Red Mary of Leamaneh Castle

Red Mary

Leamaneh Castle is all but in ruins today, but the foreboding atmosphere has become a part of the castle’s bones, and the ravens who circle and scream have made the haunt their home. Perhaps the dark birds protect the long-dead but still active “Red Mary” or Maire Rua.

Red Mary’s Reign of Terror

Red Mary MacMahon’s legacy is a bloody one. Her first husband died (mysteriously)and left her a great deal of wealth. Mary then moved on to a second husband, Conor O’Brien, who had inherited the Grand Leamaneh Castle in the 1630s. Mary used her dead first husband’s wealth to improve her new home and build additional structures on the castle grounds, making it one of the grandest homes in 17th-century Ireland. 

Mary and Conor seemed like the perfect match. They were both opponents of the Cromwellian government and enjoyed spending their free time attacking English settlers until Conor lost a battle and was mortally wounded. Conor’s soldiers brought him back to Leamaneh Castle, and as Conor was dying, Mary shouted from the top of the tower, “What do I want with dead men here?” 

Everyone felt her ruthlessness. Stories say that if a servant displeased Red Mary, she would have them hang out a castle window—men by their necks, women by their hair. And if a female staff member really made her mad, she had their breasts cut off. 

But body mutilation wasn’t her only trick; she kept wild stallions in her stable, and should someone rub her the wrong way, they would be thrown on the back of one of her stallions. The steed’s bridle would be removed, freeing the stallion to bolt straight for the Cliffs of Moher. Then, without warning, the stallion would slide to a stop, sending its passenger over the side of the cliff. Cliffs of Moher

Hence, the name of the Castle – Leamaneh, translates to “horse’s leap.”

An End to Red Mary’s Mayhem

But Red Mary kept her eye on the prize, flipped, rode to Limerick, and offered to marry any Cromwellian officer to keep her from suffering the same fate as Conor, or worse, losing her land and home. Some poor fool was taken by her money and flaming red hair and willingly stepped up to the matrimony plate. 

John Cooper was #3 and became wealthy overnight, while Mary kept her assets and power. History says they lived long lives and became parents to 12 kids, but the local legend tells a different tale. 

The story goes John Cooper made a nasty comment about Conor, so Mary kicked him in the gut, and her punt killed him. Another rumor says his demise came when he mysteriously “fell” from their third-floor window. 

Mary’s murderous mayhem would not go unpunished. After John Cooper died at her hand, or foot, she was captured by her enemies. They took Red Mary to a hollow tree, tied her up, and confined her to the inside of the tree, where she was left to die.

It’s no wonder Leamaneh Castle is haunted.

Castle LeamanehMary’s Castle in Ruins

A red-haired ghost is said to walk the empty hall of Leamaneh Castle. Many witnesses say her apparition looks like a skeleton with flaming hair; others claim to see her figure standing on the third-floor window, glaring down at those visiting the now abandoned castle left in ruins. 

If you make it across the pond to the Emerald Isle, many say visiting Leamaneh Castle is a must. The Castle in County Clare, Ireland, fell into ruin at the end of the 18th century. Bits and architectural elements have been preserved and moved to other locations. But the Castle’s bones are intact. As well as its ghosts.