The haunting of Ballyheigue Castle and the tale of the lost treasure

The haunting of Ballyheigue Castle and the tale of the lost treasure
4 June 2024 J.W.H

One shadowy night a Danish ship was wrecked near Ballyheigue Castle. The ship was carrying silver, and during the raid on the castle, the treasure was lost. What was the real reason for the shipwreck and who was the ghostly figure in the photo taken centuries later?

On the Atlantic coast of Ireland, in the still village of Ballyheigue, stands the enigmatic Ballyheigue Castle. Designed by the visionary architect Richard Morrison in 1810, this grand mansion was once the proud Tudor Gothic Revival home of the illustrious Crosbie family.

Today it is just a shell of ruins, like many elderly Irish castles and mansions, surrounded by the lush greenery of a golf course built in 1996.

From 1890, part of the castle served as a station of the Royal Irish Constabulary. On May 27, 1921, he succumbed to the flames of the Irish War of Independence, a victim of the battle against British imperialism. This was not unusual in those days and many elderly castles and huge houses suffered the same fate.

Ballyheigue Castle: Currently, on the site of today's golf course, there are the ruins of a former castle. The place is believed to be haunted by a ghost, and strange figures appear in photos of visitors. //Source: Wikimedia Commons

It is said that before the castle met its fiery end, the community gathered to plunder its contents, an act of defiance before lighting the torch. However, the truth is that only ruins and ghost stories remain.

The Ghosts of Ballyheigue Castle

Ballyheigue, pronounced “baleyhigh”, carries the weight of its storied past, once a haven for smugglers traveling the treacherous coast of Ireland. This can be seen in ghost stories and legends.

In June 1962, Captain PD O'Donnell and his family went on holiday to Ballyheigue. O'Donnell, later writing about his experiences in the Irish Welcome magazine, published by Bord Failte Eireann (Irish Tourist Board), revealed a chilling chapter in the history of Ballyheigue Castle.

One afternoon during their stay, O'Donnell and his eight-year-old son Frank went to the ruins of Ballyheigue Castle. This once proud stronghold belonged to the Crosbie family, who ruled County Kerry for generations. After closely examining the castle ruins, O'Donnell took several photos of the decaying walls, then returned home and developed his vacation photos.

Interestingly, after developing the photo, one of the photos revealed an anomaly – a mysterious figure standing in one of the windows. This ghostly creature was holding a sword and appeared to be dressed in what appeared to be a sailor's outfit. After checking what they could, they concluded that it was not the result of double exposure.

Unfortunately, the only print of this memorable photograph, along with the negative, disappeared when he sent it to a friend. Despite extensive efforts, including newspaper advertisements and printed flyers offering significant rewards, the elusive image remained lost.

Strangely enough, offers to buy the rights to photographs from Denmark come from even as far away as Copenhagen. Why were the Danes so intrigued by the spooky image?

Coastal Destroyers

According to the archaic annals of Kerry, the Danish ship Golden Lyon, part of the fleet of the Danish Asiatic Company en route from Copenhagen to Tranquebar, was wrecked on Ballyheigue beach on October 30, 1730.

The merciless fury of the storm blew the ship off course, leaving it vulnerable to attacks by the opportunistic Crosbies, as the legends say. There are shadowy tales of Crosbies using false lights attached to the heads of horses, drawing unsuspecting ships into risky waters. This was done so that people on land could 'recovery' goods that the ships carried.

Ballyheigue Beach: This is the beach where a Danish ship carrying silver crashed. Perhaps intentionally on the ones on the beach, coming from the castle. //Source: Wikimedia Commons

Sailors on ships at night were deceived by the swinging lights that seemed to signal safe and sound passage, and found themselves shipwrecked among the unforgiving Atlantic waves.

The men who did this were called “Destroyers” and it was a common story told all along the coast. They were feared in the same way that ships were feared by pirates. There are also stories that the crews of these ships were murdered so as not to leave any witnesses.

The common law of the time was that goods from shipwrecks belonged to those on the shore from which they came, and this could be a very profitable business for ships coming from afar and bringing with them treasure and other goods.

Twelve chests of silver

The crew of the ill-fated Golden Lyon faced an unforeseen rescue mission organized by Sir Thomas Crosbie and his cohorts arriving from Ballyheigue Castle. Amidst the wreck, they rescued much of the Danish ship's cargo, including a cache of silver bars and coins hidden in twelve chests.

The crew were welcomed at Crosbies and stayed at Ballyheigue Castle. Did the Crosbies really destroy the ship on purpose? Or were they really the helpful locals they pretended to be? It wasn't long before Sir Thomas met his untimely death, with some suspecting that he had been poisoned by his own wife.

Lady Margaret, the widow of Sir Thomas Crosbie, demanded the staggering sum of £4,300 (equivalent to £110,800 today) from Captain J. Heitman, the captain of a Danish ship, citing a salvage sum and compensation for her husband's death, attributing to him I was dying on “works and efforts on the night of the disaster” Fearing for the safety of his twelve chests of silver, Captain Heitman transported them to the castle's cellars, posting a vigilant guard at the entrance until he managed to arrange their return to Denmark.

Castle robbery

Shortly thereafter, Ballyheigue Castle was attacked and the silver chests disappeared under the cover of darkness. Authorities managed to recover a modest 5,000 pounds of the total 20,000 pounds of silver.

Lady Margaret's name hung ominously over the shadow of suspicion that she had organized the raid, yet she vehemently denied any involvement. Today, local legends tell intricate tales about the whereabouts of the stolen silver.

It is said that one of the sailors standing guard tried to stop the robbery of the chests, but was killed in the process. Could this be the ghost seen in the photo of Ballyheigue Castle that O'Donnell saw?

Anniversary of the death of the Spirit

An fascinating, and perhaps even terrifying, fact is the date the photo was taken. Historical documents chronicle the Danish raid on Silver that took place on June 4, 1731. O'Donnell's photo of the ghostly sailor was taken on June 4, 1962. Was this a ghostly tribute to this ominous anniversary?

Another legend about the castle says that the silver never actually left the building. According to the story, the stolen silver is still underground and the sailor is trying to let us know. Perhaps another one will be shown someday, who knows, maybe it will be again on the anniversary of his death?


Ballyheigue Castle – mysterious Britain and Ireland

Ballyheigue Castle – Wikipedia

Tradition, law and salvage tradition – Irish maritime history

(PDF) The Ghost of Ballyheigue Castle | Francis Martin O'Donnell –

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  • J.W.H

    About John:

    John Williams is a Reincarnationist paranormal Intuitive freelance writer...he is living proof of reincarnation existence, through his personal exploration, he has confirmed its authenticity through visits to the very lands where these events transpired.

    Through guided meditation/s using hemi-sync technology he has managed to recollect 3 previous lives to his own, that go back to the Mid to Late 19th century.

    JWH - "You are the GODS! - Inclusion of the Eternal Light of Love and you shall never die”.

    “Death is Just the Beginning of Life”