My Books



THE POLTERGEIST PRINCE OF LONDON

The Remarkable True Story of the Battersea Poltergeist


(Available in paperback or for the Kindle)

Published by The History Press, 2013, 320pp, illus.

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HAUNTED LONDON

Ghosts and legends of London


(Available in paperback or for the Kindle)

Published by The History Press, 2007, 128pp, illus.

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HAUNTED WANDSWORTH

Ghosts and legends of the London Borough of Wandsworth (covers Balham, Battersea, Putney, Tooting & Wandsworth)


(Available in paperback)

Published by The History Press, 2006, 96pp, illus.

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HAUNTED LAMBETH

Ghosts and legends of the London Borough of Lambeth (covers Brixton, Clapham, North Lambeth, Norwood, Stockwell & Streatham)


(Available in paperback or for the Kindle)

Published by The History Press, 2013, 96pp, illus.

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STRANGE MITCHAM

Ghosts, legends and curiosities of Mitcham in Surrey / south London


(Paperback)



(Kindle)

Published by Shadowtime Publishing, 2nd edition 2011, illus.

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MYSTERIOUS MITCHAM

More ghosts, legends and curiosities of Mitcham in Surrey / south London


(Published online)

Mysterious Mitcham

Online sequel to 'Strange Mitcham'.

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Not tempted by anything above? Okay then, try this:


Notes from a Weird World

(December 2014)

'The Ghost of Christmas Presents – Part 4'

(Click here to read Part 3)

Marie Antoinette and children

(Above: State Portrait of Marie Antoinette and her children.)

'By Xmas time, 1957,' recorded psychical researcher Harold Chibbett in his case notes, '"Donald" had acquired the Yuletide habit of giving and receiving presents – at his host's expense of course!'

The poltergeist would tap out messages or leave notes telling the Hitchings family what to buy on his behalf. A family member would then go out and purchase the requested item using Wally's money. On one occasion, for example, pipe-smoker Chibbett was delighted to receive 'a pair of tastefully-decorated clay "churchwarden" pipes'.

On Friday 20 December 1957 Chibbett visited No. 63 Wycliffe Road, Battersea with his wife Lily and they asked the poltergeist what he wanted for his own Christmas present. The reply came by tapping:

'SEVENTEENTH CENTURY TOY LIKE I HAD AT HOME'

Chibbett asked where such a toy might be obtained and the taps replied:

'IN AN ANTIQUE SHOP – IN REGENT STREET'

Further tapping narrowed down the location.

When Chibbett asked what sort of toy the poltergeist wanted he was told: 'DOLL … MOTHER'. Based on Donald's previous claims regarding his true identity, and the fact that he had muddled up 'seventeenth century' and 1700s before, Chibbett took this to mean the poltergeist was after a doll dressed as Marie Antoinette.

Donald – who often claimed to be able to visit locations in spirit form – was adamant that the shop he had in mind had dolls just like this in stock at that moment. Chibbett decided to find out whether this was true.

(Click here to read Part 5)

(Adapted from an earlier article published in the Christmas ['Bedside'] edition of the Wandsworth Society newsletter in December 2009.)


For the full story read 'The Poltergeist Prince of London: The remarkable true story of the Battersea Poltergeist' by Shirley Hitchings and James Clark (The History Press, 2013), available now in paperback and for the Kindle.




Image credits:

  • State Portrait of Marie Antoinette and her children Marie Thιrθse, Louis Charles (on her lap) and Louis Joseph by Ιlisabeth Vigιe-Lebrun, 1787. © Public domain.

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    'The Ghost of Christmas Presents – Part 5'

    (Click here to read Part 4)

    Regent Street in the 1950s

    (Above: Regent Street, mid-1950s.)

    Saturday 21 December 1957 was miserable and rainy as Chibbett made the journey into central London to look for Donald's doll. That evening he wrote a letter to Wally Hitchings relating how the trip had gone:

    'I have just returned, rather battered, tired and wet, from a trip to Regent Street. Forlorn and depressed, I traipsed up one side of Regent Street and down the other. Hanover Street was even less inviting in the rain, and even Maddox Street produced no results. No signs at all of antique shops, let alone dolls dressed like Marie Antoinette or even Aunt Sally. Then I thought to myself, what sort of shop would "Donald" be likely to visit? Any shop even remotely associated with France, I guessed.'

    Just then, Chibbett's eye had caught an illuminated sign above a shop, reading "LIBERTE. EGALITE. FRATERNITE." Struck by the coincidence between the associations of this phrase and the claims made by the poltergeist to be the son of the French king and queen guillotined during the French Revolution, Chibbett immediately entered the shop. He soon located the toy department.

    'There, on a counter, displayed by the dozen, were dolls dressed in period costume. A cursory inspection revealed Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn, and many others. I said to the assistant – "I suppose these are mostly of English Royalty in period dress?" She replied – "Yes – can I help you?" I said: "I was actually looking for a doll dressed as Marie Antoinette." The Assistant gestured towards the very doll I was looking at. It was – "Marie Antoinette".'

    (Click here to read Part 6)

    (Adapted from an earlier article published in the Christmas ['Bedside'] edition of the Wandsworth Society newsletter in December 2009.)


    For the full story read 'The Poltergeist Prince of London: The remarkable true story of the Battersea Poltergeist' by Shirley Hitchings and James Clark (The History Press, 2013), available now in paperback and for the Kindle.




    Image credits:

  • Regent Street, London, 1954. Source. © Time Inc.

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    'The Ghost of Christmas Presents – Part 6'

    (Click here to read Part 5)

    Marie Antoinette doll

    (Above image © and source: bthierus)

    Tempted as he was to see this episode as evidence of Donald's paranormal powers, Chibbett was determined to put the poltergeist's claims to the test.

    His letter to Wally Hitchings deliberately refrained from stating which shop he had visited and it requested that Wally ask Donald to reveal both the name of the shop and the precise floor on which the toy department was located. If the poltergeist had truly made a spectral visit to the location then answering these questions should be easy.

    A few days later Wally visited Chibbett at home. He brought with him a note written and signed by Donald. It read: 'DOLL, STORE NAME NICKALOS, PRICE 10 GUINEAS'.

    'All these allegations were incorrect,' admitted Chibbett in his case notes. 'Either coincidence and wishful thinking directed me to a shop where there happened to be dolls dressed in period costume, or else I had missed completely the shop indicated by "Donald".'

    It was disappointing – but the following Christmas (1958) was to bring a much more impressive demonstration of Donald's abilities.

    Almost since the first bangs and taps had sounded nearly two years before, there had been sceptical suggestions that Shirley was making the sounds herself, perhaps by an unusual ability to click the joints in her toes loudly. The possibility that this was a sufficient explanation for Donald's noisemaking was about to take a major blow.

    (Click here to read Part 7)

    (Adapted from an earlier article published in the Christmas ['Bedside'] edition of the Wandsworth Society newsletter in December 2009.)


    For the full story read 'The Poltergeist Prince of London: The remarkable true story of the Battersea Poltergeist' by Shirley Hitchings and James Clark (The History Press, 2013), available now in paperback and for the Kindle.




    Image credits:

  • Marie Antoinette doll (although not the actual one Chibbett bought); © and source: bthierus.

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    'The Ghost of Christmas Presents – Part 7'

    (Click here to read Part 6)

    Paper Chains

    (Above image source.)

    When they visited No. 63 Wycliffe Road, Battersea, south London on Saturday 20 December 1958 psychical researcher Harold Chibbett and his wife Lily discovered that Donald the poltergeist had once again put up his own Christmas decorations.

    According to Wally Hitchings, the poltergeist had made a reasonably good job of it this year – even if he had left the decorations hanging rather too low down, meaning that Wally had had to re-fasten them higher up.

    Donald had also been sending Christmas cards to various people again, including his usual TV favourites.

    The Chibbetts had brought with them presents for each of the Hitchings family, including Donald, and these were placed on the sideboard as everyone stood around chatting. They soon realised with amusement that Donald appeared keen for the presents to remain unopened until Christmas Day; whenever anyone happened to touch one of the parcels a very indignant tapping sound would erupt from the floor or walls.

    It was Lily Chibbett who noticed a curious detail. The taps sounded the instant a parcel was touched, even if it were touched surreptitiously while Shirley was looking in the other direction. Lily drew her husband's attention to this and after careful consideration he confirmed her observation.

    This detail, wrote Chibbett later, indicated 'that "Donald" could see [what was happening] even though Shirley could not. There was no mirror which could have reflected the action, and she could not possibly have been aware of the exact moment when the package was touched.'

    It was a reminder that, no matter how unreliable some of the poltergeist's claims might be, Donald seemed capable of some extraordinary feats.

    Whatever Donald really was – a supernatural trickster, the spirit son of Marie Antoinette as he insisted, some aspect of young Shirley's psyche (possibly endowed with remarkable powers), or something else altogether – he would celebrate at least another five Christmases with the Hitchings family.

    Over time, however, he began to fade, making his presence known less and less often until at long last it was evident that he had departed. He left behind him a fascinating tale, numerous letters, Christmas cards and presents, and – more than anything else – the enduring puzzled wonder of the Hitchings family and Harold Chibbett.

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    (Adapted from an earlier article published in the Christmas ['Bedside'] edition of the Wandsworth Society newsletter in December 2009.)


    For the full story read 'The Poltergeist Prince of London: The remarkable true story of the Battersea Poltergeist' by Shirley Hitchings and James Clark (The History Press, 2013), available now in paperback and for the Kindle.




    Image credits:

  • Paper chains source.

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    NOTE: Material above is © James Clark. All rights reserved. Should you wish to refer to material presented here you are most welcome to quote a short excerpt (of no more than one or two paragraphs) provided you give full attribution and supply a link back to this website. Use of longer excerpts will require the author's prior written permission - by all means feel free to ask! But please DO NOT steal my work by copying great chunks and posting them in their entirety without permission. Thank you.