Carlow holds one of haunted Ireland’s hidden hotspots, writes PAUL MOYNIHAN
Just outside the busy town of Carlow, Ireland, stands one of the country’s most breathtakingly beautiful buildings. Surrounded by wild countryside in all directions, Duckett’s Grove still has the power to create awe within the souls of those who visit this masterpiece of architectural design, despite lying in ruins today. As the winds howl within its darkened hallways, weathering its walls as the passage of time takes its toll, a more desolate place cannot be imagined. However, this mansion of mystery is rarely left alone, as it is said that the spirits of the dead still reside here.
The original structure of the house was completed in the 1700s, but it received a massive overhaul in 1830 by William Duckett, based on a design by Thomas A. Cobden (whose designs also included the beautiful Wells House in Co. Wexford). This re-design saw the addition of the house’s distinctive turrets and high towers. A number of unique statues were designed and sprinkled around the grounds, with subjects ranging from griffins to lions.
The mansion itself was a hive of activity for many years, and was the centre of many interesting events. The Duckett family were descendants of William the Conqueror, and wealth was a luxury they enjoyed. Lavish parties were often held here, including a massive celebration of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897, during which 150 workers and their families partied late into the evening. It has been said that the staff of the grove were treated brilliantly by the family, receiving wonderful gifts at Christmas and throughout the year.
The magnificent lawns were maintained by eleven men who were employed in a full-time capacity by the Duckett’s. The family welcomed the public to enjoy the splendour of their gardens, until various forms of vandalism and invasions of the family’s privacy forced the demesne to be closed to outsiders in August 1902.
The house soon fell into the hands of Marie Duckett who, by 1916, had left Carlow to move to the city of Dublin. The house was handed over to an agent until 1921, when a group of farmers and workers bought the estate for £32,000, having taken a loan from the Bank of Ireland. However, an agreement on the division of land could not be met and no repayments were made to the bank, forcing legal action. During this time of indecision, the house and grounds became a HQ for the Irish Republican Army in 1922, and served as a training centre for its soldiers. The Land Commission took over the estate and divided the grounds fairly in 1930.
Duckett’s Grove was destroyed by fire on the 20th of April 1933, leaving the building in ruins. Strangely, the cause of the blaze was never discovered. This was just the beginning of the mystery, however, for tales of terror have been linked to the ravaged ruins for a long time.
Many visitors to the ghoulish grove claim to have witnessed members of the Duckett family walking within the ruins. The spirit of William Duckett has been seen and often sensed within the entrance area, and some claim to have seen him ride a white horse around the grounds of the site. The disembodied voices of spectral servants have also been heard, and the sound of cutlery has been noted coming from the once-busy kitchen area. A demonic dog with long, shaggy hair and blazing red eyes has also been seen patrolling the area, much to the terror of witnesses.
Tales of strange lights floating throughout the property are often told by locals, and the sight of a ghastly horse and carriage has been witnessed at the entrance to the building by some unlucky passers-by. A well-known story concerns a man who was passing the house on horseback late one night. Upon passing the gate, his horse stopped, frozen in fear. The man tried to snap the horse from this terrifying trance, but was unable to. When he placed his holy rosary beads around the horses neck, this strange phenomenon was lifted, and they set about their way once more.
A number of paranormal teams have investigated the site, with varying results. Some claim to have been touched by an unseen hand, others have heard unearthly whispers. Many teams have suffered hardware malfunctions, a common occurrence in a supposedly haunted location. Perhaps most unusually, the sound of bagpipes has also been reported at certain times throughout the property.
If you thought this place couldn’t get any spookier, you’d be wrong. The most infamous supernatural entity associated with Duckett’s Grove is the Banshee. An ancestral spirit who is said to haunt certain Irish families, it is believed that those who hear her mournful cry will suffer the death of a loved one. The Duckett’s Banshee is supposedly the spirit of a woman with whom William Duckett had an affair. She is said to have died tragically on the grounds of the house, having fallen from a horse. Her mother put a treacherous curse on the family, giving birth to tales of the Banshee.
There have been a number of reports regarding this vengeful apparition, one of which is linked to the unexplained fire that destroyed the house. Her cries could be heard slicing through the night air before the house succumbed to flames, and many claim to have seen her dancing in the house as the fire raged around her. Some say she could be seen running through the woods beside the house. On another occasion, locals said the sounds of her supernatural screaming lasted for two full days. According to legend, a woman died inexplicably while walking past the house a few days later.
Is it possible that a curse still lies upon this historic haunted house? Do the spirits of the Duckett family still cling to their beloved home, refusing to leave? Should you find yourself on the lonesome lanes that lead to Duckett’s Grove, surrounded by the shrill cries of some unseen force, pray it’s something less frightful than the Banshee.