Tea in the Sahara
Kev – Fiction Podcast Critic
This week guys I have a very different podcast review for you to immerse yourself into, in the shape and guise of The Battersea Poltergeist which is a part investigative documentary/part enigmatic drama. A show which includes a unique interactive opportunity for the listener to peer through the furnace door and share their possible theories, sentiments, and potential thoughts on the case of the podcast; more on that later.
This show is based on the book ‘The Poltergeist Prince of London’ written by James Clark & Shirley Hitchings. The Battersea Poltergeist podcast is written & presented by Danny Robins, produced by Bafflegab Productions for BBC Radio 4. Bafflegab already has an honourable roll-call of podcasts being the guys behind the sinister podcast production of the 1970s TV series ‘Children Of The Stones’ which is absolutely worth checking out if you remember the children’s show and fancy a retro reminisce.
Oh and as always spoiler ALERT. Apologies if you haven’t started to listen to The Battersea Poltergeist just yet, there are some spoilers blown ahead in my review.
Journalist Danny Robins & his team of ghost hunters try to unravel a precursory poltergeist case, set within the backdrop of a post-war 1950s Battersea, London. Centred around a teenage girl, Shirley Hitchings (Dafne Keen), her family, and a poltergeist seemingly trapped within the family home. The podcast cleverly darts back & forth from 1956 to the present day, providing the listener context as Danny tries to unearth the truth of this sixty-five-year-old ghost story. Aided by the original case notes left by paranormal investigator Harold (Chibs) Chibbett voiced by Toby Jones.
The story goes, that Shirley Hitchings discovered a large, ornate silver key on her pillow which does not fit any lock within the house. The strange key goes missing, and the residents of 63 Wycliffe Rd start to witness unwelcomed banging in the loft which cannot be rationally explained. The banging ramps up, and out of frustration the Hitchings family nickname the supposed source of all the racket Donald. Harold (Chibs) Chibbett, a tax inspector by day, and paranormal investigator by night sets about helping the Hitchings try and solve the mystery of why their home is potentially haunted by a poltergeist. And also ironically proving that the taxman is still after you, even if you are a ghost!
Back to the present day, where Danny & his team armed with 21st-century technology try to use modern methods previously unavailable in 1956 to try and solve the case. The 3D method of virtually mapping the Hitchings home so that Danny can visually immerse himself into the Hitchings shoes like he had his own Delorean time machine was insane, and I would have totally loved to have seen it!
The families unfortunate Fred Karno circus circumstance gets a mighty upgrade from noises to flying objects, and Donald communicates with them through a sequence of knocking sounds. The press rocks up and ratchet up the tension, as there are rumours of Shirley levitating, which is corroborated when our 2021 journalist Danny visit’s the sole remaining member of the Hitchings family, Shirley now in her eighties.
Episode 4, and back in 1956 the Hitchings family finally lose it and agree to allow a chap called Harry Hanks to hold an underground seance to hopefully rid Shirley & her family of their unwanted spectre, Donald. Photographic evidence of that very seance is shown below with Harry Hanks in the middle, and Shirley to his right. Harry (David Troughton) in my mind is your typical situational, charlatan praying on desperate people in order to make a quick pound note.
So at four episodes in it’s my turn to play DI Bergerac and offer up my own thoughts on the podcast, including my stance on the poltergeist plot the show is based. Starting with the podcast I really like the idea of an investigative journalist revisiting a super old case armed with modern technology. There’s something quite exciting about listening to Danny and his team as they try to piece together the different elements of the puzzle both from a sceptic, and believer standpoint.
Using new methods to try and debunk theories like the VI recreation scene, and getting insight into modern exorcism puts a 2021 detective spin on the series which, for those like myself who enjoy playing detective will love. The production of the podcast is also on the money with some scenes feeling claustrophobic only for the silence to be broken by a large bang or scream to make the listener jump out of their skin!
I especially enjoyed the case update episode inviting Joe public to email their own theories about the show which is a bold, engaging form of interaction between the podcast and its audience.
My theory on the whole haunting, and poltergeist piece is simple. My Grandad used to say “don’t worry about the dead, it’s the living you need to watch out for!” And there is an element of truth within that statement. I think both investigations, past & present have focused on proving what is not there, and in so discounting the obvious. The Hitchings family themselves.
In my opinion, I believe that the poltergeist was engineered by the Hitchings family with each playing their own part in the deception. Perhaps the hoax went too far when the press got involved, but my money is on the family, or an individual family member creating the ruse independently. Listening to the show money doesn’t seem readily available within a very full household, and knowing that the country was financially still on its knees following the war perhaps the story was cooked up to make an extra bob or two out of an elaborate ghost story that perhaps went too far. Maybe I am being too overtly cynical, but if you haven’t noticed one of the authors who wrote the original book linked with this investigation is indeed Shirley Hitchings. Again, my personal opinion so I’ll let you mull that one over for a moment.
Who is this podcast for? This week this is a total no-brainer, anyone! Let me bolster that statement out a tad more for you. This podcast would suit anyone that is a fan of the occult, enjoys ghost stories, and unsolved mystery cases, and likes the use of modern CSI-style detective work to crack a case. The podcast is super engaging, incorporating the listener into the show with their thoughts/hunches during the Q&A episode, which for me was a very astute move.
Final, final thoughts from me, it is also worth highlighting the shows haunting title music co-written by Ben Hillier and the talented Nadine Shah which fits in perfectly with the whole spooky theme the podcast is trying to project.
I hope you have enjoyed reading this podcast review for ‘The Battersea Poltergeist’ podcast which is hands down worth checking out on the BBC Sounds App, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts from. The email address is below if you want to email the series with your very own hunch or theory on the show Batterseapoltergeist@bbc.co.uk
Are you looking to have your podcast or audio drama reviewed? Well look no further you’ve unexpectedly found your perfect partner; Tea in the Sahara! Whatever your podcast genre please do get in touch via any of the below methods or through my contacts page, and check out my other reviews listed below cheers, Kev.