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Archive for the ‘Poltergeist’ Category

Isolated in the schoolyard…has Steven Stander come back to play with us?

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Due to its limited size (and some would say ambitions), Lethmachen’s schooling system has never expanded beyond the familiar half a dozen institutions. In a sense this is a blessing – the town has been spared the anxieties over league tables, SATS and catchment areas. There is a sense of security, arguably even tradition, in having your future mapped out for you i.e. attending one of the local primary schools before progressing to Lethmachen High School (aptly named as it is perched on the summit of Lethmachen Hill). And yet in today’s climate, with all the expectations placed on a child’s education, perhaps it is inevitable that people will still experience these pressures and express them in some unconscious form? This could explain the similarities evident in the two following accounts, submitted to us independently of each other:

“I was walking to pick my daughter up from school, as I do every day after I finish work. My meeting had run a little late and so I had deviated from my typical route, taking what I imagined to be a short cut down a few side roads. As I was hurrying along an unfamiliar passage, bordered on one side by the backs of houses and on the other by a high wall, I began to hear this screaming and shouting. It started off quietly, but in a matter of seconds the roar grew deafening. Almost immediately I recognised it was the sound of children, so I don’t think it unnerved me too much at first, I just assumed there must be a school nearby. There again, I do remember thinking how strange this cacophony would sound to anyone who wasn’t familiar with the rituals and general commotion of the playground. Those shrieks and cries could almost sound like they were inspired by terror, rather than joy.

Being fairly new to Lethmachen, having moved here through work, I am not yet conversant with all of the schools in the area. However, with a young daughter, I am naturally curious as to what options will one day be available to her, so I followed the sounds, hoping to identify the school I must have bypassed on previous journeys. Well, I know the little, winding streets in Lethmachen can play tricks with sound, yet I was still shocked when I turned a corner expecting to see a bustling playground only to be confronted with a deserted, tranquil cul-de-sac. Even more disconcerting, the moment I stepped out of the passage the racket abruptly stopped, as if someone had switched off a radio. Now, I’ve coped with a lot of difficult situations on my own, and I am not usually one to panic, but I just knew I had to get away from there and I turned and fled. All the way home I had those screams and shouts ringing in my head, only now there was no mistaking these as exclamations of glee, they were most definitely the wails of abject fear. This is the most embarrassing part of all but the reason I went home first is that I was suddenly, inexplicably terrified of picking up my daughter on foot as I usually do. Instead I felt I had to collect her in the car and usher her over from the gate. It was not rational but I just knew I couldn’t face stepping into that playground, being surrounded by all those people that I hardly knew.”

Miss X, Lethmachen

 

“I’d left the office at lunch time to buy a few snacks. We were due to go on a bit of session after work to celebrate one of the girl’s birthdays so I wanted to make sure I had lined my stomach beforehand! Anyway, the newsagents I usually pop into was closed, so I turned a few more corners in search of some little shop hidden down a back street. I actually live on the other side of town, so I soon lost my bearings, and that was when I heard this strange noise. Lots of shouting and screaming, like a battlefield, far away at first but marching closer. This is weird I know, but for a moment I was reminded of this ghost story that scared me as a kid, about dead soldiers. But then of course I realised there must be a school nearby, and it was just primary kids out in the playground after lunch. Only, I couldn’t think of what school would be in this area. Even though I didn’t grow up in the neighbourhood, I have lived in Lethmachen all my life and know all the schools, either from playing football against them or chatting up the girls at the bus stop. So, I guess my curiosity was roused and, as I didn’t have much going on that lunch hour, I decided to follow in the direction of all that screaming and shouting.

The funny thing is, it was almost as if the sounds were approaching to meet me half way! But every time I got close, they would drift off again, and I never once saw anything even remotely resembling a school. I thought maybe they had opened some new private place I didn’t know about but, having checked later, I found nothing. The worse thing was how hostile those shouts and screams sounded, like I was being surrounded by a pack of wild animals, although all I could see were empty streets and houses. No way was this the sound of children playing games and having fun. It was more like every voice was screaming in pain, as if a whole bunch of kids had fallen off a ride. I can’t tell you how relieved I was when I turned that last corner and recognised my surroundings again. And, at that very moment, all that screaming and shouting suddenly stopped. Even so, when I got back to the office, I really felt out of sorts, and I am usually the joker on the team. For some reason I just wanted to be alone, so I lied and said I had some important stats to concentrate on, and took myself off to one of our spare meeting rooms. All afternoon I imagined my colleagues were gossiping about me and looking at me strangely. In the end, I didn’t even join them for drinks, and I am usually the life and soul on those nights. Instead I went straight home, I suppose because I couldn’t get that horrible screaming out of my head. But I don’t get why I would imagine such things? It’s not like I ever had a problem with school. As far as I remember I loved school. I always tell people that. I was popular, I was in a gang. But I couldn’t sleep that night and, as I lay awake listening to drunken parties stumble down my road, my mind kept going back to this kid I knew at primary school. He was always getting picked on and at break times he would stand on his own in the corner of the playground, never joining in with the games. Steven Stander, that was it, although I can’t remember if that was his real name or just what we used to call him. Hadn’t thought of him in years. But ever since I heard that strange shouting and screaming last week, I almost feel like he has been haunting me.”

Mr X, Lethmachen

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Poltergeist plagues a shoe shop? These boots are inclined for walkin’….

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Although never aspiring to the high fashion end of the market, generations of local readers will hold fond memories of Ambles Shoe Shop. Many of us will have visited its modest premises as children to try on our first school shoes, and perhaps returned as adults when requiring some sensible footwear for a formal occasion. A stalwart presence on the Lower High Street for five decades, there was a genuine sense of loss within the community when the shop finally closed its doors almost a decade ago now. Yet with hindsight its passing seems inevitable: as town centres across the country become increasingly homogenised, there is little hope of survival for a small family business. A Costa Coffee now occupies the location where Ambles once stood. Fortunately for us this sad state of affairs means that an ex-employee and family member can approach us without fear of adversely affecting business prospects or reputation. And so we offer you a historic tale:

‘Obviously this is going back a few years. So I don’t necessarily see things in the same light now, but this is how it seemed at the time. Narrowing it down, it must have been January 1983? Definitely I remember it was right after Christmas, because I couldn’t relax and it had ruined my holidays. Instead of just going back to school for the new term, first we all had to do one week’s work experience. That might not sound like such a big deal, but to someone barely 15 who has never had a proper job before, only a paper-round or two, the idea of the ‘work place’ was terrifying. At that age I didn’t know where I was headed, I hadn’t even considered any kind of ‘career path’. Looking back, maybe I lacked a bit of self confidence; nowadays I reckon I could accept any job without giving it a second thought. Luckily, my Grandad stepped in at the last minute and suggested I spend the week working alongside him in the shoe shop. Although I still wasn’t exactly keen on the idea, at least I was better off than the majority of my classmates. Some of them were actually sent off to work in proper offices, a fate I managed to stall for a few years yet, thank God.

As customers you may think of Ambles as a little shoebox of a place. Upstairs, I’d be the first to admit, the shop floor was a bit cramped. There was hardly any room for a fitting area and bear in a mind we also had a staff kitchen and bathroom squeezed in round the back. Yet this space is the only space the public saw. Below stairs we had a basement that seemed to stretch on for miles; row after row of rickety shelves, filled to the rafters with boxes of shoes – most identically blank, but for a sticky label. Grandad did not entrust me with too many duties at the counter; I think he could tell I was nervous when it came to dealing with people and money. My sole responsibility was to collect the boxes from the basement, then return them if the sale fell through or the shoe didn’t fit. Although we weren’t exactly run off our feet, business was fairly brisk in those days. So I would spend most of the day struggling up and down that narrow flight of steps that led to the basement. It was dark down there, just one bare bulb hanging from the middle of the ceiling, and I remember always freezing cold. Cold like only concrete can be. Sometimes Grandad got impatient with me because I kept the customer waiting too long. It wasn’t really my fault; it could be difficult to find the right aisle, the right shelf, the right box. There I was, stumbling around in the gloom, squinting at the details on the order slip, or clutching a solitary shoe like it was some kind of genie’s lamp. But I suppose I did get distracted now and again. I would find myself standing still and staring up at those towers of boxes, as if I were admiring the pyramids. It’s difficult to explain what I found so fascinating. Perhaps something to do with the privacy of it all? This was the first time I was surrounded by objects that were not my own, objects that other people wanted. They were not meant to stay with me, yet I didn’t have to let them go unless I chose to. They could end up anywhere.

At first I wondered what I had been so anxious about. Work experience was not that bad; in fact I was surprised how much I was enjoying the role. My mind raced ahead: I could even picture myself doing something like this in the future. It was on my third day that things started to go wrong, and I knew I had been right to be on my guard all along. Descending to the basement that Wednesday morning, I suddenly felt like an impostor, like I was not wanted and had no call to be there. Switching on the light at the foot of the steps I was greeted by a black pair of men’s shoes, neatly positioned directly in front of me, stood distinctly apart from any shelving. For some reason they made me think of of a soldier reporting for duty or a pet expecting an owner. What made me uneasy was that the shoes looked like they had been deliberately placed, yet I was certain I had been the last person in the basement yesterday. When I locked up I had left the place tidy. Anyway, I gingerly picked up these shoes, like they were some sort of dead animal, and placed them back on the right shelf. Must be the elves helping the shoemaker, I smiled to myself, and didn’t think much more of it. Trade was fairly slow that day, and I had no call to return to the basement until closing time. This time when I switched on the light I saw something different. A pair of women’s shoes, white stilettos, placed where the men’s shoes had been before. Assuming I must have left the shoes lying around, I impatiently snatched them up and replaced them in their box. Only when I turned to leave did I notice the same pair of men’s shoes was also out again. Yet this time they were lurking in the corner, in the shadows, half hidden instead of standing in plain sight. It was almost as if they were waiting, watching for something.

On the Thursday work got even worse. When I went down to the basement I found the white stilettos out of their box again. They were scattered at the bottom of the stairs like they had been knocked down whilst trying to escape. For a moment I thought of Cinderella, but then I noticed the bloody footprints. I followed the footprints away from the fallen stilettos, across the concrete floor, until they led me to the far, dark corner. There I found hidden that same pair of men’s black shoes, also out of their box once more. Of course I was in the middle of collecting an order so I had no time to either investigate or tidy up before I was expected back upstairs. Then. when I came back twenty minutes later, there was no sign of either pair of shoes or the footprints. Everything was back where it should be. Could this be Grandad’s idea of a joke? It didn’t really seem in his nature, he was never one for jokes. Perhaps a dissatisfied customer, playing a cruel trick?  But how would they get back here without us noticing? Actually, what I was reminded of most of all was that film ‘Poltergeist’. It was new around that time and I had seen it on pirate video over at Uncle Ken’s. I didn’t sleep well that night. My mum reckoned it was because I was overtired from all the hard work I had been doing, but I didn’t tell her the real reason. On my last day I was dreading having to go back down to that basement, but at the same time I didn’t want to disappoint Grandad. Creeping down the steps, I thought I heard a weird kind of struggling noise in the dark. And when I switched on the light I must have cried out loud. There were two black shoes suspended in mid-air, kicking about like they were being strung up from the rafters, although I couldn’t see a rope. Suddenly one shoe dropped and smacked against the stone floor like a dead fish.

I don’t think Grandad, God rest his soul, ever understood what had upset me so much. He probably assumed I was simply finding full time employment too challenging and too stressful. Perhaps he was right. Noticing I was missing, he had come down to the basement to check on me. Although I tried to explain, to his mind there was nothing to see but a pair of shoes, lying discarded on the floor. Still, it was nice of him to keep me upstairs on the counter for the rest of the day. I remember a strange coincidence that happened late that Friday. During my last few hours in the shop, we sold both those pairs of shoes, the black slip-on’s and the white stilettos. I remember because I served the woman and then the man, although Grandad went to fetch the boxes. You’ll never guess who the female customer was – Suzy Dawes – that girl who was murdered. As far as I know, they never caught the bloke who did it. People say there was a suspect, but he topped himself before they could bring charges. Apparently the police were convinced it was a local man, which I find hard to believe’.

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Neighbours upset by the pet shop noise

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Last night police were called out to Bloodworth’s Pet Shop for the third time in a fortnight. As on the two previous occasions, officers were responding to a barrage of concerns and complaints called in by residents living close to the shop. They arrived to a hysterical clamour of whoops, shrieks and howling, however this for once was not the result of the crowds spilling out of Chiaroscuros nightclub.  It was immediately apparent that this barbaric cacophony was emanating from Bloodworth’s, not only upsetting the neighbours but making it impossible for them to sleep. On approaching the darkened shop front, PC Batts peered through the crowded window display and witnessed what he described later as ‘a vision of what hell must look like. All these wild eyes and snarling, salivating maws leaping out of the shadows, hurling themselves against their cages’. Fortunately the swift arrival of proprietor Harry Bloodworth, alerted by a friend living nearby, succeeded in calming down his stock. Once he had switched on the lights and murmured a few comforting words to his extensive menagerie, peace and tranquillity was soon restored.

Police suspected that the animals had been disturbed by an intruder on the premises and yet were unable to find any sign of forced entry. Encouraged to take a quick itinerary of the shop, the owner was initially confident that nothing had been taken, both the safe and the till remained intact and untouched. Following a second survey however, Mr Bloodworth realised with some distress that the cage housing a rare breed of rabbit, an American Blue, had been torn open and the animal was missing. PC Batts suggested that all the evidence pointed to an inside job, someone who knew the value of certain breeds and perhaps also had access to the shop. This was impossible, insisted Mr Bloodworth, as only he and his three junior members of staff had keys. Jean Laughton had worked alongside him for nearly twenty years. Obviously his son Nathan was beyond reproach. Even their Saturday girl, Gemmy Picktree, although she had only been with them for a month, had already demonstrated her loyalty. About three weeks back, she had reported for work even though she had broken her collar bone! Besides, Bloodworth explained, teenage Gemmy lived miles away, somewhere rural beyond Duntisbrooke Leer. He had her a set of keys cut precisely for that reason. There was only one bus from Duntisbrooke, and that departed at seven in the morning, meaning she often arrived an hour before everyone else. At least now she could let herself in and make a cup of tea whilst waiting. Nevertheless, Bloodworth admitted he was concerned. In the past they had apparently arrived in time to frighten the thief into fleeing the premises. Yet the disappearance of the American Blue proved the criminal was growing in confidence, growing familiar with the layout of the shop. Could the culprit be a regular customer? Bloodworth assured the officers he would remain vigilant and improve security.

This was the story that Harry Bloodworth related to the local police. However, there was some additional material that the pet shop owner only felt comfortable sharing with us, for fear of ridicule. A self confessed ‘superstitious man’, yet certainly not a credulous one, he provided us with details of an earlier experience his intuition told him may be connected to the break-ins. ‘Something that not many people know, even those who spend a lot of time in the shop, is that I have a hobby that occupies a lot of my spare time. Basically, I breed fancy rats! You’d be surprised how many shows and competitions are staged around here, especially in Flinchley. My collection, my nursery is located above the shop, in the attic. Nobody really ventures up there except me; we keep all the overstocks out the back or in the cellar. Well, one night about three weeks ago I was up in the attic after the shop had closed, tending to the rats, and I suppose I had not noticed how late it was getting. All of a sudden there was this racket downstairs: the animals restless, then growing defensive, frightened, some aggressive. The only thing I could compare it to was the time this wild, stray dog got loose in the shop. Although I’d heard nothing, my first thought was some kid had come to rob the place, either that or I had left the back door open and a fox had slipped in. Earlier that evening I’d been putting a new cage together, so I had a hammer to hand. Planning to take the burglar by surprise, I didn’t turn the lights on below me, just crept quietly down the stairs in the dark. A couple of boards creaked underfoot near the bottom, and the next second I felt something rush past me, around my legs. It was headed up the stairs and as it brushed past I felt this sensation beneath my outstretched fingers; a hide of coarse, matted hair. Presumably it was some breed of animal, although not even I could tell you what. My first priority was to check all the animals on the shop floor. By the time I switched on the lights, everything out there had grown calm again, although with hindsight the American Blue acted a bit skittish. There was no sign of any intruder and I had bolted the back door after all. Racing back upstairs I discovered all my rats looking agitated and cowering in the corners of their cages, but neither hair nor hide of the animal I imagined had brushed past me. There is little space or comfort in the attic, it is a bit of a hovel to be honest, but good enough for me and the rats to pass a few hours each night before I head home. I had left the window open that night, because of the humid conditions we’ve had recently. If a creature had wanted to flee it could conceivably have leapt from the window, and descended via drainpipes and jutting lower ledges to the ground. The window frame was rotten and appeared to have recently splintered, as if under some weight. Down below, in the overgrown back garden, I thought I detected some faltering movement and some faint whining, but it was too dark to see clearly and you can imagine the noise with Chiaroscuros only round the corner. Later I made a circuit of the premises and the only possible access point was an open fanlight in the staff loo. But this was up too high for a fox, and too small for a man’.

Mr Blackwood approached us with the hypothesis that perhaps poltergeist activity could have played a part in this incident and in the subsequent break-ins. It is certainly a matter worthy of further research.

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Furniture playing truant at the local primary school? Who knows?

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I am writing to report another strange occurrence at Lethmachen Primary School. I think I am getting habituated to them, because I have really tried to think this one through.

On the face of it, what happened is trivial. Essentially it relates to some furniture, recently taken from the staff room, that seemed to enjoy a momentary return. Like most schools at this time, we have been suffering under the government’s austerity drive. Managerial nonsense has been long established, but the last few years have seen it gain an increasing strangle-hold on the profession. The latest experiment involved removing all the chairs and tables from our staff room. This has long since ceased to be a place where we relax over coffee. Instead, it is where we prepare lessons, mark papers and deal with student issues. Our individual desks were replaced with two ‘hot desks’ that are used when ‘needed’. There was some time and motion study that ‘proved’ the desks were actually only used for a few minutes a day. The vague justification for getting rid of them is economic, then, but it is essentially about not giving us a sense of having ownership or belonging, and making sure we haven’t got a place to relax in. This is counter productive, of course, not just because we now haven’t got space to store marking, or a quiet place to deal with upset kids, but also because we can only do the insane amount of work we do because we can, on occasion, sit down with colleagues and let off steam.

Anyhow, the thing is, when I went to upload a register this morning, I was pleased to find the ‘hot desks’ removed, and all the old furniture back in place. I immediately went to find a colleague to share the good news, but when we returned it was to a room occupied only by the two new desks. My colleague joked with me about ‘wishful thinking’, but I know what I saw. In the afternoon, I heard the Headmaster from inside the staffroom screaming the name of our Union Rep. She was found, and frog-marched inside. I don’t know what happened in there, and the Rep, who is a very sound individual, refused to let on, despite repeated questoning. I think, however, I can guess what the Head saw when alone and when in company.

I have a theory as a matter of fact. I don’t think it will go down well with your friend Jonathan Hawkes (he was a pupil here, by the way, and still remembered by some…) and, I suppose, that is half the reason I am writing. ‘Fortean’ writing often seems to me very limited in its ability to think through its political implications…

I think I am right in saying that the ‘ghost engine’ didn’t have a great presence in the English consciousness until Beecham, ‘The Signalman’ notwithstanding. Those haunting whistles only really started to blow when all that apparently needless arboresence was removed from the railway’s trunk. I think our desks are the kissing cousins of those steam-age spooks. They are that which Managerialism designates an excess, yet the trunk withers without them. Necessary supplements, in other words. They must make their appearance. Expect spectral school meals, libraries and selfless acts of kindness in the near future…

Name witheld on request

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School girl suggests supernatural element to spate of recent break-ins

Throughout the summer term Lethmachen Primary School has suffered from a series of break-ins that have been widely, if sporadically reported in the local press. These incidents cannot exactly be classed as burglaries as nothing ever appears to have been taken from the premises, although robbery was initially presumed to be the motive, due to the frequently ransacked appearance of the classrooms in the aftermath. There were never any witnesses to the crimes, as they all occurred outside school hours, at some point after the cleaners had left the building at approximately 7pm. The police were notified the morning following the first break in, yet remained mystified not only as to the purpose of the trespasser, but also as to how they had gained entry to the premises.

Caretaker Elvin Nesbitt opens the school at 7am, and was first on the scene on each occasion: ‘Straight off I could tell something wasn’t right. It was like a sixth sense. If you’ve worked in this building as long as I have, and you’re used to finding it empty when you arrive, you just know if there have been visitors during the night. It was like the time we got vandalized by those drunken teenagers. The only way I can explain it, and this might sound a bit dotty but, it’s almost as if you can feel a presence. That’s what I felt on each of those mornings. It was like someone had only that minute left, like they’d scarpered on hearing me turn the key, and I’d only just missed catching sight of them down the far end of the corridor. I kept making a mental note to myself to try and catch them out by coming in early, or by peering through one of the windows before unlocking the door, but I never got round to it.’

Mr Monkton, 65, has described the desecration he witnessed: ‘The first thing I noticed that was wrong was the writing on the walls. There were all these little pencilled messages all along the corridors, some way up near the ceiling, some almost on the floor. I was expecting those teenagers again and their usual kind of filth, but this type of graffiti was completely different. Frankly, I couldn’t make head nor tail of most of it, it didn’t even seem to be written in English. Later we found the same sort of nonsense scrawled across some of the blackboards and in a few of the exercise books. I felt sorry for those kiddies who thought they were being picked on, the ones who kept finding these scribbles and funny little drawings all over their work. Anyway, when I took a glance along both corridors it was obvious there was a lot of flotsam and jetsam scattered all over the floor. Everything that had been attached to the walls had been torn down. You know, all the framed photographs, plaques, certificates, paintings and that sort of thing, all broken and trampled. It was like a heard of animals had been stampeding up and down the corridors all night, or I suppose as if some clumsy idiot had been trying to feel their way along the walls in the dark. Anyway, I was straight on my mobile phone and called the police and the headmaster. I don’t think he was happy at being woken up so early!’

On further investigation, staff at the school reported to the police that a number of classrooms were in upheaval, with desks rearranged and overturned, and teaching materials and utensils damaged or soiled. The most bewildering aspect of the case was the discovery in the main hall, where the props and backdrops for the forthcoming summer play had been bizarrely altered and assembled around the stage, suggesting some kind of amateur production had taken place. With no evidence of theft or serious damage, the local police initially branded the incident a one-off prank. However they were forced to reassess the situation after a second break-in a fortnight later, which resulted in similar disruption to the building. Rumours circulated that vagrants were to blame, and had taken to sheltering in the deserted school on an occasional basis. Although staff and neighbouring  residents were advised to keep their eyes peeled for likely suspects, and indeed some completely innocent members of the community were apparently reported, this did not prevent a third break-in. Thus the local constabulary resorted to the expensive final resort of posting two of its officers on regular overnight surveillance in the area. Expensive maybe, but eventually effective. This week the mystery school breaker was apprehended in the act, and revealed to be a seven year old girl, indeed a pupil at Lethmachen Primary. 

‘Tabitha’, as we shall call her, is reported to be an intelligent pupil and in the top half of her class at school. From hearsay gathered in and around the grounds, it appears she particularly excels in any projects she is set outside of school, especially topics concerning animals and nature. However in contrast, it is also claimed that her overall ability is sometimes undermined by her performance in class. During lessons she will often give the impression of being lethargic and distracted. Curious about the discrepancy between her homework and schoolwork, it is alleged that the school undertook some subtle prying into her private life to ascertain whether she was receiving any form of home tuition or family assistance, but this possibility was soon discounted. Once caught, ‘Tabitha’ openly confessed to being responsible for the break-ins and insisted she operated alone, although the police have stated they feel she was evasive on this issue and doubt whether she could have caused such extensive destruction by herself. ‘Tabitha’ also explained that she entered the school after dark through an old coal cellar that had been overlooked on previous inventories. When asked for a motive, the Year 4 pupil replied that she preferred to be in school at night rather than during the day because ‘There are different teachers at night’.

Anyone who was educated in Lethmachen will be aware of the reputation that both the primary and secondary schools have in terms of hauntings (among other things), and will wonder whether ‘Tabitha’s’ confession should have been dismissed quite so glibly by the police and press, who eagerly presented the story as yet another example of ‘broken Britain’.

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 Terrorised Watts family flee their ‘haunted’ home

 This story we initially picked up from the pages of The Lethmachen Echo. Whilst routinely turning up their noses at other apparent outbreaks of the supernatural, journalists seem to fall over themselves to  make poltergeists an exception, typically serving them up as  ‘light entertainment’ with a knowing wink. Perhaps they view these pieces as ‘human interest’, although their condescending approach usually means the family involved are offered little sympathy, and the reader is rarely presented with a follow up story or a resolution. Even our local rag, surely the last place you would expect this type of phenomena to be confronted, could not resist sneaking in a few columns on the latest case. Poltergeist accounts tend to follow a distinct pattern, and many of the incidents that have occurred at Drub Street reflect this; however that does not mean that the family’s claims are without foundation or interest.

Mum Julie first became aware that something was wrong only a few weeks after the family moved into their new home. ‘It started with the electrics’ she explained to The Echo reporter, ‘the lights in the living room seemed to flicker on and off at random, or else the bulbs on the landing and then in the hall would dim for a few seconds, like a shadow had fallen across them. I tried to ignore it at first, thinking it was just some loose connection or my eyes were playing tricks, but then the television started switching off right when I was in the middle of watching something, or changing to another channel when I was nowhere near the remote’. With these incidents increasing in frequency, Julie was forced to call in an electrician, who spent an afternoon examining the house but was unable to find anything wrong with the fixtures or the wiring. ‘Back then things were better during the day’ she admits, ‘it was not until about half four, when my daughter Waverley used to get home from school, that the problems would start’.

 Alarm bells will have started ringing for any reader with even a cursory knowledge of poltergeist activity. In the majority of these cases, the focus for the disruption appears to be an adolescent family member (as to the theories why, more to follow). Significantly, the other two members of this household are young teenagers, Waverley (14) and her younger brother Bobby (13). ‘At first I did wonder if there was some connection to the amount of time Waverley spent on the computer’ Julie is quoted as saying, ‘Like most teenagers nowadays as soon as she gets back from school she’s straight up to her room and on the internet, always these chat rooms and social networking sites. At that hour I would be in the kitchen making the tea and listening to the radio, and it was around then that I would feel it coming on again. All of a sudden the radio would go out of tune between stations, or the settings on the cooker would change. I actually asked the electrician if Waverley could somehow being overloading the power supply, but he told me that was unlikely to be the trouble’.  Perhaps pursuing his own agenda and eager to apportion the blame, the Echo journalist pushes Julie into defending herself over the internet issue. ‘I always warn Waverley not to open up too much about herself. Nowadays, you never know who they are really speaking to. On the other hand, I know she’s finding it difficult starting a new school and fitting in with a new crowd, so I think it does her good to chat to other teenagers on line, girls she has things in common with. There’s this one girl in particular, Genie, who Waverley wanted to invite over to stay, she said Genie was lonely and didn’t have a proper family. I said it would be best to wait a few months until we had settled in the new place. Waverley said ‘Well she’s coming if you like it or not’, but I only remember her saying that because we hardly ever argue’.

 Could Waverley’s interest in social networking sites have triggered the phenomena? Unlikely, but as the Watts family continue to search for answers, their uninvited guest grows increasingly persistent and threatening. Faulty appliances have resulted in a number of small electrical fires breaking out on the property, whilst all the family have reported receiving electrical shocks from everyday objects, Julie recounting how Bobby once walked into the living room with ‘his hair standing on end, just because of something he touched out in the hall’. Both children have also complained of a ‘presence’ in their bedrooms at night, a shape in the corner that keeps them awake by whispering in a broken language ‘A bit like English, but with some of the words missing’. In recent weeks Waverley’s health has suffered and she has been kept off school, prompting Julie to move the family a few streets away to stay with her parents, leaving their poltergeist to roam the house alone. With nowhere else to turn, some may be concerned to learn that Julie has called in the services of Lethmachen’s self appointed ‘Paranormal Investigator’, Dr Neil Cross. ‘This kind of activity is stimulated by the frustrated desires of adolescent girls’ explains Dr Cross, 58, ‘but I aim to undertake a purification ritual that will restore the house to its former equilibrium’. ‘We didn’t want this intrusion, not from a poltergeist, or the press or anyone’ insists Julie, ‘we just want our home to ourselves again’. Unlike other media, we intend to stick with this story and keep you informed.

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