An old house in mid-Wales seemed like a haven to Liz and Bill Rich. But within weeks of their arrival, inexplained happenings turned their enchantment to horror. This is their story – the true story of an experience that has defied all explanation.
Published by Gollancz (1996) – Currently Out of Print
Strange faces appear on the floor of a house in a remote village in southern Spain. A ghost plane rises from the depths of Ladybower Reservoir on the Derbyshire Moors. The mummified hand of an English martyr is used to raise a Benedictine monk from a coma on the edge of death.
Odd stories. Perhaps unbelievable stories. Yet all of them were reported in British newspapers in the first half of 1995. They are just a tiny drop in the tidal wave of weirdness that sweeps over us every day of the year, all over the globe. Somehow, though, we persist in maintaining the illusion that in this age of high technology there can be no such thing as the supernatural. At least that is the view presented by much of the media.
In our hearts we know differently. Sometimes the mundane, grey reality of our day to day lives peels back and we see what lies behind it. It might be a tale whispered by a close friend in a shop or pub, or we might even experience it ourselves, something we can’t explain, appearing then disappearing in the blink of an eye. Often it gives us a brief feeling of wonder, almost a religious transcedence. Occasionally, it can fill us with the deepest dread.
The scientific community which has provided the framework for our lives since early in the last century tells us this is all there is. We are at the mercy of strictly defined rules which allow no place for the paranormal. The torchbearers of this fundamentalist rationalism are, of course, ignoring the testimonies of everday people. Doctors, lawyers, secretaries, dustbinmen, shop workers and middle managers. People who are not unduly gullible, who live their lives fully in the “real” world yet who have experienced, or know someone who has experienced, something which cannot be explained away by those scientific rules. The truth is, in the quiet of our lonely rooms we can look deep inside ourselves and know that life is strange. That the rules aren’t so rigid. That things and thoughts and happenings creep around the shadows of our lives yet never enter the light. We would never admit it in public, of course. But in our hearts, we know…
Yet if only we could be sure it wasn’t our extremely powerful imagination playing with us. If only those scientists would tell us we were right all along and then we could stop doubting and questioning and feeling uncomfortable. If only we could be sure…
Of course, the church, all churches, has been telling us this for years. Every religion is based on the supernatural, some force inexplicable by science which shapes our lives. But as the philosophers repeatedly tell us, there is no proof of God. You either believe or you don’t. At its core, that is what this book is about: faith. Do you believe?
I am a writer of fiction. I am comfortable with creating the fantastic in my head. I am also, by trade, a journalist, steeped in that profession’s culture of cynicism, used to operating in that grey, mundane world where everything has a rational explanation. So when I first encountered the Rich family and Heol Fanog, their picturesque house deep in the Welsh countryside, I approached their tale with a healthy scepticism. Yes, strange, inexplicable things did happen in the world. But their story was too unbelievable – too terrifying – to be true. The truly horrifying, on a spiritual level, only happens in novels.
What you are about to read is not fiction. It is fact. Then again, we are told there are no facts – just different perspectives of the same view, subjective, coloured by personal beliefs, doubts, fears. Yet when two of those perspectives are aligned, we start to get closer to the heart of the matter. When three, four or five are in tune we can be pretty sure we have got as close as we can to the truth of an event.
A dozen people of varying degrees of credulity, differing ages, sex and religious persuasion are convinced something beyond the bounds of reason happened at Heol Fanog between November 1989 and June 1995. Something supernatural. Something Evil.
This wasn’t a simple haunting. This was human lives pushed to the limit by a malignant force which exhibited a terrifying sentience. A battle not only for the sanity of Heol Fanog’s bewildered, incresingly distressed residents, but ultimately for their very souls.
I was drawn to the story of the Rich family by an article which appeared in The Independent, a newspaper not renowned for fantastic supposition. It told of a house where strange things happened. Where electricity was drained from the system for no reason. It also hinted at other, darker things which it decided, in its wisdom, to leave well alone. I, not being particularly wise, wanted to know more. I rang the Richs and chatted to them about their experiences, ostensibly to write an article for a magazine, but also because my curiosity was piqued. You see, I’ve always wanted to know if there was something more. As a journalist, talking to people all the time, you realise most folk are inherently truthful when talking about their experiences; they don’t fabricate. So on a human level you come to realise that all those who claim a brush with the supernatural can’t be lying. There must be something there. Why aren’t there more investigations?
As Bill Rich and I talked, I realised The Independent had only scratched the surface of what had happened in that house. There was an interesting story to tell on many levels, if I could cope with the chills that were crawling all over my skin.
A story not just of the supernatural, but of raw human emotions as ordinary people struggled to cope in the face of madness. Of how lives can be unbalanced by the real world and those who claim to be spiritual saviours. And I was angered by how these two people could be treated by the arrogance of those who refused to believe – called liars or fools because they dared to talk about an experience at odds with the scientific rationale.
But at its heart it is a story of the supernatural. Heol Fanog could be the most haunted house in Britain. That would be frightening enough, but there is more. Much more. The people who give their testimonies in this book will unveil one of the most startling cases of the paranormal ever to be documented, a case which starts with a haunting and carries on into the shadows. Its final destination is somewhere very dark and terrible.
Remember: it is a true story.
If you believe the grey world of banks, furniture shops and supermarkets is all there is, read on. If you have even the slightest notion there might be something which lies beyond, pause now. By the end of this book, you will never sleep peacefully again.