The word Poltergeist, has a tendency to send shivers down the spine of the serious researcher and the uninitiated alike. All researchers and invesitgators of the paranormal agree that a poltergeist outbreak is the most common form of haunting of all, although not all can agree upon what a poltergeist is. Some believe that a poltergeist is a psychic manifestation of a young person usually a female adolescent, who is undergoing the trials and travails of becoming an adult. Others believe that the poltergeist is the pissed off spirit of person who has shrugged off their mortal coil and intends to be a major pain in the ass of those who happen to live in the house that they once lived in. The more religiously minded investigator believes that one or many of the minions of the prince of darkness is out to harass and eventually possess a member of the household with an exorcism being the only cure for the affilicted. Whatever the case may be those unlucky souls unfortunate enough to undergo the depredations of this unseen and violent force know that what has happened to them or is happening is very real and very terrifying.
Down through history there have been many famous cases of families forced to undergo the rage of this unseen force and despite the terror they endured they lived to tell the tale. Perhaps the most famous British poltergeist case took place to the Hodgson family in Enfield, England. However when I consider British poltergeist cases my money is on a case that is rarely spoken of but is well known in the annals of paranormal research, The poltergiest outbreak known as the Black Monk of Pontefract. This case is unusual in that it displayed all the classic signs of the typical poltergeist outbreak but with one minor difference, an apparition was seen in the home along with the poltergeist activity. Some researchers have labled this case a hoax due to the appearance of this apparition, however I respectfully disagree. I have always believed that the energy expended by a poltergeist outbreak is powerful enough to attract apparitions who are either in the area or have laid dormant. You be the judge.
The poltergeist made it’s first appearance on the night of September 1, 1966 in the home of Joe and Jean Pritchard and their two children, Phil 15 and Diana, 12 in the small village of Pontefract, England. Joe and Jean and their daughter went away on a small trip while Phil stayed home with his grandmother. The night of the initial outbreak started innocently enough, Granny was sitting in the easy chair indulging in her passion for knitting as Phil ran around the neighborhood with his chums. However all that would change when Phil entered into the house followed by an icy wind that wipped throught the house causing the door to slam numerous times by itself. Neither Granny nor Phil thought anything of the cold wind despite it being September.
Phil greeted his grandmother and went to the kitchen to grab a cold glass of water and upon returning to the living room he was greeted with a strange sight, a fine white powder was falling from a space just below the ceiling and directly over the head of granny. The elderly woman and Phil watched as the powder seemed to fall from nowhere and coat everything in sight. The two looked at each other with a puzzled look that seemed to agree, this was definately beyond human understanding.
The two also began to see large pools of water form on the kitchen floor before their eyes. Granny immediately called the water department to report a possible sprung leak. After looking things over the man from the water commission was just as stumped as granny and Phil. At first the two were not frightened by this strange event however a heavy chest of drawers began to sway and move away from the wall quickly changed their minds and the two left the home and stayed the night at a nearby relatives house.
When Joe and Jean returned from their trip Phil and his grandmother quickly summarized the strange events that occurred in the house while they were away. Joe Pritchard was known as the typical hardnosed Yorkshireman type and would have nothing of this talk of ghosts and ghouls inhabiting his home and just in case they were he would force them to leave whether they liked it or not. Joe’s skepticism would soon turn to belief despite his proclamations.
As the days wore on the activity in the house seemed to raise a notch or two. Bedclothes were torn from their beds and loud knocks that sounded as if large heavy hands were banging on the walls were heard at all hours of the day. The latest activity prompted Joe to tell some neighbors of what was going in his home and that he now believed that some unknown force was haunting his family. The friends told Joe that they knew of a man, a Mr. O’Donald who had an interest in ghosts and could perhaps help them. Joe was satisfied that perhaps someone could help and perhaps answer some questions on just what this thing was.
When the ghost hunter arrived the Pritchards filled him in on all they had experienced up to this point. Mr. O’Donald knew exactly what the frightened family was dealing with, he told told them that had a poltergeist in the house. The Pritchards did not have a single clue as to what a poltergeist was and O’Donald, quickly went about the task explaining what a poltergeist was. He also explained that a poltergeist was usually fond of ripping up family photographs. After O’Donald departed the family heard a loud crash come from the upstairs hall, Joe and Jean raced upstairs and found their wedding picture on the floor the frame was smashed and the picture was torn down the middle. Apparently this unseen force was capable of listening to everything that was being said in the house.
For weeks the Pritchards endured the violent banging on the walls and their possessions being smashed to pieces however they decided enough was enough when their daughter, Diana fell victim to a personal onslaught by the entity. Practically every night the young girl was thrown from her bed to the floor and when night when the family sat in the living room they watched in horror as some unseen presence grabbed Diana by her sweater and dragged her up the stairs. Joe was able to rescure his daughter from the grasp of the unseen hands but enough was enough. The Pritchards did the only logical thing they could think of to deal with an otherwise illogical situation, they contacted a priest and demanded an exorcism.
When it comes to mixing an exorcism with poltergeist activity the results can oftentimes be disastrous. Most researchers agree that an exorcism will do more harm than good with the activity becoming far more violent after the ancient ritual is completed and such was the case with the Pontefract case. When the priest was finished with the ceremony a knock that sounded like cannonballs striking the house resounded from the walls and a heavy candlestick lept from the mantle and floated in front of the priest’s face. The priest was so terrified by the episode he ran from the house screaming that an evil presence inhabited their home. All the Pritchards could think was, now what?
The antics of a poltergeist are not always mean spirited sometimes a poltergeist shows that it has a bit of funny bone to go along with the terror. An Aunt had come to visit upon hearing of the strange goings on in the home. She was a hardheaded skeptic who would hear none of this rubbish concerning a ghost that haunted her relative’s home. When the aunt crossed the threshold of the front door the refrigerator door flew open and a jug of milk flew into the front room and came to a stop over the skeptical aunt’s head. All watched as the cap popped off and the contents were dumped over the head of the disbelieving aunt. Needless to say auntie became a believer real quick and never returned.
After this rather hilarious episode the poltergeist seemed to take a break for awhile as things appeared to return to normal in the house, until the Monk appeared. One night as Joe and Jean lay in bed they both were awakened by a strange sound in their room. As the couple looked to foot of their bed their gaze was greeted by the sight of a large man draped in a black robe that looked like something a monk would wear. The couple watched as the monk seemed to dissipate into thin air. When Joe told one of his neighbor’s about his seeing the apparition the neighbor told the incredulous man a curious tale. Many centuries ago a monastery housing Cluniac monks stood nearby, one of the monks committed some serious infraction that caused him to be hanged perhaps this monk was the cause of the haunting and not a poltergeist at all.
For next several months the black monk made numerous frightening appearances oftentimes just staring at family members before it vanished, however one day the monk seemed to have left the home and the poltergeist activity came to an abrupt halt and after two long years of dealing with the frightening episode that terrified their family had now come to an end and they were able to regain some semblance of a normal life.
Were the events that transpired in the Pritchard home a hoax, as some would have us believe? Or is the black monk of Pontefract a legitimate case of weirdness that almost caused an entire family to lose their sanity? This is one of those things that you will have to decide for yourself.