The Five Year Phantom Of Buckhurst Hill

Mr & Mrs Worthington claimed that they were tormented by the spirit of a young girl at their home during the 1960s. The reported haunting went on for years before eventually revealing a tragic story.

Haunting in Buckhurst Hill
The haunting was said to have taken place on Bradwell Road in Buckhurst Hill

One of the most frightening and yet at the same time most moving and tragic of supernatural experiences associated with furniture centered itself on the Worthington family of Bradwell Road, Buckhurst Hill, England, in the 1960s, and worked itself out not on a magnificent four-poster with centuries of history behind it, but an ordinary, prosaic modern wardrobe, made probably in the 1930s.

The Worthingtons married in 1956, and when James started his National service a few weeks later Mary began to get a home together - no easy task, for even ten years after the end of the war many durables were still in short supply, or else shoddy or expensive. Reluctant to take on hire purchase commitments, Mary was delighted when her mother-in-law told her of a niece who was emigrating, and who was selling her furniture. Mary went to the address and bought on the spot a wardrobe, a dressing table, and a chair.

The Worthingtons were delighted with their bargain, and over the next few years the home and furniture began to take shape: the first baby, John, was born in 1957; James returned to civilian life in 1958; Carol appeared in 1960, and her sister Lesley two years later. So far there had been little to distinguish the Worthingtons from thousands of other young families in the post-war years: their hopes and fears, like those of most other people, were based on the health and welfare of their children, in their home, and in the rising material prosperity.

Then in 1962, when John was about five years old, a disturbing and indefinable element crept into the house in Bradwell Road. The main bedroom, in spite of Mary's efforts to air it was permeated with a strong odour as if cosmetics had been spilt. No specific perfume was identifiable but it was, as she said, the sort of smell found near the beauty counters at the large stores. At the same time, young John often complained of someone coming into his room at night, but although the reports were frequent and consistent, his parents understandably attributed them to dreams and nightmares.

Less explicable were the sudden and mysterious disappearances from the bedroom of a number of articles. Especially strange was a pink cup that vanished without a trace and then several weeks later reappeared in a very conspicuous spot where it could not possibly have been overlooked and where it was impossible for a five-year-old to reach. Then as suddenly as they had begun, the smells, the nightmares, and the disappearances ceased after a few months, and the whole episode was put down to "one of those odd things" - that is, until 1965, when Carol was nearing her fifth birthday. Once again the pervasive perfume filled the bedroom: again articles unaccountably disappeared, only to turn up in ridiculous and unexpected places. On one occasion Mary woke up to find that during the night a drawer from a small bedside table had projected itself across the room and lay on the floor on the opposite side.

When the second round of disturbances began to fade away some months later the Worthingtons suspected with dismay that they might in some way be connected with their children's age, so that in 1967 when Lesley approached five, tension began to grow. And once again, for several months the pointless perfume and the meaningless transportation of mundane articles repeated themselves. For Mary, who now had a fourth child, Nigel, this was the end, and for most of the time that her husband was away at work she wandered out of the house - anywhere to be free of whatever was lurking there, waiting for the next fifth birthday. Fortunately, not long afterwards, a brand new house became available some miles away and in fresh surroundings, and in a bright, airy home never before occupied, the fears of the past seemed to be little more than a half-forgotten nightmare.

Yet three years later as Nigel began to grow excited about his fifth birthday, the whole frightening cycle began its ominous round again. Only, as if something was aware that as far as the Worthingtons were concerned, this was a swan song, it reached a crescendo of terror. A fortnight after the first faint hints of the scented overture began to infiltrate the bedroom, ten-year-old Lesley suddenly screamed uncontrollably in the middle of the night, and when her father reached her she sobbed that "a little lady" had been standing on the landing "with light shining round her", When she had shouted, she said, the figure had gone down the stairs. As Lesley became pacified, she refused to accept the obvious solution of a dream: it was real, she insisted; she had seen it.

Exactly a week later, with all the other manifestations again in full swing, Mary lay sleepless in the early hours of the morning when to her extreme terror she saw a small girl emerge by the wardrobe round the bedroom door. Mary's screams tore her husband from sleep, but before he was fully conscious, the little figure had disappeared. It was only then that she recalled what the lady who had sold her the wardrobe had said as they chatted inconsequentially after the bargain had been struck - how the loss of her first child had brought her and her husband very close together. In the excitement of her purchase, Mary had not thought the point worth mentioning, and she had not consciously recalled it for over sixteen years - until that moment. Now she knew the connection, and when she told James, he realised that they must now try to find out the truth.

The following morning they visited James' mother to see if she could add anything to the single fact they already knew. The story she told them - that the niece's daughter had died of cancer at the age of five - struck them with almost a physical blow. Mary knew that she could not stay another night in the house with the wardrobe that had seen, and brought so much anguish. Newly married neighbours who knew nothing of its antecedents were delighted to have it as a gift, and although Mary felt a deep sense of guilt, her doctor assured her that the experiences were entirely personal. For anyone else, he said, the wardrobe would be the harmless construction of wood and metal that it purported to be.

Nevertheless, three days later as the neighbour was talking to Mary in the garden, she stopped mid-sentence, and rather frightened, said "If I didn't know the house was empty, I could swear that someone was looking at me from the front bedroom window." Two days later she appeared again in the garden, and extremely upset told Mary that during the darkness she had felt someone outside the bed gently grasp her hand. Terrified, she moved to another room and refused to enter the one in which the wardrobe had been placed, though at the time she did not connect it with her experiences.

Shortly after the neighbour left the district the wardrobe was destroyed. Since then, Mary said, her house has been completely happy and spirit free - though twice, she added, she had smelt the faintest touch of the perfume, and on each occasion, she has been told within twenty-four hours of the death of friends.

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