Uncanny: Danny Robins Reveals New Evidence From Ken In The Case Of Room 611
In the final episode of BBC Sound's supernatural podcast series, 'Uncanny', Danny Robins brought us updates on some of the most gripping cases from the series.
Kicking off the episode, Danny gave us some new information on the much-talked-about, Luibeilt. Climber, Phil, had a poltergeist encounter at the remote Scottish cottage in the 1970s and around the same time experienced strange goings on in his Glasgow home. Danny revealed that there may be a link between Luibeilt and 39 Gibson Street.
The episode also provided listeners with an update on the case of Hannah Betts' and new information relating to the existence of a vicarage that stood close to Hannah's haunted childhood home in Victorian times. This information is particularly significant as one of the reported phenomenon in the house was the unexplained sound of a Victorian-sounding church sermon coming through the family's baby monitor
We also got news on last week's case. Danny answered listeners' questions relating to the two men who stormed Tanfield House, where a haunting seemed to have empowered Patty to fight off the intruders and potentially save her housemate's life. We now know that these two men were the jealous ex-boyfriend of Patty's housemate, and his younger brother.
Bloody Hell, Ken!
Photo: © Lubomyr Myronyuk
The main focus of the episode, which is entitled 'Bloody Hell, Ken!' and is available to listen to on BBC Sounds now, was an update on Ken's intriguing story that kicked off the series. In the 1980s, Ken witnessed a haunting that terrorised him and several other students from Queen's University Belfast.
Danny re-introduced the case by telling us, "over and above all our cases, this is the one that seems to have most increased the nation's laundry bill."
The case revolves around Alanbrooke Hall, an unsettling student tower block which literally gave its residents nightmares, especially on the sixth floor. In the podcast's first episode we heard how Ken shared room 611 with his friend James and he told Danny about his experiences there, which began with loud and terrifying banging by an unseen force on the door to his room. Danny re-opened the case file in a follow-up episode and spoke to new witnesses, including Billy, one of the former students who stayed in room 611 the year after Ken.
Since the original story aired, Danny has heard from several students who are currently in halls of residence at Queen's University Belfast. Alanbrooke Hall was demolished in 2001, but there is still student accommodation on that site. Danny informs us, "it's called Elms Village and the other day, I was contacted by a student called Jasmine who had been living there."
Jasmine tells us that her and some other students have been studying old maps of the site and trying to work out which buildings were where and how they relate to the current layout.
Jasmine think she's been able to pin down exactly where room 611 would have been. She said, "there's this block of buildings called Rowan Gardens, and I want to say the end of Rowan Gardens. We're not certain but it looks around there." According to Jasmine, there is another student living on the site of room 611 now.
This lead Danny to question whether any activity still occurs there. After all we know that it continued after Ken left, but until now, we didn't know for how long. Well, it's seems at least until the 1990s. This new information came in the form of an email to Danny from a former student at Alanbrooke called Kiera.
Danny said, "she describes poltergeist activity, objects actually moving in her room and this is really interesting, because remember the students in 611 the year before and after Ken did report poltergeist activity." According to Danny, many listeners have also wondered if Ken had any kind of poltergeist experiences. Addressing this question, he said, "well, the answer is yes."
Danny then took us back to room 611 in the 1980s and once again we hear from Ken, and we quickly learn that there's more to his story than we were originally told, and it involved some cupboards in Ken's room.
Ken told Danny, "what we began to hear was movement of papers and bags within the cupboards and that really got me because the one thing I am afraid of is rodents. So we investigated that, and there were no mice. I mean, it's impossible for anything to get into those cupboards because they are really solidly built against the wall."
Not only did these noises continue, they soon became responsive. Ken explained, "I can remember it happening one afternoon. I was trying to work. I was just fed up. I said 'just stop it'. And it stopped."
On another occasion, Ken saw the drawer on his desk opening on its own. He described the incident to Danny, "I could see the drawer opening quite slowly and it just continued to open, and it must have come out about six or seven inches, enough to reach in and then it stopped."
The final poltergeist incident Ken shared with listeners involved his roommate, James. According to Ken, James had been sat at his desk reading from an A4 binder, when all of a sudden a page turned over on its own. Before he knew it every page in the binder was whizzing past him.
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A New Witness
We've heard Ken's account of events throughout the series, but Danny had something up his sleeve. He'd got in touch with Ken's roommate, James. Danny started by asking James what he made of Ken's description of events. James replied, "the way he describes his experience is exactly the way I remember him telling it at the time."
James told Danny that the hardest thing for him to explain was the nosies coming from inside the cupboard. He said, "the fact that both of us witness that together at the same time is the one thing for me that really stands out of all the funny things that happened in that room, because we both saw it."
Ken originally told Danny that he and James didn't know any of these stories about the room when they were having these experiences. James was able to confirm that this was "absolutely true."
James was also able to recount stories from other students who had lived in the room the year before him and Ken, including one student who witnessed a book fly off a shelf and across the room. Danny asked, "how do you as a scientist explain this?" James said, "well the only rational explanation is that they lied about it," but he added, "why would they? They were quite studious kind of guys."
Although James did confirm most of Ken's story, he did cast some doubt over the timeline of events. Ken had told Danny that on the night he'd had his first experience, James had seen a menacing dark figure. James said, "that's absolutely what I recall, but I'm not sure that happened the same night. I think I already had my experience maybe a few days earlier, but I can't say exactly."
James also injects some doubt over one other key element of Ken's story, whether he was actually alone on the sixth floor the night that he heard the terrifying banging on his door.
James told the podcast host, "people tended to go home to get their laundry done or whatever, but there was one English guy staying on the floor. He didn't go home to England." James added, "so he was undoubtedly there, and he was a real joker."
He concluded, "it's quite possible that he knew Ken was there, banged on the door and taken his shoes off or whatever, sneaked away the second he heard Ken touch the keys. So that's an explanation."
A Troubled Backdrop
Photo: © Paolo Trabattoni
Moving on, Danny wanted to explore the backdrop of the case, a setting that could have resulted in lingering anxiety for the students. Talking about Ken's time at Queen's University, Danny said, "this is Belfast during the troubles, when the city lived in the grip of sectarian violence."
To explore this idea further, Danny spoke to Gary Foster, who we'd heard from in a previous episode. He was the former student warden at Alanbrooke. Gary first told us about an unsettling incident involving some armed men he caught stealing an empty beer keg from the student bar. At this time, empty kegs were used by terrorists to make bombs.
Gary survived his encounter with the terrorists, but later that evening back in his flat on the tenth floor of Alanbrooke, Gary had an experience very similar to Ken's on that first night. Gary heard what he described as "the most almighty banging on my flat door." He feared the men had come back for him, so he called the uni's security.
Gary said, "the banging continued and I finally decided that they're either going to kick the door in, or I just opened it to confront them, and as I touch that handle and start to unlock the door, the banging stopped." Gary opened the door to find no one there, and moments later a security officer came around the corner having walked along an empty corridor. The security man remarked, "there is no one in the hall, there must have been a ghost or something."
Deaths In Room 611
Danny then reminds us of something Ken talked about in the original episode, a cleaner who had told Ken that there were three students connected with room 611 who had died. Danny reminded us, "somebody who fell from a window, someone shot on the way to mass, and one other death, cause unknown."
Danny added, "we have a little bit more info on this third death." The new information came from Billy, who we first heard from in an update on the case in the show's fifth episode. He stayed in room 611 the year after Ken and he also spoke to the cleaner about the room.
Billy said that she'd told him about the third student, apparently they'd hanged themselves in the room. She also talked to Billy about a séance which was held in room 611 and resulted in all the students leaving the room in terror.
Billy told Danny that a group of students on their last night living in the room used a Ouija board. He said, "by all accounts, there was a lot of screaming as they left the room. It did make us think that there's some people out there on the campus that knew stuff about this room."
Danny said that he had been able to confirm one part of the cleaner's story. He explained, "there was a student who was shot on the way to mass."
According to another former student who emailed into the show, he was called Gerard Kiely. He was shot with his friend Kevin Ballantine outside St. Bridget's Church near to Alanbrooke on February 9, 1975 by a loyalist paramilitary. Danny added, "we haven't yet established any link between Gerard and room 611 though, so it's possible that his tragic death became the link as an urban myth to the stories around the room."
Danny had one final revelation to share. He told us that he'd been digging through old newspaper archives in the hopes of finding something so profound that it might be the catalyst for what happened in room 611.
"And then I found it," Danny said, "a now defunct newspaper called the Banner of Ulster dated July 27, 1849. A story about a man named Daniel Dylan, murdered by his wife and her lover on the sandpit that lay where Alanbrooke Hall was built."
Danny continued, "the murderers were captured and found guilty and the article describes the accused, Katherine Dylan, in the dock. She seemed to be deeply affected by her wretched position, during the delivery of the judge's charge the woman wept bitterly, but it's what she was wearing that got me. It says she was dressed in dark attire with a black ribbon and black veil."
We are reminded of Ken's words, "the first thing that struck me because I was analysing this data as much as possible, was that I'd never seen anything so black, I think it was just the blackest black I'd ever seen."
The episode ended with an announcement from Danny that 'Uncanny' would be returning in the future for a second season. He also told listeners to "watch this space" for a new project that will focus on another case like 'The Battersea Poltergeist'. Danny will once again examine the story over multiple episodes bringing listeners a mix of drama and documentary.
Danny offered up a huge thank you to all of the witnesses who featured in the series and said, "it's scary having one of these experiences, but it could be even scarier telling people about it."
He also said thank you to his listeners, "finally, thank you to you. I have loved this thing that we have created together. We are uncanny."
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