Paranormal Dublin – 9 Spooky locations
As a country blessed intermittently by sunshine and even temperate weather, Ireland is becoming known as an activity based destination. While ghostly hauntings and general paranormal activity in itself would not necessarily prove a huge draw, it certainly appears to be a pursuit that is growing and catered for in Dublin with a wide array of ghost tours by bus and on foot.
Without straying very far from the city centre, Dublin offers no less than 9 and perhaps a good many more places of interest to the inquisitive with even a passing interest in the paranormal. One of horror’s most celebrated authors, Bram Stoker was born, raised and lived in Dublin and it is believed his story of Dracula was inspired by events around Ballybough cemetery (located close to where Stoker lived), otherwise known as the “suicide plot”, which was used for suicide victims, robbers and highwaymen, through whose corpses’ hearts, wooden stakes were driven least these unfortunate souls should rise from their graves to trouble the locals.
See our interactive Story Map of Spooky Dublin here
- Michan’s Church – Coordinates: 53.348155 -6.275309
Located a stone’s throw from the Four Courts, St. Michan’s Church is a Protestant church of the Anglican Communion and dates from 1095 which is coincidentally the same year that Pope Urban II preached a sermon which most historians consider the spark that fuelled a wave of military campaigns to wrest the Holy Land from Muslim control. Could this be the reason why one of this church’s skeletal inhabitants, a six and a half foot man, is believed to have been a soldier returned from the Crusades? Either his legs were broken, or his body cut in half in order to fit into the coffin. One of his hands is raised with a finger slightly lifted and it is considered good luck to touch this digit. In the same crypt, laid on the ground in front of the crusader, there are 3 coffins with the lids removed. On either side is a woman and a nun and in the centre, the remains of a man whose hand has been removed along with both his feet. He is believed to have been a thief, so the mutilation was either the result of a punishment or quite simply to fit him also into his coffin.
A crypt further into the vault holds the coffins of the Sheare brothers who were executed following the Rising of 1798. They were sentenced to the standard British punishment for traitors, that is to be hanged, drawn and quartered. However, a late reprieve meant that both were hanged, but only one was decapitated. All remains in the underground vault display a remarkable state of preservation, due to the high concentration of lime and also perhaps because it lies low and near the bed of the River Liffey. This is not a tour for the faint of heart.
- The Brazen Head. – Coordinates: 345724 -6.276263
Known as the oldest pub in Ireland, the Brazen Head played host to rebel leader Robert Emmet, who used the location for various meetings. Emmet organised a rebellion against the British in 1803 which proved largely ineffectual and amounted to little more than a disturbance in the area of Thomas Street, a street which connects the Brazen Head with the location of Emmet’s execution outside St. Catherine’s Church.
Emmet insisted on seeing his sweetheart Sarah Curran before fleeing the country after the attempted rebellion and this cost him his life. This misstep and his parting letter to her led Emmet to become known as a legendary romantic character, appealing to the Victorian Era’s appetite for Romanticism.
As family members and friends of Robert had also been arrested, including some who had nothing to do with the rebellion, no one came forward to claim his remains out of fear of arrest. Emmet’s final resting place is not known for certain, though many believe he was interred in the grounds of St. Michan’s Church.
Emmet’s ghost is said to remain in the Brazen Head, still looking out for the enemies of Ireland.
- Audoen’s Church. – Coordinates: 53.344505 -6.273619
St. Audoen’s Church was built in 1190 by the Anglo-Normans who had arrived in Dublin some years earlier, it was named after a 7th century French saint named St.Ouen (or Audoen). St Audoen’s Church was built in 1190 by the Anglo-Normans who had arrived in Dublin some years earlier, it was named after a 7th century French saint named St.Ouen (or Audoen). The church steps lead down to the only remaining gatehouse of the original Dublin City Wall, one time known as the Gate of Hell.
A story related to the church is the ghost named ‘The Green Lady’. Otherwise thought to be the ghost of Darkey Kelly who lived in this locality during the 18th century, who was thought to be either an innkeeper, a prostitute, or a madam who ran her own brothel.
She came into contact with Sheriff Simon Luttrell, who himself was linked with members of the notorious Hellfire Club (a group of wealthy men interested in debauchery and the occult). Darkey, it is believed became pregnant with Luttrell and she found herself accused of killing the infant and perhaps also witchcraft.
She was sentenced to death and publicly burned at St Stephen’s Green in 1746. Apparitions of “A Green Lady” have been reportedly seen at the bottom of the forty steps that lead to this church.
- Olympia Theatre. – Coordinates: 344502 -6.266090
Initially known as The Star of Erin music hall in 1879, this intimate, yet opulent theatre went through many name changes before its present day name of The Olympia Theatre which was conferred in 1923.
The first screening of a cinematic film took place in the Star of Erin in 1896 which was a Lumiére brothers film which, it is believed, in part inspired James Joyce and his sister to open Ireland’s first cinema, the Volta Electric Theatre, located at 45 Mary Street.
The ghost of Charlie Parker is said to haunt the Olympia Theatre. After a sustained period of paranormal activity, a medium was brought in. The other worldly manifestation was known to be that of a young boy and the staff took to calling him Charlie and the medium identified his surname as “Parker”. Charlie was a regular visitor to the theatre bar where glasses started to fly from behind the bar and smash on the ground and the coins in the till started to jump up and down on a regular basis. But Charlie is not the only ghost in The Olympia. Also seen by staff walking up and down the centre aisle is a pall bearer, but he’s seen as harmless, even being referred to as a friendly ghost.
- Shelbourne Hotel. – Coordinates: 339597 -6.256172
The Shelbourne Hotel was built by Martin Burke in 1824 from Tipperary, replacing 3 town houses on the edge of St. Stephen’s Green, the largest square garden in Europe and named it after the 2nd Earl of Shelbourne, William Petty.
In 2013, Lily Collins, a Hollywood actress appeared on the Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night show and related a chilling experience she had, while staying at the Shelbourne as she filmed in Dublin. Ms Collin’s related how she felt a presence in her room as she woke in the night. She opened her eyes and heard a giggle. She then felt a rush of air across her body, followed by the slamming of a number of doors. Lily spoke to staff the next morning and was then told stories about a ghost named Mary Masters.
Mary is believed to be seven years of age and is said to haunt the floor where Lily was staying. The misfortunate 7 year old is believed to have died from a cholera outbreak in 1846 and lived in the buildings which stood before the Shelbourne Hotel was built. Over the years, Mary has reportedly been sighted in the basement of the hotel by staff stocking the wine cellar or doing the laundry.
- Drimnagh Castle. – Coordinates: 325112 -6.331912
Drimnagh Castle‘s earliest recorded owner was Sir Hugh de Bernival, recorded in state papers relating to 1216. His family, owners of Drimnagh Castle for centuries, were later known as Barnewell, sometimes Barnewall. The castle has an association with a tragic story of lost love and it’s the story of Eleanora. The legend goes that Eleanora was coerced into marrying her cousin Edmund in place of the man she loved, Sean O’Byrne.
The wedding took place and a fight took place between both suitors from which both men died. One story goes that in her grief, Eleanora threw herself from the walls of Drimnagh Castle to her death and another says she left the castle to find Sean’s grave in the Dublin Mountains where she remained until exposure to the harsh elements claimed her life also. Eleanora’s broken hearted apparition has been observed many times wandering Drimnagh Castle in search of her love.
- Kilmainham Gaol. – Coordinates: 342600 -6.309934
It will come as no surprise that an historic gaol such as Kilkmainham has associations with other worldly manifestations. Many people suffered and died within it’s cold stone walls and signatories to the proclamation were executed here. Built in 1796, originally, public hangings of the condemned took place at the front of the prison. A small hanging cell was built in the prison in 1891. It is located on the first floor, between the west wing and the east wing.
Restored in the 1960’s, today it stands as Ireland’s largest unoccupied prison and is said to be haunted, not so much by the many unfortunates who suffered its confines, but rather by those who harshly imposed the insufferable conditions (particularly through the famine years), such as prisons wardens and guards. Many eerie stories have been told about Kilmainham Gaol, such as lights turning on and off in the prison chapel and powerful gusts of wind rising from nowhere and pinning the unwary against walls. A painter working in the prison experienced one such phenomenon and was so shaken, refused to enter the prison ever again. Footsteps have often been heard in areas where no one is present and children have been known to refuse to proceed further into the prison than the entrance threshold.
- Wolfe Tone Square. – Coordinates: 348184 -6.266821
The hospital was founded by six Dublin surgeons as the Charitable Infirmary in Cook St., Dublin, then moving its location to King’s Inn Quay and finally Jervis St. in 1796. St. Mary’s graveyard was still in use up to 1855. One of the more infamous occupants of the graveyard was Lord Norbury. Known as the hanging judge, John Toler, 1st Earl of Norbury, his most famous trial was that of the Irish nationalist leader Robert Emmet. Norbury interrupted and abused Emmet throughout the trial before sentencing him to death.
A young man from Blanchardstown was tried, found guilty and sentenced to hang for sheep stealing and his widow died some months later from a broken heart. It is said that she cursed Lord Norbury and swore that his soul would never be at rest. Toler’s ghost has associations with an area from Cabra to St. Mary’s graveyard and it is said that people hear the dragging of chains along this route as this was his punishment for his blood lust as Lord Chief Justice.
- Patrick’s Cathedral. – Coordinates: 53.34082 -6.273641
Captain John McNeil Boyd R.N. was master of the Ajax while she was in Dún Laoghaire. A great storm, described as a once in a century event, blew up on 8th February 1861. Between Wicklow Head and Howth Head, something like 29 vessels were lost and Boyd bravely organised rescues. The Captain and his crew tried desperately, to save the lives of shipwrecked sailors. However, Boyd and 5 of his crew were lost, the rest of the Ajax crew were decorated for bravery and promoted.
A lifeboat was launched to search for the Captain, despite little hope of rescue. In the rescue boat was the Captain’s loyal dog, a black Newfoundland hound, but he wasn’t found. Captain McNeill Boyd’s body was eventually given up by the sea along with many others and his funeral drew one of the largest crowds seen by Dubliners.
The Captain was buried in Glasnevin Cemetery and the people of Dublin erected a commemorative statue to his memory in St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Refusing to leave his master’s graveside or to eat from another hand, the Captain’s distressed dog eventually starved itself to death.
Sightings of the dog were seen both at the graveside of his master in Glasnevin Cemetery and at the foot of his statue in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, most frequently at the foot of the Captain’s statue.
See our interactive Story Map of Spooky Dublin here
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Written by: Patrick Kenny OSi