30 EAST DRIVE, PONTEFRACT
The ruins of the castle you see today were constructed in 1070 by Ilbert De Lacy. The land was gifted to him by William the Conqueror as a token of his appreciation for De Lacy’s support during the Norman conquest of England.
Pontefract castle has played host to some significant moments in history. It is said to be the place where Richard II was imprisoned and brutally murdered on 14 February 1400 and in the 1640s, it was a major stronghold for the Royalists during the English Civil War. The castle and location were of strategic importance to both armies during the Civil War, as such, it was the scene of many battles and changed hands between Royalist and Parliamentarians on a number of occasions. When Oliver Cromwell took the castle for the final time and claimed victor of the war, he executed Charles I in 1649 and gave the instruction to demolish Pontefract castle, and so it was razed to the ground.
As the castle was demolished, so too were its numerous outposts, like the gallows that had stood one mile, south-east of the castle. The gallows had facilitated hundreds of recorded executions from the castles hayday, but there is one that you won’t find in any records or history books. To preserve the reputation of the church, they didn’t record the hanging of the monk that had sexually abused and tortured girls from the town. Where the gallows once stood, now resides the Chequerfields Estate and more specifically, 30 East Drive.
It’s 1968 and for the Pritchard’s - Joe, Jean, Phillip and Diane - it’s been a peaceful two years at East Drive since the incidents of 1966. For Grandma Sarah, however, as the August Bank Holiday approaches, she gets an ill feeling each time she visits 30 East Drive and she can hear the banging starting again.
When Sarah mentions it to her daughter, Jean, it is quickly dismissed – Jean is too busy decorating Diane’s bedroom to listen to her mother’s ghost stories… that is until later that evening.
The kids and Joe are in bed and Jean is just making her way upstairs. The decorating materials are on the landing and suddenly a paintbrush flies through the air and misses her by an inch. Then another, and another, both narrowly missing her. She then stares in shock as a roll of wallpaper unravels and dances towards the ceiling like a cobra. Jean screams and everyone dashes from their rooms to see what’s happening. As Diane opens her door, a paintbrush launches at her and strikes her chest. Joe shouts to the family and they all gather in Joe and Jean’s bedroom where they barricade the door and spend the rest of the night together.
Despite the force of the brush hitting Diane, she said that it didn’t hurt her and it left no physical marks. This was to become a common theme. For the following two years, the Pritchard’s were to be tormented by the poltergeist and it took a specific interest in the 14-year-old Diane.
Whilst the poltergeist was mischievous, throwing things around the house, emptying cupboards, and hovering candlesticks in front of the skeptical Reverend Davy, it wasn’t until said vicar attempted to exercise the property that the more violent attacks started to happen. Night after night, Diane would be thrown from her bed and land with her mattress on top of her – however she said that the attacks never hurt her. On one occasion, a crucifix was flung across the room and stuck to Diane’s back like a magnet. When it was finally pulled off, a red cross shaped mark lingered on her back for days.
Further holy rituals were attempted at the house, one with holy water being splashed in every room of the property in an attempt to drive the spirit out. The following morning, the entity had responded by painting inverted crosses on the back of every door. A deeply religious Aunt came to visit the property and she, together with the whole family, watched as her sheepskin gloves slowly began to rise from the table. Petrified of what she was seeing, the Aunt began to sing Onward Christian Soldiers, only to watch as the disembodied gloves waved in the air as if conducting her song. The Aunt made a hasty exit and the gloves were burnt.
Throughout all these events, the Prichard’s had remained steadfast, refusing to be forced out of their home, but what happened next would push them to the limit.
Diane was making a hot drink one evening. As the kettle boiled, all of the power to the property cut off. Jean went to the kitchen to try and find a torch and as she grasped it, Diane let out a blood-curdling scream. Diane had been dragged from the kitchen and was being pulled up the stairs, on her back, head first, by an unseen force – this time it did hurt, especially the finger marks that were clearly visible around her throat.
Whilst this case is often referred to as the Black Monk of Pontefract, the tall shadowy figure of a cowled monk was only ever seen on a handful of occasions. Once by Joe and Jean in their bedroom, once by the neighbor of the adjoining property and once by Phillip. On this final occasion, Phillip saw the figure slowly sink down into the kitchen floor.
On the day of the final sighting, a friend of Joe’s had recently returned from Scotland and told him that crofters there hung cloves of garlic in their windows and doors to ward off bad spirits. Prepared to try anything, they gave it a go and as quickly as the haunting started, it once again ended. The Pritchard’s had their house back.
NB: As this haunting lasted two years, there are so many incidents that I haven’t been able to include in this story. For a more detailed report, read Colin Wilson’s Poltergeist, A Study in Destructive Haunting. There’s also a wealth of photos and information on 30EastDrive.com.