Loftus Hall: Most Haunted House in Ireland Has Not Revealed All Its Dark Secrets
Driving along the isolated road that runs down the scenic Hook Peninsula in Ireland’s Ancient East, it is easy to spot the mansion that has earned itself the reputation as the most haunted house in Ireland. If ever a building fit the stereotype of a home haunted by its bloody and tragic past, this was it. Set against the backdrop of a rugged and windswept coastal setting, Loftus Hall looms over the surrounding landscape. Its historic walls have seen invasion, capture, plague, famine and numerous personal tragedies, many of which live on as ghostly legends still told today.
The recorded history of Loftus Hall and the land upon which it sits stretches back some 800 years, but locals say the significance of the site goes back thousands of years and was once sacred to the druids, the high-ranking professional and religious class in ancient Celtic cultures.
Loftus Hall looms over the surrounding landscape of the Hook Peninsula. Photo courtesy of Loftus Hall .
A Colorful Past
The story of Loftus Hall begins around 1170 AD, when Raymond (Redmond) Fitzgerald, nicknamed Le Gros (‘The Fat’), landed at Baginbun Head in the Hook Peninsula in what is now county Wexford in Ireland. It is a famous site in Irish history, known as the place “where Ireland was lost and won”. Raymond was among the first of a small band of Norman knights who played an active role in helping enforce Normal rule over Ireland. He acquired land in the area, upon which he built a castle known as Houseland Castle. Over the years, it fell into disrepair and in 1350, descendants of Raymond Le Gros built a new castle called The Hall or ‘Redmond Hall’.
The Hall remained with the Redmond family until the mid-1600s when the Irish Confederate Wars saw the castle repeatedly attacked and eventually seized as part of the Cromwellian confiscations. In one remarkable display of defence on 20 July 1642, Alexander Redmond, who was 68 at the time, managed to protect The Hall from around 90 English invaders, with just the help of his two sons, some tenants, two soldiers, and a tailor. They staved off several more attacks after which Alexander Redmond received favourable terms from Cromwell. Upon his death around 1651, Redmond’s family were evicted from The Hall and their home put up for auction. In 1666, Henry Loftus, originally from Yorkshire, England, acquired the confiscated lands and the mansion was renamed Loftus Hall.
Loftus Hall has seen a long and colorful history. Photo courtesy of Loftus Hall .
Loftus Hall Rebuilt
Over the decades and centuries that followed, the Loftus family rose in the peerage, producing barons, viscounts, earls, and marquesses, and as they climbed the ladder of aristocracy, the illustrious family hoped they could entice Queen Victoria to visit. With that goal in mind, John Henry Loftus, the fourth Marquess of Ely, embarked on an enormous renovation of The Hall between 1870 and 1879 to make it grander than ever before. Although it is widely reported that Loftus Hall was completely demolished and rebuilt, there is evidence that much of the former Hall was utilized and worked into the mansion that can be seen today.
No expense was spared in the renovation of Loftus Hall. Erected as a three-story mansion, with a balustraded parapet, the Hall boasts an ornate mosaic floor and a spectacular grand staircase, hand carved by Italian craftsmen. The house certainly was fit for a queen, but Queen Victoria never arrived, causing deep disappointment to the Loftus family.
The impressive Loftus Hall Estate. Photo courtesy of Loftus Hall .
Insanity, Death and Tragedy Plagued the Historic Hall
While its rich and colorful past is enough to bring history-buffs flocking, it is the legends, the unexplained mysteries, and the tales of ghostly apparitions that have made Loftus Hall one of the most visited mansion’s in the whole of Ireland. The legends stem from the real life and death of Anne Tottenham.
In the mid-1600s, Charles Tottenham married the Honourable Anne Loftus, daughter of the first Viscount Loftus, and they had six children, four boys and two girls – Elizabeth and Anne. But his wife became ill and died while the girls were still young. Two years later, Tottenham married his cousin Jane Cliffe, and they lived together, along with Anne, in Loftus Hall.
One night, amid a powerful storm, a ship arrived at the Hook Peninsula and a young man made his way to Loftus Hall asking if he could take shelter there. It was not uncommon for strangers to come knocking, as the rough waters around the south Wexford coast often resulted in ships being grounded on the shore or shattered by rocks. The man was invited in and ended up residing at the house for several weeks.