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Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin | © William Murphy/Flickr
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin | © William Murphy/Flickr

A Haunted Tour Of Dublin's Ghostliest Sites

Picture of Kate Phelan
Updated: 9 February 2017
As capital cities go, Dublin has more than its fair share of ghosts. Its many castles, churches and pubs are said to be visited from time to time by the spirits of everyone from famed revolutionary leaders to murderous 18th-century brothel keepers. It would be impossible to cover them all in a day, but the below tour will give any ghost enthusiast a thorough grounding in the haunted history of Dublin.

Begin in Glasnevin at the famous burial grounds where revolutionary leaders like Daniel O’Connell, Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins and Constance Markievicz are buried, as well as authors, musicians and artists such as Brendan Behan, Christy Brown and Luke Kelly of The Dubliners. Opened in 1832, the cemetery at Glasnevin – which features in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses – now stands at 124 acres and is home to over one million graves.

The watchtower in the graveyard at Glasnevin was built in the 19th century when grave-robbing was a common practice, with bodies being sold to Dublin’s medical schools for research. Now home to a state-of-the-art museum, the cemetery is said to be haunted by many disturbed souls, most notably that of a Newfoundland dog, said to have starved to death by the headstone of his former master, ship captain John McNeill Boyd. After exploring the grave sites, stop by John Kavanagh’s pub nearby – better known as The Gravediggers – said by several of its former barmen to be haunted. (Incidentally, it’s also said to serve one of the best pints of Guinness in Dublin.)

A 30-minute walk farther south, behind the Four Courts complex, you will find St Michan’s Church. This site has been home to a place of worship of some kind since as far back as 1095, and the crypt of the current church is filled with mummified remains, including the 400-year-old corpse of a nun and a body whose hands and feet have been severed. Another eerie item stored here is a cast of the death mask of the revolutionary leader Theobald Wolfe Tone. The church is widely believed to be haunted, with claims of ‘whispering’ voices leading many to believe that the mummies aren’t as dead as they look.

Crossing the Liffey to the area surrounding Christ Church Cathedral, haunted sites reportedly abound. The cathedral itself has the largest cathedral crypt in Britain or Ireland, dating back to around 1172. A Sir Samuel Auchmuty is said to have died in the crypt in 1822 after locking himself in accidentally and being swarmed by a pack of extremely enthusiastic rats. Several pubs nearby the cathedral have described strange happenings. The Bull and Castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of poet James Clarence Mangan, who was born there in 1803, and The Lord Edward – now closed – by Lord Edward Fitzgerald, who died at Newgate Prison near Christ Church in 1798. 

Also close by is Darkey Kelly’s, a pub named for the 18th-century brothel keeper who killed several patrons and was later burned at the stake. Her ghost is said to appear regularly at Saint Audoen’s Church on High Street. And The Brazen Head – also known as Dublin’s oldest pub – is the apparent home of the spirit of Robert Emmet, the Irish revolutionary leader who is said to have kept a room here.

Venturing west to Kilmainham, you will find the jail where Irish prisoners were incarcerated and executed, including several leaders of important Irish rebellions. This historic building is said to have been plagued by ghostly occurrences such as lights switching on and off, with the chapel, in particular, said to be strongly connected to the ‘otherworld’. And behind the former Royal Hospital Kilmainham – now home to the Irish Museum of Modern Art – is Dublin’s oldest graveyard, another one that was susceptible to 18th-century grave-robbing. The Hospital Fields – also known as Bully’s Acre – is said to be the burial site of some people that were killed at the 1014 Battle of Clontarf, and has been called one of the most haunted places in Dublin.