When you visit as steeped in Irish history and legend as Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, it should not come as a surprise to hear that it is also very haunted. A popular subject for the Dublin ghost tours, it also holds a cherished place in the history of Ireland’s fight for independence. It is one of the largest unoccupied prisons in Ireland, and walking its echoing corridors will give you a sense of what it must have been like to be a prisoner here in the past.
Kilmainham Gaol and the patriots
Built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol was used to house common criminals after their capture until sentencing. It was also used in 1916 to hold the leaders of the uprising for independence. Many of them were also executed here, and the tale of James Connolly is one of the most heart wrenching of them all. The last of the leaders to be executed, Connolly had been so severely wounded in battle, and by his captors, that he had to be carried out to the courtyard tied to a chair, as he could no longer walk under his own power.
Like the others who died before him, he went proudly to his execution, never crying out for the enjoyment of his executioners during the brutal ordeal, as he faced a firing squad that would end his life. The prison was closed in 1924, but during the restoration later on, a plaque was created and posted in that same courtyard, naming every single one of the brave men who died there. Their only crime was a dream of independence for Ireland, and their exploits live on in the history depicted here for visitors to witness and understand.
The first haunted sightings
With all the executions that occurred here, it is no surprise that the place is haunted. During its restoration, several incidents proving the existence of ghosts were experienced by those living here as governors, and by the workmen doing the historical restoration during the 1960s. The governor at the time, Dan McGill, lived here with his family when volunteers were gathered to begin the restoration activities. His quarters looked out upon the courtyard where the executions took place, and one night as he prepared for bed, he noticed that the chapel on the other side of the courtyard was lit up from the inside. He went to the chapel, looked around, and turned off the lights. Before he could return to bed, he glanced back and saw that the lights were on again. He returned and turned them off, and did so for a total of three times that night.
The next incident occurred when the dungeon area was being repainted. The painter, known to be a deeply religious man, was blown off his feet and into a wall by a sudden gust of wind. The wind held him there for some time, until he could fight free. From that point on, he refused to go back to work there. Another was working in a corridor inside the gaol, and heard what he thought was a colleague’s footsteps behind him. He turned to find no one there, but felt a presence continue past him. There are more tales to hear, from workmen, children living here, and past visitors, so take the time to learn more during a ghost tour of Dublin featuring this haunted fortress.