I’ve been on many ghost hunting tours but I have to say, Dublin’s is the most fascinating ….and inventive. The interior of our double-decker Ghostbus is spooky, curtains blacking out the world outside as we drive. And our guide, Nick, has us frightened one minute and rocking with laughter the next.
He starts with vampires. Did you know vampires got their start in Ireland? The most famous is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. But he owes his creation to Carmilla, a book about a female vampire written 26 years earlier by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, another Irish Gothic writer. “Dracula and Carmilla have many similarities,” says Nick. “Even some of the names are similar.”
The bus continues on its way and the story moves on to body snatchers. During the late 18th and early 19th century, the medical school in Dublin was paying two pounds per corpse (double what Edinburgh’s infamous body snatchers were paid). People grew afraid to bury their dead. And, adds Nick, rows of people would stand outside the medical school, praying for the souls of the snatched departed.
While all this is pretty ghoulish, where are the ghosts?
Nick delivers these too. As we pass by the Shelbourne Hotel, he tells the story of a young girl, Mary Masters, who died here in 1846. Her ghost has often been seen in room 528. While filming in Ireland, actress Lily Collins refused to remain in the room beyond the first night. Collins told Jimmy Fallon that she heard the little girl laugh and felt a rush of cold air across her body.
At the next stop the ghost count rises.
We’re back to Bram Stoker as we visit the office buildings he once occupied as Registrar of Petty Sessions Clerks. Underneath, one can tour the remains of the earliest walls of Dublin castle. Dublin is old; the city celebrated its official Millenium in 1988, though evidence shows it was inhabited in prehistoric times. It’s not surprising, then, that 1,000 years of history is likely to have produced a ghost or two. Stoker worked into the night in his office and was supposedly tormented by visions. He wrote: “Night after night they come….damned headless corpses”
Some 100 years later, the reason became clear.
During the excavation of the Poddle, a stream which ran under the building, many human skulls were found. Nick provides the gory details with dramatic flourish. What’s a little creepy is that most of this is factual. By now, I’m seriously creeped out.
It gets worse.
Our final stop is a park. Once a Graveyard, a few remain in place while many more gravestones are piled along the walls of the ruins of St. Kevin’s Monastery.
“People come in here and eat their finger food and haven’t a clue what they’re lying on,” says Nick. “In 1942, many bodies were removed though some 300 still remain.” One Irish girl said she would never again eat lunch on the grass here.
According to Nick, one ghost in particular has been seen though many haunt the grounds of St. Kevin’s and the monastery where Bishop Dermot O’Hurley (now a martyr) once said secret mass. The stories are chilling and Nick tells them compellingly. But if you want to know more, you’ll have to take the tour.
Interested in ghosts? Did you know Wales has ghosts too?