The history of Dublin is etched into every brick and cobblestone of the city. A history of rebellion, laughter, tragedy and above all else people coming together. Yet, between the cracks, there are mysteries and fables. Legends of old that have almost been lost to time, woven into the tapestry of Dublin. Buried beneath the facade of progress, bits of the old city still cling around and tell their stories. Scary stories of ghosts, witches and even visits from the Devil.
These are some of the best spooky stories from around Dublin City.
The Hellfire Club
Up on the top of Montpelier Hill, high in the Dublin Mountains, there rests the remains of an old and abandoned social house. Ramshackle and abandoned, this derelict ruin was once the home of a secret society known as The Hellfire Club. This gentleman’s club was made for the elites of Britain and Ireland to gather and socialise in private, with such buildings located across the isles.
There are many stories about the secret goings-on within the Hellfire Club, but one of the most famous involves an infamous poker match with darkness. It was a stormy night and the illustrious gentlemen of the Hellfire Club were entertaining themselves with beer, wine and poker. It was deep into the night and suddenly a stranger came barging into the Club, soaked to the bone but their face was hidden beneath a black hood.
They took the stranger in and invited him to partake in their game. The stranger obliged, and soon enough the drink was flowing once again as they all went round for round. It was one of the gentleman’s turn when they dropped their cards to the floor, the alcohol taking charge of their senses. They looked down to pick them up when suddenly they saw something truly ghastly. A cloven hoof protruding out from underneath the stranger’s robe! The table shrieked with fear as they all shot up. This was no mere stranger, this was the Devil himself! Fuelled by anger and booze, they chased the Devil out of their club, as the prince of Darkness fled back out into the storm!
They say the Devil’s presence can still be felt around the old ruins, often taking the form of black cats skulking around their old haunting grounds. Another story says that one such cat scratched the face off of the club’s owner!
Darkey Kelly & The Haunting of St. Audeon’s Church
One of the most infamous, yet little-known, figures of Irish scary stories is Docras “Darkey” Kelly. She was a She was the owner of The Maiden Tower, located in Copper Alley, Dublin’s most popular brothel in the 1750s. One of the brothel’s most frequent patrons was a nobleman by the name of Simon Luttrell. The sheriff of Dublin, member of the House of Commons and, you guessed it, a frequent guest of the Hellfire Club. It was this association which gave Luttrell the nickname “King of Hell”.
One story says that Luttrell had his way with Kelly, and that she soon became pregnant with his child. The child was never found however and Kelly accused Luttrell of murdering the newborn, as part of some twisted ritual for the Hellfire Club. Luttrell, in turn, accused Kelly of bewitching him with some spell and murdering the child herself. The courts would never take the word of a brothel woman over a nobleman, and Kelly was burned at the stake as a witch.
Historical documents uncovered centuries later, however, tell a different yet equally gruesome tale. That Kelly was not convicted of witchcraft but a local serial killer. When she became implicated in the disappearance of a local shoe salesman, a raid was conducted on the brothel and five bodies were found hidden within its walls. Kelly was sentenced to hang for the killings.
Whether a witch or serial killer, Kelly’s ghost is still said to haunt the streets of Dublin. Particularly St. Audeon’s Church, found just a stone’s throw away from where her old brothel stood. Upon which now stands Darkey Kelly’s Pub.
The Shelbourne Hotel and the ghost of Mary Masters
In 1842 Martin Burke purchased three townhouses near Stephen’s Green with the intention of converting them into a hotel, which would be named The Shelbourne. While the old tenants were evicted, one or more of them may have stuck around, even from beyond the grave.
The Shelbourne has played host to several illustrious guests over the years, such as Elizabeth Taylor, US President John F Kennedy, Charlie Chaplin and more. On a perhaps more sinister note, there are even reports that Alois Hitler, Adolf Hitler’s brother, worked at the hotel for a time.
Over the years many guests have claimed to encounter odd occurrences while staying in the hotel. Unexplained noises, cold spots, and voices coming from within the walls.
All of this eventually attracted the attention of renowned ghost hunter Hans Holzer, and his wife (self-proclaimed psychic) Sybil Lee. The two stayed in room 526, when during the night Lee says that she heard the sound of a little girl crying. The girl was terrified, begging for help. Lee says that she invited the spectre into their room, and felt their presence clamber onto the bed beside her, leaving Sybil feeling ice cold.
The next morning, Hans and Sybil conducted a seance in the room, where the ghostly presence said her name was Mary Masters, and that she was one of the children who lived in the townhouse before it was torn down.
It is said that Mary Masters still haunts the sixth floor of The Shelbourne Hotel, a permanent guest of room 526.
The Jester of Malahide Castle
Last on our list of scary stories is Malahide Castle is one of the most famous attractions in Dublin. Once home to the proud Talbot family, the castle stands in Broomfield for all to come and see. Established in 1174 by Sir Richard Talbot, the castle stayed within the family line for centuries, as the family endured war, political strife and heartache. All up till 1975 wherein the final baron of the family line passed away and bequeathed the estate to his sister, who in turn gave it to the Irish state.
With such a large family tree, the castle is steeped in both memory and history. As a result the castle is said to be home to many spectral figures. From a bickering old couple chasing each other through the halls, to a mysterious lady in white, whose portrait hangs within the castle, dispite no one knowing from whence it came. Perhaps the most famous and fun of these spirits is Puck, the Talbot family’s dwarf jester.
Standing at a little over 4 feet tall, Puck was the family jester and helped to watch over the castle grounds. He lived in a turret of the castle (now named Puck’s staircase, in his memory). It is said that Puck was once put in charge of guarding a rebel named Lady Elenora Fitzgerald. So beautiful was the woman that Puck instantly fell in love with her, yet was rejected due to his stature and class.
Puck hung himself in shame and with his last breath cursed the Malahide estate, vowing to haunt its grounds forever. So was the case, as many reported sightings of Puck’s ghost have been made over the years. With people saying they’ve seen the little fellow scampering about through the twists and turns of the castle, or heard his voice telling people to stand aside.