A couple weeks ago, we asked IrishCentral's readers to share your scariest Irish ghost stories and spookiest encounters... and we haven't slept a wink since. 

The following three scary stories stood out in particular for their scariness (and, in one case, hilarity) and we're pleased to be sharing them with you now on Halloween, the spookiest day of them all. 

Prepare yourself for a good scare, and here are some Halloween blessings for after

Didn't get a chance to tell yours? Share it in the comments. 

The Ghost of Damer, and faeries who don’t want you to leave

Over the course of three wonderful trips to Ireland, I have had two experiences which I cannot explain in any way other than some kind of supernatural agency.

The first occurred in 2005 when I was performing an original one-man musical play, On Yonder Hill: An Irish-American Love Story, as a part of Heritage Week in Roscrea Castle in County Tipperary.

Built in the thirteenth century the castle is steeped in history and I knew that using the hearth of the fireplace as the stage for my play involving Irish history would provide an experience I would never forget.  Little did I know how true that prediction would turn out to be.

Roscrea Castle. Photo: Mike Searle / Geograph.ie

Roscrea Castle. Photo: Mike Searle / Geograph.ie

I rehearsed the show the afternoon prior to my performance and everything went splendidly including the playing of my prerecorded musical accompaniments on a CD player which had been provided by the Heritage Ireland at the castle.

The night of my performance I waited in my dressing room, the medieval toilet chamber, for my entrance music.  When I didn’t hear it begin at the appropriate time, I started to wonder what was happening.  I waited a bit longer.  Still no entrance music.  Finally, after about ten minutes, I decided I had best sneak out to where the CD player operator was seated and enquire as to why the show was being delayed.

“I can’t get the CD to play,” he told me.  He tried pressing play several times in front of me and I could see that he was right.  Although the CD player had functioned perfectly only hours before, it now refused to function at all.  “I have a great CD player at home, only a couple of blocks away,” he suggested.  “I’ll go home and get it.  “You tell stories to the audience until I get back.’

So that was what I did.  

When he got back he plugged in his CD player.  We put my CD in and it played perfectly.  We announced to the crowd that we were now ready to go but when he pressed play again, again nothing happened.

“It must be your CD,” he suggested.

Fortunately, I had a back-up CD.  We put it into the player and it played perfectly.  Again, we announced to the crowd that now we were ready to go but, when he pressed play again, again nothing happened.

I had performed this show many times before and had never had the slightest problem with my CDs but, at this point, I had no choice but to perform the play without music, singing thirteen songs a capella.  The audience seemed pleased with this decision and everything was going fine until, in the middle of the show, I clearly saw a tall, dark form appear in the middle of the audience.  The figure moved a few feet to the left and, then, vanished before my eyes.

I did my best to continue my performance as if nothing had happened.

Later that night an official with Heritage Ireland who had not been able to attend the show asked me, “How did it go?”

When I told her what had happened, she gave a look of concern and, without missing a beat, said, “The ghost of Damer!”

Now John Damer was a wealthy Englishman who, back in 1722, had bought the castle and the entire town of Roscrea as well and had built the elegant Queen Anne style mansion on the castle grounds.  As Damer was a member of the English Ascendency who lorded over and subjugated the native Irish, it was easy for me to understand why, if his ghost had seen the rehearsal of my play with its pro-Irish independence theme earlier that day, he would have wanted to stop me from performing it that night, something in which he almost succeeded!

When I asked the official from Heritage Ireland to tell me more about the ghost, she immediately began to backtrack, denying that the castle was actually haunted.

However, when I mentioned my experience at the next castle in which I performed the play a few days later, the official there said, “Oh, everyone knows that Roscrea Castle is haunted.  They just don’t want to admit it for fear of scaring away the tourists!”

My second experience occurred eight years later while visiting the ruins of the abbey on the Holy Island of Monaincha one morning on the outskirts of Roscrea.

I was there all by myself and found myself so intrigued with the place that I found it almost impossible to leave. When I finally decided to leave, every ounce of strength seemed to leave my body and I felt as if I didn’t leave immediately, I would pass out and, perhaps, even die. This was very strange as I was in very good health, had gotten enough sleep the night before, had enjoyed a full Irish breakfast and was full of energy when I had ridden a bicycle about a mile from my B&B to Monaincha.

Photo my Mark Lyon

Photo my Mark Lyon

I immediately recalled stories I had read of the fairy folk taking people who remained too long in the wrong place down into the realm of the Otherworld and, while I had never before believed such stories, I now became concerned and, though still feeling faint, I managed to summon up enough strength to leave the island and make my way to the edge of where, centuries before, a bog had originally surrounded the island. The further I got away from the island, the better I felt until, upon reaching what had been the far bank of what had been the bog, I was feeling absolutely normal again.

When I looked back at the island I realized for the first time that, from a distance, if one can eliminate the abbey from one’s mind, the island looks very much like a fairy fort.

After leaving Monainhia via the unpaved road which leads to the island, I turned to the left and bicycled a mile or so up a paved road heading away from Roscrea, exploring the countryside.

At length, I turned around and headed back toward Roscrea.  When I neared where one could make a right turn onto the unpaved road leading to the island, all by itself, the front wheel of my bicycle turned and sent me heading back to the island.  This was so frightening that I yanked the handle bars back in the opposite direction and pedaled for all I was worth until I was far from the unpaved road which would have led back to the island.

When I returned to the States and had a chance to look carefully at the attached photographs I had taken in Ireland I was stunned to see a strange circular rainbow effect in the upper right hand area of the above photo taken in the interior of the abbey.  Similar circular rainbow effects appeared in this other photograph taken from a distance after leaving the abbey.

Photo by Mark Lyon

Photo by Mark Lyon

I have taken hundreds of photos with the camera I used on that day and nothing like this has appeared in any photograph other than these three taken at Monaincha.  Although I am not an expert on the subject of optics, I do not believe these to be sun flares as I was not shooting into the sun and such artifacts did not appear in any of the other numerous photographs I had taken while at Monaincha from similar viewpoints.

While there may well be some “normal” explanation for what I had experienced that morning on the Holy Island of Monaincha, I have yet to find one.

Mark Lyon, www.hauntedisles.com

“Hey, you feckin’ ghost!”

I live in Pennsylvania and my wife and I take our family to Ireland every two or three years for vacation. Four years ago we rented a small castle near Adare for our family vacation. There were five of us, my wife, our two youngest children, my mother in law and myself in the castle. It was a really unique vacation rental for us and a great place from which we could explore western Ireland everyday. We got back so late each evening that even in the long Irish summer evenings the sun was setting when we'd return.

There were several full bathrooms on the second floor and another one on the first floor. Starting with the very first night, family members who used the first floor bathroom experienced the lights going off and on while they were taking care of their business. This went on for several days. We actually found it more entertaining than frightening and we joked about the ghost in the bathroom.

I don't believe in ghosts and assumed it was just a loose wire or something. However, about the middle of the week I was using the bathroom and had taken some reading material with me. As I sat there on the "throne," the games began with the lights. Since I was reading, this really annoying. After the lights went off for the third time, I was pissed off. So, thinking on the off chance that this was more paranormal than something that could be explained;  I shouted into the darkness "hey you feckin' ghost, I can't feckin' read, so quit feckin' with the lights. They immediately came back on and never went out again while anyone else was in the bathroom the remainder of the week.

Paul Pasqualini, Carlisle, PA

We both saw the same ghost

It was March 1960 and the location was Room “Ardilaun” in the old wing of Ashford Castle in County Mayo.

My first wife and I were on our honeymoon.

Somewhere around 2 or 3 am I was wakened by the sight of a figure in a monk’s robes standing right beside me.

There was no face and the figure stood, head slightly bowed looking down at me. I froze, but didn’t actually feel threatened.

It quickly disappeared.

I didn’t sleep much, and decided not to say anything about it to my young wife for fear of scaring her.

First thing in the morning, having mentioned absolutely NOTHING of this to her, my wife said to me…

“I have not slept all night because I saw a figure of a monk moving across the room to the bed from the window.”

A painting of the ghostly encounter by John McConnell

A painting of the ghostly encounter by John McConnell

I don’t know how to explain that! I was told at the hotel that a ghost has, in fact, been seen in that part of the hotel from time to time.

A short distance from the hotel is the village of Cong where the ruins of an old abbey can be visited.

As a professional artist, I eventually did this painting of our ghost and I show myself asleep in a pose rather like a bog body in a Heaney poem.

The painting is oil and mixed media on canvas and is 30 x 36 ins in size.

John McConnell, Vancouver Island BC Canada,  www.johnmcconnellpaintings.com

Be careful what you look for

One famous author who was born and lived close to my grandparents' home in Sligo was Bram Stoker. He was very successful in arousing fear in the hearts and minds of his readers and, at a much later time movie viewers. In 1832 a severe cholera epidemic in Sligo formed the basis for Bram's “Dracula” novel. His mother Charlotte lived through this epidemic where it was recorded over one thousand, five hundred people died while thousands more fled the area.

At that time, over fifteen thousand residents lived there until it was reduced to about four thousand due to this widespread disease. Sligo’s commercial district was forcibly shut down. An average of fifty people died per day when this epidemic was at its height. The rate of death was so bad the local carpenters ran out of wood used for making simple coffins. The bodies were then wrapped in pitched sheets and quickly rolled into mass graves. In a rush to bury many of the dead, some of those diseased victims were believed to still be alive.

Charlotte witnessed many sick people, (for fear of spreading the infection) being pushed by long poles back into graves and then literally being buried alive. In later years Charlotte told her son of the horrors she had experienced.  It was the thoughts of those victims being buried alive which formed the genesis for Bram Stoker’s macabre creation of “Dracula”. The name ‘Dracula’ comes from the Irish word "Droch Ola" meaning "bad blood".   

Bram Stoker

Bram Stoker

                                                                                           

Many years ago, when I worked in Dublin City, I attended classes at Bolton Street Technical College two evenings a week, and all day on Fridays studying automotive engineering. On one particular Friday our class was released early so I had to return to work along with fellow class mate and co-worker, Gerry. We both worked for Linder’s of Smithfield, a large automotive company located in the historic Smithfield Market, a ten minute walk from the college.

One curious point of interest we always passed on our way was one of the oldest churches in Dublin called Saint Michan's. (St. Michan’s was said to be an old Danish saint although old Irish records claim him as their own.) This church was built on the site of a Viking chapel, founded in 1095, for the Viking population who were expelled from within the walled city of Dublin.

Bram Stoker who lived in Dublin at the height of the great famine visited this church often where his family had a burial vault.  Below the church is a large limestone crypt which is believed to create the atmospheric conditions where many bodies have been preserved through the centuries by natural mummification, one of whom dates all the way back to the crusades.

This setting was to give Bram Stoker the inspiration he needed to set the scene for his Dracula books, which along with the bible, would become one of the biggest selling books of all time. His first book was published in 1897 and has never been out of print, as well as its having been translated into over fifty different languages. Some believe that Bram’s vampire bloodsucking was a metaphor for the landlords throughout Ireland, living up in their fine castles, draining the life out of the tenant peasants who were dying in the hundreds of thousands as a result of the ‘Great Potato Famine’.

As Gerry and I felt we had a little extra time on our hands and given it was Halloween, we decided to go in and creep ourselves out a bit by exploring the graveyard. For many years both Gerry and I were well acquainted with the history here and the fact that it was Dracula’s storyline birth place. I could see clearly the inspiration for Bram's gothic images as we meandered between the crypts encircling the church. If it were late at night, added with a little fog, the ghoulish scene would be set.

With the passage of time and the grounds uneven settling, many of the crypts had become fractured and partially split opened. Naturally as two young lads and full of curious mischief we dared each other to peer into one of those crypts. Not wanting to appear weak and allowing Gerry to get the upper hand I bent down to view the contents of one partially opened tomb which had a large crack running down its side.

A crypt at St. Michan's. Photo: Jennifer Boyer / Flickr

A crypt at St. Michan's. Photo: Jennifer Boyer / Flickr

As my eyes became accustomed to the dim light within, I began to make out the skeletal remains lying in that dark, damp place. The coffin had long crumbled to a pile of dust encircling its occupant. It was an unsettling macabre scene. At first I wasn’t sure, but I thought there was a slight movement of the skull. Then, suddenly…there it was again! A very subtle movement leading me to believe, perhaps I was seeing things. Abruptly the ghastly, blotchy grey skull with its blank, gaping stare turned its head to face me. In that shocking moment I launched myself backward in horror, knocking Gerry over, (who had bent in behind me, and had witnessed this also)!

I also in that moment caught a glimpse of the shadowed outline of a rodent as it emerged through one of the eye sockets. With heaved sighs of relief, this gave us both small comfort. Needless to say when we had gotten some distance from the crypt and grounds we laughed it off. But with an air of caution we gave the church and Dracula a very wide berth after that.  

It would be many more years before I returned to Saint Michan’s Church again.

Do you have a scary story to share? Start putting it together for next Halloween, or if you don't want to wait until then, tell us in the comment section here! 

Ghostly figure iStock