Beast of Killakee: Demonic Entity or Ghost?

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Unveiling the chilling legend of “The Beast of Killakee,” ANN MASSEY leads us on a journey into the dark mysteries of Dublin’s infamous Hellfire Club.

The painting of the Black Cat of Killakee by artist Tom McAssey.
The painting of the Black Cat of Killakee by artist Tom McAssey.

When is Killakee House not Killakee House? When time, murder, occultism, destitution, haunting and heresy are involved of course! 

Everyone has heard of the Hellfire Club, shadowing Montpelier Hill in Dublin. Not everyone knows of its origins, however, and less again know of its paranormal connection to two other buildings on the vast Massey Estate, forming a paranormal triangle.

The whole area was owned by the Conolly family, headed by William Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, including the hunting lodge that later became the notorious Hellfire Club. The Conolly family sold part of the estate to the White family, the densely wooded area known as Killakee.

A grand house was built in the early 19th century, with exotic landscaped gardens. It also came with a Steward’s House and stables, built in 1765. The Steward’s House had been a temporary home to the members of the Hellfire Club after the hilltop lodge had burned down, their evil, debauched activity seeping into the foundations of the innocent looking property.

The entire estate passed to Lord Massy of Limerick (the ‘e’ in Massey comes and goes, often to denote Protestant or Catholic) in the 19th century and both he and his heirs lived way beyond their means. Lavish parties and a high society lifestyle led to everything in Killakee House being sold off at auction and the house itself abandoned. 

Hugh Massy took up residence in the Steward’s House, which had been home to his steward, Maurice Fox. Over time the house became known as Killakee House, the grand manor all but forgotten. 

Lord Massy and the Murder Mystery

In 1922, the remote property and Lord Massy were at the centre of a murder mystery. According to the official inquest, Hugh claimed a man known as Harmon had forced his way in and demanded money with menaces. Massy claimed he reached for his revolver and shot the intruder in self-defence, although oddly, he left the corpse lie for almost two days in the study of the house and it was discovered rather than reported.

Finally debts caught up with the ‘Penniless Peer’ as he became known locally. Hugh Massy was unceremoniously evicted, dumped at the side of the road and forced to end his days living as a homeless man in the woods – the Steward’s House taken by the daughter of Maurice Fox.

Despite having been a short time home for the Hellfire Club and a place where revolutionaries would meet, there was little in the way of supernatural activity, that is until the O’Brien family took over and began renovations…

Mrs O’Brien spent a few nights in what was now known as Killakee House. Nights spent in terror. Items around the house were smashed and scattered, despite no evidence of anyone entering. The dogs would howl non stop, hackles risen. 

Workmen were also terrified, many refusing to stay on site, tormented by paranormal events. The house would become like ice, breath visible even on the warmest of days. Solid wooden, bolted doors were found wide open and screams would carry on the wind.

One tradesman froze as he saw the bolted door open and a huge black cat walk through and disappear. Laughed at by his colleagues, he was vindicated when they too, began to see the mysterious giant feline. What they were unaware of, was the tale of the demonic black cat of the Hellfire Club who had been offered as a sacrifice, however, a local priest had intervened and exorcised the demon brought forth into the cat. Nor did they know of the claims a dwarf man had been tortured, maimed and murdered as part of a sacrificial rite.

The painting of the Beast of Killakee

Artist Tom McAssey was painting when he saw the cat, burning red eyes transfixed on him. The spectral feline seemed drawn to the painter, returning in the guise of a deformed man of no more than three feet tall, before transfiguring into the black, glowing eyed cat and fading from view once more.

The ghostly images of black eyed nuns have also been witnessed in the former Steward’s House – nuns said to have partaken in the black masses on top of Montpelier Hill. These sightings led to the house being blessed and ‘exorcised’ in the seventies. Efforts seemingly wasted, as they did not stop repeated eerie sightings of entities both of human spirit and unearthly spectre. Nor has it stopped the continued poltergeist activity. 

A private house now, Tom’s painting of ‘The Beast of Killakee’ hangs in the former stewards home. Killakee House remains shrouded in mystery, access granted to the paranormal curious  less than ever before. 

The original Killakee House is now ivy covered ruins, lost to time. The woods have reclaimed their rightful place, themselves the location of ghostly manifestations. The mysterious missing ‘e’ has now found its way back and you can explore all these sites for yourself on South Dublin’s Massey’s Estate

The Black Cat of Killakee

Tradesmen, whom the O’Brien’s hired to undertake alterations, refused to stay in the house because of “ghostly” happenings, a freezing atmosphere, and a door that would not remain closed, even with an eight inch bolt in place. 

One night, a carpenter saw the door opening to admit an enormous black cat “as big as an Alsatian” which glared fixedly at him and then disappeared. No one believed the story and, even when others saw the cat, the matter was treated as a joke.

Some weeks later, when artist Tom Massy was helping with the final stages of decorating, he saw the cat crouched in the hall, its red flecked amber eyes fixed on him. He and another artist friend saw a small crippled man, 3 feet tall standing at the door of the hall and when the men retreated, the small man turned into a cat.

When the noises at night made sleep impossible, it was finally decided to have the house exorcised in the early 1970s. Since then, the apparitions have not appeared, but there have been other ghostly happenings and poltergeist-like activity. It is not known if the house is still haunted.

In the late 1960s workers began repairs and renovations to the Steward’s House and witnessed many apparitions including that of a man in black believed to be the priest who exorcised the cat at the Hellfire Club at Mount Pelier Lodge.

Further sightings were made of nuns alleged to have participated in black masses on the hill and a black cat with glowing red eyes.

Other activities include hearing the sounds of bells ringing and poltergeist activity. 

In 1971 a plumber carrying out work unearthed a grave containing the remains of a child or small human, thought to be a ritual sacrifice of the brethren of the Hellfire Club.

Have you ever seen The Beast of Killakee or indeed any strange activity in the area? Tell us about it in the comments section below!


  1. I became incredibly interested in this story and in turn the Killakee Cat when I first heard of it on Ghost Adventures.
    I have the cat tattooed on my left thigh. I can’t wait to visit someday!
    I enjoyed your article.


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