A Night in Ross Castle

For my radio journalism class I’ve been tasked with making a documentary, and staying in a haunted house seemed like an interesting topic. I chose Ross Castle because it’s genuinely a castle from the 1500’s, it’s near(ish) to Dublin, I could get a bus somewhere close to it and it actually advertises its haunted nature. The place is really amazing, it’s well worth staying there just to see the castle, the rooms, the antique furnishings. Absolutely stunning location. Many thanks to Benita Walker for showing me around and making a great breakfast too! 

James Keating

“One man who stayed recently said he’d been shoved, but no one else was here.”

Ross Castle’s owner, Benita Walker, told me about this impolite intrusion from the spiritual realm, and no small amount more, as we drove in darkness. “One woman left after her first night, she was just too scared to stay any longer.”

I began the journey to Ross Castle, a purportedly haunted 16th century building, on a cold, dry night in Dublin. Rainy and windswept suits a stay in a haunted castle though, and the weather duly obliged. It started coming down just after leaving the city, and by the time I’d reached Meath it was torrential.

I met Benita in Virginia, Co. Cavan, and she drove along progressively smaller and darker roads. Along the way she told me about the experiences of other guests. My room, the lower of the two bedrooms in the tower, is said to be the most haunted, with some guests claiming to see a woman in white, weeping against the wall.

The utter darkness outside the car was broken by lights in the Castle after around 30 minutes. We drove through an arched entrance in the stone wall which surrounds the grounds. In daylight it all looks lovely, but in dimly lit night the castle is rather imposing. Still, the lights inside are quite welcoming on a cold, wet night.

The first thing visitors meet as they enter is, for me at least, absolutely terrifying. A rocking horse, carved from what looks like mahogany, peers with dull, lifeless eyes at all who open the front door. After getting over that initial shock there’s also a deer skull and stuffed animals on display above a payphone. For a second I picture myself frantically digging in my pockets for change to call for help.

It passes. I’m indoors, it’s warm. Benita brings me into the large dining room, then goes to talk to the other guests while I warm up by the fire. She told me I’d likely be alone in the castle, so I’m relieved to know there are other people there, to be honest. It might not be as exciting or interesting an experience, but I don’t care much for being terrified.  (I am aware of the irony of choosing this situation, thank you.)

It’s time for a tour of the place. Just off the dining room is a hallway with the ground floor bedrooms. In the ‘yellow room’ the ghost of a baby who died in its nanny’s care is sometimes heard by guests. Another of the bedrooms saw a pair of confirmed sceptics encounter the apparition of a man in the bathroom door.

The most haunted room of the downstairs area is the green room. The castle was re-built in the 19th century after being ruined by Cromwell’s forces. The green room stands on the grounds of the original building’s chapel. This is where Sabina, the castle’s most oft-sighted ghost, mourned her lover’s death, before locking herself in the lower tower room where she died of grief.

Sabina was the daughter of an English lord who attempted to elope across nearby Lough Sheelin with her Irish lover, Orwin. On the trip across the lake he was killed in a storm, but Sabina was rescued and mourned him in the chapel. One visitor to the Castle claimed to have heard footsteps around his bed through the night, as if Sabina still mourned over her lost love.

Back to the dining room, which is probably the nicest part of Ross Castle. Antique cameras and books line the walls, more deer skulls hang on the walls and a stuffed otter looks down on the room from atop a cabinet. Around a fire are mismatched armchairs which look of varying age, and behind them a long table with eight chairs. Fitting, for the home of a lord.

The most unusual part of the room is beside a window which looks out onto the lake. Resting on a table are two candleabra and what I think is a goat‘s skull. It appeared all the more frightening than those hung on the walls, but I can’t quite figure out why. Under the table an empty birdcage sits, whatever bird once lived there surely long dead.

The tower, where the paranormal goings-on reach their peak, was next. We start on the first floor, going up a small spiral staircase to a room with even more deer skulls on the wall. I’m genuinely surprised no one claimed deer haunted the place.

This room has been the location for séances among paranormal groups, and it’s easy to see why. In the centre of the room is a small table, surrounded by four chairs. Little else is there. On the table sit a few stones, which I assume were used in some sort of communication with the spirit world.

I’ll confess that this room made me uneasy. It could have been the lighting, it’s cold compared to the warm yellow hues of other rooms. In the ‘sitting room’ is a bluish hue which adds to the already chilly atmosphere. This is the coldest place in the house, possibly explained by the large hole in the wall which seemed to lead nowhere. A stuffed gull stands in it, its neck craned backward as if broken.

In a corner is a cradle, which one visitor said they saw rocking during the night. Another guest saw a woman in a white dress standing behind one of their companions during a séance.

Above this is the lower tower room. This is the most haunted place in the castle, and where I’d spend the night. It’s warm and comfortable, in contrast to the room below, and I’m surprised that it’s the place where people see and hear ghostly things.

The arched brickwork ceiling makes two sides of the room quite small, one of which is the bathroom. Inside is a bath without standing room, recessed into the walls. I decided I was clean enough after seeing it, but in different circumstances I suppose it could have been quite relaxing.

This room has caused video cameras to fail, faces to appear in photos and most terrifying, that woman in white – Sabina, presumably, appearing weeping while leaning into the wall. Many guests have mentioned hearing ‘balls’ dropping down the spiral staircase outside.

I heard, well, nothing of the sort. I’m not sure whether to be disappointed or not. There were a few strange occurrences, noises and doors opening on their own, but it’s an old building, and opening windows on a stormy night has that effect on doors.

Still, were I more inclined to let my imagination run away with me, maybe had I been alone, I could see myself being quite scared. I never got to see the upper tower room, but the pair of friendly students from Indiana told me they weren’t visited by any spirits either.

The following morning I got to see the view from the room window across the lake. Lough Sheelin and its surrounds are really quite beautiful, and the castle itself is utterly gorgeous. I’ll be going back, I think, and who knows, maybe I’ll encounter something otherworldly next time.

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