The Battersea Poltergeist Allegedly Terrorized A Teenage Girl For 12 Years

Ghost stories have become urban legends all over the world, but few have sparked imagination, curiosity, and fear like the legendary Battersea poltergeist in London, England. Even if you haven't heard about this alleged haunting, you've probably seen films and read books inspired by the Hitchings family account. Their tale is one of the most horrifying ghost stories of our times.

According to the Hitchings family, the Battersea poltergeist did much more than go bump in the night.

Photo: Unknown author / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

  • In January 1956, Shirley Hitchings Found A Key On Her Pillow That Fit No Doors To Her Home

    What started as a small mystery became London's most famous - or rather, infamous - spooky tale. It sparked controversy from a house in Battersea, London, all the way to the floor of the House of Commons.

    When Shirley Hitchings awoke one day in 1956 in the bedroom of her family home at 63 Wycliffe Road, she found an ornate, silver key on her bedside table, which was odd in and of itself. What was more troubling, however, was the fact that it didn't fit any doors in her house. As mysteriously as the key appeared, it soon disappeared again.

    But this was only the beginning of the Battersea poltergeist legend, a tale of ghostly phenomena that the Hitchings family claims lasted 12 years.

  • That Night, The Hitchings Family Experienced Poltergeist Activity So Loud, The Neighbors Complained

    Finding a key that doesn't unlock any doors is certainly odd, but the Hitchings family said the real terror began that night. The family awoke to a strange, loud banging, like the bombing London suffered in WWII, according to Shirley. She said:

    I lived through the Blitz, and I remember the bombs dropping. It was the same level of noise. The sound was coming from the roots of the house.

    In fact, the ruckus was so loud, neighbors began complaining because they thought Shirley’s father, Wally, was experiencing some kind of episode and banging around the house in the middle of the night. Inside the house, the Hitchings family claim they also heard scratching sounds. Animal activity could explain scratching noises within the walls, but the family states these noises came from within the furniture.

  • After Several Weeks, The Activity Escalated, And Objects Began To Fly Through the Air

    After three weeks of nightly noise disturbances, the sleep-deprived Hitchings family said things went from bad to worse. Along with the Hitchingses, other witnesses claim the Battersea poltergeist went from making noises to making objects fly through the air for no apparent reason. 

    Pots and pans would hover in the air and slam into walls, causing the Hitchings family to duck out of the way. Shirley's glove slapped her father in the face as if worn by an invisible hand. Slippers began walking across the room with no one inside them.

  • One Night, An Invisible Force Attacked Shirley In Bed, And She Began Levitating

    Allegedly, the Hitchings entered Shirley's bedroom one night, only to find her levitating above her bed. While floating in the air, her back arched, and the sheets were apparently ripped from her body by an invisible force.

    According to the family, they had a "tug of war" with an unseen force while trying to put the sheets - and Shirley - back on Shirley's bed. Shirley recalled:

    I remember the sheets coming off and being tossed about in the bed. I was floating above the bed. When [my brother] John pulled me down, I was rigid. My nan, who was Catholic, thought I might be possessed by the devil. I thought I was going mad. I was crying all the time, very traumatized.

    Because of the violent nature of the attacks, the family nicknamed the spirit after a character known for his ill temper - they began referring to the spirit as "Donald," as in Donald Duck.

  • The Hitchingses' Story Reached The Media, And They Met Ghost Hunter Harold Chibbet

    Once the story hit the newspapers, the Hitchings family found themselves in the spotlight and the subject of countless articles. At least one good thing came from the publicity, though: The Battersea poltergeist case drew the attention of ghost hunter Harold "Chib" Chibbet. Little did he know then that his interest in the Hitchingses' case - and in proving the existence of an afterlife - would last a lifetime.

    Chibbet explained to the Hitchingses they had been suffering from a poltergeist; a poltergeist haunting usually revolves around a teenage girl and includes the physical movement of inanimate objects. But this didn't calm Shirley. Instead, she became scared and said, "This is the end. We're all going to die."

    That's when the Hitchings family decided to take drastic measures.

  • After The Family Attempted To Arrange An Exorcism, The Haunting Caught The Attention Of The House Of Commons 

    As fate would have it, the Hitchings patriarch, Wally Hitchings, worked with a medium named Harry Hanks, and the Hitchings family planned to perform an exorcism at Hanks's home. Before the exorcism could begin, however, police intervened because of an anonymous tip that "black magic and witchcraft" rituals were about to occur at the house.

    The move caused so much buzz and controversy that even the House of Commons discussed the Battersea poltergeist - the first time in history an alleged ghost was a topic of discussion there.