Loud noises, moving furniture, flying objects: You’ve probably seen it all in any modern paranormal film. But have you ever seen such activity in real life? These famous cases of poltergeist activity included all of these terrifying happenings–and more.
1. Thornton Heath Poltergeist
On an August night in a home in Thornton Heath, the radio clicked on and started blasting a foreign language radio station. The family in residence had never listened to this station before, nor did they have any clue why the sudden noise occurred. In the nights following, lamps, Christmas tree ornaments, and curtains were tampered with by invisible hands. This was just the beginning of four years of torment by their own personal poltergeist.
The case began getting physical one year later, when the husband was assaulted by a flying figurine in the living room. He was struck so hard that he collapsed into a nearby chair. While the family tried to get him to his feet, the Christmas tree rose from the floor and started shaking.
In the years following, the series of strange phenomena continued. The family heard footsteps throughout the upstairs of their home. One night, during a dinner party with close friends, the door began to shake and knock violently. As the group carefully stood to leave, the living room door flung open, and all the lights in the home began flickering on and off.
Later, one of the children in the family recalled waking to find an evil-looking man hovering above his bed. The boy said he was wearing “old fashioned clothes.” It was after these two incidents that the family decided to seek help.
A local church put them in contact with a priest who performed a blessing on the home. However, this only seemed to make matters worse–the hauntings began to intensify. The family was directed to a medium who visited their home to attempt locating the cause of the haunting. The medium discovered that the entity was a deceased famer named Chatterton. He was angry with the family because he saw them as trespassers to his home. The family did some archival digging, and learned of a farmer named Chatterton, who lived with his wife in the home in the mid-18th century.
Shortly after this discovery, Chatterton’s wife began making appearances. She targeted the mother of the family. Whenever the mother would walk upstairs, she would feel like someone was following her. When she turned around, Chatterton’s grey-haired wife was following her. As soon as the old woman was noticed, she would vanish.
After dealing with this torment for four years, the family gave up. They purchased a new home, and left Chatterton’s house behind. Once the family was gone from the house, the hauntings halted. There have been no further reportings of paranormal activity in the home they left behind.
2. The South Shields Poltergeist
In the winter of 2005, Marc, Marianne (the names usually used to protect the real identities of the victims), and their three-year-old son Robert began experiencing bizarre poltergeist activity that would quickly grow out of hand. In the beginning, the doors opened and closed on their own, and strange sounds came from the walls. Soon, furniture seemed to be moving around the room by invisible hands, chairs were found stacked, and large, heavy pieces of furniture were discovered displaced from one room to another.
While these might seem like relatively common occurrences when it comes to the paranormal, they quickly escalated to become dangerous. One night, as the young couple was settling into bed, a projectile hit Marianne in the head. It was their son’s toy dog. The son was nowhere in sight, and there was no one apparently there to have thrown it. The couple was bewildered. A few moments later, another stuffed toy hit Marianne, but this time with greater force. The couple reported an onslaught of toys after this, pelting them from all directions. They tried to hide beneath the blanket, but they felt an unseen force trying to pull it away from them. Marc then cried out in pain. 13 red scratch marks were found on his back. The attack stopped as quickly as it had begun, but the couple was left horribly frazzled.
Now the poltergeist seemed to have developed an affinity for scaring the family with children’s toys. On one occasion, they found the son’s rocking horse hanging by its reins from the ceiling loft hatch. On another, a toy bunny was found sitting on top of the stairs holding a box cutter.
Marc and Marianne decided to seek help. They enlisted paranormal researchers Mike Hollowell and Darren Ritson. At first, the two were not sold by the couple’s claims. Such violent cases of activity were rare, and it just seemed like too much. Regardless, they went to the house, set up their equipment, and waited. They were shocked by what they found.
The paranormal activity in the home exploded. Toys flew around, unexplained bangs filled the home, voices came from a baby monitor, their gear was turned on and off or broken by something unseen, doors opened and slammed closed, blankets on beds slid off, objects levitated, strange messages appeared on pieces of paper, and various objects were caught balancing at strange angles. Perhaps the most bizarre thing was the appearance of the entity in the son’s bedroom – a large, dark shape on the balcony. It crossed through the room then vanished.
To cap it off, the investigators captured a recording of the entity attacking Marc. Deep red gashes appeared on his back, thickening in color until the skin broke and he bled. Then, as suddenly as the attacks started, they stopped. The home went quiet and hasn’t seen an ounce of paranormal activity since.
3. The Pontefract Poltergeist
The Pritchard family moved into a new little home in 1966, and they immediately began experiencing strange events. Joe, his wife Jean, Jean’s mother Sarah, and their two children, Diane and Phillip, witnessed wet puddles manifesting on the kitchen floor, white powder that appeared to fall from mid-air, and more. As time progressed, the phenomena became more pronounced.
At first, the poltergeist’s pranks were somewhat humorous. Green foam would flow from the bathroom taps, potted plants would uproot and toss themselves down the stairs, and a pair of woman’s gloves were animated to float around the home, touching people and objects as if being worn by an invisible person. The family named this invisible person ‘Fred’.
The hauntings came and went, but during the last few years the family spent at the home, they began to think that the presence was demonic. Objects lifted themselves into the air, thundering crashes came from the floorboards and, in perhaps the most famous incident, a series of upside-down crosses appeared on the walls.
The Pritchards brought in a priest to perform exorcisms throughout the house, but none of the attempts proved fruitful. Just the opposite, in fact. Their efforts seemed to anger the spirit further. Eventually, Joe and Jean came face-to-face with what’s believed to be the entity. It appeared as a cloaked shadow floating above their bed. The same figure was seen by every member of the family over time. It was described as being dressed in monk’s robes. Well, the description stuck–it soon came to be known as The Black Monk.
Then, the activity ceased altogether. Over the years, many people have theorized about what exactly happened in the Pritchard home. Most notably, paranormal investigator Tom Cuniff spent many years researching the case. He discovered that between 1090 and 1539, a priory had been located near the house. In addition, the town’s gallows had been situated directly across the street, and, after digging a bit deeper, Cuniff found a Clunic monk who was hung on the gallows after being convicted of raping and murdering a young girl. The girl had been roughly the same age as Diane Pritchard. Cuniff believes the entity terrorizing the family was this monk.
4. The Enfield Poltergeist
In 1977, Peggy Hodgson called police to report that her home was haunted. Her four children, Margaret, age 14; Janet, age 11; Johnny, age 10; and Billy, age 7, claimed to have seen furniture moving around the rooms and heard knocking sounds coming from the walls. The first police officer who made it to the scene reported seeing a chair slide across the floor on its own. Later accounts would describe hearing demonic voices, loud unexplainable noises, thrown rocks and toys, overturned chairs and, most memorably, a child levitating.
Aside from the family themselves, there were multiple witnesses to the events. Maurice Grosse, who visited the home from the Society of Psychical Research, said he had marbles thrown at him, doors opened and closed, and recorded strange and sudden temperature changes.
These experiences were not uncommon. What made Grosse’s time in the Hodgson house remarkable was that he claimed to have spoken directly with the poltergeist. He did this through Peggy’s daughter Janet who seemed to be favored by the spirit as a medium of communication. Janet reportedly referred to herself as Bill, and informed everyone present that he had died of a brain hemorrhage in the house many years before. Then, the events halted in 1978. No supernatural sightings have occurred at the house since.
The events which played out here serve as the inspiration for the film The Conjuring 2 and continue to stump paranormal investigators to this day.
5. Esther Cox’s Poltergeist
Esther Cox was a 19-year-old who lived in a tiny cottage in Nova Scotia, Canada. The family was living peacefully when, one night, screams woke the entire household. The adults rushed to the room where Esther and sister Jennie shared a bed. The girls claimed to have seen something moving under their covers. Esther thought it was a mouse, but a thorough search of the room turned up nothing.
The following night, there were more screams. Esther and Jeannie claimed to have heard strange noises coming from the fabric box beneath the bed. When they brought the box to the center of the room for examination, it jumped into the air on its own and landed on its side. The girls righted the box, only to watch it jump and topple again.
Until this moment, most of the activity the girls were witnessing was quickly and simply attributed to their imaginations. This changed on the third night. That night, Esther went to bed early, saying she felt feverish. Jennie joined her a short time later, and after laying in bed for only a few minutes, Esther jumped up to the center of the room and began tearing at her nightclothes, screaming, “My God! What is happening to me? I’m dying!”
Jennie lit a lamp and saw her sister’s skin was bright red and appeared to be swelling unnaturally. Olive, their other sister, rushed into the room and helped Jennie get their sister back into bed. Esther now seemed to be choking and fighting to breathe. The entire family watched helpless as Esther’s body, hot to the touch, swelled further and reddened. Her eyes bulged and she cried out in pain.
Then under the bed there was a deafening bang that shook the entire room. Three more loud noises were reported from the bed before Esther’s swelling subsided and she fell into a deep sleep. Unsure what to do next, the family called a doctor, Dr. Carritte. He heard the loud bangs from beneath the bed, watched Esther’s pillow move without being touched, and her clothes were thrown around the room.
The scariest aspect of these encounters, though, was the letters etched into the wall above the bed reading: “Esther Cox you are mine to kill.” Dr. Carritte returned to the home the next day and recorded the events in detail, but still could offer the family no explanation.
The poltergeist trailed Esther wherever she went. All her attempts to escape it were futile. In an attempt to spare her family, she moved across town to work at a farm, but the farm house burnt down shortly after her arrival. The farmer accused her of arson. She was convicted to serve four months, but was released after just one. Weirdly enough, after she was released, the tormentings just seemed to fade away. No explanation—they simply stopped.