The Black Monk of Pontefract Part II

“He’s a Cluniac, Cluniac rasophore. And he’s haunting like he never helped the poor.”—not Michael Sembello


Ghost monkAfter getting rid of Aunt Maude, Mr. Nobody apparently decided that for an encore he would pull off one of the rarest of all poltergeist tricks: interpenetration of matter, although some might just use the less pretentious sounding term “teleportation.”

One evening as the Pritchard family was sitting in the living room, an egg floated in through the kitchen doorway, stopped and hung there for a moment, then fell to the floor and broke, filling the room with a floral scent. A few seconds later, it happened again. This caused Jean to rush to kitchen, remove the carton of remaining eggs from the refrigerator and place them in a wooden box, which she then sat on for good measure. She thought that at least on this occasion, she could thwart Mr. Nobody’s hijinks. Naturally, she was wrong. He decided to one-up her, and another egg materialized out of thin air and then dropped to ground just like the previous two. Jean opened the box and found that one of the eggs was indeed missing, but she closed it back up and sat back down on it anyway. The attack of the flower-scented eggs continued unabated until it seemed that there were no more left. Jean then reopened the box and discovered that every last egg had vanished.

The Pritchards must have really liked eggs, because it was shortly after this that they decided to take Victor Kelly’s advice and consult a Catholic priest about performing an exorcism. Surprisingly, the priest that they spoke to also advised them that exorcisms often just make poltergeist disturbances worse. I say surprisingly because I find it interesting that two clergymen of different denominations in a small town would both be so knowledgeable about these things. Perhaps poltergeists are more common than even those of us who study them have suspected.

In any case, the priest advised Vic that while he would need authorization from his superiors to perform an exorcism, there was nothing stopping them from doing one on their own. So with holy water in hand, Vic went from room to room in the house doing his best Father Merrin impersonation. He started upstairs, then made his way downstairs to the kitchen and finished in the living room. When Jean wondered aloud how long it would take to have an effect, she didn’t have to wait long for an answer. As if in response to her question, there was a loud bang from upstairs, followed by water running down the living room walls from the edges of the ceiling.

That night was a restless one for the family. Banging sounds reverberated throughout the house until near dawn. Furniture was overturned, bedclothes were yanked off of them repeatedly, and Diane was flipped from her bed a number of times. Clearly, both the Catholic and Anglican priests’ warnings had been right. Mr. Nobody had been greatly offended by this attempt to get rid of him.

Further evidence of this is that his manifestations in the following days took on a very demonic flavor. He caused a crucifix to fly off of the wall and stick to Diane’s back. Jean tried to pull it off, but to no avail. Diane became somewhat hysterical and went running through the house screaming. After a minute or so, the figure of Jesus fell off, but the cross remained stuck. A few seconds later it also fell off, but it left a cross-shaped red mark on Diane’s back that remained there for days.

Movie poster for When the Lights Went OutA couple of days later, on Easter morning, Jean woke up to discover that the butthurt spirit had painted inverted crosses on all of the doors and some of the walls downstairs. The edges were very precise, as if it had used a stencil. The gold color of the paint indicated to her that it had used a can of gold spray paint that Phillip had purchased to paint his bike. The Satanic implications of this caused Jean to once again consider having a proper exorcism performed. She contacted their church, and two clergymen showed up to examine the situation. They told her that they would get back to her, but they never did.

It’s probably just as well, because Mr. Nobody seemed to have gotten over his hard feelings after this last stunt and went back to his more usual brand of mischief, but with one new twist: now people started seeing him.

The Pritchards’ house was what we Yanks would call a duplex, and their neighbor on the other side of their shared wall was a woman named May Mountain. One morning Mrs. Mountain was in her kitchen when she felt someone in the room behind her. When she turned around, she found herself staring at a tall man in a black monk’s robe with a hood covering his face. She said that he looked completely solid, but then he vanished.

The next person to see him was Rene Holden. She was at the house one night when the lights suddenly went out and she felt a hand on the back of her head. She looked down at the floor behind her and saw the bottom of a long, black robe that reached nearly to the floor. Then the lights came back on and he was gone.

His third and final known sighting occurred on a day that Phillip and Diane were watching television in the living room when they saw a dark figure through the frosted glass door that led to the dining room. Thinking that they had a visitor, Phillip went to see who it was. As he opened the door, the figure faded away, seemingly into the door itself.  This was to be his last appearance, but there was one more incident that warrants mention.

A few days earlier, at around sunset, Jean and Phillip heard Diane start screaming just after the lights went out, as they so often did.† When they ran to the living room, there was still enough sunlight for them to see Diane being dragged up the stairs. Her sweater was being stretched as if someone had a hold of the collar, and it appeared that another hand was wrapped around her throat. Jean and Phillip rushed up to help her, and as soon as they grabbed Diane, she was released, causing the three of them to tumble down the stairs. When the lights came back on, they could see that the girl had red finger marks on her neck.

Just after these last two incidents, Joe Pritchard returned from business in Scotland and told the family that people there hung garlic over their doors and windows to keep out unwanted spirits. They decided to give it a try, and Mr. Nobody never bothered them again. Whether the garlic worked, or if this just caused him to finally get the hint we’ll probably never know. Maybe the whole nine month ordeal had just run its course. Poltergeist disturbances rarely last as long as a year. Either way, it was over, and their spooky roommate never returned.*

So who was Mr. Nobody?

From the 12th until the early 16th century, there was a Cluniac monastery near Pontefract. Toward the end of its existence, one of the monks was hanged on top of the hill where the Pritchards’ house was located. He had allegedly raped and strangled a young woman from town. Obviously, Mr. Nobody was the restless spirit of this homicidal Cluniac.

One problem: in all of his research, Colin Wilson could find no record that such a crime had ever been committed or that any of the monks there had ever been hanged for anything. It was most Evil monklikely just a colorful local legend that one of the Pritchards’ neighbors happened to mention to them after the haunting began. Since more than ten years had passed, Jean was unable to recall whether the neighbor mentioned this before or after the first appearance of the “monk,” but Wilson’s money was solidly on the former. Jean and Joe’s wedding photo was destroyed only after Mr. O’Donald remarked that poltergeists like to destroy pictures, and the Satanic element of the manifestation immediately followed Vic Kelly’s ill-advised attempt at an exorcism. Mr. Nobody, like almost all poltergeists, was an imitator, not an innovator. A neighbor casually mentions a homicidal monk, and presto, a black monk appears.

Rene Mullen was probably much closer to the truth when she pointed out that there was likely a connection between the phenomena, the children, and the underground river beneath the house. Poltergeist disturbances occur almost exclusively in homes where a teenager lives, usually a girl. This one’s first brief appearance came when Phillip was 15, but it came back in full force and stayed a while two years later when Diane was 14 – a prime age for this sort of thing. And while both children experienced stomach discomfort during this second appearance, Diane especially could tell when something weird was about to happen, literally because of a feeling in her gut. Whether you choose to subscribe to the more mainstream theory in parapsychology that poltergeist activity is caused by unconscious psychokinesis or my preferred theory that they are low spirits who draw energy from over-hormonal teenage drama queens is, of course, up to you.

As far as the connection to water goes, all that anyone really knows is that there is one. Water directly underneath a residence seems to be an especially good predictor for this sort of occurrence. It probably has something to do with electromagnetic properties, but that’s outside of my area of expertise, or at least it would be if I had one. What I do know is that while all of this was going on, at least two people reported seeing a faint glow surrounding the Pritchard/Mountain house at night. Also during this time, Jean Pritchard told Wilson that their monthly electric bill was only about half of what it was normally. Being an honest person, she even pointed out to the power company that there must be some mistake, but they told her that as far as they were concerned, whatever the meter said was what they owed.

I guess Mr. Nobody was just doing his part to chip in for the bills the only way he knew how. £10 a month wasn’t exactly chump change back then either.


†In fact, the movie based on this story was called When the Lights Went Out. It’s generally considered to be terrible.

*Although the current resident of 30 East Drive now claims that the monk is back. He’s even written a book about it. Perhaps I’m being overly cynical when I suspect that he’s trying to take advantage of the limited notoriety of his home address for financial gain. If this is the case, then I’d have to say that he’s failed miserably. His book isn’t even available on Amazon.

and all the devils are here



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