Horrible History? Ciaran Wallace is pleasantly surprised by the North Side Ghost Tour

Contributed by Ciaran Wallace

As a tour guide in the capital I have noticed an increasing number of locals  popping up on my tour- not really that surprising considering that most of us are taking fewer holidays abroad. This got me thinking about discovering our own locality. Pue’s has sent 6 people out onto the streets of Dublin to review new walking tours, like the Ghost Tour below, old classics, like the Literary Pub Tour, and even unusual museums, such as the leprechaun museum. Over the next 6 weeks we will bring you those reviews and hopefully some ideas for historical things to do this summer.- Lisa Marie Griffith

Ciaran Wallace’s review:I admit – I had my fears. Heading out on Hidden Dublin Walks’ “North Side Ghost Tour” it was only natural that I should be a little anxious. I might encounter dodgy history and cringe-worthy performances in underwhelming locations. As it turned out I was pleasantly surprised.  We met at 8pm at the corner opposite The Church bar and restaurant (formerly St. Mary’s Church of Ireland on Mary Street). Our guide, John, held a discreet sign and a large umbrella displaying the Hidden Dublin Walks logo. A decent umbrella was essential; the tiny folding ones were almost useless as the rain flogged down on some of our fellow travellers huddled in shorts and sandals. It was a tribute to the tour content and John’s delivery that everyone kept walking through a most unseasonal evening.

The empty streets and dull skies set a suitable tone as we set off to visit deceased Dubliners who do not rest in peace. Our walk began in a deconsecrated graveyard where a brutal murder took place. We stopped on a dead-end laneway which opened out, through John’s storytelling, into a splendid medieval past – with a suitably macabre conclusion. Unremarkable locations that you might pass every day were presented in a grisly light as we learnt about the tragedies and uncanny stories associated with them. Oddly enough it was this ordinariness of many stops on the tour which added to their atmosphere. The fabric between our world and the other world is alarmingly thin.

Between stops the guide recounted his own transition from committed scepticism to open-minded acceptance (having a wife who is a ‘sensitive’ in paranormal matters might have been a factor in his conversion). This allowed members of the group to share their own stories of unexplained happenings and eerie encounters – all of which helped knit our little band together and keep us entertained until we reached the next location. The history content of the tour was solid and reliable. Where there was a doubt about facts John clearly stated it and gave his own opinion – neatly tying this in with a suitable story of traditional hauntings or unexplained shapes in digital photographs taken on the spot. Indeed the walk is a decent history tour hung on a frame of entertaining, surprising and slightly unsettling ghost stories. Political assassinations, squalid slums and bloody murder are useful window into the past. Who can complain if their paranormal reverberations catch the attention of some visitors?

As a local I was pleased that the itinerary covered the area from Henry Street to Oxmantown – a lesser-known district of the city with rich historical connections. The tour has operated since February 2010 and I can vouch for the fact that it runs in any weather. By including stories gathered from earlier participants John ensured that the delivery felt fresh and (ironically) alive. A minor criticism is the inclusion of one or two longer stories unconnected with Dublin. While these filled the time between stops and added to the sense of the otherworldly I felt they were too generic to be included in such a site-specific tour. It appears that the tour has evolved since it was launched so presumably the stock of stories associated with individual locations will expand, reducing the need for any ‘fillers’.

The American, British and Irish ghost-hunters joined in the spirit of the tour exchanging stories and carefully examining their photos for orbs and shadowy figures. When asked at the end if they had felt anything unearthly some described feeling unsettled at Croppy’s Acre in front of Collins Barracks, others were struck by the atmosphere in the abandoned graveyard. Authors of Gothic novels aimed to produce a sensation in their reader’s mind, drawing them more deeply into a fictional tale. The North Side Ghost Tour managed to produce the same effect during a very wet two hours’ walk through Dublin’s backstreets– no mean feat. Whether you have overseas guests to entertain or you just fancy an enjoyable walk followed by a drink in the Brazen Head this is a worthwhile tour. I may still be a sceptic when it comes to the paranormal but I’m happy to be a convert to the ghost tour.
For details and booking see the Hidden Dublin Walks website.
PRICE : €12 [discount available if you book on-line] Adults only.
MEETING POINT : In front of McDonald’s on Mary Street – Opposite “The Church Bar”
DEPARTS EVERY : Monday 8pm | Tuesday 8pm | Wednesday 8pm | Saturday 8pm (1st March 2010 to
30th September 2010)

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