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Back to Haunted Places Review Menu

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8

HauntedIllinois.com - Haunted Illinois goes on a supernatural tour of Ireland

Day 3:

After grabbing some breakfast, we all met outside the hotel entrance. The Elizabethan-style façade of the building made a perfect backdrop for a group photo. After posing for a picture or two, inspiration struck. Someone (I can't remember who) suggested a great idea for another group picture, so we all walked down near the road, for a group shot next to the “Mental Health Inpatient Services” sign. Since we had walked so far away from the hotel, Daithi drove down to pick us up. We all piled on the bus, to prepare for our day’s journey.

While the bags were being rearranged in the luggage compartment of the bus, something amazing happened. The wheelchair that was stowed down below fell out of the luggage compartment and landed squarely on its wheels. It then proceeded to roll straight down the sloped hotel entrance road, more than 50 feet, just as if it had been guided by some supernatural force! It probably would have rolled out into the street, if Edd hadn’t chased it down. It was unbelievable, since the wheelchair was folded flat, in accordion fashion. I don’t see how it was possible for it to stay upright on its wheels, then roll all that way, straight as an arrow! Was it being controlled by the ghost of a lunatic asylum patient, who was trying to escape??? I guess we'll never know.

Clarion Hotel Group Picture
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Mental Health Facility Group Picture
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After taking our group photos, we got back on the bus, to head to our next destination. In transit, Richard Felix gave us an update about something interesting he had found out, when he talked to the staff of the Clarion Hotel the night before. The hotel, which was built in the height of the potato famine in 1847, was sitting on top of a graveyard of sorts. While the building was being constructed, a number of the workers died and were buried underneath where the hotel now stands!

Our next stop was Sligo Abbey, in the city of Sligo. This was another attraction where we were able to use our OPW Heritage Cards for admission.

Originally called the Dominican Friary of Sligo, it was built in 1253 and founded by Maurice Fitzgerald. Sligo Abbey was used throughout history as a burial place for prominent families in the region.

Over the years, the Abbey had taken a lot of abuse. During a period of political unrest, the Abbey was burned by a massive fire in 1414. It was soon restored, though, by Friar Bryan McDonagh. It was severely damaged again in the Tyrone War of 1595 and yet again in the Ulster Uprising of 1641.

In an attempt to fix the damage that had been done, major restoration efforts began in the mid 1800’s. Only partial remains of the 13th century church still exist, including the North & South walls of the choir, the North wall of the nave and some parts of the sacristy and chapter house. Today, it remains a protected historical landmark in Ireland.

One interesting factoid is that Sligo has ties to the famous author Bram Stoker. His mother, Catherine Stoker, was originally from Sligo. According to historical documents, the stories that she told her son about her experiences during the cholera epidemic in 1832 ended up being inspiration for Bram Stoker’s famous novel “Dracula”. During that horrible time in history, an average of 50 people died every day. It got so out of control that they ran out of wood for coffins and out of desperation, bodies were dumped into mass graves. There were so many bodies to process that proper medical checks where not always performed and some people were even buried alive.

We were given a very informative guided tour, then we were allowed to wander around and explore the Abbey on our own. Richard Felix followed up with the staff and he found out that there wasn’t an abundance of supernatural activity at the Abbey. There was only one ghost that they were aware of. His name was James. According to the staff, someone had defiled his gravestone by scratching off his name and ever since, his ghost has been seen late at night, wandering around the grounds of the Abbey.

Sligo Abbey

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On The Road In Ireland

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While in County Sligo, our bus stopped at the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery. Megalithic cemeteries/tombs are burial chambers that are built above ground. They are constructed of large stone slabs, covered with layers of earth or smaller stones. Ireland has a recorded 1,500 of these megalithic structures.

Carrowmore is a Gaelic word meaning “Great Quarter”. This cemetery has the largest collection of megalithic tombs in Ireland. As it stands today, the Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery covers an area of about one square kilometer and is more than 5,000 years old.

The earliest historical accounts of Carrowmore were those of Rev. Henry in 1739 and from Gabriel Beranger, who visited Sligo in 1779. Those original plans and diagrams, derived from their detailed geological surveys, are the only proof that many of these structures ever existed. Since the late 1700’s many have been destroyed, due to extensive quarrying and landscaping. Henry & Beranger documented that Carrowmore originally had 68 visible megalithic structures and today only 45 remain.

Because they were built so long ago, the overall purpose of these types of structures is still unknown. Over the years, experts have speculated about their religious & ritualistic significance, and many claim that these tombs possess a high level of spiritual energy.

When we arrived at Carrowmore, we were given a VERY comprehensive historical walking tour. Our enthusiastic tour guide led us from tomb to tomb, stopping at each one, to give us a detailed account of its history. Some of the people in our group seemed to think that the tour guide's presentation was a bit long-winded, but there is no doubt whether or not it was thorough. Ha ha! It was obvious, though, that he had a strong passion for history.

The highlight of the tour was actually being able to walk down the path and into the central passage tomb (Listoghil or Tomb 51), where there was a cairn, which is a burial mound made of large stones. I was in awe that a structure like this could have been constructed, with the precise manipulation and placement of such large masses of rock, especially considering the limited tools and technology that was available back then. I was really glad that we had the opportunity to see it.

Carrowmore Megalithic Cemetery

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Carrowmore Panoramic Picture
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On The Road In Ireland

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The next stop on the tour was the Marble Arch Caves, which are natural limestone cave formations near Florencecourt, in Northern Ireland. This underground attraction is named after the limestone arch at the upstream end of the Cladagh Glen. The caves were formed by the action of three rivers draining off of the Northern slopes of the Cuilcagh Mountain and they run underground for 7.1 miles. That makes it the longest cave system in Northern Ireland.

When we got there, we were split up into multiple groups, to go on a guided tour. During the tour, we were led underground along specially-designed visitor walkways, with handrails. As we passed various points of interest, the tour guide stopped and explained the significance of various rock formations and how they got their shapes. Along the path, they had strategically placed dim floodlights, to illuminate specific areas.

The staff had given amusing nicknames to various rock deposits, depending on what they looked like. For instance, the one called “Long John Silver” was a long, slim stalactite that looked like a pirate’s wooden leg. We also saw “The Guardian Angel”, “Tom and Jerry”, “The Simpsons” and many others. One of my favorite areas had a standing pool of water that reflected the contours of the rock formations above.

I read that they offered a boat ride tour, but unfortunately we didn’t get to do that. It would have been nice, but I’m sure that we wouldn’t have had the time, considering the large size of our group. As it was, the walking portion of the tour took well over an hour!

Getting back to the bus turned out to be a test of endurance. On the way up the hill, there had to be at least a hundred stairs to climb, with a very steep incline. Some of the people in our group took advantage of the multiple rest areas, on the way up to the visitor center.

Marble Arch Caves

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Unfortunately, the cave tour took longer than expected, so the schedule of our day’s activities had to be adjusted. Sadly, our evening Belfast Ghost Walk had to be canceled. Also, instead of going somewhere for lunch, we had to make a quick stop at a local gas station, to grab some snacks on the run.

By the time we left the gas station it was already mid-afternoon. The plan was to drive directly to our hotel, so we could have dinner at a reasonable hour. While on the road, we were entertained by a “Northern Ireland Ghosts” DVD, featuring none other than Richard Felix!

As the bus approached Belfast, we ran into a traffic jam. At one point, traffic came to a complete standstill for 15 or 20 minutes. Apparently, the traffic bottleneck was caused by a bomb scare. From what we were told, local police had identified two suspicious objects, so all of the main highways around Belfast had been shut down. This forced all of the highway traffic to be funneled through the smaller streets of the city, causing quite a delay.

As we passed through the Belfast city streets, the level of political unrest in the region became painfully obvious. If the bomb scare wasn’t enough of an indication, the artwork we saw further reinforced the point. In certain areas of the city, murals had been painted on the sides of several buildings. Featuring illustrations of soldiers holding automatic weapons, they were emblazoned with slogans like “Oppression Breeds Resistance”. Also, the police stations looked more like military bases or prisons. They had gated entrances and were surrounded by tall brick walls, topped with razor wire. It was really pretty frightening.

On The Road In Ireland

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Bacon
They have different flavors of Doritos!


~ $7.79 per gallon! - Gas was 1.36 GBP per liter.  That is equivalent to about $7.79 per gallon!!!
~ $7.79 per gallon!











 

After making our way through Belfast, we continued on to our final stop of the day, the Ballygally Castle Hotel. Located 3 miles North of Larne, along the Northeastern coast of Ireland, the original castle portion of the building was constructed in 1625, by Lord James Shaw. It was built as a place of defense, as well as a residence. The castle walls were five feet thick and the two original courtyards were surrounded by tall stone walls. During the Civil Wars, the castle served as a place of refuge for Protestants. It was so impenetrable that the Irish garrison was unable to take the castle, despite numerous attempts, during the rebellion of 1641.

More recently in history, the castle has been used as a coastguard station and also the private residence of Reverend Classon Porter. In the early 1950’s, it was sold to Cyril Lord, who turned it into a hotel. It was sold again in 1966 to Hastings Hotels. Since the late 1960’s, the hotel has undergone significant refurbishment and restoration.

Due to the unexpected events we experienced that afternoon, we arrived at Ballygally Castle Hotel much later than expected. After checking in and briefly freshening up in our rooms, we met in the hotel dining room for a late dinner. Afterward, many of us congregated in a room adjacent to the bar, where Richard Felix discussed some theories that addressed the popular question “What is a Ghost?” He talked about some very interesting topics, including something that he called the “Stone Tape Theory”.

Richard also shared some supernatural tales, related to the original castle portion of the building. He told us about the original owners of the castle, Lord and Lady Shaw. They had a baby, but it was a girl. Lord Shaw really wanted a boy… an heir who could inherit his estate. He was so disappointed, that he took the baby away from her and locked Lady Isabella in the tower. According to the legend, one day she heard her baby crying. She was so distraught that she threw herself out of one of the tower windows and fell to her death. In reality, that was an unlikely scenario, since the window openings were so small. Another more believable version of the story said that she continually threw herself against the door, trying to get to her baby, then later died from severe internal injuries. Regardless of how she really died, it has been said that at certain times of the year, a green mist can be seen hovering over the tower. Her ghost has been seen by numerous hotel guests, in various rooms of the castle. Patrons have also heard phantom footsteps, along with the sounds of children laughing. Some have even felt a sense of foreboding, while in the castle tower.

While one might expect them to take advantage of these tales for financial gain, the owners of the hotel have chosen not to. They have left the tower room just as it was back then, in order to preserve history and out of respect for Lady Shaw.

After our discussion with Richard was over, many of the remaining members of our group moved up to one of the tower rooms to conduct a séance. Leading the proceedings was Richard’s son Edd. We began with a wine glass inverted on a table-top. Several people formed a circle and lightly touched the base of the glass with their finger-tips. In an attempt to contact a spirit, Edd ask several questions out loud. After a few minutes, the glass actually moved!

After that, we tried replacing the glass with a piece of metal jewelry. Despite trying to reestablish a connection for more than ten minutes straight, contact with the spirit world had been broken and we couldn’t get the piece of jewelry to move.

Before going to bed, our group made further attempts to contact spirits up in the "Ghost Room", but with no success.

Ballygally Castle Hotel

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