Weird Suffolk: The poltergeist of Bramford who plagued a little girl
- Credit: Archant
“Kettles, a table and sofa moved by invisible hand and, terrifyingly, knives would fly from cupboards and stick in Ellen’s hair…” the restless spirit that plagued a family from Bramford.
It was the winter of 1887, and in a cottage in Bramford near Ipswich, something very strange was happening.
According to local reports, a poltergeist had taken up residence in the humble abode alongside widow Parker, her grown-up son by first marriage, Thomas Farrington, two other children, Ellen Parker, 13, and Cornelius Parker, 11, and a bedridden woman, Mrs Felgate.
The unusual occurrences began with the throwing of stones and dirt outside the house and then raps and other noises were heard and items of furniture started to move of their own accord inside the house: witnesses claimed that the little girl, Ellen, would actually be lifted bodily into the air or struck temporarily blind.
Kettles, a table and sofa moved by invisible hand and, terrifyingly, knives would fly from cupboards and stick in Ellen's hair.
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The family were frightened for the safety of their younger children and Ellen was packed off to an aunt's house in Stowmarket, Mrs Jeffry - what happened next was recounted by her husband Robert, in a letter to the East Anglian Daily Times on December 14 1887.
"The child came to my house on Monday, November 26th, in the evening," he wrote.
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"Nothing happened till the Wednesday night following, when raps came at my front door. No one was there. Closing the front door as soon as I got in, raps came inside the house till the child went to bed, sleeping with her grandmother. As the child went upstairs, raps followed her, and went on in the room. That was all that happened that night.
"The next night, in the room where she sat, at about 7 o'clock, I was annoyed by hearing raps again in the room where the child, my wife, and the child's grandmother were sitting. No one else was there. This went on till the child and her grandmother went to bed; raps followed them both up the stairs. I then heard a tremendous noise.
"Mrs Jeffery went upstairs, saw things moving about, and called me. I went up and found them in a terrible fright. I got them both downstairs for an hour, when nothing happened but for a few raps, coming from where I did not know.
"They went to bed again about 11. My wife went up, and as soon as the child and her grandmother were in bed, I went up. There was no one in the room then but my wife, myself and those in bed. As soon as I went in, the washstand fell on me, no one being near it but myself; next I saw a clothes chest, weighing at least seven stones with the contents, jumping about the floor.
"I put it in its place several times. Then the chairs and all the moveables in the room seemed alive; even the brass knob screwed on the bedpost was taken off and dashed across the room. All this time the child was in bed, and a bright light in the room. These disturbances went on till about 12 o'clock that night, when they ceased.
"This is what I witnessed myself, but I must mention that in my absence, my wife, my two sons, and my neighbour (Mrs Read) saw very much the same things as I did. But I leave them to speak for themselves, confining myself to what I saw and heard myself. I have been a resident of Stowmarket 32 years, and I am sure my friends will credit me as a truthful man."
In January 1888, a member of the Society for Psychical Research, Frank Podmore, visited the family to investigate and was convinced of Mrs Parker's honesty - he discovered that the phenomena occurred only in the presence of the little girl, Ellen, but was unable to discover any motive for fraud on her part.
A police constable, Police Sergeant Leeks, claimed he had seen Ellen tapping on the window and a school mistress claimed that Cornelius had confessed a level of trickery but the account from Mr Jeffry cannot be explained, nor can that of other witnesses.
In the Evening Star of November 11 1887, the tale was recounted as the reporter delved into the cottage's history - finding nothing of great interest - and described the haunting.
"On several occasions the door leading to the upper storey was opened by some invisible agency," it read, "mud and stones were hurled at the windows and the front door, the most remarkable thing in connection to this being that the windows were never broken and the door never dinted, although the ghost showed a decided preference for such missiles as big flints and brick-bats."
Villagers were, the article continued, frightened: "Some thought the house was under a spell. The deliberate opinion of others was that witchcraft was at work."
Only Sergeant Leeks remained steadfast in his belief that the 'poltergeist' was a hoax: "Police-Sergeant Leeks, who is stationed at Bramford, had all along expressed the profoundest contempt for the Ghost… found that, whenever Mrs Parker's two younger children happened to be away from home, no noises were heard ad the cottage was as peaceful as any other house in the village. The sergeant flatly refused to believe in ghostly flints and brick-bats, and the upshot of it was that on Wednesday morning he waited upon the younger Parkers, and invited them to make a full confession. Master Cornelius thereupon spoke up, and admitted that his sister and himself had been playing the ghost at the instigation of Mrs Felgate."
But, the neighbours were not convinced by Sgt Leek's earthly explanation: "If the children had kept that game up for six weeks they must be bedevilled."