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Location: Roscrea, Ireland
Leap Castle has a violent and turbulent history, a keep castle, it was built in the 14th or 15th century to guard the pass from Slieve Bloom into Munster. This fortress is considered Ireland's most haunted castle, haunted by the type of spirit called an "elemental". It is a frighting and horrifying apparition, it's hauntings bring on an overwhelming sense of dread and deep rooted fear. Those who have experienced it describe a hideous looking "thing" with almost human looking eyes and reeks of the most ghastly odor.
The Galic name for the castle is "Leim ui Bhanain", which means the Leap of the O'Bannons. Under the O'Carroll Chiefs, the O'Bannon Clan were the first owners of Leap Castle, later occupied by the O'Carroll's themselves. From here the O'Carroll's would set out for victory and defeat, and here they would bring thier brides and there captives.
Leap was an impregnable fortress impervious to attack. In 1513, Leap Castle was attacked by Gerald Fitzgerald , but was not taken. Gerald Og Fitzgerald of Kildore attacked the castle in 1516. In 1557 during an attack led by the Earl of Sussex, the O'Carroll's made a successful escape.
In 1604 or 1605, some of Ely O'Carroll's territory was attached to Kings County which is now Offaly. It is rumored that the daughter of an O'Carroll helped the escape of a Darby from Leap Castle and later married him.
After the failure of the Revolt of the Earls, in 1619 the plantation of Ely O'Carroll took place. Along with the English rulers, loyal Protestant Scots and Englishmen settled into the area depriving the local Galic population of their land. Leap Castle then passed into the hands of the Darby family. After this many Darbys became high sheriff of Kings County. The most famous Darby is Admiral Sir Henry Darby who fought at the Battle of the Nile and escorted Napolean Bonaparte into exile after leaving France.
Over 400 years ago in what is now known as the "Bloody Chapel" a shocking murder occured. Leap Castle was then a stronghold of the O'Carroll family, powerful Irish Princes, Chieftains of the area.
In 1532, on the death of the O'Carroll Chieftain, a fierce rivalary for the leadership errupted within the family. The bitter fight for power turned brother against brother. One of the brothers was a priest. The O'Carroll priest was holding mass for a group of his family (in what is now called the "Bloody Chapel"). While chanting the holy rites, his rival brother burst into the chapel plunging his sword into his brother. Fatally wounding him, the butchered priest fell across the altar and died in front of his family.
The henious act of brother killing brother and the blasphemy of a sacred mass cut short by such an evil event sent an echo of misery ringing thoughout the castle.
Another source of evil was found at Leap Castle that may have compounded and nutured the spirt of the elemental. A hidden ubliet (a dungeon) was found off the bloody chapel. It was a small room with a drop floor. Those who were forgotten within this room suffered unimaginable pain and misery until their death. Prisoners would be pushed into the room to fall through the floor and land on a spike eight feet below. If you were not lucky enough to die quickly on the spike, you died of starvation in a doorless room while the aroma of food and the sounds of merriment drifted up from the rooms below. A narrow window would let you watch those who came and went in freedom from the castle. Around c.1900 workmen who where hired to clean out the ubliet made a hideous discovery, human skeletons laid piled on top of each other. It took three full cart loads to remove all of the bones. Among the bones workmen found a pocket watch made in the 1840's. It is not certain if the dungeon was still in use then.
Because of its extremely bloody history Leap Castle has always had a reputation of being haunted, a reputation so strong local people avoided it at night. Completely gutted by fire, Leap Castle was boarded up and it's gates were pad locked for over 70 years. Locals have described seeing the windows at the top of the castle "light up for a few seconds as if many candles were brought into the room" late at night. The castle laid in ruin for years.
Shortly after Leap's dungons gruesome discovery, a psychic disturbance may have caused the emergence of the elemental spirit. In 1659 ownership of Leap Castle passed in marrage from the O'Carroll family to an English family, the Darbys. The Darby family turned Leap into their family home, with improvements and additions and landscaped gardens . In the late 19th century descendants Johanthan and Mildred Darby were looking forward to raising their family here. The occult was the fashion of the day, and Mildred Darby did some innocent dabbling, despite the castle's history and reputation for being haunted. Mildred's dabbling with magic awakened the elemental with ferocious velocity.
In 1909, Mildred Darby wrote an atricle for the Journal Occult Review, describing her terrifying ordeal. "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 guanting shadowy..., it's face was human, to be more accurate inhuman. Its 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.
The elemental is thought to be a premative ghost that attaches itself to a particular place. It is often malevolent, terrifying and unpredictable. After Mrs. Darby's experiments in the black arts, Leap Castle has never been the same. Hauntings plague Leap leaving a sinister air throughout the castle. The Darbys remained at Leap until 1922. Being the home of an English family, it became the target of the Irish struggle for independence. Destroyed by bombs, completely looted, nothing but a burned out shell remained. The Darby's were driven out.
In the 1970's Leap Castle was purchased by an Australian, who had a white witch brought in from Mexico to exorcise the castle. She spent many hours in the bloody chapel, when she emerged she explained that the spirits at Leap Castle were no longer malevolent, but they wished to remain.
In the 1990's the castle was sold to the current owners. They were aware of the castle's troubled history. Shortly after moving in they began restoration of the castle. During which time a "freak accident" left the owner with a broken kneecap delaying restoration work on the castle for nearly a year. One year after his "accident" the owner was back at work restoring his castle when the ladder he was standing on suddenly tilted backwards away from the wall causing him to jump several stories resulting in a broken ankle. Both were strange accidents.
The owners say they would be happy to share the castle with the spirits as long as there are no more "occurrences".
In 1991, in Leap Castle's Bloody Chapel was the christening of the owner's baby daughter. For the first time in centuries the "Bloody Chapel" was filled with music, dancing, laughter, and most of all love. The day had been a "happy, pleasant, wonderful day". If the troubled spirits of Leap Castle did not leave, maybe they have finally found some peace.