Dame Alice Kyteler was a very powerful woman in 14th century Ireland, but with that power came both devotion and bitter jealousy, the latter leading to the first witch trial in all of Ireland.
Born into a wealthy Norman family, Dame Alice continued to amass her fortunes with each of her four marriages. One of her many business ventures was a sprawling stone inn, which was opened sometime around 1323, making it one of the oldest in the entire country. When her last husband fell ill and died, his family feared destitution and began spreading rumors that Dame Alice had used sorcery and poison against him.
She was the first woman to be accused of being with an incubus (a demon lover) and was additionally accused of using potions and charms to bewitch and murder, among other ridiculously far-fetched claims. The case was brought to the Bishop of Ossory in 1324, but before he could convict her, the Dame’s wealthy and loyal friends imprisoned him for 16 days in a misguided attempt to dissuade him from persecuting her. His imprisonment only made him more vengeful and she was convicted and sentenced to execution, making her the first witch in Ireland. Many of her servants and supporters were convicted with her.
This was good news for her stepchildren and her enemies, but the night before her execution she was spirited away by those who remained loyal to her. Unfortunately, they could only save her alone, and her longtime faithful servant Petronella spent the next few days being publicly tortured by a very angry bishop. It was the first recorded case of torture used as coercion in a witch trial and he succeeded in getting her to confess to anything and everything he asked. The raging and sadistic bishop then had her burned at the stake, which was also a first, as no one had been executed by fire before. His brutal methods were an instant hit and were implemented in many future witch trials around the world.
It is believed that Dame Alice Kyteler fled to England, though no further records of her exist. All that is certain is that she never returned to Kilkenny. The Inn has continued to operate throughout the centuries, sometimes booming and sometimes falling into dereliction and ruin. It has changed hands multiple times, but in 1986 it was sold again to its present owner, who returned the building to its medieval glory but added modern amenities and resumed serving good food, drink and Irish hospitality to locals and tourists alike. The inn celebrates its founder through its haunted reputation, a witch statue and historical decor featuring Dame Alice’s story.