Ever since Ptolemy mentioned Eblana polis in 140 AD, there has been a settlement in Dublin. A city with such a long lifespan is bound to have a few cantankerous spirits, so here’s our list of the top ten ghosts in Dublin and where you might find them.
1. Darkey Kelly – The Green Woman
Darkey Kelly was a man’s woman. She kept 18th century Dublin men in ladies of the night for years before she was burned at the stake for witchcraft.
Her ex-lover, Sheriff of Dublin, Simon Luttrell feared his reputation would be tarnished when he got this scarlet woman in an awkward situation. She asked for financial support, but instead was charged with murdering her unborn child and witchcraft. She met her fiery end to a cheering rabbelous crowd beside St Audeon’s Church.
She stalks up and down the Forty Steps around the church, which leads to a labyrinth of underground passageways, where all the city’s prostitutes, pickpockets and drug addicts hung out. The area was known as ‘Hell’; and now the passageways are all blocked up.
She walks to the bottom of the steps in an emerald green cloak to the spot where prostitutes left their unwanted children. Her brothel, ‘The Maiden Tower’ on Fishamble St is now a pub named after her.
2. Buck Whaley
Thomas Whaley was a member of Dublin’s Hellfire Club, specialising in satanic cat-burnings, orgies, gambling and other nice activities for gentlemen. This rake was from one of the richest families in Dublin, and was quite hot-tempered.
When a clumsy servant spilled a drink on him Thomas one night, Buck had the servant doused in brandy and set alight. His shadow is seen ambling from his house at 68 Stephen’s Green to Cuffe St, a path he would take every night to start off a boys’ night out. Is it possible that Buck Whaley likes to have a sup and a look at the women in Buck Whaley’s nightclub on Leeson St?
3. Robert Emmet
Like all good Irishmen Robert Emmet enjoys a pint, even though he was hanged and beheaded for treason in 1803. Death and a few centuries won’t separate the ‘bold’ Robert Emmet from a pint of the black stuff in his local, The Brazen Head on Bridge St. Emmet held meetings of the United Irishmen there, before the building was demolished and rebuilt.
Other customers of the pub notice he sits in the corner, with his eyes peeled for enemies. Who’d blame him, sure his executioner used to drink here too.
4. Jonathan Swift
Patients and medical staff see Dean Swift croaking along the corridors of St Patrick’s Psychiatric Hospital under his coiling grey wig and mortally black religious garb. Swift donated money to the hospital in his will. The Dean has been spotted in Glasnevin and Clondalkin, where he regularly visited friends for late night literary and political discussions. Swift was famous for pulling off controversial hoaxes, maybe he is still at it?
5. Boyd’s Dog
Captain John McNeill Boyd died in 1861 during a storm in Dun Laoghaire trying to rescue drowning seamen. His devoted dog, a black Newfoundland refused to leave the side of Boyd’s grave and slowly starved to death. Bow-wow is still at Boyd’s grave in Glasnevin Cemetery strolling about quietly, keeping his master company. Boyd’s doggie is also spotted sitting on the cold floor of St Patrick’s Cathedral beside a memorial statue of his master.
6. The Shelbourne Ghost
Ghost hunter Hans Holzer arrived in Dublin in the 1960s seeking an Irish ghost with his friend Sybil Leek. Staying in the Shelbourne, Sybil made contact with a little girl who had one lived in the houses the hotel was converted from. The little girl, Mary Masters, died of cholera in 1791 and was looking for her friend Sophie. Mary Masters has been seen after various refurbishments of the hotel.
7. Narcissus Marsh
Readers in Marsh’s Library have come back from the toilet and found books they were reading on the floor or closed on a different page. Primate Narcissus Marsh frequents the inner gallery, which was his personal library when he opened the library in 1701. He is buried just outside his library, on the grounds of St Patrick’s Cathedral. Marsh’s niece eloped with a vicar one night and married him in a tavern. She is said to have left a note for her uncle in one of his books apologising for upsetting him, but he never found it. Poor Narcissus. His ghost continues his search for Grace’s note amongst the books today.
8. Molly Malone
Dubliners and tourists alike have reported seeing the figure of a scantily clad 18th century woman, wheeling a wheelbarrow at the bottom of Grafton Street. Ok so no one knows if the tart with the cart actually existed but according to the song she took up the family trade and became a fishmonger, before contracting an incurable fever, and now her ghost navigates streets of varying width around Dublin advertising fresh seafood.
9. The Jester of Malahide Castle
The four foot bearded jester of Malahide met a grizzly end with a knife through his heart on a snowy December evening over 400 years ago. Puck, who lived in a turret, fell in love with a relative of Lady Elenora Fitzgerald, who was imprisoned in the castle by Henry VIII.
With his dying breath the poor creature swore he would haunt the castle until the reigning lord chose a commoner to be his bride. He was photographed in 1976 with a wrinkled face, but was noted as looking rather young for his age.
10. The Headless Coachman
Eighteenth century Dublin lived in fear of this infamous character, who didn’t actually exist. Ok so he wasn’t really a ghost, he was a cover story cooked up by conscientious gravediggers or ‘sack-em-ups’.
These men stole freshly buried corpses and sold them to medical schools, which were in rather short supply. The coach driver bent his head down into the shoulders of his great overcoat, and delivered the bodies to the blade happy medical students. The legend scared people into staying at home, and the gravediggers happily went about their business in the dead of night. When people woke to the sound of the coach driving by, they thought it was the headless coachman, out for a late night terror jaunt.