Willington Mill A strange Haunting of a large house in Willington Mill, England, which involved noises,Levitation and movement of objects, mysterious rains of objects and Apparitions of people and animals. The phenomena plagued various residents for the better part of the 19th century, but no reason could ever be found for them. One of the residents, Joseph Procter, a Quaker, kept a diary of the disturbance, which was published in the Journal of the Society for Psychical Research, along with comments from Procter’s son, Edmund, in 1892. A detailed account of the haunting also was published in the Newcastle Weekly Leader at about the same time.
Prior to the occupancy of the Procters, who were owners of the adjacent fl our mill, the 10- to 12-room house was occupied by cousins of the family, the Unthanks. The Unthanks had heard that the house was haunted, but during their 25-year tenancy beginning in 1806, they had not been disturbed once.
For the Procters, the nuisance began at the end of 1834. After some months, the nursemaid confessed to being frightened at night by sounds of thumping and pacing in an unoccupied room on the second floor. Following this confession, other members of the household began to hear the noises, but searches of the room yielded nothing. The nursemaid left and another was hired, but was not told of the haunting. She, too, heard noises in the empty room.
The sounds began to manifest during the day; witnesses thought a man in heavy boots was running about upstairs. The invisible perpetrator seemed to have a mischievous sense of humor, for if the Procters or their friends slept in the room, sat up in it all night, or otherwise waited to hear the noises, nothing happened. As soon as they left, however, the thumping and running sounds would commence, according to the servants.
As time went on, other phenomena occurred, in daytime as well as at night. A white figure of a woman was seen in a second-story window; later, in the same window, a luminous and transparent figure that looked like a priest in a white surplice appeared. Other noises occurred, including sounds of a clock winding, a bullet striking wood, whistling and whizzing, sticks breaking and drumming. (See DRUMMER OF CORTACHY and DRUMMER OF TEDWORTH.) Beds shook, moved and raised up on one side, and the floor vibrated. There were moans, cries and voices that seemed to say “Chuck,” “Never mind” and “Come and get it.” There were sensations of presences by the beds at night, accompanied by icy coldness and heavy, invisible pressure upon parts of bodies. The family took to sleeping with a candle burning all through the night; occasionally, the candle was mysteriously extinguished.
In December 1840, the phenomena inexplicably abated, and the Procters thought they were at last at peace. In May 1841, however, the disturbances started anew. In addition to noises, Edmund, who was then under the age of two, claimed to see a monkey that pulled his bootstrap and tickled his foot. The apparition was seen disappearing beneath a bed by other family members. On another occasion, a white face was glimpsed staring down from the stairs leading to the garret. Another child saw a man enter his bedroom, walk to the window, fling it open, shut it, and walk out of the room.
Procter’s diary ended in 1841, but the disturbances did not. In 1847, the family admitted defeat and, for that and other reasons, left the house, after enduring nearly 13 years of haunting. On their last night in the house, they were tormented by continuous noises—thuds, nonhumanlike steps and furniture being moved about—as though the spirits were moving out as well. Mercifully, nothing followed the Procters to their new home at Camp Villa, North Shields.
The house was divided into two apartments and occupied by the foreman and chief clerk of the fl our mill. These families were occasionally disturbed by strange noises and at least one apparition, but they did not seem to be plagued as badly as the Procters. In 1867, the house was rented to a firm of millers. The new occupants suffered greatly in the house, and at least one family refused to stay under any terms.
Joseph Procter then put the entire property up for sale, and the house was vacant for a time. During the vacancy, son Edmund and others spent a night in the house, hoping to hear noises, but nothing happened. Edmund also participated in a seance at the house conducted by an unnamed but reputedly well-known medium from Newcastle-on-Tyne. Apparently some phenomena were produced—Edmund gave no details in his account—but no communication was established with any spirits who might be responsible.
The house and mill were sold to a firm of guano merchants. One of their machinists reportedly was troubled by disturbances but could find no source or explanation.
Eventually, the mill was closed and turned into a warehouse, and the house was divided into small tenements. Around 1889–90, Edmund Procter interviewed several tenants and was told there had been no disturbances. The mystery of Willington Mill ends there.
FURTHER READING :
- Sitwell, Sacheverell. Poltergeists: Fact or Fancy. New York: Dorset Press, 1988. First published 1959.
- Stead, W. T. Borderland: A Casebook of True Supernatural Stories. New Hyde Park, N.Y.: University Books, 1970. Previously published as Real Ghost Stories, 1897.
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