The detached garage by my house in Totteridge, north London, into which my wife and I had moved some five months earlier, had a metal wine rack fixed by four screws to a side wall at a height of some three feet near the double door entrance. On it I had placed about l6 wine bottles. My neighbour, Mr Jeffrey Lipman, with whom I had been playing table tennis in the garage in the afternoon of December 18th 2001, drew attention to the fact that the bottles were sloping slightly downwards, towards the corks, to keep them moist. He concluded that I had fixed the rack incorrectly — a view supported by the fact that the feet of the rack were at the top — and that the bottles should slope the other way, so that sediment would accumulate at the base. I agreed. So there and then we removed the bottles, unscrewed the four retaining screws, reversed the rack to alter the lie of the contents so that their bases sloped towards the wall, ensured that the rack was firm, and replaced the bottles.
When I unlocked the garage door next morning I was astonished to discover a pool
of wine on the concrete floor some five or six feet from the rack, together with
the scattered fragments of three or four bottles. All but two or three had fallen
on the concrete floor. Despite the drop of between three and four feet, the rest
were lying intact in various positions within two or three feet of the rack. One
or two appeared to have had their fall broken by a cardboard package containing tins.
The winerack itself was still firmly fixed to the wall. Mr Lipman chanced to be with
his wife in the road outside my house at the time, and I promptly invited them, and
my wife, to view the scene. Since our efforts of the previous afternoon the wine
rack had again been reversed, because the short right-
Nothing during the previous for three or four months had disturbed any of the bottles
when they were stacked with their heads facing slightly downwards. They could be
moved only if handled. When the bottles had been replaced the previous day after
This event put into perspective, and appeared to confer retrospective validation on a series of mainly inexplicable occurrences which I had tended to dismiss or disregard. They included the following:
1. On several occasions the radio in our bedroom would come on at unexpected times during the night, and at a volume greater than that normally set by my wife, Veronica. There was no obvious cause, but I argued, with diminishing conviction, that radios like all electrical appliances were subject to eccentric behaviour, and too much should not be read into every or any anomaly.
2. Veronica's electric iron, which had previously behaved impeccably, would sometimes
trip the fuse-
3. Then, the kitchen smoke alarm would be set off with very little apparent incentive. There seemed to be no way to stop the wail, even when the offending hob was switched off and the vent extraction fan set at maximum.
4. More serious were a number of leaks. Two of these we blamed on the plumber, who discovered in one case an inadequately tightened nut in a pipe behind a bathroom bidet; and in another case a defective washer in a bath outlet, pipe, accessible (it may be worth noting) only by removing a sealed panel in the side of the bath surround. This leak caused considerable damage to lower walls and ceilings.
5. One of the water alarms deserves special attention, however, because we could
discover no normal explanation. It occurred when my wife used the bathroom in the
newly created loft-
6. In early December a large splodge of white substance suddenly appeared on the
lid of my plastic wheelie-
7. We had also been disturbed by noticing a heavy scratch in the floor tiles in the
bathroom adjoining the spare loft-
My wife's younger daughter who way staying with us for some weeks following the birth of her baby in early December last year reported several items missing from her room, including Christmas gifts for her nieces. They have never turned up.
It was not until the episode of the broken bottles, however, that I reluctantly acknowledged that Veronica may have been right. We knew little of our predecessor except that she was a charming lady of advanced years who was dedicated to her garden, and very proud of it. On her death about a year before we occupied it, the house was bought by building developers who considerably extended and altered it, and dug into the rear garden to create a patio. We speculated that the deceased Mrs Joyce might well have viewed these outrages with discarnate distaste, which she may have felt inclined to display in various unpleasant ways to those who were now usurping her rightful place.
A few days after the bottle-
However, in the course of their (tape-
Much of the rest of the evidence purporting to derive from her was either incorrect or unprovable, however. Her husband did not die young and did not go away: in fact they had celebrated their 55th wedding anniversary shortly before his death two years before she herself died in her late eighties. Nor was she reclusive. Her reported concern over a constantly leaking overflow pipe at the rear of the house, with a bucket to catch the drips, was certainly not something she would have put up with for a moment, our neighbour assured us. It was, however, precisely what subsequently troubled us: a defective overflow and a slight leak discharging to the rear of the house.
Despite the difficulty of squaring all of these audio-
For some days thereafter all was quiet. No sooner were we congratulating ourselves, or our friends, on having cured the complaint, than ominous signs appeared that all was still not well. On February 16th, while I had been absent, Veronica reported that she had vainly attempted to play a music tape in her portable music centre in the kitchen. The tape stopped abruptly. She reversed it, but the same thing happened. That evening, when showing Professor Archie Roy to his room, he noted that the lights fluctuated oddly. "Spooky", he called it. In a room above, Trish Robertson, who normally goes to sleep with the radio playing, was astonished to find the bedside radio had been switched off at the wall plug.
The following morning, Archie Roy and Veronica were breakfasting in the dining room as Archie was discussing the various ways in which poltergeists sometimes made their presence felt when challenged or simply mischievous. I was in another room when I heard a loud commotion and shrieks of laughter. They reported that a bunch of grapes, which had rested for the past day or two undisturbed on the summit of a bowl of fruit on the sideboard, which Veronica was facing, had lifted itself off and was then dashed to the floor. I arrived in time to help retrieve the scattered grapes.
On February 18, soon after the departure of Mrs. Robertson, who had been occupying
the adjoining bedroom for four days – we were shocked to observe a very visible crack
in one of the wall tiles of the adjoining bathroom. The crack, albeit less visibly,
continued for some seven feet right across the wall above the bath. The tiles had
been fixed to a newly-
Veronica then reported that one of her spray-
Rather more costly were the consequences of the sudden failure of two television sets. That in our bedroom suddenly displayed no sign of life, although it later proved not too difficult to mend. The fairly new set in the living room continued to produce sound without pictures, and it turned out to be a major problem — and four visits — for the repair technician who had never experienced anything like it.
We received a further visit from Jenny Eales and Michael Ayres on February 21st.
Throughout the day Veronica, who had become convinced that a male entity was now
responsible, had felt a strong sense of oppression, chest pains and the sort of sensation
in her legs characteristic of the over-
Before the entity took over Michael's body and answered Jenny's questions, which he did in a mildly cockney voice, Jenny was conveying information that the spirit intruder acknowledged his responsibility for some of the recent troubles, including hiding children's toys from the top bedroom. He had tried smelling a scent bottle in Veronica's bedroom, and then volunteered the admission that he had also tampered with a square shaped bottle of perfume with yellow liquid. [Veronica confirmed that this accorded with the description of a bottle of Poème, also on her dressing table]. He also confessed to 'doing' the tile damage. Jenny, who was still conveying the spirit's confessional, continued: "he has been bashing walls, like with a hammer or something, or like a pot — with a saucepan bashing on the wall." Among his other admissions, or claims, were responsibility for the two defective television sets, but he appeared to deny tampering with the water supply. Although there was confusion over the relevant days, he said he had interfered with the lights.
The entity appeared slowly to take over Michael's body. In response to questions
from Jenny, supplemented by a few from Veronica, he spoke directly through Michael,
with a mildly cockney accent. He was uncertain when he died, but thought it might
be perhaps two years ago. He knew he was dead. He had not known or been aware of
"the old lady" before visiting the Keens' house, and really wanted to help people,
but it was very difficult to communicate, and the only way of drawing attention to
himself was, in his words, to "make a bloody nuisance of yourself." He gave his name
as Alf or Alfie House, and had lived in Whetstone — certainly a W was associated
with it, and something to do with "wet". [This district adjoins Totteridge.] Alf
said he had met his end by falling into weed-
Since that date there have been no untoward incidents. Whatever was creating the disturbances appears to have gone. But there has been one significant postscript. During the course of a private séance on March 3rd at the country cottage in Oxfordshire owned by Michael Ayres, a trance medium, Kathy, previously unknown to us, told us during her trance state that Albert had a message he wished her to convey to Veronica, Albert being Veronica's spirit mentor, a fact unknown to the medium. The message was that 'Alfie' wanted to thank us and tell us he was very happy. According to Jenny and Michael, Kathy had not been informed of the poltergeist experience or Alfie's identity.
I then embarked on local inquiries to track down Mr House. The local police and coroners' records had no trace of anyone of that name having died by drowning in the last three years, but since there are no rivers with barges and weeds locally, this was hardly surprising. The Public Records office does not have information about deaths since 2000. These have yet to be collated from individual births deaths and marriages offices; and since the place of death was unknown, the avenue could hardly merit exploration.
Discussion. It is rare, and on the whole hazardous, for the subject of an apparent
haunting, or poltergeist intrusion, to be the principal assessor of its merits from
an evidential viewpoint. The identification and conscious discarding of prejudice
becomes that much more difficult. However, it is not impossible to detach oneself
from the phenomena sufficiently to categorize them by the extent to which they provide
weak or strong evidence of a paranormal phenomenon. The weak evidence must apply
to two categories: those events which are both purely subjective and personal. These
must affect, for example, sensations of apprehension, coldness, head pressure and
suchlike. It is prudent, although it may well be mistaken, to describe such features
The stronger evidence would include the following:
The bunch of grapes phenomenon: the only one to have been witnessed as it occurred;
The white paint-
The bathroom flooding during Veronica's hair-
The defacing of floor tiles;
The perfume bottle episode;
The extensive fracturing of the wall tiles above the bath.
If, as I would contend, these betoken a paranormal phenomenon, or a series of phenomena that are clearly linked, the issue is between some form of psychokinetic emanation from one or more persons connected to the house, or the activities of one or more discarnate intruders. It could certainly be contended that for a variety of family and health reasons Veronica was under stress, and that she displays psychic faculties likely to qualify her as the traditional focal point for poltergeist manifestations. There appears to be no logical connection between the occurrence and (in particular) the disappearance of the phenomena and the state of mind of either Veronica or myself. Only if some form of dissociated or secondary personality, working in conflict with the conscious self, is postulated can one admit a psychological explanation of phenomena so opposed to the wishes and interests of both the occupants. Even this as a postulate would involve some formidable and irrational acts of psychokinetic prowess.