Blogtober ’21- The Battersea Poltergeist

It’s our first time taking part in #Blogtober and the task at hand is to write a post a day until we get to the 31st of October. A daunting task to say the least. However, when we sat down and thought about it, we found ourselves being quite excited by the prospect of

1. Being involved in a huge blogging challenge that other’s were partaking in

2. That we get to chat about all the things that scare us.

I particularly love the feeling of being scared. Like deliberately going up to the top of the tallest building (the Vatican in my experience), or the scariest ride (The Mary Rose at Margate Pleasure Beach) just to loose yourself in fear, only to overcome it. I love the thrill of walking along the path less travelled, in life and physically. Your senses are heightened, you are tuned into noticing more. You are alive. I crave the feeling of unfamiliar, of being outside of my comfort zone – I guess it’s the devilish adventure seeker in me. I’m a Sagittarian, so the unfamiliar dark side will always appeal to me. I thrive on being challenged as I see the benefit in it. I love the dopamine rush right after the stress I put myself through in the pursuit of reaching my goal. And so, it is fitting that we are participating in #Blogtober as it is our challenge, and we are enjoying the release of dopamine in the pursuit of getting it done!

The Battersea Poltergeist

Today’s post is about one of our all time favourite podcasts that scared the living daylights out of us.
The Battersea Poltergeist written by Danny Robins, is part scripted drama and part ongoing paranormal investigation. It is based on a true story of a young girl; Shirley Hitchings and the Hitchings family. Their story spans a period of 12 years, from 1956 to 1968, of paranormal activity at their family home: 63 Wycliffe Road, Battersea. Shirley Hitchings is 15 years old.

It starts with a silver key being found in Shirley’s bedroom, then sounds; banging, lightly at first, coming from the walls and ceiling. Donald (the spirit) becomes obsessed with Shirley that on one occasion he rips her bed sheets off and lifts her out of bed, exorcist style. Shirley screams “Dad make it stop. Dad make it stop”. On other occasions objects go flying across rooms and spontaneous fires break out as Donald presses his demands on the family. He even starts to leave mysterious notes for Shirley. It all blows up and the papers, at first, believe every word until they see a crack in the story and then expose the family for being devil worshippers. The family are ousted by the community and Shirley’s father desperately asks her “is it you?”. She replies “no dad”.

I felt for her poor father trying his best to protect his daughter from the poltergeist, the public and the press.

Daily Mirror article February 20th 1956. Image BBC

We listened to this podcast on our recent road trip to The Scottish Highlands. We started off listening during the day and it was a fairly interesting listen. Not spooky, yet! But as the sun set and the night crept in, there was a change in atmosphere as we drove through the windy roads of the Highlands. There were less cars on the road, it was much quieter and we were found ourselves driving in the middle of nowhere. No houses, no pubs, no service stations for miles only tall trees and outlines of huge epic mountains. Should we have broken down – we would have been buggered.

There is a saying in Islam, that Jinns (spirits made of smokeless fire) sit in trees waiting to cast their spells/curses on those passing by. It’s their pass time to torment humans. It’s the fine line between mischief and evil. This is why it is said you shouldn’t walk under trees at night for the fear of picking up an unwanted curse. Driving through the highlands at night was scary as it felt like the line between this world and the “other” was thin. Sometimes deer sprinted across the road making me jump. Other times the headlights of the car would pick up on the reflectors in the eyes of deer on the roadside, in the bushes informing us that we not alone. We were being watched…

So why were we listening to The Battersea Poltergeist? Well, one reason is that T (from T.B.C) is writing a scary ghost story for stage so part of it was research, and two; once we’d started, it was far too intriguing to give up on – a young girl of 15 plagued by a spirit she named Donald.

Each episode ended with more questions and we needed them answered. It’s great storytelling when you deliver a cliff hanger leaving the audience wanting more. Why was Donald obsessed with Shirley? Was this Shirley simply seeking attention? Did Shirley have an over active imagination? After all many of us believe in God and we have never seen God. Some would argue it is all in our imagination… and the imagination when invoked – can move objects.

The first page of Wally Hitchings diary – ‘Living with a Poltergeist’ Image BBC

Other questions like why is it always young girls at the age of 15 who are the ones that are tormented and, almost always, by a male ghost? What is the nature of this connection? We had never really considered this question and the podcast proceeded to answer it. It also questioned the relationship of chemical imbalances in the brain and hysteria and how it effects everyone involved, even the non believers.

The podcast is fascinating in that it does not discount anyone’s experience but explores deep enough the alternative view point – that it could all be made up. However, Danny Robins himself is fascinated with paranormal activity, has been since he was a child, so this part drama part documentary podcast is his way of excavating his own beliefs on the subject matter. With three experts on board Ciaran O’Keeffe, Evelyn Hollow and Deborah Hyde they endeavour to explain the spooky happenings at 63 Wycliffe Street and it is a mind blowing experience.

The Power of Audio Drama and Imagination

I think audio drama is the perfect medium to explore a ghost story because it is close in your ear, you have to really listen to all the details. All your other senses are by default shut off. It works subliminally, layering music and sound that can trick the brain and trigger the imagination into conjuring up the most scariest of images. And we did just that.

Recommendation

We would highly recommend checking out The Battersea Poltergeist on BBC Sounds this October. 13 episodes of pure hair raising edge of your seat drama. At the time of recording it was a live on going investigation so listeners were able to send in questions and other bits of information to support the story.

It seriously is scary listening. Go on – what are you waiting for…

T.B.C…


6 thoughts on “Blogtober ’21- The Battersea Poltergeist

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