Stories and sightings of apparitions abound in this ancient city steeped in myths and legends. If you do not want to chance an encounter with undeparted souls, there are numerous places you will want to avoid.
Cross St Michan’s Church immediately off your list: behind iron doors, a narrow stone staircase descends to its crypt where the ghoulish remains of up to 800-year-old bodies have been preserved by the dry air. Stacked coffins have caused limbs to protrude at startling angles, and occupants of open coffins look as if they are merely snoozing and might wake any moment. Visitors often hear whispers and voices and feel icy cold fingers pressing on their necks and running down their spines.
Dublin Castle is another do-miss destination if you want to evade the city’s ghosts. The heads of overcome invaders were mounted on the castle’s walls to deter other would-be assailants, and their decapitated corpses lie buried beneath. But according to tour guides, their spirits can stray.
Prisoners at the ominous 18th-century Kilmainham Gaol included the leaders of the 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 uprisings. The gaol closed in 1924, and is now Europe’s largest unoccupied building of its kind — if you do not count the ghosts of former inmates and wardens. Their spectral presence is most frequently sensed around the prison chapel, where 1916 Easter Rising leader Joseph Plunkett married Grace Gifford just hours before his execution by firing squad.
Among Kilmainham Gaol’s inmates was rebel leader Robert Emmet, who was hung, drawn and quartered in 1803. In his speech from the dock during his trial, Emmet famously asked that his grave not be marked until Ireland was a sovereign nation, and the whereabouts of his body remain a mystery today. But his ghost, it is rumoured, is watching out for enemies in Dublin’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head, where Emmet once held Resistance meetings.
Brazen Head is not the only city pub with phantom customers. When the temperature unexpectedly drops in the Bull and Castle (formerly the Castle Inn), it is believed to be the presence of poet James Clarence Mangan, who was born here in 1803.
Kavanagh’s pub is its better-known as Gravediggers, because the gravediggers working at the adjacent Glasnevin Cemetery used to order drinks on the job through a secret hatch. At the bar, there are regular reports of an elderly gent dressed in tweed who drinks a pint and then vanishes.
Glasnevin Cemetery, as you would expect, has its own spooky stories. One of the more unusual ones is that a ghost of a Newfoundland dog is said to appear at the grave of his master, John McNeill Boyd. The bereft dog starved to death after refusing to leave Boyd’s grave. Sightings of the dog have also taken place at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
If you do not want ghosts disturbing your sleep, you might want to pass on Dublin’s most majestic hotel, the Shelbourne, located on stately St Stephen’s Green. The recently refurbished hotel was built in 1824 on the site of a row of houses. It is rumoured that one of the original residents, a little girl called Mary Masters who died of cholera in 1791, roams the hotel corridors.
Or so the stories go.
If you do want to search out Dublin’s supernatural attractions on your own, several companies offer dedicated ghost tours including Hidden Dublin Walks, which runs a variety of spooky walks and bus tours of the city and beyond.