Accounts as to when exactly the main tower/keep was constructed vary and range from the 13th century to the late 15th century, however it is generally recognized as being erected around 1250 AD. The castle was built by the O’Bannon clan, and was originally called “Léim Uí Bhanáin”, or “Leap of the O’Bannons”. The O’Bannons were the “secondary chieftains” of the territory, and were subject to the ruling O’Carroll clan. There is evidence that it was constructed on the same site as another ancient stone structure, perhaps ceremonial in nature, and that the area has been occupied consistently since at least the Iron Age (500 BC), and possibly since Neolithic times.
It is one of the most sought after locations for paranormal investigations, and boasts a large host of spirits at its core. Perhaps one of the most famous haunts involves the tale of gruesome murders that took place within the castle in 1532 in a room above the main hall of the castle now known as ‘The Bloody Chapel’.
The principal seat of the castle was held by the fearsome Ely O’Carroll clan. In the aftermath of the death of their chieftain in 1532, Mulrooney O’Carroll, a bitter succession dispute arose over the leadership of the clan. The dispute came to an abrupt end when ‘one-eyed’ Teige O’Carroll who, as mass was being celebrated in the room, stormed in chanting holy rites, and drove a sword into the back of the priest (his older brother) Thaddeus. The fatally wounded priest fell onto the altar in front of his family, and breathed his last.
The priest’s spirit is said to haunt the Bloody Chapel and is thought to be one of Leap’s earliest ghosts. Even centuries later when the castle lay in state of ruin, passers-by have seen the window of the room light up suddenly late into the night.