On my recent trip to Ireland, I arranged to visit a place high atop my bucket list – Charleville Castle.
The castle was built in 1798 for Charles William Bury, Earl of Charleville, a strange and eccentric man of wealth and power. It was designed by famed architect Francis Johnston, a freemason, known to be a practitioner of the dark arts who performed black magic rituals inside the castle walls.
Charleville Castle is known as one of the “Scariest Places on Earth” and featured on the thus named reality show back in 2001. The aforementioned program presented Charleville as an ominous and creepy structure that would illicit nightmares from those with even the strongest constitutions. Charleville was a place said to be “infested” with ghosts.
Charleville Castle took 14 years to complete. It was a prime example of indulgence, excess, and obscene wealth. The Earl’s lavish parties and grand gatherings made the castle a happy, lively place to be. So why is it so replete with petulant spirits?
In the case of Charleville, it might be that the land as well as the building is haunted. The castle is located in Tullamore, County Offlay, the geographic middle of Ireland. Legend states that the castle was built on an ancient faery mound, an act that evoked much anger from the mythical Irish beings.
The mile-long road leading up to the front door of the castle cuts through a large swath of old-oak forest. The thick blanket of trees mask dark supernatural secrets. Creatures that hide in the woods by day come out in force once the sun goes down. The eerie residents of the forest add to the haunting reputation of the magnificent castle.
The ancient forest was a place of great power. Druids built sacred burial grounds in the area. Monastic monks revered the land for its mystical properties. For centuries, these mysterious cloaked figures have been spotted in the forest, performing strange rituals by moonlight.
Much to my surprise the 55,000 square foot Charleville was not a gloomy fortress of doom, it was surprisingly beautiful, at least during the day. Considered the finest neo-gothic castle in all of Ireland, Charleville was a “faux” castle; designed as a show piece with little or no practical military applications. At first glance, the reputation and reality of the castle seemed to be a paradox.
Time and weather have not been kind to Charleville. Looted, pillaged, and neglected for decades, only recently has the property been rescued. The current owner is in the process of slowly and painstakingly restoring the fabulous castle.
Only a portion of the castle is structurally sound. Most of the top floor is still dangerously dilapidated, but the open areas are breathtakingly beautiful and architecturally impressive. During my visit I toured various dining and drawing rooms inside the castle, including the three paranormal hotspots.
The Queens Chamber, a magnificently restored round bedroom, is thought to be the most active sleeping area in the castle. The spirit of a woman has been spotted floating near the elaborately carved mahogany bed on several occasions. She’s been known to sit, leaving an impression on the mattress. She’s even tried to join guests under the covers while they slept.
After introducing myself, I tried to engage the ghost in conversation with a short EVP session.
“Is there a woman here in the Queen’s Room who’d like to be acknowledged?” I asked aloud.
As luck would have it I captured something; a light-hearted yet smug laugh that seemed to drift away from the microphone. It sounded distinctively female and a bit forced, as if to say, “Well of course there is you silly American!”
After that, I made my way to the servant’s staircase on the opposite side of the castle. The ghost of an eight year old girl named Harriet, daughter of the Earl of Charleville, was said to haunt the stairwell. Harriet died in 1861 after falling and breaking her neck while playing on the stairs.
Wispy shadows, girlish giggles, and forlorn screams are attributed to Harriet’s ghost. The current owner’s children often played with Harriet, who became reclusive around adults. Finding Harriet has been the focus of many paranormal investigators, including teams from SyFy’s Ghost Hunters International and Living TV’s Most Haunted.
I tried my luck at coaxing Harriet with my motherly ways. I spoke of my son who was about her same age, hoping she would show herself or let her voice be heard on my recorder. While reviewing the audio file, something unsettling happened. I felt a sudden burst of cold air brush across my neck, as if someone with icy breath was blowing near my ear.
I shuddered, caught off guard by the change in temperature. I looked up just in time to see a dark, ominous shadow standing at the top of the landing. It had a distinctively human form, appearing slightly taller than the bannister in front of it. Within seconds, the shadow quickly darted off to the right, moving at unnatural speed.
Had I just witnessed Harriet? My instincts told me something paranormal was happening.
Leaving the stairwell, I made my way into the King’s Chamber – the 18th century equivalent to a modern “man cave” minus the 56 inch flat screen TV. Ceremonial swords, armor suits, elaborately decorated chairs, hunting trophies, books, and various bric-a-brac covered every square inch of the round cornerless room.
I felt overwhelmingly uncomfortable. The atmosphere was heavy and caustic, almost smothering. This was no place for a woman – living or dead. As I walked the interior of the King’s Chamber I tried another EVP session. I asked for a sign that I wasn’t alone.
Another cold breeze rushed across my face, but this time it was strong enough to move the hair off my forehead. I whipped around expecting to find a window open but they were locked securely. My body shuddered with excitement and dread.
Armed with my audio recorder I asked, “Was that you I just felt? If you want me to leave you’ll need to speak clearly and loudly so I can hear you.”
The response was chilling. I picked up an EVP of a loud, angry scream. It was a masculine voice full of emotion and intent. I kept my promise and quickly left the room. It was most definitely time for my investigation to end.
That concluded my exploration of the castle and I made my way back down the wooded path. The late afternoon sun fought hard to get through the thick forest canopy, making the journey down much more ominous than the trip up.
The time I spent at Charleville was brief but eventful. The castle had a multitude of secrets, as did the land. Ancient and esoteric, the forest was a place of enchantment that surrounded Charleville like a mystical blanket, keeping sacred mysteries safe from the modern world.
Does Charleville Castle deserve the title of one of the “Scariest Places on Earth”? I can’t say for sure. But there is a magical element to this young Irish castle that can’t be labeled as any one thing. I can veraciously describe Charleville as a paradigm of paranormal phenomenon.
READ PART ONE OF THERESA’s EXPERIENCES IN IRELAND HERE
Theresa Argie, The Haunted Housewife, is an experienced lecturer, educator, researcher and paranormal investigator and has had many years dealing with spirits, ghosts and paranormal activity. Theresa has worked beside some of the most well-known experts in the paranormal field, and has been featured by countless media outlets. She is also the co-author of America’s Most Haunted.