Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Leap Castle, Ireland

Leap Castle, in Ireland's County Offaly, is hundreds of years old, as any self-respecting haunted castle should be.

During the 16th century, it was owned by the powerful O'Carroll family; when the chieftain died in 1532, brother fought brother to become leader. One brother was a priest, and as he held mass for his family one day, his brother broke into the chapel and ran the priest through with his sword. The priest died on the altar. This tragedy was just one in the brutal history of the castle, which passed from the O'Carrolls to the Darbys, an English family, in 1659.

An oubliette (a type of dungeon; the word comes from the French verb "oublier", which means "to forget") was found just off the chapel much later. Anyone unlucky enough to be punished in the oubliette would never come out again. They fell about eight feet onto a spike, if they were relatively lucky. If not, they were left to starve to death in the small room, with a tiny window affording a view of the freedom so close to them. Around the year 1900, workmen came to clear out the oubliette; they found an enormous pile of skeletons, which filled three carts as they were taken away. The workmen also found a pocket watch from the 1840s, but no one knows how it came to be there.

Leap Castle's reputation was so sinister that the locals avoided it by night. After the castle had been badly damaged by fire, it was sealed off and the gates locked, as if anyone in the neighborhood would have attempted vandalism. It remained in this condition for more than 70 years, during which time people reported seeing certain windows light up, though knowing nobody (living) could be inside.

Late in the 19th century, Jonathan and Mildred Darby occupied the castle with their family. Mildred Darby was interested in magic, and her little hobby awoke one of the spirits of the castle, an elemental spirit. An elemental is a spirit that never occupied human form; Elliott O'Donnell referred to it as a sort of nature spirit. Elementals are among the most frightening of ghostly phenomena. In 1909, Mildred wrote an article for the Journal Occult Review, giving an account of what had happened to her: "I was standing in the gallery looking down at the main floor, when I felt somebody put a hand on my shoulder. The thing was about the size of a sheep. Thin, gaunting, shadowy... its face was human, to be more accurate inhuman. The lust in its eyes which seemed half decomposed in black cavities stared into mine. The horrible smell one hundred times intensified came up into my face, giving me a deadly nausea. It was the smell of a decomposing corpse."

In the 1970s, the castle's Australian owner brought a white witch brought all the way from Mexico to perform an exorcism. The witch spent a good amount of time in the chapel, known as the "bloody chapel". Later, she told the owner that the spirits wanted to stay in the castle, but that their negative energy was gone.

In the 1990s the castle was sold again. When restoration began, the owner suffered a broken kneecap. A year later, when he was standing on a ladder, it moved backwards, and he hurriedly jumped off, breaking his ankle.

Now? Nothing particularly bad has occurred lately, but you never know.

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