SHEPTON MALLET PRISON PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION – By Alison Oborn
HMP Shepton Mallet Prison, nestled in a small Somerset Village in England, was originally built in 1610-1625 after King James I decreed that all counties should have their own jails. It is also said to be one of the oldest working jails in the country, finally closing its doors in 2013.
In the early days, it held men, women and children in dreadful conditions. Although it improved over the years, it was still said to be lacking adequate conditions. Disease was rife with unsanitary conditions. It was reported that prisoners who went in healthy changed to being emaciated in a few short months. If prisoners died in the jail, they were usually taken out and buried in unconsecrated ground just outside of the prison. There are still nine unmarked graves within the grounds of the prison, thought to be those of the executed.
Many people were executed in Shepton Mallet prison, with some of the earliest being 12 local Shepton men. They were sympathisers in the Monmouth Rebellion in 1642 before being captured. They were Hanged, drawn and quartered with their insides burned and their heads placed upon spikes around the township as a lesson to others.
In WWII it was opened to the U.S.A. forces as a military prison. They executed 18 of their servicemen with 16 of them hanged and two shot against a 75ft wall by a firing squad. However, the method of shooting brought condemnation from the locals in the sleepy village. This was not because of any cruelty but instead because of the noise. The military overcame this by timing the executions to 8 a.m., when the local church clock would chime and so cover up the offending sound.
The last civilian to be executed was in 1926, before these military executions. It was handed back to the British Military at the end of the war and it was then used for Soldiers serving out their National Service. This included the infamous Kray Twins who were serving out their National Service after going absent without leave and assaulting a police officer. In 1966 Shepton Mallet Prison was handed back for civilian life, but no further executions were ever to take place in this prison.
After such a long 400 year history, including having kept the Doomsday Book and other documents safe during WWII from German bombing runs, it finally closed its doors in 2013.
SHEPTON MALLET PRISON GHOST STORIES
Many eerie things have been reported, both by staff, volunteers and visitors at Shepton Mallet Prison. Some report to have seen the supposed ghost of one of the executed servicemen, Private Lee Davis. Private Davis was executed for rape and murder. He refused to accept his fate and is believed to still wander the hallways today.
One prison tour guide even claims to have been burned by a cigarette while taking a tour one night. He had just been talking about Private Lee and executions when he felt a burning sensation on his hand which developed into what looked like a cigarette burn. He does not lock up alone now.
Other stories involve a lady dressed in white, thought to be a ghost of a woman who was either executed or died of a broken heart (stories vary) after being accused of having murdered her fiancé in 1680.
With reports apparitions seen, doors slamming on their own, people being touched, disembodied voices and footsteps, we so had to go and investigate!
On this occasion, we had booked into a public investigation with Haunted Happenings. We always struggle to find venues on the weekend to hire for a private investigation. The reason for this is largely due to tour groups operating there. We have found Haunted Happenings to be the best of the tour groups we have tried, and we wanted to visit Shepton Mallet Prison so we had no hesitation in booking our tickets.
Although for most of the night we had nothing much happen, apart from a couple of bangs in one of the cell blocks, it became more interesting when we did some glass divination.
The idea of this was to have an upside-down glass on the table. Placed underneath the glass, was a flashing cat ball. The ball should not flash unless motion activated and this is where it became interesting.
There were four of us with our fingers placed lightly on the glass. We shared this experience with a lovely couple, one of who was fairly sceptical. Both were like us, determined to have a real experience and both wanting to trust us in return that the glass would not be pushed. Our table was at first, the least successful of all the other participants on their own tables. Balls and glasses were flying everywhere, while ours remained unmoved.
Nearly giving up all hope, and being grateful that we were obviously with a couple who could be trusted, it began. At first, the ball rocked gently under the glass. Maybe our ideomotor movements, I thought. These are small involuntary movements made by our muscles. Then the ball started to rock more violently before setting off, hitting the side of the glass. It continued its movement by suddenly rapidly circling under the glass. I was a little taken aback any small amount of ideomotion movement we may have been making should not have produced such speed. I took my finger off and rapidly went to grab my camera, but by the time I returned it was slowing, and I only caught the tail end of it.
After that, there were various movements of the ball under the glass and we even had the table moving when we were a good distance away from the edge of it. Was it our movements? We can never truly rule that out, but the final movement that the ball made really caught my attention. On reviewing the video back, the ball starts to rock again and then it pivots on the spot. It was this that caught my attention! A ball pivoting on the spot is such an unusual movement, and far from what we could have produced accidentally. All of this is captured in the video below.
Although we didn’t see any ghosts at Shepton Mallet Prison that night, we would certainly like to get back there and explore it further. The ball was definitely a ‘wow’ moment… it has us intrigued!
One Guide’s Thoughts on the Subject from the Other Side – By Kag Allwood
“Will I see a Ghost?” is the one question I am frequently asked at the beginning of my tour. Either that or “Can you guarantee me a ghost?” I also have had the occasional review that says they loved the tour and the stories told, but they couldn’t give the full 5 stars as they didn’t see a ghost!
The truthful answer is no, I can’t guarantee anything paranormal-wise. I can’t guarantee that you will see a full-bodied apparition, a shadow figure or even something resembling Casper. I can do many things in life, but producing something on command, something that we really don’t know much about or even how it works is a tall order. Having any available entities perform for my guests night after night would be interesting, but not possible I’m afraid! Although thinking about it, how boring would it be if we knew what was going to happen every night, rather than not knowing what to expect? The motto at Haunted Horizons is and will always be ‘Keep it Real’ and that is what we do. Putting something on for people to believe they have had a paranormal experience is NOT an option!
The lucky ones are those that are ‘gifted’ and claim to occasionally see, feel or hear a ghost. Unfortunately, for those of us that are as psychic as bricks, we have to rely on the generosity of the few to inform us of anything around the tour group. Even then, any gifted person would tell you, there isn’t always someone ‘at home’.
I have often thought how cool would it be to be able to say to my guests at the start of the tour “those who want to be possessed, make sure you visit room 2. Anyone wanting to touch base with a demonic entity, he’s waiting for you upstairs, take care as it’s a bit warm up there and the creeper is lurking around the corridors somewhere!” In normality, the paranormal isn’t like that. In normality, it doesn’t happen all the time. In normality, none of us knows if, or even when, something unusual or possibly paranormal will happen. If it happened all the time it would be called normal and not paranormal.
So why do a few people expect to see a ghost on every tour and ghost hunt we do? Are we possibly conditioned to expect to see an apparition? It is a Ghost Tour after all! Or are there other factors that we have to take into account?
Well, my theory is …. we have numerous horror/ghost films that depict haunted homes and locations. You can guarantee that everyone one of these locations has at least one, if not many, creepy figures, frightening the bejesus out of the owners, making their lives a misery. It’s nearly always the same storyline too. There is one parent and/or possibly a child that is affected, everyone else thinks they are going through a bad time or need to cheer up until the inevitable happens. The whole family starts to be affected, the last one being the sceptic. As soon as the non-believer has their own experience, they all end up leaving the building during the middle of the night, never to return again! Sound familiar?
I know that some of the films claim to be based on real occurrences, but they tend to be VERY loosely based on the actual story. There can be and often is an awful lot of poetic licence involved. The reason for this? No-one wants to watch a film where they just heard footsteps walk down the corridor or saw a figure pass by the bedroom door! It’s so much better to have items, as well as the odd person, thrown across the room or dragged out of bed because they had their foot sticking out the blankets. The stuff of nightmares! Or how about a certain family member being possessed, be on the brink of death and require an exorcism from an elderly priest who has carried out this procedure numerous times before, but finds this one the worst and most powerful entity he’s ever had to deal with!
What about all the ghost hunting programmes we have on TV or even some on YouTube! Does watching these shows make us believe that you will enter a known haunted location and see a ghost every time? If not see a ghost, at least feel one or have one follow you all the way home? Are they really having that much paranormal activity happen in the short time they are there or do they film for a number of hours or even days? Is the footage then clipped and put together to show more activity than there really was? What happens to the footage from the venues where nothing happens? If nothing happened on one of these shows, would you still watch it? I know I wouldn’t. I want noises in the distance, I want EVP’s (and boy, they seem to get a lot of them), I want action!
So why do I think that these are amongst the reasons why some people believe that they could and should see a figure on a Ghost Tour? I have to admit, before coming on my first Haunted Horizons tour several years ago, I did wonder if all that could happen to me! I really can’t remember if I wanted to see a ghost on my first tour, probably not as I was terrified, but I expected to be scared and run screaming from a building. I didn’t, under any circumstances, want to be followed home! So, did any of this happen to me? Nope! Was I disappointed? Honestly, no I wasn’t, I loved every dark, scary, eerie moment. I had been on several tours and ghost hunts before I could say that I had something possibly paranormal happen.
Since this time, I have travelled the world investigating with my boss and best friend Alison. So, have I seen a ghost? Well, yes …. I have. A couple are in the ‘possible/maybe’ category, but three I can say “I’m sure I did”. Two shadowy figures, one at Tailem and the other at Z Ward and a full-bodied apparition at the National Railway Museum.
At Tailem Town Pioneer Village we were having a night where many guests had freaked out in the Emporium. One guest, by the time she got the church, couldn’t go any further. I left her with Michael, one of our guides, to fetch her a glass of water from our base camp. I’d almost reached my destination when there was a figure walking towards me in the dark. “How can you see a dark figure in the dark?” I hear you ask. Well, all I can say is that it was darker than the dark. The height and shape were that of Michael whom I had left just outside the Church with our guest. Thinking that Michael was having fun with me, I called out ‘Ha-ha Michael, very funny” and turned my torch on the figure …. there was nothing there. I may have sworn!
At Z Ward Asylum I was setting up to do a live feed/investigation on our HH Facebook page. Alison was in the Day Room as I walked down the hallway with my arms full of equipment, heading for the Mirror Room to place some equipment in there. After setting up some equipment on the floor, I moved across to Cell 2. As I stood in the doorway, I saw an oval shape on the floor by the column in the corner of the room. My torch was in my pocket and, it was very dark and I didn’t want to fall over anything that was possibly on the floor, so I turned on one of the flashing cat balls to give me some intermittent light. At this point, the shape in the corner stood up! I admit I did swear …. Again!
At the National Railway Museum, as a guest, we were in a small investigation group. The men were in the caboose (no longer accessible) and another lady and I were in the ‘Ladies’ carriage. We re-joined the men and waited for them to come out of the caboose. My hubby and son exited the carriage to the left and I saw another person, which I assumed to be the husband of the other guest, go to the right. She asked where her husband was and I reported to her that he had got off and was walking down the side of the train as I could see his legs. He then came from a completely different direction! The figure that I saw had disappeared. Not only that, the exit to the right was blocked off so no-one could have got off that way! I know what I saw! I may have sworn (again!).
So how come is it that I have seen figures/ghosts? This can be easily explained. I am in our own haunted locations several nights a week for several hours at a time. And, as I have mentioned before, I travel every year with my BFF Alison (and sometimes Craig) to different parts of the world. Alison hires known haunted locations for us to investigate. I am, what you would call, an active investigator. I’m not one that sits in an armchair and talks about it, I’m out there, in the field. Because of this, I have a better chance of seeing a figure than anyone that is on a two-hour tour! I have a better chance than a lot of people, I am very lucky indeed to do what I do. But does this mean I see a lot of figures whilst out and about …. nope, not at all. I have never, as yet, seen a figure whilst abroad! Why? Probably because I was only in the foreign locations for a few hours at a time and not night after night for years like I am in Adelaide.
Is it possible to see a figure on a two-hour tour? Yes, it is, as it has been reported numerous times at all of our venues. It’s a case of being in the right place at the right time. The luck of the draw.
So, come on our tours and investigations and enjoy the locations, learn their history and hear about the paranormal activity experienced. Lower your expectations on seeing/feeling or hearing something and enjoy the night. Once you relax and enjoy yourself, you never know what might happen!
To hear more on this subject, click on the link below and watch GhostCast – our Vodcast on this topic.
Written By Kag Allwood
Lead Guide at Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons
Paranormal Researcher and tour guide All articles are the personal opinion of the author only and do not always reflect the views of Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons.
In September 2018 we were lucky enough to be able to investigate at the reputably haunted West Virginia Penitentiary. Joined by our hosts for the night, Paranormal Quest, we had no idea how exciting the night would be. It certainly made us very fond of the West Virginia Penitentiary and would rank it as one of the top places that we have investigated. The following is an account of the night.
Brief History of West Virginia Penitentiary
The West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville was built in 1876 and closed in 1995. During it’s working history, it was deemed as one of the most violent prisons in the U.S.A., seeing its fair share of riots, murders and executions. Conditions were less than adequate and humane, with the cells and rooms crawling with vermin and cockroaches. This hadn’t always been the case though. It was first reported in the early 1900s as having had good conditions, with decent food and education.
As time went on though and it became more overcrowded, this prison was eventually ranked in the United States Department of Justice’s top ten most violent prisons. Much of this violence took place in a room named the ‘Sugar Shack’.
During its operation, there were 36 reported murders and 94 executions. This does not take into account the suicides and accidents which take the total number of deaths to nearly 1000. Executions were carried out by hanging the condemned until 1951 and then they turned to use the electric chair or “Old Sparky” as it was affectionately named. The reason for this change was due to Frank Hyer who had murdered his wife. He had been led to the gallows in front of a crowd of eager spectators. However, once the trapdoor dropped, a realisation quickly dawned that calculations must have been incorrect, as when the weight of Franks body hit the end of the rope, it decapitated him in front of what was now probably not such an enthusiastic crowd. After this public executions were stopped and it became by invite only.
A well-remembered event at the Prison was the 1986 riot. Conditions were so bad by then that the prisoners felt they had to protest. Bad plumbing and vermin/cockroaches were causing health problems and overcrowding (more than 2,000 men) was also an problem. Locks were constantly picked and prisoners roamed the hallways freely. Guards were often stressed with their working conditions. A group of prisoners decided to rebel against the situation and awful conditions.
Twenty inmates called the ‘Avengers’ stormed the mess hall where 6 officers including Captain Glassock were taken hostage and handcuffed. Over the course of this riot 3 of the inmates who had been accused of being snitches were tortured and killed. Another inmate, Danny Lehman, was chosen to negotiate with authorities (he was later murdered in the prison) and it did result in a new list of standards. Eventually, it was deemed that the conditions and size of cells were still too inadequate and in 1995 the doors shut for good.
The West Virginia Penitentiary is now used for tourism and as a museum.
Is the West Virginia Penitentiary Really Haunted?
Many experiences and tales have been told about the West Virginia Penitentiary and probably not surprising considering its violent history. On top of the Prison violence, it is also built on the grounds of the Adena Native American tribe’s sacred burial grounds. In fact, opposite the prison is the only remaining burial mound left in Moundsville which is estimated to be 2000 years old.
A dark shadowy figure has been commonly reported from different areas of the prison, captured in a photograph taken by the resident paranormal group there, Paranormal Quest’. A lot of their evidence can be seen on their Youtube channel (link below).
A lot of EVP [Electronic Voice Phenomena – noises on recordings you didn’t hear at the time] have been captured there including the sound of a shotgun blast and the empty cartridge dropping to the floor also available to listen to online.
With strange sounds, screams and figures walking the hallways, how could we not choose to investigate the haunted West Virginia Penitentiary?
The Paranormal Investigation
As Kag and I arrived at the West Virginia Penitentiary, we received the greeting we often get when first rolling up somewhere like this. The host looks over our shoulders and asks where the rest of our team are. Nope, just us… two middle-aged ladies out on a paranormal adventure.
The excitement of the night started very early on. Jason, our lovely and very informative guide took us around and regaled us with the violent goings-on and dark history of the prison. It was as we neared the medical centre, that we heard a cough at the top of the stairs. We hesitated to listen and this was soon followed up by heavy movements on the top floor. Creeping up we stood in the darkness and listened to the heavy sounds resounding around the building. Bangs, the sound of glass being rattled and moved, knocks and even shuffling footsteps behind us ensued causing us to go live to our Facebook page… this was too good to miss!
My first thought was that there had to be animals in the roof, but there would have needed to be a herd of them as the noises often were simultaneous and resonated from rooms beside us, behind us and down the hallway.
This was to continue when we returned with Jason and Ryan (also members of Paranormal Quest) to investigate these noises. Both Jason and Ryan were as surprised as us and they swear they had never heard it that noisy before. They explained that they often hear the building settling as is common with most old buildings, but never so loud and never with such good timing to questions.
Interestingly a lot of the big bangs were in response to my talking. Jason would ask… nothing. I would ask and BANG! When we were talking amongst ourselves it was largely quiet. The equipment we had set out though remained unaffected and did not trigger up there once.
We did go live for our Patreon subscribers again and at one point we were receiving comments that our viewers were seeing a figure down the hallway. Kag zoomed the video in for a closer look and on watching back you clearly see a transparent misty form walk across the hallway. Could it have been a trick of light on the lens? We have looked at every other part of the video and can not find anything similar and it does appear to be upright. Although undecided… it does appear unusual and can be seen in the YouTube video link below.
We made our way to the Psych Ward and once down there, all sounds settled down. No further noises were heard, apart from the normal popping of metal common with building movement.
We then moved to the cell block but no matter how hard Kag tried to get a well know prisoner “Red” to respond to her (she obviously wasn’t his type), no activity was noted. We moved across to where Danny Lehman was murdered and on request we did get a ball in the room activating and the EDI trigger. It should be noted that this was the one and only time our equipment triggered all night.
Finally, we resorted to the good old ghost/spirit box, where we were clearly told several times to leave. Radio or the residents telling us they had had enough? Either way, we decided it was indeed late, we would take their advice and get some much-needed sleep.
Whatever was causing these sounds, it was certainly exhilarating at the time and the haunted West Virginia Penitentiary certainly has become one of our favourite places to investigate. The history alone is amazing never mind the paranormal happenings. We felt it such an honour to be able to explore this very imposing building and we can’t wait to return!
In September 2019 we were lucky enough to be able to investigate at the reputably haunted Old Licking Jail. Joined by Paranormal Quest, I think we had the best nights investigation that I have experienced in a long time. The following is an account of the night.
Brief History of the Old Licking Jail
Old Licking Jail was designed by J.W. Yost and built with distinctive brownstone (actually pink in colour) in 1889. It was at the time said to be the best the State had ever seen (there had been at least 3 before) and it was certainly the most intriguing with its Romanesque architecture of turrets and arches. It is no wonder Licking county jail is now one of the states most significant buildings.
The prison had living space in the front portion, for the Sherriff, the Matron and their families. This is certainly something that would not happen today. As well as the family living quarters, there were enough cells to accommodate approximately 68 inmates which included women, youths and men. One floor was set aside for the women and three others for the men. However, in the 1970s, the women were removed from the prison. Even with the women gone, it still suffered from overcrowded conditions, often with 6 inmates to one small cell. New standards had been set by 1978 and this jail failed every one of them. Even back then it was advised that the Old Licking Jail should be shut down. Instead of being shut down, attempts were made to improve the conditions which failed. As time went on the conditions got worse until in 1987 the Licking County Historic Jail officially closed its doors for good.
Why Would the Old Licking Jail be Haunted?
Many tragic deaths occurred in the Prison, including murder, accident and of course suicide. Four Sheriffs died from heart attacks during their time working and living there. However, the most tragic death was that of Carl Etherington who was lynched during the temperance movement. on July 8th 1910.
Carl had been a detective and came to Newark to raid speakeasies or saloons that were trading in illegal alcohol. Unfortunately one of the saloon owners, William Howard, attacked him and Carl had to shoot him to defend himself, killing Howard in the process. Carl was taken to the Licking County Jail to protect him as an angry mob had formed. The jail failed to protect Carl, as the angry mob stormed the building, beat poor Carl and then dragged him to a telephone pole in the Square and lynched him. Tragically when his father came to get his body, it turned out Carl had lied about his age and was only 17 years old.
Whether it is Carl still there or not, many people have experienced strange occurrences in the Old Licking Jail. Doors slamming, disembodied voices and dark figures have all been witnessed. Workmen have even reported being disturbed by loud screaming, to the point where they had to turn their music up to drown these unnerving sounds out.
The Paranormal Investigation
For this investigation, we were joined by our good friends Jason and Ryan from Paranormal Quest and Beth Darlington from Access Paranormal. It was a wonderful experience being able to collaborate and work together not to mention, so much fun!
Strange occurrences seemed to begin as soon as we started. Our lovely hosts Holly and Terri took us around the building to show us the lay of the land and also fill us in on the history and deaths there. Only about 10 mins into the tour, we all heard the giggling of a child in the room with us. This immediately got our attention. In one of the cell blocks, we also got the sound of somebody going “tssst” as if trying to get our attention. Now we were excited to get going with investigating the Old Licking Jail.
We started in the basement down in the ‘drunk tank’. Down in this area, we set up some equipment around the lone bed in the room and encouraged anything that may be present to let us know that they were around. The equipment remained largely silent until Ryan called out a name of one of the prisoners who had passed away down there. Immediately there was a couple of blips on the Rempod. Ryan continued to encourage and asked whoever it was to try really hard and light all the lights up. It wasn’t long before the Rempod fully triggered. It was interesting to note that the Rempod remained silent for the rest of the night. Shortly after, the shadow of a person was witnessed crossing the back wall and a door being slammed upstairs.
We decided to try out the Estes Method. This is where a spirit box is connected to headphones so that the wearer cannot hear the questions being asked. It is believed that this will take the bias out of what is being heard. On this occasion, our sessions were certainly curious, especially with the timing of the responses to our questions. [Please watch the video below].
We moved to the first-floor cell block and again set up the Estes method. Again the responses were curiously well-timed to the questions being asked and only when asked. I was the one on the headphones and had positioned myself down the cell block, well away from the rest of the group. It seemed quite chatty and informative at first but then I called out the word that I thought I heard, which was ‘tits’. Of course, this caused much amusement with the others and lead their questioning down another track. Suddenly I threw my hands up and stated ‘F#*$ it” as if in frustration. Now looking back I do wonder if I misheard the word ‘tits’ and the mucking around upset whoever was trying to communicate as after this it started to get abusive, especially towards Kag who had been more challenging after my call out. My most favourite response of the night…. when I pointed to Kag was Ryan spitting out “Old Bitch!” not once but twice.
Ryan asked if he could go on the headphones and the abuse continued, so relieved that it was not just me hearing it!
Old Licking Jail certainly produced one of the most curious nights with the Ghost/Spirit Box. Was it radio and coincidence… maybe. The timing of the responses was certainly interesting though. Whether radio or the dead talking to us, it was certainly a memorable night with amazing company. I think it was also one of the most fun investigations I have ever been on. In fact, it was so much so, that we are returning in Aug 2020. Hopefully whoever it was will be just as welcoming… not!
By Alison Oborn
Owner of Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons
Paranormal Researcher, Author and Tour Operator
Leap Castle, said to be one of the longest continually inhabited Castles in Ireland is located in Coolderry, County Offaly. Some report it to have been built around 1250 CE. Other reports state it possibly was built in the 15th Century by the O’Bannon Clan, the original name being “Léim Uí Bhanáin” or “Leap of the O’Bannons”. This name came about from the Legend that two O’Bannon brothers leapt from a rocky outcrop where the castle was to be built. The survivor would get to rule the clan and build the castle. Leap Castle may date back further than this, however, as there is evidence to suggest that there was another ancient stone structure prior and that the area has been occupied since the Iron Age or even earlier. It is also said to have been used by the druids for ceremonial purposes.
The O’Bannons were a wealthy clan and secondary chieftains to the ruling O’Carroll clan who already had a long history of aggression and bloodshed. In 1513 there was a recorded attempt by the Earl of Kildare to seize the castle. This attempt failed but another attempt three years later was more successful, but partially demolished the castle in the process. By 1557 the O’Carrolls regained possession of it and ruled Leap Castle using it as their principal stronghold.
By this time there were already problems starting within the clan. When Mulrooney O’Carroll, the clan chieftain passed away, his two sons, Thaddeus and Teige started a bitter battle for power. This feud culminated in Teige bursting into the room now known as the ‘bloody chapel’ while his brother (a priest) was giving a sermon to members of their family. He drove his sword through Thaddeus, his brother and family members watched him die as he lay mortally wounded across the alter. Teige eventually got his comeuppance as he was later killed by his cousin Cahir (Charles) O’Carroll.
The next owners of Leap Castle were the Darby family who came into possession of the castle through marriage. Jonathan and Mildred Darby were said to be greatly intrigued by the paranormal and Mildred went on to become a writer of Gothic novels which in turn led to the publicity of the castle ghosts.
Sadly and mainly because the Darby family were English, Leap Castle became a target for the IRA during Irelands fight for independence in 1922. The Darby family abandoned Leap to the fate of being bombed and looted. The IRA even took the domesticated peacocks and hung them from hooks along the top of the tower.
Leap Castle fell into complete ruin and remained empty until in the ’70s when an ancestor of the original O’Bannons, Peter Bartlett purchased it. Although he did manage to get restoration work done, he passed away shortly after and two years after this Sean Ryan, Leap Castles present owner purchased it. He continues the passionate work of restoring this vital part of Ireland’s history.
LEAP CASTLE GHOSTS
With so much dark history, it is not surprising that ghostly tales were bound to arise. Many have reported experiencing everything from a child through to the now-famous Elemental. But why would they be there – why would it be haunted?
The O’Carrolls ruthlessness and murderous ways would probably be a good candidate of course. The ghost of Thaddeus has been reported to still pace the Bloody Chapel and some of the rooms below. But Thaddeus wasn’t the only death in the castle. The McMahon family, for instance, were invited to a celebratory feast after defeating a mutual enemy clan. For whatever reason, the O’Carrolls decided to poison their guests, during what should have been a victory celebration. The same fate happened to some of the O’Neil clan.
In the 1920s an oubliette, hidden behind a wall in the Bloody Chapel, was discovered during renovations. It may show that the O’Carrolls had a hand in many more deaths. Skeletons impaled on spikes were found lying at the base of the Oubliette… enough human remains were brought out to fill three carts. However, it was also said that a pocket watch from the mid-1800s was also found there, so it may not have just been the O’Carrolls using that Oubliette!
In the era of the Darby’s, Captain Darby had amassed quite a wealth and legend has it that he hid treasures around the property. Eventually, the ‘Wild Captain’ was arrested for treason and incarcerated in Dublin. During his imprisonment, he was driven insane and once released, tried to find his treasures only to have forgotten where he buried them. His ghost is said to be roaming the castle grounds still looking for his lost treasure.
Continuing with the Darbys, when Jonathan and Mildred Darby took over Leap Castle, They were very intrigued with the legends and tales of their home and enjoyed dabbling in the occult. They would regularly hold seances, and Mildred went on to become a Gothic novelist which, in turn, no doubt, added to the publicity of the ghosts at Leap Castle.
The most famous of the spirits at Leap Castle is, of course, the ‘Elemental’. Its appearance is said to have a decomposing face and comes with an equally rotting smell. Nobody is sure where it originated from, but stories were being told from early on.
Could it have been put there by the druids to protect the land? Maybe the Earl of Kildare, placed it there to help them take the castle from the inside, after all, rumours stated that he was a man of Magick? Maybe an O’Carroll remained or could Mildred Darby have summoned an elemental during one of her occult rituals? These are just a few of the theories behind why there could be an elemental residing in the Castle.
More can be read about the Elemental here, including Mildred Darby’s fascinating letters referring to it.
HAUNTED HORIZONS – PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION
How excited were we as we pulled into the circular driveway of Leap Castle. We had heard so much about it, seen it featured on many ghost hunting shows, and now Kag and I had it to ourselves for the night.
As usual, we weren’t expecting too much, after all, we know from experience that activity is not a daily occurrence. If it were it would not be termed ‘paranormal’ but ‘normal’. Just having the opportunity of sitting in there would be reward enough though and anything else would be a bonus!
After being met by the wonderful Sean Ryan and having sat by the fire chatting with him, we finally set off to explore the tower. This is all that is available for investigating as the rest of the castle remains in ruins. It is heartening to see that Sean is slowly restoring these other sections and the money from investigations is helping to do this.
After the initial exploration, we settled first in the large dining hall. Things seemed to kick off almost immediately and got us excited for what the rest of the night might bring.
Firstly, upon turning on the Ovilus, the first words to come out included ‘Elemental’. Strange timing and location for this… coincidence? Maybe, but it certainly got our attention. This unusual timing was accompanied by Rempods and flashing cat balls that were activating while initially setting up. On watching the video back, there are two points where we seem to have captured a guttural male voice. One appears to be mimicking our word ‘ball’ on referencing the cat balls triggering.
Kag startled a little at the sound of footsteps running and was shocked that I hadn’t heard them too. These were fortunately captured on the video which was running at the time. At the same time, these footsteps were heard the Ovilus spat out two more words ‘horrible’ and ‘reveal’ so now we had three words showing on the screen ‘Elemental, horrible, reveal’. Would it reveal itself? Was this going to be our lucky night? Maybe something was just teasing us!
As we settled around the table and started questioning whatever was there it did not seem to want to talk us, as we captured no further EVP and even the Ghost Box remained quiet without anything of interest. We did, however, have strange bangs from behind us. One was loud enough to make me jump and become uneasy! At the same time, some of the equipment triggered again. However, with nothing willing to talk to us we decided to move up to the one we were most excited about… the Bloody Chapel!
Our excitement was short-lived as this was the quietest of the areas that we investigated. The equipment once more triggered while setting up, but once we settled, there was no further triggering of any of the equipment.
We decided to go live to our Patreon Subscribers, and I left Kag to do a lone vigil with them while I sat out on the cold twisting stone staircase outside the room. Kag may have had a couple of responses from the Ghost Box… one stating ‘leave’ another calling her a ‘bitch’ but apart from that nothing else transpired and we both agreed that it felt very peaceful up there. I have listened back to the video footage on the camera I had on the staircase with me and there does appear to be very faint whispering, including my name being said. Unfortunately, it isn’t strong enough to include in the accompanying video to this blog.
We finally did our last location, which was a small room below the Bloody Chapel. Here we decided to do a headphone experiment. This is where one investigator wears noise-cancelling headphones plugged into a ghost box while another asks questions that the headphone wearer can’t hear. The idea is to prevent audio pareidolia.
We certainly had a couple of interesting responses from this, but nothing mindblowing.
We could have stayed longer, but unfortunately, I was not feeling the best that night, having picked up a virus along our travels. Reluctantly we had to leave and get some much-needed sleep.
Despite not capturing proof of an Elemental, some of the responses we got were curious, to say the least, and it certainly felt like something was teasing us just enough to keep us interested but not enough to give us anything definite.
Hopefully one day we will return to Leap Castle and be able to spend more time exploring. Until then we would like to thank Sean Ryan for his amazing hospitality.
The haunted Ragged School Museum sits in the heart of the East End of London. Ragged Schools, or Free Schools, were charitable institutions which gave children of poverty-stricken families the opportunity for basic education. This particular ragged school was the largest in London and was founded by Thomas Barnado.
In 1866, Thomas arrived in London from Dublin to train as a doctor, but when he got there, he was greeted by great poverty and disease in the lower classes. He also watched helplessly as a pandemic of cholera swept through the East End, killing 3,000 people and leaving so many families devastated. In particular, his heart went out to the children, and he decided to continue with his missionary work and focus on helping these poor urchins.
In 1877 he finally opened his Ragged School in a block of warehouses after paying for a 21-year lease on two of them. With 370-day children registering and a further 2,500 for his Sunday School, it soon became the biggest in London. Each floor had a classroom and the basement served as a playground.
There were four paid teachers and six paid monitors to staff the school of children ranging in age. It didn’t matter from what background, religion or race they came from, they were all welcomed at the Ragged School and had pupils from West India, Africa and America who attended.
The Copperfield Road Ragged School went on to help many children who would otherwise have perished or continued in a life of misery and poverty. There were many success stories and some can be found here – Children of the Ragged School
The School operated for around 30 years before closing it’s doors for good in 1908 as a school. The Sunday School continued until 1915. After this, the building had many industrial uses up until 1984.
In 1983, when the buildings were due to be demolished the Ragged School Trust was formed and they stepped in to protect the buildings and preserve them as a museum. It now is a wonderful place to visit and learn about the history of Ragged Schools and the children that the schools helped.
INVESTIGATION BY HAUNTED HORIZONS
I had always been interested in this venue, ever since talking to Beth Darlington from Access Paranormal about her own strange experience there. She told of how she watched a table, during a table tipping session, walk down a hallway with the people on it trying desperately to keep up. As Beth is a very rational person and highly respected, I took great interest in this. It was many more years before I finally managed to organise a visit to the haunted Ragged School Museum.
In July 2019 Kag, Craig and I managed to secure the Ragged School Museum for a private investigation. We were greeted by our host for the night, who quickly showed us around and kindly told us some history of the place before leaving us to our own devices. Strange things happened almost straight away. As Kag and I were setting up in the basement (basecamp for the night), Craig had gone off exploring. Soon he returned with a “what did you want?” Kag and I looked at him blankly, so he continued “you called me”. Again, we looked at him blankly and shook our heads. He stated more hesitantly this time, that he clearly heard a female voice calling his name and assumed we wanted him back, so had cut his exploration short.
Excited now, we started in the upstairs area where a Victorian kitchen had been recreated. We chose this as when walking around earlier while doing a live feed to our followers on Facebook, some of our watchers told us they heard a voice that wasn’t ours.
We laid out the equipment and started our investigation, and after hearing a few strange sounds we started an EVP session. It was while listening back, the flashing cat ball to the side of me suddenly rolled off the chocolate bar we had placed it on. These small balls are designed to flash if touched or moved which this certainly did, even causing a little expletive to come out of my mouth! The incident was made more interesting by the fact that the ball had been sitting for quite some time without wobbling or moving until I asked if anybody there could try and move the ball. I followed that with a promise that if they could, I would leave them some chocolate. We later asked through the ghost/spirit box if they had enjoyed chocolate in their day to which we had a swift response “Yes we did”. After we got correct responses to how many of us there were and also to how many of us were male but then also being told that it was time to “turn it off” we moved on to another area of the Ragged School.
The next area was the recreated schoolroom. And here the curious happenings and responses continued.
Again we invited anybody there (especially a child) to feel free to play with any of the equipment and let us know they were there. Interestingly the only light to go off was yet another ball that we had placed on the bar of chocolate again. We were curious how it always seemed to be the ball connected to the chocolate, yet none of the others we had around the room.
We began with some roleplaying which meant Kag got to play a school teacher, with Craig and me being the students. The teacher was to ask simple math questions while running the ghost/spirit box. If the correct answer failed to come out, then each student, in turn, is caned. It was a job I feel Kag enjoyed way too much!
The first sum was answered correctly, however, Kag failed to hear it (or chose not to) and Craig was caned anyway. Out of the box appeared to be ‘ow ow’. Upon my turn, no answer was forthcoming but instead “too hard” and then a clear child saying “please miss”. I too received the cane!
We moved on to the headphone experiment instead. This is where one member of the team wears noise-cancelling headphones plugged into the ghost/spirit box so they can’t hear what questions are being asked. The reason for this is that we believe often our brains will search for answers that we think we should be hearing when we know the questions. This helps to eliminate this problem. This is where it became a lot more interesting.
Craig wore the headphones first and appeared to give relevant answers to our questions. He came out with children and ages before stating “They are watching” almost as if whoever the child was that we may have had talking to us, was concerned about others.
I then donned the headphones. We were doing this live on Haunted Horizons Patreon Page for our subscribers, so when I finally took them off I felt extremely guilty. I assumed I had fallen asleep, as I was by this point exhausted. The first thing I thought was oh no, I didn’t listen and call out when our guests were watching and waiting. Apparently this was not the case.
On the video, I shut my eyes so I could focus on the words coming out, and then shortly after, I put my hands around my throat and said ‘strangle’. Interestingly out of the Ovilus came the words ‘blind and cord’. My team asked who was strangled and I came out with “let them know”. The Ovilus also spat out children, starved, several. Meanwhile, Kag and Craig were discussing my weird behaviour. Craig asked if I used to sew as he felt we were getting responses from an adult, not a child. I raised my hands as if I was about to play the piano after giving Craig a strange look. Craig asked another question and I spat out ‘Amateur’… Craig paused and asked “are you talking to me?” and at this point, I woke up and took off my headphones. I hesitantly ask if I said anything relevant thinking they were going to chastise me for not saying much at all. They then told me what happened.
Moving to our last place in the Ragged School we settled in the basement, where we set up once more. It was here that the responses changed somewhat. Instead of being playful and innocent we seemed to get a lot of swearing mainly telling Craig to F#@* Off. I think he wins my award again this year for the most times a ghost has told a guide where to go! He appears to win this every year!
We decided to call it a night, but not before I saw the shadow of a person move across the door. At first, I thought Craig had moved behind me and I was seeing his reflection as that is how it looked, but he was still to the side of me. It also dawned on me the door wasn’t glass and a reflection was impossible. However, by this point, we were close to exhaustion and we still had a long drive back through London which is not an easy task and so we said goodbye to a most intriguing piece of London history.
Thank you to the Ragged School Museum for allowing us this time in your amazing museum.
For the full happenings and responses please watch the video below.
Please note: Because the ghost box/spirit box is controversial due to the nature of where the responses are coming from (it is a broken radio), then it can not be seen as evidence of the dead talking to us. We put that part forward for your entertainment only and for you to make your own judgement. The responses were curious nonetheless.
This Adelaide Author and award-winning tour operator has not only been researching the paranormal for over 30 years but is also a history & heritage enthusiast. She has been a volunteer guide, Information Officer and the official Paranormal Researcher at the Adelaide Gaol since 2002.
Alison also loves a good mystery and authored her book ‘Ghosts of the Past’ on the 10 years of paranormal research that she and her team, Paranormal Field Investigators conducted at the Adelaide Gaol.
She also runs Adelaide’s Haunted Horizons, which operates Ghost Tours and Dark History Tours in the Adelaide Gaol, at Z Ward, National Railway Museum, Tailem Town, Adelaide Arcade, Moonta and Burra.
Kag Allwood: The paranormal has always been a life-long interest of hers, but not something she ever thought of taking up seriously. She now works for Adelaide Haunted Horizons as part of the Management Team. Kag is also a lead guide, event organiser, as well as researches and writes her own tours.
She is an experienced, active paranormal investigator and has investigated numerous known haunted locations throughout the world.