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

 

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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

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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.

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

10 Irish Haunted Pubs to visit on Saint Patrick’s Day.