The property known as the Black Monk House probably isn’t one of the most well-known poltergeist cases around the UK. Certainly the Enfield haunting is up the top of the list while cases from abroad rate as pretty damn spooky. But when you read a little on the case that took place in an ordinary house in Pontefract, there is definitely a case for it being the scariest poltergeist in the country.
The early incident
The incident took place back in 1966 when the house at 30 East Drive was home to Joe and Jean Pritchard, Jean’s mother Sarah and their two kids Phillip and Diane. The family had only just moved into the house when strange things started to happen.
Sarah was the first to have a strange experience while the rest of the family were away on holiday. She felt a wind blowing through the house and noticed white powder was falling from the ceiling. This was followed by pools of water appearing throughout the house.
Confused by what she was seeing, Sarah went to fetch her other daughter Marie and her son to come and see what was happened. Sarah called the water board in hopes of finding some explanation, especially for the pools of water. Despite their investigations, they were unable to make a suggestion as to what was going on.
But things weren’t over as once again, strange things happened. Marie’s son called out and the three witnessed tea leaves and sugar having been spread across the kitchen worktop while a button on a tea dispenser was pressed up and down, though no-one was touching it. Frightened, Sarah cried out to ‘stop it’ and was answered by a loud bang in the hallway. When they investigated, there was no sign of the cause.
The incident continues to escalate with crockery rattling in a cupboard and other items moving around. By 9:30pm the trio couldn’t stand it anymore and left the house.
The family returns
Several days later the family returned and the house was peaceful with no signs of water, powder or any disturbances. The family started to refer to the spirit as ‘Fred’ and made a pact to live with the ghost.
Unfortunately, it seems that Fred wasn’t as friendly as the family and ‘his’ focus now became Diane, the 14-year-old daughter. On a number of occasions, she was thrown from her bed and once time, terrifyingly dragged up the stairs by an invisible hand that left marks on her neck. Random objects flying through the house happened whenever the family were home and there were loud crashing noises.
An attempt at exorcising the spirit seemed to only aggravate it further. A family friend spread holy water through the house only for the spirit to paint upside down crosses on the wall. Then things took a final turn – they began to see the spirit.
Black monk house
The sightings were what gave the case its name – the figure they saw was a dark cloaked one who appeared at the bottom of Jim and Jean’s bed one night before disappearing. Other members of the family saw the figure too but none of them every glimpse the face.
Then suddenly, the haunting stopped. No more water or powder, no more moving items or violent attacks.
An investigator called Tom Cuniff was looking into the history of the house and the area for the family at the time and he came across a story called the Black Monk of Pontefract. Dating back to the 16th century, it concerns a monk who had been hung in the local gallows for the rape and murder of a young girl. The gallows were located across the road from the house.
In more recent times, there has been a film made based around the events called ‘When the Lights Went Out’ while details of the case were included in Colin Wilson’s 1981 book ‘Poltergeist! A Study in Destructive Hauntings’.
The house was owned by Phillip Pritchard and he had lived in the house until recent times when he sold it to be used in the making of the movie. Just before he moved out, a neighbour stopped him one day, asking had he sold the house to someone as she had heard the TV blasting out the previous night. His response was that there was no TV in the house – he said ‘God, it’s started again’ and left. The neighbour has not seen him since.
Various paranormal teams and even paranormal TV shows have visited the house since and there are several documentaries available on YouTube documenting their findings. The lack of witnesses outside the family has always made some sceptical about the event but as it was largely known until the 1981 book, there doesn’t seem to have been much motivation for the family to make up the story – they certainly didn’t get fame from it.
Have you ever experienced something you think could be a poltergeist? Do you believe they are a type of spirit or something connected with teenage children as others have suggested?