The following goings on took place in Ferrestone Road, Hornsey, I won’t tell you which number (even though I know), in case it makes someone feel uncomfortable, or stirs sleeping dogs!
Twas on the first day of the year, 1921, when Mr Frost bought a load of coal to warm his extended family including his orphaned niece and nephews, Gordon, Bertie, and Muriel. He set the fires and looked forward to putting his feet up when the coal in the grates starting exploding, as did the coal stored in the buckets. Interviewed by the Daily Mail on 31st Jan 1921, Mr. Frost reported:
When big lumps leapt out of the fire and broke the kitchen windows we thought some sort of explosive had got mixed up with the coal. But after other lumps smashed pictures and damaged the furniture in the dining-room, we cleared all the coal out into the garden. Last night some of it reappeared in the house, and we heard it dropping at the top of the stairs. It seemed to be moving up from below …
Policemen and members of the Fire Brigade investigated the coal, which they reported as leaping out of their hands and breaking in mid-air, but no cause was found. Then other strange things started happening. Food, clothing and small objects such as a flat iron would fly through the air and land unbroken, or be found in grates and other odd places. The family, naturally frightened, invited two local vicars and their local doctor to witness and explain what was happening, but although all three men observed the phenomena and the rapping and banging which had begun to pervade the house they were unable to offer any interpretation or resolution.
The phenomena occurred in the presence of one of the boys, especially, and sometimes in the presence of the other boy. Charles Hoy Fort, the famous American investigator of such things commented, ‘there has been no poltergeist case better investigated. I know of no denial of the phenomena by any investigator. One of the witnesses was the Rev. A.L. Gardiner, vicar of St. Gabriel’s, Wood Green, London. There can be no doubt of the phenomena. I have seen them, myself. Another witness was Dr. Herbert Lemerle, of Hornsey. Dr. Lemerle told of a clock that mysteriously vanished. Upon the 8th of May, a public meeting was held in Hornsey, to discuss the phenomena’.
In the newspapers there was a tendency to explain it all as mischief by the children of this household but one of the children, Muriel, was so terrified by the doings that she died shortly after on April 1st (some say she could have had meningitis), and Gordon had a nervous breakdown. Of course there may have been some other perfectly rational explanation – I’m guessing some kind of gas trapped in the coal – but who knows what really happened. Let me know if you do!