LOFTUS HALL 666 – CELEBRATING THE 666th ANNIVERSARY OF IRELAND’S MOST HAUNTED HOUSE

Loftus Hall 2

Standing majestically on the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, Loftus Hall is an imposing structure, ominously shadowing the isolated and sea whipped landscape for hundreds of years.  This building on the Hook Peninsula has worldwide recognition as Ireland’s most haunted house, with paranormal investigations from local teams to TV’s the Ghost Adventures for a ‘Halloween Special’.

This weekend marks the 666th birthday of the heritage of Loftus Hall, complete with a paranormal investigation held by Tina Barcoe and Paranormal Researchers Ireland.  Earlier this year I was fortunate enough to be asked to take part in a unique lockdown on Friday 13th and this intrepid writer was not going to let this amazing opportunity pass her by!

Let’s look into the history of Loftus Hall, the stories and reports of paranormal activity and what I experienced first-hand in Ireland’s most Haunted House!

LOFTUS HALL – HISTORY

There has been a family residence on the grounds of Loftus since The Black Death reached its peak in 1350.  Originally constructed by the Redmond family, they maintained ownership until they were ejected during the Cromwellian confiscations during the seventeenth century.

As the Loftus family were already residing in Wexford, they were given ownership of the entire estate once Charles II regained power.  Henry Loftus took official residence in 1666, perhaps a sign of demonic events and tragedies in the years ahead.

Fast forward to the early 20th Century and the empty Loftus Hall was purchased by a religious order and adapted into a convent school for girls wishing to take Holy Vows.  It continued under religious ownership until it was purchased in 1983 by a man called Michael Deveraux who was intent in turning the historical local landmark into a hotel, using most of the financial resources at his disposal.  Just a few years later, doomed to failure, the Loftus Hall Hotel closed its doors.

Loftus Hall remained under ownership of the Deveraux family until 2011, at which point it was purchased as an abandoned building by the current proprietor Aidan Quigley.

A STRANGER, A CARD GAME AND THE DEVIL.

Devil card

While under the ownership of the Loftus family, Charles Tottenham, his second wife and daughter from his first marriage, Anne, arrived at Loftus Hall.  They were effectively house sitting for the absent landowners towards the end of the eighteenth century.

During their residency, an unusually wild tempest covered the Hook Peninsula in fog and an unfamiliar ship set anchor.  A stranger arrived by horse to Loftus Hall seeking refuge from the angry storm and was brought in and given shelter.

The charismatic young man soon charmed his way into the affections of Anne Tottenham and the couple began relations under the roof of Loftus Hall.

One night the family were sat around the table playing cards with the mysterious visitor dealing each hand.  As Anne seemed to only have been dealt two cards as opposed to the usual three, she glanced to the floor in case she had dropped one, only to see a third lying beneath the table.

Anne stooped down to retrieve the fallen card and as she did so, screamed out in terror, as the man she had given her heart to had revealed cloven hooves for feet.

Upon his secret being discovered, the creature shot upwards, crashing through the roof of Loftus Hall and out into the night sky.

Anne Tottenham became crazed with grief over her lost love and an embarrassment to her family.  Their embarrassment may will have been increased as the young woman was said to have been with child.  The circumstances of the birth and subsequent death of the infant remain a mystery, however the skeletal remains of a new-born were found in the wall of the Tapestry Room in recent years.

Anne remained locked away, a prisoner in the Tapestry Room, where she sat stooped and lifeless, not taking any food -just staring out of the window pining and hoping for the return of the ship to Dunmore East until she died.  So badly was her body contorted the poor woman had to be buried the way she sat.  Was her fatal grief for her lost love, lost child or both?

EXORCISM

exorcising

It was believed that the presence of the Dark Lord lingered and poltergeist activity became rife in the house, escalating to such a point that the Protestant clergy were powerless to abate it.

In desperation the Loftus family called upon Father Thomas Broaders, a Catholic priest residing on the townland also known as Loftus.  He performed an exorcism and appeared to banish the demons within.

Broaders rose to the position of Parish Priest and remained as Canon until his death in 1773.  He is buried in the old Horetown Cemetery and his gravestone reads:

“Here lies the body of Thomas Broaders,

Who did good and prayed for all.

And banished the Devil from Loftus Hall.”

HAUNTINGS AND MY OWN PARANORMAL INVESTIGATION AT LOFTUS HALL

Loftus Hall

 

For all his good work, the priest had failed to drive the supernatural from Loftus Hall and to this day supernatural occurrences, physical, visual and audible have been reported time and time again.  This year, on Friday 13th I decided to investigate these claims for myself.  Under the instruction and supervision of Tina Barcoe, the watchful eye of owner Aidan Quigley, and with horror writer and paranormal investigator Chris Rush as our guide, our lockdown at Loftus Hall began.

The first thing you must realise, is that these investigations take place in total darkness.  It takes a while for your eyes to adjust and make the most of any light seeping in, whilst being mindful of tricks of the light, Pareidolia and your own vivid imagination!

The second thing to be aware of are the underlying sounds.  The wind outside, the sound of the sea, other people in the room, the house itself.  Once you get a ‘feel’ for the location, you can pick out the abnormal or indeed paranormal for yourself and not get swept up in the perceptions and opinions of others.

Thirdly and most importantly I believe you should be respectful, logical and grounded.  Unless you are taunting and disrespectful there is nothing to fear.  Most sounds and imagery will have a logical explanation, which should be considered first.  Once the reasonable has been discounted, it makes the things we cannot explain all the more significant and exciting.

THE CHAPEL

The chapel at first inspection seemed peaceful and in a way, comforting, even though strange noises were coming from behind me and I felt someone or something sit along the pew from me.  The longer I sat there the less afraid and more at peace I felt, until a ‘psychic’ entered the room as a late arrival.

At this point things changed.  She began crying and screaming and was convinced she could see a dark figure coming towards her as her skin crawled.  My personal opinion was that she was hysterical, maybe even acting, however what was clear was that her behaviour was drawing in something of a supernatural persuasion and it was not pleasant.

The room became colder, considerably colder and unbelievably it became darker.  While others said they too could see a dark image before them in humanoid shape, I myself could not.  It was at this point that the room brightened and the temperature rose once more.

For someone who considers themselves objective and logical, it was an interesting start to the night!

THE MORNING ROOM

In this room Chris our guide told us that other groups had experienced loud noises, banging shutters and other phenomena.  We spread out and began asking questions.  One of our group stood in front of the shutters and asked more demanding questions, at which point a shadowy figure seemed to appear at his side as the shutters banged behind him.  Mind tricks sparked by preconceptions? Perhaps.  What was not a trick however, was the disembodied voice coming through the dormant communication unit carried by Chris.  A voice that cried out ‘Attention’, a voice that was heard throughout Loftus Hall.

THE UPPER ROOMS

These rooms are not accessible by the general public so we were privileged to be granted access.  The first room contained a couch and we just began to chill and talk about writing as we were the writers and readers group.  At this point there was the sound of singing, faint but definitely there.  Once acknowledged we continued our conversation where I was stopped mid-sentence as I felt a distinctive tug on my hair.  My first thought was to check I wasn’t caught on anything and Chris used his torch to check behind me and nothing was there. As soon as I felt the tug, a young woman with us at the other end of the room began sobbing uncontrollably.  Once she regained composure she explained she had felt something or someone touching her and holding her neck!

The second room we entered was stifling.  This was strange as the rest of the house was not this way and the door to the room had been open.  As the door was closed behind us, there was less air.  We began asking questions and it appeared that when I asked such questions as ‘Do you want the door left closed?’ and ‘are you enjoying trying to scare us?’, that sharp, deliberate taps were occurring as if in response on the shutter right behind me.  It should be noted that at this point the temperature dropped and there was a release of cool air, even though the door was shut.

THE TAPESTRY ROOM

Fully aware of the tragic circumstances relating to this room, we spread out and once again began trying to communicate.  Despite the heart-breaking history, I could not feel anything out of place.  At one point Chris was convinced I was stood beside him by the fireplace, however when he switched on his torch, it became clear I was on the other side of the room.  We moved places and similarly I became sure that another member of the group was beside me by the mantle so I asked a question only for him to answer me from the window! Were Chris and I sensing a presence that was not a part of our team? Possibly.  What definitely did happen, is that no one was standing were they had started when the lights came on and everyone had gravitated towards the centre of the room.

THE CARD ROOM

We seated ourselves at the card table and I was sat directly beneath the infamous hole in the ceiling.  There were cards strewn on the table and a group member picked up two in the darkness to use as tools to assist in communication.  Chris gathered up the rest of the cards so there would be no confusion or misidentification of sounds if anyone were to brush against them.

The first thing I became aware of was a burning sensation on my leg after I had jokingly asked was the stranger or devil under the table.  I thought nothing of it, assuming it was my jeans chafing my knee until Chris opposite me announced the very same sensation.

I began to feel a sense of unease, hairs on the back of neck standing up and then a definitive yank of my chair! I was startled rather than afraid and suggested I was not welcome in that seat so a member of the group swapped with me.

Interestingly, our team member was still firmly clutching the cards in his fingers, not allowing them to move or slip.  After some questioning, the team member stopped mid-sentence as I heard the sound of something land on the table.  A card had been forcibly pulled from his hand and dropped onto the playing surface.  At that very moment, the signal for the finish of the investigation was given and the lights were turned on as we all vacated our chairs.  We turned and looked back at the table to see a solitary card with the face of the Devil staring back at us.

LUCIFER AND LOFTUS HALL

beast

If the account of the Devil reminds you of another tale you may have heard, it should.  An identical story was told of a card game being held at the notorious Hellfire Club of Dublin on Montpelier Hill, where a stranger with cloven hooves for feet sat at the table.

As well as the Hellfire Club, Montpelier Hill was the site of a hunting lodge known as Dolly Mount.  This lodge was owned by Henry Loftus.

So the question must be asked, with Henry Loftus taking residence in 1666 and the second visit by a cloven hooved stranger to the Hellfire Club on the very land in Dublin previously owned by the Loftus family, was Anne Tottenham an unfortunate victim in the wrong place at the wrong time?

What is the meaning of the Loftus association with signs of the Devil and was a pact made with Lucifer for the Redmond Estate?

We will never know for sure, however this year marks the 666th anniversary of the founding of the mansion house and this weekend the birthday of Loftus Hall is celebrated – will Satan return again and will you dare to be there if he does?

My opinion is there is definitely something more than stone and mortar at Loftus Hall.  There is history that you can feel in every corner, there is atmosphere, welcoming and foreboding in equal measure.  Is there a supernatural presence? Definitely and more than one.

Ongoing investigations and indeed public lockdowns at Loftus Hall solidify the consensus that the place is undoubtedly haunted.  The continued gathering of evidence and reports of activity on such a high profile location maintain the validity of claims, as well as giving the general public an opportunity they would not ordinarily get to experience.

There are undoubtedly many more chilling experiences awaiting those who dare to take part in future investigations, both this weekend and further into the year.  These daring individuals, under the watchful eye of Tina Barcoe and her team will hear the main doors bang shut behind them as they begin their lockdown at Loftus Hall and their own journey into the world of the inexplicable and supernatural.  Will I be one of them? Most definitely!

 

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THROUGH THE GATES OF HELL – DARE YOU ENTER HAUNTED WICKLOW GAOL?

Wicklow Gaol

Situated in Ireland’s Ancient East, the County town of Wicklow is shadowed by the imposing and sinister Wicklow Gaol.  For more than three hundred years, prisoners have been subjected to torture and hardship and the three storey building with sprawling foundations and walls of granite has witnessed some of Ireland’s must oppressive and historical events.

Today the location is a favourite venue for tourists and Paranormal Investigators alike and members of the public can participate in night tours and lockdowns. This Saturday July 2nd you can join Paranormal Researchers Ireland for a Charity Ghost Hunt in aid of Pieta House and the Wicklow Hospice Foundation, but before you do, let’s find out some more about Wicklow Gaol, listed as one of the world’s ‘Top Ten Haunted Locations.’

HISTORY OF WICKLOW GAOL

Since 1702 there has been a prison on the site at Kilmartin Hill.  The existing buildings were constructed over the remnants of the first gaol and were gradually expanded over the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

The Rebellion of 1798 brought ongoing notoriety to the prison as freedom fighters were jailed before trial and exile or execution.  This pattern continued through the Famine, Easter Rising of 1916 and the Irish Civil War.

1798 Uprising

 

In the mid-nineteenth century overcrowding at Wicklow gaol brought expansion as the authorities feared the granite walls themselves would collapse under the pressure. Britain was forced to bring about changes due to European Prison Reform and that included the gaols of Ireland and as a result, facilities now included classrooms, workrooms and proper medical quarters.

The prison was downsized in 1877 and renamed a ‘Bridewell’, which was a remand prison for those awaiting trial and sentencing for petty crimes.

Wicklow Gaol had been dormant for sometime, however the Irish Civil War of 1922-23 brought the prison back into use for political prisoners, primarily members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and Sinn Féin, including Erskine Childers, notable Irish Nationalist and gun smuggler,

The early twentieth century also brought in a change of use to an army barracks. It became home to the Cheshire regiment, which in a strange twist of fate, was founded thirty years previously by none other than Hugh Childers, cousin of one of Wicklow Gaol’s most famous prisoners.

Finally, in 1924 the Gates of Hell closed on the prison as it fell into disuse and disrepair, until such time as it was respectfully restored and opened to the public.

CRIMES, PUNISHMENT AND EXILE

The prison was used for years for general convictions, however the 1798 rebellion saw its use change to include the incarceration of political prisoners.  Many inmates, from those rebelling against the crown to petty thieves were taken from Wicklow Gaol to the convict ships and exiled to distant lands such as Australia. A replica of the deck of the convict ship HMS Hercules, has been built inside the gaol.

There was no segregation within the prison as such and people who had stolen to provide food for their families in times of hardship found themselves sharing with the mentally ill, murderers and political prisoners.

Those who were exiled may have deemed themselves lucky, as the torture and methods of execution, poor conditions and suffering were unpleasant and unending.

Prison reforms introduced rehabilitation through education, although attempts at segregation, silence and torture were the preferred methods of atonement.

Torture devices included the everlasting staircase, a treadmill of sorts designed for maximum fatigue, breaking of spirit and isolation and a shot drill, a metal ball that was required to be held for periods of time suited to the prison guard, or else loss of rations would be enforced.

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Flogging was by far the most favoured form of punishment, especially due to increased numbers of local workers being imprisoned for drunk and disorderly conduct.

When it came to execution, in the early eighteenth century prisoners would be hanged from the gallows arm jutting out of the prison walls.  After death, the head would be severed from the body which would be buried.  The head would then be scavenged and eaten by the gaol’s ‘pet’ hawk.

Other bodies would be unceremoniously dumped at sea, until the problem became enough for local fishermen to threaten to stop fishing due to pollution.

DISEASE,  DIRE CONDITIONS AND DEATH

Overcrowding was a consistently major problem and expansion just couldn’t keep up with demand, peaking at an inmate population of almost 800 being housed in just 77 cells.

As a result, the spread of disease was rife and death wasn’t far behind. Often if a prisoner died of an infection they were left in the crowded cell, the rotting and diseased corpse bringing about the hideous deaths of those within the four walls, prison guards or ‘turnkeys’ just looking on, afraid to enter for fear of becoming a victim themselves.

The Great Famine (1845-1952) brought around a very different kind of problem. Upstanding citizens would commit crime in order to be incarcerated in Wicklow Gaol, as prison reforms guaranteed them shelter and regular meals – life staples they could not get on the outside.

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There were no asylums or care facilities for the mentally ill in Wicklow, so the insane were mixed in with the general population.  The women prisoners would be responsible for the welfare of these inmates.

Attempts were made to ‘employ’ prisoners for local work such as making nets for fishermen, however this practice stopped due to a growing fear of authorities that these items would be used in an attempt to escape.

INFAMOUS INMATES

Some of Ireland’s most famous rebel sons and at least one daughter were incarcerated for their attempts to bring about political change and create a Free State.  This included Billy Byrne, mounter of several ambush attacks during the 1798 rebellion who was tried and then hanged at Gallows’ Lane.

James ‘Napper’ Tandy worked long and hard for political change, however after a short imprisonment he was exiled to France despite being convicted of treason.  It is believed Napoleon may have exerted some influence, hence his designated place of exile.

Erskine Childers was a London born author and avid sailor. A firm believer in Ireland as a free nation, Childer’s used his yacht the Asgard to smuggle guns into the east coast of Ireland.  His arrest was made after being found in possession of a gun, a gift from Michael Collins. Childers was convicted and executed by firing squad on 24th November 1922.

Childers

HAUNTINGS

Wicklow Gaol has been the subject of paranormal activity for centuries and has attracted worldwide interest from paranormal investigators. Those brave enough to join the Paranormal Researchers Ireland team for a lockdown will find themselves at the centre of a myriad of supernatural experiences.

At least one medium has entered Wicklow Gaol and claimed to have made contact with Erskine Childers, however there have been many witnesses to other phenomena.

A young child is regularly seen in the former school room and can also be heard. Other ‘inmates’ of the spectral variety are seen shimmering in and out of cells and along walkways.

On the replica of the Hercules deck, visitors are overcome with a sense of foreboding and eerie mists circle unsuspecting visitors.

Certain cells have been the epicentre of extraordinary paranormal occurrences including smells from stagnant to the sublime, female apparitions in black floating and sounds to terrify the hardiest of souls.

A ghostly prisoner can be seen on the walkway, hands behind his back and the eerie sounds of long gone children fill the ancient prison.

DARE YOU ENTER THE GATES OF HELL?

Wicklow Gaol

If the history, supernatural and darkness aren’t enough to scare you, along with the life-size waxworks and real life players, then you may just be up to the challenge! Wicklow Gaol in conjunction with Tina Barcoe and Paranormal Researchers Ireland welcome you to participate in a paranormal, historical and memorable Ghost Hunt.  For further details, follow the links below:

Wicklow’s Historic Gaol

Paranormal Researchers Ireland

My thanks to Wicklow Gaol website

 

GRIEF, GHOSTS AND GOTHIC REVIVAL AT DUCKETT’S GROVE

Ducketts Grove

Although only ruins now, the outline of the towers and turrets of Duckett’s Grove stand resplendent against the horizon and surrounding countryside of the estate to which they have belonged for nearly two centuries.

Duckett’s Grove was originally a modest two story house built in the style of its day in the mid eighteenth century by a descendant of the Duckett family, who arrived to the townland of Kneestown in County Carlow some 100 years previously.

As the family grew in wealth and social standing in both Carlow and Dublin city, it became clear that the somewhat ordinary family home was insufficient to meet the Duckett needs. Owner William Duckett, married an heiress by the name of Harriet in order to further his aspirations of grandeur.

William Duckett

William Duckett

In 1830 therefore, the services of Thomas A Cobden, renowned architect were secured and work began on making Duckett’s Grove a Gothic revival masterpiece of epic proportion, with regal arches, neo-gothic oriel windows and grotesques added to the majestic towers and imposing structure.

One of the only photographs of Ducketts Grove before the fire of 1933.

One of the only photographs of Ducketts Grove before the fire of 1933.

Now believing his home was suitable for his social needs, William Duckett began to throw lavish parties inviting the socialites of Dublin to mingle with local gentry and the Duckett family. William was somewhat of a philanderer and married his second wife, Maria Thompson in 1895 when he was 73 years old, bringing her and her daughter Olive to reside at Ducketts Grove.

William passed away in 1908 and was buried in the family plot at nearby Knocknacree. Maria continued to live in solitude at the mock Gothic castle as she and her daughter had become estranged. Finally Maria abandoned the property in 1916 to live in Dublin.

In a twist, when Maria died she was still so furious with Olive, that in her will she left nothing but what was known as the ‘Angry Shilling’ to her absentee offspring.

Not wishing to be done out of her inheritance, Olive went to court and in a week and a half long hearing, it was revealed that mother and daughter had a tempestuous and physically violent relationship, much to the shock of the Dublin city social scene. Maria was given a cash settlement and the Ducketts of Duckett’s Grove were no more.

Originally purchased by a farmer’s collective, bickering and greed over shares led to default on payment and the Land Commission stepped in and took over. During this time in the early 1920’s the IRA made use of Duckett’s Grove for training purposes and it was the base of its flying column, a mobile armed unit of soldiers.

Despite the nature of its use post-Duckett, the great house was well maintained until it was brought to a smoking shell by way of a catastrophic fire on 20 April 1933 – the cause of which was never discovered.

Although nothing but a husk, it would seem that the events within Duckett’s Grove have left their mark, with several agitated spirits being witnessed over the decades, making the building ruins a hotspot for numerous paranormal investigations, including America’s Destination Truth in 2011.

The most notorious entity identified is the Duckett’s Grove Banshee. Banshees have forever been known as portents of death, with most connected to families and more than a few of these wailing spirits seeking death for revenge and torment.

Banshee

Banshee

In this instance, the Banshee is the result of a Piseóg, a curse placed on the house and family to bring about death, despair and financial ruin. This particular curse was cast by the angry grieving mother of a young girl who had been having an affair with William Duckett and was riding on the estate when she fell from her horse.

The bringer of death can be heard shrieking on the wind through the ruins of Duckett’s Grove from the towers for two days and nights, with stories of those that heard her suffering fatality and family tragedy. Noted accounts include a woman who dropped dead in the grounds and a worker in the gardens who heard the feared cry and whose mother died the follow morning.

Servants have distinctly been heard working in what was formerly the kitchens and pantry and a phantom horse and carriage has rolled up to the former entrance.

Disembodied voices, bangs, floating balls of light and spectral shadows are just a few more of the paranormal phenomena to occur in the Carlow castle. Apparitions of various figures, believed to be members of the Duckett family have been seen, including what is believed to be the ghost of William Duckett himself, riding a horse on his estate.

The Ducketts had extremely strong ties to the Protestant church and a vocalised hatred of Catholicism, so some investigators have provoked heightened paranormal responses from the entities of Duckett’s Grove, by bringing Catholic relics such as rosary beads to investigations.

Now Duckett’s Grove is open to the public, with visitors touring the extensive gardens and woodlands. For those who look at the Gothic skeleton that remains, it is a statuesque reminder of the opulent and lavish lifestyle that used to be lived within.

Ducketts

For those who are braver, the ruins provide a hive of paranormal occurrences to be witnessed from the brightest and busiest of tourist days to the dead of night.

With a family history of materialism, violence and infidelity, and with a Duckett family motto of ‘Let us be judged by our acts’, it is little wonder therefore that this noble family and those whose lives they touched remain the eternally restless residents of Duckett’s Grove.

LOCKDOWN AT LOFTUS HALL – IRELAND’S MOST HAUNTED HOUSE

IGH Loftus Hall

Loftus Hall is known as Ireland’s most Haunted House and with good reason.  Overlooking acres of a desolate and harsh landscape on the Hook Peninsula, County Wexford, this three storey mansion owned by Aiden Quigley has been the subject of several paranormal investigations, including many by paranormal investigative team, Irish Ghost Hunters.

With another public lockdown hosted by Irish Ghost Hunters this weekend, it seemed timely to write about Loftus Hall, a place so notoriously dark and foreboding, the Devil himself made it his home for a while.

Loftus Hall, a History

Loftus Hall b

There has been a residence on the site since the Redmond family built their home on lands they acquired on the Hook Peninsula.  In 1350 at the height of The Black Death, they erected their formal home and estate which would remain in their possession until the mid-seventeenth century.

During the height of the Cromwellian invasion, head of the family Alexander Redmond defended his home time and again from the English onslaught and eventually retained his property under agreement until his death.  At this point in time the remaining Redmond family were evicted under Cromwellian confiscations.

The Loftus family were English and were located in the surrounding area.  They were formally granted ownership of the estate by the reinstated King Charles II, with son Henry Loftus taking up official residence in 1666, a year that may well have been a portent of events to come.

The Redmond family, feeling hard done by disputed ownership through the courts, however their efforts failed – an outcome they would have been thankful for in the long run no doubt!

In 1917 Loftus Hall was purchased by a religious order and adapted into a convent and school for girls wishing to take Holy Vows.  It continued under religious ownership until it was purchased by Michael Deveraux in 1983.

Mr Deveraux converted the imposing historical building into a hotel and spent much effort and money to create the Loftus Hall Hotel.  It would appear that the house was in some way cursed to failure, as the hotel was forced to close just a few short years later.

Loftus Hall remained under ownership of the Deveraux family until 2011, at which point it was purchased as an abandoned building by the current proprietor Aidan Quigley.

The Stranger, the Card Game, Anne Tottenham and the Devil

Devil card

While under the ownership of the Loftus family, Charles Tottenham, his second wife and daughter from his first marriage, Anne, arrived at Loftus Hall.  They were there to mind the property as the proprietors were away on business in 1766.

During their occupation, an unusually heavy storm covered the Hook Peninsula in fog and an unfamiliar ship set anchor.  A stranger arrived at Loftus Hall seeking refuge from the Tempest and was welcomed into the home.

The charismatic young man soon charmed his way into the affections of Anne Tottenham and the couple began relations under the roof of Loftus Hall.

One night the family were sat around the table playing cards with the mysterious visitor dealing.  As Anne seemed to only have been dealt two cards as opposed to the usual three, she glanced to the floor to see a third one lying beneath the table.

Assuming she had dropped it, Anne stooped down to retrieve the fallen card.  At this point she cried out in horror, as the man she had given her heart to had revealed cloven hooves for feet.

Upon being discovered, the creature shot skyward, smashing a hole through the roof of Loftus Hall.

Anne Tottenham became crazed with grief over her lost love and an embarrassment to her family.  She was locked out of sight in the Tapestry Room, where she sat hunched, not taking any sustenance -just staring out of the window pining and hoping for the return of the ship to Dunmore East until she died.

The Exorcist

exorcising

It was believed that the presence of the Dark Lord lingered and Poltergeist activity became rife in the house, escalating to such a point that the Protestant clergy were powerless to abate it.

In desperation the Loftus family called upon Father Thomas Broaders, a Catholic priest residing on the townland also known as Loftus Hall.  He performed an exorcism and appeared to banish the demons within.

Broaders rose to the position of Parish Priest and remained as Canon until his death in 1773.  He is buried in the old Horetown Cemetery and his gravestone reads:

“Here lies the body of Thomas Broaders,

Who did good and prayed for all.

And banished the Devil from Loftus Hall.”

Hauntings

stairs

For all his good work, the priest had failed to drive the supernatural from Loftus Hall.

The spectre of a lady believed to be the tormented Anne Tottenham has been seen over the years, in the area of the Tapestry room and walking down the grand staircase.

As recently as 2014 a tourist taking a photograph was astounded to discover what appeared to be the ghostly image of a woman appearing in the window.

Disembodied children’s voices, phantom cries and the sound of ghostly horses have all fallen on terrified ears.  Sudden temperature drops, feelings of foreboding and flickering lights have all been witnessed.

Lockdown with Irish Ghost Hunters

IGH Loftus stairs

Irish Ghost Hunters was founded eight years ago by Tim Kelly and they have steadily built up a reputation as a professional, scientific paranormal group searching for solid evidence among the tales of ghosts, poltergeists and other unexplained phenomena.

A team of eight, headed by Tim and lead investigator and location manager Tina Barcoe regularly attend Ireland’s supernatural hotspots, yet Loftus Hall is so terrifying, seasoned IGH member Tina rates it as a 10 on the most haunted scale!

On a recent lockdown with the public, Tina from IGH said that while everyone held their ground and lasted the entire investigation, the night was far from uneventful.

“Our first Loftus lockdown had many personal experiences.  Members of the public were being pushed and pulled, others overwhelmed with feelings of nausea.  There were growls, children’s voices and numerous unexplained shadows – it was an amazing night!

Each time we return activity peaks a bit more as if the house knows us now. We as a team are passionate about Loftus and we love to share our findings with the public while we stand back and let them experience first-hand.  Our team are scientific which means we use tried and tested paranormal scientific equipment to gather evidence.  Whilst we are open-minded towards them, we do not use mediums and rely on our equipment to provide proof in addition to personal accounts.”

These continued visits to Loftus Hall are to solidify the consensus that the place is undoubtedly haunted and IGH believe in continuing to collect evidence on such a high profile location to maintain the validity of claims as well as give members of the general public an opportunity they would not ordinarily get to experience.

Lucifer and Loftus Hall

Loftus Hall at night

If the account of the Devil reminds you of another tale you may have heard, it should.  An identical story was told of a card game being held at the notorious Hellfire Club of Dublin on Montpelier Hill, where a stranger with cloven hooves for feet sat at the table.

As well as the Hellfire Club, Montpelier Hill was the site of a hunting lodge known as Dolly Mount.  This lodge was owned by Henry Loftus.

So the question must be asked, with Henry Loftus taking residence in 1666 and the second visit by a cloven hooved stranger to the Hellfire Club on the very land in Dublin previously owned by the Loftus family, was Anne Tottenham an unfortunate victim in the wrong place at the wrong time?

What is the meaning of the Loftus association with signs of the Devil and was a pact made with Lucifer for the Redmond Estate?

We will never know for sure, however next year marks the 666th anniversary of the founding of the Mansion House known as Loftus Hall – will Satan return again and will you dare to be there if he does?

For now there are more than enough chilling experiences awaiting members of the public this weekend.  These daring individuals, under the watchful eye of Irish Ghost Hunters will hear the main doors bang with a thunderous echo behind them as they begin their lockdown at Loftus Hall.

GHOSTS OF RMS LUSITANIA AND THE PORT OF COBH

With a sea faring history going back hundreds of years, Cobh in County Cork is an unassuming port that continues to be visited by some of the largest ocean liners in the world today.  A picturesque town with strong regal connections, it is hard to imagine that Cobh is synonymous with two of the biggest passenger liner tragedies of all time, just three years apart – RMS Titanic and RMS Lusitania. 

7th May 2015 marks the one hundred year anniversary of the sinking of RMS Lusitania.  As Cobh is making itself ready to remember the dead of this First World War tragedy, what part did the former Queenstown play in the disaster and why do some of the victims of the sinking refuse to leave?

CONSTRUCTION AND USE OF THE LUSITANIA

RMS LUSITANIA

RMS LUSITANIA

Built in Scotland, the Lusitania was largely funded by the Admiralty, as Europe was in a state of unrest and conflict was believed imminent.  By contributing to the cost and overseeing the construction, the Navy would be able to call on the 787 ft liner in the event of war, while in the meantime she was one of Cunard’s front running cruise vessels setting records for speed.

The Lusitania made 201 successful transatlantic voyages as a passenger ship since 1907.  Once war broke out, the cruiser was also used to ship weapons to Britain with travellers knowing little or anything about the additional military cargo stored a few decks beneath their feet.

The Cunard liner was painted camouflage grey as war approached but continued to be used as a passenger vessel.

THE FATEFUL CROSSING

Pier 54, New York

Pier 54, New York

On 1st May 1915, RMS Lusitania set sail from New York for Liverpool on her 202nd voyage with 1962 passengers and crew on board.

By now the cruise ship had been transformed to her initial glory from the camouflage grey, however she was not bearing flags in marked out war zones, contravening Cruiser Rules dictated by the First World War.  These rules were set to safeguard passengers in the event of capture or attack and prevent any misidentification by the enemy.

The ship set sail from Pier 54 in New York despite the following statement from the German Embassy being printed in dozens of American newspapers:

“Notice!

Travellers intending to embark on the Atlantic voyage are reminded that a state of war exists between Germany and her allies and Great Britain and her allies; that the zone of war includes the waters adjacent to the British Isles; that, in accordance with formal notice given by the Imperial German Government, vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, are liable to destruction in those waters and that travellers sailing in the war zone on the ships of Great Britain or her allies do so at their own risk.

Imperial German Embassy

 Washington, D.C., April 22, 1915.”

Although the ship’s manifest openly documented munitions in the cargo hold, the extent of undocumented firepower has never been fully disclosed and undoubtedly contributed to the Lusitania’s demise.

KINSALE AND THE TORPEDO

GERMAN U-20

GERMAN U-20

As RMS Lusitania approached the south coast of Ireland, a German U Boat crossed her path and due to the nature of her cargo, prior warnings and without the relevant flags, the captain of the U-20 give an order to fire.

The Lusitania sustained a direct hit which in turn caused further explosions within the hull, most likely due to the extent of ammunition and artillery on board.

Due to the lack of lifeboats being launched, poor execution of evacuation and the way in which she tilted and descended, the Lusitania sank to the bottom of the sea, 11 miles from Kinsale, County Cork in just twenty minutes.

The sinking of the Lusitania, both in speed and manner was eerily reminiscent of RMS Titanic, just 3 years earlier.  Despite rescue efforts from localised fishing vessels, 1201 souls were lost.

Sketch of the sinking Lusitania

Sketch of the sinking of RMS Lusitania

AFTERSHOCK

Some of the deceased were brought to Kinsale by rescue boats and interred at St Multose Church, while it was also in Kinsale that the local Coroner launched an official enquiry the following day.

The majority of the bodies however, were either brought to or washed up in Cobh, (Queenstown as it was known at the time) along with the few survivors.  In the Old Church Cemetery on the outskirts of Cobh, almost 200 of the victims of the tragedy are buried in mass and individual graves.  Of course many more were never recovered at all.

Mass Funeral Service for Lusitania Victims

Actual image of the Funeral Service for victims of RMS Lusitania

In a sickening coincidence, Ireland’s first custom built hotel, The Commodore opened for business in 1854 and its focus was to attract the many passengers embarking on voyages including the Titanic and Lusitania.  At the time of the sinking of the Lusitania by a German U Boat, the hotel was under German ownership.

Otto Humbert and his family were forced to hide in the cellars as a crowd gathered and demanded the hotel be burned to the ground. The hotel itself was then converted into a hospital and makeshift morgue for the victims.

THE COMMODORE HOTEL, COBH

THE COMMODORE HOTEL, COBH

GHOSTS AND HAUNTINGS OF RMS LUSITANIA

While locals feel there must be some residual energy left from the fear and torment of the poor passengers within Cobh and particularly The Commodore Hotel, the haunting most reported is one witnessed on more than one occasion from a diverse section of the community including the White Witch of Cobh and a Graves Inspector.

This supernatural event is none other than the chilling sound of a mass funeral procession for the victims of the Lusitania which had taken place on 10th May 1915.  The White Witch herself claims to have ‘seen’ it, however most accounts refer to many low murmuring voices and the sound of footsteps approaching the cemetery wall.  Some have in fact assumed a current funeral was approaching and have looked up to see nothing but an empty road.

With so much maritime tragedy at its heart, it is little wonder that as the broken bodies of the victims of the RMS Lusitania lay in Cobh, the despairing spirits also remain.

Lusitania monument, Cobh, County Cork

Lusitania monument, Cobh, County Cork

More tales of Haunted Cobh can be found here! 5 Haunted Places to Visit in Cobh

MACABRE MONTPELIER HILL – WELCOME TO DUBLIN’S HELLFIRE CLUB

Mount Pelier House

Montpelier Hill is an ancient mound in the County of Dublin.  Its original title has long been forgotten and it got its current name from the hunting lodge built upon it.  That hunting lodge became a meeting place for the Hellfire Club.

MOUNT PELIER LODGE

In 1725, Speaker of the House of Commons in Ireland, William Conolly erected a hunting lodge at the top of what is now known as Montpelier Hill.  By building on top of an ancient burial site and using stones from the remaining cairn, the project was never going to be blessed – no one however, expected the portents of darkness to happen so soon.

With the construction almost completed, including the use of a Menhir for the mantle of the great fireplace, the roof detached and was destroyed in high winds.  Locals at the time believed it to be the work of the Devil in punishment for the desecration of sacred ground.

The roof was replaced with one in an arch formation and the property was complete.  The lodge was hardly used however and Conolly died in 1729.

In around 1737 members of a secret sect leased the premises from the remaining Conolly family. In a strange twist, the land on which the lodge was built was purchased from Phillip, Duke of Wharton, original founder of the renowned Hellfire Club.  A man whose lifestyle had led him into debt and alcoholism and forced him to sell his Irish estates.

'The Hellfire Club, Dublin' portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland

‘The Hellfire Club, Dublin’ portrait in the National Gallery of Ireland

HELLFIRE CLUB

There were several Hellfire Clubs throughout Britain and Ireland.  Members were of Libertine persuasion and indulged in drinking, debauchery and occult practices including ritual sacrifice.  The Dublin branch of this illustrious cadre was established by Richard Parsons, the 1st Earl of Rosse and James Worsdale, a portrait artist and chancer.

Parsons was a Libertine and founder of the sacred sect of Dionysus.  He was also twice elected Grandmaster of the Irish Freemasons.  Worsdale on the other hand, had little to offer in pedigree and relied on his personality and own liberal approach to life to move in the most exclusive circles, his only real legacy being his portrait, ‘The Hellfire Club, Dublin, hanging in the National Gallery of Ireland.

Here, as with all of the clubs, as well as identical practices and the mascot of a black cat, there were traditions to be upheld.  The Hellfire gents would toast the Devil with a potent punch known as scaltheen, a heady mix of whiskey and rancid butter, whilst leaving an empty seat at the table for his arrival.

One famous tale tells of a stranger entering the club and joining the men for a game of cards.  When retrieving a fallen card, a startled club member saw the guest had cloven hooves – on recognition the dark stranger vanished in flames.

This story is identical to the one from the infamous Loftus Hall in Wexford, however it seems more than coincidence as the family had property on Montpelier Hill also.

There were reports of murder and animal sacrifice, including that of a black cat who was exorcised by a priest and a demon was seen fleeing.  Further tales abounded of a member, Simon Luttrell who allegedly sold his soul to the Devil in order to clear his debts, to be collected in seven years.  The Devil arrived at the Lodge to collect his bounty, however the resourceful Luttrell diverted the attention of his soul reaper and escaped for many more years.

During this period in the club’s history, a horrendous fire took hold during a meeting and several lives were lost.

The exact cause of the fire is unknown, yet claims have been made of everything from a footman accidentally spilling a flammable drink to the deliberate act of the members due to a non-renewal of lease.

Either way, the club moved premises to the Steward’s House some short distance down the hill.  Now the remains of the Lodge stand in ruins, but not abandoned, at least not by the living.

The screams of a woman being bowled to her death in a burning barrel echo over the hill, a smell of brimstone fills the air and invisible hands grabbing at throats to tear off jewellery are just some of the claims of paranormal activity at the top of Montpelier Hill.

hellfire-club

STEWARD’S HOUSE

Steward's House, also known as Kilakee House

Steward’s House, also known as Kilakee House

Built in around 1765, the property became a welcome replacement for the burned out lodge as a meeting place for the Club where the depraved practices continued until the Hellfire club was extinguished with the demise of notorious member and revivalist of the same, Thomas “Buck” Whaley.

In the late 1960’s workers began repairs and renovations to the Steward’s House and witnessed many apparitions including that of a man in black believed to be the priest who exorcised the cat at the Hellfire Club at Mount Pelier Lodge.

Further sightings were made of nuns alleged to have participated in black masses on the hill and a black cat with glowing red eyes.

Other activities include hearing the sounds of bells ringing and poltergeist activity.  In 1971 a plumber carrying out work unearthed a grave containing the remains of a child or small human, thought to be a ritual sacrifice of the brethren of the Hellfire Club.

MASSY’S ESTATE

In the late 19th century, the Massy family of Limerick took ownership of Kilakee House and surrounding land on Montpelier Hill.  In a cruel twist reminiscent of those involved with the Hellfire Club, the party loving Baron Hugh Massy who inherited the property from his family was declared bankrupt, becoming known as the Penniless Peer.   The house itself was destroyed upon repossession.

With the exception of the Steward’s House which is privately owned, the area on Montpelier Hill including the Hellfire Club site and remaining cairn form Lord Massy’s Estate, open to the public.

The subject of many paranormal investigations, the Lodge, Steward’s House and surrounding Massy woods remain a place of mystery with little documented evidence to verify many of the stories and alleged events, largely due to the isolation and secrecy of the Hellfire Club.

That said, when you build a lodge by desecrating a sacred burial site, then invite members of the one of the darkest and debauched societies in history to carry out their Devil Worship in that location, macabre occurrences are guaranteed.

Massy woods

So look for your proof as needs be, although perhaps searching for protection from the Devil would be more prudent – and if you smell brimstone, run, before you become a permanent member of the Hellfire Club.

 

10 HAUNTED IRISH PUBS TO VISIT ON SAINT PATRICK’S DAY

Get in the spirit of Saint Patrick’s Day with 10 of Ireland’s Haunted Pubs!

The Brazen Head

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