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My House Wanted Me

It was a pretty, tumbledown house by the sea – and Jacqueline Cunningham, 58, from Ramsgate, fell in love with the place. But was she attracted by its quaint oak beams and picture postcard location, or was something more sinister luring her to the old smugglers’ haunt?

Printed July 04

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The Medium's View

Medium Patricia Putt has helped many frightened homeowners to investigate spooky presences – sometimes helping spirits to cross over. We invited her to visit Jacqueline’s former home to see if she could feel any spirit activity. She wasn’t told any details of what had happened.

‘Standing outside the house, I could immediately feel a strong malevolent presence who was on this earth around 1720. My guides told me there is the spirit of a man called Newton connected to the house. He’s still there. He once had money but lost it through immoral deeds.

‘Because of Newton’s bitterness, he drew Jacqueline into a strange world where he played with her mind. Although she didn’t see him, she felt his presence many times – she found him fascinating, almost dangerously so. He also played with the minds of her young sons. I feel her marriage broke up as a result this. Newton is a manipulative spirit who could endanger people’s lives.’

‘Patricia’s comment about the spirit in the house playing with my mind is chilling as I was drawn to this property and didn’t want to leave, even when things were going wrong. I was frightened by the goings-on, but fascinated, too. I wasn’t being rational.

‘It’s interesting that the presence she felt had lost all his money – perhaps it was he who caused our shop to go under and our home to be repossessed. She was also spot on about my marriage breaking up and lives being put in danger – my ex-husband Eddie had a heart attack. We spent six years in that house. I’m glad I’m shot of it now.’

The Story

Staring up at our new home, I felt so excited. With its weathered stone walls and cobbled pathway, it looked like something from another time. It even had a rickety wooden sign with the year ‘1603’ written on it. On the first Saturday of September, 1984, me, my husband Eddie, 40, and our sons James, 14, and Andrew, 11, moved in. I’d fallen in love with the house, a few yards from the beach, in Broadstairs, Kent, the moment I saw it.

‘It’s as if I’m being drawn to this place,’ I thought to myself. Eddie, on the other hand, hated it. ‘It needs so much doing to it and it reeks of damp,’ he complained.

‘It’s nothing we can’t fix,’ I said. I didn’t often ride roughshod over Eddie’s opinion but when it came to this house it was different. I’d never felt more strongly about anything in my life. ‘I have to live here,’ I thought. ‘No matter what.’

As I turned the key and slipped inside, I admired the low, oak-beamed ceilings and huge inglenook fireplaces.

‘Imagine the tales this house could tell,’ I said as I climbed the stairs. But I couldn’t understand why it had lain empty for so long and no one had snapped it up.

But as I reached the top, the air suddenly turned icy. A shiver went through me.

‘I’m being watched,’ I thought.

As I spun round, there was no one there. ‘Calm down,’ I scolded myself.

I managed to shrug off the incident and was soon caught up in the excitement of starting life in our new home.

Just like Eddie, the boys weren’t thrilled with their new home, but I soon had them enthralled with tales a neighbour had told me all about its old seafaring history. I explained that during storms, criminals would look out for shipwrecks from one of the top windows. ‘And the cellar used to be a smugglers’ tunnel,’ I confided. ‘They would carry their stolen booty directly from the beach into the house.’

I warned them not to go down into the cellar alone because the stairs were rotten. ‘You can play in there when we get it fixed, but until then it’s out of bounds,’ I warned them, sternly. But each morning I’d find the cellar door unbolted and open. ‘Why were the boys playing up like this?’ I asked myself, perplexed.

‘But honest, Mum, it wasn’t us,’ they both insisted.

‘Well, if it’s not you, I won’t find that door open again, will I?’ I told them. But deep down, I was beginning to really wonder if something more sinister was going on.

Then one Saturday, James and I were alone in the house when the doorbell started ringing. ‘Brrrrr, brrrrr…’ It was as if someone had their finger continuously pressed on the buzzer. ‘They’re keen,’ I thought as I dashed down the stairs. But when I opened the door, there was no one there. ‘Brrrrr, brrrrrr.’ How on earth was it still ringing if no one was pressing the bell? Then to my horror, I realised the bell wasn’t even connected. The wire had been ripped out long ago. ‘Brrrrr, brrrrrr’.

‘James, run and get your dad’s hammer,’ I cried. I gripped it hard with both hands and bashed the bell as hard as I could, over and over again. It smashed into smithereens and stopped hammering. But still it carried on ringing. We placed our hands over our ears. ‘Make it stop, Mum,’ James whimpered as we clung to each other. Then, as abruptly as it had started, the ringing ceased.

Eddie was baffled when we told him. ‘It just doesn’t make sense,’ he said. ‘How can a bell without wires ring all by itself?’

Eddie didn’t believe in the paranormal, but I did. I was beginning to worry.

‘Just try and forget about it,’ I told myself. ‘After all, this is your dream home.’ Despite everything, I just wouldn’t entertain the idea of selling up and leaving.

One weekend, Eddie took the boys over to their grandparents. Around 7.30pm the phone rang. I dashed downstairs to answer it. I passed the cellar door and stopped dead in my tracks. It was flung wide open.

It couldn’t have been the boys – I’d been alone all day and the last time I’d passed the door it had been bolted shut. No one could have opened it.

Terrified, I shoved it firmly shut, rammed the bolt home and ran upstairs. I dashed into the bedroom, slammed the door and hid under the duvet.

Suddenly, there was a huge thump as our bedroom door crashed open. My heart was racing. Was it burglars, come to ransack the place? But something told me this was not a human presence. ‘There’s something evil in this room,’ I thought. Something had wrenched the door open with incredible force. It was probably the same thing that had been opening the door to the cellar.

I was still in bed, shaking with fear, when Eddie and the boys returned. ‘You’re safe now,’ Eddie said, trying to calm me.

Try as we might, we could no longer ignore the situation. The home I felt so drawn to was haunted. We didn’t tell anyone what was happening in case they thought we were crazy. And, strange as it might sound, I still couldn’t bear the idea of moving. ‘I’m meant to be here,’ I told Eddie. ‘Let’s just try and get on with our lives.’ Reluctantly, he agreed to stay put.

I immersed myself in a new project: opening a gift shop in one of our ground floor spare rooms. With day trippers flocking to the seaside resort, I made a good living. I even got used to seeing the cellar door open when I had left it closed, and slowly became more fascinated than scared.

But then the bad luck started. Trade suddenly tailed off and I had to close the shop. Then Eddie was made redundant from his job as an arcade manager.

This time it was out of my hands. As much as I wanted to stay, money was so tight I reluctantly agreed we should sell the house. But buyer after buyer fell through.

Sadly, Eddie and I broke up under the stress. I moved into a flat with the children. We were unable to pay the mortgage on the house and it was repossessed.

After six years in the house, we’d lost everything. My dream home was gone.

Weeks later, I got a phone call. It was from the hospital. ‘Your husband is in a critical condition in intensive care,’ they said. Eddie, normally a fit, healthy man, had been rushed in after collapsing with a heart attack. He technically died at one point, but was revived by the doctors, just in time.

‘Oh, Eddie, why is all this happening to us?’ I sobbed.

Thankfully, Eddie made a good recovery but it was too late for our marriage. We’d drifted too far apart.

A year later, I sat in a cafe opposite the house, still cursing our luck, yet somehow I couldn’t get the place out of my mind. Most people who’d been through what we had probably wouldn’t want to set eyes on the place again. Yet here I was still curious, still drawn to the house. It didn’t make sense.

An old lady broke the silence. ‘That’s a sad place,’ she said, following my stare. She was in her late seventies, with neat, grey hair. ‘I remember 50 years ago, a couple moved in there with their two children,’ she said.

I listened, transfixed as she explained how the wife had opened an antiques shop in the house. But when the husband was laid off, the shop folded and the family lost everything, including the house. ‘Soon after, the husband died,’ the old lady finished. ‘I don’t know what became of his poor family…’

My hands trembled. The shop they’d opened on the same premises… the loss of the man’s job… them losing their home… the husband dying. History had repeated itself. Except that, luckily, Eddie had pulled back from the brink – but only thanks to the wonders of modern medicine.

I’m now convinced the house is haunted by dead spirits who had somehow used us – just like that family 50 years before – as victims for their evil tricks.

Were they using their powers to keep us there until our lives in ruins? I’m told the house has been split into two now and the families who live there seem happy enough. But I can’t help wondering, for how long?

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