Billed as “if you’d made up your mind up..think again” the hit investigative documentary podcast The Battersea Poltergeist returns for one more roll of the dice in the shape of a conclusive bonus episode for its legions of adoring fans.
And like whacking on your favourite, comfortable pair of trainers (Adidas if you are interested) we rejoin investigative journalist Danny Robins, flanked by his team of supernatural experts Ciaran O’Keefe and Evelyn Hollow, for one final deep dive into the ongoings at 63 Wycliffe Road.
With this ninth bonus episode, Danny & his team pull out all the stops with fan theories, the inclusion of a 1990’s TV host superfan, and one final Q&A session with the lady of the hour Shirley Hitchings herself. So strap yourself in one final time Poltergeist fans, lets bonus up for 57 minutes as Danny does his best to finally close the chapter on the most intriguing ghost story podcast which has gripped millions.
But before we press on one short pause. If for some reason The Battersea Poltergeist slipped by you, and you are now reading this review scratching your head going “huh?” Here’s some super quick context to help enlighten you.
Journalist Danny Robins & his team of ghost hunters try to unravel a precursory poltergeist case, set within the backdrop of a post-war 1950’s Battersea, London. The podcast is centred around a teenage girl, Shirley Hitchings, her family, and a poltergeist called Donald seemingly trapped within the family home. Danny & co try 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.
As additional side notes, if you also missed my first review of The Battersea Poltergeist which I wrote back in mid-February, I highly recommend you take a quick peek if not for my own fan theory on the show.
Episode nine kicks off exactly how Danny started the series way back in January with Danny in his garden shed with a box of case notes left by Chibs; a touching anecdote for the show to come full circle in man’s little oasis the garden shed. With my review, I aim to signpost, in my opinion, the most poignant parts of this bonus episode.
Danny begins by reeling off recent fan notions with my favourite being about the River Heathwall. For me, this is the most tangible theory for the noises, and house shaking that the Hitchings began to experience back in 1957.
Fun fact, apparently the land on which Wycliffe Road resides was originally located between the River Heathwall and The Thames, creating an island on which Battersea sat. The Heathwall or Heathwall Ditch/Heathwall Mill Pond was later converted into a sewer in the 1880s, and apparently, through looking at old maps this sewer runs directly under Wycliffe Road. Again the most feasible explanation supports the noise element conundrum without having a handy time machine to see if the theory stacks up.
As I comfortably sit within team sceptic I appreciated both Evelyn Hollow and Ciaran O’Keefe’s professional analysis of recent key elements connected with the case. That new necklace story that Shirley regaled about looking in a shop window whilst with her pal, is further ammunition that the whole poltergeist story is exactly that, an elaborate story.
Shirley claimed to have said that she liked a particular necklace that was on display in said shop window, and poof as if by magic it miraculously appears on the table in Wycliffe Road. Although Shirley denies she stole the necklace there is no other way for it to turn up at her house. Now I am not calling Shirley a thief, however, if this was true, and Shirley had this gift why didn’t she walk past a Rolls Royce showroom muttering that she liked them big flashy motors! Again, the only one alive to collaborate this particular tale is Shirley (go, team sceptic!)
Evelyn Hollow goes further and provides evidence on this situation by discussing a similar case on fraudster Alma Fielding, who conned people into believing she could make objects vanish, and then reappear. That Alma Fielding account sums up how clever trickery and sleight of hand can easily baffle people.
That’s even before you hear Ciaran O’Keefe’s credence by dropping wisdom bomb’s on Shirley levitating, and sheet pulling episodes. I must say in defence of ‘team believe’ you have to remember this event happened in the 1950s. No internet, no Google, and also a time when some folk’s thought rock & roll was the devil’s music! So it’s easy for me to conclude my own thoughts that this was an almighty charade, with my very 21st-century mindset.
Okay, so I am not going to run through this whole review continuingly pouring scorn over everything Shirley’s claims as blatant conjecture. I genuinely enjoyed this podcast, and the journey it took everyone on was totally absorbing. During one of the listen along together episodes Danny mentioned that it felt like a little club, us all listening in together. That interaction Danny & the BBC offered to the listener within the show made it feel like you were part of his team trying to unlock this grand ghost tale. And this tale about Donald the poltergeist clearly resonates with a really wide audience.
That audience also includes one time 1990’s TV presenter royalty Sarah Greene of Blue Peter & Going Live fame. Sarah mentions how she enjoyed following the podcast during a brief chat about the show, with comparisons drawn between podcast, and mockumentary TV show Ghostwatch (1992). This collation was drawn by some listeners who wrote into Danny concluding that Danny had cooked up the whole podcast story about Shirley & Donald referencing Ghostwatch.
Ghostwatch was a TV series that claimed to have a legitimate ghost house with all the trappings of shadowy goings-on beamed live via the tele to the British public. Well, this show fooled millions! Being a teenager in the UK in the early nineties I vividly remember that Halloween episode of Ghostwatch as the so staged haunted house was set in Northolt, where I grew up. Back then I remember kids jumping on their BMX’s cycling around housing estates hoping to seek out the Ghostwatch house. So this proves I am not impervious to media hype in a time long before the internet.
Danny also speaks with Shirley’s cousin Bill to get his take on events which adds another dimension to the proceedings. To close out this bonus episode Danny puts listeners questions directly to Shirley in a final Q&A round seeing Shirley answer, and defend herself, which I must say she does admirably.
Summary time! Returning to this podcast with last weeks bonus episode aiming to tie up loose ends was a great way to try and draw a line in the sand. I still position myself firmly within the non-believer camp as I personally deal in fact, not fiction. I also still strongly believe either Shirley or one of the Hitchings family has Tesla level creativity when it comes to storytelling. I might get Monstered in the comments for saying that, however, I am the first person to flag down a black cab, and head for real street with tales of the supernatural.
But then again without this story, we wouldn’t have this wonderful podcast, and lord knows society loves events that cannot be rationally explained. That grey area somewhere in-between the lines that make us all become armchair detectives is simply within Joe public DNA.
And like the special buy centre aisle of Aldi, The Battersea Poltergeist always delivered massively on surprises. Those surprises in turn connected with its audience on a bigger scale that possibly even Danny wasn’t expecting. In short you truly never knew what was going to happen next, and that ultimately is this shows winning formula. People who believe in the paranormal really do believe. And those on the other side of the coin (myself included) love debunking those wild theories. Until the next podcast Danny!
Thank you for taking the time to read my review of ‘The Battersea Poltergeist’ which I genuinely hope you have enjoyed. All of the episodes can be found naturally on BBC Sounds, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or from wherever you choose to get your podcasts from.
If you are considering having your podcast reviewed by Tea in the Sahara you can reach me via my contacts page. Check out my reviews on Dirt, and Wandering with the Dead, if you are interested to see the level of detail which goes into one my independent reviews.
Hopefully, if you have made it this far down the page you have enjoyed my style of writing? I wasn’t going to plug my other reviews en masse, but then again if I am not going to blow my own trumpet who will, cheers Kev.