Leap Castle: history & info about world’s most haunted castle

Leap Castle is located in County Offaly. Proudly listed as ‘the world’s most haunted castle’ on its website, it is safe to say this majestic manor has quite the name for itself.

Leap Castle: history and info about the world's most haunted castle

Standing strong for over 700 years, this 13th-century castle has been witness to a tumultuous history.

It has stood through bloody histories and lives lost, love affairs, and babies born.

The castle walls have been the staging ground for atrocities and dark histories that would exceed your wildest imagination.

Let’s take a look inside Leap Castle, Ireland’s most haunted castle.

Ireland Before You Die’s top tips for visiting Leap Castle

  • Learn all you can about the history of Leap Castle to truly appreciate its foundations and origins and its status today as the world’s most haunted castle.
  • Some parts of Leap Castle have low doorways and ceilings. So, when on your tour, be mindful of this to avoid any accidents.
  • Those with an interest in paranormal activity will truly love a visit to Leap Castle. Be open to all the stories and legends associated with Leap Castle.
  • As always, check in advance any opening hours and consider doing a guided tour to get the most out of your experience.
  • Make sure to respect the site. It is a historic building. And while at Leap Castle, make sure to explore what the rest of County Offaly has to offer.

The beginning – a terrifying Irish castle

Leap Castle is known as Ireland's most haunted castle.
Credit: Tourism Ireland

The castle in question can be dated back to the early 13th-century when it was built by the O’Bannon clan.

In the late 15th century, it came under the rule of the violent and deadly O’Carroll clan, setting off the castle’s bloody history.

The Irish castle was passed from father to son for generations with murders (by oppositions, rival families, and even within their own clan) punctuating the O’Carroll’s brutal history at the castle.

By the mid-17th-century, the castle moved into the hands of the Darby family, spearheaded by Jonathon Darby the 2nd, a Cromwellian soldier, and his wife, Mildred Darby.

Henry d’Esterre Darby is the son of Jonathan Darby.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Again, as standard during this time, the castle’s power was passed from father and son for years to come. Post Darbys, another powerful clan, the Ryans, held the stronghold on this magnificent manor.

Revenge, rivalry, and power played pivotal roles in shaping this castle’s history throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Having lived long in the hands of those who swore allegiance to the British Crown, the castle represented turbulence and pain for many Irish locals. As a result of this, the castle was burned down in July 1922.

Without a doubt, its history offers death and detriment beyond belief. Entire battalions have lost their lives here, and family members murdered family members. With all of this being said, it comes as no surprise that Leap Castle is Ireland’s most haunted house.

READ MORE: about how Leap Castle in County Offaly is considered the world’s most haunted castle

The ghosts of Leap Castle – ghost sightings and poltergeist activity

Leap Castle is known as Ireland's most haunted castle.
Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Many claim that ghosts wander the castle walls, corridors, and endless archways of Leap Castle in County Offaly. Many paranormal investigations have taken place in the castle at night.

In fact, so many recognise this historic house as one of Ireland’s spookiest houses that it has attracted paranormal investigators worldwide.

TV shows including Scariest Places on Earth, Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters International, and Ghost Adventures have featured it on numerous occasions.

RELATED: Read about Leap Castle and more in IB4UD’s article on the top 20 castles in Ireland

The Bloody Chapel – located on the castle grounds

Visit the Bloody Chapel.
Credit: leapcastle.net

The now burnt-out shell of the chapel on the grounds of Leap Castle remains one of the most haunted settings in the estate. People say that, during the rule of the O’Carrolls, an awful murder occurred.

Many believe one of the O’Carroll sons killed his brother, a priest who was at the time performing mass in the chapel, to gain power.

Today, and for many generations, there have been reports of light streaming from its barren windows at nightfall. The smell of burning rubber and even the spirit of the murdered priest lurking in the stairwell is an oft-reported ghost story.

The Priest’s House – the tales of Mildred Darby

Visit Leap Castle, Ireland's most haunted castle.
Credit: Flickr / Corey Taratuta

Since the burning in 1922, the Priest’s House remains nothing but a derelict ruin. Apparitions, however, have been sighted for long before it was set alight.

Even Mildred Darby, a former resident of Leap Castle, cites paranormal activity.

Speaking about living in the castle at night, she said, “There is something heavy that lies on people’s beds, and snores. They feel the weight of a great body pressing against them, in a room in the Priest’s House.”

“A monk, with a tonsure and cowl, walks in at one window and out another, in the Priest’s House.”

The one-eyed priest.
Credit: Instagram / @paranormalresident

Speaking of encountering a spirit in the castle at night, she said, “It’s lustreless eyes, which seemed half decomposed, and looked incredibly foul, stared into mine.

“The horrible smell which had before offended my nostrils, only a hundred times intensified, came up to my face, filling me with a deadly nausea.”

Emily and Charlotte – the ghosts of Leap Castle

Among the dark histories of this castle is the tale of Emily and Charlotte. You can spot the ghosts of these two little girls playing in the Main Hall of Ireland’s most haunted house. They lived on the estate during the 1600s.

Emily died aged 11 after falling from the castle’s battlements. Today, there are still sightings of a little girl falling from its great heights, only to disappear before reaching the ground. Charlotte is seen dragging a deformed leg in tow.

The murdered woman – a terrifying tale

Again, this story is told to relate back to the O’Carroll rule. The ghost of this woman wanders today, having been murdered by a member of the brutal family during the 1500s.

Sightings usually account for a terrified woman who is spotted wearing little clothing. She screams twice before disappearing into thin air.

The governess and the old man – ghosts who roam Ireland’s most haunted castle

Visit Leap Castle, Ireland's most haunted castle.
Credit: Instagram / @dario.martiradonna

These two apparitions are seen sporadically in separate instances. You might even see the governess (also referred to as the nanny) alongside Emily and Charlotte.

On occasion, visitors have seen the old man has been sitting in a comfy armchair enjoying the heat in front of the Main Hall’s grand fireplace.

The Red Lady – another ghostly apparition

Another apparition that haunts this castle to this very day is the Red Lady. There have been sightings of this creature for centuries.

People say she roams in a long red dress, tall and lean with long flowing brown locks. The Red Lady always carries a dagger, with her hand raised menacingly.

According to the story, one of the O’Carroll clan captured the woman. He then raped her, leading her to become pregnant. On delivering the baby, the O’Carroll’s killed the child with a blade. In absolute despair, the woman grabbed the knife and ended her life, too.

Another account states that two O’Carroll family members were fighting over the woman, and when she tried to flee, they chased after her and stabbed her to death.

SEE MORE: Leap Castle ranks in the top 5 castle tours in Ireland according to Ireland Before You Die. Do you agree with the rest?

The Elemental – a terrifying spirit

This spirit predates many families of Leap Castle. Some suggest the apparition named the Elemental potentially date back to the time of the Druids. At this time, people used sorcery to protect the sacred land, on which Leap Castle was then built.

Others say that Gerald Fitzgerald Earl of Kildare – an accomplished magic practitioner – is responsible for this spirit in a bid to take the castle. Either way, the Elemental is a menacing and sinister presence that only makes itself known to those who provoke it.

The Murder Hole Room – as terrifying as it sounds

Many have deemed the Murder Hole Room yet another place in the castle haunted over generations. Although the exact location of this room is disputed, claims of supernatural spirits are not.

They say that the Murder Hole Room was also the site of an O’Carroll family murder in Leap Castle, Ireland’s most haunted castle.

MORE: The top 10 most haunted castles in Ireland

Visiting Leap Castle – if you dare

Leap Castle is known as Ireland's most haunted castle.
Credit: leapcastle.net

Today, Sean Ryan and his family privately own the castle. They greatly confirm the supernatural presence residing in the home alongside them. However, they also express that they have experienced no sinister apparitions during their tenure.

Interested in visiting the most haunted castle in Ireland? You can contact Sean Ryan directly for private tours of Leap Castle.

Your questions answered about Leap Castle

Read our article on Leap Castle but still have some questions? Then you are in the right place! Below, we have put together the most frequently asked questions about this topic from our readers and online.

Can you stay at Leap Castle?

No. However, you can contact the owners for a private tour.

Who owns Leap Castle now?

Musician Sean Ryan and his wife, Anne, are the current owners of Leap Castle.

What happened at Leap Castle?

Leap Castle is the site of bloody history, paranormal activities, murder, and more.

What is the largest castle in the world?

Malbork Castle, in Poland, founded back in 1274 is the largest castle in the world.

NEXT: Check out Ireland Before You Die’s article on 32 Irish castles: the best castle in every county of Ireland

Find Your Dream Hotel in Ireland

On the hunt for the ultimate hotel for your Irish adventure? Explore a curated selection ranging from the charming heritage of boutique accommodations in Dublin's vibrant heart to the tranquil luxury of rural retreats and the captivating coastal vistas. Start your search below to find the perfect stay with our trusted hotel partner.

Get featured on Ireland Before You Die

Do you want to get your Irish business more online exposure? Especially to those interested in travelling the best places in Ireland? Then why not get a dedicated feature on Ireland Before You Die. Find out more here.

Related Posts


Ireland Before You Die is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Learn more

Send this to a friend