The Dark Side of Dublin the Haunting of Marsh’s Library

Dublin is a popping place by day. It’s a place where bustling streets turn into quaint lanes lined with cafes, shops, pubs and the most delightful people I’ve ever met. It’s a place to get lost in, if not for the lack of street signs than definitely for the ambiance. But Dublin turns into something much darker by night. When Temple Bar shuts down. When the twenty-somethings turn in. When St. Stephen’s Green goes dark, and when the shadows take over the night. That is when you will experience the dark side of Dublin. It is then, and only then, when you begin to understand why Dublin inspires darkness inside us.

Standing in front of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin during the small hours of the night is a far different experience than by day. The moon settles a diffused glow along its spires just enough for the shadows to cascade and wrap around them. Dark nooks get darker and the lovely courtyard behind it disappears into the night. I can’t help but think,

What lurks around these corners, is there something in the shadows?”

Back to Dublin

It was my first night back to Dublin since the St. Patrick’s Day Festival. This time I was coming back to explore a much darker side of this great city, starting with the iconic Gothic Vampire Novelist, Bram Stoker at the Bram Stoker Festival. A Dubliner, Bram Stoker spent many years of his life growing up, studying, writing and finding his wife in Dublin. Known for one of the most famous vampire novels of all time, Dracula, Bram Stoker found inspiration in Dublin. The more time I spent in this city, the more I began to understand why, starting with the very books he read.

Marsh's Library Dublin 2

The stone entrance into Marsh’s Library photo taken by me.

The 300 Year-old Haunted Marsh’s Library

Just past the medieval graveyard at St.Patrick’s Cathedral stands a Gothic stone archway and hinged door marking the path of stairs to Marsh’s Library, the first public library in Ireland. As I opened the door to its gallery I was immediately transported back three hundred years. My eyes scanned the thick and dramatic oak shelves. The spines of antique books so textured with age seemed like something from a Harry Potter Movie as if it were only possible they existed had someone imagined them. There was something about this place that made me want to stay. Perhaps this is what kept Bram Stoker, reading books of travel and death. Records of his readings are kept in a ledger where I saw the hand scrawls of the likes of Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker and James Joyce.

Most every Dublin tourist knows of the famed Long Library at Trinity College, but few know of Marsh’s Library. In comparison, Marsh’s Library is merely a closet, but don’t let this fool you, it remains unchanged since its founding in 1638. It is home to 25,000 rare and extraordinary books with permanent residence on its original oak shelves. But, Marsh’s Library has more than just books who have taken up residence in its halls.

Marsh's Library Dublin 2

A graveyard at St. Patrick’s Cathedral just next to the 300 year old library.

The Ghost of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh in Marsh’s Library

Maybe it’s just me but these kind of places inspire creativity and summon the darkest corners of my imagination. If not for the antiquity, than for the realization of walking between the very walls which Bram Stoker once walked and where he began writing his Dracula drafts. As I stood in awe at the centuries before, I was led by an audio tour of the library’s history and the story of its resident ghost; a spectral figure seen in the wee hours of the library gallery whom is said to be that of Archbishop Narcissus Marsh.

The ghost of the archbishop concerns the loss of his niece whom he raised. Legend has it she fell in love  and eloped. Riddled with guilt, she left a letter in one of the books explaining her reasons for running away. To this day the haunt of the archbishop lives within the centuries old walls of the library in perpetual search of the note. Was this something Bram Stoker sensed while he was drafting his Gothic novel? Perhaps it was something in death yet more physical than a specter. Something with a permanent residence in something more confined, Gothic, and macabre. Something like a crypt.

To be continued…

Keep reading the Dark Side of Dublin at St. Michan’s Church and explore Dublin’s mummies.

Do you wonder what lurks in the shadows? Follow me on my visual and written Gothic adventures through Dublin as I explore a crypt of mummies at St. Michan’s Church, an invisible graveyard at Trinity College, and a Shapeshifter’s Ball. 

Thinking of Catching the 2015 Bram Stoker Festival?

Check out the Bram Stoker Festival site for up to date details on the next Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin. If you’re looking for exceptional accommodations during your stay, I can highly recommend the Shelbourne, Dublin’s most famous hotel. The historic Shelbourne Hotel is a luxury 5-star property dating back nearly two hundred years and is home to a host of Dublin’s history. One of the most interesting to me is its history of Bram Stoker himself frequenting for dinner. In fact this is where he met and befriended his life long peer, Henry Irving. From the moment you step inside until you rest your head, every detail about the Shelbourne Hotel is perfect and exquisite. Prices are well ranged within the standard of service and luxury amenities.  To learn more about the history trail of Bram Stoker in Dublin, click here.

The Exterior of the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin by Christa Thompson

The Exterior of the Shelbourne Hotel, Dublin by Christa Thompson

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About Christa Thompson

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Christa Thompson is the Founder and Senior Editor of The Fairytale Traveler. Christa has been traveling the world since 2003 when she attended a summer abroad study at the University of Cambridge in England. Since then, her wanderlust has been fierce. Her three passions in life are her son, traveling, and being creative. The Fairytale Traveler brand gives Christa the opportunity to do all of these things and to live intentionally every day. "It's never too late to believe in what you love and to pursue your dreams." -Christa Thompson

11 Comments on this post

  1. Wow, what great places to visit. Love Dublin, but can’t say I have ever been to either of these. Love your photos too! 🙂

    Emma / Reply
  2. Oh man, I need to get my butt to Ireland. Each time I see a post from you (or anyone) about it I just scratch my head and wonder why I have not yet been. Love your pics of the graveyards, the colours are great!!

    SJ / Reply
  3. Marsh Library has just made it to the top of my list of places to visit when I make it across to Ireland. I love the sound of being surrounded by thousands of old books! I know it sounds strange but you can’t beat the smell of an old book!!! The only question remaining would be whether I would then want to leave again!

    Tam Gamble / Reply
  4. […] The Dark Side of Dublin: the Haunting of Marsh’s Library (Fairytale Traveler) […]

  5. […] Library – A smaller yet incredibly preserved historic library is Marsh’s Library behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This little spot will make you go “whoa” not just because of its Harry Potter-like […]

  6. LOVE your blog! My daughter and I are traveling to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales next month, and we realllllly want to see the mummies at Marsh’s Library in Dublin (as well as the amazing library itself, of course!). Would you be so kind as to share tips for getting into the crypt? We also are planning to visit Leap Castle for ghost-hunting and the Cemetery tour at Glasnevin. SO effing excited!! Tips, advice, ideas??

    Isabella Ess / Reply
    • Awe thank yoU!

      So Leap is a private residence. You have to email the owner (he is amazing and a world renowned Irish whistle player, his daughter a ballerina). But being that it’s private, I’m not sure about the ghost hunting part, but he will tell you about the ghosts! Sean’s email is seanryan@mail2web.com he does respond! Bring cash so you can buy his music, he sells his CDs there. He’s so nice.

      The Mummies are at St. Mitchan’s Cathedral, not Marsh’s. Although Marsh’s is haunted as well (as you have read from this post). You can find the all the information you need about St. Mitchan’s Cathedral here: http://thefairytaletraveler.com/2014/10/14/st-michans-church/ (back when I was a horrible photographer, my dear).

      As for Glasnevin, my best advice to you is to spend a few hours there, go in the afternoon or early morning when the light is better for photos. There is a really great museum down below that you must visit. You can take a bus right to Glasnevin.

      I hope this helps! Ireland.com is an incredible resource as well so be sure to swing by there!

  7. […] -Excerpt from, The Dark Side of Dublin […]

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