I love driving down neighborhood streets, especially in small towns, as Halloween draws near. All kinds of ghostly decorations are scattered in the lawns amidst gold, yellow and red leaves. Front porch stairs are dotted with jack o’lanterns, ghouls, and pumpkin lights. Even windows and doors are decorated to celebrate the scary season. Many people drive around these kinds of neighborhoods before Halloween, just to enjoy the spooky sights and take pictures.
There’s a home in England where people seem to also enjoy taking photos of the spooky happenings. 30 East Drive, Pontefract, West Yorkshire has a website page dedicated to the images visitors have shot at the house. But you won’t find plastic pumpkins, cellophane ghosts, and blow-up ghouls here. No, here at 30 East Drive you might actually get a photo of the Black Monk of Pontefract himself.
According to GHOST-STORY.CO.UK the first modern occurrence of poltergeist activity began in August 1966. During that time most of the Pritchard family had gone on holiday to Devon, leaving behind their 15 year-old son, Phillip, and his grandmother, Sarah Scholes.
While alone at the house, Sarah felt a cold gust of wind, which was odd because it was August in England and quite warm. When Philip arrived home, he noticed white powder falling from mid-air all around the living room. At first, they thought it was falling from the ceiling, but because the room had been just recently redecorated, they realized it wasn’t that.
Puddles of water began appearing on the kitchen floor, even after shutting the water off in the house.
They called over neighbors, handymen, and other family members to witness the odd paranormal phenomenon occurring in the home. Sarah’s daughter, Marie Kelly, came over and watched with the rest of the family.
The worktop in the kitchen was strewn with sugar and dry tea leaves and, as the family stared in horror, the button on the tea dispenser went slowly in and out several times by itself. Loud crashes were heard throughout the house. Cabinets shook as if someone was inside them. Lights turned on and off on their own.
This is from the GHOST-STORY.CO.UK website: “The three of them sat discussing the unnerving events until around 9.30 pm when Marie left, hoping it was all over for the night. Philip decided to go to bed, and Sarah figured a good night’s sleep was needed also. After locking up and switching off the downstairs lights, Sarah went into Philips room to wish him goodnight. As she did so, a heavy chest of drawers began swaying without explanation.
That was the final straw for the night, Sarah and Phillip left the house and went to sleep at a neighbour’s out of fear for their safety.”
That seemed to be the end of the phenomena, because once the rest of family returned from holiday, there was no other sign of paranormal activity. For two years…
Once again, from the website: “However, as abruptly as it ended, the poltergeist phenomena suddenly began again, this time plaguing the family for several years, though they refused to succumb to it and move from their home. So common was the paranormal activity that the poltergeist became known to the Pritchard family as Fred.
The main target of the activity during the second phase seemed to be the daughter, Diane, who was often thrown from her bed, and, in one instance, was dragged up the stairs by her throat, by an invisible hand that left lacerations on her neck.
Loud inexplicable crashing sounds were common, especially in the presence of outside company. Objects too went flying around the air and crashing, or dematerialising and then reappearing in a different location. On two occasions, exorcisms were attempted, these measures seemed only to agitate the situation.
After a concerned family friend doused holy water throughout the home, the poltergeist responded by painting upside-down crosses on the living room walls and doors, and destroying the crucifixes that decorated the Pritchard house.
The physical manifestation of the poltergeist did not occur until quite late in the haunting. The figure first appeared to Joe and Jean Pritchard (the mother and father) while they lay in bed. The two allegedly saw a black-cloaked figure hovering over their bed, but it soon dissipated. On a few subsequent occasions, other members of the family as well as visitors reported seeing a figure that looked like a monk, though no one ever glimpsed a face underneath the robes. Shortly after the physical manifestations of the monk appeared, the haunting abruptly ceased, never to occur again.”
About ten years later, an amateur historian with an interest in the Cluniac Monks of Pontefract discovered that the site of the haunting had been the site of the town’s gallows. He further learned that a 16th Century monk was hung for the rape and murder of a young girl during the reign of Henry VIII at that gallows. Ever since that discovery, the poltergeist has been known as the Black Monk of Pontefract.
The events in the house were actually made into a movie, “When the Lights Went Out” in 2012.
The house now sits empty. Well, not totally empty. Another quote from GHOST-STORY website: “Current next-door neighbor, Carol Fieldhouse, said things started to take a sinister turn shortly after the film was released. Carol didn’t know the former owner, Philip Pritchard, had just sold the long-empty property to the film’s producer, Bil Bungay.
In a newspaper interview, Carol said she had seen Philip tidying up the front garden. “I went out and asked him if he’d sold it to one of his nephews. I thought it must have been one of them because I knew they were deaf and I’d heard the telly blasting out all night.”
“He said, ‘There’s no TV in there. It’s empty.’ Then he turned pale and said, ‘God, it’s started again.’ I haven’t seen him since.”
Like what you read? Find more stories by Terri Reid here.