updated at 1:55 AM on 2nd April 2011
Ellie Manning’s bedroom looks like it belongs to a stroppy teenager. The wardrobe doors are off their hinges and propped against the pink wall. The pictures hang at drunken angles. A bright pink chair sits in the middle of the room, as if abandoned in a hurry, and tangled piles of clothes and toys litter the floor. So far, so messily normal. But on closer inspection, things don’t feel quite right.Three pink plastic crucifixes hang in a cluster above the unmade bed. A group of crystals line the windowsill like sentries. And the floor around the bedroom door is gritty with a thick layer of salt.
Eleven-year-old Ellie Manning has been too scared to go upstairs in the family
home in Holbrooks, Coventry, for fear of what the poltergeist might do next Oh yes, and Ellie isn’t a teenager. She’s just 11 years old and for the past month she’s been too scared to go upstairs — far less go into her room — in the three-bedroom house she shares with brother Jaydon, six, mother Lisa, and Lisa’s partner Anthony Powell, 25, in Holbrooks, Coventry. ‘We’ve had priests sprinkling everything with holy water, waving crucifixes and saying prayers, spiritualists with protective crystals and mediums laying salt down at the doorways to keep the evil spirits out,’ says Lisa, 34.
‘We’ve tried it all after everything that’s happened here in the past six months.’Lisa’s ‘everything’ includes, she says, doors opening and slamming shut, pounding footsteps, chairs that move on their own, cutlery drawers that hurtle to the floor, kettles that fly, tea cups that float and shatter in mid-air and bleach bottles that double as ghostly missiles. All of which she claims is part of a ‘sinister force’ that has been terrorising her family — pushing and shoving them, hurling things at them, knocking pictures off the walls, destroying their belongings, speaking in strange voices and maiming their pet dogs — since last
‘People say it’s all too far fetched — like something from a horror film — and that we’re making it up,’ she says as she takes me on a tour round her end-of-terrace council house. ‘But this is our life and our home and it’s really happening to us and we can’t take it any longer.’The devil within: Footage captured by Ellie's mother, Lisa, shows a cupboard flying open and a chair moving across the room And so, earlier this week and after months of pleading with the local council to rehouse them, Lisa claims she snapped and made public a home video recording of the pink chair in Ellie’s bedroom, seemingly moving by itself.
‘It took us weeks to capture the poltergeist. First it was just shadows, which we knew wouldn’t be enough to convince anyone, then the video melted in the recorder, but finally we caught it.’The video does indeed show the chair moving. Although, unfortunately for Lisa, it’s not quite possible to see the chair’s base and ascertain if anything — like a thread, or a stick, or a magnet — could, just possibly, be propelling it.Ever since, the family have found themselves in a maelstrom of publicity — on television, in the papers — and not all of it good.
‘People are calling us liars. They say it’s a hoax. But all I can say is — we’ve been through six kettles, all my casserole dishes have been smashed, the children’s television and Nintendo have been destroyed and I’ve only two cups left that aren’t chipped from being hurled around.’ Goodness. According to Lisa and Anthony, it all started back in September, when they and Lisa’s two children moved in.
‘From day one, I felt like somebody was watching me — particularly in the kitchen,’ says Lisa. ‘But I wasn’t that bothered. It never occurred to me it was anything sinister — just a silly shadowy feeling.’
Phenomenon: Things had been thrown around the Mannings' house and lights turned on and off - striking fear into the family Within a couple of weeks, though, lights started flicking on and off, footsteps pounded on the upstairs landing when all the family were downstairs and doors slammed shut at odd times. Again, Lisa — who insists she’d had no previous experience of ghosts or spirits and has never even had her fortune read — wasn’t fazed. ‘I thought it must be a wiring fault, but the electrician couldn’t find anything wrong,’ she says. ‘So we just tried to forget about it.’But things soon escalated.
One night last October Lisa and Anthony were woken by a freezing draft. The front door, which Lisa insists she’d locked with a key earlier, was wide open and the sound of heavy running footsteps rang out from Ellie’s room. But when they checked on her, she was fast asleep. Then things started going wild in the kitchen.
‘First of all, the kettle kept smashing on to the floor. And the cutlery drawers started shooting out. Then, one by one, my casserole dishes smashed onto the floor. For weeks we kept making excuses for the children’s sake — it must have been the wind, it must have been one of the dogs.
‘Ellie started hearing voices in her room and we told her she must have been imagining it.‘And then one day I said, ‘I think we should get a crucifix’, and suddenly a heavy glass ashtray came flying from the kitchen into the sitting room, followed by the kettle.‘As we fled to the door, a dirty mug floated off the dining room table and shattered in mid-air and Ellie and I felt a force hit us in the shoulder like a great shove, before footsteps pounded up the stairs.’ Terrified, the family fled to stay with Lisa’s mum. According to Lisa, that was the end of any pretending. And the beginning of a new and alarmingly busy phase of ‘spiritual activity’.
Because, while most modern ghostly sightings seem to be limited to a few floating light orbs, a sudden temperature drop, or a sinister feeling, here in Coventry, extraordinary story after extraordinary story tumbles out. In at the deep end: Daily Mail reporter Jane Fryer (left) meets up with Lisa Manning to get a true taste of just what has been going on in the haunted house
So there’s the time Ellie was hit by a flying bleach bottle, the framed picture of the lead singer of UB40 that bashed Anthony in the side of the head, the mysterious injuries suffered by their pet dogs — one was ‘pushed’ down the stairs, breaking two of its legs — the time they were all locked in, hysterically tugging at a living room door held shut by an unseen force, forcing them to flee out of the window.
And not forgetting the time Lisa stood on the front lawn, looked up at Ellie’s bedroom window to see the lights flashing on and off and the blinds shooting up and down until suddenly they parted and she saw ‘something huge and dark — about seven feet tall and like an animal.’Sadly the children aren’t here today to share their experiences, but Anthony more than makes up for it with his claims that: ‘I’d wake up with scratches all over my chest and big red hand prints on my arms as if someone had been grabbing me in the night.’
‘Even Jaydon and Ellie had scratches on their bodies,’ adds Lisa. ‘But we hadn’t put two and two together then.’ Or, sadly, taken any photographs.Perhaps unsurprisingly, the family have brought in a steady stream of spiritualists, priests, mediums, you name it — who have arrived clutching white candles, holy water, crystal pendants, large containers of table salt (to lay at the doorways to discourage the spirits) and a host of fantastic theories about spiritual doorways.
‘One medium said that this place was a like a portal hole for spirits,’ says Lisa, pointing to a spot on the sitting room floor. ‘So it’s a bit like a bus stop. They all queue here, travel up through the portal hole, look round and if there’s been a spirit here and there’s negative energy, they’ll come and join.’New start? The family are hoping that following a visit by TV 'ghostbuster' Derek Acorah, their
torment is overIt wasn’t all quacks. The local council sent a Church of England
priest (‘they only started taking it seriously once they saw the video’) who sprayed holy water, said lots of prayers and, according to Lisa, recommended
they were not the right family to stay in the house.
This week they even had celebrity TV ‘ghostbuster’ Derek Acorah round — armed with more crystals, salt, cleansing prayers and a film crew — who claimed it was all down to a very angry man called Jim, who once lived in this spot, died of a heart attack aged 58 and had attached himself to Ellie. According to Lisa, the general pattern has been that, after every ‘cleansing’ (and a night of offended banging and crashing), things have quietened down, only to veer back to abnormal in a matter of weeks.
‘It starts building again with slamming doors and flying cutlery. Then the whole house starts to feel tense — I’ll start getting headaches, Ellie (who is staying with her grandma until things calm down) gets a pain in her stomach, Anthony just feels weird and the air feels cloudy and muggy — almost pressurised — until things explode with another bang.’Derek Acorah insists that, after his ministering this week, the poltergeist will not return. Lisa, who is crossing her fingers, claims the house already feels different — ‘more like my house, for once’ — and, amazingly, claims she’s very happy to stay if ‘Jim’ really has gone and she can persuade her daughter to return home.
Problem solved: Psychic Derek Acorah insists the poltergeist will not return to haunt the Coventry home Which is all splendid news of course, but doesn’t deal with the doubters and cynics who claim Lisa and Anthony have made it all up.
Lisa, however, is standing firm.‘I don’t care who knows now or what they say. All I want is that no one else has to go through what we’ve been through. Come and live here yourself for a bit if you want and see if it’s a hoax. Just take a look around you — does this look like a normal house?’I take one last long look before I leave and she’s absolutely right — there aren’t many unchipped mugs in the kitchen cupboard, Ellie’s room is a right mess and the house is littered with crystals, crucifixes, candles and salt.
But that’s about it. The pink chair is still and quiet, none of the doors is slamming, the bleach is safely tucked away in the bathroom cupboard and there
are no scratches or fingerprints on show Maybe this poor family really has been
terrorised for the past six months and Derek Acorah really has done the job, or
maybe it’s all an elaborate hoax. Who knows? But I should perhaps mention
that, as I later discovered, the previous family to live at the Coventry house
apparently left in the middle of the night, leaving brand new carpets and all
their possessions, in their hurry to get away.