Looming over the windswept coasts of the Hook Peninsula near Wexford, Ireland, Loftus Hall certainly strikes the right look of a haunted abode. While the current Loftus Hall dates back only as far as the 1870s, the first building was erected on this spot in 1170 CE. Some locals say that the history of the place dates back even farther, to when it served as a sacred site to Ireland's early Celtic inhabitants.
Certainly, the land upon which Loftus Hall stands has seen its fair share of history. Add into the mix reports of a troubled spirit that haunts its rooms, a dark legend of an infernal visitor from Hell, and one viral ghost photo from 2014 that sent chills down the spines of people everywhere—and Loftus Hall just may be Ireland's most haunted house.
What Is Loftus Hall? A Long (and Haunting) History
Raymond Fitzgerald, known as Raymond Le Gros, built the first structure on the land where Loftus Hall now sits in 1170 CE. Called Houseland Castle, the structure was one of the strongholds from which he and other knights extended Norman rule over Ireland.
In 1350, during the time of the Black Death, Raymond’s descendants built a new castle from the ruins of Houseland. Over the years, the name Raymond had turned to Redmond, and this new building was known as Redmond Hall or, more often, simply “The Hall.”
In the 1600s, the Hall suffered due to the Irish Confederate Wars. On July 20, 1642, the Hall was attacked by English troops under the command of Captain Thomas Aston. Alexander Redmond, then master of the Hall, was sixty-eight years old, yet he barricaded the Hall and held it with only the help of his two sons and seven other people, including tenants and an itinerant tailor who happened to be at the Hall at the time.
The handful of defenders held the Hall against around ninety soldiers and two cannons, armed only with long fowling guns. When a heavy mist rolled in to choke the peninsula, Irish Confederate reinforcements were able to attack the English soldiers under cover of fog and drive them back to their ship. Only about thirty survived the attack. The others were killed or taken prisoner, and many of the prisoners were later hanged.
Local tradition has it that Alexander Redmond defended the hall at least once more, against the soldiers of Oliver Cromwell during his conquest of Ireland in 1649. The story goes that, when enemy cannons breached the walls of the Hall, the defenders sealed the holes with sacks of wool—these same sacks of wool were later commemorated on a coat of arms in 1763.
The story continues that Alexander Redmond ultimately obtained favorable terms from Cromwell, and that he was allowed to remain in the Hall until his death in 1650 or ’51, after which the Redmond family was evicted from the structure and stripped of most of their lands.
In 1666 (and ominous year indeed), the Loftus family first occupied the Hall which would eventually bear their name. A family of English planters, the Loftuses had owned land near Hook Peninsula since 1590, and Nicholas Loftus bought the Hall from “several adventurers and soldiers” after Cromwell’s conquest of Ireland.
The Loftus family attempted to change the name of the hall as early as 1680, when Henry Loftus had his name and “of Loftus Hall” inscribed in stone, but the old name stuck until the 1800s, when the Loftus family performed extensive renovations of the old structure and the modern Loftus Hall was born.
By this time, the Loftus name had risen far in the peerage. By 1800, the former Baron Loftus of Loftus Hall was named Marquess of Ely and it was the 4th Marquess who built the present house between 1872 and 1884. While some accounts say that the old Hall was entirely demolished and rebuilt, experts believe that many elements of the former structure were retained in the new Loftus Hall.
Part of the motivation behind the newly rebuilt Hall was the hope that the family could entice Queen Victoria to visit them on their windswept, out-of-the-way peninsula. To that end, the new Loftus Hall was a mansion fit for a queen, complete with a grand, hand-carved Italian staircase and an ornate mosaic tile floor.
Despite of all this luxury, however, Queen Victoria never visited the Hall. Instead, Loftus Hall had already been visited by an even more famous—if also more sinister—guest: the devil himself.
Loftus Hall: The Devil Comes to Visit
In the middle of the 18th century, Charles Tottenham married Anne Loftus and became Lord of the manor. The two had six children before Anne passed away. It is one of these children, a daughter also named Anne, who is at the center of the singular ghost story for which Loftus Hall is infamous.
Charles had remarried, to his cousin Jane Cliffe, and the two were living with Anne in Loftus Hall when a terrible storm struck the peninsula. From out of this dark and stormy night came a young stranger, asking for shelter at Loftus Hall—not an uncommon occurrence in a time and place when tempestuous weather often left ships dashed upon the shore.
The young man and Anne quickly fell for one another. Their budding affection, combined with the weather, made the stranger a tenant at Loftus Hall for several weeks. One night, while several residents of the Hall were playing cards, Anne leaned down beneath the table to pick up a card she had dropped. The rest of the players were startled when she sprang up with a cry—exclaiming that her amour had a cloven hoof!
Thus exposed, the stranger revealed that he was, in fact, the devil. Naturally, he transformed into a ball of fire, and disappeared through the roof. According to popular legend, the hole created by the devil’s exit of Loftus Hall could never be properly repaired and, some say, you can still see the spot where the roof is different to this very day.
Anne never recovered from the traumatic event. Her family confined her to the Tapestry Room, which had been her favorite room in the house, until her death in 1775. After Anne died, her spirit is said to have returned to haunt the halls of the manor, and especially the room where she was confined.
She’s not alone, though. The devil also made a return appearance—several of them, in fact. Legend states that the sinister figure returned the spot where he was unmasked to plague the place with poltergeist activity, and to continuously torment poor Anne.
Though Protestant, the family of Loftus Hall called in several clergymen—and even a Catholic priest—to try to purge the house of the devil’s haunting. The priest, Father Thomas Broaders, is said to have had the most success, and there’s a legend that his gravestone once bore the inscription, "Here lies the body of Thomas Broaders, who did good and prayed for all, and who banished the devil from Loftus Hall."
The fact that Loftus Hall maintains its haunted reputation to this day, however, suggests that even Father Broaders wasn’t entirely successful in expunging the evil forces from the venerable estate.
A Haunting End for Anne Loftus
According to various accounts, Anne never spoke another word after her sighting of the devil’s cloven hoof. She is said to have spent her days looking out the window across the sea. When she died, they say that her body could not be straightened and had to be buried as is, with her knees drawn up under her chin.
Since her death, her shade reportedly haunts the property. And it is Anne's spirit, standing beside what appears to be the ghostly visage of an older woman, that many believe was captured in a tourist photograph that went viral in 2014—cementing Loftus Hall's reputation as the most haunted house in all of Ireland.
Just what did happen to Anne? Assuming you don’t believe that the devil paid her a courting call, there are a number of other possible explanations for her confinement and death—some of which are just as likely a prompt for a ghost story as any diabolical visitation.
Some believe that the story of the devil was conjured up by the Loftus Family to discourage strangers from visiting the Hall—they were, after all, trying to attract the attention of the Queen. That said, associating your home with the Prince of Darkness doesn’t necessarily seem like the best strategy to prompt a royal visit.
Perhaps the stranger and his infatuation with Anne—and hers with him—were real, but he was of inferior birth, and when he asked Anne’s father for her hand in marriage he was refused, leaving Anne heartbroken. Or perhaps there was a much darker reason for Anne’s confinement…
Loftus Hall was restored in 1870, and during that restoration, some say that the skeletal remains of an infant were found in the walls of what had been the Tapestry Room, where Anne was sequestered. Could Anne have been pregnant with the stranger’s child? Perhaps her father, desperate to protect the family name, kept it hidden—even from the local doctor—allowing Anne to die from complications during childbirth, then walling up her child to keep the secret.
Anne’s grave is located not far from the Hall, in a cemetery in Wexford. But unlike the graves that surround it, Anne’s is cemented over, as though whoever buried her wanted to make sure that she could never be dug up—or perhaps, that she would remain buried.
Loftus Hall: The Most Haunted House in Ireland
If the ghost stories are to be believed, it didn’t work. While the devil’s visits to the hall may have ceased with Anne’s death or with Father Broaders’ exorcism, the house has retained its haunted reputation across the decades. It has served as the subject of documentaries and abortive feature film projects, and was the filming location for the 2017 ghost horror movie The Lodgers.
Loftus Hall appeared in episodes of the paranormal investigation shows Irish Ghost Hunters and Ghost Adventures, the latter after the aforementioned ghost photo went viral in 2014.
The photo, taken by Thomas Beavis of England, shows what looks like two specters watching a tour group through one of the many windows of Loftus Hall.
"We were all feeling a little edgy from the tour but when I showed the photo to my friends we freaked," Beavis told the New Ross Standard. "The girl could be the spirit of Anne Tottenham still walking around Loftus Hall. It could be some strange occurrence because of a supernatural power, but I don’t know."
Following the estate's renovation in the late 1800s, the Loftus family went bankrupt and eventually died out, leaving no familial heir. Loftus Hall was taken over by Benedictines and later turned into a convent by the Sisters of Providence. However, it is said that everyone was too afraid to attend Mass in the building’s chapel, given the stories of an infernal presence in the house.
In the 1980s, it was opened as the Loftus Hall Hotel by Michael Deveraux, who later died in the building, leaving his wife to run the hotel on her own until one day she just disappeared without any explanation. The magnificent structure stood empty for several years and attracted rumors of Satanic rituals being conducted within its abandoned halls.
In 2011, it was purchased by its current owners and opened to the public for guided tours explaining the house’s history—haunted and otherwise. The Hall does brisk business all year round, with night tours and paranormal lock-ins, but it’s especially popular during the Halloween season.
In the wake of the ghostly photo going viral back in 2014, Aidan Quigley, one of the current owners of the house, told the New Ross Standard that they were going to have to start doing Halloween tours earlier in the season to accommodate the increased interest in the famously haunted Loftus Hall.
“We’re going to have to start developing our Hallowe’en offering earlier because as soon as summer’s finished it’s straight into Hallowe’en these days.”
All images other than the photo taken by Thomas Beavis: Wikimedia Commons