Loftus Hall has been the subject of many a tale and the destination of choice for filmmakers, explorers, and ghost hunters from all over the world for some time now. But is this bleak, isolated country house in county Wexford really as scary as people say it is?
The land on which the house sits has been inhabited for more than 800 years. Two castles stood on the site before a large mansion was built in the 19th century, and the house witnessed fierce battles on neighbouring lands, and owners under siege more than once during that time.
The property was completely renovated between 1872 and 1879 in preparation for a royal visit that ever happened, and it is this incarnation of the hall which remains today. As well as grand home, the hall has served as a convent, a school and as a hotel before becoming an attraction in the twenty-tens, powered by a famous legend and claims of active hauntings.
The legend of Loftus Hall tells of a dark visitor calling to the house in the 18th century, but the jury out as to what really happened.
At the time, Charles Tottenham was the owner of the hall and he lived there with his wife Jane and daughter Anne.
It was a dark, stormy night, when the stranger came knocking on the house gates, seeking shelter. This was not unheard of at the time as the house sits on the Hook Pennisula and passing ships would often take refuge in the harbour during such weather and sailors would seek local accommodation. Tottenham invited the young man into the house, and there he stayed for several days. The mysterious man was handsome and charming, and the family felt comfortable in his presence. In particular, young Anne was smitten with him.
One night, the family settled down for a game of cards and invited their guest to join them – an offer he gladly accepted. As the game progressed, Anne accidentally dropped a card on the floor and bent down to retrieve it. As she did so, she happened to notice that the handsome stranger had cloven hooves. Anne became hysterical, and realising that his identity had been figured out, the stranger shot up through the ceiling in a burst of flame, leaving a hole and the lingering, foul stench of sulphur. It is claimed that the hole in the ceiling could never be repaired, despite many an effort and that the damage remains today.
Following the dramatic event, it was said that poor Anne was inconsolable. She headed to the tapestry room and refused to leave it, denying offers of food and drink. As her condition worsened over the days and months that passed, her father made the decision to lock her in the room so that she could not be seen by visitors to the house.
With Anne now confined to her room and trapped in her own head, some tales say that incidents of poltergeist activity began to plague the house. Several attempts at house blessings failed to stop the disturbances, and a priest was then summoned and asked to perform an exorcism. Legend has it that the exorcism that Father Thomas Broaders carried out at Loftus Hall was beset with attempts to put him off and scare him away, but this time the heightened blessing was successful, and the evil entity was cast out.
Sadly, for Anne the damage had already been done and she died soon after the exorcism.
Some claimed that Anne sat in her confinement with her knees tucked under her chin and that when she died, attempts to straighten her stricken body failed, so she was buried in her seated position. Indeed, when the Tottenham family mausoleum was broken into during the 1940s, investigators found an unusually shaped coffin, possibly giving credence to the severity of her deformity in her final years.
Another- less dramatic but altogether more tragic version of the story is that a stranger did indeed call to Loftus Hall and that he and young Anne fell in love. But the young man was rejected by the family and was forced to leave, even though Anne was now with child. At the time, this would have brought shame on the family, so the pregnancy was kept secret. In this version, Anne gave birth in the tapestry room, and with no one to care for her, she died during or shortly after the birth.
Local folklore references the discovery of a skeleton hidden in a wall during renovations carried out in the 1870s, but there is no actual proof of this. The skeleton was said to be that of an infant child. Some suggested the child died and was placed there to conceal evidence, while others suggest (in keeping with the legend) that the baby was murdered out of fear that it was the spawn of the devil.
It is also suggested in some quarters that the family were so ashamed that their daughter became pregnant and that they did not provide the care that she required, that they invented the tale of a satanic visitation as a distraction to avoid local curiosity and to deter visitors.
Irrespective of whether the devil did or did not visit the house, Poor Anne was a lonely and unhappy soul. Following her death, her ghost was seen by several servants and family members. Several visitors also had unsettling experiences while staying in her former room.
In 1790, the father of the Rev. George Reade visited the house and was accommodated in the tapestry room. Having settled in for the night, he was awoken by a sudden weight on his bed accompanied by a horrific growl. The covers were ripped from the bed and the curtains around it flew open. He investigated the room expecting to find evidence of a prank being played on him by his hosts, but the room was secure and there was no evidence of any stunt.
A valet to the second Marquis of Ely also had a terrifying experience in the same room. As he settled down for the night, the curtains around the bed flung open and the ghost of a woman in a silk dress stood over him. He screamed, waking the entire household, and fled the room in terror.
Some years later, George Reade was staying at the hall, and he too was accommodated in the tapestry room. As he sat reading, the bedroom door slowly opened, and a ghostly woman floated through the room before disappearing near a wardrobe. But George just shrugged it off and slept quite soundly. The following night, George again witnessed the mysterious figure, but this time he lunged at her expecting to contact a human body, but his arms passed through her. He recounted the story to his father the next day, but his father chose not to mention his own experience in the same room. It is said that George slept soundly in that room for the remainder of his stay.
Other guests staying in the now infamous room, recalled how they were disturbed during the night. One guest who slept soundly, discovered the next morning that his “splendidly fitted dressing case” had been ransacked during the night.
During the renovation, the tapestry room was converted into a billiards room. Servants referred to “horrid” noises coming from the room during the night, perhaps a mark of protest by Anne Tottenham against the change to her room.
Following the closure of the Loftus Hall hotel in the 1990s, the building was left abandoned and fell into disrepair.
In 2012, Loftus hall began to welcome visitors for guided tours around the property, although many rooms remain off-limits due to the poor condition of the building. Some of those who have entered the once-great house, claim to have encountered cold spots, footsteps, and voices. Some visitors have also reported tugging clothes and Jewellery.
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