As Halloween nears, my mind turns to things spooky, haunted, scary. I think of darkened corners, their smell musty from centuries of avoidance, cobwebs clinging to ancient walls, providing goose bumps and sheepish grins in equal doses.
In Dublin recently, that spirit – or the spirits – felt quite alive. In the land of mythical leprechauns and faeries, I meandered into shadowy caves, eerie graveyards, and came across (I firmly believe this) things that go bump in the night.
Because Dublin is haunted. It has to be.
If it weren’t, why would so many people tell its stories, guide you through abandoned buildings and neighborhoods, and dutifully study its somewhat frightening legends?
Haunted Dublin legends and stories
Take Hendrick Street: it has a reputation as Dublin’s most haunted street, especially where numbers 7 and 8 used to stand.
Number 7 was once an expensive home which was allowed to run down, like other houses nearby, until it became no more than a tenement. Into it moved a family whose members were warned not to go downstairs at nighttime. An old lady had died in the house but was believed to still guard the front door, and the sound of her bare feet running up and down the stairs were audible from midnight until five every morning.
One night the family’s patriarch staggered home, a bit worse for the drink. As he struggled to fit his key into the lock, he heard a rush of footsteps down the wooden stairs. The door opened, he dropped his keys, and immediately felt a swoosh of displaced air behind him as someone – not visible – ran past. He learned his lesson and was never out of bed again once the clock struck twelve.
Next door, at number 8 (in Dublin even and odd house numbers follow one another on the same side of the street) lived a disharmonious old couple who felt nothing but hatred for one another. Each waited for the other to die. He finally did. She was happy to be rid of him but would soon discover he would plague her with his presence for many years. As she would settle comfortably for the evening, he would materialize and shout gibberish at her, just to remind her of his… existence. She put up with it as long as she could but eventually sought a priest to perform an exorcism and only then was she rid of her late husband’s evil spirit.
A funeral parlor now stands on the site of 7 and 8 Hendrick Street.
I don’t know whether I believe in ghosts but I can say that while I stood for ten minutes or so outside, where the houses used to be, I was breathing hard.
Perhaps even eerier is the Edmundsen Electrical Company across the street.
The building has been abandoned since the 1960s, a modern rectangle of glazed windows and fluttering blinds. A little girl has regularly appeared to visitors here, fueling the belief this was once an orphanage. The plant was also the site of many suicides. Faces have been known to appear at windows.
I know I saw a light shining in one.
Dublin is dotted with crypts, graveyards and haunted, coming alive (ahem!) at night. You could start your search for the supernatural with these:
- Kilmainham Gaol (its chapel is especially haunted, they say) whose story revolves around a card game, a low table, and a devil’s hoof beneath it – and the fact that it housed the leaders of many Irish uprisings
- Dublin Castle, whose invaders were beheaded and their decapitated bodies buried below – they still hang around vengefully
- Trinity College, where a medical academic experimented on corpses ‘borrowed’ from nearby graves
- St Michan’s Church, whose smooth stone steps lead to a musty crypt filled with mummified corpses that look freshly deceased
- The Brazen Head, an ancient pub once frequented by rebel leader Robert Emmet, whose ghost is said to still haunt the place more than 200 years after he was hanged
- Glasnevin Cemetery, haunted by a Newfoundland dog unwilling to leave its master’s side
- A former bank building along the Liffey River with reputedly not one but two ghosts, one a policeman shot by the IRA and the other linked to a roof collapse during an illegal Catholic mass in the 1700s
- The house of Bram Stoker (yes, the one and only author of Dracula) – Stoker may still be in there, writing
- And even today, there are those who say – and Dublin’s mayor is one of them – that several rooms in Mansion House, the mayoralty, are haunted.
To some visitors Dublin’s haunted side is a lark, something to investigate with tongue in cheek, with the utter confidence of disbelief. No matter if something dark and feathery makes them jump – they’ll laugh it off.
To others, it’s a serious matter and the subject of much historical – and paranormal – exploration.
Whatever you believe, it’s hard to dismiss the reputation of haunted Dublin as Halloween inches closer.
Over centuries the 31st of October may have acquired the innocence and irrelevance of a child’s night out trick or treating.
It wasn’t always so. Halloween (also spelled Hallowe’en), once known by the more formal All Hallows’ Eve or Evening, is now a Christian event, coming as it does the night before All Saints Day. Most probably it had pagan roots, in festivals centered around the end of the harvest and the beginning of winter.
Halloween might even have originated in Ireland, its history hidden in the distant Gaelic Samhain, the pagan marker for harvest’s end.
Walking through some of Dublin’s darker corners, it isn’t difficult to believe the dead are just waiting for my passage to give a sign. Soon it will be their night, after all, and lest you forget them, they will go bump in the night, or brush against the side of your face.
Just to remind you.
Have you ever visited a haunted venue? Please share in the comments below if you have.
Things a Woman on the Road should know
- It will come as no news that Dublin is a drinking city and as such, it has its share of… drunks. Most reach that stage in the evening, but a few might spill over into breakfast. Be warned that if you visit the Guiness Storehouse, you will probably see more ghosts than you normally would.
- Buy a Dublin Bus Freedom of the City ticket if you’re staying a few days. The transit system is excellent. The ticket is even valid for the 747, which goes to the airport. It also lets you into a number of museums and attractions for free and gives you good discounts for shops and restaurants – definitely worth it for me.
- Want to know more about paranormal activities in Dublin? Check out the paranormal database.
- Just want to know about Dublin? Then Visit Dublin is what you need.