Uncanny: Danny Robins Hears From A Woman Who Was Haunted As A Teen In A Historic Farmhouse

October 27, 2021 9:33 PM ‐ PodcastsParanormalGhostsRadioLong Reads
Uncanny - Case 2: The Hanging Room
It's week two and Danny Robins is back with another fascinating paranormal case in his new podcast series, 'Uncanny'. In episode two Danny tries to understand a historic haunting in a Cotswolds farmhouse which had life-changing consequences for the victim of the incident.

The case revolves around Millie, who's now in her 30s and works as a solicitor in residential property, but the strange events took place when she was between the ages of 12 and 17 in an old farmhouse that was built in 1667.

Since Millie no longer lives in her childhood home, the exact location of the property has been left unnamed out of respect for the current residents. Before this the home had been in Millie's family for many years, having been owned by her stepfather Robert's parents.

Millie's Story: The Hanging Room

Millie's first unsettling encounter occurred while Robert's parents were still living in the house, on the day Millie's mother married Robbert in the 1990s when Millie was just six.

Speaking to Danny in her impressive kitchen of her old stone house, Millie said "after the ceremony, I was put down for a nap in my father's childhood bedroom," Millie calls her stepdad her father. She continues, "I felt very uncomfortable but couldn't explain it. I'm lying in bed, and I don't like it. I don't want to be on my own. But I don't know why."

Danny tells us, "time passes, Millie forgets but then six years later, Millie finds herself moving into the house." She says, "so my paternal grandmother was diagnosed with cancer. We agreed to move in so we could be there to help look after." And guess which bedroom Millie ended up in.

Millie told the podcast host, "I remember it so clearly. Everywhere around the house I'd feel like I was being watched. The room under my bedroom, the hall, I'd feel there was a presence in one particular corner and when my sister and I were playing outside, I'd feel someone was watching me from the windows in the attic." In fact, Millie thought the attic was especially terrifying.

Up until this point in the story it's been more about an unsettling feeling in the house, but things started to escalate by the time Millie was around the age of 14. She told Danny, "things started to move during the night. I would hear a rolling across the floorboards in my bedroom and I turned the light on and there'd be nothing in the middle of the floor. I turned the light off and the noise would start again, every night. Sometimes at night to try and disguise the fear I would listen to music."

But even listening to music didn't always help, as Millie explained, "when I was ready to go to sleep, I take the earphones out, put it down on the floor. Go to sleep and in the morning, the earbuds would have gone." She clarified that it was the whole in-ear plastic earbud that were cut off at the wire and gone. Millie said, "it happened about five or six times."

By Spring 2000, Millie was studying for her GCSEs, but remember the strange incidents continuing, "I was sitting on my bed, reading my maths textbook and I hear, just inside the door is a pile of lever arch files that have spent months sitting on top of my bookcase and then in a pile 17 foot away."

But this wasn't the end of it as Millie explained, "a few minutes later I started hearing little plastic taps and I look at my stereo and a pile of cassette tapes on top of one of the speakers are moving one at a time off the speaker onto the floor and re-stacking. Stereo is not on, there was no sound coming from it, but they're moving in a straight line horizontally and then straight down vertically into a pile on the floor."

Millie described the movement as being like " someone's picked one up and is putting it down slowly. They are being moved off the speaker and then I just ran. I went to the kitchen and I explained what I'd seen and mum looked at me and said 'we've got a poltergeist'."

Continuing with her ghost story, Millie said, "whilst mum and I are discussing our experiences, we hear a smack at the far end of the house and we get up, and race down, and we enter the hall, the room I don't like being in after dark, and a very large gilt-framed mirror that was resting on the floor against a wall behind a three foot tall stereo cabinet had risen up and over the top and smashed against the far wall."

As Millie continued to open up to Danny about the haunting, it became clear how much of an impact it has had on her, "it affected me for a long time. My confidence, my self esteem. I fell into a huge depression. One day, it was evening and I was just in my room watching TV and feeling very, very sad. And then I sort of blacked out and came to trying to hang myself from a beam in my bedroom. There was a beam across the centre of the room and I was sort of stood on this stool. There was a rope. I didn't know how I'd got there, but I was almost ready to step off and and hang myself."

Danny empathise with Millie, telling her, "it's very brave for you to talk about this and to articulate it. There will be people listening who believe that you had a time when you were struggling with mental illness. You have this very, very strong belief that it was because of what was going on in the house."

Some time later Millie was able to find out what might have caused the negative haunting in her home. She said, "someone in the village did some research and they discovered that in the 18th century, I think it was, 1700s, a young girl had hung herself in the house. We're not sure why, we theorised she may have fallen pregnant out of wedlock and I think it was the ghost showing me what she'd been through and why she was there. And I was at the right age for it to draw my energy and it was just having a young girl as the ghost felt like the right explanation."

Danny then draws listeners' attention to one more detail that might be relevant, where the local historians thought this tragic act taken place. Millie explains, "we think was done in the attic." The attic, the part of the house that Millie found the most scary, but then what child wouldn't?

What The Experts Think

Danny was once again joined by some experts in this episode, one of the UK is best known sceptics, psychologist Chris French, and somebody who will be familiar to any 'Battersea Poltergeist' listeners, parapsychologist Evelyn Hollow.

Chris, who doesn't believe in ghosts, said "I would acknowledge that certain houses are much spookier than others and it sounds like Millie may well have been living in a very spooky house. Millie reported that her mum had just married who was to become a stepfather, and although it was a very happy relationship that would have been a very, very emotionally charged day in lots of ways and then she's there in this house with its old history, it's spooky dark corners and I can understand why a six year old may well have felt uncomfortable in that situation, but once that seeds been planted, then it very often will grow. All kinds of very mundane events will then be interpreted within that context and it becomes a kind of feedback cycle where people can get really, really terrified."

But Evelyn is a bit more open to the possibility of a haunting. She said, "I absolutely do believe houses can be haunted. In cases like this that we would categorise as poltergeist cases, we often find that because there's such a high level of activity and phenomenon, it usually links to something that has happened in that place. That's quite traumatic or quite strong."

Evelyn then tells Danny about the concept of stone tape theory, "the idea that emotional or traumatic events are recorded on to things like items i.e. like houses, which are replayed under certain conditions. We are looking at this from the perspective that the house itself is behaving like a cassette tape." This theory, although controversial might explain some of the earlier unsettling feelings that Millie was overwhelmed by in the house, but of course it cannot explain the poltergeist activity, as this is not a replay of the past.

The ever-rational Chris suggested that some of the poltergeist activity have a much more normal cause, including the rolling sounds and the missing earbuds... mice, but Evelyn said, "mice can be responsible for some of the noises but in terms of the headphones, she's saying they're not chewed they're cut, and also mice doing it once yes, but mice doing it every single time."

Danny adds, "unless they're the kind of mice that appear in Disney films, Chris, they couldn't be responsible for moving cassette tapes off a speaker and restocking them neatly on the floor." The psychologist has another theory for this, "the cassette is a much weirder claim. It may be that what she saw there was a hallucination, and people are much more likely to hallucinate when they're very stressed. We know that she was studying for her exams at this point she was feeling very, very stressed."

Evelyn described the more serious issue of the near-hanging as "incredibly traumatic. I mean, suicide is a grim and harrowing enough thing to even contemplate in and of itself, but to not do it consciously for not to be her choice. That's not suicide. That's attempted murder, essentially."

Chris agreed with Evelyn sentiment, "it's absolutely horrible. I mean, my heart goes out to Millie for having had that experience." However, he had a different explanation that attempted murder, he explained, "if the account as given by Millie is accurate, then that does indicate that Millie at times could do stuff without realising she was doing it. If indeed Millie does have this potential to, for whatever reason, go into some kind of dissociated state where she's carrying out actions that she subsequently has no memory of, is it possible that some of the other apparently inexplicable events that took place objects moving from one location to another, the whole host of things that she'd reported as happening, might she have been responsible for those things herself and now have no memory of them."

Chris adds, "the other possibility is that, did this really happen at all or maybe, even though she sincerely believes it happened, might it be a false memory? And Millie's description does have a certain kind of dreamlike quality to me. You know, maybe it was something she actually dreamt and she's now remembering it as having been a real thing that happened. Whatever the escalation is, it's understandably very scary and very, very unpleasant."

In the episode Danny also spoke to Millie's mum, Mary, who had also had some scary experiences in the house, and Millie's stepdad, who was a little more skeptical about the haunting and the house's dark reputation.

Danny sums up the case by raising the question, "a ghost that passes on through the generations. You can really look at that in two ways, can't you? Is this house that's being handed down literally haunted? Or is it simply the belief that is passed down, belief that in some people becomes fear?"

Perhaps there's an easy way to answer this question. It would be interesting to know if Danny has contacted the current residents of the house or any other former residents who have lived there since Millie and her family left. Danny wonders, "is it the story of two teenage girls separated across centuries, one reaching out to the other? Or is it the story of a family feeding each other's fear and accidentally inventing a ghost?"

In his parting words, Danny promises listeners that he'll be coming back to Millie's story later in the podcast series. More episodes of Radio 4's 'Uncanny' are available on BBC Sounds now and will also be broadcast on Saturday nights at 11:30pm on Radio 4 from October 23.

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