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A Cottage Mystery

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The Lowes Cottage Case was a joint investigation carried out by TOPRA - Tameside & Oldham Paranormal Research Association and MAPIT. This investigation was first brought to my attention by investigators Paul Quest and Andy Leach. Together a thorough investigation of this high profile case was carried out.

Josie Smith, mother of three could not hold the tears back as she confessed to a judge that she and her husband refused to pay outstanding money on their cottage after discovering that their home was haunted by evil spirits. The incidents had allegedly started around six weeks after moving in. Josie aged 36 claimed to have been strangled and raped by the evil spirits. She said that she had often felt the quilt be lifted up and her night dress move up her legs. Such incidents would only stop when she shouted out 'No'.

Andrew Smith aged 35 and Josie were being sued for around £3.500 for owing on their £44,000 cottage in Staffordshire, which they purchased in 1993. In return, the Smiths were counterclaiming against the previous owners Sandra Podmore and Susan Melbourne; Staffordshire born sisters who had lived at the house for a number of years and claimed no paranormal incidents had ever been experienced. The Smiths believed that the sisters knew that the property was haunted and that this vital piece of information was witheld when it came to selling the home. Judge Peter Stretton curtainly had his work cut out, for if he was to side with the Smiths, it would be the first time that paranormal phenomena has been given official recognition since the meideval times. Josie was apparently suffering from stress and had to leave her job as a nurse. She claimed that she had been physically attacked by the evil spirits four times which left her in a state of shock and fearing for her life. Accompanied by terrible smells of rotting meat, unusual banging and scratching sounds, household objects being hurled around and things going missing. On one particular occasion Josie and Andrew fled the property with their three children, Daniel who was 1 year old, Steven who was 5 and Lindsey who was 12. They had stayed at relatives because they were simply too scared to stay at their home in fear of another paranormal attack. Lindsey was said to have been terribly scared and had refused to sleep alone.

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We pulled up outside the cottage which was situated in a small quaint village. Accompanied by investigator Andrew Leach and Paul Quest our first point of call was to sit down with the Smiths and interview them. We entered the cottage and walked through to the dining room, where we sat completed forms and asked questions. I recall the cottage being rather gloomy and a touch of dampness filled the air. The Smiths told us of their experineces which included both haunting and poltergeist type disturbances. Between them they claimed to have witnessed an apparition of a woman and a strange thick fog like mist that could sometimes be seen moving from room to room as if it was somehow intelligent.

Mr. Smith said that he had tried to pass through the mist but when doing so it was difficult for him.
He described it as trying to pass through a thick substance. He had struggled to move his arm through it. Strange sounds accompanied by horrific odours of rotting meat would fill the air. Objects would be found to have moved, electrical appliances would constantly fault and household items would often disappear and later turn up in the most obvious of places. We were also told that a reverand had visited the proerty a number of times to conduct a blessing in each room and that strange outpourings of water would suddenly maniest on walls. Josie told us that they got someone in to check about the water but they found nothing that could be causing it. No water pipes were in the particular walls where this water had unexplicably appeared.

After conducting a lengthly interview we decided unpack our equipment and set up for the evening. It was quickly becoming dark and we wanted to make sure we had everything in place. The first thing to do was to do a complete video sweep of every room in the house as well as the immediate grounds. The cottage did not have any front garden as it was situated directly on a street, however, there was a reasonably large back garden. There did not seem to be anything odd or out of place. The Smiths had left their children at relatives for the night, so we were able to have pretty much the run of the building.

Video cameras were set up downstairs as well as upstairs along with voice activated audio recorders, passive infra-red detectors and temperature alert devices. We also went around the property taking photographs. Several cups of coffee later as the dark drew in, the Smiths decided to go up to bed. It was now around midnight and for us, it was the time for our active investigation to start.

A visual inpection of the walls were carried out... We were hoping to discover some of this strage water, that seemed to appear from knowhere, but we could not find any. A large pile of letters and newspaper cuttings had been left out on a table by the owners. They had obviously been reading about themselves in the newspapers prior to us arriving. Amonst the newspaper cuttings were dozens of letters from magazine publishers and tv production companies, all offering lots of money for their story. Some of which were offering hundreds of pounds. It was clear that the family were financially gaining from selling their story of such alleged disturbances.

It was also clear the the Smith's had reported poltergeist type activity taking place even when their children were staying over a relatives. Poltergesi infestations are extremely rare. I myself have only ever witnessed such infestations twice in 25 years of research and investigation. Even more rare is such activity taking place where they is no catalyst or focus. I will try to explain this a bit better...

The word Poltergeist is German for 'Noisy Ghost' and this particular phenomenon has been recorded for many years. This is probably the most terrifying and destructive of all paranormal activity. The phenomenon does demonstrate intelligence and can often be cruel and spitful. Some scientific establishments refer to poltergeist activity as being caused by a suppression of sexual energy which is often found in adolescents. Poltergeist are known to have attempted communication audibly or by writing, even though most messages are malicious in nature. The most common question is, do these incidents occur from a single entity or from within the witnesses themselves?

Children have been attacked or maimed by unseen forces, and also injured by flying projectiles. Houses have been plagued with a constant pelting of small rocks and stones. Formings are also known to have occurred during this type of activity such as, water, oil, tar and even on the odd occasion blood. Most hauntings refer to haunted places; poltergeists have been described as haunted people.

The extra-ordinary and often destructive action of poltergeists is usually attributed to one person around whom the phenomenon focuses. The most famous poltergeist case in the UK is the Enfield Poltergeist of 1977, investigated by Maurice Grosse, who was a MAPIT member for several years.

There are many different names given for poltergeists. Entities, Fall Angels, even Demons... One thing is for sure, they all share certain unpleasant characteristics. Whereas the ordinary ghost of our story books is thought off as generally quiet and inoffensive. Sometimes timid, noiseless and benevolent. The poltergeist is usually the opposite. They are often mischievous, destructive, noisy, cruel, erratic, thievish, demonstrative, purposeless, cunning, unhelpful, malicious, audacious, teasing, ill-disposed, spiteful, ruthless, resourceful, vampiric and much more.

In all circumstances ghosts usually prefer solitude where as a poltergeists seem to prefer company. It is thought that ghosts seeks the half light where as the poltergeist will perform on the sunniest of days and has no bother performing in front of people, no matter who they are.

Poltergeist infestations or visitations often begin quite inexplicably and run their course; then cease as mysteriously as they begun. An adolescent (more often a girl than a boy) is almost invariably present in the affected household at the time, and this young person appears to be the nexus and attraction of the occurrences. Should he or she be moved at the height of strange happenings, the disturbances will often relocate with the adolescent.

There does seem to be a psychological basis for such incidents, but physical objects have undoubtedly moved under conditions which preclude many psychologist’s theories about the phenomenon. It could be an unusual combination of physical energy, psychological tension, sexual awakening, intense (but possibly unconscious) concentration and single-mindedness that is reponsible for the creation of poltergeist type disturbances.

The one comforting thought is that poltergeist disturbances do not usually last for very long and rarely manifest when the focus is not present. Apparitions are not often encountered in poltergeist cases, but like everything else there are exceptions.

In spite of it being currently fashionable practice to exorcise such 'haunted houses', malicious spirits should not always be assumed to be the cause. In practically every authenticated case of a poltergeist infestation, a child or adolescent have been present in the property and frequently the child has been shown to be experiencing some sort of stress at the time the paranormal incidents occur. For this reason alone, poltergeist infestations are generally thought to be an example of very powerful psychokinesis (PK) abilities which are being unconsciously used by the child. Psychokinesis, formally known as telekinesis is an ability to physically manipulate objects and items with the mind.

So... you can well imagine our surprise to hear that such poltergeist type activity had been present at the time the Smith's children were staying over at a relatives home. Surely if there were such incidents taking place, the phenomena would have followed the children and incidents would have manifested at their relatives home instead of their own. This of course casts some doubt on the authenticity of the alleged disturbances reported by the Smith's.

On the hour, every hour, equipment was checked. There were no unusual temperature readings, no unusual odours, no strange sounds heard, and nothing unusual seen. Around 5.00am, an inspection of the cellar was carried out and we found a cellar wall beaded in water. After wiping the water away it appeardd again after about and hour. On further investigation we found that the other side of the cellar wall was nothing but soil, (due to us being underground). It did not take long for us to work out that the water appearing on the cellar wall was simply condensation due to the wall being almost degree's colder than the room itself. There was no evidenxce of water on any other walls throughout the cottage. It was now almost 7.15am and we could hear the Smith's getting up.

 Our overnight investigation had come to a close. Josie and Andrew came down and asked us how we had gone on. After telling them that we didn't seem to get anything and that the evening had ben uneventful, Josie burst out with a defending statement. 'It must have known you were here and it want us to look stupid'. Of course, this is the response we anticipated. We questioned the Smiths further in regards the water appearing on the walls and when we got to the bottom of it, it turned out that the water had only appeared on one particular wall. Yes!... the wall with the beads of water on it, which in our minds had a rational explanation.

Our visit ended with a look around the back garden. It was clear that the level of the ground at the rear of the property was higher. Further to the back of the garden was what looked like the begginings of another construction. Andrew stated that he was building another house as he and his family could not live in their current one with all whats going on. You could clearly see the footings and foundation. We told the Smiths to construct a diary of events that take place in their home and that we would go away a check through all the video, audio and photographs and get back to them if we find anything to support their claims.

Research was carried out on the property but we could not find any references of deaths in the building. In fact it seemed just a regular home. Checking through all our equipment revealed nothing out of the ordinary what so ever... It was a totally uneventful evening. Certainly something we didn't expect.

We even payed another visit just to talk with some local residents, who had obviously heard about the the Smith's claims. Some of them were a little dubious; and when asked if they had heard anything about the strange activity happening with the previous owners, they said 'No'. The previous owners were known to a few of the local residents who told us that they had never said anything about their home being haunted.

Considering the lack of evidence and a totally uneventful evening, the Smith's claiming poltergeist type activity even when their children were away staying at relatives, the exageration in regards the water coming from walls, the possible rational explanation for the water beads forming, the huge media interest and the offer of hundreds of pounds from magazines and TV shows along with the obvious signs that the family may be struggling financially led us to suspect that the whole thing was a hoax and publicity stunt manufactured by the Smith's in hope of breaching their agreement to pay off the house to the former owners.

We were the first investigation team to visit the cottage and we knew that if its publicity they want, there will certainly be more organisations visiting the cottage to conduct their investigation. We also knew that it was early days and there would be further media coverage. We decided to sit back and watch the show unfold.
As the weeks past we watched as the media swarmed the cottage. Paranormal investigators came in their droves to stay overnight at the cottage. Things had now heated up...

The Smith's cottage and their experienced were regularly covered in the national newspapers. We were surprised to read that out of the many organisations visiting the cottage, several of them had reported odd goings on. Some reported green balls of light appearing in the dining room, as well as strange sounds and eerie feelings of dredd. Some even claimed to have experienced objects being moved. Of course, mediums and psychics visiting the property always talked of evil spirits.

Even though there had been reports by other investigators visiting the cottage, we stuck to our guns. Its not the first time that investigators with other organisations have hoaxed things themselves in hope of publicity. Of course, what they were ultimately doing was assisting the family with their claims. The reverand that had visited the property had even provided a written testimony saying he believed the family were telling him the truth and that he had seen water on one of the walls. We could not help thinking that the Smith's were just in this for the money. After all, Mr. Smith was in the process of having a second building constructed at the rear of the cottage and by the looks of things. Times were hard.

Eventually the day of the court hering came and the national press jumped straight on it because, if the judge was to rule in favour of the Smith's, it would be the first time that the paranormal had been officially recognised since medieval times. However, even testimonies from various people among them the Reverend Mockford were not enough to sway the Judges decision who quickly and efficiantly dismissed the case.

Judge Peter Stretton of Derby County Court ruled in favour of the previous owners, Sandra Podmore and sister Susan Melbourne. Judge Stretton said: "I do not accept that it is haunted now or has been at any other time." He called the Smiths' actions "extraordinary". The sisters said they had no knowledge of ghosts in the house or that the house had ever been haunted. Mrs. Melbourne went on to say: "I have never experienced a ghost and I have never heard of a haunted house in Mayfield. I do not believe in ghosts."

The lawyer acting on behalf of the previous owners (Thomas Dillon) said that the Smiths had invented the story to avoid
paying the outstanding money. It was also known that the Smith's had attempted to hold a Halloween party at their home in hope of charging £5.00 a head. Judgment for the sellers was entered and the Smiths who were legally aided were told they would have to pay some costs as well as pay whatever was outstanding to the previous owners. All in all, it didn't end happily for the Smiths.

Sometime later, after all the hype had died down and no one was interested in the Smith's claims, they decided to sell the property for around 5% more than its value, showing that even though a house may be haunted, it does not depreciate its value.

So... you would think our involvment would end there. In fact, No! we were asked to attend the property once more so to be interviewed for a BBC TV show. Investigators Paul Quest and Andy Leach attended and explained how we believed that no such phenomena had taken place. The TV show was aired on National Television the following week.

The new owner... Tim Chilton, went on to have a few organisations stay over as part of an investigation. Even though a few investigators claimed to have witnessed the odd experience from time to time, the owner was later interviewed by a TV company and heard to say that he did not believe the property was haunted and that he had one of the walls specially treated as damp and condensation would often appear...

I think under the circumstances, taking everything into consideration. We would have to conclude that the alleged incidents reported to have taken place at the cottage was no more than a hoax...

Special Thanks to the BBC, TOPRA, Paul Quest & Andy Leach for their assistance.

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