The Black Monk of Pontefract is a ghost named for the location of a house and family he haunted (Pontefract, West Yorkshire) – a terrifying experience that inspired a book (“Poltergeist!: A Study in Destructive Haunting”) and a movie (“When the Lights Went Out”), as well as many ghost hunters to visit the house at its famous address (30 East Drive) to possibly see or communicate with the ghost that the haunted family nicknamed "Fred" but was later called the Black Monk because of its appearance. While its presence is felt, the Black Monk is rarely seen, but a ghost hunter who recently visited the house claims he “tricked” the Black Monk into appearing and he captured the moment in a photograph.
"I think [the monk] got caught. I don't think he wanted to show himself. I used the mirror as a false sense of security for him and caught him that way."
John-Paul Newlands is a paranormal investigator and CEO of Night Hawk Paranormal UK. He was investigating the often-called ‘most violently haunted house in England’ recently and his investigation took him to an upstairs bedroom, possibly the one occupied by Diane Pritchard, the daughter who was said to have been dragged around by the ghost. The ‘trickery’ Newlands is referring to is shooting photographs using mirror reflections or through glass windows – a ruse that allegedly makes ghosts think the camera is not pointing at them. Newlands claims he was communicating with the Black Monk through a mobile app that is advertised to detect low-level sounds.
"I won't say that this is a paranormal picture due to the fact I spotted the photo and I don't like to force people into seeing what they don't see. I will leave it to the imagination at the moment."
In an interview with The Mirror, Newlands explains he didn’t see the photo until after he had returned home, and that’s when he saw what he thinks is the “frightening” image of the Black Monk wearing a long hooded robe with his arms raised in front of him. (Here’s the photo – do you see the monk?). While many paranormal investigators say they experience fear while on a hunt, Newlands had a different and unusual emotion when he was in the bedroom where the violent ghost had been … sadness.
"There was a lot of sadness in the room. I felt sad and uneasy. The moment I took that shot we all said that there was just something that was just not right about that room and then bang. I think [the monk] has been caught out. I don't think that he was wanting to show himself.”
That’s one interpretation. It could also be because of the historical circumstances of the land the house was built on. It is believed that the spot was the site of some of the many civil battles fought in Britain and was covered with the blood of many who met violent deaths. The actual black monk tale may have come from a Cluniac monastery which was in the area in the 15th century – a monastery which hanged one of its own members for the brutal rape and murder of a young girl in the village … hanged him on gallows on or across the street from where 30 East Drive sits today.
"Firstly, it is shot during daylight, so if it is anything paranormal, it challenges the convention of 'ghostly activity only happens when the lights are out' - which is in fact not the case at 30 East Drive. Secondly, it isn't unusual for a fog to be captured by our guests. This image definitely has a strange fog to the right and one that is hard to explain away in an era of digital photography where chemical anomalies are no longer a factor.”
While many who have seen the photo on mass media sites this it’s a reflection, an overexposure, a lens flare or some other camera anomaly, Bil Bungay, the current owner of the house, gives the unique perspective of one who has been in the presence of other investigations and possible sightings of the Black Monk. John-Paul Newlands’ photo is not the first and most likely won’t be the last of the Black Monk, who terrified the Pritchard family long before paranormal investigation shows became a popular form of entertainment, and who benefited from the poetic license of a horror movie maker with an eye on the box office.
Is the Black Monk sad because he’s been relegated to blurry photos instead of blockbuster movies?