Monday, February 6, 2017

HGB Ep. 181 - Loftus Hall

Moment in Oddity - Vesna Vulovic's Fall

Vesna Vulovic was a 22-year-old flight attendant aboard a DC-9 heading to Czechoslovakia in January of 1972. Her schedule had been mixed up and she was not supposed to be on the flight, but she was excited for a chance to see more of the world. Unbeknownst to anyone, a terrorist group known as Ustashe had placed an explosive on the plane. This was a neonazi/facist group from Croatia that had already succeeded in committing several terrorist attacks against Yugoslavia after World War II. Vesna’s flight was on an airline based out of Yugoslavia. The bomb exploded and all 28 passengers were thrown into the air. The first person on the scene of the crash was a German man who had been a medic during World War II. He found Vesna alive with another crew member’s body on top of her and a serving cart pinned against her spine. When she arrived at the hospital, everyone thought she would die. Her skull was cracked and her head was bleeding, her legs were broken and several vertebrae were crushed. She was in a coma for three days and then miraculously woke up and asked for a cigarette. She was paralyzed from the waist down and could not remember the accident. Surgeries helped her to eventually walk again. She never had any psychological residue from the explosion, nor a fear of flying. Vesna currently holds the Guinness World Record for the highest fall survived without a parachute at 33,330 feet and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Mexican Constitution Adopted

In the month of February, on the 5th, in 1917, the Constitution of Mexico was formally adopted by the Constitutional Congress. The formal name of the document is the Political Constitution of the United Mexican States or in Spanish: Constitución Política de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos. The Constitution was drafted during the Mexican Revolution in Santiago de Querétaro, in the State of Querétaro. It was the first such document in the world to set out social rights and was specifically aimed at restricting the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico. Article 3 set up public and secular education and other articles set up land reforms and empowered the labor sector. This document served as a model for the Weimar Constitution of 1919 and the Russian Constitution of 1918. Under President Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the Constitution was revised in 1992 to better guarantee private property rights and end redistribution of land, and most of the articles restricting the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico were repealed. Día de la Constitución is one of Mexico's annual Fiestas Patrias and takes place the first Monday of February regardless of the date.

Loftus Hall (Suggested by listener Jjcbw)

County Wexford has a long history in Ireland and is home to the Loftus Hall Township. The area is a rugged and beautiful land and the Hook peninsula is home to a place famously known as Ireland's most haunted house: Loftus Hall. Last year, 2016, marked the homes 666th year in existence. Legends about the Devil and reports of hauntings are a part of the history of this mansion that has also served as a covent and a hotel. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of Loftus Hall.

County Wexford is on the south-east coast of Ireland about sixty miles across the sea from Wales. Based on artifacts, it is believed that prehistoric man arrived in Wexford at the end of the last ice age about 7,000 BC. These first people were Mesolithic and then around 6,500 BC the Neolithic people came. Megalithic structures were left behind and some of those that can still be seen today include sixteen tombs. Ten of them are portal tombs known as Dolmens, five are passage tombs and one is a court tomb. There are also wedge tombs, which are stone structures shaped like boxes that taper at one end. Standing stones were left behind as well and dot the landscape.

The Romans set their sights on England and the other areas near her and they arrived in England in 54 BC. They conquered England, but they could not Scotland and they were unsuccessful with Ireland as well. The Welsh, the Picts and the Irish attacked the Romans from all sides and dealt the Romans huge losses. Because the Romans were not able to take Ireland, the Druids remained in Ireland far longer than they did in Britain. In 2 AD, the earliest known map of Wexford was drawn by Claudius Ptolemy who was from Alexandria, Egypt. The Celtic culture thrived for four centuries in Ireland, between 400 and 800 AD. The Vikings then arrived and they raided the Wexford area and built a trading post. The name Wexford comes from them. The name Wexford comes from the Norse "Waesfjord, or fjord of the flats." The native Irish in Wexford rebelled in May 1798. Rebellion would continue in Ireland for decades until Irish independence came for 26 of the 32 Ireland counties in 1922. North Ireland is part of the United Kingdom today.

Hook Head (Rinn Duáin) is a headland in County Wexford, Ireland and is part of the Hook peninsula. *Fun fact: A part of our common vernacular is the statement "by hook or by crook" and it was inspired by a vow made by Oliver Cromwell that he would take Waterford by Hook that was on the Wexford side of the estuary or by the village of Crook on the Waterford side.* Raymond Le Gros came to Ireland in 1170 and he acquired land where he built The Hall, at Houseland near Portersgate. The Redmond Family, which goes back 700 years, replaced The Hall with a new mansion they called Redmond Hall and built it on a limestone promontory on the Hook peninsula in 1350. The mansion had panelled walls, large dreary rooms, a Tapestry Chamber and three levels. The Loftus family would take ownership in the 1650s and the mansion would carry their family name from that point. Oliver Cromwell had confiscated many properties and the Act of Settlement in 1662 under the restored monarchy of King Charles II of England made it official. Henry Loftus, who was the owner in the 17th century, built high stone walls around the gardens and planted new fruit trees.

Charles Tottenham Loftus became owner in the 18th century. He inherited the estate from his uncle, Henry Loftus. He represented County Wexford in the Irish House of Commons from 1776 to 1783. He was the 1st Marquiss of Ely. It was during his time as owner that a bizarre story became a legend that still survives today. There are some historians who claim that this tale goes with Tottenham Green rather than Loftus Hall, but Charles never lived at that property. Charles had a daughter named Anne. One evening, a stranger came riding up to the mansion in a storm. The family gave him shelter. He was a refined gentleman and Anne fell in love with him. He did not meet the approval of her parents and they either made him leave or he ran away when the parents discovered the two having sex. Anne went nuts and her parents confined her to the Tapestry Chamber and she eventually died there. There was a rumor shared by Rev. Robert Tottenham that a skeleton had been found behind a closet in this chamber when it was being rebuilt. Now, this part of the story seems to have some fact to it, but another element of the story is where it gets bizarre. When the strange man was at the house, the family played cards with him. At some point, Anne either dropped a ring or a card - depending on the storyteller - and she saw that the young man had a cloven foot. She screamed and this is when the strange man crashed through the roof or vanished in a thunderclap, leaving a brimstone smell behind. This led to the legend that the Devil visited Loftus Hall that night and the roof has been irreparable since.

At least until the late 1800s when Loftus Hall underwent a major renovation that was conducted by then owner, the 4th Marquess of Ely. Most of the building was demolished. The new mansion was built on the foundation. In 1917, Loftus Hall was bought by the Sisters of Providence and they turned it into a convent and school for young girls interested in joining their order. Michael Deveraux bought the mansion in 1983 and he opened is as a hotel, naming it "Loftus Hall Hotel." It closed in the early 1990s. His family held on to the property until 2011 when they sold it to the Quigley family from Carrig on Bannow. The Quigley family has done much to preserve and restore the mansion. They have been restoring the gardens in the spirit of the 17th century period and replanting trees trees, flowers and shrubs that would have been available to Henry Loftus in the 17th century. They retained some of the original garden ornaments as well. There are five reception rooms and twenty-two bedrooms.

Tours are offered on the property that include ghost tours and overnight paranormal investigations are welcomed. A new visitor center was opened in June of last year and gives visitors the opportunity to learn about the heritage of the property. A historical timeline charts key moments in the hall’s history, such as the invasion by Norman knight Raymond Le Gros, the Redmonds’ Cromwellian battle, and the 4th Marquess of Ely’s extensive renovations in anticipation of a visit by Queen Victoria, whom claimed to not believe any of the haunting tales told about Loftus Hall.

And there certainly seems to be something haunting Loftus Hall. Ghost tales go back centuries and modern day paranormal investigators have had many chilling experiences. One of the early stories was reported by the father of the Rev. George Reade. He stayed in the Tapestry Chamber around 1790 and said, "Something heavy leapt upon his bed, growling like a dog. The curtains were torn back and the clothes stripped from the bed". He was traveling with a group and he thought they were pulling a prank, so he shouted for them to stop with their tricks, even going so far as to fire his pistol up the chimney to frighten them. He searched the room and found nothing and the door was locked. Rev. Reade would stay in that room some time later . He was reading an article in Blackwood's Magazine when the door suddenly opened of its own accord. Then he saw the figure of a woman, dressed in a stiff dress, cross the room towards the closet and then she disappeared. It happened again the following night and Rev. Reade tried to grab the woman by the arm, but he passed right through her body.

The 2nd Marquess of Ely was staying at Loftus Hall in the early 1800s and he had his valet, Shannon, sleep in the Tapestry Chamber. Shannon screamed out in the middle of the night, waking the household. He claimed that the curtains of the bed had been violently torn back and he saw "a tall lady dressed in stiff brocaded silk." Rev. Reade visited Loftus Hall again in 1868. At this point, the Tapestry Room had been renovated and was now a billiards room. He asked one of the maids how the female ghost felt about the change and she said, “Oh! Master George, don't talk about her. Last night she made a horrid noise knocking the billiard balls about!” Every one has come to believe that this female ghost is the spirit of Anne Loftus.

Modern day experiences incorporate everything from significant temperature drops to EMF spikes to full-bodied apparitions. People claim that not only does Anne haunt the place, but the Devil himself. Father Thomas Broaders was called upon in the 1700s to exorcise an evil spirit at the mansion. He died in 1773 and was buried in Horetown Cemetery. His epitaph reads, "Here lies the body of Thomas Broaders, Who did good and prayed for all, And banished the Devil from Loftus Hall". When Ghost Adventures visited, Aaron claimed that a demon climbed on top of him.

The most famous modern day haunting connected to the mansion took place in September of 2014. A man named Thomas Beavis was taking the tour and snapping pictures. When he looked at the pictures after the trip, he discovered in one of the pictures something that resembled a ghostly figure of a young girl and what looked like the head of an older woman in a window. Beavis said, “We were all feeling a little edgy from the tour, but when I showed the photo to my friends we freaked. I zoomed in on all the windows to find this girl in the window. I had to take some time before I showed it to everyone just because I didn’t really understand what I was looking at.” That image went viral. Here is that picture:

Beavis returned to Loftus Hall later to participate in a paranormal investigation. He said of a room on the third floor, “Everyone in it experienced something, the way this room would darken when the group felt there was a presence walking around was creepy to say the least and when the paranormal investigator was talking to a presence and asking it questions, nobody could deny it was answering through flashes on the EMF reader, this was enough to warrant two hot cups of tea before the next room.” He claimed that the strangest experience he had was in the card room. He reported, “A presence in the room made a woman in our group’s finger shake so much her ring fell off. Now, I was next to this woman and I’ve tried to make my finger shake like that but it’s impossible. You just can’t shake your ring finger without moving at least one other, It’s like something was just pulling on her finger and she couldn’t explain how it happened… nobody could!”

On the official Loftus Hall blog, R. Reddin wrote, "Upon reaching the top step a long and dark corridor waited before us, narrow and daunting. I remembered this corridor from the TV show, Ghost Adventures, and dreaded walking down it. Anne pointed out the rooms that had the most activity along the way. When we reached a room at the end of yet another narrow corridor, Anne told me the experiences of people who felt the presence of a child-like spirit that haunted the room that we stood in. As she was telling me stories of hair being tugged or legs being tickled I suddenly felt the back of my right knee being pushed causing my leg to bend and my balance to go. My heart dropped and pounded at the same time. I straightened my knee again and felt the same pushing – this happened 4 times in total. 'Anne my knee is being pushed!' I stated in horror, Anne nodded, amused and interested but not shocked and horrified like I expected her to be. I’d have to get used to the unexpected and mysterious things that this eerie house has to offer."

A group of investigators were using walkie talkies to communicate with each other. Around midnight a loud, harsh voice came through the walkie talkies and demanded, “ATTENTION!” The group confirmed with each other that nobody had yelled that word into a walkie talkie. Rarely does a group not have an experience here. And yet, claims persist that the stories about Loftus Hall are just hoaxes. Is Loftus Hall haunted? That is for you to decide!

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