Doneraile Court is a beautiful Irish chateau, her enormous rooms overflow with sunlight and the tall bay windows look out over romantic parks. This most attractive and charming home is also full of ghosts. There is the black chariot pulled by six black horses and driven by the headless coachman who announces the death of the head of the family. There is also the brother who went mad after a bite from a rabid dog, who for years he was chained to his bed.
I asked permission to study these presences. The guardian of the estate, Captain Montgomery, issued a prompt reply, “Prince Michel is authorized to come and study the phantoms of Doneraile Court, provided he leaves them in the state in which he finds them.” I was received with deep kindness and a pleasant understanding of my purpose.
The most famous ghost was that of Lady Castletown. A turn of the century woman, she was a great beauty and made use of her looks without reservation, becoming one of the leading Irish ladies of her time. Hoping to encounter her, I made my way through all the rooms of the first floor, in the northern wing, where the masters of the house had lived. Nothing.
With Captain Montgomery in tow, I climbed up to the servants’ quarters on the second floor. In a room with a low ceiling, lit only by two small transom windows, I felt the presence of Lady Castletown.
“But she cannot be on this floor,” protested Captain Montgomery, “She was the master of the house, the owner of the property. She lived in the great room on the first floor.”
“I assure you, captain, that she is here, in this room among the servants.”
“Impossible. You must be mistaken.”
“There is nothing I can do to convince you, nor myself any further. I know that Lady Castletown is in this room, and that she lived here and probably died here too.”
While sipping the tea generously offered by the captain, we each repeated our positions and stood our ground, and that is where we left the discussion, and each other, on the most amicable of terms.
Six months later, I received a letter from Captain Montgomery. He had done a bit of research, and in the archives he came across the following.
Late in her life, Lady Castletown developed a skin condition that left her disfigured. Not wanting anyone to see her face this way, she moved to the servants’ quarters on the second floor, in the room I had indicated. There she spent her days bitterly lamenting the loss of her beauty until finally dying in solitude and sorrow.
Photographs by Justin Creedy Smith