Mystery buyer for haunted house

Thu, Oct 23, 2008, 01:00

ONE of Ireland's spookiest houses, Loftus Hall overlooking Hook Head in Co Wexford, has sold to an unknown buyer who may have to spend millions to restore the 22-bedroom seaside mansion. The house is said to have been visited by the devil in the middle of the 18th century and is reputedly haunted by the ghost of the traumatised daughter of the original owners who had the misfortune to play cards with Old Nick.

According to legend, Anne Tottenham befriended a stranger who sought shelter in the house after a bad storm at sea. Anne spotted his cloven hoove during a game of cards when she bent down to retrieve a fallen card. The devil disappeared through the roof in a puff of smoke. A local parish priest was later drafted in to perform an exorcism. Fans of the paranormal will be sad to learn that the Loftus Hall of legend was levelled in the late 1800s to make way for the current building.

Loftus Hall's ghostly past didn't deter potential buyers when the property on 63 acres was put up for auction, According to selling agent John Radford from Sherry FitzGerald Radford, around 40 parties viewed the bricked up house, which had an AMV of €1.8 million, and more than 70 parties attended the auction last Friday, he said.

Despite the crowd, no bids were made, but individual negotiations with five interested parties were conducted afterwards.

Radford remains tight-lipped about the identity of the new owner, who is believed to be Irish. He also refused to be drawn on the selling price, saying simply that the vendor, the Devereux family, was "very happy" with the price achieved. The windswept Loftus Hall has commanding views over Waterford harbour and Dunmore East and dominates much of the peninsula. It is 5kms from the village of Fethard-on-Sea.

The nine-bay three-storey house extends to 2,510sq m (27,124sq ft) and has 22 bedrooms and seven reception rooms.

It is likely that the house will be transformed into a swanky country house hotel, given that over 150,000 people pass it on their way to Hook Head Lighthouse every year. The house was operated as a hotel in the 1980s by the Devereux family, who added a number of extensions to the main house. The ghost stories associated with Loftus Hall were a big draw for guests.

Prior to that the house served as a convent for the Sisters of Providence. The mansion has lain empty since 1992 apart from visits from ghosthunters and local youngsters.

The house is in need of considerable work: much of the house's period details remain intact including an impressive staircase and beautiful marble fireplaces. One agent familiar with the property estimated that at least €2 million would be required to return Loftus Hall to its former glory.