Saturday, September 23, 2017
During the time contemporary to and following World War I, there was and explosion in what was then called spiritualism or mentalism. Spiritualism is a religious movement revolving around communicating with the dead via a medium. This explosion was brought on by the massive number of people that died in the war and of sickness during this time period. One of the more bizarre activities that became prevalent in this movement was the appearance of ectoplasm. Ectoplasm is a term used to define a physical manifestation of the supernatural and it usually came out of the medium's nose, mouth, or ears. The term, defined by Charles Richet, meant spiritual energy externalized by psychics. It was for many years, used as absolute confirmation that the supernatural was tangible and provable. It was supposed to be the physical remains of a ghostly presence. Ghosts were there and they were real and the medium could prove it by showing ectoplasm.
Ectoplasm was so believed in that it was featured in respectable scientific journals and it's existence was confirmed by the great minds of the time including William Butler Yeats and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It was so believed in that Scientific America sought to do a study on it and offered a $5,000 reward to anyone who could demonstrate the release of ectoplasm in front of a scientific panel. This reward lead to the beginning of the end of the scientific validity of ectoplasm.
What was discovered was both revolting and eye opening. Although many techniques and materials have been used by mediums to produce ectoplasm, the medium examined by this panel was found to be storing a sheep gut and fat mixture in a sack in her vagina which she expulsed at the appropriate time to make it appear as if she was expelling ectoplasm. Further research into other psychics revealed many other grotesque techniques for producing this fraudulent material. Some women learned how to regurgitate on demand and swallowed yards of muslin and cheese cloth which they would vomit on command. Others stored materials in their rectum.
Although this story is disgusting. It is more about the disgustingness that is possible within humanity when exploiting the needs of those suffering from the lost of a loved one than the vileness of the actual act. Although I love a good ghost story, it is always amazing to me how much more horrifying live people can be than ghosts. Ghosts have never been shown to leave real ectoplasm, but it is amazing how many mediums were shown to be literally pulling it from there asses.
Monday, September 4, 2017
I love ghost stories and believe in the paranormal. I believe in ghosts and demons. I also have graduate degrees in clinical and counseling psychology and have been practicing as a licensed therapist in inpatient and outpatient psychiatric settings for more than fifteen years. As a writer and collector of ghost stories, I have noticed a distinct increase in articles and stories about demonic possession. I have good friends who have tried to classify demonic possessions. They tell histories of demonic possession and try to support those that are seeking an exorcism. On this blog, I have even written about the story behind the infamous exorcist possession. If any psychological or psychiatric professional in the world was going to argue and support the fact that demonic possession was a real spiritual state, it would be me. But in truth, I believe that there is nothing more dangerous and deadly to mental health care in the world than anyone supporting the delusion that demonic possession is a real thing. I know many of you may be mad at me for saying this, but please read on before you form any conclusions.
I have been practicing for over fifteen years. In that time, a good 90% of my psychotic patients have had delusions revolving around demonic or spiritual attack of some kind. I live in a very religious area and the culture of Alabama supports these delusions. According to Pfeifer (Psychopathology, 1999), 56% of psychotic patients suffer from delusions with “demonic attributions.” Pfeifer found that belief systems play a strong role in how patients perceive and respond to their psychotic delusions. This means that if a patient hears the devil and feels the devil but strongly believes in mental health they will seek psychiatric care and recover. However, if a patient believes in the devil and seeks a preacher or witch doctor, they will never get psychiatric care and their condition will deteriorate. McCormik et al.’s researcher (Behavioral Neurology, 1992) supports this. It shows that culture and the belief system of the patient strongly predicts how a psychotic patient with delusions of “demonic attributions” will recover. The more primitive and steeped in the belief that possession is real the patient’s cultural and belief system are the less likely they are to recover.
Recently, a patient I had been seeing for months shot herself in the head (This case study has been made false enough to protect the patient’s HIPPA rights but the guts of the story are real). For months, I had been trying to convince her to take her medication. She had been going to her preacher for fifteen years and he had convinced her she was possessed by the devil and that all her bad behaviors were the devil acting through her. Since she was psychotic and really didn’t want to take responsibility for beating her children and having them taken from her by CPS, she really wanted to believe her preacher. My answer was less appealing. It put personal responsibility on her. She beat her children. She could have stopped if she ever took her medicine. The preacher told her the devil had convinced her that her children wanted to kill her. She heard voices telling her that her children wanted to kill her. So she went through sixty-five independent exorcism rituals over the course of her life. Her family encouraged this. They didn’t believe in mental health care but they sure as hell believed in the devil. When she could no longer take the devil in her head, she killed herself. In session, she talked about all the websites she read that encouraged her to believe in possession. She talked about Emily Rose and the Exorcist. These things were real to her. She had been forced to take her medications twice in her life. Once when she was in jail and once when she wanted to get her children back. During these periods, she had improved, but families and preachers had always convinced her to stop her meds. When she stopped taking her medication, the devil returned.
I have seen innumerable cases like this. I have won some battles and got patients to take their medications and been blessed enough to see how quickly medication can cure a demonic possession. I have lost some battles and had patients either refuse to take their medications or not take them long enough to see real change. I have never seen anything that would make me believe that any patient claiming to be possessed was actually influenced by a supernatural force. I have seen ghosts and shadow people. I don’t pretend they don’t exist, but I know possession doesn’t exist.
My first run in with mental illness came when I was a very young girl. A family member of mine suffered from psychosis and believed the devil was trying to torment him. He sought help from a priest who called to have him admitted and he was forcibly admitted into the state hospital. Even most priests know that psychosis usually manifests in delusions of persecution and that persecution often has demonic overtones.
I have been working with mental illness for a long time now and I know what it feels like to lose a patient and there is nothing more heartbreaking to me than when it isn’t the patient’s fault, but the fault of those around them, pushing them away from help that is so easily obtained. It wasn’t long ago that there was no help for psychosis. We had to give psychotic patients lobotomies, lock them up, or send them to priests and preachers. That was all there was. These things failed. Historically, they all always failed. The stories of the people who suffered through these treatments make the backbones of many of the most infamous ghost stories. But now we can really treat these ailments. These people can have somewhat normal lives. Why push them back into the darkness?
There are several true possession stories I often hear told again and again as evidence that possession is real. One is the famous story of Emily Rose. This story dates back to 1974. Modern medicine has grown by leaps and bounds since this story. In neuropsychiatry and psychiatry, 1974 might as well be 1600. Yes, medicine couldn't help her then, but I would be willing to bet it could help her now. The first very limited antipsychotics weren't even invented until the 1960s. Clozapine wasn't invented until the 1960s and wasn't introduced to the public until the 1970s. So to site possession cases in the 1970s before the medications to treat psychosis were even available is to like saying you can't cure the plague and it was sent by the devil based on data from 1100. I am sure Emily Rose felt like the devil was tormenting her. There is nothing more tragic than talking to someone who is actively psychotic. Working with patients that are actively psychotic does feel like talking to someone influenced by the devil. They are really going through the trials of the devil. But these torments are now treatable with medicine. The truth is stories like Emily's are even more tragic because she was a very sick girl who could have been saved if she had lived now.
Friday, August 18, 2017
This maddening smoke alarm behavior got me thinking about whether or not a ghost could produce this type of behavior in a smoke alarm. My preliminary research showed that many people have this problem. I found countless message boards where people have asked if a haunting could produce an alarm going off every night at the same time. One person hypothesized the following on a yahoo message board, "If the theory about ghosts being a collection of energy is true, then yes, they could manipulate electrical equipment to do such things, powering if from their own energy." This made sense to me. This theory is supported by the large number of people that describe this type of smoke alarm activity in haunted locations. Stories like this one from Castle of Spirits http://www.castleofspirits.com/stories03/smokedet.html are prolific. Another interesting smoke alarm ghost story can be found a http://www.yourghoststories.com/real-ghost-story.php?story=3449.
While my husband was in medical school, he worked in the Morgue. The morgue was located in the basement of the hospital and was isolated from everything else. The work was easy and we could sit together and watch movies and play games. Bodies didn't come in often and we were the only ones there. Every night the smoke alarm went off in front of the cooler where the bodies were kept at 3am on the nose. It was like clockwork. It went off for five or ten minutes and then went quiet. It was more than creepy, especially when you are spending the night alone at the morgue.
So, theoretically a passing spirit or ghost could produce the type of behavior we've observed in our smoke alarms here. I also wanted to investigate non supernatural possibilities for my faulty smoke alarms. I did my reading and found that there are many things that can contribute to smoke alarms going off at the wrong time. Many modern smoke alarms are also triggered by intense heat. So, if it is very hot and your attic is excessively hot sometimes that will heat the ceiling and trigger the smoke alarm. Also, if hot steam from a shower rises up this could trigger the smoke alarm. It is also always possible that the things are broken and need repair. I could easily rule out the smoke alarm being broken by talking to my builder. I could also rule out the attic heat hypothesis by going up into my attic and finding that it was not really hot up there. That left the steam possibility. My son does shower every night around nine and after examining his behavior, I think he was setting off the alarm by opening the bathroom door and releasing all the hot steam onto the smoke detector.
Our house is not haunted, but that doesn't make the number of cases of smoke alarms going off without any reason less interesting. I have never found an explanation for the alarm that went off at the morgue. The alarm was a hospital alarm that was checked regularly due to tight hospital regulations. It was in front of the cooler and the air around it was cooler than the rest of the hospital and since the morgue was in the basement there was no attic above it. My husband and I still tend to believe that the phantoms of the dead locked up in that rancid smelling cooler drifted out late at night, setting off the alarm.
Monday, August 14, 2017
In the 16th century, the castle became the residence of the royal family. During the period from 1536 to 1664, Dragsholm Castle was also used as a prison for noble prisoners. In the large tower at the northeast corner of the castle, prison cells were made. Some of the most well-known prisoners at Dragsholm Castle include the last catholic Bishop in Roskilde, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the mad squire, Ejler Brockenhuus. The Earl of Bothwell was subjected to particularly horrible treatment in the tower and was tied to a pillar and left to rot. He was given just what was necessary to keep him alive and he was said to have gone mad.
The Earl of Bothwell is one of the most famous ghosts of Dragsholm. The Earl has been seen riding into the courtyard of the castle with his horse and carriage. Many visitors claim to have heard the horses hoof beats upon the cobbled yard.
The castle is also said to be haunted by two other ghosts. There is a white lady who is said to be a daughter of one of the bovles who owned the castle. She fell in love with a commoner and when her father found out he was so angry that he imprisoned her in the dreaded tower. She was more than imprisoned, legend says that he walled her up in her prison cell and left her to die. It is said that every night she returns to the castle and walks around the corridors. There have been numerous sightings of her. There is also factual evidence to support this story. In the 1930's, when the old walls of the castle were torn down, workers found a hole in the wall and a skeleton with a white dress in it.
The last ghost to haunt Dragsholm Castle is a gray lady. She is the rarest of the three ghost and is seldom seen or heard. She is believed to be the ghost of a young serving girl who died of a tooth ache. She lingers in the shadows, hiding from sight, looking for a light in the darkness.
Wednesday, August 9, 2017
According to Chattanooga writer, Cody Maxwell, sometime during this disaster the city came up with the idea of raising the streets of the city. It seems that the flooded and waterlogged citizens decided that if they just raised half the city streets up 20ft it would take care of the flooding because the water would be under the streets. Not only did they imagine this idea, they did it. All of this was very poorly documented and it wasn't until one gentleman noticed that the top parts of windows and doors were sticking out of the street that anyone remembered that a large portion of Chattanooga was under the street. Twenty feet beneath Market street there is an entire city waiting to be discovered.
This underground city is a regular stop on the Chattanooga ghost walk. According to the Chattanooga Ghost Tours owner, Amy Petulla, there is an entire city of ghosts under the streets of Chattanooga buried beneath the roads like part of the lost city. Amy Petulla regularly takes groups to parts of the underground to tell them about the haunted history of the city. She says that this is the most haunted part of the city and visitors have claimed to have been pushed, bitten, and grabbed in Underground Chattanooga.
Amy wrote a book about the ghosts of Chattanooga called, Haunted Chattanooga, and many of her terrifying stories of the things that happen beneath the streets can be found there.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
Unfortunately, Mary McCormick was mentally ill and suffered greatly during certain periods. At the time, treatment options were limited so they kept her locked in the house and had several nurses and staff to take care of her. During her lucid periods, Mary a wonderful woman who was known for her kindness and generosity. For her entire life, she needed nurses to help her care for her mental illness. Finally she had to retire to a sanitarium, leaving her beautiful house behind.
From 1932- 1975, the Kildare Mansion fell into disrepair. It decayed slowly as slums and lesser buildings slowly surrounded it hiding it's beauty in their sullen shadows. In 1975, the house was purchased by the Reeves, who lovingly restored the house to its original splendor It was during this time that the house was shown in the tour of historic homes and became a popular visit for haunt jaunters. The house's basement was notoriously haunted by the ghost of Mary McCormick. Still tormented by her madness, she apparently made quite a ruckus at night.
In 2005 the house was bought by a family whose name I won't mention. Since that time, the ghosts have become the least interesting part of this house. The house has always been a favorite site for anyone visiting Huntsville because of its historic significance, its beauty, and its haunted history. Many people drive by the house and photograph it. Since 2005, however, the new owners have spent a considerable amount of time watching out for anyone lingering near the house. If you drive by slowly or stop in front of the house, a woman will emerge screaming at you. Sometimes she'll curse and sometimes she'll use the garden hose to spray your car. Other times she would shine a spotlight on you and others she'll take pictures of you with her cell phone. No matter what the new owner does, it was always hostile and she seems to always be watching. She sat day and night waiting for those that linger too long, which might make one wonder if Mary McCormick's mental illness might not be spreading? Perhaps the house and its dark secrets have driven the new owner mad? Perhaps madness is part of the curse of the house? I drove by the house several times during this owner's occupancy. I brought my children and parked across the street and would never think of harrassing anyone. The woman came screaming from her home all three times. One time she threw rocks at my car. One time she just cursed at my children and I and called the police. Another time she threw grass and called the police. We were not on her property, we just wanted to see the legendary house that I had read so much about. I visit all the local historic houses and have always been able to sit quietly in my car and take photos. Some owners even offer tours and are on local tours. Kildare Castle is different. It sits in a shadow that spreads out beyond its ghosts. It almost feels cursed.
The house has become even more infamous in recent years as the owner has tried to put up a massive fence (13 feet tall) and the city stopped construction. The owner then decided to demolish the house. The city and local history buffs are fighting this action but the outcome is as of yet, unpredictable. Since the owners behavior remains outlandish, the behavior of locals has gotten even worse. Kids love to see the owner flip out and will sit in front of the house and honk their horn for hours to get a response. It is a tragedy. Please read the comments below this post as they tell so many stories from people who have actually lived in this home and in the neighborhood.
Some of the footage and information on the ongoing struggles and controversies surrounding this historic beauty can be seen at: http://www.kildaremansion.com/
Sunday, July 23, 2017
Searcy State Hospital is located in Mt. Vernon, Alabama. Prior to being a state hospital the old hospital has a long and dark history that is very difficult to find, but easy to see upon casual observation. The hospital is encased in long, chipped, white walls that seem as old as anything in the United States. From outside these walls, you can see a battered watchtower that gives testament to the fact that the hospital is in the same location as a 300 year old fort. The fort bears witness to American history. It was originally a French fort and then a Spanish Fort. It switched hands during the Louisiana Purchase and became a US fort. After the US took possession of the fort it was converted to a military arsenal and became known as the Mount Vernon Arsenal.
The Arsenal switched hands again several times and was taken by the Confederates during the civil war only to be passed back over the United States again in 1862. From 1887 to 1894, The Arsenal became a Barracks and was used as a prison for the captured Apache people. The most famous of the Apache people to be held in these barracks was Geronimo. There is a door in the lobby of the old hospital that is labeled as the door to Geronimo's cell. It is beautiful and intricate. Sadly, history notes that Geronimo was not kept in a cell during his stay at Mt. Vernon. He was allowed freedom to wander the barrack, so the door is just a lovely bit of folklore. The infamous Aaron Burr was also held at this secluded prison at some point after his notorious gun fight.
In 1900, the Barracks were transformed once again and the prison became a mental hospital. Searcy hospital was built as the African American mental hospital in Alabama. Conditions in the hospital were beyond questionable and at one time there were over 2000 patients in the crowded hospital and all were seen by one psychiatrist. All patients were expected to work in the fields. After I wrote my first story about Searcy, I learned more about the tragedies that took place here. I got numerous emails from family members of former patients asking if I had any access to records. Apparently, many African American families had family members taken from them, institutionalized here, and they were never seen or heard from again. I had an elderly lady write me asking if I could find out what happened to her mother. It broke my heart that I could not. She said her mother had been sane but had offended a white woman. The white woman had took her mother before a judge and no one ever heard from her again. The elderly lady just wanted to know where her mother was buried. Searcy was a place of unspeakable sorrow.
Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Poltergeists have always fascinated me. There are many theories about poltergeists. In folklore, a poltergeist is the apparent manifestation of an imperceptible but noisy, disruptive or destructive entity. Poltergeist means "noisy ghost" in German. Poltergeist cases differ from regular hauntings in that they are particularly loud and often cause objects to move. Physical harm to people is also possible in these cases. One of the most interesting types of poltergeist activity was featured in my favorite novel by Shirley Jackson, The Haunting of Hillhouse. The stone-throwing poltergeists are rare and difficult for skeptics to explain.
Stone-throwing poltergeist phenomena cases date back, at least, to 530 CE when it was recorded that Deacon, King Theodoric of the Ostrogoths’ physician, was besieged by stones. One of the more interesting cases of stone throwing poltergiest activity is the Grottendieck case. In 1903, a Dutch engineer living in Inodonesia, Grottendieck, awoke to a storm of rocks falling through the roof of his hut and hitting him in the head. Of course, this was concerning to Grottendieck who awoke a servant to help him figure out the origins of the rock storm. They explored the outside area around the hut and they found nothing that explained the rocks. Inside, the rocks continued to fall. They also began to change directions and started falling horizontally. Grottendieck was perplexed, but the serving boys was horrified and he ran away into the jungle.
No sooner had the boy fled than the rocks stopped falling. Grottendieck saved several of the stones and went to be. Grottendieck published a story on this incident in the Journal of the Society of Psychical Research. His hypothesis was that the stones had been sent by the ghost of his dead sister who was trying to communicate with him from beyond the grave. Many other researchers disagreed and believed that the rocks were a product of poltergeist activity brought on by the serving boy's subconscious mind. There was never any consensus on the cause of this strange case and people still conjecture as to what might have causes the strange falling stones.
In 1981, Ward End residents at Thornton Road told police they could not locate the source of stones being thrown that were causing significant damage to windows and roof tiles. The police were called in to investigate. They staked the properties out and waited. They stayed overnight. They used cameras and recording devices, but despite all their work, they couldn't find any observable source for the rocks that continued to besiege Ward End. Of course, they couldn't blame a poltergeist so they reported that the criminal must have used a long distance catapult.
Like all other poltergeist activity, there is no consensus on what causes the stone throwing incidents in these cases. Many believe that the stones are thrown by ghosts. Others believe that the telekinetic powers of certain people in crisis cause these events. Most believe that the rock throwing must be caused by some brilliant prankster who is capable of raining rocks on neighborhoods with handcrafted catapults'. Whatever the cause, I imagine in must be terrifying to look out your window and see rocks raining from the sky.
The second most haunted place in France is the famous cementery, Pere La Chaise. As far as I can tell, this necropolis is one of the most beautiful places on earth and the art lurking in the shadows of death in this strange museum put the art in the Louvre to shame. Pere La Chaise is the most visited cementery in the world and is the final resting place of numerous famous people including Jim Morrison, Chopin, and Oscar Wilde. The cementary is named for Louis the XIV's confessor. Napoleon took the land and turned it into a cementery in 1804. Since the ground wasn't properly consecrated, Catholics couldn't bury their dead at this beautiful necropolis and for many years the cemetery was small and forgotten. At the end of 1804, only thirteen lonely graves decorated the cemetery. The cemetery began a marketing champagne shortly after this that was amazingly successful. The graves of several famous people including Moliere were transferred to the cemetery and the rest of the dead followed in droves. Since that time the number of brilliant people buried there has grown over time turning a stroll through these hallowed grounds into a small history lesson.
Friday, July 14, 2017
The Cliffs of Moher are resoundingly beautiful. They are a stark and foreboding reminder of the power of nature and their juxtaposition against the stark landscape of Western Ireland can only be described as breathtaking. But as you wander the wind torn landscape you can’t help but feel they are also deadly. I felt this as clearly as I had ever felt the whisper of death as I walked on the cliffs last month. Looking down, I became profoundly aware that one misstep would lead to my death. As I clutched my son’s hand, I was even more aware that he could fall and I would never see him again. Without even knowing the Cliffs are haunted, I knew the cliffs were haunted. I knew that over Ireland’s long and ancient history death must have been engraved in the history of the cliffs. I wasn’t wrong. Stories of sorrow and tragedy cling to the cliffs like they do to Golden Gate Bridge. The cliffs have many ghosts and legends.
I found numerous stories of death surrounding the cliffs. One story came from a young man who described the numerous suicides he has seen on the cliffs at Irish Central. The young man had worked at the Cliffs of Moher and the years had shown him that many people go there to end their lives. He was particularly moved by a woman whose story he hear after he saw her body drifting in the tide in a red dress.
"I have reported down the years on some of the suicides at Moher. I have seen a couple of bodies away down below in the surf line after the events.
One sight that stays with me is that of a female body wearing a bright red dress, tossing and turning in heavy seas which prevented the rescuers from reaching her. I will never forget that sight.
Her story later emerged and it was almost standard for the scenario. She was a middle-aged Dubliner, with no mental or personal problems her family and friends were aware of, and she traveled down to Moher as a passenger on a coach tour.
She was missing when the party boarded the coach again after viewing the mighty cliffs and enjoying one of the most scenic vistas along the Wild Atlantic Way that has been so successful as a tourist attraction in recent years. There was no warning for anyone who traveled with her about her dread intentions."
EMG.com ranks The Cliffs of Moher as the tenth most deadly place in the world you can visit. It is not surprising that the cliffs’ beauty have been inspiring myths and legends for millennia. Since humankind first glimpsed the beauty of the cliff's tales have been told of them.
At Hags Head, there is a tragic legend of a witch named Mal who fell in love with the hero Cuchulainn. Apparently, love spells are useless, even in legends, and Mal’s love for Cuchulainn was unrequited and so she was doomed to follow Cuchulaiin through Ireland without any hope of gaining his love. Mal chased her love to the Hag’s Head and there Cuchulainn leapt to a small island. Mal was unable to follow him but tried and died at the feet of Hag’s Head. According to legend, she was turned into the face of Hag’s Head to remind young lovers to avoid chasing foolish love.
Many mythic beings met their demise at The Cliffs of Moher. At the Cliff of Foals, the mythic gods the Tuatha De Danann met their end. The Tuatha De Dannann ruled Ireland for countless centuries and served as the inspiration for Tolkien’s Elves. Sadly, Saint Patrick brought Christianity to Ireland and Christianity drove the old gods from Ireland. Near Foal’s Head they transformed themselves into horses and hid in a cave near the cliffs. After centuries they emerged from the cliffs and were blinded by the light and fell into the ocean. The Cliff is still named for them. The Cliff of the Foals.
Another tale speaks of the lost city of Cill Stuifin. The city sank when the king lost the golden key that opened the door to his castle. It is said that you can see the city off of the coast every seven years. If you keep site of it, you can walk to it, but if you turn away it will vanish in the mist.
O’Brien Tower is one of the most notable man made structures on the cliffs. O’Brien’s ghost is so famous that he is even featured in the local Halloween party.
Many of the tales that surround the cliffs are legend, but you can’t help but wonder how many of those who have died at the feet of these deadly cliffs still make their home with the Tuatha De Dannan in the mists of the Cliffs of Moher.
Monday, June 26, 2017
Leap Castle is not easy to find. It isn’t off any major roads nor is it by any reasonably size cities. The castle is notoriously haunted and has been seen on many ghost hunting television shows and is in almost every haunted Ireland book or article ever written. Many people call it the most haunted castle in the world…. or at least in Europe.
When I found Leap Castle, I was sure I was in the wrong place. I was expecting something terrifying and imposing. I was expecting a Gothic castle from a nightmare that was well marked and either closed off or open for national tours. Leap Castle is neither of these things. As we drove through the gates and down the long driveway to castle, I thought I had accidentally pulled up into someone’s home. The castle itself was mostly a ruin, but the front door looked inviting and there was a lovely garden and a green house. Fluffy cats emerged from shady places to mew for pets. We rang the doorbell and an old Irishman from a fairy tale answered the door. He had a long gray beard and a welcoming smile. He didn’t say anything. He waited for us to speak and I was sure at this point we were at the wrong place.
We asked for a tour of Leap Castle and he let us in. He didn’t ask for money and he showed us about his main sitting room and his sun room. He let me walk through his kitchen to his bathroom that was decorated with glitter, transparent, ocean themed toilet seats and accessories. It felt like my grandmother’s bathroom.
The main living area was filled with dear heads and taxidermied animals but it didn’t feel haunted or terrifying. The sun room offered a beautiful view of the valley and was filled with so many plants it was hard to move. Strange paintings and odd statues littered the walls and floors. There was a huge fire in the fireplace. It was a little cramped and the gentleman said nothing about ghosts as he showed us around.
Finally, I asked if the castle was haunted. Mr. Ryan, the owner, responded that they would never call it that in Ireland. He said the castle had spirits. He said lots of old places in Ireland have spirits and that he was comfortable with the spirits of Leap Castle. He said they never did them any harm. They made their presence known and that was all. He then showed us the way up a long, precarious, winding staircase up to the “Bloody Chapel”. He told us to be careful to close the door because there was quite a draft.
We climbed slowly up to the chapel, looking in small halls and doors as we went. The place was surreal and the further you climbed up the more unreal and disconnected I felt, buy the time I got to the chapel my phone was down to 2% charge and I had charged it before arrival. I had just enough battery to take a few photographs. Doors lead out of the chapel. There were more winding staircases, but the stairs were littered with crows nests and debris. We were alone and discussed trying to descend them, but the first staircase had featured cracked steps and holes and these staircases seemed even more treacherous. We also suspected one of the staircases was the path to the bloody Oubliette, from which numerous corpses had been pulled out of in the 1800s.
We descended to the entry way carefully and listened to the gentleman play the flute and left. Again, Mr. Ryan’s music seemed out of place. It was beautiful and upbeat. We bought a CD and paid him twelve euros and left the way we had come. The cats said goodbye.
This seems like a strange end for a place that was once the location of such terror. Despite our dread ascending the winding staircase, the rest of the castle seemed strangely peaceful. The history of the castle is long a filled with death.
According to Wikipedia:
“There are varied accounts as to when exactly the main tower/keep was constructed; ranging anywhere from the 13th century to the late 15th century, but most likely around 1250 CE. It was built by the O'Bannon clan and was originally called "Léim Uí Bhanáin" (as was the fertile land around the castle which was associated with the Bannon clan), or "Leap of the O'Bannons". The O'Bannons were the "secondary chieftains" of the territory and were subject to the ruling O'Carroll clan. There is evidence that it was constructed on the same site as another ancient stone structure perhaps ceremonial in nature, and that that area has been occupied consistently since at least the Iron Age (500 BCE) and possibly since Neolithic times.
The Annals of the Four Masters record that the Earl of Kildare, Gerald FitzGerald, tried unsuccessfully to seize the castle in 1513. Three years later, he attacked the castle again and managed to partially demolish it. However, by 1557 the O'Carrolls had regained possession.
Following the death of Mulrooney O'Carroll in 1532, family struggles plagued the O'Carroll clan. A fierce rivalry for the leadership erupted within the family. The bitter fight for power turned brother against brother. One of the brothers was a priest. While he was holding mass for a group of his family (in what is now called the "Bloody Chapel"), his rival brother burst into the chapel, plunged his sword into him and fatally wounded him. The butchered priest fell across the altar and died in front of his family.
In 1659, the castle passed by marriage into the ownership of the Darby family, notable members of which included Vice-Admiral George Darby, Admiral Sir Henry D'Esterre Darby and John Nelson Darby. By the time the castle was owned by Jonathan Charles Darby. His wife Mildred Darby wrote Gothic novels and held séances in the castle. This led to the publicity about the castle and its ghosts. The central keep was later expanded with significant extensions. However, in order to pay for these extensions, rents were raised and much of the land accompanying the castle was sold. This is one theorised motivation for the burning of the castle during the Irish Civil War in 1922.
In 1974 the castle was bought by Australian historian Peter Bartlett, whose mother had been a Bannon. Bartlett, together with builder Joe Sullivan, did extensive restoration work on the castle up to the time of his death in 1989.
Since 1991, the castle has been privately owned by musician Seán Ryan, who is continuing the restoration work.” (Wikipedia)
The Castle is also said to be home of an Oubliette. There was a room where live prisoners would be entombed to die slowly and dead bodies could be tossed when they became inconvenient. The spirits of the castle are said to be many, but Mr. Ryan seems to be comfortable enough with them and I suppose I would be too.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
We have now spent a week at Carrigain, sometimes called Cargin Castle. After our week at Carrigain Castle we discovered many haunting stories. I have already done one blog post on the castle and I promised a ghost story. The first ghost story comes from David Scully, the boatsman. He has been helping patrons of Cargin Castle for years now and he recalls helping one woman who was traveling through Ireland on her own. She went fishing with David a couple of times and was very friendly. The woman had recently had a spiritual crisis. She had left the Mormon religion and become an atheist as she was utterly disillusioned with the notion of spirituality and the supernatural from her experiences with the Mormon Faith. She may have stayed that way if it weren’t for the ghosts of Carraigin Castle. One morning she called David in desperation. She told him she couldn’t stay at the castle any longer. When Davie asked why she told him that she had come to the castle believing that death was the end of all things, but after a few nights alone in Carraigin Castle she knew that death was only the beginning.
During our stay, we didn’t have any shocking supernatural experiences. I rarely do. I have walked through places that others have called the most haunted in the world and seen nothing. I have slept in haunted rooms and wandered through many cursed places alone at night and seen nothing. Cargin Castle was not much different. The only difference was my son, who has watched me chase ghosts since he was little and has come to believe ghosts are nonsense. However, here at Cargin my son became so afraid he asked me to sleep in the lower level bed chambers with him for one night. He wouldn’t tell me why, he just said there was something here. I felt it too. It was something intangible that passed with the week. Lights turned on and off . I had bad dreams and heard footsteps. All these things could be explained away, but I think there is something here.
Another historical story from this old castle comes again from “Of Beauty Rarest.” It describes an account of the Ormond Rebellion in the 1570s that was written by Emily Lawless.
“Hught thought that he must certainly be still asleep, for nothing was as it had been when he had gone to bed. Doors were broken down, there were red lights everywhere, excited tongues of flame were darting here and there into the rafters, and catching at the bundles of dry rushes; the stairs felt slippery under his feet with revolting slipperiness; there was a stinging smell of gunpowder in the air; and prostrate figures-in attitudes that did not at all look like sleep-lay about at every angle of the stairs. All of a sudden the moon, which had been shinnin in through slit-like windows, dipped and went out behind clouds. It seemed as if something had met its ciew too ugly for it to go on looking at it a moment longer.
One glimpse Hugh had caught, and only one. It was the glimpse which he felt quite sure no rubbing would ever get off his brain again. The great door, sgudded with irnon nails, leading into the hall was half open as he passed in, and instinctively he had glassed in. It was full of armed men, all wearing the short leather coats and red badges of the De Burghs (the family that held Ashfield Castle in Cong).
There were dead bodies about the floor, the bodies of his uncle’s serving men, lying doubled up in every attitude, and nearest the door lay poor, good-natured, red-headed Christ Culkeen, whom he had been dreaming about, his honest mouth wide open, his innocent, sheepish face white and distorted, his eyes turned hideously back in the agony of his last glance; while at the upper end, just where he was in the habit of sitting, tied to one of his own stone pillars by the arms and legs, with a rope around his neck, his forehead streaming blood from a cut which nearly divided it in two, hugh saw his uncle, Sir Meredith. You Huber De Burg, the youngest of the Earl’s two sons- the Mac-an-Iarlas as they were called-was standing right in front of him with a look of satisfaction on his handsome, girlish face, stroking down a dainty moustache with one finger, and smiling pleasantly as he eyed his prisoner. For this was a grudge of many years standing. Had not Sir Meredith been invited to Connaught by the Dr Burghs themselves, who had give this castle of Cargin to keep? And had he not not in spite of this dared to oppose, and even, on more than one occasion of late, defeat them? Cerily, it was a piece of presumption for which he was about to reap a hot and bloody return.”
Indeed there are many reasons for the old castle to be haunted. Even if it is, it is a beautiful place to stay and I hope that I may return someday. It is a magical thing to stay in a castle steeped so deeply in over a half of century of history and to call it your own, even if it is only for a week. I spoke to the owner of Leap Castle last week and I asked him how he felt living in such a haunted place. He said that the Irish didn't call it a haunting. He said his castle and spirits and that most of them were positive. He said spirits were everywhere and there was nothing to fear in them. I think that describes Castle Cargin. It is a place with spirits, but it is a wonderful place.
Wednesday, June 14, 2017
What I do remember clearly, was his telling of the history and ghosts of Cargin Castle. He even pointed us to a small, self published book in the library of Cargin Castle where I could find its history written. The book he guided me to was called "A Beauty Most Rare" and its history seemed to contradict much of the history I found online about the castle. First, according to online sources the castle was just a manor house of no military significance. According to Michael Carol, Castle Cargin was built by "the Norman DeBurgos in the late 13th century. It was a strategic fortress, along with Annaghkeen Castle in defendint the Manor of Headford from incursions across Lough Corrib (or Lough Orbsen as it was then known) by the dispossessed O'Flaherty clan." The castle was of military and strategic use and was more than a country house. Carol sites Oscar Wilde's father's histories of the region (William Wilde) in his bibliography as well Christopher Murphy. According to Carol, De Burgo installed another Norman family, the Gaynards, as tenants of the castle and woods in Cargin and Clydagh. In this turbulent period of Irish history, raids and counter-raids to and fro across the lake made life at the castle and in the area a turbulent one. The Gaynard family which was considered an Old English family was tossed out of the castle by Cromwell supporters in the 1650s and the house was passed to the New English Staunton family. The Stauntons stripped the castle of stone and abadoned it. They used the stone to build a Georgian Manor house and the castle was left to decay. In the 1970's the castle was restored to what it is today.
The book told several stories associated with the castle and I will retell two of them. One came from Thomas Egan:
"The Normans who lived in Cargin Castle were very friendly with those of Annaghkeen who were bitter enemies of the soldiers of Cong.
One day a small band of Cong soldiers came to Annaghkeen and seeing a man working in a field, they cut off his hands and legs and killed him.
When the soldiers in Annaghkeen Castle heard of this outrage, they sough help from the soldiers in Cargin and together marched to Cong. A great battle was fought on the plain of Maigh Tuireadh in which many men from both sides were killed.
Neither of the parties were satisfied and they fought another more bloody battle a few hundred yards from Cargin Castle beside Lough Corrib. The Cargin and Annaghkeen soldiers were victorious although very few of either army returned home.
At the place where that terrible battle took place there is a small hill, supposed to have been formed by the heap of slain soldiers who were buried there. The hill is now covered by the trees of the Clydagh Woods."
I will save the second tale of bloodshed from Cargin Castle for the second part of this post. There is too much for one blog post. But I will end today's post with the name of the ghost David said haunts the castle. He calls her Elizabeth and I think we have had a few run ins with her since we have been here. She kept my oldest son up quite a bit one night and she had fun with us and the light switches on another night.
If you would like to stay at the castle, you can find it on VRBO.
Monday, June 12, 2017
Castle Hackett is said to be haunted still by the fairy king and all his subjects. Local lore says that he kidnaps young women and carries them away to be his lovers. Anyone who has visited Castle Hackett could believe this to be true as the castle is as close to a fairy kingdom as I have ever seen.