As is alluded to in one of the most fascinating and concise studies of paranormal activity, Guy Lyon Playfair’s ‘This House is Haunted’ and echoed in the equally engaging ‘The South Shields Poltergeist’ by Michael J Hallowell & Darren W Ritson, occurrences experienced in Enfield, South Shields and Wynwood house have little consideration for a linear sense of story. After the initial manifestations; doors opening and closing, objects moving, cold spots etc, the shock wears off, the constant, almost child-like repetition of the phenomena becomes almost tiresome before it simply stops with no discernable reason.
Wynwood house’s peculiarities, like those in Enfield and South Shields, were a constant while there were people in the house; the nightly clatterings on the attic stairs along with lingering odours that would come and go in the unused downstairs bedrooms, the un-closable door, the cold and the flies became accepted by everyone; they had never really been discussed, not until that night, the night we decided to confront it.
Marney had told the story of Jonno’s coat. Then the hanged man. We had felt it growing around us as we talked.
“Fuck off Steve.” Said Ross.
He got to his feet.
“Go on. Do one.”
There was a collective gasp.
Ross was my best friend; he had been with me the very first night Carla had brought us here. This act of defiant bravery was not out of character.
Carla sat up. The rest of us huddled closer together on the floor, eyes wide.
Ross ignored her.
“Go on!” He gestured toward the living room door and the rest of us followed him with our gaze.
“Ross, stop it.”
Carla was on her feet now. A terrible, taught feeling had spread itself through the room. The air felt charged, crackling with unseen electricity.
“Come on, Ross…”
“Sit down mate…”
The others could feel it too. The room seemed to hum. I knew a little about the paranormal, being pretty enthusiastic about ghosts and the like as a young lad and at that moment something clicked into place.
“Ross…come on…” Carla put out her hands to him.
“No, no! I know what I’m doing…”
One of the theories is that poltergeist activity tends to focus on a certain person; more often than not, a teenage girl.
“Get out! Get out!”
I felt a sudden twinge of emasculation; Carla was my girlfriend and here I was, sat on the floor, doing nothing to help her, nothing.
I made to get to my feet when suddenly the strangest sensation I have ever experiencedin my entire life filled me. Just like that. To this day, I have never felt anything like it, nor anything remotely similar. I will happily swear on anything deemed appropriate that, although I had probably drank some alcohol that night, I was nowhere even close to being drunk; nor had I taken any drugs.
It was like two hands; two huge, cold hands had inserted themselves into my chest. There was no pain, just a solid sensation of them suddenly being there when previously they had not. I could not feel their fingers as such, just a sensation of being held.
From the inside.
“Oh shit…” Ross, Carla and the rest turned to me.
Those terrible hands began to clench.
“Help!” I couldn’t breathe; I was suffocating. Panic whirled inside. Things were crawling down the walls.
“Stop it!” Ross’ voice boomed around the room. “Get off him!”
A few more agonising seconds before slowly, very slowly, the hands unclenched and were gone. Just as they had arrived.
The memories of the rest of that night are fuzzy. What I do remember is that whenever me, Ross or Carla walked up the main staircase from the ground to the first floor, we were pushed or shoved back.
It was deeply unpleasant and unsettling. Most of the regular visitors to Beaumont Grove did not return after that night. Me, Ross and Carla, however, did.
And the worst was yet to come.
“I’m going for a walk.”
This time we were drunk. Really drunk.
Three of us.
Carla, Ross and me in the living room of Wynwood house. Van Dando and Baloo the bear staring at us. We mixed lager, cider and blackcurrant cordial to make Snakebite & Black. Everyone else had gone out to the club.
Ross staggered from the room. We heard him thudding against the walls on his way to the toilet.
The following recollections are fragments from that night. There was a lot more going on that concerned our emotional state at that time rather than any strange things in the house, but I have omitted them and will reflect on that in the conclusion. For now; there are two vivid, discernable memories that are, to this day, as clear as they were then.
“Where is she?”
After a few hours of flouncing away from each other, tears and rage; Ross and I stood in the living room, blinking at each other as if we’d emerged into sudden daylight.
We thundered down the stairs and tried the front bedrooms first; all empty. Cold. The kitchen was empty too, save for the flies. I don’t remember if we checked the back door, that yard with the faces in the wall.
“Carla? Where are you?”
Back up the stairs and the toilet door was open. We checked anyway, two more bedrooms and the living room, nothing.
Our feet slammed into the wood and the door burst open.
We stood, shivering at the top of the attic stairs. The little room, the cell, was empty.
It had been locked.
From the inside.
“Carla!” Back down the stairs, opening doors and snapping on the lights. There was real panic then, real adult panic; huge and overwhelming. We were two terrified boys rattling around the belly of Wynwood house.
There she was. Curled up on one of the beds in one the rooms where we had already looked.
There was nothing to say. Neither Ross or I could find the words. Exhausted, the three of us clambered into the bed. Flies thudded against the pane. Again and again.
“I’ll find us a cigarette.”
I had a pack in my jacket. In the front room.
As soon as my hand touched the door handle there was a thud from the window, as if it had been hit from the other side.
I whipped around.
The windows in Wynwood house were all the same; they all opened a third from the top with a metal arm punctuated with holes that clipped onto a metal peg.
Ross, Carla and I watched in horror as the arm of the closed window lifted itself off the peg, swang open once, twice and latched itself back closed.
It was the most terrifying thing I have ever seen in my life.
We were screaming, scrabbling at the door, desperate to get out of there. It was impossible to even comprehend what we had just seen. We thundered through the house into one of the back bedrooms and dived beneath the covers, Carla between us, holding tight to each others’ hands.
We lay there on our backs in shocked silence for I don’t know how long, we couldn’t speak. My mind was a mess, hurtling through countless scenarios, explanations, searching for a logical explanation for what we’d just seen. It was impossible for wind to have lifted the latch off that window, open it, close it not once but twice before latching it closed again.
Somehow, somehow as the time dragged itself by and our shivering subsided, I began to calm down. Maybe we’d imagined it, a collective hallucination. Just drunk teenagers making stuff up.
I could feel something beneath me. As if something was drumming its fingers on my back.
Something with fingers so long it could penetrate a mattress.
“Can anyone else feel that?” My whisper hung in the air like smoke.
“A kind of pushing?” Said Ross from the other side of Carla.
“Lets get the fuck out of here.”
We spent the rest of the night downstairs in the freezing kitchen with the stink, the striplight and the flies. Waited for the others to get back from the club.
They spilled into Wynwood house full of booze and warmth and chat.
After we told them what had happened that night, they cobbled together more taxi money and left. Their bubble burst.
Soon we would be all gone; our friendships and comradery shattered by that house. Many of us would never see each other again after that summer.
Wynwood house took its toll.
There would be one final chapter to its sorry story.