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Leap Castle Co Offaly.

Leap Castle.

Leim ui Bhanain

Leap Castle County Offaly derives its name from the Gaelic "Leim ui Bhanain", which means the Leap of the O'Bannons who were a native Irish clan who once owned it, later it came into the possession of the O' Carroll clan.

Leap castle has seen many sieges, in 1513, Leap Castle was attacked unsuccessfully by Gerald Fitzgerald, three years later Gerald Og Fitzgerald of Kildare also failed to take the castle. During the Elizabethan plantation the Earl of Sussex laid siege to Leap castle, somehow the defending O' Carroll's managed to escape.

Leap castle is often described as the most haunted castle in Ireland, in the past the castle was the stronghold of the O' Carroll's chieftains of the area. In 1532 the ruling O' Carroll died and as often happened a leadership feud broke out in the family, one of the brothers was a priest and was holding a mass for the family, his rival brother burst in and plunged his sword into the priest who fell across the alter mortally wounded, he died a few moments later in front of the gathered family members Subsequently the chapel came to be known as 'The Bloody Chapel'

In 1659 ownership of the castle passed from the O'Carrolls' to an English family the Derby's who began restoring the property as a family home, they made additions to the building and landscaped the gardens. Many of Darby's became high Sheriff of Kings County (Offaly). The most famous of these was Admiral Sir Henry Darby who fought at the battle of the Nile and escorted Napoleon Bonaparte into exile when he left France.

In the late 1800's Johanathan and Mildred Darby were the current owners, the occult was much in vogue at the time and Mildred decided, despite the castles history of haunting's to dabble in the black arts, it is unclear exactly what she done, whatever it was it would appear she awakened a malevolent spirit, in 1909 she submitted the article below to the Occult Review.

Occult Review (1909)
Mildred Darby.

"I was standing in the Gallery looking down at the main floor, when I felt somebody put a hand on my shoulder. The thing was about the size of a sheep. Thin guanting shadowy, it's face was human, to be more accurate inhuman. Its lust in its eyes which seemed half decomposed in black cavities stared into mine. The horrible smell one hundred times intensified came up into my face, giving me a deadly nausea. It was the smell of a decomposing corpse."

Leap castle has undoubtedly seen much bloodshed and suffering, a hidden oubliette (dungeon) exists off the bloody chapel, it is a small room in the roof of which is a trap door beneath the door a spike is attached to the floor, prisoners would be thrown through the trapdoor, those unfortunate enough to escape instant death on the spike were destined to die of starvation, while the sound and smells of the everyday life of the castle drifted down to them.

In 1909 workmen were hired to clean out the oubliette, they were destined to make a gruesome discovery, piled deep on the floor were human bones. In all they removed three cartloads of bones, among them was a pocket watch made in the 1840's whether the owner of the watch died in the chamber is unclear.

The Derby's remained in Leap until 1922 their English ancestry made them a target for the IRA, the castle was bombed, looted and finally destroyed by fire and the Derby's driven out. The castle lay derelict for seventy years, the gates locked locals were loathe to pass close to it by night, many stories are told locally of mysterious lights at the windows and strange goings on in the dark of night.

In the mid 1970's Leap was sold to an Australian who had the Bloody Tower exorcised, the exorcist informed him that 'the spirits at Leap were no longer malevolent, but they wished to remain'. In the 1990 new owners took over, despite suffering a few accidents while renovating the castle, the family made it into a comfortable home, and in 1991 the owner's baby daughter was christened in the Bloody Chapel.

Many lay the blame of Leap's haunting on Mildred Darby's involvement in the occult, however it would appear she lived out her life in the castle. Perhaps the enmity and hatred accumulated in the building over the centuries, has been dissipated by the love, goodwill and empathy of recent owners, and Leap's spirits will live in peace with their mortal neighbours.

Leap Castle
Co Offaly
Tel +353 (0)
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Leap Castle is not open to the public.

Go to Castles in Offaly.