Ten years before the DeFeo slayings made a small house in Amityville infamous, an English family bought a seemingly serene brick house to call home on quiet East Drive in Pontefract, West Yorkshire. Jean and Joe Pritchard bought the so-called Black Monk House to live in with their two teenage children, Phillip and Diane, and Jean’s mother, Sarah.
The picturesque home, as the family would come to realize, held dark secrets that emerged almost immediately after moving in. The strange poltergeist activity began as small, almost isolated incidences. As time went on, the paranormal disturbances happened more and more frequently.
Joe and Jean left Sarah and their kids at home while they took a vacation the summer after they moved in. While left alone, the kids noticed chalk falling from the ceiling out of nowhere. They also saw pools of water collecting on the floor, despite the fact that no source for the water was visible. Sarah tried to soak up the water, but each time she did, more would appear. This was only a small fraction of the strange events to come at the Black Monk house.
When Joe and Jean returned home, they reported seeing a spirit wearing black monk robes that appeared to be hanging over their bed in mid-air. This apparition would continue to make appearances throughout the Pritchards’ stay in the home, eventually giving the house its name.
The number of strange, unexplainable phenomena increased exponentially, unsettling the Pritchard family even further. Lights flickered without any reason, while heavy plants would fall down the stairs – their pots shattering. Family pictures were seemingly slashed and the Pritchards later spoke of somehow deathly smells appearing at random. The family would come home to overturned furniture and hear heavy breathing from an invisible force.
The monk-like figure kept appearing throughout the home on a consistent basis. After two years of relatively calm sightings, his intrusions escalated: Diane claimed that the monk grabbed her by her neck and dragged her up the stairs. By this point, the Pritchards were terrified, and numerous exorcisms were performed on the home. The exorcisms only seemed to upset the monk, causing more violent appearances.
When the local press picked up on the activity, people became skeptical of whether the Pritchards were making everything up. Paranormal investigators became interested in the house after reading about it in newspapers, and they started researching if there had been any monks who lived in the area in the past – especially any who might have had a reason to haunt the home.
Investigators soon learned that the land that the home had been built on had a troubled and dark past. King Richard II was killed at the nearby Pontefract Castle in the 15th century, and wars were also fought on the town’s land.
The land just across the street from the Black Monk house used to host gallow executions. There was also evidence of a former monastery, which existed from 1090 to 1539. It would seem that this was the former home of the Pritchards’ unwanted guest.
In the 16th century, a monk was sentenced to death for the rape and murder of a young girl. He was hanged from the gallows located just across from the modern site of the Pritchard home. The Pritchards’ description of a figure wearing what appeared to be monk robes now made perfect sense.
The Pritchards were unable to withstand the paranormal occurrences in their home, and they moved out a few years later. Subsequent residents didn’t report anything similar to what the Pritchards had seen during their time at the Black Monk House.
In 2012, a British film directed by Pat Holden, When the Lights Went Out, was released. In the film, a 13-year-old girl sees the ghost of a figure in monk robes after her family moves into a new home in 1974. Though only a loose adaptation of the real story, the film revived interest in the Pritchard family’s story.
Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman featured the house on the premiere season of their show, Paranormal Lockdown. The pair spent over 100 hours in the home, and reported hearing a loud bang on the staircase. When they went to see what could have caused the bang, they found a knife on the stairs.
Weidman felt differences in her physicality during her time at the house. She felt like she was drowning in quicksand at one point, and she was overcome by an intense sense of fatigue too. She also felt like there was a huge weight on her.
Groff noted other strange happenings, like a ball that moved on its own. When Groff asked the spirit to move it, the ball moved again. Seemingly, the Black Monk remains to this day.
All photos used with permission by Mark G of Gonzography