CURRENT ISSUE:  OCTOBER 2023

Cleveland Comhrá: A Love Story

By Bob Carney

On the Hook Peninsula in County Wexford, Ireland, is a manor house that has been standing on the site for centuries. A building was first constructed there around 1200, but it was in 1350 that the original hall was built by the Redmond family during the Plague or “Black Death.”

In 1650, it was given to the English landowners, the Loftus family, and has retained the name Loftus Hall until today. The house had major renovations done between 1872 and 1879, in preparation for a visit from England’s Queen Victoria. The visit never took place and the family was left with a huge debt. A decade later, the last surviving member of the family died, and the bankrupt estate was sold.

Since then, the house has been a home for Benedictine nuns, a school for girls, run by the Sisters of Providence, and was even the Loftus Hotel for a brief time. The house sat vacant from the early 1900s until it was purchased by the Quigley family in 2011. After some much needed repairs, they opened it up to the public in 2012.

The Most Haunted House in Ireland
Even in its beginnings, the house was surrounded by death, disease and tragedy. Centuries before, the land the estate sits on was a significant spiritual site for the druids.

Stories of ghosts and supernatural occurrences predate the estate itself. Loftus Hall continued with that legacy and is considered the most haunted house in all of Ireland.

The strangest tale is a bizarre love story of sorts. The Tottenham family were residents of Loftus Hall in the 1700s.  One night a ship wrecked on the peninsula during a storm. A rather handsome young man survived the wreck and made his way to nearby Loftus Hall seeking shelter and a reprieve from the weather.

The Tottenhams invited the young sailor into their home and he remained as their guest for several weeks. The youngest daughter of the family, a pretty girl named Anne, became quite smitten with the young man. This was much to the dismay of her father, a sailor was definetly not marriage material for his aristocratic daughter. This did not stop Anne from growing closer and closer to her sailor, and the two of them spent all of their time together.

One evening, the couple were playing cards with some other guests, Anne dropped some of her cards, and when she bent to pick them up, she saw that in place of her new found love’s feet were two cloven hooves. She screamed and the young man revealed he was the devil in disguise. To illustrate his point, he turned into a ball of fire and shot through the roof, leaving a smoking, gaping hole.

A good ghost story could end here, but it’s said that Anne became both traumatized and heartbroken by the devil’s departure. Her mental and emotional health spiraled out of control. She became so unstable that her father, embarrassed by her behavior, locked her away in her chambers until her death, in 1775.

There are a couple of interesting alternate versions or theories of Anne’s experience. Both of them still involve the shipwreck and the young sailor. In the first, the two fall in love and the young man asks Anne’s father for her hand in marriage.

Tottenham rejects the young man and sends him away, leaving Anne brokenhearted. She eventually suffers a breakdown and becomes a shell of her former self, never to recover.

In the second one, Anne becomes pregnant by the sailor and her enraged father locks her away during her pregnancy; she dies during childbirth. The family then fabricates the story with the devil to save face and not bring shame on the family name.

Now, before you jump to any conclusions, there are a few other things that relate to Anne’s story. During those renovations that took place in anticipation of the Queen’s visit, the skeletal remains of an infant were uncovered in the wall in the room where Anne was locked away for so many years.

Officials were unable to determine if the infant had died before, during or after childbirth. It was also unclear if the child died of natural causes or as the result of a villianous act by a member of the Tottenham family.

Remember that hole the devil made in the ceiling? It never seems to stay repaired. The Tottenhams attempted to repair it many times but it fell through after every attempt. If you visit Loftus Hall today, you can easily see one portion of the ceiling offset from the rest.

From the early 1900s, the house sat vacant, and in 1983, the house was purchased to be used as a hotel once more. The new owner died in the hall shortly after taking over the estate, leaving it empty again.

Soon after, rumours circulated that satanists were gathering there for meetings and conducting rituals on the estate grounds. Locals avoided the hall and the estate for the next ten years or so.

The Quigley family was aware of Loftus Hall’s paranormal reputation and has allowed ghost hunters and paranormal investigators access to the mansion. Professional and independent filmmakers have also worked at Loftus Hall.

Irish Ghost Hunters
In 2016, an episode of “Irish Ghost Hunters” was filmed there. In 2017  the Irish gothic horror film “The Lodgers” was released, it too was filmed on the estate grounds and in the mansion.

Visitors to the Hall report “spirits” that show up in photographs. Others have reported feeling uneasy or hearing strange sounds in and around the house. Throughout the history of the house, residents have reported many strange incidents that have been attributed to a number of ghosts and even the devil himself.

Many claim to hear horses inside and around the house when none are present. People have claimed to hear voices and have witnessed poltergeist activity.

In 2015, an Englishman named Thomas Beavis took a photo of the mansion, when he viewed it, the ghostly shape of younger woman with an older woman standing next to her appeared in it. At first he thought it was a reflection from somewhere, but after closer inspection, he discounted that idea.

The photo was shared on social media and went viral. It has not been proven to be altered and is believed to be Anne and her mother, who also passed away in the house.

Maybe next Valentine’s Day, a romantic visit to Loftus Hall would be in order. If you dare! You might just  run into Anne!

See more of Bob’s Cleveland Comhrá columns HERE

Picture of Bob Carney

Bob Carney

*Bob Carney is a student of Irish language and history and teaches the Speak Irish Cleveland class held every Tuesday at PJ McIntyre’s. He is also active in the Irish Wolfhound and Irish dogs organizations in and around Cleveland. Wife Mary, hounds Rían, Aisling and Draoi and terrier Doolin keep the house jumping. He can be reached at [email protected]

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