Wednesday morning the Arizona ghost hunters and the rest of the Ghost Gang woke up to the pitter patter of a typical Ireland rain. After a hearty breakfast at the Ballgally Castle Hotel, the group loaded on to the bus and headed back into Belfast.
Day 3: Crumlin Road Gaol, Titanic Experience, Crown Saloon, and Cabra Castle
The first stop of the day was the Crumlin Road Goal and Courthouse for a tour of the facility. The Crumlin Road Gaol dates back to 1845 and closed its doors as a working prison in 1996. After extensive renovations the gaol has reopened for visitors and is comparable to Alcatraz in the United States. Today you can take a guided tour of the prison and hear about the history of the site when women and children were held within its walls. You will learn about the political segregation of republican and loyalist prisoners and learn why the prison was closed.
Our guide took us to the visit the underground tunnel that used to connect the gaol to the Crumlin Road Courthouse and we viewed all the wings from the circle. He escorted us to the condemned man’s cell before seeing the execution cell where the majority of the 17 men were hanged.
The Gaol has encountered some paranormal activity since the closing in 1996. There have been sightings, noises, and unexplained happenings with the walls that have seen executions during its 150 year history.
A local paranormal team, Ghost Searchers Ireland (GSI) made a brief appearance at the end of our tour and conducted a couple of paranormal experiments with the group. The Ghost Gang was asked to stand inside a closed darken cell where some of the group encountered a dark shadow up close and personal and moving about the cell. They also had a small group of volunteers form a circle to try a voice box session using radio frequencies to communicate with the spirits.
After the tour of the “Crum” the tour broke up into two groups. Some of the guests headed over to the Titanic Experience. Titanic Belfast extends over nine galleries, with multiple dimensions to the exhibition, drawing together special effects, full-scale reconstructions and innovative interactive features to explore the Titanic story in a fresh and insightful way; from her conception in Belfast in the early 1900’s, through her construction and launch, to her infamous maiden voyage and catastrophic demise.
The others chose to explore downtown the Belfast area where they had lunch (and perhaps encountered a few spirits) in one of the many local pubs. The Crown Saloon is one of Belfast’s architectural gems. It was built in 1826 as The Railway Tavern and renovated in 1886. It is decorated in glazed tiles, the work of Italian craftsmen moonlighting from their daytime jobs on the Catholic churches then being built in Belfast. The interior has carved oak snugs containing gunmetal plates for striking matches and an antique bell system once used for summoning staff. The snugs were very popular in Victorian days, and in fact during the early 20th century, when people did not always want to be seen drinking in a pub. The pub has no hanging sign, apparently because of religious differences between the owners. The Protestant Mrs. Flannagan insisted on naming it The Crown but Catholic Mr. Flannagan, being against the British regime then in control in Ireland, had the workmen insert a mosaic of the crown where customers would have to step on it as they entered! It is still in place today. The waitress told stories of the ghosts in the upstairs dining rooms where silverware tends to fly across the room and voices are heard after hours. Many tales of woe haunt this old tavern like that of the prostitute Amelia who lost her life here when she fell down the stairs. Her presence is often felt within the corridors. Strange lights, voices, and other strange activity has been recorded here.
The ghost gang met up again at 4:00 pm and headed south to Cabra Castle located outside of the town of Kingscourt. Cabra Castle is one of those storybook looking castles that every young girl dreams of. Cabra Castle boasts a proud history dating as far back as 1760. The castle history offers a mature, cultured air to the castle which can be felt as one strolls along the castle’s impressive hallways and stairwells. The Ghost Gang was escorted to the cottages—or the old renovated stables and servants quarters. Now, the buildings have been converted to elegant rooms in a rugged, rustic setting.
Dinner was served at round tables in the dining room in the main castle. Everyone could not resist petting the castle dog—Oscar—and old Irish wolfhound. After dinner some of the group lingered and socialized in the bar area while others did a little ghost hunting in the many hidden passageways throughout the castle.
Who would have ghostly visits in their rooms in the middle of the night? Will Oscar move from the comfort of his doggy bed? Find out more next time in Day 4 of Arizona Ghost Hunter Travels: Haunted Ireland Tour in the next couple of weeks.
For More information: Arizona Haunted Sites Examiner: Debe Branning: Nazanaza@aol.com