Northern Frights at Halloween - The Vampire of Co Derry

Abhartach rose from the death and demanded a bowl of blood from each of his subjects. Pic by Adam Kee
Cathal McGuigan

DAY FOUR of Northern Frights sees us heading to the Co Derry countryside and back in time to the fifth century.

Back then, most of County Derry, and Ireland in general, was ruled by local chieftains including the O’Cahans in Dungiven and an ‘evil tyrant’ called Abhartach around Glenullin.

Abhartach was thought to be a powerful wizard and the locals lived in fear of him.

They appealed to the chieftain of the O'Cahan's to come and rid them of the tyrant and so the chief came, killed Abhartach and buried him standing up. 

But the next day Abhartach was back....

He went to each of his subjects upon his return and demanded a bowl of blood to sustain his undead body.

The O’Cahan chieftain arrived and killed him again, only for him to return again the following day, demanding more blood.

And on it went back and forth.

You think that if somebody had killed you three or four times in a row, you might stop getting into fights with that person and maybe consider running away or hiding.

Abhartach might have been an evil, undead blood-drinking tyrant, but he doesn't seem like the wisest fella.

When O’Cahan’s arm eventually got tired, he spoke to a local saint who told him that Abhartach was what he called a ‘Dearg-Dul,’ which in English means 'red blood sucker.'  

The saint told him that Abhartach could not be killed permanently but could be prevented from returning from the dead by following a very specific ritual. 

He had to be stabbed with a stake made from yew, buried upside down with thorns around the grave. Having done this, O'Cahan also placed a big stone, called a leacht, on top for good measure. 

The vampire's burial site gives the area its name - Slaughtaverty, meaning Abhartach’s leacht.

The site can still be visited today, as Doctor Who and Sherlock writer Mark Gatiss did during a recent episode of 'Who Do You Think You Are?' on the BBC.

The legend of Abhartach was once widely known across Ireland.

Some believe it may have even reached the ears of Dublin-born author Bram Stoker and that he was so inspired by the Derry vampire that he turned him into a Count from Transylvania in his famous gothic novel, Dracula.

Send us your scary stories and tales of the unexplained from Co Derry and across the north.

Leave us a comment below or get in touch on Twitter @irish_news or by using the #northernfrights hashtag.

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Tomorrow – Beware those thumbing a lift in Coalisland, Co Tyrone.


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