Don’t let its name fool you. Leap Castle, in Ireland’s County Offaly, is not named for people leaping off it. (In fact, Leap is actually pronounced “Lepp” in this instance.) It is however, reputed to be the most haunted castle in all of Ireland, and it may be the most haunted one in the world.
Built in 1250 by the O’Bannon clan, Leap Castle has had many different owners since then. Nearly all of them have had a reputation for violence.
One of the most famous tales surrounding the castle concerns what is now known as the Bloody Chapel. At the time of this story, the O’Carroll clan chief occupied it. When he died, his sons fought each other for control of the clan lands. One of the brothers, a priest, was performing mass for the family in the chapel when another brother barged in and stabbed him through with his sword. He died in front of the altar and is now said to haunt the chapel.
In another story of treachery, another member of the O’Carroll clan murdered a dinner guest while he was sitting at the table. This resulted in a protracted blood feud that eventually resulted in the deaths of murderous dinner host and his son, among others.
One of the grisliest aspects of the castle is the oubliette, which was a tiny room located off the chapel. Prisoners were placed in this cell and left to die, sometimes without food or water. To make matters worse for living prisoners, bodies of dead prisoners were also dumped in the oubliette and left there to rot alongside the living. When this area of the castle was excavated in the late 1800s, cartloads of bones were found, lending credence to this story. There are many ghost stories surrounding this room as well.
The most frightening spirit said to inhabit Leap Castle is only known as the Elemental. No one knows who this spirit is supposed to be, but some believe that it was accidentally conjured by Mildred Darby, the séance-loving wife of the 19th century owner of the castle. People who have encountered this spirit describe seeing a face that appears to be decomposing. They also claim that sightings of the Elemental are accompanied by a strong smell of decay.
The castle was burned and partially destroyed in 1922, during the Irish Civil War. In the 1970s, it was purchased by an Australian historian of Irish ancestry. He did much to restore Leap to its prior glory before his death in 1989. He also hired an exorcist to rid the castle of its ghosts. Though she said none of the spirits were harmful or evil, she told the owner that they would never leave.
Today, Leap Castle is privately owned, though tours can still be booked. Its current owner doesn’t speak much about the ghosts, though he has allowed filming by television programs that feature hauntings. They have said that if the ghosts exist, they can peacefully coexist with them.