Category Archive 'Oubliette'

17 Oct 2019

The Oubliette in Leap Castle

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Leap Castle, Coolderry, County Offaly, Ireland

Any well-equiped caste ought to have among its conveniences an oubliette.

An oubliette (etymology: French, from oublier, “to forget”) is a small bottle-shaped dungeon, usually concealed under a trap-door. The traditional oubliette has a round bottom and is too small for a prisoner either to stand or lie down with comfort. With the trap-door closed, the oubliette is also sound-proof.

One merely arranges for one’s unwanted guests to walk over the unlocked and ready trap-door, and voilà! the inconvenience may be forgotten.

The oubliette is the sort of colorful medieval artifact that strikes the modern reader as a good story, but probably just a story.

However, it turns out that at least one oubliette was only too real, the one in Ireland’s Leap Castle, home of the wicked O’Carrolls.


During renovation of the castle in the 1900’s, workers found an oubliette behind a wall in the chapel. At the bottom of the shaft were many human skeletons amassed on wooden spikes. When cleaned out, it took three cartloads to remove the bones. Today, the dungeon is now covered over in order to keep people away from it. It is believed that the O’Carrolls would drop guests through the trap door to be impaled on the spikes 8 feet below. A pocket watch found at the same time, dating from the mid 1800’s, shows how recently the oubliette may have been used.

BWW Books:

They emptied out the oubliette at Leap Castle in Ireland in the 1920s and discovered remains from over 150 people.

Photo of Leap Castle Oubliette here

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