As one of the most ancient settlements in Ireland, Derry is renowned for its rather colourful and turbulent history.
So it’s hardly surprising that a few infamous characters have made a name for themselves through the centuries – and hung around to make sure their presence is still felt to this day.
The City is also the home of Halloween, where the event has become a bit of a phenomenon, attracting tens of thousands of people from all over the world to join in the celebrations each year, taking the traditional festival of Samhain to a whole new level.
So where better to host a series of spine-tingling ghost tours bringing those stories of tragedy, mystery and gruesome goings on to life?
Martin McCrossan City Tours will be doing just that at this year’s Halloween Festival using the backdrop of Derry’s 400-year-old Walls to really set the supernatural scene for all who dare to be scared on their visit.
The tours are part of the wider Halloween programme and will run as part of the Awakening the Walled City Trail, taking in some of the city’s most eerie sites where unexplained activity has been chilling people to the bone over the years.
This year Derry City and Strabane District Council wanted to include activity on the Walls during the Trail, and the tours will bring people back on to the historic ramparts, which are the perfect backdrop for ghost hunting.
Manager Charlene McCrossan explained that the Spooky Ghost Tours were ideal to fill the growing demand for evening tours.
“The Spooky Tours began about ten years ago when my father Martin McCrossan thought that visitors would love to find out more about some of our favourite local ghost stories,” she recalls.
“Derry is coming down with fascinating and chilling tales of terror and ghostly goings on. Setting these stories in the context of the history, and showing visitors where events actually happened really captured people’s imagination.
“The ghost tours this year take things to another level, and we have selected some of the most well-known characters and brought them to life with actors adding a new dimension to the tour, making the experience all the more real.
“When I started researching the stories, I actually started to have nightmares, some of them are so spooky.”
Among the colourful band of characters you will meet on the tour, still making regular trips between Derry and the underworld, are Father John Lynch, renowned for his work on the Long Tower Church.
“He was the brainchild behind the church and oversaw the building work,” Charlene explains.
“Tragically he died just before it was completed in 1786 so he never got to see the Church being finished and there followed some mysterious and spooky goings on, which you will hear more about on the tour.
“The tour also tells the gruesome tale of the subsidence of the graveyard wall at the Long Tower beside the Lecky Road in 1934, which resulted in the collapse of many of the graves, and bodies being unearthed and strewn among the debris in the street.
“On their journey around the City’s historic Walls visitors will encounter the sinister nuns who are thought to walk the corridors of the former Convent in Pump Street who are renowned here in the city.
“We also stop at St Augustine’s Church which is the city’s most historic site, having been founded in the 6th Century.
“There we talk about the burial practices of old, when people were interred with bells as a safeguard against being buried alive, when medical practices were sometimes found wanting when pronouncing someone deceased.
“If you listen carefully, you might just hear those bells still ringing…
“We also incorporate some of the mythical characters from Irish folklore, long associated with Samhain. For example, the chilling story of when the Banshee was heard howling by residents from the Bogside.”
As well as giving people goosebumps, the experience also offers the chance to learn more about the fascinating history of Derry, and will appeal to people of all ages.
“It’s all a bit of fun and a great way to find out about historic events like the Siege of Derry,” Charlene stresses.
“We wanted to capture stories that younger ghost hunters would be really interested in but also learn something from.
“The tours are all family friendly, so people of all ages will enjoy them, and we don’t try to really frighten the life out of people,” she laughs.
Although the tour takes place on the City Walls, it avoids the more challenging parts of the route and is accessible for people with prams, or who those don’t want to take on anything too strenuous.
Round the tour off with a free coffee or hot chocolate and a chat at Café Java about the experience.
The tours run from Thursday October 26th until Tuesday October 31st, with a number of slots available each evening.
Places are filling up fast so people are advised to book, with tickets available on Eventbrite at: www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/family-friendly-spooky-tour-a-spooky-walking-tour-of-derry-tickets-719932586747?aff=ebdssbdestsearch
For more information on all that’s happening during Derry Halloween go to: derryhalloween.comTags: