Looking over Ireland’s capital city is a 12 hundred foot hill. Upon it is an imposing stone building that has been notorious for centuries. 300 years ago it was used by one of the world’s most secret societies. Inside the building they would practice all kinds of strange rituals – and it wasn’t long before rumors emerged of human sacrifice, demonic possession and even the devil himself being summoned within the lodge. A fire eventually forced them to abandon the lodge – the society survived and continued their practices – but it was within the stone lodge that their darkest and most notorious rituals took place.
A Strange Lodge
The lodge today is commonly refereed to with the name of the secret society who used it – the Hell fire club. It was built in the early 18th century by William Conolly. He was not born wealthy, being the son of an innkeeper. But his father saved up enough to send him to law school. Conolly became a lawyer, which made him enough to buy land. The British government needed quick money to fund war efforts against rebels. So they sold more than 4 percent of the total land of Ireland. Conolly got a good deal on over 3 thousand acres as the government wanted to sell it quickly. The land is what made him wealthy, and he died the most wealthy man in Ireland.
Even for a rich man life in those days was really boring… probably. So he spent his free time on construction projects. One of which was a hunting lodge. A hill just outside Dublin was chosen by Conolly to be the perfect spot for his lodge. The only problem was, the hilltop was already occupied by a mysterious ancient tomb. So like the crazy old man he was Conolly had the tomb destroyed to make space. It was a strange move considering there were many other hills to choose from, but the man was a maniac. so much of a maniac that he had the lodge built in part with materials taken from the tomb, which is just asking for trouble.
Trouble hit as soon as the lodge was built when a storm blew it’s roof off. Conolly simply wasn’t having that so he had a new roof made from stone. Some said the storm was a curse he unleashed by destroying the ancient tomb . But let’s face it, blowing the roof off a building isn’t much of a curse. It would be a major concern for any home owner but still nothing compared to other curses. They tend to cause death. By coincidence, Conolly died soon after. The lodge wouldn’t see much use until the emergence of the Hellfire club.
A Very Secret society
There were many secret societies in Europe at this time but still the Hell Fire club was unique. It was founded by a former Freemason who was rumored to be capable of black magic. He claimed to uncover some mysterious ancient scrolls in Egypt which were once kept in the library of Alexandria – one of the largest collections of knowledge in the ancient world. It was destroyed in a fire and we can only speculate what secrets were lost forever. Apparently the scrolls he found gave him access to ancient lost knowledge, on which he established the hell fire society. Members embraced sin and regularly practiced what the church called immoral acts. But it went beyond pleasure seeking. They referred to themselves as demons and to their leader as the king of hell. He wore horns and long robes to disguise himself as Satan.
They rented the stone lodge, partly as the hill it lies on was once owned by the societies founder. Being a secret society we can’t be sure about what they did inside the lodge. But legend tells their practices grew darker and more derranged until they began to kidnap locals and sacrifice them to satan. It was also said they would leave one chair empty at each meeting in case the devil decided to join them. The most famous legend surrounding the Hell fire club tells that he did.
It was a cold and rainy night. Two hellfire members were within the lodge playing cards. An exhausted looking man knocked on their door. He had a strange accent they had never heard before and they did not know him. But given the harsh weather that night they invited him inside. The man sat down to play cards with them and immediately began winning. After a while one of the members dropped a card. When he went to pick it up from under the table he saw that the stranger had two cloven hooves, where his feet should have been. It’s said the stranger was Satan and he took those two men back to hell with him that night. Stories like this made locals scared to step foot on the hill.
Today it’s a tourist attraction – an unsurprisingly popular one as the former home of a satanic secret society. But still said to be haunted by ancient spirits unleashed when the tomb was destroyed – and by demons that escaped hell when the devil came to visit. Another story tells of the sheriff of Dublin making a pact with Satan. Like many Hellfire club members he loved to gamble. But this brought him massive debt. To escape the shame of bankruptcy he agreed to give his soul to the devil within seven years if his debt was paid. His debts were settled and the next seven years were good to him. But one night Satan returned to the lodge to claim his soul. He wasn’t willing to give up his soul though, which I can understand.
So he called for members to celebrate the devil’s appearance by performing a black mass. Other members agreed and when the devil was distracted by the worship of him, the man escaped and ran away. It’s unknown how long he was on the run before Satan took him to hell. Things were really getting out of hand for the hell fire club and when a fire destroyed the lodge, they decided they needed a fresh start. They moved to a new meeting place, still on the same hill, but this time a grand estate.
By now their meetings were far less often. It seemed as if the society was slowly dying. But in 1771 the group was revived by a man known as Buck Whaley. He was mad enough to suit this strange name, earning a reputation as a corrupt greedy gambler. At one time he moved to Paris but was forced to flee the city soon after, as in one night of gambling he gained more debt than he could afford to pay off. On returning to Ireland he was elected to the Irish parliament, where he became notorious for his wagers with other politicians. Leading the hell fire club he renamed it “The Holy Fathers” but brought back many of the original practices and still as a secret society it was feared above others.
Rumor told of the holy fathers abducting a local woman, sacrificing her within the new lodge and drinking her blood. Another rumor surrounded whaley’s death in 1800, telling he was stabbed to death by two sisters, both of which were scorned lovers of his. The Hellfire club died with him. Memory of it largely faded and today few people are aware of the hellfire club’s existence. For a long time the society had a mascot. It was a large black cat. It’s said that one day, members of the group doused the cat in alcohol and set it alight. They released the cat outside while still one fire and it ran until it burned to death. It’s also said the hill and it’s surrounding area has since been haunted by the cat.
It’s large ghost appears before people who walk the hill at night with it’s bright red glowing eyes. The cat usually doesn’t hurt people but just looking into it’s eyes can cause a person to faint. Many who live in surrounding areas have reported seeing the cat appear with a gust of wind strong enough to open locked doors. Some hear these ghost stories and have no idea they have their origin in the hellfire club of the 18th century.
It was never the most notorious secret society and there were many others in that time. But it might have been the darkest, if some of the stories about the hell fire club are true.