In 1950, Victor and Betty Sargent thought they had found their dream home in Epsom, Surrey. The family claimed that they were forced from their home by a malevolent force that made them fear for their safety.
From 1947 until 1950 Victor and Betty Sargent, and later their son Christopher, had lived miserably in rooms, forced to use other people's belongings at highly inflated prices. Then in April 1950, they found in Epsom a bright, self-contained flat whose two bedrooms, lounge, and kitchen now made all the waiting seem worthwhile. But the fact that two months later they were back again living in a single room in Sheen Park, Richmond, with Mr Sargent spending an hour travelling to work instead of a few minutes, indicates the extent of their terror in the flat.
The first intimation that the place had a sinister and invisible tenant came soon after they moved in: about 11 pm Betty Sargent heard a tapping at the head of her bed and then something in the darkness touched her forehead. To find something - a mouse or a bird perhaps - would have been disturbing enough, but to switch on the light and after a long search found nothing, was much more alarming.
With its presence announced, the poltergeist, or whatever the force was, lay quiet for a few days, but the following week began in earnest. During the daytime, it concentrated on what it must have considered its more playful tricks, such as throwing pyjamas on the floor, disturbing the carefully made beds, and upsetting the cosmetics. It began to indicate its more vicious side when it ripped open the cellophane packet of a pair of new nylons - still a rare luxury - and tossed them on the floor, hopelessly laddered.
But the entity became really vindictive and vigorous in the hour before, and the hour after midnight, and brought the Sargent family to desperation through sheer mental and physical terror. One night, Mrs Sargent was torn, almost hysterical, from a deep sleep by invisible hands clutching at her throat: when she and her husband fled bewildered to the lounge to lie down on the settee, the strangling sensation began again. Victor described how a few nights later they were lying in bed as midnight approached when he saw a small lamp beside his wife's bed rise in the air, strike her on the forehead and then pass on to fall near him.
It was not long after this, there came the incident that convinced them that the evil presence was no longer content merely to terrify them, but was threatening their lives physically. Betty Sargent was sitting up in bed when something, presumably the hands that had tried to throttle her, began pulling on her shoulders, dragging her in the direction of the window. As she screamed for help her body was held horizontal, her legs and thighs only resting on the bed. Victor grabbed her, but the inexorable force began to pull him too towards the window. Suddenly, the power collapsed, and Betty fell to the floor, they believed there had been a deliberate intent to kill, for had not her husband been present, Mrs Sargent might easily have fallen to what would have been assumed was a suicide death. Within a few days, they were huddled in one room, a dozen miles away.
So far as is known, the flat has remained quiet ever since, and one can only speculate on the nature of the malevolence that seemed to have a personal grudge against Mrs Sargent: she herself felt that if such forces can have gender, this one must have been feminine. Nothing else, she said, "could be so utterly catty."
Betty Sargent, Epsom. A Malevolent Spirit In The Cotswolds: The Shapeless Spectre That Attacked A Woman