Some people believe it’s inhabited by the devil himself.
That’s a fun fact to keep in mind before you venture out to Wexford’s wild and desolate Hook Head Peninsula in search of Ireland’s most haunted house
Be warned; this is a weird place.
Scaredy cats need not apply. But if you enjoy scaring the absolute bejesus out of yourself, you should probably plan a trip this Halloween.
Thousands of tourists flock here every year to feel the unsettling atmosphere for themselves.
While you may not be one of the many people to see an apparition at Loftus Hall, there’s no denying its creeping, sinister atmosphere as you make your way up the driveway.
Ghostly sightings of a young girl and an old woman are commonplace, hitting the headlines worldwide in 2014 when visitor Thomas Beavis claimed to have captured this image of the pair lurking just inside the door…
Naturally, we were intrigued. And the details only get juicier when you walk in the door.
The story goes that its original inhabitants dabbled in the occult, among other unsavoury pursuits, eventually attracting a personal house call from Lucifer.
The building has never been able to shake the curse. Even as recently as 2012, when its current owners purchased it, they discovered a cupboard stuffed with religious statues left by an order of nuns who used the property as a convent and school.
Each statue had its head removed. The heads were never found.
The legends that swirl around Loftus Hall are many and varied and they are relatively well told in the 45-minute tour of the ground floor you can book for a tenner.
First, there’s the strange and unpleasant family who built the place, claiming to have started from scratch but really just replacing parts of Redmond Hall, which had stood on the property since 1350 in 1870.
Later, encouraged by his mother, Lady Jane Hope Vere Loftus (Lady in Waiting to Queen Victoria), between 1872 and 1884, John Henry Wellington Graham Loftus, the fourth Marquess of Ely began an ostentatious remodel of the entire mansion.
The family had received word that there was a chance Queen Victoria might visit on a tour of Ireland.
Keen to impress, they spent huge sums of money on the house; parquet flooring, hot air heating and flushing toilets were installed, the full cost of the works plunging the family into debt.
The grand oak staircase took more than two years to hand carve and many months more to install – they say not one nail was used to put it together. The only similar staircase in existence today is in the Vatican – the third went down on the Titanic.
Downstairs, an intricate mosaic tiled floor was laid beyond the front door. According to the rather gory legend, two Italian tilers were brought to Loftus Hall to lay the floor, creating the complex patterns and artful designs that can still be seen today.
When they were finished, instead of rewarding their craftsmen for a job well done, the family removed the two Italian men to the field in front of the house and severed their hands so that they could never recreate the tiled pattern in another property.
NOTE: If you look closely you can see ‘eyes’ peering out from part of the tile pattern, quite possibly a nod to masonic symbolism.
It was all in vain; Queen Victoria never arrived.
Broke, the Marquess died young and the family were forced to sell the property to an order of nuns who set up a convent school in the building.
After a series of unexplained deaths, two which occurred near the staircase, the nuns vacated the property and it was sold to a hotelier.
The card game
By far the most famous chapter in the Loftus Hall story is the tale of a certain card game.
In 1666, Charles Tottenham, his second wife and his daughter from his first marriage, Anne, were in charge of the house while the Loftus family were travelling.
One stormy night, a young man rode on horseback to the door of Loftus Hall and was welcomed inside to take shelter.
Enjoying the company of the dark stranger, Anne and her family challenged him to a game of cards in the card room. Bending down underneath the table to pick up a missing card, it is said that Anne realised the mysterious man had a cloven foot.
So the story goes, the man shot upwards through the roof and vanished, leaving a large hole in the ceiling that could never be fully repaired.
The gaping damage to the plaster is still visible today.
If you think this story sounds familiar, you may be thinking of a similar tale often told about the Hell Fire Club on Mount Pelier Hill in Dublin. Interestingly, the only other hunting lodge on Mount Pelier Hill was Dolly Mount – owned by a Henry Loftus.
The tapestry room
Pining for the dark stranger, Anne later became mentally ill and was locked away in the Tapestry Room, where she later died, her spirit haunting the long halls and staircases ever since.
Another version of the story suggests Anne was pregnant and was locked away by her father and stepmother to avoid a scandal.
Locals say the skeletal remains of a tiny infant were once found in the wall of the tapestry room during renovations and it remains a centre of strange activity.
Either way, you can understand why Anne’s spirit might not be best please with how things went down.
On our visit, the tapestry room was noticeably colder than the rest of the house. Other visitors have reportedly felt or seen movement in the corners of the room and found scratches on their arms after visiting.
Apart from goosebumps and cold noses, we escaped un-scratched but if you’re prone to the heebie-jeebies you might want to give this part a miss.
When to visit
Loftus Hall is open on certain dates as a visitor attraction. Extra tours are laid on for the Halloween season, including overnight ‘Lockdowns’ (€75) and adults-only tours (€20) where the more macabre details of the building’s history are discussed.
Check out the tour options and book your tickets here.
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