Loftus Hall is said to be the most haunted house in Ireland, so with it’s spooky history the hall was perhaps the perfect backdrop for shooting a horror film. Made by Epic Pictures Group and Tailored Films, The Lodgers is a gothic horror, directed by Brian O’Malley and scripted by David Turpin. It’s a ghost story of orphaned twins Rachel and Edward who share their stately home, which could do with a lick of paint or three (just saying), with unseen sinister forces – known as ‘The Lodgers’. The siblings, haunted by a secret curse that forces them to remain in the large estate left to them by their late parents, see matters take a turn when a young man falls in love with Rachel and tries to free her, his attempt sets off a deadly chain reaction.
One of the stars of the show is it’s fantastic setting. The story of Loftus Hall itself began in around 1170 AD, when a Norman knight called Raymond (Redmond) Fitzgerald, who was nicknamed Le Gros (‘The Fat’), landed at Baginbun Head in the Hook Peninsula in what is now county Wexford in Ireland. He built a castle on the site of land he acquired known as Houseland Castle. Over the years, it fell into a state of disrepair and in 1350, at the time of the Black Death, descendants of Raymond built a new castle called ‘Redmond Hall’, the building we now know as Loftus Hall.
The Hall became the property of the Loftus family in 1666 (nothing spooky about that year) as a result of the Cromwellian confiscations and this was confirmed after the Restoration of King Charles II of England by the Act of Settlement in 1662. Henry Loftus, who acquired the confiscated lands and the mansion renamed it Loftus Hall.
Much of the mythology surrounding the house stems from the real life and death of Anne Tottenham. In the mid-1800s the house became occupied by the Tottenham family who came to stay at the Hall as caretakers while the Loftus family was away on business. Their family consisted of Lord Charles Tottenham his second wife and a daughter from his first marriage, Anne Tottenham.
Legend has it that one night, amid a powerful storm on the coast, a ship arrived at the Hook Peninsula and a young man made his way to the Hall asking if he could take shelter there. At the time, many ships landed on the shores of the peninsula and it wasn’t uncommon for those who’s ships had been grounded to take shelter from storms at the great Hall. This particular man was invited in and ended up residing at the house for several weeks. In this time Anne Tottenham found herself falling in love with the mysterious visitor. It is said they would talk for hours on end in the hall’s Tapestry room and play cards for entertainment most evenings with the entire family.
One night during a game Anne dropped a card, she moved her chair back and proceeded to bend over to pick it up, when she looked underneath the table she screamed in terror when she saw two cloven hooves in front of her. The stranger was seemingly the Devil himself! The visitor transformed into a fireball and disappeared through the roof, leaving Anne in a trauma from which she would never return.
Anne’s mental state went down hill after the incident and her family, embarrassed by her behavior, confined her to a room in the house, where she remained until her death in around 1775. Supposedly when she was found her body was frozen stiff in a huddled position in which she used to sit in her rocking chair watching the sea waiting for her love to return. From this time on, the haunting began with Loftus Hall said to have become plagued by severe poltergeist activity, thought to be the unsettled spirit of Lady Anne.
Several Protestant clergymen were summoned by the family to put a halt to the goings on, but the evil was said to be too strong to remove. In desperation, the devoutly Protestant family, called upon Father Thomas Broaders a Catholic priest and a tenant on their estate, he by all accounts had more success in clearing out whatever forces were at work, confining the spirit of Anne to roaming solely in the Tapestry room. Guests who stayed in the room after her death were said to have been awakened by a weight pressing on them, or their sheets would be pulled off the bed. One servant who stayed their one night woke to see a woman in white with a fierce expression on her face standing beside his bed. He probably didn’t stay there again.
Another twist in the tale of Anne Tottenham came during the restoration of Loftus Hall, the skeletal remains of a tiny infant were found between the walls in the room where Anne died. Could Anne have fallen pregnant with the devilish stranger? Her grave in Wexford also holds another mystery, unlike the surrounding graves, it is completely cemented over. Whoever buried her seemingly didn’t want anyone digging up any other secrets.
In recent history, in 2014 a visitor taking a tour around the haunted hall believed that he captured an image of a spectre whilst taking a snap with his camera. Twenty-one-year-old Thomas Beavis said he was browsing through the photos on his camera when he noticed the ghostly figures of a young woman, and an older woman in a window. Trick of the light? Regardless, it looks pretty strange to us.
The Loftus family went bankrupt in the early 20th century and after the last surviving member of the Loftus family passed away, it was taken over by the Benedictines, who occupied it until 1935. Then in 1937, the Sisters of Providence converted it into a convent and school for young girls. Local accounts say people were petrified to go to Mass at the chapel with the story of the devil visiting the Hall still resonating deeply in the community.
In 1983, the haunted Hall was purchased by Michael Deveraux who opened it as ‘Loftus Hall Hotel’. He died in the Hall and his wife struggled for years after trying to run the hotel herself, until one night she took off without explanation, leaving everything behind. More poltergeist activity? Or the pressures of running a business without her husband? After this the Hall was left vacant, but was occupied for nearly a decade by people conducting satanic rituals and meetings, surely fuelled by it’s murky past.
Loftus Hall ominously celebrated its 666th anniversary last year during the shooting of the film. Perhaps the perfect time for new lodgers.