County Limerick is a place of mysticism, darkness and the devil. ANN MASSEY O’REGAN tells us more.
- Limerick to the Hellfire Club -The Massey family of Limerick and my own ancestors were wealthy and powerful members of the peerage and at least one held the position of Sheriff. They went on to form the Massey Estate in south Dublin and part of that estate became the infamous Hellfire Club.
- Citadel of silence – Glenquin Castle stands on the same ground since 1462. It has been the locations of many battles and crucial in the defence of West Limerick during invasions and civil war right up to the Easter Rising and was the rally point for the West Limerick Republicans. The oppressive atmosphere is said to be so intense, not even a crow will fly over the tower, too terrified of the darkness within.
- Did LImerick inspire Nosferatu? Sheridan Le Fanu was one the most influential writers of the Victorian era and produced iconic Gothic works such as Nosferatu and Carmilla. His father was made Rector of the parish of Abington in County Limerick and the horror author lived close to the graveyard and medieval abbey until he left for Trinity College.
- Black magic and the church -13th century Saint Katherine’s Augustinian Abbey is just ruins, but remains of the Abbey church and Refectory are still evident. It is believed that the last Abbess prior to the Abbey’s dissolution in 1541 practiced witchcraft in a room south of the Church, which became known as The Black Hag’s Cell.The ruins themselves are haunted by the Countess of Desmond. The Earl and Countess were fleeing an assault and during their escape the Countess was wounded by an arrow. Believing her to be dead, her husband buried his wife in haste beneath the altar at St Katherine’s.The Countess regained consciousness only to find herself buried alive. A shadowy figure is seen among the ruins and the Countess’s screams still ring out in the night.
- Witch of Barna – Just outside the county town of Newcastle West is an old railway tunnel and in the tunnel wall is a face. The face of Sprid Na Barna (Spirit of Barnagh). Moll O’Shaughnessy murdered her husband and child in cold blood. Moll was tried and sentenced to death by being placed in a nail lined barrel and rolled from the top of the highest hill to the bottom. She was seen long after her execution in various forms around Barnagh causing as much chaos and fear as she could, and her face remains to terrify locals to this day.
- Sacrifice and Satan – In the small town of Askeaton stand the remains of Limerick’s Hellfire Club. Like other clubs of the same name it was a place of debauchery, dark practices and sacrifice. These rumours were fuelled by the adjacent Friary being abandoned as soon as the Hellfire Club opened and remained so throughout the club’s 60-year history.
- Blood of the enemies – Adare has the title of the prettiest village in Ireland, however it has a very dark history. 12th century Desmond Castle stands on the River Maigue and was home to the Earls of Kildare for centuries. The stones in the castle walls are bound together with the blood of Limerick’s enemies mixed into the mortar.
- Beheaded Vikings – At the end of the 10th century Limerick was ruled by its last Norse King, Ivar. Brian Boru and his army took back the city with a bloody and vicious battle culminating in the beheading of every Viking warrior they captured.
- Touch the Devil – Ballinagarde House in the village of Ballyneety is a large mansion built in 1774 for one of Cromwell’s henchmen. Edward Croker was returning home in his carriage and noticed a stranger riding towards him. Croker invited the gentleman out of the elements and into his home where the two became very intoxicated. When a butler removed the shoes of the visitor he noticed cloven hooves where his toes should be. From that moment every descendant of Edward Croker failed at every venture until all was lost and the family home became an abandoned shell. Now a dark figure is seen riding through the grounds, said to be the devil on horseback leaving hoof marks in the ground.
- Cannibalism and the cabin boy – Patrick O’Brien from Limerick City was 15 years old and signed up as a cabin boy aboard the Frances Spaight, a lumber ship based at Limerick Docks. The ship set sail under the command of Captain Thomas Gorman and on the return journey from New Brunswick a winter storm and the ship lost all provisions and the drinking water was contaminated. The captain announced that lots would be drawn, and the loser would be eaten by the remaining crew. Patrick O’Brien drew the short straw and he bravely put forth his wrists, however the weather prevented a decent flow of blood and the cook slit Patrick’s throat. On 23rd December 1835, a rescue vessel boarded the Francis Spaight to find Captain Gorman eating the brains and liver of the deceased cabin boy.
- Ghostly Knights – Standing on the banks of the River Shannon Estuary is Glin Castle, over 700 years old and the subject of reported hauntings and poltergeist activity over many years. On the third floor of the castle, poltergeist activity witnessed has included lights flicking on and off and doors rapidly opening and closing. A frayed rope was found hanging from a ceiling where a worker was killed some years previously when the rope on his safety harness snapped. A builder called Henry appears on the staircase just to pass the time and the 20th Knight of Glin himself can be found sitting in his favourite chair.
- Celtic God of the Dead – Some 950 feet above sea level is the top of Knockfierna or ‘Knock Dhoinn Firinne’ in Ballingarry. It translates as the Mountain of Truth, home to Donn Firinne, the Celtic God of the Dead, also known as the Chief of the Mountain and the Fairy King. Knockfierna is full of dark history, legend and mysticism. 1837 hailed the archaeological discovery of the Ballingarry Ogham Stone, one of only a handful found on Ireland’s shores. On the Strickeen lies the Lisnafeen Fairy Fort with a diameter of 100 feet, believed to be imbued with fairy magic. On the northern slope is a dolman known as ‘Giant Fawha’s Grave’ and the Cairn or monument at the summit is believed to be the site of the ancient temple of Stuadhraicin.
- Harbinger of Death – A unique death omen haunts the Scanlan family of Ballyknockane known as the Scanlan Lights. The phenomenon dates to an ancestral King of Ossory who was falsely imprisoned. Saint Columcille tried to get his release and failed so prayed for divine intervention. A pillar of light shone on the king that night and he was freed. Ever since then the Scanlan line have been said to witness bright lights prior to the death of a family member.
READ: Spooky Ireland through the lens of photographer Liam McNamara