The Black Monk of Pontefract is an alleged poltergeist haunting that occurred in the late 1960s and early 1970s in the home of Joe and Jean Pritchard on 30 East Drive Chequerfield Estate in Pontefract. This particular activity is often noted by ghost researchers as unusual because of the purported physical apparition of a hooded figure that accompanied the otherwise typical disruptive behaviours of the supernatural entity.
It is regarded as the most violent poltergeist haunting in Europe.
The disturbances now referred to as the haunting of The Black Monk of Pontefract allegedly began shortly after the Pritchard family moved into their home in the historic market town of Pontefract, along with their 13-year-old daughter Diane went for a holiday during the Bank Holiday, leaving their son Phillip (aged 15) behind with Mrs. Pritchard’s mother, Sarah Scholes. While alone in the house, Sarah Scholes felt a cold gust of wind, despite the warm late-summer weather outside. When Phillip re-entered the house, he noticed white powder falling from mid-air all around the living room floor. Shortly after, puddles of water began appearing on the kitchen floor. A plumber was called in that evening, but he could not offer an explanation for the apparent leakage, as the surface underneath the linoleum floors were completely dry and there was no evidence of ruptured pipes. When, that same night, a heavy chest of drawers began swaying without explanation, Mrs Scholes and Phillip left the home to sleep at a neighbour’s out of fear.
When Mr and Mrs Pritchard returned home from their holiday, the disturbances had stopped, and thus they concluded that the phenomena must have had some logical explanation; especially since, for the following two years they continued living in the house without the slightest peculiar activity.
However, as abruptly as it ended, the poltergeist phenomena began again, this time plaguing the family for several years- though they refused to succumb and move from their home. The main target of the activity during the second phase seemed to be the daughter, Diane, who was often thrown from her bed, and, in one instance, dragged up the stairs by an invisible hand that left lacerations on her neck.
Loud inexplicable crashing sounds were common, especially in the presence of outside company. Objects too went flying around the air and crashing, or dematerialising and then reappearing in a different location. Though on two occasions, exorcisms were attempted, these measures seemed only to agitate the situation.
After a concerned family friend doused holy water throughout the home, the poltergeist responded by painting upside-down crosses on the living room walls and doors, and destroying the crucifixes that decorated the Pritchard house.
The physical manifestation of the poltergeist did not occur until quite late in the haunting. The figure first appeared to Joe and Jean Pritchard while they lay in bed. The two allegedly saw a black-cloaked figure (with the cowl over its head) hovering over their bed, but it soon dissipated. On a few subsequent occasions, other members of the home as well as visitors reported seeing a figure that looked like a monk, though no one ever glimpsed a face underneath the robes. The haunting abruptly ceased, never to occur again.
Many theories have been put forth to explain the disturbances, and especially, the unique apparition of the force behind them. Ten years after the Black Monk of Pontefract ceased his activity, paranormal investigator Tom Cuniff visited the Pritchard home and researched the story. At the mention of the monk, he wished to explore whether the apparition could be a remnant from the local priory which had existed from 1090-1539, and whose gallows were just across the hill from the Pritchard home. Mr Cuniff proposed in his writings that a Cluniac monk that had existed during Henry VIII’s reign that was hanged for the rape and murder of a young girl. Hence, the poltergeist activity focused on Diane and could be interpreted as sexual in nature.
Colin Wilson also investigated the Black Monk of Pontefract. His theory proposed that poltergeists find their energy in unhappy households and that tensions between Phillip and Mr Pritchard made the home susceptible. Also, the area surrounding the Chequerfield Estate, according to Wilson, favoured manifestations because they contained particular spiritual force from their religious histories. Hence, the location was key to the poltergeist activity.
The Doncaster Research Group also looked into the disturbances, and concluded that Philip faked the entire haunting.
The Pontefract Castle which lies near the Chequerfield Estate is now a popular tourist destination, both because of its rich history (King Richard II is thought to have been murdered there), and because of the reported sightings of a black monk walking from the kitchen to the Queen’s Tower. Whether this apparition of a monk is related to the Pritchard family’s remains inconclusive.
A New Chapter
Next-door neighbour Carol Fieldhouse, 54, said things started to take a sinister turn three months ago.
She didn’t know the former owner Philip Pritchard had just sold the long-empty property to film producer Bil Bungay.
“I saw Philip in the front, tidying up the garden,” she said.
“I went out and asked him if he’d sold it to one of his nephews. I thought it must have been one of them because I knew they were deaf and I’d heard the telly blasting out all night.
“He said ‘There’s no TV in there. It’s empty’. Then he turned pale and went ‘God, it’s started again’. I haven’t seen him since.”