I recently returned from the Ghost Tour of Ireland provided by GhosTour.com along with seven other ghost hunting buddies from Arizona. There we met up with friends from around the country that participated in the Ghost Tour of England 2009, Ghost Tour of Scotland 2011, and met many new acquaintances. During the next couple of weeks, I will be providing a recap of this unusual ghost tour hoping you may want to make Ireland your next haunted vacation.
Day 2 Sligo Abbey, Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery, Marble Arch Caves, Ballygally Castle
By the early morning, the “inmates” of the old lunatic asylum (now the Clarian Hotel Sligo) felt refreshed and ready for another day of adventure. The group posed for a group picture in front of the building and down by the old hospital signage.
Construction for the St. Columba’s Lunatic Asylum began in 1847. The mental hospital opened its doors in 1855. The doctor in charge of the Asylum from 1883 introduced a new method of treating patients. He abolished restraints where possible and allowed inmates to roam freely throughout the grounds. Locals say that during construction, the weak and feeble workers who died on the job were covered with soil and buried on the spot. This could be another reason for they many ghost stories tied to the majestic building. In 2004, St. Columba’s was transformed into the Clarion Hotel.
The tour group had barely boarded the bus when someone noted they needed something from their luggage stowed below. As the “wings” of the luggage compartment began to rise, the wheelchair took flight, landed on the ground, and started down the steep driveway toward oncoming traffic at the street below. Quick thinking, Edd Felix ran down the driveway, hopped into the runaway wheelchair and coasted toward the street—slowly bringing it to a halt. Did we have a runaway ghostly inmate from the former Asylum trying to make their getaway?
A short drive through Sligo brought us to Sligo Abbey. Known locally as “The Abbey”, this Dominican Friary was founded in the mid-13th century by Maurice FitzGerald. The site contains a great wealth of carvings including Gothic and Renaissance tomb sculpture, well preserved cloisters and the only sculptured 15th century high altar to survive in any Irish monastic church. After the guided tour, the guests photographed old tombstones and tombs scattered throughout the grounds. The graveyard once extended across the road and residents of the flats (apartments) sometimes reported cupboard doors opening and shutting and a feeling of being watch. During the times of Cromwell a number of monks were hung, drawn and quartered for not giving up their faith. And during the times of the plague or cholera outbreaks dying victims were tossed over the walls to be buried.
Further out of the city the tour visited Carrowmore Methalithic Cemetery. Carrowmore Methalithic Cemetery is the largest cemetery of megalithic tombs in Ireland and is also among the country’s oldest, with monuments ranging from five and a half thousand to six and a half thousand years old. Archaeologists have recorded over 60 tombs of which 30 are visible.
The tombs (in their original state) were almost universally ‘dolmen circles’; small dolmens each enclosed by a boulder ring of 12 to 15 meters. Each monument had a small leveling platform of earth and stone. One of the secrets of the dolmens longevity was the well-executed stone packing set around the base of the upright stones. The combination of 5 of these orthostats and a capstone enclosed a pentagonal burial chamber. The boulder circles contain 30 – 40 boulders, usually of gneiss, the material of choice for the satellite tombs. Sometimes an inner boulder circle is present. Entrance stones, or passage stones, crude double rows of standing stones, emphasize the direction of the small monuments; they generally face towards the area of the central tomb.
Carrowmore – like Newgrange and Lough Crew- is classified as being part of the Irish Passage Tomb Tradition. William Butler Yeats once said, “In Ireland, this world and the world we go to after death are not far apart.”
Traveling east, the tour bus stopped to visit the Marble Arch Caves. The Marble Arch Caves Global Geopark is host to one of Europe’s finest “showcaves” allowing visitors to explore a fascinating, natural underworld of rivers, waterfalls, winding passages and lofty chambers. Early explorers did not like entering the cave for fear of ghosts. Lively and informative guides conduct tours past a bewildering variety of cave formations – stalactites glisten above stream ways and chambers while fragile mineral veils and cascades of creamy calcite coat walls and spread as shimmering terraces across rock strewn floors. Spectacular walkways allow easy access while powerful lighting reveals the stunning beauty and grandeur of the caves. Electrically powered boats glide through huge caverns carrying visitors along a subterranean river when the water level is safe. Our tour lasted 75 minutes and the walkways were suitable for people of average fitness. Our guide reported feeling the ghostly spirit of a fellow caver who died recently in the cave. They sense lots of ghostly pranks and an uneasiness when they turn down the lights.
The final resting place for the night was historic Ballygally Castle at the seaside village of Ballygally. Voted one of the top 13 Haunted Hideaways, it is near Belfast and set on the Antrim coast along a hauntingly beautiful stretch known as the Glens of Antrim. The bus traveled on the sea coast highway which passed through the Black Cave Tunnel—also known as the Black Arch. This castle hotel dating back to 1625 was renovated in 2007 and has an abundance of Irish character and charm. According to centuries-old legend, castle owner Lord James Shaw took his newborn son and heir–then locked his wife in the tower. While trying to escape, Lady Isobella Shaw fell to her death from a window. Another theory is that Lord Shaw himself through her to her death—or paid someone to do it. Despite her trauma, she is reputed to be a “friendly” spirit and is regularly seen wandering through the castle corridors in search for her beloved son. There are many accounts of eerie activity around the castle and several guests have felt a presence in their room or the sound of a baby crying. A green mist has been reported hovering over the castle. There is a room dedicated to the ghost in the towers of the older part of the castle.
After dinner, Richard Felix gave his presentation on “What is a Ghost”. It was followed by a ghost hunt in the Castle Towers and a short séance. What will happen next? Will the ghost of Isobella be seen? Will the green mist be discovered during the night? Come back and read DAY 3 for MORE tales of Arizona Ghost Hunter Travels: Ireland Tour during the next couple of weeks!
For More information: Arizona Haunted Sites Examiner: Debe Branning: Nazanaza@aol.com