Crosses defiled, pews turned from the altar
Inside the labyrinth of Loftus Hall, Ireland's 'most haunted house'
The crucifix is in a little alcove at a turn in the stairs in Loftus Hall. But sometimes it isn't.
Sometimes the heavy statue of Christ on the Cross goes missing, only to mysteriously reappear far from the majestic hand-carved oak staircase in another part of Ireland's most haunted house.
The crucifix is believed to have been brought to the mansion by either the Benedictine or Sisters of Providence order of nuns who established a convent in the forbidding and austere mansion at Hook Head in Co Wexford at the turn of the 20th Century.
It was there when the Sunday Independent visited Loftus Hall recently, but it could be gone tomorrow, only to turn up somewhere else. "That crucifix could be in any room," said Aidan Quigley, the current owner of Loftus Hall, as he turned towards the ancient house's labyrinth of 22 bedrooms, hidden chambers and secret passageways. "At first, I thought it was workmen having a laugh," added the former local farmer, who bought the hall with his siblings in 2011 and re-opened it to the public as a tourist attraction in 2012.
Mr Quigley spent five months living in the house while it was undergoing renovations, and concludes: "There's more dead than living around here."
Some believe the eerie crumbling pile is haunted by the devil himself - as well as a former 'lady of the house'.
The hall's chequered history dates back to 1350 when it was a Norman Keep, reputedly built over an ancient Pagan sacrificial site.
When the Quigleys bought Loftus Hall, they found 56 statues of Our Lady and other Christian icons, all disfigured in some way, all with their heads missing, which have never been found.
Ancestors of the mansion's original owners, the Loftus family, are believed to have dabbled in the occult and black magic after opening Loftus Hall in 1666.
According to one macabre legend, a subsequent 18th Century owner, Lady Anne Tottenham, was driven to insanity after she played cards with a "dark stranger" who appeared at the hall late one night in 1765. When the young woman bent down under the table to pick up a dropped playing card, she saw to her horror that the mysterious visitor had a 'cloven hoof'. Her encounter with the stranger is said to have driven her insane. A gaping hole is still evident in the roof of the hall where the demon reputedly vanished in a fireball.
Lady Anne spent the rest of her days "locked away like a mad dog" in the tapestry room following her encounter with 'Old Nick'. The single metal bedstead where she spent her last days refusing food and water was found "oddly positioned" in the middle of the room, which paranormal investigators who have beaten a path to Loftus Hall in recent years have described as being the house's "epicentre of paranormal activity".
Then there is the chilling tale of the Hall's former chapel, where all of the Stations of Cross have been defiled, with the pews found turned away from the altar.
The eerie legends of Loftus Hall have attracted huge numbers of visitors and paranormal investigators. A group called the Irish Ghost Hunters recently carried out a paranormal survey of Loftus Hall as part of a TV documentary. Lead investigator Tina Barcoe said their findings are "somewhat disquieting".
She added: "There were major temperature drops, particularly in the chapel and the tapestry room. We also registered significant spikes in the electro-magnetic fields in some areas of the house, which indicates that something, an energy source, was close by."