Ghostly goings on at the Irish Alcatraz.

Filed under: Local News |

Do you believe in ghosts? It may be time to reconsider.

An image taken by a visitor to Spike Island Cork this weekend may have non-believers reconsidering, as the image taken in an empty cell block shows the clear shape of a man seeming walking the abandoned halls. The image was taken by visitor Louise Bunyan on Sunday 28th October in the ‘abandoned jail’ section of the prison, a block which has held prisoners in the 1840’s, 1920’s and the 1990’s. She was enjoying an after hours tour of the former island prison and fortress when she went to snap an image of the empty cell block, but she was surprised to see her cameras facial recognition feature activate. On zooming into the distance a clear figure emerges in her image at the end of the corridor, dark but definite. And further brightening of the image by eager enthusiasts reveals the perfectly distinguishable yet transparent shape of man seemingly carrying something across the hall.

The image has social media users in a flurry speculating as to its origin but its not the first time for Spike Island staff to encounter such images. The island prison reopened 2 years ago as a visitor attraction and it has a long and chequered past. Island manager John Crotty commented “the recorded history of the monastery, fortress and social life of the island stretches back to the 7th century and the stories from each period are often full of Irish charm and interest. But the famine era prison that existed from 1847 to 1883 was a different matter and it was called ‘Ireland’s hell’ with good reason. Its numbers swelled to over 2300 making it the world’s largest prison at the time and the conditions here were atrocious. Over 1300 men and boys never made it off the island and they lie now in unmarked mass graves, unfortunate victims of a cruel time. At its worst an inmate a day was dying. A lot of visitors comment on a feeling of ‘heaviness’ during their visit and we do get images reported to us or sent in that defy all explanation”.

Research undertaken by UCC and the islands heritage team have uncovered several stories of ghostly reports including soldiers firing at seeming phantom intruders. Irish naval cadets stationed on the island in the 1980’s report strange occurrences disturbing their accommodation, while prison guards from the 1980’s report prisoners used to complain of a ‘black entitiy’ visiting their cells by night, something seemingly captured in a 2016 image by photographer Shea Wolfe in an empty cell in the same block as the recent image was captured.

The island can be visited for weekends until the end of November.