the eeriest locations in Ireland and the entire world. The castle is owned by Sean Ryan and his wife Anne, who bought the property in 1989 and are working to restore it. 

The castle attracts a lot of visitors that are interested in investigating paranormal phenomena. Since it is private property, it does not have many visitors but can be seen with the owners’ consent under their guidance. 

A closer look of Leap Castle's structure.
A closer look of Leap Castle’s structure. Leap Castle_Offaly (7) flickr photo by laoiscyclist.blogspot.com shared with no copyright restrictions using Creative Commons Public Domain Mark (PDM)

Interesting Leap Castle Facts

Leap Castle is the subject of numerous intriguing facts. Below is a list of a few of them:

  • Many paranormal investigators have visited the castle, including investigators from Living TV’s Most Haunted, ABC Family’s Scariest Places on Earth, and The Atlantic Paranormal Society.
  • The tenth season Halloween special of Ghost Adventures from Travel Channel was filmed in the castle.
  • Leap Castle was burnt and destroyed during the Irish Civil War in 1922. 
  • It was believed that the local people had set the castle on fire a few times in the past. 

Visiting Leap Castle – Tips and Tricks

Visiting Leap Castle can be a challenging and adventurous tour. Here are some pointers and advice to keep in mind when making travel plans to Leap Castle.

Castle Leap Central tower, gutted wing on left.
Castle Leap Central tower, gutted wing on left. D. Brands, CC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Leap Castle?

Leap Castle is about 1 hour and 45 minutes from Galway, Dublin, and Cork. You cannot get there by bus because it is in the middle of nowhere. You can only get there by private car. 

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

The price to enter the castle is very low, around €6 ($6 USD) per person. The owners of the castle intend to use this money for restoration projects. As the castle is private property, there are generally no specified times to visit the castle. The castle is open from Monday to Saturday, usually. To schedule a time for a guided tour of the castle, it is best to get in touch with the proprietors.

Things To Do at Leap Castle 

Here are some activities you can do at the castle:

  • As the castle is now private property, you cannot access every corner of it but if you visit this historic gothic castle, be sure to see the upper part of it, which is still in ruins.
  • Ask the property owner, Sean Ryan, to share any ghostly encounters he had if you are interested in hearing more ghost stories.

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

A complete tour of the castle can take about 1-2 hours.

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • The castle has an eerie vibe, given its bloody history. It is advisable to not bring children with you on your visit to Leap Castle. 
  • Visit Leap Castle for a thrill if you are interested in paranormal incidents but be cautious. Ghost stories and sightings are frightening subjects to many people; thus, bringing suitable companions along for this adventure is essential. 
  • Make sure you follow the proprietor’s advice and do not wander off alone on castle grounds. 

Quick Video Tour of The Main Leap Castle Areas

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Kainat Khalid
Kainat Khalid
Kainat is an English literature graduate with a profound interest in historical architecture. She has studied and explored the dusted pages of history for years which has ignited her passion to explore the existing remnants of our past glory and revisit them from a revised perspective. “There is no present without the past” is what she believes in and what drove her to begin cataloging these timeless historical monuments.

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