Yorkshire’s terrifying Black Monk of Pontefract poltergeist was anything but a hoax, says RICK HALE

Throughout history there have been several cases where an unsuspecting family was forced to endure the terrifying activity of a poltergeist.

Many in the field of psychical research consider the Enfield poltergeist to be the case by which all others are weighed.

However, when considering poltergeist cases my money is on a case that has gained a great deal of notoriety over the last few years.

The poltergeist outbreak known menacingly as the Black Monk of Pontefract.

The Black Monk of Pontefract arrives…

The poltergeist made its appearance in the Pritchard home at 30 East Drive, Pontefract, England on 1 September, 1966.

Joe, his wife Jean and their 12 year old daughter, Diana were away on a trip while 15 year old Phil stayed home with his grandmother.

The night of the initial outbreak started innocently enough. Phil was running around the neighborhood with his friends while grandma sat in her favorite chair knitting peacefully. But that peace came to an abrupt end when Phil entered the house followed by an icy wind that whipped through the house causing the door to violently slam. Phil and his grandmother thought nothing of this strange wind despite it being summer.

Phil greeted his grandmother and went to the kitchen for a glass of water. When he returned to the living room he was greeted by an inexplicable sight. A fine white mist fell from a space just below the ceiling over his grandmother’s head. The boy and the elderly woman watched in astonishment as the powdery mist coated everything in sight. They looked at each other knowing this mist was not normal.

After a few moments of watching the mist, Phil went to kitchen to see if it was happening there as well. He was shocked to see that large puddles of water had formed on the kitchen floor. When she saw the water, granny immediately called the water department to report a possible broken pipe. When the repairman arrived he was just as stumped as the residents. He couldn’t find anything that could account for the mysterious water. At first, Phil and his grandmother weren’t frightened, they just regarded this as a strange coincidence. That changed when a heavy chest of drawers seemed to take on a life of it’s own. They watched in terror as the large piece of furniture swayed and moved away from the wall. Without a second thought they gathered a few belongings and stayed the night at a nearby relative’s house.

Initial scepticism soon fades away

When Joe and Jean returned from their trip, Phil and his grandmother quickly summarized the strange events that occurred while they were away. Joe Pritchard, being the skeptical sort, would have nothing to do with such nonsense. To him, there was no such things as ghosts and ghouls that haunted houses. Joe’s skepticism would soon fade away replaced by fear of the unknown.

As the days passed the activity in the house aggressively progressed. Bed sheets were torn from beds. Loud knocks that sounded like large hands pounding issued from the walls at all hours of the day. The bizarre activity in the house prompted Joe to tell his neighbors what he and his family were experiencing. Despite his previous skepticism, Joe, now believed some unknown force invaded his home. Friends told him they knew of a man, a ghost hunter, who had an interest in these matters. Joe was desperate and hoped this ghost hunter could give him and his family the answers they needed.

When the ghost hunter, Mr O’Donald arrived, the Pritchards filled him in on all they had experienced up to that point. Upon hearing their stories, Mr O’Donald knew exactly what the family had been dealing with. It was his opinion that the family had a poltergeist in their home.

Sensing their anxiety the ghost hunter told them that a poltergeist was neither a ghost or a demon, but rather uncontrolled psychic energy. He further told them this inexplicable force liked to throw and break objects and for whatever reason delighted in destroying photographs. He assured them that this energy didn’t last long and would soon fade away. Mr O’Donald bid his farewells and left for the night.

Shortly after he departed, the family heard a loud crash come from the upstairs hall. Joe and his wife raced upstairs and found their wedding picture torn down the middle and the frame smashed to pieces. The prospect of the poltergeist being able to listen to conversations filled the husband and wife with anxiety. For the first time, Joe and Jean felt real fear.

Black Monk of Pontefract

The weeks following Mr O’Donald’s visit was nothing short of hellish. The poltergeist seemed to become more relentless in it’s campaign of terror. Pictures were thrown from the walls, furniture would slide across the floor even as people sat in it and personal belongings were smashed to pieces. One night Joe Pritchard had had enough when his 12 year old daughter was pulled from her bed and thrown to the floor. As she tearfully reported the event to her parents, an unseen hand grabbed the girl and dragged her screaming up the stairs. Joe and Jean did the only logical thing they could thing of, they contacted the local church and begged for an exorcism.

When they spoke to the priest he was sceptical. It was extraordinarily rare to be contacted over something the church considered, medieval. But the priest responded and when he finished the ancient ritual the poltergeist immediately attacked. The house was suddenly filled with the sound of dozens of bowling balls striking the roof and a heavy candlestick leaped from the mantle and hung in the air infront of the priest. The man of God was so terrified he ran from the house screaming an evil spirit inhabited the home. As the Pritchards watched the priest flee into the night all they could think was, now what.

Black Monk poltergeist has sense of humour

Poltergeists are often characterized by their mean spirited antics, but this one seemed to have a sense of humor. One day, Jean’s aunt came for a visit after hearing about the activity in the house. When she entered the home, she loudly exclaimed she didn’t believe in ghosts and goblins. Without warning a jug of milk flew out of the kitchen and dumped it’s contents over the head of the aunt. Exasperated by such disrespect, the aunt left and never returned.
Following the hilarious episode the poltergeist seemed to take a break from it’s shenanigans and things returned to normal. That was until the monk appeared. One night as Joe and Jean slept they were awakened from their slumber by an odd noise. When they looked to the foot of their bed their gaze was greeted by an alarming apparition. A large man dressed in a flowing black robe stood silently at the foot of their bed. The couple watched in disbelief as the robed figure dissipated into thin air. The next day Joe told his neighbor about the apparition and the neighbor told him a frightening tale. Hundreds of years ago a monastery of Cluniac monks stood nearby. According to the neighbor, the monks committed some grievous sin and were executed. Joe couldn’t help but wonder if one of those vengeful monks was the cause of all this horror.

Over the next several months the ghostly black monk made numerous unnerving appearances. Most of the time the apparition appeared and stared at family members before it faded away before their shocked eyes. But then one day the activity abruptly ceased. The poltergeist stopped throwing things around the house and the black monk never returned. For over two years the Pritchard family lived in abject fear in their own home, but now it appeared to be over. Life finally returned to normal. As normal as things could possibly be after experiencing such terror.

The unnerving case of the Black Monk of Pontefract is considered to be one of the most aggressive hauntings on record. However not all feel this way. Some researchers regard this case as nothing more than a clever hoax, mostly due to the lack of evidence concerning the Cluniac monastery and it’s proximity to the house. For the Pritchard family they know their two years of hell was anything but a hoax.

Read the review of When the Lights Went Out (2012) – the film based on The Black Monk of Pontefract case – here.

Rick Hale
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