A question I frequently get asked when people discover my interest in the paranormal is “What causes a person to remain in this world as a ghost?”
Since the very beginning of organized paranormal research and investigation this is a question that has caused a great deal of debate. It is commonly believed that lost love, untimely death and unfinished business are the top three theories that have topped the list for well over a century. If there is any truth to these, this could explain the unusual amount of ghosts and aggressive hauntings at what has been called Ireland’s most haunted house, Loftus Hall in County Wexford: a house where murder, mayhem and madness come together to create the perfect paranormal storm.
Located on the scenic Hook Peninsula in Southeastern Ireland, Loftus Hall looks every bit the stereotypical haunted house. Loftus Hall began its long and tragic history in 1170 CE when Raymond Fitzgerald, a Norman soldier, landed in Hook Peninsula. Fitzgerald, seeing an opportunity, bought a large plot of land and built Houseland Castle. In the 14th century Houseland Castle fell into disrepair and in it’s place Redmond Hall was built.
The house remained in possession of the Redmond family until 1651, when Alexander Redmond died and his family could no longer afford the house. When the family vacated the house was put up for auction and in 1666, it was purchased by Henry Loftus, a wealthy landowner from Yorkshire, England. Redmond Hall was renamed Loftus Hall after its new owner.
The years following the purchase of the home by the Loftus family were successful. The family climbed the ladder of nobility producing a number of Earls, Barons and Viscounts. Wanting to attract the attention of Queen Victoria, John Henry Loftus, the fourth Marquess of Ely, began a huge renovation of the Hall between 1876 and 1879.
According to historians, Loftus spared no expense in making the house grander than it had ever been. He made the house three stories with a grand staircase built by a much sought after Italian craftsman. He installed an ornate mosaic floor the likes of which had never been seen in Ireland. Loftus was certain these elegant improvements would attract a visit by the English monarch. Sadly, Queen Victoria never arrived leaving the family disappointed with an enormous bill to pay.
Loftus Hall has a colorful past that would attract the attention of any history enthusiast. But it is the supernatural tales of mayhem and madness that brings in the tourists. The famed haunting of Loftus Hall can be traced to the legends surrounding Anne Tottenham.
In the mid 1600s, Charles Tottenham and Anne Loftus, daughter of the first Viscount, fell in love and had a whirlwind romance resulting in marriage. Eventually the happy couple began their own family to fill Loftus Hall. Charles and Anne had six children, four boys and two girls, Elizabeth and Anne. Unfortunately, tragedy struck and Anne Tottenham died leaving Charles to care for their six children.
The children grew into young adulthood and it is during this time the most enduring legend surrounding Loftus Hall was born. One night, a powerful storm blew in from the sea striking the Hook Peninsula with a violent force. In the midst of that storm a mysterious young man arrived by boat and sought shelter at Loftus Hall. The stranger was invited in with open arms and stayed at the house for several weeks.
When Anne was introduced to the young stranger she was immediately smitten by his dark features and rugged good looks. Anne and the stranger struck up a quick romance and spent every waking moment together. Anne and her lover could be either found exploring the Wexford coastline or in the tapestry room planning a future together. A future where the young lovers would become the Lord and Lady of Loftus Hall.
Those dreams of eternal love came crashing down one fateful night, when Anne and her lover, along with several guests, were playing cards in the tapestry room. Anne dropped a card under the table and when she reached down to retrieve it, she got the fright of her life. The handsome stranger’s feet were not the normal feet of a man, but rather the cloven hooves of a devil from hell. When Anne let out a blood curdling shriek, the stranger transformed into a demon and shot out of through the roof. The love that Anne thought she had was replaced by petrifying terror.
Following the harrowing experience, Anne’s mental state careened into a downward spiral into the abyss of madness. Her family had become so embarrassed by her crazy, animal like behavior that they locked the girl in the tapestry room. Day and night, Anne, shrieked incoherently and pounded on the door until her knuckles were bloody. Then one day the pounding and shrieks of madness came to an end. When her family opened the door, they discovered the broken, emaciated body of Anne dead in a chair. Observers reported her muscles were so rigid she was buried in a sitting position. Anne may have finally been dead, but the madness didn’t die with her.
Shortly after burying Anne Tottenham, Loftus Hall began experiencing aggressive poltergeist activity. The sound of heavy fists hammering on the walls day and night could be heard. And personal items were thrown around the house shattering against the walls. The activity became so extreme the family who were Protestant begged a Catholic priest to perform an exorcism.
They hoped an exorcism would rid Loftus Hall of the evil spirit that besieged their home. Thankfully, the priest was successful in banishing the home of whatever manner of spirit haunted it. Sadly, the priest died soon thereafter. Some believed it was a result of the spiritual battle he waged against the evil that terrorized Loftus Hall.
The 20th century was anything but kind to Loftus Hall and the family that was the house’s namesake. The family went bankrupt following the death of the last patriarch, and the house was put up for auction. In 1937, the house was converted into a convent, however, the memories of the locals were long and they refused to attend Mass in the chapel. The parishioners believed the house was still the abode of evil spirits and the apparition of Anne Tottenham, still gripped by madness, was witnessed in the castle running about and screaming. Needless to say, the convent did not last long.
The house sat empty for several decades, until 1983 when a local business man turned Loftus Hall into a hotel. Loftus Hall’s reputation as a cursed property didn’t stay quiet for long.
Perhaps it was just coincidence, but the owner was found dead of a massive heart attack where Anne’s body was discovered centuries earlier. The owner’s wife was left to solely handle the day to day operations of the hotel which for anyone would be a daunting task. And then one day, without explanation, the widow walked away from the hotel leaving everything behind. She was never heard from again.
For over two decades Loftus Hall stood empty, a silent sentinel on Ireland’s Southeastern coast. Stories of horrifying ghosts and devil worship were said to happen at the old house causing many to avoid it at all costs. Today, the Quigley family owns Loftus Hall and the house is open to the public for daily tours. It’s on one of these tours that the legend of mad Anne Tottenham was confirmed. A tourist taking pictures in 2014 captured the image of a ghostly young woman standing in a doorway. None of the other tourists appeared to be aware of the ghost in their midst.
Loftus Hall is one of those places where you are left with more questions than answers. Personally, I’m willing to accept that the ghost of Anne Tottenham still haunts Loftus Hall. As for the devil paying a visit to this stately old house, well, the verdict is still out for me.
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