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The Remarkable True Story of the Battersea Poltergeist

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The Poltergeist Prince of London



Ghosts and legends of London

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Haunted London



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

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Haunted Wandsworth



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

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Haunted Lambeth



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

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Strange Mitcham



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

(Sequel to 'Strange Mitcham')

Mysterious Mitcham


The Poltergeist Prince of London

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Number One Best Seller The Poltergeist Prince of London

The Poltergeist Prince of London

The Poltergeist Prince of London by Shirley Hitchings and James Clark

The Remarkable True Story of the Battersea Poltergeist

ISBN-10: 0752498037

ISBN-13: 978-0752498034


320 pp, illustrated

Published by The History Press, 2013

> > BUY NOW < < <

One of the most remarkable poltergeist cases ever recorded began in Battersea in south London in 1956 with the mysterious appearance of a key that nobody recognised. The setting was an ordinary terraced house at No. 63 Wycliffe Road, home of the Hitchings family, and the bizarre events that took place there centred on the family's teenaged daughter, Shirley.

A summary of this case can be found in my 2006 book, Haunted Wandsworth but I later worked with Shirley herself to write this book that tells for the first time the full amazing story of 'Donald' aka 'Louis' - the poltergeist that seemingly learned to write and claimed to be the spirit of Louis XVII of France!

January 2021: 'The Battersea Poltergeist podcast!'

Danny Robins has created a fantastic Radio 4 series based on the events detailed in 'The Poltergeist Prince of London' and starring Dafne Keen, Toby Jones, Alice Lowe, and Burn Gorman.

The Poltergeist Prince of London

TRADE COPIES of 'The Poltergeist Prince of London' for shops/museums/libraries/etc can be ordered directly from the publisher - The History Press. Click here for contact details.


" an essential read for any fortean " (Fortean Times review, issue 312, March 2014, p.60)

Fortean Times 312 review of The Poltergeist Prince of London Royal bio like no other

The Battersea polt who survived the French Revolution under a different moniker was a Hitchings family member for 12 years

"This book is a rarity: a balanced collaboration between a writer and a person who was at the centre of a poltergeist haunting. Over 12 years, Shirley Hitchings and her parents were accosted by relentless tapping sounds along with objects moving on their own, the occasional spontaneous fire, a ghostly breath or two, and floating lightforms. Beyond the (sometimes musical) tapping, the Battersea poltergeist started handwriting notes to the family, to psychical researchers and even to British teen idols! This was a poltergeist with a particularly sassy personality sometimes more than one, it seemed. Mostly he was known as 'Donald', a mischievous 15-year-old, the same age as Shirley in 1956. Donald shared her interests in dressing dolls, royalty, and the young actor Jeremy Spenser (who acted alongside Marilyn Monroe in 1957's The Prince and the Showgirl, and later in Francois Truffaut's film adaptation of Ray Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451). In a surprise twist, Donald revealed that he was actually the dauphin (eldest son of Louis XVI) during the French Revolution, switched with another boy in his holding cell, successfully escaping imprisonment. In the following years, Donald presented details, including obscure ones that could be historically verified, of his past royal incarnation. The press at the time romanticised this story of a teenage girl and her spirit companion. This book shows that there was an undeniable spark to this unconventional relationship.

"The ghostly personality disrupted the lives of the working-class Hitchingses, attracting press, police, unwanted spectators, Spiritualist mediums, doctors and paranormal investigators. Like most experients, the anxious Hitchings wanted their lives to return to normal, yet Donald settled in and essentially became a vital part of the family. The chief investigator was the fortean researcher Harold Chibbett (given an excellent overview by Bob Rickard in FT310:50-51). Chibbett ended up dedicating years of empathetic support to the Hitchingses ("a real gentleman and a dear friend," Shirley writes in the book's dedication.) He was actively engaged in historical sleuthing to test if 'Donald' was indeed the deceased dauphin Louis-Charles as he claimed. Also investigating at one point was Andrew Green (see Alan Murdies' Ghostwatch entry, 'Letters from a Poltergeist', FT215:22), who wrote about the case in Our Haunted Kingdom (1973). Unlike Chibbett, who was increasingly convinced that a discarnate spirit was indeed haunting the Hitchingses, Green posited that Shirley herself was writing the notes in an altered state of consciousness. Now in her 70s, Shirley denies such allegations: Donald's notes appeared spontaneously.

"James Clark competently pulls together the primary source materials collected by Shirley and her husband Derek from "an Aladdin's Cave of paranormal papers" in Chibbett's home after he died in 1978, stowed away in their attic until Clark interviewed her about the Battersea poltergeist for his book Haunted Wandsworth (2006). [JC: Actually, I was unable to trace Shirley at that time; she got in touch with me after that book was published.] From that, this exceptional collaboration was born. Along with newspaper clippings, Shirley's father's diary, and other intriguing sources, The Poltergeist Prince of London fulfils Shirley's wish and no doubt Donald's and Chibbett's to "put her full story on record, largely to redress the way she felt some authors had, over the years, misrepresented what had happened."

"Chibbett had failed to get his own book on "The Prince [sic: "King"] of Shades" published, and Clark handles the controversial aspects of the case with self-reflexive finesse. With Shirley referred to in the third person throughout the text, Clark brings forth experiential, psychological and hypothetical aspects in a way that Chibbett, being so closely implicated in the events, probably could not have done. Clark sustains an analytical distance given the inclusiveness of the phenomena themselves, but he is not shy to ask critical questions in the text, including of co-author Shirley's own motives. Having her, the main experient, at Clark's side brings a dimension to these events that is seldom found in evaluations of paranormal case studies, namely a story that respects those who encountered and lived with 'Donald' while illuminating the emotional and personal impact the phenomena had on them.

"The Poltergeist Prince of London reveals a key intersection between psychology and spiritualism in mid-20th century psychical research that emerged on the cusp of psychokinetic concepts gaining wide attention. It is an essential read for any fortean, particularly those intrigued by mediumship, ghosts, archival adventures and mid-century Britain."

Christopher Laursen

Fortean Times Verdict

(Reviewed by Christopher Laursen for Fortean Times, issue 312, March 2014; reproduced in full here by kind permission of both Mr Laursen and Fortean Times.)

US review on

"5.0 out of 5 stars / Very detailed and fascinating account / 28 Dec 2013

"Although I've been seeking out and reading accounts of true-life paranormal experiences for many years now, this story of a long-term poltergeist haunting that occurred in the household of a London family (centering around Shirley, the teenage daughter) from the mid-1950's to the early 1960's is one that I had never come across before, even though it apparently received considerable notoriety at the time.

"This book is based on documentation that was kept by family members as well as an interested third party who did his best to investigate the confused claims of 'Donald,' the poltergeist (who communicated via raps and written notes) to be a son of King Louis XVI of France... an endeavor infinitely more time-consuming and difficult then, without the benefit of Google and the internet, than it would be now.

"Anyone familiar with poltergeist accounts will recognize certain motifs in this one that are generally present in other such accounts, that lend credence to this one, including Donald's relationship with teenage Shirley. But Donald is an interesting character in his own right, regardless of his origins, and he does often seem to exhibit an independent consciousness.

"All in all, this is a very interesting and readable account."

(Review by K. Brand, published on

Alan Murdie

"An exemplary study of a poltergeist case and the people involved - the type of book which is all too rare in this field."

(Alan Murdie, Ghost Club Chairman, author and Fortean Times columnist.)


"James Clark presents a balanced, neutral picture, which avoids sensationalism, and this book should be of interest to students of the paranormal and human psychology alike."

Reviewed by Peter Rogerson: read the full review at the Magonia Blog website.)