It seemed only fitting that The Battersea Poltergeist – Live! was staged at this particular venue, which is just around the corner from the location of the apparent poltergeist, and on Halloween, of all days!
I imagine that most of the audience had come along having encountered the BBC Radio 4 podcast of the same name. I had purposely only listened to the first three episodes of eight, holding off the rest to have something to look forward to at the show. The evening was hosted by Danny Robins, the writer/broadcaster behind the podcast and the person who revived the story that had been national news back in the 1950s. He was joined on stage by Ciaran O’Keeffe, a psychology professor, and Evelyn Hollow, a paranormal psychologist. Both had been involved with the podcast and brought opposing views to the events described, with Ciaran being a sceptic and Evelyn a believer.
Danny proved to be an entertaining and jovial presenter, engaging well with the audience. The story of the peculiar phenomenon that troubled the Hitchings family was related with the aid of projected photographs and recorded interviews, interspersed with viewpoints from the experts on stage. Noise levels from the alleged poltergeist were demonstrated, and although not claiming to be scientific, it was amazing to imagine that this went on every night for weeks at the beginning of the haunting. They were loud enough that you could feel the reverberations in your body. The examination later progressed to analysing moving objects, levitation, communication with the poltergeist and even fire-starting. In all, the occurrences went on for twelve years and became a part of life for the family. Hearing the story unfold certainly gave me goosebumps. It was chilling and hard to imagine living through such an experience, especially as a teenager.
Everyone was encouraged to contribute to a Q&A session after the interval, where it was announced that Shirley, the young girl that the story revolves around, was herself in the audience. Now 80 years old, she gamely helped answer some of the questions, which was entertaining.
Inevitably a podcast series was going to be tricky to fit into a two-hour show (with a twenty-minute interval), but it was largely satisfactory. For anyone who didn’t know the history it would be a lesser experience, although there were books available for sale in the foyer afterwards if you wanted more information. I went along with my partner: he a sceptic and me a believer. Our views didn’t change over the course of the evening, but the show provoked a lively debate on the way home!
Written by: Danny Robins
Produced by: James Seabright and Bafflegab Productions.
The BBC podcast series is avaiable to download via the BBC website here.
There is also a further series of podcasts from Danny Robins examining other stories of hauntings, available here.
The Battersea Poltergeist – Live! is touring until 7 November. Further information and dates can be found via the below link.