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    The banshee and her tales of terror

    Beware of the banshee’s cries, and if you don’t know what they sound like, well, you’re one of the lucky ones

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    The banshee is a well-known spirit on the island of Ireland, said to appear in many forms and be recognisable by her piercing screams. This scream is a warning that death will soon occur to someone close to the listener.

    Do you have Irish ancestors? It may be worth finding out… people claim that the banshee would cry for five major families: the O’Neills, O’Briens, O’Connors, O’Gradys and Kavanaghs. As with all legends, people have their own beliefs. Some say that when you look at the banshee she will disappear, others warn that you must NEVER lay eyes on her. She is said to have varying powers and abilities and it is unknown whether she is a force of good or evil.

    Keeping all this in mind, here are seven tales of banshees on the island of Ireland.

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    Duckett's Grove, County Carlow © Shutterstock

    1. The Banshee of Duckett’s Grove

    In 1830, the owner of Duckett’s Grove, William Duckett, built his magnificent home in County Carlow. A fire destroyed it in 1933 and today the great house lies in ruins surrounded by walled gardens and green fields. While it may look romantic, it’s now considered a paranormal hotspot and a sinister tale surrounds it.

    It is rumoured that William Duckett was having an affair with a young girl who fell from a horse on the estate and died. Her resentful mother placed a curse on Duckett’s Grove and a banshee has haunted the house ever since. Next time you visit, look closely at those dark windows... you may just see a figure moving through the shadows.

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    Shane's Castle, County Antrim

    2. The Banshee of Shane’s Castle

    Shane’s Castle sits on the shore of Lough Neagh in County Antrim. It dates back to 1345 and has been in the O’Neill family ever since. The O’Neills were one of those unfortunate families who had their own banshee, and out of respect for this cursed being, they kept one room empty in the castle for her use.

    In the early 1800s, Earl O’Neill decided to host a party. It was to be a fateful decision. On the night of the gathering, all the rooms in the house were needed, including the one set aside for the banshee. Legend has it that she set the house on fire in anger and was seen by guests floating above the flames.

    As long as your surname isn’t O’Neill, you should be safe to incorporate Shane’s Castle into your trip around Lough Neagh. 

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    Bunratty Castle, County Clare

    3. The Bunratty Banshee

    A castle has stood on this site in County Clare since 1250 and has built up quite a history since then. Bunratty Castle has seen fires, fights and even the drowning of a young servant girl with pale skin and fiery red hair.

    The O’Briens, the largest clan in north Munster, moved to Bunratty in the 1500s and within 100 years, the Bunratty Banshee made her appearance. A guest of the O’Briens was staying in the castle when she awoke in the night to the sound of a woman wailing. Looking out her window, she saw a pale, red-headed girl floating outside. The next day, a member of the O’Brien family was found dead.

    Feeling brave? Why not pay Bunratty Castle and Folk Park a visit?

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    Muckross on the coast of County Donegal

    4. The Banshee of Mullaghduff

    The crashing waves off County Donegal’s coast demonstrate the power of nature as they batter the craggy cliffs which edge this part of the Wild Atlantic Way. For one young couple though, those waves were deadly – claiming the life of a young sailor and leaving his wife inconsolable.

    She screamed all day and all night, loud enough to wake the dead. To relieve her misery, a local priest blessed her but soon after she mysteriously died. They buried her under a rock for fear her unquiet spirit would rise from the grave. Legend has it that even after her death, she never stopped screaming. If you visit the rock in Mullaghduff today, you might just hear her unbearable wails.

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    Dough Castle at the foot of the Daelach, County Clare © Shutterstock

    5. Banshee’s Brook

    Before we tell you this tale, let it be known that there is a scientific reason behind some of these happenings. The rest, though, can only be explained by the presence of a more mysterious force…

    When there has been little rain over County Clare, the waters of the Daelach river (nicknamed the Banshee’s Brook) turn red like blood. Some have explained that this is due to iron rising from the riverbed. That makes sense, right? But according to local legend, when the river runs red, the cries of a banshee can be heard. Not only that, but the waters don’t return to their normal greyish colour until a death in the local area has occurred.

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    Keem Bay on Achill Island, County Mayo

    6. The Banshees of Inisherin

    Okay, this one is an award-winning movie starring Colin Farrell, but it’s another great tale of a banshee now known around the world! The Banshees of Inisherin was filmed on Inis Mór, the largest of the Aran Islands, and Achill Island in County Mayo – both beautiful islands in the Atlantic Ocean whose remoteness set the scene for a terrifying tale.

    The banshee in this movie is embodied by the character of Mrs McCormick who predicts that there will be a death soon. She is humorously avoided in the movie by the main character Pádraic. She doesn’t wail and she seems to be quite domesticated for a banshee, but we must remember that banshees can appear in many different forms, so we think Pádraic might’ve been right to be wary here.

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    Newcastle Harbour, County Down © Shutterstock 

    7. Haunted Newcastle Harbour

    Boats tied to the harbour wall bob up and down on the soft waves in Newcastle, County Down. Keep an eye on the boat masts and the dangling ropes, though, for a banshee is said to have been spotted floating among them.

    That’s not all. Locals say they’ve seen another woman they suspect to be a banshee at the top of Bogie Hill which overlooks the harbour. She stands there, small but not unnoticed as her shrieks have been heard echoing through the land.

    There are plenty of paranormal tales to be told of this harbour, but no one seems to have succumbed to the misfortune put upon them by the banshee’s wails... yet.

    Hopefully these tales haven’t frightened you out of planning your next trip to the island of Ireland…