With connections to the Hellfire Club, black magic and demons, it’s little wonder that the County of Kildare just outside of Dublin has some incredibly supernatural locations to visit! ANN MASSEY tells us her five favourite haunted places in County Kildare.
Kilkea Castle, Castledermot, County Kildare
This majestic 12th century stronghold was built for one of Strongbow’s noblemen, Walter de Riddlesford as a reward for loyal service. It became part of a seven-hundred-year Fitzgerald family legacy when the clan joined the Norman family through marriage.
The most famous resident was ‘The Wizard Earl,’ the Earl Gerald Fitzgerald. He was born in the early part of the 16th Century and his preferred studies were in Medicine, Astronomy and Metallurgy. This led to him practicing the Dark Arts, including raising the shades of the deceased and bringing forth portents of death, until he disappeared while living in the castle.
It is believed the Wizard Earl and his closest men at arms lay in an enchanted sleep in a cave Rath on the hill of Mullaghmast, just north of Kilkea Castle. Every seven years the Earl Gerald Fitzgerald rises up and mounts his white horse, shod in silver. He rides across the Curragh with his men, bringing fear to the travellers and farmers in their wake, with sightings have appeared as late as the end of the nineteenth century.
Legend says that when the silver shoes of the white steed are worn to nothing, the enchantment will break and Gerald Fitzgerald will rise up in full strength to rid Ireland of its enemies.
A young man not suited to the status of the family, was found in the bed chamber of a previous owner’s daughter. He was murdered for his audacity and remains, wandering the castle for his lost love.
Castletown House, Celbridge, County Kildare
This Palladian Mansion was built as the main residence of Speaker William Conolly, who at the time of his death was the wealthiest and most powerful politician in Ireland. Following the death of his wife Kathryn, the house passed to a great nephew and the connections between his uncle, the Hellfire Club Lodge House and the devil began to emerge!
While Tom Conolly was out hunting, a man clothed head to foot in black, riding a dark steed, joined the hunt and returned to Castletown for dinner with the other members of the hunt. During a post dinner card game, the strange gentleman was winning every hand so Tom checked under the table for hidden cards. Instead, he was shocked to see cloven hooves instead of feet – a familiar tale that links this stately home with Loftus Hall and the Hellfire Club! A priest was called as the guest refused to leave and the Holy Bible deflected off the beast and cracked a mirror still in place to this day, along with the cracked hearth of the fireplace he disappeared into.
Dating back to a similar time period, was the first appearance of the grey coated ghost. A spindly, tall gentleman with an evil aura and sinister cackle showed himself brazenly to Lady Anne Wentworth and continues to appear to startled visitors.
Celbridge Manor, Celbridge, County Kildare
The heritage town of Celbridge has been home to some of the most notable members of the peerage in Irish history, including the renowned Speaker William Conolly. Speaker Conolly, who built the lodge that was home to the notorious Hellfire Club, commissioned the building that was to become Celbridge Manor shortly before his death in 1729.
Having formerly operated as a charity run school and the Setanta Hotel, it is very much a place of much historical significance, so little wonder the ghosts of Celbridge Manor Hotel are calling out!
The Georgian fronted luxury residence has had a host of paranormal reports from employees, residents and locals, through every form of use since it was first erected almost three hundred years ago.
A ghostly little girl has regularly been seen running along second floor corridors, her image fading with the echoing sound of childish laughter. During its time as a boarding school, the onsite caretaker would hear the sound of piano playing during the holidays when the school was empty and locals would hear screams in the middle of the night.
Rhetoric House, Maynooth College, Maynooth, County Kildare
Maynooth College was founded in the late 18th century and was originally a Seminary for the instruction of priests, until it began accepting lay people for study in 1968. It would appear that Catholic influence was insufficient to hold evil at bay, as the Devil’s hand has penetrated the walls of learning.
Stories of demonic activity and other paranormal occurrences have been rife over the centuries, with at least two students committed suicide out of fear, both claiming to have been witness to a threatening malevolent entity and both residents of Rhetoric House prior to death.
Both suicides involved slashing wounds made by a razor blade with the more recent poor young man finishing the job by throwing himself from his window. The young lad survived long enough to say he had seen the face of a demon reflected in the mirror and a powerful, evil force engulfed him, controlling his mind and forcing him to harm himself.
When the last words of the deceased student became public, a priest took it upon himself to enter Rhetoric House and face the darkness of the notorious room 2. After spending the night and not emerging, concerned faculty found him trembling in the corner of the room, incoherent and terrified, his hair turned white overnight.
Both students were buried in unconsecrated ground within the Campus, but whether their tormented spirits have ever left room 2 is very much in question.
Grangemellon Castle, Grangemellon, County Kildare
Grangemellon Castle, also known as St Leger’s Castle, was a former stronghold, now just a ruin sitting on the river Barrow. It was owned by Colonel John St Leger who was known as ‘Handsome Jack.’ He was of high social standing and friends with royalty, so much so he was painted by Gainsborough.
As well as being Governor of Ceylon and the owner of Grangemellon Castle by the age of 26, he was also a member of the notorious Hellfire Club. At the peak of his career and popularity he died suddenly while stationed in Madras from an apparent seizure, although with his reputation, financial woes and links to the Hellfire Club, murder would not be an unreasonable suspicion.
With Hellfire Club meetings also taking place at Grangemellon Castle, it is little surprise that Handsome Jack is still seen in an ethereal coach, being pulled by four horses with a Headless coach driver and headless footmen.