Decades of fear surround the Yorkshire home at the centre of ‘the most violent poltergeist haunting in European history’. Jonathan Brown spent a night in search of truth.
TO say I was sceptical was an understatement as I pulled up outside the Pontefract house that was allegedly home to an infamous poltergeist haunting in the late 1960s and early 70s.
Given that it is dubbed the site of ‘the most violent poltergeist haunting in European history’, an empty council property isn’t exactly what you might expect to set your eyes on but 30 East Drive on the Chequerfield Estate has a spine-tingling reputation.
Having lain empty for four years, the unassuming red brick semi became the centre of Yorkshire horror stories after the Pritchard family claimed their daughter Diane was being tormented there.
Since then tales of the 12-year-old being dragged up the house’s stairs by her throat and then nearly being strangled by an electrical wire have cast a shadow over the estate for four decades.
Walking inside the musty home is like entering a timewarp, the patterned carpets are worn and there’s a Spirograph game and some disturbing china dolls in the living room, surrounding an old electric bar fire.
And viewing the film based on the infamous haunting, When the Lights Went Out, didn’t exactly settle my nerves.
Tash Connor, the Seacroft actor that stars as the haunted young girl, dropped in to speak to visitors but even she was too put off by the place to stay long.
The 15-year-old said: “It wasn’t scary doing the film but when I got told it was a true story it freaked me out.”
The film, which is directed by Diane’s cousin Pat Holden who now owns the house, documents many of the incidents that Diane’s mother Jean Pritchard reported during the height of the Pontefract poltergeist’s activity. One author’s assertion that the spirit is that of the Black Monk of Pontefract – a monk that was hung for the rape and murder of a young girl during King Henry VIII’s reign – has stuck to the story for decades.
And before you could say boo, intrigued Pontefract mum Nicola Jeffrey, who was also staying the night, claimed to have had the first paranormal experience of the evening.
She said: “It got to the climax of the film and I was stood at the side of the stairs to see if I could see anything coming up or down.
“We heard what sounded like a cry, but only for a couple of seconds.”
Before long, rival crews of ghost hunters were setting up their motion sensors, audio recorders, ouija boards and electromagnetic meters to get some sort of reaction from the spirit world but opinions were split from the start.
Chris Conway, a medium from TV’s Most Haunted, said the energy in the house was not negative – there was a “nice” female and in the smallest bedroom in the form of a “heavier” male presence.
Whereas Ghost Night Events medium Graeme Fryer said that a “ley line”, which is an energy point for spirits, was running under the house in the form of a water well attracting three spirits to the area.
He said: “It does feel oppressive upstairs in the first (largest) bedroom on the left – the energy I feel there is of a lot of anguish.”
At this point my opinions were just about as split but next door neighbour Carol Fieldhouse’s certainty about the presence of an evil spirit was hard to ignore.
The 54-year-old, who has lived next to the Pritchard home for 24 years, said: “He is about 5ft 5in, I believe it is the Black Monk of Pontefract because I have met him.
“He is absolutely horrified that someone’s in – he’s had that house to himself – he has already told us that whoever moves in, he will have gone in 12 months.”
To this day she claims to hear shouting and banging when no-one is next door, to see red eyes glaring at her and she even claims they have had people pushed down their stairs by the entity.
Carol said: “It doesn’t scare me, it scares everybody else. I get scared for others but when something jumps off my bed when I have the combination lock on my door and wakes me up that scares me.”
By this point, the night is no longer young and the ouija board is out in an upstairs bedroom with limited success before word spreads and next door ask for the board not to be used, as they fear it could heighten their own haunting.
Soon the lights were all switched off and I was engulfed in a “circle of protection”, where in the pitch-black, freezing living room eight of us joined hands and were told to visualise a bright light to protect us from evil.
If it was weird before, it had definitely just got weirder and after mixed success in goading the spirit into moving a glass, we ended up huddled in the eerie parents’ bedroom.
Possibly the most disturbing experience of the night took place there, where a ‘scrying’ session sat a ghost-hunting newcomer in front of a candle-lit mirror in darkness.
Her reflection was videoed on a night-vision camera, with the medium and others convinced that her face’s reflection had started to take the shape of the Black Monk.
She began breathing heavily and whenever she was asked to speak a medium, she angrily swore at him, before being brought back from her trance with no recollection of what had just happened.
I still think it’s safe to say I’m a sceptic but after that send off, I was more than happy to sleep with the light on.
* When The Lights Went Out is in Yorks cinemas today and all UK cinemas on Friday. (Sept 14)