Ciarán O'Keeffe Visits 30 East Drive To Talk About The Psychology Of Paranormal Investigation & The Classification Of Hauntings
Parapsychologist, Ciarán O'Keeffe, visited the UK's most haunted house in search of proof of the paranormal. While in the infamous "Black Monk House" he shared his thoughts on the haunting phenomena at the house and spoke to the lady who's lived next door for 30 years about the case.
Ciarán was invited to 30 East Drive for his first ever investigation there by a prominent paranormal YouTube channel. Ciarán joined the duo for the final night of their five-day-long investigation.
The typical three-bedroom house on the Chequerfield Estate is said to be very paranormally active, with reports of odd goings on dating back to the 1960s when Joe and Jean Pritchard moved into the house with their two children.
The case was featured in Colin Wilson's 1981 book 'Poltergeist! A Study In Destructive Haunting' and the story was even turned into a movie in 2012 called 'When the Lights Went Out'.
The paranormal activity ranges from unexplained noises to a violent incident when the youngest of the Pritchard family was dragged up the stairs by an invisible force. The spirit of a 16th Century monk known as the Black Monk of Pontefract, or simply Fred as he was nicknamed by the Pritchard family, is said to be responsible for these occurrences, but what does Ciarán make of these bold claims of aggressive paranormal activity?
Ciarán is a psychologist specialising in parapsychology and is best known for his appearances in several series of the long-running paranormal show, 'Most Haunted' as the programme's resident parapsychologist. He was joined in the haunted house's moderate living room by the next door neighbour. Carol Fieldhouse has lived in the adjoining property for 31 years and says that she too has experienced activity on a regular basis.
Before settling in for a night of paranormal investigation, the team spoke to Ciarán about his expectation of the property. The whole interview with Ciarán and Carol was streamed live on the YouTube channel.
Ciarán told them , "I'm genuinely excited by this location," which is mostly down to No. 30's "amazing reputation."
"As a boy wanting to be a Ghostbuster," Ciarán continued, "this is like that, I'm going into a location I've always wanted to go and investigate." Although level-headed, Ciarán was clearly very excited about investigating the famous property, "if we do this investigation tonight and nothing happens, it won't dampen that excitement because it is a location where so many things have happened."
He added "I'm excited by this house because we describe it as a poltergeist case. The house has an Enfield poltergeist feel about it. So, as a parapsychologist I'm genuinely excited by it."
This lead to question whether this really was a poltergeist case or a classic haunting, something Ciarán has some thoughts on.
Poltergeist Vs Haunting
Many of the reports of activity at 30 East Drive include the type of phenomena that is typically associated with a poltergeist case, such as items being moved and thrown.
Speaking on camera, Ciarán weighed in on the debate on whether this is a poltergeist case or a classic haunting, "I think parapsychology, ghost hunting and psychic research has done itself a disservice by saying they're two separate things, that it has to be a poltergeist or it has to be a haunting."
He added, "a poltergeist is all about noise, it's about spontaneous fire, it's about spontaneous floods - it's physical phenomenon that occurs. A haunting is all about sense of presence or seeing something, that sort of thing."
"There's two researchers Tony Cornell and Alan Gould who say 'stop differentiating between these two'. You can have poltergeist cases where you have all the noisy stuff and the physical stuff happening, but then you suddenly get a sense there's something here or you see something."
The evidence that has come out of No. 30 and been talked about by witnesses is very much a mix of the two types of haunting. Carol, who knows the house better than anyone else agrees with Ciarán and disputes the claim that the infamous Black Monk is responsible for the violent and mischievous activity in the house. She said, "it's not the Black Monk, he's a lovely person. He's been in my house, he's been at the side of my bed four times, it's not him."
But, she's not disputing that the Black Monk exists. In fact, she knows the history of the Black Monk and says that the haunting relates to a wider area of land than just No. 30, "the land was known as Friary Woods and there were black monks of Pontefract, they were lay preachers and the land on top of the hill known as Chequered Fields was allocated to them."
Poltergeist cases like the famous Enfield case in the 1970s tend to focus on a family, whereas 30 East Drive seems to be more to do with the land the house stands on. If this is the case then some of the focus when researching the history of the case should be taken away from the family. Carol says that the Pritchards weren't the first to experience something odd here, "everyone is saying that Joe and Jean came into this house and started doing Ouija boards and whatever, but the gentleman that come last September, at 94 years old, said he got this house when it was brand new and activity was happening to begin with."
According to Carol, the first resident of the house experienced banging on the wall that they couldn't explain, objects being moved around and their children had trouble sleeping, which they blamed the haunting for. It was pointed out that the fact that the activity has spanned multiple families doesn't fit a poltergeist case, as they are generally very short-lived and focus on just one family.
The Psychology Of Paranormal Investigation
Ciarán then moved on to how subconscious suggestion could sway an investigation. Ciarán said that simply arriving at the house knowing what you are about to do their could shape your opinion of it, "walking into a place like this and knowing that you are going to investigate, that is suggestion in itself already."
He added, "if you add to that this layer of an incredibly well known house where so much phenomenon has occurred and the hundreds or thousands of investigators have been in, the Colin Wilson story, the film, everything. All of that, yeah of course you have to be wary of suggestion."
A member of the team, who is no stranger to paranormal investigation said, "when you sit in a dark room calling out waiting for things to occur, wanting things to occur, that is immediately unnatural because you don't normally do that and the psychology of waiting for something to happen is, I think, very very powerful."
Ciarán agreed, "absolutely, it is very powerful and it plays a huge effect. Let's think about why we're here at 30 East Drive. The majority of the the stories that have given the house this reputation are not people investigating it. It's people living and going about their daily activities."
Ciarán then moved to the subject of the team's investigation, "I know as part of your investigation you've tried a particular approach where you're actually not investigating and that is probably the best thing to do in a location like this." This is because a lot of the activity that has happened to Carol and the Pritchards has happened while they were going about their daily lives.
"The evidence for how effective that is comes from a lot of the experiences that you've had already that have occurred when you've just said 'oh, let's go to bed now' and then something has happened," Ciarán said. One example of this happened the previous day when a team member witnessed a door handle was shaking in the kitchen. He was distracted by his laptop and had his back to the door and then it happened.
Ciarán's advice for investigating 30 East Drive was to place an investigator in one area alone in the house. Ciarán himself, who was sticking around for the night, said he was happy to conduct one of these lone vigils, even if it meant being locked in the sinister coal hole.
However Ciarán is notoriously difficult to convince, as we learnt from his time on 'Most Haunted'. Ciarán was then asked what it would take for him to definitively say that what is happening in the house is paranormal. He said "if something happened like a bang or a knock, I would fall on my old phrase that I used to say on 'Most Haunted' all the time... that's interesting, but it's not necessarily paranormal."
So, what would convince Ciarán one hundred percent? Well, he explained, "I used to say if a ghost came up to me and shouted 'boo' right in front of me, then I might be convinced. Then an investigator, Steve Parsons, corrected me about a decade ago. He said, actually you need to add to that because you're a psychologist and you're aware of the fallibility of the mind and how imagination can play tricks." Therefore, the only way Ciarán says he'll be convinced is by, "a ghost coming up to me and shouting 'boo', witnessed by another person and being recorded on video."
During the investigation, Ciarán says the team shouldn't jump to any conclusions about what they hear, "we talk about natural noises in houses - unless there's a huge object that's fallen by itself naturally, to get a loud bang is really unusual. We're not talking about a loud bang that's happening in the attic because of an animal there or something like that, you're talking about a loud bang occurring within the house. So, as investigators, it's separating what would be the natural noises from the house versus what could be something paranormal."
If the team are lucky enough to hear anything unusual, they should also resist the temptation to personify the sounds. Taking the footsteps that they had heard on their previous visit as an example, he said, "we've got to be careful not to give the phenomena human elements." When we hear bangs going across the ceiling it's very easy to say "that's somebody walking" as it sounds like footsteps, but as Ciarán reminds us, "all we know is that there are bangs going across."
Ciarán continued, "the classic one that I've heard in the past on an investigation is when people have been in a particular house and have said 'did you hear that dragging sound? That sounded like a body was being dragged across the floor.' My immediate response is, 'how do you know what a body being dragged across the floor sounds like?'"
So, does Ciarán believe that 30 East Drive is haunted? "I'm a scientist, I remain objective and therefore it's not about belief because if it was about belief and I believe that Fred is here or the Black Monk or whoever, I am immediately effecting my interpretation of anything that happens here, I'm biasing it."
However, having carved out a career in the paranormal he said "it would be pretty strange for someone to devote decades of their life to this and continuously do it to not think 'oh, wouldn't it be amazing if a ghost did come out.'"
With the chat out of the way, Ciarán joined the team for an investigation which took them through until 5am. During the night he got more than he expected when he witnessed something knocking loudly on the kitchen door.
After five days in the house, they experienced so much activity that they are convinced about the house's reputation. They said, "the amount of activity we have had has cemented our opinion that this place is haunted and there is something paranormal going on."
As well as Ciarán, across the five days the duo were joined by various guests including Ian Varrow from Residential Hauntings, Jamie Senior who previously joined the team on the Hell House investigation and subscribers of the channel Kelsey Wako and Louise Perry.
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