Donegal in Ireland is a county steeped in ancient history and bloodshed. ANN MASSEY O’REGAN discovers five of County Donegal’s most haunted locations
Sharon Rectory, Newtowncunningham
A grand estate in Newtonwncunningham holds the ghosts of a wanted traitor and an innocent bystander. Mr and Mrs Waller were sat in their Rectory home in March 1797, when they received a knock at the door.
Dr Hamilton was a local magistrate seeking refuge from the United Irishmen, a group lead by Wolfe Tone, looking to free Ireland from British sovereignty. The men arrived at the door demanding the counter revolutionary be handed over. Fearing for the life of her wheelchair bound husband, Mrs Waller shielded him. As the men opened fire, cowardly Hamilton crouched beside Mrs Waller and she was shot dead.
Devastated house staff man-handled Hamilton out of the door and he too was cut down. The spirit of Mrs Waller is said to have been so strong she appeared every night as ‘The Blue Lady’ and even spiritualists and exorcists have struggled to free the spirit of Mrs Waller from Sharon Rectory.
Built in 1305 by Richard de Burgh, the Red Earl. Greencastle was also known as Northburgh and was besieged by years of battle. After much blood was spilled, the castle finally came into the possession of the Red Earl’s grandson, William. The young Earl had a nemesis by the name of Walter Burke who was captured and imprisoned in the tower of Greencastle and left to starve to death.
William’s sister had fallen for the prisoner and began sneaking him food and water. Her brother discovered her treachery and outraged, threw her from the battlements. The young woman was dashed on the rocks, broken and bloodied. Walter died soon after. The two lovers haunt the ruins together, no longer in fear.
Burt Castle, Castlecooly
Overshadowing Lough Swilly stands former garrison and site of rebellion, medieval Burt Castle. A local girl became pregnant by a rogue residing in the castle who wanted nothing to do with her. Distraught, she walked along the banks of the Lough and as she did so, swans came across the water to her.
She felt they called to her and she immersed herself in the icy Lough, escaping her pain and misery. Grief stricken and seeking revenge, the girl’s father entered the castle. He found the perpetrator and stabbed him repeatedly before throwing him from the turret.
On a full moon, swans gather by the walls of the castle as the ghost of the unfortunate young woman carries on the murky waters before she sinks beneath the Lough. At the same time where the man was thought to have landed, bloodied and mangled, the grass yellows and dies.
The Barracks, Ballyshannon
At the Barracks in Ballyshannon, County Donegal, a phantom lady in a green silk dress caused death and fear. She appeared before a soldier and persuaded him to desert the army for her love. The smitten man did so, before realising she was the ghost of a General’s daughter who had died some time before. It was too late, the crime was committed and the soldier was executed.
Father Hegarty’s Rock, Buncrana
Long known for eerie encounters and supernatural occurrences, Father Hegarty’s Rock forms part of the banks of Lough Swilly. It was so called because a priest was executed by the British by beheading in the mid-17th century for celebrating mass when it had been outlawed. In very recent times a group of young lads were biking through the area and boys being boys, were trying to outdo each other on the treacherous outcrops.
As they approached the sheer drop on the path they had chosen, the spectre of a white steed came from nowhere, rising in distress. The terrified youngsters stopped dead and watched, frozen as it leapt from the ledge onto the rocks below, only to fade and vanish before their disbelieving eyes.
This was deemed to be a crisis manifestation in what was already considered a most holy of places following the martyrdom of Father James Hegarty.