Leap Castle

Leap Castle is an Irish castle near the town of Birr in County Offaly. It was built in 1250 by the O'Bannon family and was originally called "Leim ui Bhanain," or "Leap of the O'Bannons." The O'Bannons were the "secondary chieftains" of the territory, and were subject to the ruling O'Carroll clan.

The Annals of the Four Masters record that the Earl of Kildare, Gerald Fitzgerald, tried unsuccessfully to seize the castle in 1513 A.D. Three years later, he attacked the castle again and managed to partially demolish it. But, by 1557 the O'Carrolls regained possession.

Following the death of Mulrooney O'Carroll in 1532, family struggles plagued the O'Carroll clan. In 1659, the castle passed by marriage into the ownership of the Darby family, notable members of which included Vice-Admiral George Darby, Admiral Sir Henry D'Esterre Darby and John Nelson Darby. The central keep was later expanded with significant extensions. However in order to pay for these extensions rents were raised and much of the land accompanying the castle was sold. This is one theorised motivation for the burning of the castle during the Irish Civil War in 1922.

Many people were imprisoned and executed in the castle, and it is supposedly haunted by several specters, the most terrifying of these being is a small hunched creature whose apparition is said to be accompanied by a rotting stench and the smell of sulfur. The creature is called the "It" or the "Elemental." It has been called one of the most haunted places in the world.

In its Bloody Chapel, a brother killed his brother in front of his family during mass. Not far from there, workers discovered an oubliette, which is a dungeon where people are locked away and forgotten about. There are spikes at the bottom of this shaft, and when workers were cleaning it out, it took them three cartloads to carry out all the human bones at the bottom. A somewhat chilling report indicates that these workmen also found a pocketwatch dated to the 1840s amongst the bones. There are no indications of whether or not the oubliette was still in use in that period.

The castle is currently under the ownership of Sean Ryan, a traditional Irish musician, who is undertaking restoration work.

The castle was featured on the cover of several editions of the novel The Riders by the Australian author Tim Winton.
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