Sheffield Paranormal Investigations

Established 2002

The Guardian, Saturday 16 January 1999 04.32 GMT

Cottage buyers' haunting defence

A couple are being sued by two sisters after refusing to pay the final £3,000 instalment on a Staffordshire cottage because, they claim, the sisters failed to tell them of a ghost.

Andrew and Josie Smith, both aged 36, have issued a counter-claim, and Mrs Smith told Derby crown court yesterday that she had witnessed and felt a number of strange things, including visions of a little boy with bright red, piggy eyes, "weeping" walls, and objects being moved about at Lowes Cottage in Upper Mayfield.

On one occasion "I felt something touching me beneath my nightdress. It was very cold. It only stopped when I shouted 'no'. Afterwards I felt I had been raped - really dirty." On another occasion she awoke to see her night-dress being pushed up.

The couple asked for help from the Rev Peter Mockford, who told the court he believed there was a paranormal presence.

Under cross-examination by Thomas Dillon, for Susan Melbourne and Sandra Podmore, Mr Mockford said the only things he had experienced in the house were a pungent odour and a wall that appeared to weep when he put his hand on it.

Mr Dillon said the Smiths had invented the story to avoid paying the outstanding sum on the £44,000 purchase price. They had taken extracts from The Amityville Horror, and changed the places and names.

The hearing was adjourned until Monday.

The Guardian 1999. Cottage buyers' haunting defence. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 January 2005 ].


The Guardian, Tuesday 19 January 1999 02.23 GMT

Judge exorcises haunted home

Martin Wainwright on the end of a ghost story that never was

by Martin Wainwright

The case of the haunted cottage was thrown out yesterday by a judge, who dismissed a couple's claims of spooks and oozing slime as hysteria and lies.

Derby county court dismissed stories of a pig-faced boy and naked serving girl, which had supposedly reduced the building's price by £50,000.

"This house is not haunted and it never has been haunted," Judge Peter Stratton told the court, after the first case of its kind since the Middle Ages. He ordered builder Andrew Smith, aged 36, and his wife, Josie, a nurse and mother of three, to pay £3,482 which they had withheld from payment for 300-year-old Lowes Cottage in Upper Mayfield on the Derbyshire-Staffordshire border.

The ruling was welcomed by sisters Susan Melbourne, aged 40, and Sandra Podmore, 38, who told the court that they had lived in the three-storey stone building for years, with no hauntings. Mrs Melbourne, a factory machinist, said: "We've had to live with this for two years - wherever you go, whatever you do, you couldn't get away from it."

That was exactly the Smiths' description of various shadowy figures during their three-year tenure. These allegedly put their hands up Mrs Smith's nightdress, walked through a visiting neighbour, and turned an exorcist's bowl of holy water into evil-smelling fog. The couple admitted to the sisters' counsel, Thomas Dillon, that they had read about similar goings-on in the novel The Amityville Horror, but denied picking plums from the book to avoid paying the full purchase price.

Judge Stratton was derisory about the evidence of the Rev Peter Mockford, vicar of Blurton, Staffordshire, who gave evidence under subpoena that "on balance there was paranormal activity at Lowes Cottage".

The judge said the vicar had failed to detect Mrs Smith's psychological problems and their link to the house, and had taken the couple's story on trust "after a half-hour conversation - hardly a rigorous examination".

Mr and Mrs Smith, accompanied by advisers from a Spiritualist church, conducted their own case at the hearing. Mrs Smith detailed several bizarre happenings, while her husband concluded his three-minute speech to the court: "There is no way I would put my family through all this for £3,000."

After the decision, the couple said: "We are obviously very disappointed at the outcome of the proceedings. We have no alternative but to accept the judge's ruling and will proceed on this basis."

The couple have since been rehoused by Staffordshire council at Burton-on-Trent, but the decision may have a silver lining. The court was told by Mr Smith that an estate agent's £70,000 valuation of Lowes Cottage had been reduced after the ghost allegations to "about £20,000". Following Judge Stratton's summing-up, opinion among Ashbourne agents involved in the original dealings was that it would return to approximately its pre-ghost value.

The Guardian 1999. Judge exorcises haunted home. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 30 January 2005 ].


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Lowes Cottage
Lowes Cottage Ashbourne Derbyshire, one of the most reported, haunted houses by our national and regional newspapers and TV.
  Lowes Cottage investigation report can be found below

View more pictures taken on the investigation here


Lowes Cottage

Investigation 28th January 2005 Lowes Cottage Ashbourne Derbyshire full investigation. Investigation team Mick, Mike, Brenda, Gaz, Richard and Steve.

Thank you to Tim Chilton for letting us investigate his home Lowes Cottage. We Started the investigation at 10pm after Tim showed us around and told us some history of the building. We split into two teams, team one being Mick, Brenda and Richard. Team two being Mikey, Gaz and Steve.

Team ones report

Office: Brenda, Mick and Richard. Brenda felt like having head crushed and having an in turned foot possibly a boy. Emf acting very strange readings going of the scale stopping then going off again. Would not expect there to be excessive wiring in the room to cause these readings due to the age of the building. Brenda and Richard found this room very oppressive. Orbs witnessed in the room through the video camera. Person was picked up on in the office who possibly had head injury. Denis is possibly the name of the boy in the room aged around 13 and was an apprentice. Richard thought he could see a persons head to the left of the door. Lady with grey hair like a French pleat style possibly about 60 years of age wearing high collared dress with a embolism condition possible to the head. Persons were witnessed as moving around the area of the door, nothing was witnessed on video. Brenda thinks the woman in the room might have been a laundry woman possible Victorian. All through the investigation in Tim’s office Brenda and Richard both witnessed movement around the doorway. The Emf meter would start up on its own with no one touching it. Brenda also picked up on Spirit animals in the room as well. 3 children 1 is 3or 4 , the others are wearing pinifold dresses possibly dressed in there Sunday best. Also the temperature kept fluctuating during this vigil. Also Brenda’s temperature would keep fluctuating, the Emf seemed to get more active the more we moved around. Around 11pm we moved to the main bedroom this is where people have been report to had been held down on he bed. This bedroom was a lot colder than the previous office we had just been in. Brenda felt as though something was trying to push her while she was sat on the bed. Brenda was pushed back down on the bed and felt has though they were pushing down on her face and neck area. Again in this room we had erratic readings from the Emf meter. I tried laying on the bed and found nothing out of the ordinary. Both Richard and Brenda thought as though they was a wider person lied where I was, making me look like a much bigger person.

Down stairs basement, midnight: We had a motion detector set up on the computer which would pick up motion and record a short film nothing was captured on the laptop. The basement was the coldest part of the building so far. At one time there is believed to have been another cellar behind the stone stairs. Brenda thought at some time there might have been a passage from the basement. Richard witnessed movement at the bottom of the stones stairs. Orbs were captured on video from the basement footage. Brenda picked up on a old woman stood near the fire place having an argument with a man, also a boy wearing like knickers bocker type trousers. The man is very angry and pacing up and down, a younger boy is there in creamy coloured shirt and brown trousers, seams to belong around 1700. Where as the people arguing seem to belong to a period of 1900. The young boy possibly died of a bronchial condition. Brenda also picked up on a young girl possibly in her teens around 19. Brenda and Richard seemed to pick up lots of activity around the fire surround. Brenda believes the man down stairs is the same man who was up in the bedroom. While in the basement Brenda went into trance and picked up on a very old entity dating beyond the age of the house thought to be very old and evil. This person was cold with staring eyes had no decency and regard for anyone except him self, believed to have been hanged locally. While sat down in the basement we heard noise from the floor above no one was up there as the other team was in the bedroom. Richard described the man has a large stocky build man believed to be the same man from upstairs.
After the investigation in the basement we all did an investigation in the living room nothing out of the ordinary was witnessed in this room. The last half hour Mick spent alone in the main bedroom, But apart from the EMF acting strangely Nothing else was witnessed or felt.
We found nothing bad about this house but it was a very strange atmosphere and made our equipment act very strangely.

Just a quick report from Team 2(Mike,Gaz + Steve). from Lowes cottage on

We arrived at Lowes cottage at around 9-30pm on Friday 28th January.We were greeted by the owner and shown around the property. The team then split into two groups of three, our group being myself (Mike), Gaz and Steve.
Our team started in the lower part of the house, this area consisted of the small room just through the entrance which had an old range to the right of the entrance and a utility area to the left with a sink and fridge/freezer. The whole house had a very welcoming and comfortable feel to it, which was noticed by the whole team upon arrival and continued to feel that way until departure. During our investigation of the downstairs area I was aware of a presence in the area behind the fridge which seemed to then travel away through the wall...I felt that this had not always been a wall but at some point this had been a doorway..(this fact confirmed at the end of the night). It was not possible to take E.M.F readings of this area because of the fridge and surrounding wiring which would have influenced the reading. We settled down to do a vigil in entrance/ cellar area after a while both Gaz and I saw many small colourful lights around the size of pinheads darting around the counter to the left and on the underside of the fridge and also moving up and around the fridge. There was a particular spot just inside of the front door where the E.M.F. meter was fluctuating from the very lowest setting and all way up to the highest scale. This happened several times throughout the evening and all the E.M.F. meters were behaving in the same way. Throughout the night a motion sensor and laptop with video capture had been set directed towards the old range cooking area. At many points during the night the sensor was set off even though there were no team members in that particular area.
I also felt that the main front door had not always been in the position it is now in but had actually been further towards the centre of the wall, there seemed to be a lot of energy passing through that location.
Whilst investigating the range area, we tried a small mediumship exercise, during this exercise Gaz picked up on a smallish women perhaps just over 5ft she was wearing a pinafore style dress and seemed to be preparing something in a large pot( I had also picked up on a woman in similar dress it was hard to tell if she had her hair in a bun or whether she was wearing some sort of head covering, maybe a bonnet, this felt to be from a later era possibly fifties/sixties. The woman appeared to be talking to a gentleman in the area where I believed the front door to have originally been). Also during the exercise Steve had picked up on a gentleman quite tall and very upright/proud in stature he was wearing a dark suit buttoned up and had a very high collared shirt and a neck tie, he also picked up on a woman doing washing. I picked up on the woman mentioned earlier and also two small children playing and running about in a washing area. I believed this area to be outside the window and going round to the side of the house. During the evening photos and video footage were taken which will be checked and any results will be included in the report.
I would like to add that in the upstairs main bedroom there was a presence of a cat on the bed and also whilst on the bed Gaz felt a heavy weight pressing down on his legs.

Brief History of the Cottage:

[Source: The Mirror / London / by Bill Daniels + Adrian Shaw - January 16 1999]
Living With A Ghost
A weeping wife told a judge yesterday that she and her husband refused to pay money owing on their cottage after discovering it was haunted by evil spirits. Mother-of-three Josie Smith, 36, said she felt she had been raped and strangled by ghosts in the centuries-old house. She sobbed: "On one night I felt the quilt being lifted up and my nightdress moving up over my legs. It only stopped when I shouted: 'No!' Mrs Smith and husband Andrew, 35, are being sued for £3,500 owing on the £44,000 price of the stone-built house they bought in 1993.
The couple are counterclaiming against the previous owners, sisters Sandra Podmore and Susan Melbourne. The Smiths claim the sisters knew the house was haunted before selling it. Judge Peter Stretton must decide whether there really is such a thing as a ghost - and if he finds for the Smiths it will be the first official recognition of the paranormal since the Middle Ages.
Mrs Smith told Derby County Court that the terrifying events began six weeks after they bought Lowes Cottage in Hollow Lane at Upper Mayfield, Staffs. She had to give up her job as a theatre nurse because of stress. She spoke of
- FOUR ghostly assaults which left her in fear of her life;
- FOUL smells, weird noises and hurtling objects;
- FAILED attempts to exorcise the violent spirits.
Mrs Smith said that at one point they took the children - Lindsey, 12, Stephen, five, and 12-month-old Daniel - to stay with relatives to escape the nightmare.
She said of one chilling invasion: "I woke up in the middle of the night, and something was touching me beneath my nightdress. I felt very cold, very dirty, as if I had been raped. Twice I felt as if I was being strangled, and I woke up choking and shaking. Both times we had to leave the house. It was gripping me round the throat and throttling me. My whole body was shaking. I thought I was going to die.
"I went to my mother's, determined never to go back. But then I spoke to a medium on the phone. She said a girl had been murdered in the house and the ghost was just showing me how she had died. That gave us the strength to go back and that's when neighbours began telling us that the previous occupants had experienced the same thing."
The house is said to have a dark history, with local folklore of a dairymaid who died imprisoned in the cellar and a boy who hanged himself from the rafters. Mrs Smith claimed she saw visions of a woman naked, bound and gagged to a bed and of a 19th-century figure in flowing dress gliding across the room. She told of waking to the first night of terror.
"I felt a heavy weight pressing down on me and it took every ounce of strength in me just to lift my little finger," she said. "Then suddenly it just flew across my face. There was a strong, pungent smell around the house and we could find no explanation for it. We thought perhaps it was damp because the house hadn't been lived in for so long.
"A friend of mine who is a member of the Spiritualist Church advised us to place a wooden cross in a bowl of salted water in the bedroom and say a prayer to get rid of the ghost. But when we did this the atmosphere turned very thick and the smell was so vile that I wanted to vomit. I rang my friend and she said we had upset it."
Mrs Smith said the Reverend Peter Mockford, vicar of Blurton, Stoke-on-Trent, blessed the house four times in a bid to drive out the restless spirits. "The first time he blessed it it was quiet for a night but then the paranormal phenomena returned even stronger," she said. Electrical equipment failed, the immersion heater blew up and my daughter's tape player couldn't be turned off unless we unplugged it. On the third occasion the reverend tried to dispel the spirits we played tapes of religious music and prayers. As soon as we did, the floorboard upstairs started creaking. When we closed our eyes there was a rushing at the sides of our heads. It felt like smoke was spiralling up our noses and we had pins and needles until the next day."
The family went to a surveyor and were told the paranormal activity had knocked £20,000 off the value of the house. They withheld the last payment of their instalments from the vendors on the grounds of "misrepresentational fraud". The cottage was left to the two sisters by their father. They told the hearing they never saw a ghost in a total of more than 40 years of living there.
Mrs Melbourne, 40, who still lives in Upper Mayfield, said: "I have never experienced a ghost and never come across a haunted house - and definitely not in Mayfield. If I was told there was such a house in the village I wouldn't believe it, as I don't believe in ghosts."
Mrs Podmore, 38, from nearby Waterhouses, Staffs, said she was born in Lowes Cottage and lived there until the age of 25. She told the court: "I never had any strange experiences, and even after I moved out I would take my two children to visit their grandad."
Both women were questioned by joiner Mr Smith, who is representing himself and his wife at the hearing. Later the sisters' barrister, Thomas Dillon, suggested Mrs Smith's story had been made up out of "horror films and novels". Mr Dillon spoke of several similarities to sections of the book The Amityville Horror.
He said: "You refer to being able to look through floorboards from upstairs, seeing the face of a pig, a force so strong you could lean against it, and hearing upstairs beds moving back and forth. Isn't it amazing how all these things which you say happened to you can be found in just a few pages of this novel?" Mrs Smith said she had read the book, but insisted she was telling the truth.
She said: "Myself and my husband also watched the film The Haunting recently. Many things what happened there also happened to us. The Haunting was a true story and so is ours."
Mr Dillon said the couple had "made a habit" of running away from their financial problems and had five county court judgments against them. Mrs Smith said they had arisen from her husband being declared bankrupt after a failed business partnership.
The Rev Peter Mockford said he first visited the cottage in October 1995. He added: "I myself experienced the smell and the wet walls. In my view, in Lowes Cottage there is paranormal activity which cannot be explained."

Video Film Sheds Light
A pair of amateur ghostbusters revealed alleged video evidence of paranormal activity at the Smiths' cottage. Tony Dawson and Clive Topcliffe spent a night collating their own X-Files.
Tony, 30, of Ashbourne, Derbyshire, said at the time: "We set up the camera in a downstairs room and went to sleep. In the early hours, we heard banging coming from the room so we went to investigate. We had left a candle burning on the stairs in front of the camera and suddenly it flew into the air like a rocket."
They studied the recording with the Smiths and confirmed they had got the candle on film.
Josie Smith said: "On the video you can also hear a latch-door closing. We've got a modern door now, but when we moved in there was an original latch-door from years ago."

Glow in the Night Spooks Our Man
By Bill Daniels
A cold green light flickered over me as I lay stiff with fear in the gloom of the Smiths' dining room. In a foolhardy moment I'd agreed to spend the night in the house they say is haunted. I'd had no worries about the assignment. I didn't believe in ghosts. But now I wished I was asleep - anywhere else but there. All the chilling stories Andy had told me about things going bump in the night, walls running with water and doors mysteriously opening and closing came flooding back.
Cautiously I crept towards the mysterious glow. I peered nervously into the kitchen - and was confronted by my "ghost". A green light was flickering on and off, filling the room with its glow. But it was just a timer on the stove which hadn't been set properly. Despite the lurid tales I'd heard, that was the only terror I faced. Stairs creaked, windows rattled and radiators banged - but spooks stayed away.

Thank you for letting us investigate your home Tim

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