The Cage - Haunted History
St Osyth, Essex
The Cage in the sleepy Essex village of St. Osyth is an unassuming two bedroom cottage with a dark and sinister past, which has lead to ongoing reports of paranormal activity within its walls.
The current owner, Vanessa Mitchell, bought the house in 2004 when she returned to St. Osyth, her childhood village. She had been aware of the famous historical property as a child and knew what to expect, but she could never have guessed how much harm and upset the house would cause her.
Vanessa had her first odd experience on the day she moved in. While unpacking, she saw a dark shadowy figure and said from that moment on she knew "the house is bad, there's something wrong with this house." The single mum, who for a time lived alone in the house with her baby, added "I knew from the first day something was in the house, because it literally presented itself on the first day I was in the house."
The Cage, which is situated 60 miles from London in the heart of rural Essex, earned its nickname due to its historical use as a holding cell for witches in the 16th century. The house is one of only seven similar medieval cages left in the country and this is the only one with a house attached to it.
In the 16th century, witch trials and accusations ran rampant in Essex and St. Osyth was chosen to be the location where 12 local women accused of witchcraft were to be locked up in the earliest part of the cottage - known as The Cage. This goal was used to hold prisoners accused of witchcraft, including a famous witch by the name of Ursula Kemp.
Ursula was arrested and accused of witchcraft for various reasons, including claims she had placed curses and hexes on locals, causing them to die of various conditions and even preventing beer from brewing. Of course, like all witches, Ursula was probably innocent and had no evil intent, but she was ultimately one of the three women who were found guilty of witch craft. Ursula was hanged for her crimes in 1582 and buried in unconsecrated ground.
After the witch trials, the Cage remained in use as a prison for men, women and children up until 1908. At one time was used to quarantine bubonic plague victims, many of whom died in the house. Since then The Cage has been a private dwelling with many of the past residents reporting paranormal activity.
The unique property has recently been called Britain's most haunted house by the press. In fact the medieval prison has received a lot of media attention over the last few years due to its haunted reputation. It has featured in television shows like 'Help! My House Is Haunted' starring paranormal investigator Barri Ghai and psychic medium Chris Fleming.
The house has also been featured in the Channel 4 docudrama, 'True Horror: The Witches Prison', and has been visited by countless professional and amateur paranormal investigation teams from all over the world. There is even a book entitled 'Spirits Of The Cage' about the events experienced by Vanessa in the house.
"The house is absolutely haunted, there's no doubt in the world at all that this house is a very very haunted house. It always has been."
Vanessa Mitchell, Owner
The haunted abode has earned this reputation due to the countless reports of the present and past inhabitants being trouble by mysterious and sometimes violent paranormal activity.
The haunting phenomenon includes reports of doors opening and closing on their own, the kettle and other electrical devices turning themselves on and off, latches on the doors rattling, taps turnings themselves on, sudden and extreme drops in temperature, and unexplained light anomalies, which have been visible with the naked eye.
Vanessa has also seen several apparitions in the house. She said that these apparitions were an example of an intelligent haunting and not stone tape theory, "a lot of the spirits in here were intelligent and aware of my presence and it was a real-time situation." She added, "I believe what was here actively knew it was here."
One dark haired figure Vanessa saw was so clear that she could make out the wrinkles on his face. The man was only visible from the waist up and he looked at her as he floated across the living room. Vanessa said that this ghost didn't seem evil or threatening, but many others were.
Vanessa would often hear the disembodied voices of men and women, as well as hearing children laughing and running around upstairs.
Unexplained knocks, bangs and the sounds of footsteps, especially on the wooden stairs, were commonplace, and toys would move on their own as if being played with by unseen hands.
The Cage is easily one of the most haunted houses in the UK and it wasn't long until the house really started to show Vanessa what it could do. The paranormal activity in the house started to grow in both frequency and strength.
Vanessa recalls seeing a "big black mass" that filled the room, starting at floor-level and moving up to the ceiling. She's heard whispers saying "kill yourself", been hit around the back of the head and was even pushed over at the top of the stairs when she was eight and a half months pregnant.
Many of Vanessa's friends who visited the house refused to come back. One couple received the fright of their lives while visiting Vanessa when they found splatters of blood in the living room while all the doors and windows were closed. Vanessa and her friends were sure the blood hadn't been there earlier, and it seem to have appeared in broad daylight in the time it had taken to boil a kettle.
Some have blamed the ghost of Ursula Kemp for the paranormal activity in the spine chilling house or think that it might be the tortured souls of the plague victims that are coming back to haunt the building. The ghost of the children could be explained by the fact that the witches' offspring would have been locked up with them in The Cage.
Others suspect that the dark energy could be a result of the former resident who took his own life a year before Vanessa moved in to The Cage. Not long after moving in, the former owner who'd hanged himself's death certificate mysteriously appeared in the kitchen while Vanessa was out.
The house is one of the most notorious and well-documented haunted cottages in Britain, a plaque on the side of the building hints at its history. The original cage was a 16th century small brick building consisting of just one room, which is now used as a dining room. It has since had additions built on, including all the other rooms and the entire upstairs.
The Cage as it exists today is a quaint cottage consisting of four ground floor rooms, including a kitchen which is open-plan into the dining room, and living room, as well as a cloakroom and downstairs toilet. The split-level upstairs houses an oak beamed gallery landing, two double bedrooms and a bathroom.
Video Tour Of The Cage
Vanessa originally described The Cage as her "dream house" because it's a beautiful historic property in the village she loves, but she became so scared in the house that she lived in her bedroom, refusing to use the rest of her home even to make a cup of tea.
Despite this, Vanessa lived in The Cage for three years, but eventually the activity forced her to leave the house. She said, "I left it because it was really haunted and I had no choice but to leave it." Although Vanessa could no longer stand to live in the house, she didn't relinquish her ownership and held on to the empty property for over a decade.
Although Vanessa only lived in the house for three years, she has now owned the property longer than anyone else. Records show that there have been many owners and renters over the recent years although not for any long periods. Over the last 200 years the house has been up for sale roughly every three years.
An Interview With Vanessa Mitchell
With the cottage empty, Vanessa came up with a good business proposition. She decided to hire The Cage out for ghost hunts and many paranormal investigators and mediums have had some chilling experiences here.
Help! My House Is Haunted
In 2018 The Cage featured on the British paranormal investigation show, 'Help! My House Is Haunted'. The shows investigators, Barri Ghai, Sandy Lakdar and Chris Fleming spent a night locked down inside the house to try to get to the bottom of the hauntings.
During the investigation, Chris the show's medium said he was "physically attacked by an unknown force". He described the sensation like he had been stabbed in the side of the head, "I felt it go right through until it was almost in the back of my throat and in my sinus."
Towards the end of the episode, the team ventured into a hidden cellar beneath the dining room floor, the room which used to be the prison. Barri climbed down inside the chamber and at that moment, Chris captures what sounded like a growl on his audio recorder. Barri describes this as "compelling" evidence of the presence of a demon.
After a cleansing ritual involving a Tibetan singing bowl, some incense and some preyers conducted by Chris, Sandy said that the atmosphere in the house changed, "I'm confident that whatever has been tormenting Vanessa has finally gone." Although it seemed her problems remained.
As it had been empty for so long, Vanessa reluctantly decided that she wanted to sell the house, but to do this she needed to clear it of its negative presences first.
As previous attempts had failed, this time she called in some specialists to help her. Author and demonologist, June Lundgren, visited the house from the US to help with the cleansing, and medium Rev. Ted Woodroffe performed a cleansing. It was only after Rev. Ted's visit that Vanessa has been able to come back in to the house to decorate and get it ready to sell. Vanessa said, "there was something very negative here and I've had that cleansed and cleared now."
In the Spring of 2019 the house was once again put on the market. Vanessa said, "it's bittersweet for me, I love this house but at the same time it's caused me a lot of harm in my life and a lot of upset." She adds that although the bad and negative energy has been moved on, "the house is still haunted, but it's nothing like it used to be."
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