In the middle of a Norwich housing estate on a quiet cul-de-sac, an ordinary three-bedroom house built in the 1980s harboured a sinister secret: a malevolent poltergeist.

The couple who lived in the Thorpe Marriott house in 2004, when a young reporter from the Norwich Evening News (me – I have been doing this for a long, long time) went to speak to them, believed they were sharing their home with a ghost.

I will call the couple Mr and Mrs Smith: time has elapsed, perhaps they’d rather forget their spectral house guest and the havoc it wreaked nearly 20 years ago.

Mr and Mrs Smith’s problems began, they told me, after a night out to watch a clairvoyant. 

“The clairvoyant told me things that no one could know. She described my parents and told me my mum’s name,” said Mr Smith.

“Then she said ‘about six months ago there was a death in the family. I’m getting the name George’. George was my uncle — not a blood relative — and he could be quite a nasty piece of work. He once threatened to cut the neighbours up into tiny pieces with an axe.”

Mr Smith added that his uncle had terrorised his family and had been a drinking acquaintance of the Kray twins in London’s East End.

“If he’d been given the chance to come back from the dead and cause more problems for the living, I know he’d have taken it,” he added.

“As soon as we came home and I walked through the door, it felt wrong. I felt as if something had come back with me. I couldn’t shake off the feeling.”

Shortly after the clairvoyant’s revelations, a terrible smell began to seep into the couple’s bedroom. Sinisterly, the smell worsened when the couple rowed.

“Imagine a dead cat that’s been rotting in your garden for months. Imagine putting your nose right up to it. That’s the smell,” said Mr Smith.

“Of course, I assumed that something had died in the room — a rat or a mouse. Over the next few months we did everything. I checked under the furniture, under the floorboards, in the attic, in the bathroom — I did everything.

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“We redecorated from scratch. New carpet, new paint job, new furniture, everything. The smell stayed. It only came at night and it was far worse at the threshold of the room than anywhere else. Sometimes it would be there, sometimes it wouldn’t.”

In addition to the smell, strange tappings, shufflings and bangings could be heard at night while the couple were in bed.

“It was like someone drumming their fingernails on a surface. It would start on my husband’s side of the bed and move to above the television. Then things started to move,” said Mrs Smith.

“We’ve got an adjoining door from the hallway to the garage and one night my husband had been in there and when he came out he found he couldn’t close the door. He said he could feel a force behind it that wasn’t letting him shut it.

“I was screaming ‘shut the door! Shut the door!’ and he was saying ‘I’m pulling it! I can’t!’. The door was shaking — I was absolutely terrified.”

The strain of living with an uninvited guest began to take its toll on the couple.

“I thought I was going mad. There were days when I just wanted to pack my bags and leave because the house didn’t feel like mine anymore. I was scared to go to sleep at night, frightened to believe what was happening,” said Mrs Smith.

“My daughters said they felt uneasy in the house. One said she’d woken up and thought she’d seen a figure standing at the bottom of the bed. Another friend refused to stay in our house because he thought he’d seen someone looking at him through the mirror.

“I was always on edge, always waiting for something to happen.” 

Duvets would be pulled from the bed in the middle of the night, objects would go missing, the family dog refused to enter the bedroom and the ghastly smell continued to mysteriously appear and disappear. It was time to take action.

While researching the subject on the internet, the couple found a team from Great Yarmouth which investigated suspected hauntings.

Investigators spent the night at the couple’s house in May 2004, placing a battery of static cameras upstairs and using a roving camcorder which were linked to televisions and video recorders downstairs, which allowed the couple and the team to watch what happened throughout the night.

Photographer Steve Adams and I watched the footage and saw a series of darting white lights and the frightened reaction of the family dog to something that roused him from his slumber at the top of the stairs.

A diary of events charted the following: 12.48am, footsteps heard in the bedroom. 1.13am, Mrs Smith feels something touching her ear. 2.16am, investigator feels a touch on her arm. Additionally, the team saw shadows moving across the stairs, heard doors banging, objects rattling and experienced a drop in temperature without any recorded change on the positioned thermometers.

Shortly after the visit from the ghostbusters, Mr Smith contacted a television company advertising for people with ghostly problems to get in touch for a forthcoming series.

A film crew recently visited the house, bringing with them a medium called Lizzie Falcolner who — despite knowing nothing about the couple, their house or the problems they had been experiencing — immediately pinpointed the problem areas in the home and offered the name “George” as the possible spectral culprit.

“As soon as she came in she said she could sense the spirit activity. She said straight away that there was something nasty in the garage, and that whatever it was, it moved about,” said Mrs Smith..

The medium also said she saw the garage door handle move and that she could see shadowy figures moving at the top of the stairs. 

Despite the fact that there was no breeze in the house, the crew clearly saw Lizzie’s hair flutter as if someone had passed her in a hurry — at the same time, the medium said she had felt someone breathing in her ear.

“It was kind of reassuring to hear someone else tell us what we already knew, but on the other hand it didn’t really make me feel much better because the TV cameras could pack up and leave, but we still had to keep living in our house,” said Mrs Smith. 

“It’s made me very weary. It’s been going on for so long now that I’ve almost got used to it. I like where I live and I don’t want to move — even if we did move, what’s to say that this thing won’t come with us?”

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To illustrate this point, Mr Smith told me about the time the couple went to stay with his sister-in-law who lived in a rambling 16th century house which, although old, did not appear to have a resident ghost.

“We’d sat up for ages talking about what was happening to us and it had been a good night. We were away from our problems and we were having a good laugh,” he said. 

“At about 3am we went to bed and then it started. A knocking on the wall. At first I thought someone was playing a joke on us, then I realised everyone was asleep.

“I started the old business — I was used to it by then — of checking under the furniture, seeing where the pipes were, looking at the central heating, that kind of thing. Nothing. I went back to bed and the knocking started again. A knock, a silence, a knock. From 3am until 8am.

“It makes you wonder if whatever is in our house could have followed us. That’s not a nice thought.”

His wife added: “We’re even thinking of having the house exorcised to see if that will get rid of whatever it is that’s giving us all the problems.

“Other people often say that they don’t mind sharing their house with a ghost, that the ghost is almost a friendly presence.

“Ours doesn’t feel like that. Ours feels evil. You’re always waiting for something else to happen. I just want it to stop, once and for all.”

There have been no recent reports of activity at the house: that we are aware of, at any rate.

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