There is a house in Yorkshire, England that for over 50 years has been the site of one of the most violent haunting in Europe. Many believe that its location which was but a stone's throw from where the town gallows once stood, is the source for the dark phantom that terrorized a family and refuses to be exorcised.
Number 30 East Drive, on the Chequerfields Estate, East Yorkshire, stands on a corner at the top of a hill, which is where Jean and Joe Pritchard, their son Philip, 15, and daughter Diane, 12, moved to in 1966.
It did not take long before the entity that would eventually be known as The Black Monk of Pontefract, made its presence known.
It started in August, 1966 when the family vacationed in Devon. Philip, 15 and his grandmother, Sarah Scholes stayed behind.
Sarah was the first to feel a cool gust of wind blow through the house despite the warm weather outside. Phillip who had been outside, came inside to find white powder falling out of nowhere unto the living room floor. He thought at first it came from the ceiling which had recently been redecorated.
The pair were baffled, and Sarah crossed the street to where her daughter Marie Kelly lived. She brought her back so that she could witness the strange phenomena. Marie also thought it had a normal origin and went to the kitchen to find a cloth to wipe the white dust off. She slipped in a pool of water that had inexplicably formed in the kitchen floor. It was the first of many puddles that appeared in the kitchen.
Enid a neighbor came around to see what was going on. Like Marie, she thought the problem could be fixed by normal means and she went to turn off the main water pipe, but this didn't stop the pools of water from appearing. Marie Kelly then reported the leak to the Water Board who said they would send someone over soon. In due time a repairman appeared, who checked all the pipes and drains. He left to report the problem to his supervisor, in the meantime the water disappeared.
Later that evening while Sarah watched TV, she heard her grandson shout that it was happening again. The kitchen had dry tea leaves and sugar strewn across it. The button on the tea dispenser moved back and forth, spilling the tea across the drainboard. The button kept moving even though all the tea was gone, and Sarah in exasperation shouted, "Stop it!"
The words had just left her mouth when a loud crash resounded from the hallway. With trepidation they walked to the doorway leading to the hall, expecting to find a burglar, but found nothing instead. Then the light clicked on by itself.
They walked to the foot of the stairs, and saw a plant had been placed without its pot halfway up, and the pot was on the landing above it.
As if playing a game, a noise then sounded from the kitchen. Once there, they saw the cupboard was vibrating as if something was trying to get out. Phillip opened the door, and it stopped. A loud banging started up in another part of the house.
The chill from earlier in the day returned and Sarah once more fetched her daughter Marie Kelly. She saw the shaking cupboard, and heard the sound of the vibrating cups and plates. Still hoping it was just a strange coincidence, they went next door to where the Mountains lived. They asked if they were making banging noises. They in turn said, "We thought it was you." By the time Sarah returned, the noises had stopped.
The three sat around, still uneasy but trying to figure it out. No plausible explanation was found, and a little before 10 p.m. Marie returned to her home.
Sarah locked the doors and switched off all the lights. Phillip had gone ahead to his room, and when Sarah went to wish him a good night a chest of drawers started to move. They couldn't endure anymore and went to sleep at the neighbor's home.
When the Pritchards returned, all the strange occurrences had ceased, and they decided something strange but natural had caused all the happenings.
Two years passed, and nothing else manifested. But peace and quiet were disturbed when the poltergeist phenomena started up again, this time to persist for several years. The family refused to move, and the source of the activity was dubbed "Fred" by the family.
The manifestations were wide and varied. Lights would turn and off, objects would levitate, knocking sounds would be heard through the house and furniture would be overturned. The sinister nature of the supernatural agent tormented the family with foul smells, farmyard noises, cold spots and heavy breathing.
The manifestations were witnessed not only by the Pritchards but others who did not live there. The police, a local MP and the vicar were all witness to the extraordinary happenings which continued to plague the household, and all attempts to exorcise the presence were unsuccessful and met with mockery.
The target seemed to be the Pritchard's daughter Diane. She was thrown from her bed, and once was dragged by her throat up the stairs. The invisible hands left marks on her neck.
Two exorcisms were attempted, but only made matters worse.
A family friend doused holy water throughout the house, and in response the entity painted upside down crosses on several walls, and destroyed the crucifixes the family had hung inside.
The apparition first appeared to Jean and Joe Pritchard as they lay in bed. They claimed they saw a black-cloaked figure hovering over them. Eventually other family members and visitors saw what looked like a black robed monk. But none ever saw its face which lay in the shadow of the robe's hood.
Once the apparition was seen, the haunting abruptly stopped, never to start again.
Tom Cuniff, an author, researched the identity of the ghost and found a monk had been hung for the rape and murder of a girl during the reign of Henry VIII. From then on it became known as the Black Monk of Pontefract. It was also learned the Pritchard house was built close to where the town's gallows once stood.
The 2012 film, When the Lights Went Out details the events that occurred at the Pritchard house. The director, Pat Holden was Jean Pritchard's nephew, and he witnessed many of the manifestations first hand.
The film sparked public interested, and visitors flocked there hoping to have their own experience. All it did was stir things up according to the neighbors.
The house had stood empty, and Philip Pritchard sold it to the film's producer, Bil Bungay. According to Carol Fieldhouse, the next door neighbor, this is when things started to take a turn for the worse. In a newspaper interview she said she saw Phillip working in the front yard. “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’. She never saw Phillip Pritchard again.
Interest died down until 2016, when a photo was published by a ghost hunter who said he caught an image of the arm of a ghostly figure in a monk's robe holding rosary beads.
Another paranormal group caught the image of face in a back hood staring out o f a mirror at the bottom of the stairs.
As of 2021, Haunted House Events is in charge of renting the house out overnight so would-be paranormal investigators or legend trippers can have a chance of coming face-to-face with Fred.
Perhaps curious tourists turn out to be the most effective exorcism of all.
Stranger Than Fiction Stories by M.P. Pellicer