Uncanny Case 3: The Oxford Exorcism TV REVIEW

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Uncanny’s Case 3 explores a chilling tale of paranormal activities and an attempted exorcism among Oxford students. GAYLE FIDLER tells us more

Uncanny Case 3: The Oxford Exorcism TV REVIEW

Uncanny: The Oxford Exorcism

This episode of the Danny Robins television series of Uncanny is a sad tale. Three promising theology students at Oxford University. Their lives and friendships torn apart by a joint experience, which they believe to be paranormal. Fuelled by something evil in their student house. 

The atmosphere for the Oxford Exorcism starts as we see Robins taking part in a ghost tour around old Oxford. Dimly lit streets, a guide in Victorian dress, swinging a lantern as he leads the way. 

But the scene is not set for this episode. Robins tells us that this case did not take place in the streets of old Oxford.  The setting is somewhere far more ordinary. With Robins as our guide in his trademark red anorak, we are taken back to 1992. A modernised three-bedroom, Victorian railway workers cottage in south Oxford. Rented out as student accommodation. The house had been built on old marshland, in the grounds of what was once a vicarage. 

Heather describes the haunting

Heather is the witness for this episode’s events. She was a second-year university student when the incidents took place. It is clear from her testimony that what happened has continued to haunt her for the rest of her life. Now a librarian, described by Robins as “deeply sensible,” she appears to be an honest witness, with a disturbing tale. 

Heather and two friends, Deborah and Toddy took on the property, which is not named or shown in the programme for anonymity purposes. The house seemed to be a dream student find. Heather describes it as being much cleaner and tidier than others that they had viewed. But the dream was soon to become a nightmare. 

Deborah did not want to be interviewed for the episode. Toddy, however, does come on camera to give his version of events. No longer living in the UK, he agreed to fly back at the invitation of Robins to take part in the show. A credible, genuine individual. He joined a monastery after leaving university and now works abroad as a therapist. 

Before they moved into the property, something odd had already occurred. Heather describes waking from a dream in which she was warned against taking the house. Upon later discussing this with Deborah and Toddy, it became apparent that all three had a similar dream. A premonition? Robins asks. A warning that the trio should not move in. Unfortunately, it was a warning that they ignored. 

Strange events in the house started in the kitchen. Heather and Deborah came home one evening to find Toddy agitated. He had been hearing a voice all day yet had been alone in the house. The voice sounded like that of an old lady. It was not long before Heather and Deborah began to hear it as well. Mumbling and muttering, not quite sensical. 

Things started to escalate, noises from the room upstairs which Deborah slept in. It sounded like furniture being moved. Yet when the three went to investigate, everything was just as it had been left. Nothing had been touched. 

A further incident happened in the kitchen. Both Heather and Deborah witnessed a cake tin move from one side of a table to another, apparently on its own. 

“A single cake tin, does not a poltergeist make.” Parapsychologist Evelyn Hollow states as she discusses her thoughts on the case with Robins and psychologist Dr Ciarán O’Keeffe. However, Hollow does feel this may have the makings of poltergeist phenomena. 

O’Keefe has his usual sceptical stance. Explaining the sounds that the three interpreted as an old lady, may be due to pareidolia. The human brain, finding patterns in random objects, where there is none. This time auditory pareidolia.

Further events in the house begin to cause the trio to become more and more frightened. Strange mists are seen in different rooms. Environmental causes, Robins wonders, but Heather disagrees. Stereos turn themselves on when unplugged. Electrical malfunction or audio hallucination suggests O’Keefe. 

A terrifying event, when Heather heard a disembodied man’s voice from the foot of her bed, which paralysed her with fear. “You think this is it, but it’s not.” The voice warned her. 

The voices predictions came true, and their nightmares continued. The trio turned to the one weapon they had between them. Their faith.

Starting with daily prayer sessions, done on a rota basis. However, these sessions soon proved to be futile. Heather describes an experience where she felt the presence was laughing at her. “We felt so human, small and helpless against what was there.” Terrified, the three all began sleeping in the same room, but things got worse.

O’Keefe has another theory behind the cause of the phenomena. The house is sited near a railway interchange. Infrasound created by the railway, could be a possible cause for some of the things the students were experiencing. Hollows disagrees. Why where other houses in the area not reporting similar occurrences? She argues. 

With the help of sound engineer and renowned paranormal investigator Steve Parsons, Robins puts the infrasound theory to the test, in an aircraft hanger with interesting results. Infrasound is a low frequency sound which can have physical effects. Parsons describes that sounds of 19Hz (the fear frequency) can manifest as a sense of uneasiness, light-headedness, cold and even possession. 

Back in 1992, the trio were forced to take the only step they think is possible to get help. They ask a priest to perform an exorcism. Which he dually does, in every room except the bathroom.

Ethical debate on exorcisms

The topic of exorcism opens a whole ethical debate by Hollow and O’Keefe. The case of Anneliese Michel who tragically died in 1976 after being subject to 67 Catholic exorcism rites is discussed. The parents and priest were convicted of negligent homicide following her death. 

Heather explains that in Oxford, the exorcism did not work. Events escalated in the student house.  Heather describes a petrifying incident of being awoken by Toddy sitting up in bed and speaking in strange languages. Toddy does not recall the incident, but does agree that it is possible that something took over his body. Was this a case of possession? 

Unfortunately for the three, the incidents in the house became so traumatic they were forced to move. Heather received counselling for her trauma and unfortunately, as part of this she was advised to sever all ties with Toddy. A decision which she now deeply regrets. They had not seen each other for 30 years, until Uncanny came knocking and the pair are reunited through their shared experiences of the Oxford Exorcism. 

This episode is a tragic depiction of how three very close friends were torn apart by something terrible. Whether it be paranormal or social contagion, fuelled by beliefs and fears. The case of the Oxford Exorcism is now handed over to the Uncanny community to decide.

Tell us your thoughts on this episode in the comments section below!

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