WHEN IT COMES to its spooky past, Ireland has lots to offer. From cholera epidemics to haunted train stations, there are many things in Ireland that would make the hair on the back of your neck stand up.
Here are six of the best ways that Ireland is seriously spooky…
A cholera epidemic in Sligo (probably) was the inspiration behind Dracula
David Niven as Dracula (PA/PA Archive/Press Association Images)
Where did the writer of Dracula, Dublin’s own Bram Stoker, get the inspiration for his legendary tale? His mother’s frightening bedtime stories. Catherine Stoker (née Thornley), was a Sligo native, who lived through the cholera epidemic that struck the area in 1832, killing 600 people. She told her young son (who was born the year the Famine struck Ireland) about the horrors she saw – which included mass graves and coffin makers who reputedly used to knock on doors at night looking for bodies of the dead. Not quite the childhood tales we used to be told before bed.
It has frightening place names
When it comes to place names, we’re quite good at choosing spooky ones in Ireland. Take Misery Hill, for example. No prizes for guessing that Misery Hill didn’t get its name from any positive happenings there. It’s now in the redeveloped Dockland area, and betrays little sign of its past, but in the 18th and 19th centuries it was the site of many a horrible happening. As historian Turtle Bunbury explains, people suffering from leprosy who didn’t have the money to stay in a hospice stayed there, but it was also where the bodies of people executed at Gallows Hill would be strung up as a warning. It was certainly not the kind of place that people imagined would become a swish, busy area in the 21st century.
The Devil visited the Wicklow Mountains
If you haven’t heard about the Hellfire Club, and its dark and quite frightening history, let us fill you in a bit. Located on Montpelier Hill in the Dublin Mountains, the Hellfire Club is believed to be one of Ireland’s most haunted locations. It certainly has a dark and dastardly history, being reputedly the site of much sinister, hellish and downright nasty behaviour. There were a number of Hellfire Clubs in Ireland and the UK, but did we mention that the Devil is said to have visited the one in Dublin? Built by William Connolly in 1725, originally as a hunting lodge, only the ruins of that particular Hellfire Club exist today. But if you’re so inclined, you can take a nighttime tour of the location, which promises to be ‘the most terrifying experience in Dublin’. Er, sign us up.
We love a haunted hotel
Haunted hotels? We’ve got ‘em. There’s Ballygally Castle Hotel in Co Antrim, which once was home to a woman who was imprisoned by her husband for the ‘crime’ of giving birth to a girl; Kilkea Castle, which is reputedly home to the ghost of a Wizard Earl; and Cabra Castle in Co Cavan, where guests have experienced many strange occurrences. But that’s only the beginning of it…
…And even our train stations could be haunted
Has there been poltergeist activity in Connolly station? Back in 2011, the Irish Ghost Hunters went on a special mission there to find out if poltergeists were lurking inside, after receiving reports of strange activity. Given that the train station opened in 1844 and lies near the North Strand, which was bombed in 1941, there were plenty of reasons to suspect paranormal figures at work (if you’re into that sort of thing, which the IGH clearly are). Here’s how the IGH got on during their investigation:
It features in (at least) three episodes of Murder She Wrote
Who doesn’t love Jessica Fletcher? Sure, there just happens to be death in the exact place she visits, er, every time she visits it, but isn’t she the best person to have to hand if someone falls foul of a murderer? Ireland’s rural setting, ‘big houses’, ghost stories and family secrets inspired a few episodes, but being brutally honest, at times the most frightening aspect of the show was the woeful Irish accents. Plus, did you know that Angela Lansbury lives in Ireland? She really loves us, it’s true.