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The image many people have of a 'haunted house' is one of semi-transparent apparitions moaning as they haul ghostly chains around ancestral homes. Much of this image is derived from books and films. As the case illustrates, real hauntings are more likely to consist of strange,often irritating, goings-on in ordinary houses or, perhaps an English public house.

The White Hart Inn by Tony Wells

[This account first appeared in ANOMALY Number 14],

The White Hart Inn (pseudonym) case started in September 1992 following an article in a local newspaper about our group, SELPRG (South-East London Paranormal Research Group).
The proprietor phoned me, asking if I could help stop the phenomena at the inn which had plagued them so much that no one was prepared to sleep there. In early November 1992 I visited the White Hart Inn with my colleague Jane. The purpose of the visit was to determine whether there was any scope for holding a Vigil

This case had four significant features for me. Firstly, experienced investigators witnessed evidential paranormal events with their own eyes (but not captured on video unfortunately). Secondly, personal experiences during the investigation led me to wonder whether I had some psychic abilities. Thirdly, on two separate occasions,two different video cameras seemed unable to pick up loud noises from a corridor area heard by different investigators, but were sensitive enough to pick uplow-volume background noises. Lastly, the 'cure' for the phenomena was based on quartz crystals - unexpected, but efficacious.

Background

The inn dates back to 1410 and used to be three separate cottages. In 1450 the cottages were joined to become the present building. I had been told by the proprietor that the local historical society has reports that, in Victorian times, the inn was owned by the local mortician, and that his daughter broke her neck falling down the cellar steps.the mummified remains of a baby were found behind the bricks of the chimney in the restaurant area by the former owner, who left the baby there and put a glass screen in front. Since the first visit, several investigators have had a look but could not see anything like a mummified body.
The current owner speculates that the daughter in fact gave birth to the baby. The shame caused the mortician to kill both the daughter and the baby. He is then said to have hidden the baby behind the brickwork and forged the death certificate.

The Inn Today

The building has two levels, plus a cellar. The upstairs level is a private living area, comprising two small bedrooms, a main bedroom, a sitting room, one bathroom with toilet, a separate toilet and a utility room with a shower unit. The floorboards are very creaky.

The downstairs area comprises a bar and restaurant. These are directly underneath the upstairs rooms. Further back are toilets, several other rooms and a kitchen.

From the street, to one side, the house is separated from a dental surgery next door by a passageway two metres wide. The proprietor said that an old woman lives on the other side and does not use the top part of the house.

The Witnesses

There were four principle witnesses - 'Roger' the proprietor, 'Julie' his wife, 'Paul' the bar manager and his partner and restaurant waitress 'Carol'. The proprietor took over the inn in July 1992. Paul and Carol had worked in the pub for several years and had continued to work there when the inn was bought by the current proprietor.

Roger and Julie have two children, aged four and two and a half at the time. Julie and the children stayed at their house in Lowham (pseudonym) to be near their school. At the time of the site visit the proprietor, who used to stay overnight, had become too disturbed by the manifestations and now also slept at Lowham.

Julie described herself as a sceptic and claimed no previous paranormal experience, but said her grandmother was a 'strange woman' and a clairvoyant. Several months after the site visit we discovered that she is a mild epileptic, having been so since her teens, and was taking medication. Somehow this slipped through our initial questioning process.

Roger said he was told he 'had the gift' many years ago. He saw a vision of his friend at approximately the time he died, in the clothes that he died in. Their children seemed lively and 'normal' while observed at play for a few minutes.

Paul and Carol live together. Paul is ex-army and had spent two years in Northern Ireland. He also described himself as a sceptic. He owned a local pub in 1991 and recounted a recurring unexplained problem where the CO2 (carbon dioxide) gas bottle tap in the cellar kept being turned off. He had worked in the inn on and off for several years and said that he had not heard of any unexplained incidents prior to the site visit.

Carol had also worked in the inn for several years. She recounted a previous experience of seeing a vision of her grandmother a few minutes before the hospital rang to say she had died. She also had an experience approximately three years ago when she was downstairs alone in the restaurant area reading a newspaper. She felt something play with her hair. The only other person in the inn at the time was the previous landlady's daughter (then aged seven) asleep in the big bedroom upstairs.

'Susan', the restaurant waitress, had little to report, apart from describing her experience with the two other women, and claimed no previous paranormal experiences.

Anecdotal Reports

The proprietor stated that several women in the bar area had said they had felt themselves being touched on their back or shoulders.

He also said that the previous owner had suffered a complaint by the pensioner next door of loud noises at all hours, coming from the top half of the inn, keeping her awake. On the occasions when she complained no obvious reasons for the noise could be found.

He added that several people (himself included) had seen the ghost of the (presumed) daughter wandering around, and that this haunting was known to the local historical society. This has not been checked. He also said that both the haunting by the daughter downstairs and the 'thumps' from upstairs were widely known about by the locals.

Finally, the proprietor believed that investigators had looked at the site four years previously and torn away a section of the internal wall covering, exposing the brickwork. The torn section is unrepaired and can be inspected.

Recent Witnessed Incidents

Apparition

Approximately three weeks before the site visit, on a Wednesday, Paul woke up to see a figure (apparently male) walk through the closed door of the main bedroom and casually up to the window. The figure turned to look at him, then walked away out through the closed door. He said nothing of this to his partner at the time. This happened just after 4am. He is short-sighted and had to scrabble for his watch and light his lighter to see the time. He believed his short-sightedness prevented him from making out the details of the apparition.

Thumping Noises

The next day, just before opening time, Paul and Carol were the only occupants. They distinctly heard thumping and bumping noises from above the bar area. He described it as sounding like someone running along the corridor upstairs. The bar area is directly below this corridor. No radiators were on upstairs (they occasionally make loud gurgling noises).

Thumping Noises Again

On the Friday, two days after the night 'visitation', the noises occurred again, but this time the sound came from the main bedroom. It was at this time that Paul told his partner Carol about his own experience with the apparition.

Tingling

Approximately two weeks before the site visit, at about 6.30pm, Carol was in the sitting room upstairs, on the settee, brushing her hair using a hand mirror, facing the sitting room door. She began to feel uncomfortable, as if someone was standing behind her, and felt a tingling sensation.

More Thumps and Door Opens

On Friday 6 November, Roger, Paul and two customers were alone in the bar area when they all heard thumps coming from the sitting room above. Roger and Paul investigated but found no explanation. They closed all the doors, and checked the latches were firm.

They heard the thumps again shortly afterwards and found the sitting room door open. There was also a 'musty smell'. One of the customers, a girl, went upstairs and sat on the settee for a few minutes. She then complained of feeling uncomfortable, drank up and left rapidly. She was apparently on holiday, came from Essex, and was staying locally. She never returned.

Items Lost, and Found in Unexpected Places

On the same day as the above, Julie thought she had left her cigarettes in the upstairs bathroom but found them in the upstairs hallway. Later she also thought she had left a baby's bottle on the bar, but found it in the restaurant area.

Yet More Thumping Noises

On phoning (approx 9pm on 8 November) to make arrangements for the site visit, the proprietor reported that more thumping noises had been heard upstairs.

Comments on the Site Visit and Initial Impression
  • Three out of the five people claimed past paranormal experiences, and one of the five was an epileptic.
  • had a headache all the while I was in the inn. Jane and I were in the inn during the two periods 1pm-1.45pm, and 2.30pm-4pm. On both occasions the headache went a few minutes after we left the inn. It could have been the smoky atmosphere.
  • My opinion at the time of the site visit was that either they were all very suggestible people or one or more of them was witnessing some unexplained events.

Accepting all reports at face value, we have quite a combination:

  • Visible apparition of the 'daughter'
  • Audible thumps and footsteps
  • Visible apparition of a 'male' figure
  • Unpleasant feelings, feeling of being watched
  • Touching sensations reported by customers
  • Objects apparently disappearing
  • Door opening
  • While at the inn, Jane and I heard some of the thumping noises, but neither of us was convinced they came from above. The bar was very noisy with customers, and we were some way from the bar area itself, so it was difficult to say exactly where the noise was coming from.
  • The proprietor did not seem particularly interested in seeking publicity, preferring us to keep our investigations private.

Investigators' Own Experiences during Site Visit

When Jane and I were upstairs sketching the floor layout, Jane claimed she distinctly heard someone come up the stairs from the bar and go into the upstairs toilet. We were approximately two metres from the stairs at the time. I was in the utility room off the stairs landing. I did not hear any footsteps on the stairs, but did hear a buzzing noise in my right ear. After a few minutes we discovered there was nobody in the toilet.

The First Vigil

The investigators were Tracy Curl, Robin Laurence, John Spencer and I. The account of this vigil is paraphrased from John Spencer's personal notes, as I felt extremely weird throughout the majority of the time at the inn and was unable to concentrate enough to take notes.

Summary of Principal Events

11.20 pm

John Spencer, Robin Laurence and I were standing together discussing vigil strategy at the top of the stairs next to the bedroom. The door was open and the light was on.
John was standing directly in the doorway and no one else could have reached the light switch without his noticing. The others were a few feet outside the doorway. Suddenly the light went off. Immediately John looked at the light switch, which was in the off position although no one had heard the 'click' of the switch. Robin confirmed that the light had been on, although he did not see it go off (he probably would not have done from where he was standing). I saw something like a blueflash, but did not notice the light go out.

At the same time, from downstairs, several people reported banging sounds at the 'living room' end of the corridor. The apparent location of these seemed to be about five metres from where we were standing. The only people upstairs were ourselves, and we could not have caused the banging as we were together near the bedroom end of the landing. None of us heard the banging sounds reported from downstairs.

2.25 am

I saw laser-like flashes from the ceiling in the bar. At sporadic intervals other members of the group reported similar flashes. At 2.35am John Spencer and I (also witnessed by all members of the vigil over the next few minutes) watched the bar door to the kitchen and toilet opening and closing spontaneously. Members of the vigil examined the door and there were no draughts or vibrations that could have caused the movement. All external windows and doors were shut at the time.

(Note: On one subsequent vigil it was very stormy outside but the door never moved on that occasion). The owners of the inn confirmed that they had never seen the door move like that before. After observing this door moving back and forth, I decided to take my courage in both hands and walk up to the door. As I approached, it dramatically slammed shut in front of me. This happened in full view of John Spencer and other witnesses. In order better to examine the circumstances, the lights in the bar were turned on (they had been off for some time). No obvious cause for the door's behaviour could be found.

2.35 - 2.40 am

John Spencer and I simultaneously saw a white light flashing at the end of the bar, which both of us independently brought to the other people's attention. There was an examination for possible causes, but none could be found. There were no changes of lighting in the streets outside that could have caused the effect.

3.15 am

I found a broom leaning up against a dustbin in the kitchen which I was sure had not been there when I was last in the kitchen. (Note: We were going into the kitchen occasionally to make coffee). Nobody had approached the kitchen during the period, and the staff confirmed that it was definitely not there previously and indeed was not normally left there.

Approximately 4 am

The door to the kitchen and toilet area began moving spontaneously again. Also, at approximately 4am, the other door to the restaurant area was closed, but light was shining through the left-hand side and under the door (the light was on deliberately to allow video recording). The proprietor's wife and John Spencer watched for five to ten minutes as the light changed, seemingly affected by movement and shadows within the restaurant area. However, there was nobody in the restaurant at that time. All members of the vigil team were present in the bar and the only access was from upstairs where the owner's husband was asleep. John quickly reviewed the video recording but there was no sign of anything that could have caused the shadowing effect.

Conclusion on the Second Visit

The vigil seemed to provide reasonably strong evidence for paranormal occurrences at the inn. The first was the light switching itself off. The second was the door opening and closing by itself and finally slamming shut. The third was the strange light effect. Although none of the events was captured on camera, there was plenty of corroborative evidence from other investigators who were able to witness the events. The interesting thing is that none of the phenomena witnessed corresponded to the types of events described by the reportees.

Visit No. 3 - Rescue Medium

After the first vigil, the owners and staff of the inn no longer had any personal doubts - it was definitely haunted and independent investigators had confirmed this. They now wanted it eradicated! To assist with this, we were given the name of a 'rescue' medium who would be willing to visit and see what he could do.

The medium and his assistants arrived at the inn three weeks after the first vigil. He is called a rescue medium because his work is based on the theory that the souls of the dead can sometimes be stuck close to the living plane and are unwilling or too frightened to move to their proper place. The theory is that sometimes spirits seem unable to accept that they have died; in their frustration they cause things to happen, so creating typical poltergeist effects. The spiritualists' way of alleviating the problem is to contact the troubled souls and help them 'to go over to the other side'. This is sometimes called 'helping them towards the light'. I have no particular belief in this theory, but am convinced that in some cases the medium interacts with something and seems to be able to reduce and sometimes completely eradicate poltergeist-type problems. There are, of course, other possible explanations for this type of phenomenon. It is important to state that, when working with paranormal practitioners, I always try to keep an open mind and am willing to suspend personal beliefs during sessions.

The Sittings

Two sessions were attempted by the rescue team. During the first sitting, both the proprietor and I were present. The medium contacted a 'spirit' which seemed to have grey eyes and was wearing a sou'wester. It was 'dispatched towards the light' and the sitting then finished. As per the other visits, I had felt weird throughout the evening, and was interested to note that one of the medium's assistants was feeling similar sensations. The proprietor left after the first sitting to eat his supper. The weird sensation continued after the closing of the first sitting, and so it was decided to attempt a second sitting. At the second sitting my companion in weird feelings tried communicating with another spirit, which seemed to have the name 'Frederick Hannaby'. Almost simultaneously with contacting 'Frederick', a crescendo of noise was heard from above; no one was on that floor at the time.

Conclusion of Rescue Visit

The rescue medium had brought a video camera which recorded the sittings. Several months after the event I was able to view a copy of the tape recording and was surprised to find an interesting anomaly. I seemed to remember that at one easily identifiable point during the second sitting there was a lot of crashing and banging coming from upstairs, but there seemed to be no corresponding sounds on the camera's recording. All that the camera had recorded on sound was the clatter of knife and fork as the proprietor ate his supper. The camera was obviously sensitive enough to pick up sounds in the next room, but seemed to be unable to pick up the cascade of noise that I remembered. After scratching my head a bit I checked my contemporaneous notes - sure enough, my notes confirmed my memory: 'As [deleted name] stood up to communicate with the spirit there were noises from upstairs that sounded like a team of firemen playing football'.

Further Vigils

Although the rescue medium seemed to have been able to reduce the phenomena for a few days, the proprietor reported a week later that things were back to their old levels. On advice we obtained a referral from the rescue medium to a couple who were able to deal with difficult cases. Unfortunately they were not able to come for another two months, and during this waiting period the proprietor was kind enough to allow us to run three more vigils. The phenomena at the subsequent vigils seemed to be at a much lower level; no physical movement, such as happened with the door, was detected.

There was one item in common for each of those subsequent vigils - at approximately 5:45 each morning various investigators reported the sound of footsteps along the corridor section above. In all three cases, the proprietor, his wife and both children were (presumably) sleeping in two separate bedrooms upstairs.

On the final vigil we had a camera on the upstairs floor facing the corridor area. On examining the tape recording, nothing was visible during the time the footsteps were heard, and no unusual sounds were heard. However, the camera was sensitive enough to pick up the sounds of snoring, the pub sign swinging outside and the church bells two hundred metres up the road.

Epilogue

The exorcists, which they call themselves because they are often asked to deal with difficult or persistent cases, visited the inn in mid-February 1993. Unfortunately I could not be present during their visit, but Robin Laurence and Tracy Curl kindly offered to observe. Apparently the circumstances were not ideal as the proprietor's and Robin's children teamed up to make considerable noise and disruption!

Nevertheless, despite the poor operating conditions, the exorcists' visit completely cured the problems. The cure seems to have been permanent, as the proprietor reports no more incidents. I spoke to the exorcists later and they described to me their cure for this case. After some dowsing they discovered that there were some negative ley lines which caused excessive negative energy at the inn. This, they said, attracted lower energy 'entities' which caused disruption and uncomfortable feelings. They counterbalanced the negative energies with quartz crystals, which were placed on the positive ley lines. They went on to say that quartz amplifies energy, and the crystals (nine in all) amplified the positive energy and resulted in a proper energy balance at the inn. The crystals were placed in the cellar, and the proprietor was given instructions not to move them.

Case Conclusion

There is no doubt that the reportees at the inn were troubled by their experiences, and that they continued to be troubled until the exorcists visited the inn. My personal view, based on the lessening phenomena over the last three vigils, was that the phenomena seemed to have reached a peak in October/November 1991 and were on their way out by the time the exorcists visited. Nevertheless, the exorcists seemed to have done the trick with their crystals.

POSTSCRIPT

This case was conducted by Tony Wells (an ASSAP member) with his group, SELPRG (the South-East London Paranormal Research Group). SELPRG are affiliated to ASSAP and work closely with us. To date there have been no further reports of phenomena at this site. Whatever was picked up by the mediums (modern theories of leys do not regard them as 'energy' but ancient sacred alignments), the phenomena imply something was present. The phenomena reported were mostly physical in nature (lights, sounds, movement). There was also some apparent intelligence shown (the closing door apparently reacting to Tony's approach). This case is typical of many investigated by ASSAP and others. There is clearly something quite complex going on though not a moaning, chain-dragging wraith in sight!