Halloween in Donegal is the perfect opportunity to relive some of the county’s ghostliest local tales and we’re getting in on the action at SFR.
The area is famous for stories of ghoulish sightings, spine-tingling noises and things that go bump in the night so to mark the spookiest day of the year, we’ve put together a few haunting stories from some of the most hair-raising locations in the region.
Burt Castle, Burt
Burt Castle, which stands 200 feet above Lough Swilly has a commanding view and an arresting tale which send shivers down the spine. It was built during the reign of Henry VIII and as a result of Sir Cahir O’Doherty’s rebellion in 1608 the castle was captured by the English and became a garrison point for several years. Many report an air of menace around the castle – something that may be explained by the several bloody battles fought during its history.
There is a story told of a young girl from the neighbouring area who became pregnant at the hands of a kinsman of O’Doherty who refused to marry her. One night, while the full moon shone, the pregnant girl paced, distraught, along the water’s edge. The story states that several swans swam towards her, calling to her. When they swam away she waded into the cold waters of Lough Swilly and drowned.
Intent on avenging his daughter’s death, her father tricked his way into the castle and crept up the turnpike staircase in the southwest tower. The man lay asleep in the vaulted mural chamber on the first floor and while he slept the girl’s father stabbed him with his long knife and threw his body from the window.
On several occasions, when the moon is full, the swans congregate at the point closest to Burt Castle and set up a cacophony of wailing. The ghostly figure of a young girl is seen drifting into the water until she gradually fades beneath the waves.
At the base of the castle walls there is a certain patch of grass that withers when the swans wail. It is said that this is the exact spot where the body of the man who wronged the innocent girl fell.
Sharon rectory, Newtowncunningham
Sharon Rectory, on five acres at Newtowncunningham, was the site of a grisly double murder on March 2, 1797.
Rumours that the house is haunted have persisted down the years, and sightings of a “blue lady” – believed to be the spirit of Mrs Waller, one of the two murder victims – have been reported up to recently. National newspapers reported in 2006 that the rectory was for sale and then owners Vincent and Lisa Tully claimed to see Mrs Waller’s spirit every night. They even sought help from several ‘ghostbusters’, including a psychic and an exorcist, to free the house of her presence. The story of the double murder involved Dr William Hamilton, a magistrate, who sought refuge at the home of the Wallers.
Dr Hamilton had been returning home but some local men refused to ferry him across Lough Swilly, reportedly due to bad weather, and so he stayed at Sharon Rectory. The United Irishmen were preparing for the insurrection that was to take place the following year.
Dr Hamilton had been in the house several hours when a number of men arrived demanding that he be handed over. Mrs Waller rushed to protect her husband, who was a wheelchair user, and Dr Hamilton crouched at her side as the attackers fired. Mrs Waller was killed.
The attackers were reportedly enraged when they heard they had killed Mrs Waller, who was much loved in the area.
The servants, angered by her death and possibly fearful for their own lives, put Dr Hamilton out, and he was duly murdered on the doorstep.
Fr Hegarty’s Rock, Buncrana
There have been reports of strange sightings and unnerving presences at the favourite beauty spot known as Fr Hegarty’s Rock along Lough Swilly in Buncrana.
The site where the holy man was beheaded by British forces in 1632 was the scene of a ghostly encounter in the early 1990’s involving four young boys from the area. The boys had been quad biking along the coastal route that winds past Ned’s Point and on to the famous spot known locally as Father Hegarty’s Rock at Porthaw. They had been travelling at speed along the famous walkway in what was already an irresponsible escapade and as they approached the short stretch of path which runs dangerously close to the edge, with a sheer drop of about 40 feet onto the rocks below, a ghostly vision of a white horse appeared, as if from nowhere. According to their account, the shiny steed stood magnificently in front of the boys, rising on its hind legs – forcing them to stop in their tracks. To their horror it then jumped off the edge towards the Swilly and the rugged rocks below and then vanished all of a sudden. As it turned out the startling appearance of the white horse had actually saved the boys from an almost certain tumble over the precipice and likely serious injury, even death. The teenagers were so afraid after the experience that they found it difficult to talk about – but there was no doubt in their minds as to the ghostly origins of their “saviour” that night.
Drumbeg Manor, Inver
Drumbeg Manor in Inver is considered to be among the most haunted places in all of Europe There are reports of many incidents relating to apparitions and other strange events within the manor and on its grounds. There are stories of a screaming woman heard in this place. It is also considered as one of the most haunted manors in the world. There are also sightings of a man in white suit walking the halls. It’s certainly not a place for the faint hearted according to the reports.
Northburg Castle, Greencastle
The site of ruined Northburg castle is associated with the spooky tale of the ghosts of two lovers.
The daughter of Earl William and the son of Sir Walter Burk fell in love but unfortunately their parents were mortal enemies. When Earl William discovered their relationship, he locked the young man in a tower to starve to death. When William’s daughter tried to help her lover, she was killed. The pair are now said to united as ghosts among the ruins.