Dublin with its gothic monuments, its dark alleyways, its churchyards and its storytelling tradition, offers the perfect backdrop to celebrate Halloween. The contemporary holiday finds its roots in the Gaelic harvest festival Samhain, so it’s no surprise that there’s an abundance of ghost stories and urban myths to be found in the Irish capital. The city even gave birth to the literary masters of the genre: Sheridan Le Fanu and Bram Stoker.
Keep on reading to find out about the dark corners of the city where you’re most likely to make a supernatural encounter.
1. Glasnevin Cemetery
What better place to get in the Halloween spirit than a good old cemetery. With 1.5 million inhabitants, (yes, that means that there are more buried people in Dublin than living), the place is bound to be haunted. If you choose to do the tour, you’ll learn of the notable men and women who made the Irish History. Indeed Glasnevin cemetery is the resting place of many great Irish figures: president Éamon de Valera, Michael Collins and Maud Gonne to name a few, and you see that giant round tower in the distance, this is just the ‘grave stone’ of Daniel O’Connell, political leader and founder of the cemetery.
The tour will give you access to his vault where you can touch his coffin for good luck. The tour guides are fountains of knowledge on Irish History, but they will also share blood-curdling anecdotes on the once common phenomenon of bodysnatching.
After the tour, you might want to visit the nearby pub Kavanagh’s. It is commonly known as ‘The Gravediggers’ as this is where the cemetery workers come to enjoy a pint. The pub is dark and atmospheric and it is said that from time to time, an old man wearing tweed is seen having a drink then mysteriously disappears…
11 Finglas Road
2. Hellfire Club
The ruins of this old hunting lodge at the top of Montpelier Hill is surrounded by a string of macabre stories and paranormal activities. In the 18th century, this place was the meeting quarters of an exclusive order named the Hellfire Club. Men of the privileged class would come here to gamble, drink heavily and display all kinds of wild behaviours. Some of a very dark nature such as Black Masses, occult practices, demonic sacrifices and some even claim, cannibalism.
The lodge is said to have been cursed by the devil when stones of a nearby neolithic burial site were used in its construction. Whether you’re a sceptic or not, one thing is sure, the views from the Hellfire Club over Dublin and the plains of Meath and Kildare are unbeatable, and well worth a sudden case of the heebie-jeebies.
3. The Bog Bodies Exhibition
In the National Museum of Archaeology, there’s a dark room where four bodies from the Celtic Iron Age are displayed. These were found in bogs where they have been exceptionally preserved for more than 2000 years. Some of them retained their flesh and internal organs, as well as facial features. They truly look like make-believe creatures from a horror film. They were in fact kings who were ritually sacrificed. Wounds and mutilations on their bodies indicate that they were violently murdered. It is believed that at the time, leaders were held responsible for bad harvest. They were killed and offered to the gods to ensure clement weather and bountiful crops.
The hand shown on the above picture belongs to the Old Croghan Man who was found in a bog in county Offaly. He is said to have died from a stab wound to the chest. He was subsequently decapitated and cut in half. How is that for gruesome?
Kingship and Sacrifice (Permanent Exhibition)
National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
4. The 40 Steps
In medieval times, the Forty Steps were the passageway between the walled city and the red-light district known then as ‘Hell’. Hell was the home of criminals, outcasts, murderers and lepers, brothels, gambling houses and drug dens. Today, the area is much quieter but the steps still run around St Audoen’s Church, the oldest parish church in Dublin. The city wall still keeps them in a dark and damp shadow. Hell may be no more but it is still a spine-chilling place to stand. Sightings of the ghost of an infamous Madame have been reported on those very steps.
In the 18th century, Darkey Kelly ran the Maiden Tower, a brothel located in Hell. Legend has it that she was burnt at the stake for infanticide and witchcraft but the truth may actually run deeper and darker. Recent discoveries lead us to believe that she actually was Ireland’s first serial killer. You’ve been warned, climb those steps at your own risk.
St Audoen’s Church
14 High Street
5. Edward Dycer’s Vault
In Mount Jerome Cemetery, historically Dublin’s protestant cemetery, there’s a vault that offers a hair-raising sight to the brave passerby who dares peep through its iron-wrought gate. The vault is the final resting place of Edward Dycer, a 19th-century Dubliner, and his family. Inside, the coffins are stacked on one another but one of them, eroded by time, reveals its chilling content: a gaping skeleton with a twisted spine who seems to be staring right at you.
And while you’re visiting Mount Jerome this Hallow’s eve, you might be interested to meet one of the cemetery’s famous residents, Sheridan Le Fanu. The 19th-century writer was notorious for his ghost stories. He even inspired another Irish literary giant, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula. So very apropos!
Mount Jerome Cemetery
158 Harold’s Cross Road
Plan Your Dublin Halloween Trip Today
So do you dare to explore the haunted side of Dublin this Halloween? Check out our the latest Dublin hotel deals and book a spooktacular stay that you’ll be share to remember for many a year to come.
About the author: Nora Menouni is a Belgian native who now calls Dublin her home. Nora writes a lot about Dublin in her blog The Art of Exploring, where you’ll also be able to follow her adventures around the UK and Ireland, and indeed further afield. Nora is also a keen travel vlogger.