The address of 30 East Drive, Chequerfield, Pontefract, Yorkshire, will be very familiar if you are a seasoned dabbler into 'the paranormal'. It intrigues and delights the curious mind, and for many it is one of THE sites to get into, if at all possible. For those not attuned to the fame of this red brick semi, I'll briefly bring you up-to date.
In the late 1960's the Pritchard family moved into No.30 East Drive, an unassuming estate house in the historic town of Pontefract. Deluged in battle-worn memories and once part of a monastic web of religious communities that spread across England up until the dissolution of the monasteries, the house stands on special ground.
The family consisted of Joe and Jean, the parents of teenage offspring, Phillip and Diane. When 'strange things' began to occur in the house such as a definite layer of fine dust manifesting and falling from below the ceiling, the tea maker deciding to spray loose leaves all over the kitchen, and pot plants launching themselves up the stairs, assumptions were made. Was it Diane pranking? Was Diane the focus of apparent poltergeist infestation? Well perhaps - the fact that polt' activity was prevalent is not to be disputed, for things that followed such as fur gloves rising up and conducting to music on the wireless, and the hurling of a grandmother clock down the stairs, are classic poltergeist doings. There were also multiple sightings of a cloaked and hooded figure, and so the idea of a monk being the cause of the activity quickly became the preferred version of The Truth, even if it has little bearing on the matter. The polt' and the monk are two entirely different entities.
So anyway, most folks believed Diane to be the cause of the activity. But in fact, having spoken to who I feel is the leading expert in this matter in present times at least (for Joe died in the house and Jean only recently passed away in a nursing home not far from the house, Philip and Diane want nothing to do with the place), the focus was not the teenage daughter, but Philip.
Back in the day, especially within the tough mining community of Pontefract, to have a homosexual son would have been more than a taboo. It would have to be concealed at all costs, and Joe made sure that his son's sexuality was kept tightly under wraps - and violence was most likely used. Joe was a heavy drinker, and one can only surmise what went on within those walls, the supressed emotion, fear and misery of a teenage boy on the brink of manhood, yet unable to express himself. At all. However, it was Diane who made the headlines, when she was dragged upstairs by her throat by the unseen entity.
The bouts of activity were fairly brief but with a long spell of not much in between, and after the family dispersed, a film was made all about what had apparently gone on inside No.30. It was called When the Lights Went Out. It is rather 'Hollywooded up', but according to those who knew, the core activity that was shown was pretty accurate. The producer, Bil Bungay, discovered that the actual house was vacant and up for sale. He purchased it, and leases it to curious 'ghosters' to spend a few hours inside, or to the more hardy to stay overnight for an 18 hour period.
And that's just what I did, with my three companions Jack (my husband), Dave (author and historian), and Luke, ex-prison staff from Shepton. That's how we met, I mean the other two not Jack because we met in Greece, but anyway... we made quite the odd team. Dave is the 'science bod' and came equipped with box loads of experimental gear and copious, nay dangerous, amounts of Red Bull. Luke was until working at the prison, a total sceptic but is now in the process of a total 180, and my Jack is a very sceptical sort on the verge of not being bothered at all.
We accomplished the five hour drive (to the minute I may add, now how's that for perfect planning?!) 15 minutes ahead of Luke and Dave, and therefore we squeezed first into the narrow drive of No.30. It was ever so strange actually being there, what with the history of the place. The front garden was kept very neatly, but the back was rather drab, complete with an old mattress apparently slung out of the back door. But I was excited, who cared about a bit of fly tipping?
The others rocked up and eased carefully into the drive nose-to-nose with Jack's Mazda, and we closed the rickety gate and proceeded next door to collect the key from the also rather famous Carol. We were greeted by chorus of little dog yaps, and then Carol herself. Not feeling 100%, and on recognising Dave and Luke from their trip to the house in November 2022, the key was handed over forthwith with no need for a tour. We were 3 hours early so I feel that was very generous. So what we actually ended up with was 21hrs inside the house instead of 18. For the price I'd say that's pretty good going... It works out at £3.21 an hour per each!
Having read copious volumes on the haunting of the house, it was hammered home that stays here are either all or nothing in terms of activity. Naturally the place is going to be depleted of surface energy because there are teams there literally, every night of the week. Mainly ghost hunt groups of ten attendees (way too many in my opinion, it's not a giant house), and anything from one to four private groups during the week.
Of course we were hoping for an 'all' sort of night/morning, but it seemed that it started full of promise and then dwindled to nothing. However, retrospectively, that was to change. Looking back on what actually happened, 'things' were happening, and something was most definitely trying to communicate and give us what we'd asked for.
I began by a walk-through that I filmed. I noted where things were (marbles in particular, other groups had left them lying about in clusters) and random items made to make the place feel creepy. Dolls and suchlike. I don't really care for tat in 'haunted' locations. Just like The Ram in Gloucester, too much charity shop tat detracts from the truth of the place, and although No.30 wasn't quite so crammed with the stuff as The Ram, it was difficult to tell what was here during the Pritchards' time here and what was false.
Upstairs there were several toys in Diane's room - and I moved a heavy purple toy push chair out to the top of the landing by the charity shop grandmother clock, and placed a dog toy in it. It was almost flush to the wall and far back. I asked out loud for any entity with the power to do so, to during our stay give it a good old push! I'll tell you what happened in a moment.
We set up our gear in the kitchen, and that's when the first marble of Dave's, that came from an unopened bag, appeared on a little terracotta saucer on the microwave in the corner. We knew that it was Dave's because it was one of those that kept making an appearance at the prison, and was marked with a distinct black X. We were on a high after this apport. This to our mind, was the start of things, and it was only 17:04!
Andy Evans, author and now friend, knocked on the door at just gone 18:00hrs, and we chatted briefly altogether in the kitchen before heading upstairs to Philip's bedroom, where we were shown a montage of video and photo evidence by Andy, all of it captured in the house over the years. However, before we went up, Andy had been talking, and we all heard loud and distinct footsteps above us. At the same time, the Rem-Pod sounded briefly at the foot of the stairs.
When setting up the projector via his laptop, the password that he'd been using all day refused to work, and a good 15 minutes were spent trying over and over. It was malfunctioning, but finally, using the same password he'd been trying, he was allowed into the laptop. That morning Andy had been checking the projector over and had received a nasty and significant burn on his hand. Had the entity known he was coming, and was warming up? With what happened an hour later, I think this may have been the case. Let's not forget that Andy has spent hundreds of hours inside the property, and was well-known by whatever inhabited it.
After Andy had left, Luke and Dave went to get some milk and loo roll (the previous night's team had left the place bare), Jack went for a nap in Joe and Jean's room, and I did some recording. As I began my phone rang, and it was Andy.
"It must have kicked off for you by now - I just got home, and the budgie's cage was open and the tele was on!" - Andy
The budgie's cage is an awkward one to open generally, and with nobody at home and the bird incapable of such a feat, the TV left turned off, I think that the entity had been rather pleased to see Andy again! On the flip side for us, it all went ever so quiet. Or so we thought.
We did some board work, got some good YES/NO answers, and I recorded when I could. Throughout the night we noted each independently, that the push chair with the toy dog had moved.
At first it was a case of, "Errr... Has that moved a bit?" Then after at time there was no question at all, the thing had shifted at least 3 times. Luckily I have valid time-stamped photos to prove this, and if you believe that none of us did it (and none of us did) then this is great evidence. In fact by the following lunchtime and our impending hour of departure, when I made to put it back in Diane's room, the pram was way over, and quite literally placed to tip over the top step at the next movement.
I fully believe that this was the plan by whichever entity was there with us that night, because there was something, or someone. I believe that they really were trying for us - it's just that what with the depleted energy in the place, doing such an act meant summoning lots of their own energy. I think that if we'd stayed another few hours, that pram would have toppled down that staircase, and given us the show we'd been waiting for! I reiterate; none of us moved it. Even brushing against it would have done nothing, for it was deceptively heavy. The wheel were metal and the little tyres solid rubber. If glanced from the side, it would likely judder a little but not move, and even pushing forward wouldn't really do much, especially if brushed just in passing by a trouser leg, for example. No, the pram moving was The Real Deal. And it certainly wasn't the only impressive thing to happen during our stay…
During a bit of a calling out session our two walkie-talkie radios kept on bursting into life, which although this seemed to be perfect timing (it only happened during this 40 minutes session, not before or after, or indeed since), we did hear a man ask if anyone else was on channel 8. So yes, we’d picked up some strange handheld radio club in Pontefract, but it was odd that it only happened when it did. Also, as my Jack pointed out, the speaker would have had to be very close by. My little radios are weak, not much more than kids’ toys really. We changed channels and still the voices kept butting in, mainly female but the last time was this man. Then all was quiet. During this session on the Thursday night something pinged off of our little table as we all sat round it at the foot of the stairs, but due to the half light, we never saw what it was. It wasn’t a marble, and it sounded metallic. Sweeps with the light on revealed nothing either.
After around 6 hours of not much, we all went to bed. Dave found a pound coin on his camp bed that had not been there before. He had no change on him, and his pockets were empty. This was around midnight. At 2am myself, Dave and Luke got up and tried again to encourage activity downstairs in the living room. At 4am, we gave up and returned to our uncomfortable beds. Jack was snoring away like a walrus, and I crept into my sleeping back noisily, the rubber lined bedsheet not helping the cause!
At 5.30am approximately I went to the toilet downstairs, and must have disturbed Dave. After I returned briefly to bed I heard him get up and start to set up an experiment by Diane's room's door. The previous evening he'd experienced someone sitting noisily next to him as he sat on Diane's bed, and very unlike Dave, he shot out of the room like a startled rabbit! Much of the remaining hours in the house were spent by Dave communicating with what he believed to be the spirit of a young girl, in this room. Mediums over the years have made contact with 'Emma' in this room - and I captured a female child saying, "Maybe I'll play with them." on the landing.
Anyway, Dave set up a hand bell, the old fashioned kind, closed Diane's door and leaned it up against it. He asked for Emma to open the door. The camera was in place, and Dave went back to bed. Within minutes, the bell sounded loud and clear as the door was pushed open! These doors had the closing mechanism by which a sort of ball is in the jam of the door and the socket into which the ball pops, is in the door frame. To close it properly requires force, as does opening it. The thing is, on studying the footage, if pushed by the required force by a human normally, the door would fly open several feet. This only opened a few inches. Dave was ecstatic!
It was around this time or shortly after, when Jack had left to get proper coffee from a nearby shop, that we discovered a large marble (yes, Dave's from the prison, this one marked with a D) in half an inch of water in the sink in the kitchen. It had not been there when I'd made my coffee at half 7, and yet there it was. Jack said he'd seen it in the sink on his way out, but thought that it had been one of us running an experiment - which it was not. This marble had made its way from the bag in which it'd been for the entire stay, jumped over the lip of the sink and sat in the middle as if waiting to be found, which we duly did. Another apport! I was thrilled by this, for this was real polt' stuff, and happening intelligently around us. It was just a shame that it was all rather '11th hour'!
I'd tried a few times to set up my own camcorder in various places around the house over the 21hr period, but it turned out that the most fortuitous position was at the foot of the stairs. What I inadvertently captured there not long before we left on the Friday lunchtime and in broad daylight, is pretty chilling.
The camera was static when the footage was captured. As I reviewed the footage after the event, not expecting anything at all because I hardly used the camcorder due to the battery draining, something white flashed past the lens. I slowed it down and saw to my horror and delight, a semi transparent globular thing a bit like a massive dangling octopus, gliding past the lens to the left. Then it came back. There is a distinct ridge along it, like the ridge you see on skulls, particularly that of dogs, a spiny long elevation. The thing ebbed to the left again, and as it hovered with the stairs in the background, you can see that it's semi-transparent. Then it swirled back around before vanishing. You then see me lift the camera. I saw nothing at the time suffice to say, and I did not get in the way of the lens, nor was I wearing anything white or globular. The boys were loading up the car or were well away in the kitchen at the time.
We left No.30 East Drive at midday on the 5th of May, a little disappointed it must be said (no monks or flying gloves, you know how it is), but we hadn't at that point realised the absolute gold that we'd captured. However, Dave was buzzing because of the door incident, I was because of the pram and marbles. I did not know yet that I'd also got a nice haul of 73 EVP captures, some so-so, but a couple of gooduns. Oddly, the clearest is a female saying, “Gesundheit”, the German for “Bless you”.
So, make of the 21 hours what you will. We saw no monk-like apparitions nor witnessed pots and pans hurling about the place, but what we did ‘get’ was significantly real and impressive. As with so much within the para’ investigation world, much of what you have achieved or been privy to is kept on the quiet, often so much so, that more blaze investigators might not even notice what’s occurred. But we left 30 East Drive feeling elated. Yes it had, by the house’s own very high standards, been a quiet one on the face of it, but as we came to find out, we had actually been treated to real phenomena. They were genuinely trying for us.
There is very little of the original mad energy of the 1960s poltergeist present, in fact I'd say that 'it', that unpleasant and malicious presence that caused so much fear, has perhaps receded or even gone completely. There is however, evidence of poltergeist presence in addition to 'regular' spirits, the voices of which I recorded during the stay. The apporting marbles, for example and the moving pram - these point to an intelligent and powerful source. Indeed, Jean Pritchard, who stayed at No.30 for all of those years after her family dispersed, continued to experience phenomena until the day she left.
There's thinking that the property lies upon some sort of portal, some crossover point to another dimension - and as crazy as that sounds, it may just be true. I've been asked if I'd go back to East Drive, and the answer is a resounding, "YES!". In a heartbeat.