When it comes to Dublin’s tourist attractions, there are few places on earth that are as steeped in history and legend as the notorious Kilmainham Gaol.
Built in 1796 to house common criminals until their sentencing, the Kilmainham Gaol has held captive some of the most nefarious, godforsaken baddies ever to have set foot on the Emerald Isle. It has been the site of many hangings, with executions in front of a jeering audience taking place on a daily basis.
A fearful history of suffering and abuse
To say that conditions were deplorable is an understatement. Men, women and even children as young as seven, were cast into its cells without segregation. Over-crowded conditions resulted in cells packed with people five deep. Prisoners were forced to sleep on iron beds or on piles of straw; with nothing but the rats and their own excrement to keep them company.
Leaders of the 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 uprisings have all met their untimely demise within the walls of this bastion of confinement. Many were tortured without mercy or remorse; their only crime being the fact that they were bloody-minded patriotic Irishmen, with a dream of an independent Ireland.
Strange tales and hauntings
It should come as no surprise that Kilmainham Gaol developed a reputation for being haunted. Inexplicable sounds emanated from within the solid stone walls. Strange lights would come and go. Prison warders were so unnerved they began putting in applications to be transferred elsewhere. Prisoners began escaping with the help of unseen forces. In 1924, Kilmainham Gaol was closed for good.
For forty long years Kilmainham Gaol stood, derelict and at the mercy of vandals; its ghosts all but forgotten except by those who haunted it. When renovations began in the 1960’s, tales of the hauntings resurfaced. Perhaps the most spine-chilling of these was the experience of a devoutly religious man who was involved with the painting of the dungeon.
Having heard some unusual sounds, the painter decided to head towards the chapel where he believed he would be safe from the “evils within the building.” According to eyewitnesses, it appeared as though a gust of wind had blown the man off his feet and up against a wall. He then levitated as if some invisible force was pulling him upwards. For several moments he was pinned several feet from the ground until eventually he managed to fight himself free. So shaken and rattled was he by this ordeal that he refused to return to work.
Other incidents of haunting have been reported by Dan McGill, the governor who oversaw much of the restoration work. One night before going to bed, the governor noticed that the chapel was lit from the inside. He went to investigate and made sure that he switched all lights off before locking up. Upon his return to his quarters, which overlooked the chapel, he noticed that the lights were on again. Three times that night he went down and switched the lights off, each time making sure the place was empty and locked.
Would you spend the night there?
Reports of paranormal activity at Kilmainham Gaol continue to this day. Visitors, tour guides and staff regularly make mention of hearing strange whisperings, the rattling of cell doors or invisible footsteps approaching. Some mention unusual smells or even the sensation of being touched by unseen hands.
Do you think you could spend a night alone in the Kilmainham Gaol? If not, then we highly recommend a daytime guided tour. It’s something that shouldn’t be missed!
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