Bil Bungay, Ad Man, Film Producer and new owner of the property reflects:
“What possessed me (forgive the pun) to buy the most infamous haunted house in Europe? Simply because I had recently made a movie about the house called When the Lights Went Out with director and good friend of mine, and native of Pontefract, Pat Holden*.
After completing the movie , I was looking for original ways of promoting When the Lights Went Out when I discovered that the actual house, where all these incredible events allegedly happened, was for sale – and it was…er, cheap – so I bought it! This resulted in the coolest Red Carpet Movie Premiere ever, where two competition winners walked the tiny red carpet down the garden path into Number 30 East Drive to watch the movie about that actual house.
Of course, the truth is that despite having visited a very dark house in Coventry and spoken with a family that were being terrorised by a poltergeist, I still remained stoically sceptical. To me, IF the Black Monk ever existed, then surely after 40 years, it would be long gone?? An assumption that proved to be terrifyingly wrong.
During a gathering of the stars of the movie at the house, I met the neighbour Carol. She was quick to inform me that now the house was once again open to visitors – lots of visitors, the activity had started again in earnest – ‘and by the way, Fred was stood by the stairs observing us’. Turned out that Carol was something of a psychic and had encountered the poltergeist a number of times in her adjoining property.
Needless to say, I was reluctant to regard her comments with anything less than the same healthy degree of scepticism I had carried around with me since I was first told the story by Pat some 20 years earlier. For me the idea of making a movie about a ‘poltergeist that moved into a council house’, instead of the clichéd creaking mansion house or dank medieval castle, was a sitter – I didn’t feel I needed to believe in the existence of ghosts or poltergeists in order or justify making a movie about them. I mean – come on?!
Then I met Hannah Clifford and Tasha Connor, the two starlets from my movie and suggested a photo as a memento. As we posed, a friend took a pic on my iPhone – and a phone with 75% charge went flat and died in a beat. Okee.
I tried not to think anything of that either, blaming a technical fault on a perfectly healthy iPhone, but I had to let the photo opportunity slip. Or so I had thought. After I had recharged my phone I checked to see if the pic was there, to no avail. In fact it wasn’t until weeks later that this photo suddenly appeared on the phone. I was fairly sure it hadn’t been taken and I am certain it wasn’t in my photo library immediately after I had recharged my phone, I checked thoroughly.
Then the stories started coming in from Carol the neighbour and now Key Holder of the house. Reports of 3-4am bumps and bangs coming from number 30, glowing blue balls of ‘energy’ in the corridor, the duvet on Carol’s son’s bed being formed into the shape of a man on his bed, the black shadow of a very tall entity coming through the wall into her house and so on. ‘It’ was back! Or rather, the truth it seemed was that ‘It’ had always been there, living in quiet harmony with Jean Pritchard all the while, as in fact the activities had ‘restarted’ before I took possession of the property with the apparent sound of a TV blaring in Number 30, despite the property being completely empty; a report that had Phillip Pritchard, now in his late 50’s, understandably quite alarmed.
Then I witnessed something indisputable. With. My. Own. Flippin’. Eyes. A documentary about the house and local community was being made, and I took the opportunity to visit the production crew on their last day of filming. Being professionals they were fairly understated about any events that may have happened while they had filmed at the property; the kettle switching on and ‘superheating’ of its own volition, the case of the constantly missing thermostat (the remote kind that you sit on the mantlepiece), the researcher being pinned down onto the bed in the small room (might have been a night terror?) and my personal favourite – possible evidence of the poltergeist’s continuing fascination with keys? Back in the Pritchard’s day, a bunch of keys consisting of all the keys of the house fell from the chimney when Jean was brushing the flue (including a peculiar key said to be a large medieval door key) – so it was intriguing to me that a bunch of keys belonging to one of the producers had gone missing. The crew hunted high and low and had all but given up finding them when someone had the idea to look inside the old vacuum cleaner I had purchased from a charity shop to dress the house. To my knowledge, it doesn’t work. And even if it did it would never have the power to suck up a heavy bunch of keys! Plus, I suspect you’d notice if you did…
Any road, the crew hit the road at around 2am leaving me alone with two colleagues to tidy up. I went out into the garden to clear up any litter. Now what’s interesting is that when you are in an environment like that – a place with a paranormal reputation – you find yourself being extra vigilant (and by now my spider senses were more than tingling). You think about every move you make. ‘I am picking up this piece of litter, I am walking it to the wheelie bin, I am lifting the bin lid’, and so on. So I remember clearly that it was a very cold and calm night, the streets were completely clear and I was definitely alone outside. I looked at the double gates and naturally wanted to secure them before my departure. One side of the wrought iron double gate was open, so I closed it, dropped the plunger into the hole and pushed, using a bit of effort, a concrete block against the gate securing it firmly. Nothing less than a determined individual was going to open that gate. And before you say it – there’s no slope, no spring in the gate, no bush to hide a prankster in, nothing.
I turned back towards the house and decided it was time to get my colleagues out of the house for us to hit the road. They came racing out of the kitchen door (the only door I had the key for and therefore the only door open) and were understandably very relieved to finally get out. I’d lock the door and we’d be done. Except the keys had gone. No sign of them. But that wasn’t the half of it. I glanced over at the back gate one last time and to my horror, the side I had closed 2 minutes earlier – plunger and all – was open again, and I mean completely open – 90 degrees, the concrete block simply pushed aside!
My first response (everyone does it) was to accuse my two colleagues of playing tricks on me, but I knew they had been upstairs installing a lampshade (in the dark!) the whole time. I definitely closed the gate and there was absolutely no one out at all. The hairs on the back of my neck took about an hour to settle back down.
It wasn’t until the following day, when the locksmith was replacing the lock, that Carol my psychic neighbour casually explained to me that it “happened all the time”. ‘It’ or ‘Fred’, as by now I too had started to call him out of some form of respect (in the vain hope that he would spare me), moved around the neighbourhood, this confirmed by other neighbours that have subsequently complained to me personally about the entity running passed their windows after hours… as if I could somehow stop ‘Fred’ from freaking out the locals??
Friends have since had the courage to stay overnight – smart, grounded, healthily sceptical friends. The list of things that occurred to them boggled the mind, subtle stuff, but nevertheless real.
Other visitors described columns of ice-cold air in the corridor, every radiator in the house being turned up full (reported by a friend that installs radiators, he had turned them all down himself and was bemused by what had turned them all full on by the morning) and the cupboard under the stairs being impossible to open – trust me, it opens easily…
Only one group of friends seemingly had nothing happen to them, but I had observed how calm the house felt when they went for their visit. Plus they did reach for the beers (perfectly understandable!) and it is recognised that stimulants are not advised if you want to experience something paranormal – don’t ask me why, but a lot of the stuff can be quite subtle, and a few bevs have been know to take the edges of things! That said, when we walked in Darren from next door was trying to put a hundred pieces of puzzle, that had been spread all over the carpet, back into their box – except the box was thoroughly taped up, as it had been since I bought it from the charity shop. He broke the side of the box in my presence to return the pieces.
So now what? Well, given no one wants to buy my house (which is fair enough I suppose) yet many people have expressed an interest in visiting – so why not offer it up to visitors? Not as your run-of-the-mill guesthouse, but something out this world, literally. But here’s the thing, I pay the council tax on the goddam place and I promise you I have never stayed there and nor do I have any intention of staying there! I know, I know “lightweight” I hear you say – but I have now firmly left the School of Sceptic. There is definitely something deeply profound and intimidating (though I am of the view there is a scientific explanation – but that’s another story**) in this house, so frankly I think you’d be nuts to make a booking!”
* Pat’s association with the house is a family connection with his mother Rene Holden, a(nother) psychic and relative of the Pritchards, having spent many days and evenings at number 30 witnessing a large number of paranormal events. ** Theoretical physcists can visit for free.
ADENDUM: On Sun February 14th, 2016 I went on one of my occasional visits to the house. I was alone washing some items in the kitchen sink when I felt the instinct to turn. I looked over my right shoulder only to see a small object materialise above the dining room table before being projected balistically at my head. I could have sworn that it was going to hit me between the eyes and would have hurt had it done so, but it missed me by a whisker and ricochetted off the kitchen window. I looked down to see a small wooden domino (now in my possession) sat on the kitchen floor. After a few regrettable expletives, I felt the need to thank ‘it’ for demonstrating for me it’s ability to teleport – the first truly indisputable paranormal act I had witnessed.
From then on I was bombarded by small objects, all of which missed me by a whisker: A marble was projected through the ceiling with such force it took the varnish off the piano board, it missed my right ear by the smallest of margins. Two screws were thrown, again through the ceiling, either side of my head – missing my ears by millimetres (I later discover that a few of the screws I had collected earlier had disappeared from the fruit bowl). A red plastic ball materialised before my eyes and was thrown directly at my head again (I was talking to Carol the neighbour at the time, the ball materialised well behind her over her right shoulder) only to seemingly deviate at the last millisecond to miss me by a smidgen. My hat was removed off the handle of my case and thrown onto the sofa – the room was definitely empty at the time. And finally – Carol, her whole group and I were all sat in the front room together having a cuppa and laughing about the incidents when we all heard a ‘pop’ and the sound of something light (probably plastic) fall onto the kitchen floor. Carol went to see what the noise was only to discover her grand daughter, who had just entered the front door, biting into a polystyrene orange. “Don’t bite that sweetheart” I heard Carol say, “It’s not a real orange, where did you get it from anyhow?” “A man in black gave it to me” came her simple, concise reply. ‘It’ had lifted the faux fruit out of the fruit bowl and ‘given’ it to the little girl, and had chosen not to hide its identity to the child…
All in all, it was an incredible afternoon (yes, it was during daylight). What was targeting me, or indeed why it chose to target me specifically is a matter of conjecture, but one thing’s for sure – if it wanted to hurt me it had both the power and potential to do so, but ‘it’ missed me by a whisker every time. The obvious take out from that day was that ‘it’ wanted to frighten me, but perhaps it was simply trying to communicate with me, to let me know that ‘it’ was most definitely there? Hey, it might even have been a twisted act of love – it was Valentine’s Day after all!