The notorious Charleville Castle is located in a “primordial forest” practically in the center of the Irish island, near the town of Tullamore in the County Offaly. Originally called Charleville Forest Castle, it was commissioned in 1798 by the first Earl of Charleville, Charles William Bury. This imposing edifice was designed by the renowned Irish architect, Francis Johnston and was completed in 1812. (For such a haunted castle, it’s a bit young!)
Some might say the castle is nestled among the trees…others may claim that the forest entombs the building; it really depends on your outlook. My view is that by day it is nestled, by night entombed! Many other people have a similar opinion. After all, the Charleville has been featured on Most Haunted, Ghost Hunters International and Scariest Places On Earth. But how does such a picturesque castle gather such a fearsome reputation? The answer is shrouded by the passage of time.
The land that the castle was built on was originally an ancient monastery and/or a sacred Druid site, depending on whose history you read, but either way that was over a thousand years ago. Whether any of the ghosts stem from that time period is debatable. There are fiendish rumors that the first Earl of Charleville practiced devil worship, others that he had the building erected on the site of ancient ley lines in order to take advantage of the natural magnetic energies prevalent there. Freemasonry was a family tradition with the Burys. Could that have anything to do with the plethora of ghostly phenomenon reported at their family home? Who can say?
The most famous ghost of Charleville Castle is perhaps its most tragic, due to the tender age of the revenant. Harriet, the golden haired daughter of one of the Earls of Charleville, was sliding playfully down the banister of the grand staircase when she lost her balance and fell to her death on the cold stone floor below. Many visitors have sensed movement of cold air when traversing the stairway. Others have seen the child on the steps, as well as throughout the rest of the house, often seemingly playing a spectral game of hide and seek. Occasionally she is spotted with a small boy for her playmate, but who he is no one knows. The two are suspected culprits in an incident where a daughter of the house was inexplicably locked in a cupboard in the playroom. A kinder and more famous tale linked with this pair of child ghosts revolves around the small son of Bridget Vance, who purchased and started to renovate the castle in the 1970’s. Her son came up missing one day when he was a wee three year old. Frantically the family searched the castle for him, terrified that he might fall from the stairs or one of the galleries. They finally found him at the bottom of the staircase where he told them that a boy and girl had looked after him as he came down the steps.
Ms. Vance’s mother awoke one night in her tower bedroom to witness what she called a “cavalcade” of ghosts, including a large number of robed, monk-like figures who seemed to encircle her bed and offer her a blessing.
A guest of Ms. Vance had bedded down in a spare room after a party, but was kept awake by a boisterous conversation held by two unseen Englishmen of another age. Disconcerted by the invisible interlopers, he finally was able to get some rest after turning the lights back on and keeping the door to the room open.
Other reports from this active castle include voices, footsteps, a child’s cry, a white mist and an eerie male figure who roams the walkways of the castle. There is a balcony that is kept locked due to it being the territory of a powerful elemental which, depending on which account you read, is either a nature spirit or a collection of spirits that have been assimilated into one being, like the Borg on Star Trek. The castle owner was reportedly warned by a sensitive that the elemental was not a good spirit and would not hesitate to do harm to intruders on its balcony. Taking caution to heart, the owner has kept the balcony locked ever since.
Finally, one of the legends of Charleville Castle is that of the “King Oak”, a huge, ancient tree that had a special relationship to the Bury family. It was said that if one of the branches fell from the tree, a member of the family would pass away shortly. In 1963 the oak was hit by a devastating lightning strike. The tree managed to survive, but within a matter of days Colonel Charles Howard-Bury, the head of the Bury family and last of the family to own the castle, died unexpectedly.
This amazing property is now maintained by the Charleville Castle Heritage Trust, which hosts many events at the castle. Please visit their site for more information on Charleville: http://charlevillecastle.ie/_mgxroot/page_home.