RUTH ROPER WYLDE describes the poltergeist events that plagued her home as a teenager, growing up in Welwyn, Hertfordshire
I do a lot of interviews now in my role as an author who writes exclusively (so far!) about the paranormal. I’m often asked what started my interest in the subject, and I usually quote one or two of my childhood experiences, and very often mention that one of our houses had poltergeist type activity whilst we were there. (Another had apparitions, so that one sometimes gets a mention too!).
The house with the poltergeist (formed from the German root and meaning literally, “noisy spirit”) was in Oaklands, a suburb of old Welwyn, in Hertfordshire. (Not the sprawling modern Welwyn Garden City, but the quaint old village it took its name from).
We moved into that house when I was maybe 11 or 12? I can’t quite remember, but it would have been approximately that age, and I lived there until I moved out to start my adult life, at the age of 19. My parents continued to live there for a while longer before deciding to move down to Wiltshire.
I honestly cannot tell you what the “first” incident was – there were so many little things over the years they all kind of blend together – so I’m just going to pick out a few to give you an idea. And before you ask about how scared we were – the answer is most of the time, not at all. Things would happen in broad daylight, in the most mundane of settings, so you were more puzzled than scared. Every now and then, though, “it” would pull a stunt which properly scared you. (I’ve realised whilst writing this article that I have always thought of it as “it”, not as a person).
Sounds in the night
One of its favourite tricks was to create loud, inexplicable sounds – often late in the evening or in the wee small hours of the morning. One regular tease was to wait until you were making your evening drink to take up to bed (for me back then, usually warm milk), and as you stood at the counter going through the familiar routine, it would sound like someone had dropped a massive pane of glass right behind your bare feet – so that you instinctively squealed and jumped out of the way of the breaking glass.
Needless to say – there was nothing there.
One night, it upped the game a little and woke my mother, my sister and I with an almighty crashing and banging. My father was away on business (he travelled the world a lot in those days) and my brother slept through it. We women gathered on the landing in our nightwear, urgently trying to work out what had just happened. It had sounded like a cabinet falling off a wall, with all the crockery inside smashing as it fell. We lived in a small cul de sac in a quiet residential warren of back streets, so there was no traffic to have caused the noise. We rushed downstairs thinking one of the lounge cabinets had somehow fallen over, but nothing was disturbed. We thought some more, then rushed out into the garage to see if one of my father’s precious competition motorcycles had fallen over – again drawing a blank.
In my research over the years, I’ve been struck by the similarity of sound that other people who have lived with a poltergeist describe – this falling, crashing sound is quite common it seems.
Most people I talk to in my research describe moving objects as ones which mysteriously move whilst you weren’t looking at them. You know – the “I put it down on the table, turned my back for a moment, and now its sitting on the chair” type thing. It leaves you slightly wondering whether you absentmindedly moved it, even though you are sure you didn’t.
Not so our poltergeist. It liked to move things in plain sight – whilst you were watching. Like the tea-towel crumpled on the kitchen work surface one evening at around 6pm in summertime (broad daylight) – which neatly flattened itself out and folded itself three ways into a square whilst my mother and I watched in astonishment.
Or the butter knife which we watched as it started lazily spinning on the table, then spun to the edge of the table, and through the air like a falling sycamore seed – eventually reaching the floor over eight feet away. (I know. My mother measured it.)
Turning lights on and off, the cooker off at the wall (whilst you were standing there cooking) were favourite tricks too. Sometimes, it got so annoying with the cooker switch thing, I would get fed up as it turned it off for the umpteenth time and stand with one hand held protectively over the switch and the other hand stirring my pan of food so that I could at least get my dinner finished! This actually worked – which makes me think now as an investigator that whatever it was, must have been using an external force to click down on the switch – so my hand protecting it was sufficient deterrent…
Scary at times
On a number of occasions, it waited until my poor sister was in the bath, and would then pound and shake the bathroom door until she screamed. For the last couple of years we lived there, she flat would not go to the bathroom alone after dark. I had to go with her – and when I once accompanied her so she could bathe in peace it tried the trick again – even though I flung the door open to reveal no one actually there.
Just occasionally, it would change the atmosphere in the house to one of a brooding, angry feel – like something was watching you and you were in actual danger. It did that to me once when I was trying to revise for my A levels and was home alone. It got so bad, I went out and sat on the bumper of our Landrover even after it started to rain, and wouldn’t go back in until someone came home. It’s hard to describe how visceral that feeling was – you couldn’t just brush it off or ignore it – you just had to get away.
And every once in a while it would upset our family dog – Shep – who would watch it moving around the room, growling ferociously – but slinking away in fear if “it” came too close.
There are dozens more incidents I could think of – and some you will find documented in my books, but we never did find out what caused it. Apparently, according to my research, people living in the house after us never had experienced anything untoward.
RUTH ROPER WYLDE is the author of four books on the paranormal, These Haunted Times – Volume One, The Almanac of British Ghosts, The Ghosts of Marston Vale and The Roadmap of British Ghosts, which are available on Amazon as paperback or e-book. You can follow her on Twitter @RuthRoperWylde and Facebook @RuthRoperWylde.