I glanced out the window from behind reception, people were already waiting before the locked doors in anticipation for the lockdown to commence. The evening was mild but the sea breeze curled its tendrils around Loftus Hall – there was always a low howling wind around the house with the exception of the walled gardens which gives a safe shelter from the elements.
The reception area was in a frenzied preparation, a mixture of Loftus Hall staff setting up the lobby and the PRI team whizzing around setting up machines and checking their gear. I held the safety briefing sheet in my hand after being informed that tonight I would be giving my first briefing – worried that I didn’t have the ‘swag’ of my colleague, Anne, my hands were shaking a little more than I’d like to admit. Perhaps this was also a result of being told that tonight I would be sitting in on my first lockdown. I work in the most haunted house in Ireland, but I’m a total wuss. I run to the bathroom at night and dive back into bed before ‘something’ gets me and practically scream when I hear the word ‘poltergeist’. However, I decide to be brave and as I had worked all day and would be working again the next I committed to sitting in on only the first hour of the lockdown.
At 8pm we let our guests in, the first 30 going on a brief tour of the house whilst the rest had their safety briefing and visa versa. As with our Friday 13th lockdown the introduction is mostly about respect – a house so old and haunted both deserves and needs the utmost respect but I had a feeling that this group were going to be amazing guests. There was a feeling of community and open-mindedness that radiated from everyone, tonight Loftus Hall was everyone’s home.
For those of you who follow our blog and have read my previous post, you’d know that I have already had an experience at Loftus Hall during a daytime walk-around but I didn’t know what to expect tonight. As I followed Gavin and the 13 other people in group B I tried to calm the nerves that were creeping their way into my mind. This part I had only ever seen through the CCTV cameras behind reception – the infrared cameras always gave a false sense of brightness and security.
There was some nervous chatter as we walked to the Morning Room, Gavin was encouraging everyone to stay positive, cracking a few jokes now and then, it worked and the group seemed excited as opposed to anxious – I wondered if I was the most terrified person in the group.
We entered the Morning Room, ushered into a circle by Gavin. A china doll stood on the floor underneath the window, Gavin informed us that this doll was not from Loftus Hall but was a haunted doll that he had brought here. I tried to get the Chuckie image out of my head and regretted thinking that it was a great idea to watch that movie last Halloween. A sensor was then placed in front of the doll and a device that showed a change in temperature sat on the windowsill above her head. The red numbers were visible in the dark room, steady and unchanging – for now.
Gavin suggested that we do a grounding exercise to protect us from any dark spirits – I liked the sound of this. We imagined roots growing from our feet down into the centre of the earth, wrapping around the earth’s core and sucking light and protection up from the hot, glowing substance in the middle. This actually made me feel a lot safer and my heart rate went back to normal
Three Ouija boards were in the room – one at the feet of the doll, the other two on the table along with other various objects with a connection to the hall from multiple eras. Shadows graced the walls and flickered, changing with the torchlight. We were told to stand in a circle and hold hands and though I’m usually a cold person I began to sweat – my body temperature rising despite the freezing room. I anxiously wiped my hands, embarrassed, and held the freezing hands of the men on either side of me. When Gavin turned the torch off the grasp of the man to my left tightened around mine, I guess I wasn’t the only one who was afraid. I went back to imaging those roots growing from my feet and tried to form a protective bubble of light around myself like a superhero.
We tried communicating by asking questions into the darkness, trying to get a response. We sang children’s songs to try to create an energy that a spirit would be able to feed off. 14 adults singing into the darkness, hands clasped together while one man asked questions to the unknown was one of the most eerie and bazar experience that I’ve ever had.
As the singing continued I began to feel sick and slightly faint, anxiety perhaps? My body complaining about the tension I was putting it through? I took deep breathes to calm myself even though I could feel strange, very slight things happening to my body, one of which was a warm spot on the back of my neck, like somebody poking it softly. The hairs on my arms stood on end and I wished that I wasn’t holding hands so I could pull the sleeves of my jumper down – I hated my skin being exposed in the dark.
When a young man in the group made an uncomfortable noise we broke the circle and Gavin shone the torch on him, like me, he was burning up and feeling sick, though I didn’t have the guts to say so, after all, I was Loftus Hall staff and I didn’t want people thinking I was being dramatic. I remained quiet and watched him being brought back out to the cafe for a breather. We got back into the circle. “If there is anyone here can you raise a hand in the circle” , Gavin called out. “There’s someone in the circle!” a woman to my right gasped. I froze, staring into the black centre of the circle. There were murmurs of agreement, I closed my eyes, if there was someone there I didn’t know if I wanted to see. Gavin asked us to break the chain and raise our hands flat in front of us, reaching towards the centre of the circle. I could feel a bright hot tingling on the palms of my hands like an electric current. “Oh god” I thought, something was happening to me, though I couldn’t describe what. I felt my fingers curl down, almost into a fist. Panicking I straightened them out again but once more they curled beyond my control as if someone else’s hands were doing it, touching my own. “I can’t!” I called out. I don’t know why those where the words that I chose. The torch came on and a concerned Gavin came over to me. “You can’t what?” he enquired. I mumbled something, confused, “I don’t know”, I sobbed, surprised to find myself crying.
Now it was my turn to be taken out of the Morning Room, I joined my comrade in reception and drank some water, unable to comprehend what had just happened. Once the nausea went away I returned to the Morning Room with my recovered friend. When we returned we found our group using an EVP (electronic voice phenomenon) machine – apparently they had made contact with a spirit called Teresa. The white noise of the machine echoed around the room, bouncing off the walls and into our ears. “Were you a nun here?” one lady asked, a distinct “No” was heard by all, loud and clear. I thought of my uncle who had recently passed away, I wondered if he was here with me now, trying to say hello. A huge part of me wanted to hear his voice – the other didn’t, hoping he was somewhere beyond this life. I wondered if others were having the same thoughts, half hoping to hear the voice of loved ones. Poor Teresa.
The room seemed to get darker, some noted a heavy, ominous feeling coming from the China doll. The temperature gauge dropped and began flitting up and down above the China Doll’s head. I could feel the tension amongst the group, I had a strong feeling that something was laughing at us, and not in a nice way. At this point I just wanted to get out and away from that doll. When the walkie talkie bleeped, notifying us of our time being up I think everyone was relieved. I took one glance behind as I left the room wondering who or what had been there and mainly, why?
The lockdown, as well as being a supernatural and paranormal experience, really gets you thinking in a philosophical way – this was something that I didn’t expect. As I drove my 40 minutes home in the dark I found myself thinking of life beyond ours (as well as trying my hardest to avoid looking in the rearview mirror in case I saw something in my back seat). I also feel like it made me braver, more able to face that long and dark corridor to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Perhaps this was because I now found myself grounded or perhaps I’m still as much as a wuss as I always was, just a little more enlightened than before.