JOHN FRASER, author of Poltergeist: A New Investigation of Destructive Hauntings, goes hunting for the truth behind the Thornton Heath poltergeist…
When writing my new book Poltergeist: A New Investigation of Destructive Hauntings, I decided to research my local areas of Croydon and Thornton Heath in London to help prove a point that poltergeist activity was quite a common event. The argument being if they can be shown to be quite common in typical suburbs like Croydon, they are likely common elsewhere.
On commencing my research, I quickly came upon the well documented 1930s case of the Thornton Heath Poltergeist.
Researching Thornton Heath Poltergeist
This is a case for which I found local newspaper cuttings, and a full-length book written by Nandor Fodor – a case in short which very clearly happened.
The incidents themselves involved the Forbes family in their normal terraced house, coincidentally in the next street to mine in Thornton Heath.
On contacting the press about unusual incidents, a team of two reporters from the Sunday pictorial was faced with a selection of flying objects which included eggs and shattering china and glass. The local paper, the Croydon Advertiser. had a narrow escape when a large wardrobe fell on the bed of a bedroom he was about to enter to inspect.
Croydon was to show its fair share of cases, including what was the King Cellars pub where investigators Guy Lyon Playfair and Maurice Grosse (of Enfield Poltergeist fame) were to discover that bottles and glasses flew off the shelves, along with unexplained cold spots and a till that malfunctioned to register £999.00 which if nothing else was a tremendously frightening bar bill. It was reputed that the activity was caused by a suicide a young lady who flung herself off the adjacent towering office block, but there seemed little direct documentation to support such a view.
However, such positive reports about poltergeist activity in Croydon were confused by a separate case – confusingly also while doing further Internet searches on the 1930s Thornton Heath poltergeist, on this I found a fairly common cross-reference to a 1970s case also known as the ‘Thornton Heath’ Poltergeist.
This was the story of an ordinary family being haunted by previous 18th century residents of the house, named as the Chattertons – which has subsequently become retold in a small budget movie called The Thornton Heath Poltergeist (2017). This sounded fascinating enough to include in my list of local cases so initially I did. As of course did that well-known respected website called Spooky Isles! (A full version of this engaging tale can be shown in this link.)
However, when I contacted the movie’s website for more information on the case, the respondent simply made references to the fact that the story had been fully sourced from the web. For a 1970s case, an initial source on from the web would surely not have been possible so I decided to try to find the initial source, a process which I believe is invaluable to show a case’s authenticity. From studying the various web sources. I also started to notice that they were in most cases were very close to being a ‘copy and paste’ of near exactly the same story – but where did that story come from ?
I started adding to the comments sections of the websites that were publicising the tale – surely someone would have to possess the initial source?
Trouble authenticating Thornton Heath poltergeist case
This included ‘Real Paranormal Experiences’, where on asking for the source of the story, the administrator said the contributor, called ‘Glyn’, was no longer contactable. I also noticed that a lady from the film project was also posting comments. She was asking for people with first-hand experiences of this poltergeist, and also obtaining no response.
I also contacted ‘MindSetCentral.com’ where exactly the same story was featured and where ‘Kenton’ also from Thornton Heath was asking where the house was located, stating he was very familiar with the area and that he could not imagine where it was. Sadly neither I nor my fellow Thornton Heath-ite called Kenton appeared to get any public response.
I then found that this version of the Thornton Heath Poltergeist (1970s) was starting to get an (after) life all of its own sometimes occasionally with the facts mixed up from its 1930s namesake.
When I looked at YouTube, I saw no less than four or five recent video renditions of the same material. These included a presentation by a USA video blogger called ‘Lady Invasion’, who, to her credit, had obtained an old map of Thornton Heath and was speculating as to where the poltergeist house could be. The Thornton Heath poltergeist (1970s) was gaining international fame with another YouTube presentation “El Poltergeist de Thornton Heath” made by video blogger Dark Kruck. To be fair it was impossible to tell in this good looking production if he had new information due to difficulties with translation.
When the Thornton Heath poltergeist (1970s) first appeared on Spooky Isles, I must admit I was getting a little irritated at the same story appearing without a source and posted a comment to the author requesting he take the post down if there was no original source to the story. Of course. as I am sure all Spooky Isles correspondents would, the author of the article was good enough to reply. Author Rick Hale, from Chicago USA, acknowledged his source was the Internet (nothing wrong with that generally as the internet can be a powerful factual tool) but quoted one of his main sourcing site’ as …. wait for it … www.realparanormalexperiences.com.
This was also my first found source. so in effect I had come full circle and reached a dead end. There is no therefore indication as to where this story may have originally emerged.
Now taking account of the following facts :
- There is no discovered original source of the tale.
- No address or location of the house.
- The fact that Thornton Heath was just a small village in the 18th century centring around Thornton Heath Pond and few if any buildings from that time remain. To quote from History of Thornton Heath page on Wikipedia: “the pre-19th-century picture of Thornton Heath is of a desolate valley with lonely farmsteads sheltering desperate outlaws, with the hangman’s noose the only recognised authority” and that even by 1818 Thornton Heath was a “the hamlet around the Pond had become a village containing 68 houses”. It was only with the coming of Thornton Heath railway in 1851 that the population started to expand becoming 15,000 by the start of the 20th century. All this shows the scope for an 18th century house to have existed and still exist is very limited.
- That the story has ‘too good to be true’ touches such as a ghost coming out of the TV (aka Spielberg’s Poltergeist movie), a shaking Christmas Tree (we all love a good ghost story at Christmas as shown by the constant Christmas TV adoptions of the Ghost Stories of M.R. James).
It seems to me quite likely that someone may be sitting back enjoying the fact that their little ghostly ‘creation’ now has a full-length movie and numerous worldwide presentations both on paranormal blogs and visually on YouTube and let’s face it initially at least in my new book as well. This type of whimsical case in common in romanticised ghost stories of centuries ago but as relatively recent poltergeist cases go, could actually be a first – a first for my home area of Thornton Heath in the town of Croydon?
Either way I’m still very curious to know – so if you know (or are) the source of the story please do contact me either way your factual or fictional tale has both put my home town on the map and quite possibly taught us all something more about finding more than one source (and ideally the original one) when you research a subject.
If the reader is aware of this case or simply curious to find out more about the equally elusive subject of poltergeists, Poltergeist: A New Investigation into Destructive Haunting, is available on Amazon and any other good book sellers. Or feel free to contact [email protected] as at the time of writing the author still has a few signed copies for sale, due to cancelled talks because of COVID-19 lockdown.