As we celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day and the world gets into high spirits by raising a glass to all things Irish, ANN MASSEY invites you into Ireland’s most haunted pubs and introduces you to the spectres that are there all year round.
1. Kavanagh’s Pub, Glasnevin, Dublin
Kavanagh’s originally opened in 1833 and is better known as the Gravediggers. The inn is beside Glasnevin Cemetery, final resting place of Daniel O’Donnell, Christy Brown and Luke Kelly of the Dubliners to name a few.
While weary body snatchers would wind down after a hard night dragging around stolen corpses, during the day the gravediggers would order up a pint by throwing a sod of earth at the wall of the pub.
If you are drinking at the bar and see an elderly gentleman in a tweed suit drinking a pint, keep an eye on his glass, for when it’s finished the man just fades away.
2. Davy Byrnes Pub, Duke Street, Dublin
In business for more than 125 years, Davy Byrnes Pub has had a famous clientele from the poet Brendan Behan to Michael Collins himself, with the upstairs room being used for Republican meetings.
It is however, most famous for its associations with a regular patron by the name of James Joyce and is found between the pages of Ulysses. It would seem that James Joyce enjoyed Davy Byrnes pub so much he never left and his ghostly reflection can be seen in the bar mirrors.
3. Franciscan Well Pub and Brewery, North Mall, Cork City
Founded on the site of a thirteenth century monastery and miraculous well, this pub has been the subject of paranormal occurrences since it opened in 1998. Doors opening and closing by themselves, ghostly footsteps and other poltergeist activity led to a priest having to bless the establishment.
Chains are still heard rattling and doors are pushed, so it appears the monks continue carrying out their daily duties after more than 800 years.
4. Kyteler’s Inn, St Kieran’s Street, Kilkenny
In Kilkenny you will find Kyteler’s Inn, the home and business of Alice Kyteler. Alice was the first person to be accused and charged with witchcraft in Ireland in 1324. Alice escaped and was tried in her absence, however her maid Petronella de Meath was not so fortunate and after torture was found guilty and burned at the stake as a witch. Alice however, was never heard from again.
There is debate as to whether or not the female spectre haunting the pub is that of Petronella or Alice herself – either way it’s best not to incur the wrath of a ghostly witch!
5. Fisherman’s Thatch Inn, Ballybrittas, County Laois
If you want a pub that’s a hotspot for paranormal activity, then putting it on an ancient crossroads between the Hill of Tara and the Rock of Cashel should do it. The Fisherman’s Thatch Inn has been the subject of many paranormal investigations over the years and there have been many sightings of a spectral figure by the fire place and orbs appearing in numerous photos.
It is said that Saint Patrick himself travelled this road in 450 A.D, however as the pub wasn’t founded until the 17th century, he missed out on a pint.
6. McCarthy’s Pub, Fethard, County Tipperary
Established in the 1850’s, McCarthy’s is centred in the medieval town of Fethard. The public house has its own manifestation of the Banshee, forewarning of deaths to proprietors. Pictures have fallen and three loud knocks are heard inside and outside the premises, proving to be a sign of imminent death.
As well as poltergeist activity there are said to be several ghosts wandering the public house, including the three ladies who ran it some forty years ago. As the owners themselves say “…next time you see somebody sitting quietly sipping a pint in the corner – you might be the only one who can see him!”
7. Bull and Castle, Lord Edward Street, Dublin
James Clarence Mangan was a famous Irish patriotic poet born in 1803 on what is now the site of The Bull and Castle pub (formerly known as The Castle Inn) on Lord Edward Street and was greatly admired and written about by the likes of W.B Yeats and James Joyce.
As a man however, he was solitary, depressed and addicted to drink and drugs, recognised for his bizarre manner of dress – a long cloak, green glasses and a blond wig.
Patrons have been sat in the bar quite happily, when an icy chill sweeps through the premises and the mood darkens, an aura of melancholy taking hold. It is then the clientele know they are in the presence of James Clarence Mangan, making a brief visit home.
8. The Oval, South Main Street, Cork City
Located on the corner of historic South Main Street, the Oval was custom built by the Beamish and Crawford Brewery in 1905 in the style of Charles Rennie Mackintosh and is named for its stunning interior ceiling.
The pub would have had a diverse clientele over the decades, including the soldiers fighting for Ireland’s independence as Cork was a main stronghold and The Oval survived the burning of Cork City by British Forces in 1920.
Despite everything the Oval is still in its original condition complete with an open fire and a fine aroma of peat and whiskey.
Perhaps then, that is why a worn and weary soldier in a tattered uniform has been seen in the pub on numerous occasions by patrons over the years.
9. The Brazen Head, Bridge Street Lower, Dublin
Dating back to 1198, The Brazen Head has the official title of Ireland’s oldest pub with an infamous clientele including James Joyce, Jonathan Swift and the freedom fighters Wolfe Tone, Michael Collins and Daniel O’Connell.
One revolutionary had a leading role in the 1803 uprising and his name was Robert Emmet. He made use of the Brazen Head for his meetings with other nationalists and sympathisers.
Emmet was captured and the trial against the rebel fell apart until his own lawyer turned against him for a payoff. The 25 year old was found guilty of treason and hung, drawn and quartered in Dublin.
Not even death would stop Robert Emmet from his care of duty to the people of Ireland and his spirit remains in The Brazen Head, keeping watch for enemies.
10. The Devil’s Punchbowl Bar, The Lake Hotel, Killarney, County Kerry
The Devil’s Punchbowl Bar takes its name from the shape of the lake below Mangerton Mountain in Killarney National Park and in sight of Muckross Abbey.
The Abbey was founded by Donal McCarthy Mor in 1448. A ruthless warrior, McCarthy Mor was known as Dan the Feathers as he used to take the feathers of the Queen’s troops that he slaughtered in battle. He used those feathers to make a bed, knowing he was sleeping well on the blood of the enemy who tried to defeat him. The bed survived until the 19th century in the hotel itself.
Dan the Feathers followed his bed home and has been seen ever since keeping watch over the Abbey from the comfort of The Devil’s Punchbowl Bar, looking out over Lough Leane.