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Exorcisms on the rates

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PoltergeistShould South Tyneside council employ an Exorcist?

South Shields poltergeist hits the news – and after Easington District Council in County Durham had paid an exorcist to drive away a poltergeist from a family home which was owned by the local housing association, we must wonder whether our council might need to do the same.

It’s a fascinating ghost story, and I’m sure there are others like it in South Shields, here’s an extract:

Marc and Marianne got undressed and quickly slipped under the duvet. Although the heating had been on for many hours, it was unusually cold in their normally snug bedroom.

In spite of the cold, they tried to drift off to sleep after a hard day looking after their boisterous three-year-old son, Robert.

Seconds later, Marianne was hit on the head by their son’s toy dog. She sat bolt upright in bed.

The cuddly toy was clearly aimed at her, but who – or what – could have thrown it?

Moments later another stuffed dog hit her on the head. Soon the air was thick with flying toys.

All seemed to appear in mid-flight, apparently from nowhere, and were hurled with great force at the petrified couple.

Marc and Marianne hugged the duvet closer to try to protect themselves from the flying toys.

An invisible hand grabbed the far corner of the duvet and pulled in the opposite direction.

Soon they were involved in a tug-of-war with some supernatural force.

Just as quickly as it had started, the tugging stopped. But it was replaced by something even more sinister.

‘Marianne, my body feels like it’s burning,’ said Marc, panic-stricken. ‘What’s happening to me?’

All across his back, scratches had started to appear. In the space of a few minutes, 13 separate scratches appeared across Marc’s back.

Burning intensely, they felt as though a powerful beast was slowly drawing its claws across his body. But just as quickly as the scratches appeared, they vanished.

Over the following few months, Marc and Marianne’s family suffered numerous assaults by a violent ghost that came to be known as the ‘South Shields Poltergeist’. Cuddly toys came alive and toilets flushed with blood.

In the mark of what was a very 21st-century haunting, ghostly text messages inexplicably appeared on mobile phones.

It seems the ‘ghost’ was completely au fait with modern technology.

One of the first signs of the poltergeist infestation was a series of disturbing messages left on their son’s doodle board.

‘Die bitch’, ‘RIP’ and ‘Go bitch now to your mam’ had been scrawled on the message board. They were followed by the appearance of Satanic-looking symbols.

The family is adamant that the messages were not hoaxes left by them. Their origin remains a mystery.

Messages from the poltergeist soon became even more sinister. Chilling text messages began appearing on Marianne’s phone.

One warned her: ‘Going to die today, going to get you.’ Another read: ‘I can get you when you awake and I’ll come for you when you asleep, bitch.’

All appeared to be from the poltergeist, and arrived seemingly from nowhere. None could be traced to a mobile phone, computer or landline. Once again, there appeared to be no rational explanation.

‘When I was outside the house, it would continuously call my mobile from our home phone even though I knew for certain that no one was in the house,’ says Marianne.

‘It sent me death threats by text. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get away from it.’

Of course the whole story is included in a new book co written by Shields Gazette columnist Mike Hallowell, who even claims to have video footage of some of the strange events;

One evening, Mike was working at the house and saw a dark shape appear on the landing outside the couple’s son’s room. Marianne saw it, too, and screamed.

‘The entity walked slowly from the bathroom, across the landing into the bedroom,’ says Mike.

‘As it passed the door to Robert’s room, it paused and stared icily at me. Its face, devoid of all features such as eyes, nose or mouth, was cold and menacing. It felt like it was burrowing into my soul.

‘It was large – maybe two metres in height – and midnight black. It was a three-dimensional silhouette that just radiated sheer evil.’

Mike was so stunned by what he saw that he didn’t manage to switch the camera on in time.

‘It was gutting,’ says Mike. ‘We all saw it, but we didn’t get the proof we needed.’

A few days later they were given a second chance when the poltergeist once again attacked Marc.

Just as before, Marc felt the entity approach him and start drawing its talons down his back.

‘You could actually watch the scratches forming,’ says Mike. ‘First an elongated red patch, then sharply defined scratches within it.

Cuts started to appear on the right-hand side of his back. They immediately bled. Then Marc’s skin started to change colour. It went dark, almost as if it was sunburnt. I’ve seen film and stills of poltergeist scratches appearing before, but nothing like this.’

The investigators frantically checked their video cameras and, this time, they’d caught the attack on tape.

Although the quality was poor, they could see the scratches appearing on Marc’s back.

How extraordinary, but a remarkable way to publicise a new book, now let me tell you about the time when my (then) two year old son’s toys started playing without any batteries installed at 02:30 am one evening!

The South Shields Poltergeist by Michael J. Hallowell and Darren W. Ritson, is published by The History Press at £16.99. To order a copy for £15.30 (p&p free), call 0845 606 4206.

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Written by curly

May 22, 2008 at 10:14 am

18 Responses

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  1. I had a leaf through the book at Waterstones. It was so hilarious I moved it to the humour section. Why someone would pay £16.99 for a concatenation of bad clichés is beyond me. I suppose at least it has pictures.

    I note the excellent grammar used by the spooky sender though, who, like me, obviously couldn’t bear to use l33t or ‘txt’. Presumably the paranormal investigators will release the number of the ghostly texter.

    I was impressed that the poltergeist had also mastered sending messages by the medium of etch-a-sketch.

    We can only wonder why the poltergeist doesn’t get a blog or a facebook account like everyone else. Or indeed, why they don’t get a publisher to bring out their version of events?

    rossinisbird

    May 22, 2008 at 11:07 am

  2. As they say, when you start getting the flak you know you’re hitting the target…

    Mike Hallowell

    May 22, 2008 at 3:29 pm

  3. You probably believe that was a very witty response, and not the self-conscious defence mechanism it reads like. Good luck with that, but you should work on your clichés – you get flak when you’re over the target.

    rossinisbird

    May 22, 2008 at 6:31 pm

  4. Its interesting how you can provide such an unequivocal critique after merely leafing through the book in a store. As for wit and cliches, charity starts at home, and your comments about the humour section, texting and Facebook demonstrate that you were obviously trying to be witty yourself. I’m not sure it worked. We’ll be happy to judge the success of the book by the positive reviews we’ve had so far from experts, and from sales. When you’ve studied the subject as much as we have then we might give your criticisms a little more weight. If you have studied the subject as much as we have, then I’m sure you’ll let us know. Until then…

    Mike

    Mike Hallowell

    May 22, 2008 at 6:59 pm

  5. Aah, the petulant and arrogant discourse of a self appointed high priest. That didn’t take too long to surface. I expected at least another two posts before you spat your dummy out.

    Don’t worry though, I’m sure you’ll sell plenty of books. As your weekly feature proves, there’s plenty of folk out there willing to read that kind of stuff.

    rossinisbird

    May 23, 2008 at 12:13 am

  6. You’re the one who seems to be getting all hot under the collar about a book you haven’t really read, and which you have only attacked only on style and not on content. The fact that you “expected at least another two posts” before I “spat my dummy out” proves that you really weren’t interested in constructive dialogue but merely in name-calling, and from the outset wanted nothing more than to deliberately provoke an argument. If you hadn’t started spitting your own dummy out about our book for no rational reason I wouldn’t even be posting here.
    Considering your pontifications on all manner of subjects, I find the idea that you call ME arrogant and a “self-appointed high priest” hilarious. Its funny how you keep coming out with these snide epithets but you never point to specific instances which would back them up. I think you just get off on sarcasm and rubbishing others.
    If you don’t like what we write, don’t read it. If you don’t want the book, don’t buy it. Just what exactly made you attack it so aggressively? From the outset you went after it like a dog after a bone – all after just “leafing through it” in a book store – and yet your biggest criticism to date has been the unwarranted statement that it is cliched. Is that really what got you all steamed up? What exactly IS your problem?
    Look, you’re entitled to your opinion about the book, and in the final analysis what you say about it is of no consequence anyway as we’re experts in the field and you’re not. all I’m saying is that it would be far more constructive if your criticisms were thoughtful and moderate instead of bile wrapped up in petulant ad hominem attacks.
    If you want to engage in constructive dialogue and reasoned argument – minus the acidity and juvenile yah-booh name-calling – then that’s fine. Your next posting will let readers see just how mature you are – or aren’t.

    Mike Hallowell

    May 23, 2008 at 9:13 am

  7. Did’nt people once mock and ridicule Christopher Columbus after telling people the world was in fact round and not flat?

    Isn’t it also true that people once laughed at the notion of being able to talk to someone from the other side of the world?

    If people were not so quick to ridiclule such things and perhaps study these things for themselves, would’nt mankind learn a great deal a lot more, and quicker too?

    Rossinisbird – You know nothing!

    Darren W Ritson

    May 23, 2008 at 11:57 am

  8. And yes – before you point it out, i have mis-spelt ridicule – slip of the finger, but the comment still stands!

    Darren

    Darren W Ritson

    May 23, 2008 at 11:59 am

  9. Rossinisbird’s comment was bang out of order. Mike has hit the nail on the head with:

    “If you don’t like what we write, don’t read it. If you don’t want the book, don’t buy it. Just what exactly made you attack it so aggressively? From the outset you went after it like a dog after a bone – all after just “leafing through it” in a book store – and yet your biggest criticism to date has been the unwarranted statement that it is cliched. Is that really what got you all steamed up? What exactly IS your problem?”

    Far too many local keyboard warriors with too much pent-up aggression, in my opinion.

    Dave

    May 26, 2008 at 11:48 pm

  10. Well said, Dave. No writer should be above criticism, but there is a difference between constructive, robust commentary and inflammatory rhetoric. Its a pity that the pent-up aggression which you so correctly identify couldn’t be diverted towards addressing more pressing problems in our society.

    Mike Hallowell

    May 28, 2008 at 8:18 am

  11. From the outset you went after it like a dog after a bone – all after just “leafing through it” in a book store – and yet your biggest criticism to date has been the unwarranted statement that it is cliched.

    Oh, I think he’s got you there, Mike:

    As it passed the door to Robert’s room, it paused and stared icily at me. Its face, devoid of all features such as eyes, nose or mouth, was cold and menacing. It felt like it was burrowing into my soul.

    ‘It was large – maybe two metres in height – and midnight black. It was a three-dimensional silhouette that just radiated sheer evil.’

    I haven’t read the book. Does it get any better?

    Michael

    May 30, 2008 at 12:27 pm

  12. Try reading the book – or even voting for it in the Spiritual Connextions [sic] Awards, for which its been nominated. Ah, you just can’t improve on perfection….

    BTW, if you think I was over-egging the pudding in the way I described things, all I can say is that you should have been there.

    Mike Hallowell

    May 30, 2008 at 6:50 pm

  13. Rossinisbird seems to have ruffled a few feathers and put the authors of this book firmly on the defensive. From the nature of the responses from the authors, I get the feeling they fear (or know) that it does not stand on its own merits.

    I am keen to read the book, but I am not willing to pay £16.99 to do so. But I predict – without any psychic powers whatsoever – that it will appear in local charity shops soon enough, at which time I will probably speculate 40 or 50p to find out what the fuss is all about.

    From the publicity I have come across, one thing stands out: the fact that the family featured in the story are not identified means that there is no possibility that anyone could attempt to verify anything that is written in the book. This makes it nothing more than an extended anecdote, and it therefore cannot be accorded any credibility. Proper research is always accompanied by citations that can be checked by other researchers. Hearsay will not do.

    A more famous poltergeist “haunting” began with another book, entitled The Amityville Horror: A True Story. This was then made into the famous film The Amityville Horror, and a lot of money was made by those concerned. What is not very well known is that after real investigators probed into the affair it turned out to be a complete hoax – eventually admitted to by the people who instigated it. And the “experts” (as Mike and Darren claim to be) who first gave credence to the story were left severely embarrassed. As they say, believing is seeing. If you type “Amityville hoax” into Google you will quickly find the relevant details. (Did I give an actual reference that can be checked there?).

    I have no doubt that The South Shields Poltergeist will do well with sales, but not because of its veracity, rather as a reflection of the number of credulous people who are willing to buy into it without any critical thought. These are no doubt the same people who believe that TV’s Most Haunted is real, that astrology has scientific validation, and that Colin “trumpet” Fry can communicate with the dead. (For those not familiar with Fry’s nickname, “Colin trumpet Fry” typed into Google will reveal all). By the way, anyone can talk to the dead; getting them to talk back is another matter entirely.

    With regard to the old chestnut about early scientists and pioneers being ridiculed and laughed at, consider these quotes:

    “Alas, to wear the mantle of Galileo it is not enough that you be persecuted by an unkind establishment, you must also be right.” – Robert Park, Physicist.

    “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” – Carl Sagan.

    The authors can be confident that they are being laughed at and ridiculed, but I would advise them not to hold their breath as they wait to be ranked among the true scientific greats.

    the skeptic

    July 27, 2008 at 9:40 am

  14. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    rossinisbird

    July 28, 2008 at 11:35 pm

  15. Good news, everyone: I finally managed to get a cheap copy of The South Shields Poltergeist, and have just finished reading it.

    At least Mike and Darren cannot accuse me of commenting on their book without having read it. And Rossinisbird will have to rethink his description of it as a concatenation of bad clichés; it is also a concatenation of logical fallacies, contradictions, unsubstantiated speculation, anti-science and sophistry. One can only wonder at the gullibility level of the authors’ target readership.

    I was right in my first comment here: the book cannot be taken seriously as research, however much the authors would like to think it is. Any serious research has to have references that can be checked, challenged or refuted by other researchers. Instead, this book is ring fenced to prevent criticism. It is a lengthy anecdote supported only by other anecdotes in the form of statements given by the people involved in the story (assuming that all of the named people actually exist, but you can’t easily check that).

    Not all of the people mentioned are named, either. It is claimed, for example that two “well-qualified and experienced nurses” confirmed that the alleged injuries on Marc’s torso could not have healed as quickly as they did if this is not a paranormal event. Who are the nurses? Did they examine the injuries? Is there a medical record of the injuries? Can a doctor or pathologist confirm this? Are there medical photographs rather than the snaps taken by the Wraithscape duo? Is this unusual set of injuries being written up in a bona fide medical journal? One would think they should be, seeing as how the authors imply that Marc’s back was “cut to ribbons.” (Presumably the authors are not given to exaggeration).

    The only thing in the book that bears even a vague resemblance to a reference is a website address for – wait for it – a graphologist employed by the dynamic duo (as they describe themselves on their website) to do a personality analysis of the poltergeist (yeah, right). Graphology, of course, is a pseudoscience anyway, but at least the graphologist involved – Dennis Duez – does not make outrageous paranormal claims. If you want to check him out, you will not see on his website claims like “scientist,” “forensic” or “forensic scientist.” Mr Duez bills himself first and foremost as an entertainer, available for corporate events, after-dinner speaking and, specifically, “entertainment.” And if you want your handwriting analysed, all you need to do is send him a sample together with the relevant fee. But this is a plug, not an academic reference.

    The authors speculate absurdly without evidence that a poltergeist can be a form of energy (of the negative or dark varieties, whatever that means) that can somehow develop its own fully formed personality from nothing. It doesn’t seem to need to develop a personality as a result of conscious experience over the number of years that the rest of us do.

    And what about Mike’s ability to perform a Native American “smudging ceremony” to control the poltergeist? In the book, he claims confidently that he can do this using cigarette tobacco (there is a lot of mumbo jumbo involved, of course). And he does a sterling job in lessening the effect of the poltergeist on the family, according to him.

    Naturally, I had to find out more about this smudging ceremony. And the very first Google reference I came across says specifically that tobacco is an essential part of the process, but it also says that cigarette tobacco contains so many chemicals that it is “not conducive” to smudging and so should be avoided.

    There is no evidence that Mike’s (or anyone else’s) version of the smudging ceremony is anything other than fantasy, but here is a clear contradiction between two sources. You might as well go to a meeting of the Guild Of Fairyologists and listen to a couple of “experts” telling you opposing views of how to control the fairies at the bottom of your garden (notwithstanding the fact that fairies don’t exist anyway, but if you claim they do, the onus is on you to prove it).

    And do the authors really think even for a moment that the photographs in the book provide evidence of the paranormal? There is nothing in the pictures that could be taken as paranormal without the captions that make that claim.

    Overall, as proof of poltergeist phenomena this book is a big fail. It will impress only uneducated people who do not have a grasp of science and the scientific method. Critical thinking is a concept that is alien to them and the authors.

    I will, of course, eat my words when Messrs Hallowell and Ritson present their findings at the Royal Institution, or collect their Nobel Prize.

    the skeptic

    April 8, 2009 at 2:05 am

  16. Great work man.

    rossinisbird

    April 8, 2009 at 7:10 am

  17. Thanks for the affirmative comments, Rossinisbird, but I was really hoping for a reply from the “battle hardened paranormal investigators” (honestly, they really describe themselves that way on their website, and the photographs of them are posed with them dressed in black, arms folded, from a low camera angle, and they look at you down their noses).

    Sadly, it was not to be. Although they implied they are willing to respond to reasoned criticism, I think they do not want to take this any further with me. And why should they, when they have a seemingly limitless supply of unthinking followers who will not question anything they write? After buying the book, reading it, making endless notes (ongoing), researching, analysing, compiling dozens of questions (and there are many more than I have listed previously), it seems by now that I am waiting in vain.

    The only way they defend their book is to charge at full speed, armed to the teeth with exclamation marks, invective and poor spelling, grammar and syntax – a sort of Charge Of The Paranormal Light Brigade.

    If you think I am exaggerating, have a Google tour of the internet; in particular, look at a blog called Paranormalia . This site is very friendly towards anything paranormal, but even there, a contributor was supportive of them, but queried the colour scheme of their website, and the exclamation marks came out straight away. The dynamic duo pounced, but after they lost their temper on that website, the owner suddenly closed the comments. Even the believers, it seems, can only take so much.

    However, I do not want to overstay my welcome on Curly’s blog. The South Shields Poltergeist deserves to be deconstructed in a methodical, scientific manner that will demonstrate how unsubstantiated speculation can beguile the unwary. I might have to start my own website or blog to take this idea further. If I decide to do this I will post one further comment here to announce it.

    the skeptic

    April 30, 2009 at 1:44 am


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