In late April 2018 I Insisted that as the owners of Ireland’s most haunted Escape Room all of us at FourFront Games should do the overnight paranormal lockdown at Ireland’s most haunted house – Loftus Hall. It felt only natural to want to experience the same kind of fear our customers do upon entering our Escape Room the hillside haunting. So, for my birthday that year we purchased tickets and set out on our journey with open minds and fearful hearts.
On the car journey down I explained to my fellow FourFronteers the infamous tale of the young Anne Tottenham who was eventually driven mad after an apparent encounter with the devil.
“Legend has it that during a storm at sea, a dark stranger approached the Hall on horseback after his ship was driven into nearby slade Harbour with rough seas. He was invited in to seek shelter and spent some days with the Tottenham Family who were living at the Hall at the time. The young Lady Anne Tottenham was especially taken with this dark stranger and fell head over heels for him. One night during a card game, she dropped a card and upon bending down to retrieve it, she noticed that this dark stranger had cloven hoofs instead of feet. As soon as he realised what she had seen, he shot through the roof in a ball of flames.” – www.loftushall.ie/about
After a brief history lesson we arrived at the vast open space in which Loftus Hall sits. We noticed how the exterior of the house had already set the perfect tone for the evening. The house is huge with tall grey walls, boarded up windows and those typical eerie carvings and statues that seem to be on every haunted house. We saw a large crowd of people that had gathered at the rear of the building and could tell from their quiet stance that they, like ourselves, were now wondering why they had committed themselves to such an event.
After entering the house we were greeted by the Paranormal Investigation team and briefed on what would happen throughout the night. The lockdown would run from 7pm until 2.30am. During this time the Investigators would split us up into small groups and send us off into different parts of the house to see the different techniques that are used to make contact with the spirits. In each session we would see how instruments such as EMF readers, Ouija boards, laser grids, spirit boxes and a plain old glass on a table are used to make contact with the dead. It all sounded very spooky… and exciting.
During one of the early sessions Colm and I volunteered, along with several others, to participate in an attempt to make contact. All we had to do was gently place our index fingers on top of an upside down glass which was placed in the centre of a small rectangular table. At opposite sides of the table, on the far edges, there were stickers labelled “Yes” and “No”. The idea was that the spirit would answer questions by moving the glass to a particular sticker.
When we were all in position, the lead investigator began to call on the spirit of a little girl. She explained that the child was known to be a very mischievous resident of that particular room. She asked the girl to come forth and use our energy to move the glass. Initially not much seemed to happen and, as skeptics, Colm and I weren’t very impressed. However as the session progressed the investigator seemed determined to get a response and continued to ask “Are you here with us?”. After about 10 seconds, the glass began a slow journey towards the “Yes” sticker. Initially, it appeared to me that it was moving of it’s own accord. From what I could see, the people standing around the table were barely touching it; using only the tips of their finger nails to gently press against the surface. After a few questions the glass began to move with haste. So much so that some people’s fingers began to fly off because they couldn’t keep up with the sudden movement.
The questions continued…”Are you happy?” the investigator asked… the glass moved to the “No” sticker. “Do you like to play games?” the investigator asked… the glass flew to the “Yes” sticker. Then the investigator asked “Are you alone?”. Contrary to it’s previous speed, the glass slowly moved towards the “No” position. At that particular moment I think we all felt a real shudder of fear run down our spines. We. Were. Not. Alone.
The experiment, for a short time, was very convincing. Although it seemed that this little girl had been eagerly answering our questions, we gradually became aware of one of the glass touchers; who we’ll call “Ms.B”. We began to notice Ms.B’s pressured red finger tip and how, at key points, it was pressed hard against the glass. The illusion unraveled further when Ms.B began to exclaim that “I do this all the time.” and “It’s my grandmother coming through! I knew she would.” It would turn out that “Ms.B’s grandmother” would come through several more times during the night, feigning existence through different instruments used at various locations around the house. It all began to feel a bit ridiculous after about two or three hours…
At the break period the four of us sat together and talked briefly about Ms.B and hoped that we wouldn’t get stuck with her again. Although we were skeptics, we were keen to keep an open mind but Ms.B and her subconscious grandmother were ruining it.
We sat there with our cups of tea and discussed what would have to happen to really convince us that ghosts exist. We came to the conclusion that loud unexplained noises, the feeling of being touched, or seeing something that we could not rationally explain would suffice.
After the break we were paired with a different investigator and brought to a small upstairs bedroom that contained an old netted cot and a shabby chest of drawers. Thankfully Ms.B was not among us and we could relax and enjoy the session.
Our group of about 10 people were told to stand in a circle; our arms outstretched and relaxed. The only source of light was coming from a single torch. The investigator explained that she would be turning it off and would then proceed to call out to the resident children of the room. At that point we heard the click and the room plunged into darkness. “Come play with us.” the investigator said. “Make contact with someone in this circle. Play with them, whisper something in their ear, reach out and touch them.” she asked.
As we stood there in the dark I found it hard to believe that anything was going to happen. In my head we all looked ridiculous standing there with our arms outstretched; calling out into the dark abyss. However deep down I really did want something to happen and not long after the thought popped into my head, something did. Now, maybe it was my subconscious longing to experience some paranormal activity, but suddenly I felt a gentle tug on my jacket sleeve and slowly my arm began lifting into the air.
I like to think I was pretty calm. I mean as far as I was aware some little ghost child was pulling on my sleeve and I was just standing there silently witnessing it. It didn’t last. My cool quickly vanished when I noticed myself beginning to shout “SOMETHING’S TUGGING ON MY SLEEVE AND IT’S NOT COOL MAN!“. Even now I can feel the embarrassment of those words. I could have said “I think somethings happening to me.” or “I think there’s something tugging on my sleeve.” I could have even just freaked out a little less but no, I went straight to overreacting.
The investigator asked was I ok and then requested that I switch places with the young man on the other side of the circle. I quickly moved.
The investigator then proceeded to ask the ghostly children again to make themselves known. Seconds after she stopped talking the young man who had swapped with me jumped and started smacking his upper back exclaiming “Something touched the back of my neck!“
At this point I was thoroughly freaked out. Not only had I thought I felt something grab me but the person who I had swapped positions with also had something similar happen to him!
After a few more attempts with no success, we left the bedroom. On the way to our next session I tried to explain to David, Ciara and Colm exactly what had happened. But soon I realised that the atmosphere was a breeding ground for false hope. As we walked the many stairs leading to the attic I realised what had happened was just a figment of my imagination and I began to calm down. We reached the top floor of the house and made our way down a long hallway to the attic room.
After waiting for a few minutes we were joined by an investigator with a Ouija board and following right behind her was Ms.B. I think we all knew that this Ouija experience was going to be completely tainted by her very presence. She didn’t disappoint.
Shortly after Ms.B eagerly volunteered herself to try the Ouija board another investigator came into the attic. She asked, before we finished up, if anyone would like to spend some time alone in one of the other upstairs rooms. The four of us were only too happy to try it out.
After leading us back down to the end of the hall the investigator directed each pair into two rooms opposite each other. David and I in one room, Ciara and Colm in another.
Fortunately David and I were handed a torch and entered our room, happily closing the door behind us. We later found out that there was only one torch which mean’t Colm and Ciara had to sit in their room in the dark. Sorry guys!
It was quiet. The room was small with a window on the north end. On the wall to the right there was now a hole where a small fireplace used to be and leaning up against any spare wall space were various parts of old mahogany furniture; a wardrobe door with a long cracked mirror on the inside, bedside lockers and bed frames from the 1970’s. Everything was covered in dust.
We stood there and sporadically turned the torch on and off, avoiding the reflection of cracked mirror. We turned it off when we were feeling brave and then quickly back on when we heard the other person move. After we few minutes we felt brave enough to look around the small space but there was nothing of any real interest.
After about 15 minutes we decided we were bored and made our way back out into the hallway where one of the investigators was standing talking to Ciara. Apparently Colm had been sitting in the other room alone for some time.
We got back together with our group and began making our way down the stairs towards the exit. Like us, Colm and Ciara didn’t witness anything spooky in their room. However we did overhear others in the group discussing Ms.B’s amazing results with the Ouija board…
On the drive home we found ourselves a little depressed and disappointed. If you couldn’t witness any real paranormal activity in “Ireland’s most haunted house” then the likelihood of ghosts existing, we thought, was nil. We felt Colm summed up the night appropriately when he explained that the experience “took some magic out of the world“. It did. At the beginning of the night the aim was to witness something that gave us faith in the whole ghost idea but instead it just cemented our beliefs that they don’t exist.
A year after the experience I think we are now willing to try another paranormal lockdown. Perhaps with a different investigation team and maybe somewhere closer to home like Wicklow Gaol. Fingers crossed our next investigation will bring better results.
Try it yourself: https://www.loftushallafterdark.com/packages-1/paranormal-lockdown
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