ANN MASSEY O’REGAN AND CHRIS RUSH decided to join the wonderful team at the National Leprechaun Museum to explore DarkLand, the night tour where they explore the sinister side of Irish story-telling. ANN caught up with Theresa Coyne to discover more before they began their journey into the heart of the darkest Irish folklore.
ANN MASSEY O’REGAN: Thank you for inviting us to experience DarkLand at the National Leprechaun Museum. Explain to us the concept of DarkLand and how it differs from the normal day tour.
THERESA COYNE: The day tour can be deemed by some as “selling out” to the stereotype of the leprechaun but we were also very aware that this portrayed cheery image so familiar to everyone is what many of our visitors want to see when they visit the museum. We wanted to find a way to bridge the gap between the daytime tour and the legitimizing of our folklore culture and storytelling, so DarkLand was born.
ANN: So what is DarkLand?
THERESA: DarkLand is an adult only experience that takes participants deep into the dark underbelly of Irish Folklore and that includes the not so loveable leprechaun! Although the stories are not for the faint hearted there is definitely a tongue in cheek element as our performers lead you through the museum and into a world of magic and superstition. We have hundreds of stories to tell and love nothing more than to show terrified guests that we are more than just a nation of leprechaun and banshee tales!
ANN: How did DarkLand begin and how did it evolve?
THERESA: We had been running it for a while as more of an interactive experience which was fine at the time, but we realised it could become more and start to focus on the Irish tradition of scary story telling. Currently there are four of us running the tours with each having their own twist. For myself I began telling folklore tales of the sea, however this soon developed into talking about the bad ass women from Irish mythology and folktales – they seem to have got a raw deal in the past and I want to put that right! We also have Paudie who focuses on the High Kings of Ireland and the fact that the real monsters in our culture are the humans themselves.
We have Áine who brings her own spin to the tales she tells and Ida who portrays ‘Bridget’, a bold, madcap character who can have you shocked and crying with laughter in the same breath. As the performances pass, we change the mould of the stories we tell and discover more ourselves so it keeps everything fresh. We have also noticed that DarkLand has started to feed into the day tours. Let’s just say that some of our younger visitors who come in thinking fairies are sparkly and all sweetness and light leave more educated than when they came in!
ANN: So how did you end up on the DarkLand Tours and how has discovering the darker side of Irish superstition and folklore affected you?
THERESA: I have always had a passion for Irish mythology and outside of the museum I do stand-up comedy. The DarkLand tours not only give me a change to combine the two and entertain, but increase my own knowledge of folklore in the process, particularly since I took on the handling of our social media. I would always have considered myself grounded in a science background and somewhat of a skeptic, however if these stories have taught me anything it’s not to take chances when it comes to Irish superstition. Let’s just say if I happen upon a fairy tree there is no way I’m going to snap a twig from it!
ANN: Tell us about your Halloween event.
THERESA: Well what many people don’t know, is that on this street was a hospital and the very building that our museum is in contained the Morgue! We had been donated a mirror that was said to be haunted so for Halloween we placed it in the basement which was where the Morgue was situated. Guests would roam the museum and have scares a plenty and finish in the basement where they would recite “Bloody Mary” in front of the haunted mirror!
ANN: Tell us a bit about the people who visit the DarkLand experience?
THERESA: Our demographic is made up of primarily UK and USA visitors. Only 20% of our visitors are Irish. I suppose they have the pre-conceived idea that it is the stereotypical leprechaun stories and don’t understand what we are about. We really want to broaden our demographic and open that gateway from the banshee and leprechaun tales to the stories that are not so well known. We want people to be taken out of their comfort zone by sowing the seeds of doubt and demonstrating that in Irish folklore the light is very much offset by the dark and the creatures that inhabit it.
DarkLand currently runs every Friday and Saturday night. See below for more details: