The Legend Of Darkey Kelly

One of the most enduring legends surrounding Dublin has to be that of the witch Darkey Kelly. A staple of many a Dublin ghost walk, Kelly was rumored to be a powerful witch, and one of the first to be publicly executed there. The legend held that she was innocent in spite of claims otherwise, and was accused of witchcraft by the sheriff after she accused him of fathering her baby.

New evidence was recently found that while Darkey Kelly might truly have been innocent of the charges of witchcraft, for which she was burned at the stake, it does not mean that she was truly an innocent woman, wrongly accused or not. The evidence recently found suggests that, in reality, the woman known as Darkey Kelly might actually have been Dublin’s first female serial killer, instead.

Witch or killer?

The tale that the lord sheriff at the time, also known as Lord Carhampton, was the sole reason for her execution, as he claimed she tried to cast a spell on him to force money out of him for her baby. The recent evidence claims that Dorcas Kelly, the real name of Darkey Kelly, was actually the madam of the Maiden Tower brothel in Copper Alley. Her child was thought to have been fathered by Simon Luttrell, or Lord Carhampton, and she sought to demand money out of him for her child by threatening to reveal his membership in the infamous Hellfire Club. It was for this reason that he ordered her execution, it is thought, the witchcraft charge was added later.

The tale tells of how he responded to her threats by taking the child away from her, and killing it in a satanic ritual, before claiming that she was the witch. No body of a child was ever found, and there is only what remains of her body as any evidence of the actual execution. It had to have been done hastily, because she had been hanged first, and then set on fire at the stake. The new evidence claims that she had been accused of killing a local shoemaker by the name of John Dowling, and investigators had found the bodies of five men in the vaults beneath the brothel after she had been arrested. After her execution, the prostitutes of the city rioted in Copper Alley for days afterwards.

Confusion as to what is true

There has been talk that the tale of Darkey Kelly may have been confused in part with another case that involved the Lord sheriff’s son, Henry. Henry supposedly raped a girl in a brothel, after having the brothel madam procure her for him. The madam at the time of the rape was thought to be Darkey’s sister, Maria Llewellyn. This story concludes with the son having the girl and her family imprisoned under false charges in retaliation for the girl’s claim against him, and the girl’s mother later died in prison. The son’s charges against the girl and her family were later dropped, but nothing was ever done about the rape.