Haunted Hills: Dublin’s HellFire Club

Isabel Fernandez
October 9, 2021

Just on the outer edge of the city, at the end of a winding path, seated on top of a grassy hill, is the stone shell of what was the meeting place of the Dublin Hellfire Club. 

The site at the top of Montpelier Hill was originally a grave marked by a cairn. The grave was destroyed by Speaker Conolly to build a hunting lodge in the 18th century and the stories of its hauntings began. The lodge became the meeting place of the Hellfire Club in 1735. Rumors of witchcraft, Satanism, and sin surrounded the club, but it is more likely that they used their isolation to indulge in much more mundane forms of debauchery. Today, the lodge stands burnt out and empty. From the outside, the building is stark against the soft hilltop and the stunning view of the city to the South. Inside, the old stone is scorched, covered in moss and graffiti. On my first visit, it was a bright morning and the old rooms felt quiet and simple. Forgotten architecture, nothing more. The day I returned it was a cloudy afternoon. The inside of the lodge was dark enough that the slight dips in the floor transformed into black pits. Ascending the stairs to the second floor, I couldn’t see my own feet where I stepped. It’s in the cold like that, alone, that I could understand why the site was such a source of local lore. It was not hard to imagine the devil where he was said to be waiting just around the corner in the deep shadows.

My real interest was in the walking trails up and down the hill through the woods. It was unfathomable how soothing it was to escape into the trees for an afternoon. The main route up is the wide gravel path that spirals upwards to the top. It is lined with wild shrubs and blackberry bushes. The path is clear and bright but only a few feet away on the narrower paths through the woods, the landscape transforms completely. 

It could have been night, the way the pine choked out the light. The trees don’t leave much room for strangers and the cold shadows trap in a dark, claustrophobic rot. These woods are suited for the Hellfire Club’s legacy; they grow in black and red. Even more shocking than the dark was the invisible barrier that brings back the green. As we walked down one of the smaller paths it was dusky and quiet, the pine needle carpet soaking up any sound, and just like that we had stepped back into a sea of emerald and sage.

The trees grew further apart there, letting in the light, and the ferns and grass blossomed in it. The transition was dizzying, like waking up from a short sleep you didn’t mean to take. The wind shaking through the branches sounded like the ocean, adding another layer to the fluid, liminal quality of the place. In that part of the woods, we didn’t need a trail. The tree trunks gave us a wide berth, leaving room for things much bigger than us. There was evidence of cattle having roamed the paths before us, probably coming up from the farms we could spot below earlier. It was these trees that led us out to the field of the Hellfire Club and the sweeping view of the horizon. 

At the top of the hill, where the wind whipped the grass like rippling water, I felt scrubbed clean from the inside out. It was a perfect mental reset amidst the fun, chaos, and stress of my daily routine. My parents are planning to visit Dublin at the end of my semester, and I am definitely bringing them to Montpelier Hill to show them one of the most important parts of my life here.

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Isabel Fernandez

<p>Hello! My name is Izzy (they/them) and I’m a senior studying anthropology at Indiana University. Within anthropology, I’m particularly interested in storytelling, intersectionality, and modern concepts of gender. I am studying overseas as a part of the IES Dublin- Irish Studies program in the Fall of 2021. I’m excited to share my adventures and discoveries during my time in Dublin. In my free time, I enjoy listening to alternative music, reading the same 4 books over and over again, and attempting to learn random languages before getting distracted after a few weeks.</p>

2021 Fall
Home University:
Indiana University
Bloomington, IN
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