The Final Draft > The Haunted History of Kilkenny
The Haunted History of Kilkenny
Ireland is famed for its rich heritage. Littered with storied landscapes and reminders of the past around every corner, Kilkenny is a particular treasure trove. It’s little wonder Kilkenny was even voted one of the most haunted places in the world. Sitting in the stately shadow of the majestic castle, surrounded by remnants of old city walls, there are few cities in the world that boast such an enchanting setting. This Hallow’s eve, take a deep dive into the area’s turbulent past and visit some of the sites where history comes to life.
Ireland’s First Witch Trial
When one thinks of witch trials places like Salem and Germany immediately come to mind but did you know Ireland’s soil is marked by the footprints of witch hunts too? Dame Alice Kyteler, born in the thirteenth century to a noble Kilkenny family, was the first person to be accused of witchcraft in Ireland. Nicknamed the ‘happy widower’, Alice’s three previous husbands died of either illness or mysterious circumstances, leaving their wealth to her alone. When her fourth husband, Sir John le Poer, became gravely ill he changed his will to benefit Alice and her only son, leaving his other relatives bitter. It began a chain of events that would see locals levelling charges of witchcraft and sorcery against Alice. Held in the dungeons of Kilkenny Castle, hopes of freedom diminished day by day until her former-brother-in-law, now the Chancellor of Ireland, orchestrated a thrilling escape from the castle and the death sentence waiting for her. While Alice fled to England, her maid Petronella was burned at the stake in her stead in front of a bloodthirsty crowd on the 3rd of November 1324. It’s rumoured her spirit still stalks the area.
The Two Bridges
During the 18th century, a great flood struck the town of Kilkenny. Locals gathered on St. John’s Bridge to observe the collapse of Green’s Bridge across the way. But an ironic tragedy struck as the bridge under their feet began to give way and crumble too. Unable to get to land in time, sixteen people were plunged to their deaths into the river below. In the early morning mist, it’s often claimed the spirits of these sixteen souls can still be seen in various places along St. John’s Bridge, reconstructed in the early 20th century. Locals have claimed sightings of spirits in the river trying to swim to the other side or wistfully peering into the river from above.
Dominating the landscape of the town, Kilkenny Castle has a long and dark history spanning from its construction in 1195. Now in the care of the State and open to public tours, numerous visitors have reported seeing ghostly apparitions wandering the stately rooms. Perhaps none more so than the supposed ‘white lady’, a spirit rumoured to be Lady Margaret Butler. Famous for being the paternal grandmother of Anne Boleyn, second wife of King Henry VIII of England, Lady Margaret was born in Kilkenny Castle and many believe that her spirit returned here after her death abroad. But there are also other paranormal residents of the castle. Indeed, the cameras that record visitor numbers are said to continue recording people walking the rooms long after the castle gates have closed for the night, defying explanation from staff. The electronic counter is located in a room above the dungeon where countless souls met their end.