The Black Monk Of Pontefract is considered to be one of the most violent haunting in Britain.
The year was 1966, and a family consisting of Jean and Joe Pritchard and their two children, Phillip, 15, and Diane, 12, moved into a quiet house on 30 East Drive, in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England. It was not long after they had settled in that strange things began to happen around the home, starting, as these things tend to, rather innocently enough. The first main incident started on September 1, 1966, when the son Philip was staying at the home with his grandmother, Sarah Scholes, while the rest of the family was away on a trip to Devon. One day they they felt a strange gust of cold wind pass through despite the summer heat, shortly after which they witnessed what seemed to be a white powder or mist snowing down from the ceiling as the sounds of footsteps echoed from above. When they went to investigate, along with Scholes’ sister Marie Kelley, there were found to be inexplicable pools of water spreading on the floor of the kitchen, and even as they stared at this new development that bumping noise continued from the next floor up and that dust rained down upon them.
At the time it was thought that the water was merely the result of a broken pipe, and a repairman from the water company was called in to take a look. However, after a thorough inspection of the kitchen there was found to be no sign of anything amiss, and the repairman had no idea of where the water could be coming from, even as it seemed to pool up even more as he was there. The pools would eventually stop, but everyone present was left completely baffled as to what was going on.
Later that same evening, the pools began to form again from nowhere, and this time this phenomenon was joined by a violent, jolting rattling of various cutlery and pots and pans around the kitchen. In addition to this, the whole area was sprayed with tea as some unseen force repeatedly depressed the button on the tea dispenser with great force and increasing speed. The cupboards and furniture of the kitchen also began to vibrate and move about without explanation or apparent cause. This was all followed by a thunderous bang from the outside hallway, but when they looked to see what it could be nothing was there, even though the hallway light began to turn on and off by itself even as they surveyed it. It was further noticed that a plant that was normally positioned at the foot of the stairs was now inexplicably sitting at the top of the stairs, and neither of them had moved it.
As they examined the hall, the crockery and cupboards in the kitchen began to vibrate again with greater vigor, and Kelley was once again brought over to observe the frightening show for herself. The activity once again died down, but when a heavy chest of drawers began to sway on its own volition later that night, both Philip and his grandmother packed a few things and headed to a neighbour’s house for the night, terrified of what was going on. Interestingly, by the time the rest of the family returned from their trip the strange phenomena seemed to have stopped. At the time they all thought that there had to be some normal explanation for what had happened, especially as there were no further disturbances. Indeed, it would not be for another 2 years that anything else out of the ordinary would happen on the premises, but when it did it did so with a vengeance.
The long period of silence made it all the more shocking when pools of water started forming again all over the house, furniture was moved or rattled on its own, odd green foam would seep out of water taps, loud thuds and bangs would sound out from all over the house, doors would slam open or shut by themselves, and more ominously, family portraits and furniture would be found demolished or slashed and disfigured as with a knife. There were also unidentified sickening odours that would waft through the home, as well as anomalous noises including heaving breathing and, oddly, the sound of barnyard animals. Such things happened nearly everyday, and it all became so commonplace that the family took to calling the invisible entity “Fred,” putting an innocuous nickname to the faceless and gradually threatening intruder.
All of this steadily graduated in intensity, with things being smashed or broken by unseen hands, or objects flying across the room even in the presence of guests. Indeed, whenever people came over the phenomena seemed to actually get worse and more violent, and this apparently even happened in the presence of local police officers and the town vicar, leaving everyone dumbfounded and authorities unable to find any rational explanation. In particular Dianne seemed to be targeted, often waking up to the sound of heavy breathing or undefined voices in her ears, and there were times when she was allegedly downright physically assaulted by the entity, such as being pushed, having her hair pulled, and even on several occasions being dragged across the room. The entity was not above lashing out at others as well, and reports of being held down, pushed, slapped, or punched by the specter were common, even from those just visiting.
The phenomena seemed to work in cycles, with times when this would happen on a daily basis interspersed with long absences, sometimes for weeks at a time, but return it always did. In the face of the escalating malevolent activity, the Pritchard family reached out to the Church for help, and there were several exorcisms performed on the house, all of which seemed to just make the spirit even angrier. During these attempted exorcisms crucifixes were supposedly knocked out of hands or smashed to pieces, and inverted crosses were sometimes found painted or scrawled upon the walls in red and black ink, neither of which were kept in the house. In one particularly frightening incident an invisible force picked up a candlestick and held it in front of the priest’s face, which was enough to send the man of the cloth running away to never come back.
In addition to this, the malicious spirit began to make itself known and visible as a full apparition. At first these visitations took the form of Jean and Joe waking in the middle of the night to see a dark shape standing at the foot of their bed staring at them, which would then blink out of existence. On another occasion, Joe claimed to have awoken to see a figure in flowing black robes hovering over his bed. This strange entity was more often than not described this way, as dressed in black robes and with a hood covering his face, not unlike what a medieval monk might wear and which would earn the wraith the nickname “The Black Monk.”
Before long the Black Monk was seen lurking about by everyone in the family, and was even claimed to have been spotted prowling the property by neighbours and other locals. To make it all even creepier, the phantom would sometimes change things up by appearing wearing women’s fur gloves. Through this all it seemed to still have it in for the daughter Diane, and its attacks on her grew in ferocity. The girl would sometimes wake up with scratches and bruises on her body or be completely thrown from her bed, and on at least one occasion was actively choked and slapped around by an unseen force in full view of witnesses, who were often themselves not immune to these outbursts. Perhaps the scariest incident happened when Diane’s hair was seen to stand up as if someone were pulling and yanking on it, after which the girl was forcefully dragged up the stairs screaming.
The desperate family had paranormal investigators called in, and some interesting things were found out on the history of the land the house sat upon. For instance, investigator Tom Cuniff found that not only had the area once been the site of a battle, but also that it had once been used as the town gallows, and that hundreds of people had been executed here. In particular, there was supposedly a Cluniac monk who had met his end by hanging here, after being found guilty of raping and killing a young girl around Diane’s age back in the 16th century, and Cuniff believed that this was the spirit haunting the home.
Strangely, despite all of the intense paranormal activity that permeated this home, it would all one day suddenly cease just as abruptly as it had started. The weeks would go on with the family bracing for the Black Monk to rear his sinister head yet again, but it was completely quiet for no apparent reason, as if he had just gotten bored and stopped. The Pritchards would nevertheless eventually move out, and the house would go on to be a popular destination for paranormal investigators, several of whom would apparently uncover the fact that indeed the Black Monk was still around and as active as ever, perhaps perturbed by new trespassers to his domain.
A very well-known and harrowing investigation of the premises was carried out by seasoned paranormal researchers Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman, of the TV series Paranormal Lockdown, who decided to actually spend a few days locked up inside of the home, and almost as soon as the doors closed there were purportedly strange goings on. It started with a sense of an indefinable dread and a door being slammed shut almost immediately, which could have been attributed to a draft if it weren’t for what would transpire over the next 100 hours. Groff would say of his initial impression of the house thus:
“Right when we stepped on the property it felt different. There’s an energy about it. When you take a step into that location it’s haunting, it really is, without anything really even occurring you just feel it, you feel the energy and the sense that something is there lurking in the shadows.”
They would go on to be woken by slamming or banging noises in the house, and the next day they actually reached out to the entity, called it Fred, and asked if it would move a ball. Sure enough, the ball apparently began rolling across the floor of its own volition. It all almost seemed rather playful at first, but then things started to get knocked off of stands, thrown across the room, or broken, and a clock dropped off the wall. When Groff reached out to ask the spirit “Do you need a lot of energy [to move things]?,” it was captured in an EVP recording saying in Latin “desperata,” meaning “hopeless.”
On top of this, whenever the team asked the entity something it would remain silent, but the room temperature would drop dramatically. In addition, a shadowy figure was allegedly filmed moving across a room, and the nighttime noises occurred with increased amplification. To make it all even more menacing, a knife was inexplicably left on the stairs, and the crew began to complain of being pushed or shoved by something, with the co-host Katrina actually claiming to have been held in place, attacked, and scratched. Groff would say:
“We’ve captured this solid figure moving past one of the doors, things moving on their own. My co-host Katrina, she got scratched too at one point so it got really scary as it escalated through our investigation of a hundred hours. When I was living there for 100 hours there were moments when I was terrified, like when I was sleeping and I was really deep in sleep. And anybody, I don’t care how strong you are or how big you are, you will be startled in the darkness, and you’re all alone, and something bangs really loud in the room and the door opens on its own, and you see an apparition – you’re going to get startled.”
Other researchers have had similarly bizarre experiences on the property, with numerous instances of the ghost’s voice caught on tape and quite a few pieces of photographic evidence as well. Many of these investigators have expressed shock at the sheer magnitude of sinister paranormal activity at the residence, with some even claiming that they actually feared for their lives while there, and the Black Monk has earned a reputation for being one of the most violent and evil poltergeists around. Another pair of investigators from the TV show Ghost Dimension said:
“When we arrived at the house I had been so excited to finally be filming at 30 East Drive. I had heard so many stories about what went on here through the 60s and seen so many photos of monk-like figures. We had never experienced so many paranormal happenings going in one place and in such quick succession.”
The house itself was later purchased by the British advertiser and film producer Bil Bungay, who turned it into a tourist destination. He would later have the story made into the 2012 horror film “When The Lights Go Out”, directed by Pat Holden, and which is loosely based on the real events. The film crew apparently had quite a few paranormal experiences making the movie, which was supposedly partly filmed on location, and to this day it has remained a hotspot for debate, discussion, and investigation.
Current next-door neighbour 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.”
There have of course been plenty of allegations that this was all a hoax or a publicity stunt, and that there was never any haunting at all. However, this ignores the fact that the whole town knew of this haunting, and it was witnessed by numerous people, including neighbours, friends, police officers, and at least two priests. So concentrated was the haunting and so violent, that the case of the Black Monk of Pontefract has gone on to become one of the most well-documented and aggressive hauntings England has ever seen, with the house this day said to be ground zero for all manner of strange happenings.
30 East Drive is now open to visitors, although the owners do not recommend staying the night and will even try to discourage you from doing so. The website clearly states that this is not a traditional bed and breakfast and visitors will not be covered by insurance if they choose to visit. You might think that this is not the smartest of business plans, but the waiting list is long and the house is booked solid up to a year in advance as avid ghost hunters clamour to spend the night in the property and get the chance of their own encounter with the black monk. There are of course some house rules. All visitors must sign a waiver releasing the owner of liability, alcohol is forbidden as is the use of Ouija Boards. The owners also request that no visitors attempt an exorcism on the property. Some of the house rules pertain directly to Fred himself. He prefers the kettle to remain unplugged but filled when not in use and visitors are asked to respect that.
Stories of ‘Fred’ continue to this day, such as Fred’s favourite party trick is moving marbles around. Not only will he roll them or throw them, but they sometimes appear to drop through the ceiling or appear out of thin air. Some visitors have even claimed to have had marbles appear in their homes and other locations after leaving East Drive. Keys are also a favourite trigger object for Fred. One of the things that happened to The Pritchard’s originally was that a bunch of old keys dropped down the chimney. These days Fred will often steal unattended keys and on one occasion the house keys showed up inside the vacuum cleaner – which does not work and is simply a prop. The paranormal activity is not just limited to the house either, neighbours also report the shadowy figure in their gardens and have experienced mild activity in their homes.
Fred has also been known to have violent and destructive outbursts from time to time, presumably when he is offended or disrespected. On one notable occasion the bed in Diane’s old room was destroyed and the room trashed at around 4am on a night when the house was unoccupied. The kitchen has also been found in a state of disarray on occasion.
Whether you believe it or not, there’s no denying that the stories revolving 30 East Drive are highly interesting.