Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Elemental of Leap Castle

Raised in blood; blood be its portion.”
-The Curse of Leap Castle
Something terrible haunts the ruins of Leap Castle in Ireland. It is a primal force, horrifying beyond description, which has dwelled within the castle walls for centuries, if not longer. It waits in the darkest shadows for unnatural forces or spilled blood to awaken it, or for a foolish human to rouse its anger. In the past, the spirit was known as “the Thing.” Some know the ghost as “It.” Today, it is known as the Elemental.

Among the many ghosts that already roam the lonely halls, the Elemental is perhaps the oldest and the most intriguing of the spirits that currently call Leap Castle home. This primitive ghost’s origins and its exact nature are largely unknown, and as such, parapsychologists and paranormal investigators (as well as demon hunters) can only speculate as to where this bestial spirit came from and what its agenda may be (if it does indeed have one). However, the Elemental’s origins seem to be connected to the castle’s own bloody past. Many theories regarding this grotesque apparition have circulated over the years, but it is unknown if indeed any of them are even close to the truth…whatever the awful truth may be.

Exactly when the Elemental first appeared seems to be lost to history, but there have been vague reports of an animalistic apparition that has appeared since the castle’s earliest days. Theories abound as to what “the Thing” actually is, and what its origins are. Here are some of those theories.

Druidic Magick
One theory states that the Elemental was actually summoned to this plane and bound to the site by Celtic Druids in order to protect the Druids, the site itself, and the magickal rites performed there. Such a ritual may have required one or more blood sacrifices, with human blood being seen as the most potent. Such sacrifices might have empowered the spirit, giving it the necessary power to ward off the enemies of the castle’s inhabitants. Perhaps the Elemental has become weakened, and is seeking fresh blood to renew its strength and to maintain its existence on the Material Plane. Therefore, much like a Vampire, the spirit may be compelled to seek out blood. Ironically, Ireland itself has a long tradition of Vampire folklore and legends. See Dr. Bob Curran’s Bloody Irish for more details.
Enemy Sorcery
Some believe that the Elemental was placed within the castle by invading enemy forces, so that the ghost could destroy the castle from the inside out. It has long been said that the perpetrator was Gerald Fitzgerald, Earl of Killdare. It is widely rumored that Fitzgerald was a practitioner of the dark arts (i.e. necromancy and summoning demons), and if this is to be believed, summoning and binding such a spirit to the castle may have been within his capabilities. Historically, Fitzgerald tried to seize the castle on many different occasions, but failed each time.
The Oubliette
Other people believe that the Elemental’s manifestations may be connected to the gruesome discoveries within the castle’s oubliette. An oubliette (the name of which is derived from the French word oublier, and simply means “to forget”) is a horrible dungeon, dank and dark and only accessible by a hidden trapdoor. Lining the floor of the dungeon is a number of long iron spikes, meant to impale those who were pushed into the dark pit. It was here that Tadgh Coach O’Carroll (known to others as One-Eyed Tadgh), after having incapacitated forty members of the O’Mahon clan with drugged food and wine, had them each flung into the oubliette, one by one. Those who remained conscious begged to be thrown into the pit upside down, hoping to avoid death via impalement by instead breaking their necks on the cold, hard stone floor. Those that failed to die quickly faced death by starvation or, if badly wounded, bleeding to death. It wasn’t until the mid-1920’s that the previously-sealed dungeon was opened, and a truly terrible discovery was made. Inside the oubliette were the skeletal remains of one hundred and fifty people, which took three to four cartloads of bones to clean out (accounts seem to vary slightly as to the number of carts). It is thought that the removal of the mortal remains of that dark dungeon’s victims may have inadvertently unleashed the dormant emotional anguish of their restless spirits. The ghosts of the victims, combined with the pent-up energy from such emotional trauma, may have caused these agonized spirits to coalesce into a powerful elemental spirit that has bound itself to the castle, driven to destroy the descendants of those who had so brutally murdered the victims to begin with. Such a being is known as a Collective Apparition, which can only be created when there are a sufficient number of angry or anguished spirits who shared the same sort of death.

This theory holds that the Elemental may not be a spirit of the dead at all, but rather at thought-form. A thought-form is an artificial being created by collective thoughts or emotions. Some believe that the suffering of the dungeon’s victims, along with the agony present in their thoughts and feelings, collected together and, through sheer emotional power, created a horrible wraith that is hell-bent on revenge. While this is similar to the Oubliette theory, there is a difference in that the Thought-Form theory very simply details a being that was created out of thin air. On the other hand, the Oubliette theory explains that the Elemental is truly a spirit of the dead, in that it is composed of many different ghosts that shared a similar fate.

Leprous Spirit
Local legends say that the Elemental is the ghost of an ancient O’Carroll who died of leprosy within the castle. The local folk reason that this is the reason for the decaying facial features and the appalling stench of decomposing flesh that accompanies the Elemental’s manifestations.

Whatever the truth may be, it does not change the fact that the Elemental “Thing” is a horrifying apparition that causes all who encounter it to become very sick and flee immediately. In 1909, shortly after the discovery and the clearing of the oubliette, Mildred Darby had her terrifying encounter with the Elemental. As was the fashion of the day and age, Mildred loved to dabble in the occult. She enjoyed holding séances and performing automatic writing (both of which are very dangerous, as they can summon evil spirits that seek to inflict harm upon the living). Unknowingly, Mildred may have awoken or provoked the Elemental by her dabbling. Her encounter is given here, as written in the Occult Review:
Suddenly, two hands were laid on my shoulders. I turned round sharply and saw, as clearly as I see you now-a grey ‘Thing’, standing a couple of feet from me, with it’s bent arms raised as if it were cursing me. I cannot describe in words how utterly awful the ‘Thing’ was, it’s very undefinableness rendering the horrible shadow more gruesome. Human in shape, a little shorter than I am, I could just make out the shape of big black holes like great eyes and sharp features, but the whole figure-head, face, hands and all-was grey-unclean, blueish grey, something of the colour and appearance of common cotton wool. But, oh! so sinister, repulsive and devilish. My friends who are clever about occult things say it is what they call an “Elemental”.”

The thing was about the size of a sheep, thin, gaunt and shadowy in parts. It’s face was human, or to be more accurate, inhuman, in it’s vileness, with large holes of blackness for eyes, loose slobbery lips, and a thick saliva-dripping jaw, sloping back suddenly into its neck! Nose it had none, only spreading, cancerous cavities, the whole face being a uniform tint of grey. This too, was the colour of the dark coarse hair covering its head, neck and body. It’s forearms were thickly coated with the same hair, so were its paws, large, loose and hand-shaped; and it sat on it’s hind legs, one hand or paw was raised, and a claw-like finger was extended ready to scratch the paint. It’s lusterless eyes, which seemed half decomposed, and looked incredibly foul, stared into mine, and the horrible smell which had before offended my nostrils, only a hundred times intensified, came up to my face, filling me with a deadly nausea. I noticed the lower half of the creature was indefinite and seemed semi-transparent-at least, I could see the framework of the door that led into the gallery through its body.”
Another letter was written in response to Mildred’s. The letter itself details another encounter with the “Thing”. The letter reads thusly:
I saw your eyes fixed upon something above our heads, and the next minute my own eyes were filled by the sight of a Thing in the gallery looking down at us. There was plenty of light from the lamps in the hall and the one above on the wall at the corner of the gallery, for every one of us to see quite plainly the grey-coloured figure about the height of a small grown-up person looking down at us. I wish I thought I could ever forget the sight of that grey figure with dark spots like holes in its head instead of eyes, standing with grey arms folded on the gallery railing looking down at us…Then, just as he put foot on the gallery, the Thing that he saw there, that we were watching, suddenly faded out of sight. The Thing did not move, only became less and less visible until it vanished.”

Yet another encounter with “the Thing.”
“The last appearance of the Elemental were on Nov 25th 1915 and I deduct again last November from the gait of my husband really wild with rage? fright? coming into my room at Midnight to let fly at me for “again dressing up things to try and frighten me.” On the 25th Nov 1915 two of our servants knowing the “master” would be late and that I was driving that afternoon had invited “friends” two soldiers from the Barracks at Birr distant the other side 6 miles. They came rather late and my husband came home early so the visitors had to be kept out of his sight in the lower regions of one of the wings (the Priests House) and were unable to be shown the centre tower – the very lofty hall. At 7.15 my husband and I went up to dress for dinner, my room in extremity of house from kitchens, his dressing room next door to me. Whilst dressing I was startled by a loud yell of terror stricken male and female voices coming apparently from the hall – and ran out to see the cause. My husband was out ahead of me at his heels I passed through corridor of wing and onto the gallery wing rounds two sides of hall. Two lamps on gallery two more in hall below. On the gallery leaning with “hands” resting on its rail I saw the Thing – the Elemental and smelt it only too well. At the same moment my husband pulled up sharply about 10 feet from the Thing, and half turning let fly a volley of abuse at me ending up “Dressing up a thing like that to try and make a fool of me. And now you’ll say I’ve seen something and I have not seen anything and there is nothing to see, or ever was. This last speech without a pause, begun waving one hand at the Thing end up by stalking back to his dressing room still abusing me for trying to give him a fright. As he was speaking the Elemental grew fainter and fainter in its outlines until it disappeared. By the sounds from my husband’s room I judged he was employed as I was myself in preparing an empty spot for our coming dinner. He never made any enquiry as to the yell that called us both out, and from that day to this has not mentioned the incident to me. I heard from our servants that when we went to dress for dinner they had brought their friends just to show them the hall, when all four has suddenly seen and smelt the Elemental looking down at them from the gallery. We all got such a turn, we couldn’t help letting out a bawl then fled to servants quarters where all 4 were very sick. The two maids had letters necessity their going home next day – and they did not return.

The account below describes an encounter with the Elemental. The individual has the unfortunate experience to have been attacked during their investigation.

18th June 2002
I travelled to Leap Castle in order to make a show for a local TV network and this was my first time in the notorious castle I had heard so much about. So the show went well but I wanted to try the UV on the camcorder whilst still shooting. I had sensed something down the old access to the battlements earlier and never went down. I climbed the stairs with the camcorder in front, the light from the UV allowed me to see about 6 ft ahead and no more so I climbed slowly. I opened the gothic style door and made my way slowly down the narrow passage, about 10ft in I thought I saw something move and I lifted my head, I could feel something was wrong but I had no idea what. This time with the camera dropped I thought I saw a glow come from around the corner and then it went back in. I stood and studied this for a while and thought it may be a side effect of the UV which can be common, a few steps more and my body was weakening fast, it was a strange sensation. Suddenly this mass of white like mist raced around the corner like a bull, even the rubbish on the floor scattered as it approached at speed. The passage was tight and I turned to my left to try and get out but it was too late, I felt the pain as if something had just pierced under my right rib cage and went all the way through to the back. This startled me a little and we proceeded to arrange shooting in the cellars. The audio refused to tape again in the cellars and I felt really odd, I was sweating heavily and was becoming very weak and drowned in dread. Right after the incident in the tunnel it felt as if a hole in my chest had been punctured on a spiritual level and my life was seeping into the stones. In order to describe it and let the reader understand they would have had to experience a large blood loss sometime in their lives. As they felt the blood drain this weakness would become prominent, other words they were experiencing the onset of death……I was dying.

Another first-person account of an encounter with the Elemental:

Burnt out during the 1920s, Leap’s looks lived up to its reputation. Narrow Gothic windows, ivy covered towers, bats and a barn owl; it was like a set from a Vincent Price movie. We crept in through the gaping doorway. Our flashlights revealed a huge hole in the stone floored front hall and we gingerly made our way around the edge, heading for the spiral staircase. No ghost would make us nervous – we were the Dublin Ghost Busters! Despite our confidence, we found ourselves talking in whispers. A slight sound behind me and I spun like a ballerina to see the cause. But as I spun around, I slipped and then dropped through the hole in the floor. The flashlight hit a rock and went out. Just above me, just out of reach, I could see the jagged outline of the floor. I could hear friends coming to help me. And then, in the darkness, I could hear a sniffling snorkly sort of noise. There was a smell, too. A horrid, rotten smell. I am not athletic, but that night, terror put rockets into my heels. I shot upwards. Scrabbling madly I made the doorway and did not stop running till I was safely in the car.

Yet another encounter with the Elemental (June 18th, 2006)

I looked into the darkness of a corridor that exited the spiral stairway. I became aware of the smell of sulphur. It was as if boxes and boxes of matches had suddenly been lit at once. I looked at my friend who had taken me to visit Leap Castle. He could also smell the sulphur. I stared into the darkness of the corridor and had the impression that a beast like a bear or lion was staring back at me . The tension was rising like a ticking timebomb. My friend then closed the door and said “To let sleeping dogs lie.” Meaning sometimes you just have to leave things alone. He was a friend of Sean Ryan and I certainly did not want to disrespect either of them by stirring up the Elemental.

“The Elemental has the potential to cause great harm to anyone receiving the brunt of an attack. One belief is that that the Elemental has the ability to alter the atmospheric pressure, generally lowering it. The polarity of atmospheric ions fluctuates and triggers a condition known as serotonin hyperfunction syndrome. This can cause symptoms such as heart palpitations, nausea, vomiting, sweating/chills, tremor, dizziness and fatigue. It has also been seen that skin and hair will have an electrical charge. This theory has been generated over the last 10 years and it is interesting to note similarities between these symptoms to those described by Mildred Darby in the early 1900′s.”

“I felt every hair on my head separate and move.
For my flesh all over my body and scalp crept, and every hair on my head stood straight on end.

..the absolute weakness that came over me, the seeming cessation of the pulses of life, the grip in heart and brain, the deadly numbness which rendered me incapable of thought, word or action, when I first saw that awful beast.

So, exactly what is going on in the haunted halls of Leap Castle? Nobody knows for sure. I advise those who wish to study and speculate about the Elemental do so with a few good books and whatever eyewitness accounts they are able to get their hands on. That’s how I did it. I first heard of the Elemental from The Castle Ghosts of the British Isles on DVD (presented by Robert Hardy). And it scared me (they put together a particularly gruesome form for the portrayal of the Elemental, and that caused most of the horror). One cannot risk provoking the “Thing” with his inquiries, risking his life and limb just to solve the mystery. If you wish to tour Leap Castle (as I do) one day, by all means do so. It would indeed be a riveting experience. But do so at your own discretion.

Curran, Dr. Bob. The World’s Creepiest Places. Pompton Plains, NJ: New Page Books. Copyright ©2012 by Bob Curran.

Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Ghosts and Haunted Places (Mysteries, Legends, and Unexplained Phenomena). New York, NY: Checkmark Books. Copyright ©2008 by Infobase Publishing.

Castle Ghosts of the British Isles (DVD, presented by Robert Hardy)
My sincerest thanks go to Sean Ryan and his Leap Castle Website for allowing me to use their accounts of encounters with the dreaded Elemental. Their website can be found here at Leap Castle.


  1. Thank you! Great website.. All very interesting.

  2. Wow, very spooky, I'm not sure I would visit Leap Castle!