Years after the events, Mrs Irene Horner spoke out about the terrifying experiences she claimed to endure as a child in her family home on High Street in West Bromwich. Here is her story.
It is possible that some psychic phenomena can only be observed by those with a special sensitivity. It may be that there are people whose mental make-up is capable of receiving psychic "broadcasts", and this could be the answer to the series of frightening events which took place in a three-story Victorian house in West Bromwich high street in 1939.
The Stephensons, who occupied the whole house apart from a lock-up baker's shop on the ground floor, were a typical family, consisting of Mr Stephenson, who had a good job at a large glass works at Smethwick, Mrs Stephenson, and their two daughters, Irene, 13, and Gladys, 15. Irene, in later life, described the terrifying experiences she and her sister went through at intervals for almost two years:
"My sister and I shared a room on the top floor of this old, large house. At intervals of about three months we would be disturbed from our sleep at about 10pm by the sound of a woman's voice crying in distress.
It came from the area of the bathroom on the second floor, on the opposite side of the house from our bedroom. The ghostly voice would start with a low moan, and then repeat what we thought was the name 'Duncan... Duncan...' As this went on it rose terrifyingly in pitch and intensity until it was an agonizing scream, which cut off with chilling suddenness at its peak, leaving the air tingling in leaden silence with the imagined echoes of the awful sound.
A few seconds later pandemonium would break loose as the whole house vibrated with what seemed to be six or seven people pounding in panic up and down the staircase and past our bedroom door. Once we dashed out, terrified, to see who was there, but although the mad stampede rushed passed within a few feet of us, there was no one to be seen. We screamed at this ultimate in fear, and our parents, who in those pre-television days had been sitting in the ground floor sitting room listening to the radio, dashed up to us.
They tried to reassure us that we had been dreaming and that there had been nothing - but in later years my mother told me that they too had heard those ghastly sounds, but had denied it for fear of alarming us anymore. From time to time a different phenomenon occurred - less noisy, but perhaps even more sinister in its obvious attempts at stealthily silence.
My sister and I would be asleep when we were wakened by the sound of the door handle being rattled softly: the door seemed to open quietly, and someone entered - we could hear their clothes brushing against the wall as they surreptitiously sidled in, filled with menace. Perhaps, though, with the hindsight of age and experience, the sense of evil was subjective, the product of the instinctive dread of the unknown.
But at the time, as the stealthy footsteps crossed to the bed, there was nothing but the overpowering feeling of malignancy. Then something sat on the edge of the bed, making the mattress sink as if a corporeal body were there: the light from the street lamp outside lit up the room so that we could see that there was no one there.
Instinctively we huddled under the bedclothes, and though we could see nothing in the darkness, we knew that the presence had followed up, sometimes blowing cold air on our faces, sometimes touching them with icy fingers.
Not surprisingly, tensions mounted, culminating in the day when Mrs Stephenson, a strong-minded, practical woman, began spring cleaning in the small guest room on the top floor. She had dusted two drawers in a chest mechanically and without any conscious thought when, on opening the third she saw a small vest - the only garment in it - gyrating and dancing in an animated fashion.
When the initial shock had subsided, she assumed that a mouse had got inside it, perhaps to make a nest, and had been disturbed. She picked up the article, shook it vigorously, found it empty, and then extremely puzzled, put it back where she had found it. To her utter horror, it immediately began its frenzied and frantic writhing again: Mrs. Stephenson's nerve broke, and slamming the drawer shut she bolted from the room. The family decided that they could take no more, and even though it meant giving up a good post, they decided to move back to their old home in Plymouth just before the war.
Shortly before leaving West Bromwich, Irene was talking to a neighbour who, completely ignorant of anything that had happened in the house recently, mentioned casually that some years earlier a man had killed his niece in the bathroom.
Irene still said nothing of the experiences the family had undergone, but in her mind, she suddenly realised with a shudder that the cry "Duncan... Duncan..." she had heard so many times could well, in the distortion and anguish of the situation, have been "Uncle... Uncle..."