Church Lane used to connect the centre of Brighouse with its parish church but since 1972 it has been severed by the Ludenscheid Link bypass and the Parsonage Lane car park. Whilst on the north side of the A643, the street continues as a sleepy lane climbing towards St. Martin’s, a small portion of it remains on the south side in the town centre as a barely noticeable conduit between Commercial Street and Gooder Street. Surrounded primarily by the loading areas of commercial properties, it now seems an incongruous location for a residential dwelling but Number 5, Church Lane is exactly that and in November 1985 it was the scene of a significant poltergeist disturbance.
At the time, the house was occupied by Jack and Brenda Mansley, along with their twenty-five year old daughter, Karen, on whom much of the activity was said to be focused. Poltergeist activity has often been correlated with emotionally fragile females but they are more often adolescent or pubescent girls. Glenn MacArthur, a Rastrick based medium, did suggest when he visited the property that the spirits may have latched on to Karen due to the stress of attempting to establish a hairdressing business over the preceding eighteen months. Nonetheless, Karen appears to have been a stable individual with good a familial relationship and was thus not a wholly characteristic candidate for such supernatural attention.
The events themselves included much of the low level activity frequently reported in supposed poltergeist cases, much of which could so easily be attributed to mere absent mindedness. The family would often awake or return to the house to discover lights mysteriously turned on, doors open or taps running. Less trivially, Karen’s married sister Jacqueline visited the house one day whilst the family were away to discover coats strewn across the floor and jewellery boxes emptied as if there had been a burglary. However, nothing had been taken and there was no sign of forced entry. Nobody was found in the house, despite Jacqueline claiming that she had seen the shadow of a person from outside.
The more significant disturbances centred around Karen included the constant creaking of a floorboard in her bedroom at night, as if somebody was walking back and forth across it, and a hammering coming from the walls. On one occasion a three-foot high mirror which was usually propped up against a wall in the room was discovered laid out on her bed beneath the covers, whilst on another, she discovered her birth certificate screwed up in the corner of the room. The events often occurred when the rest of the family was out and it was getting to the point where she was afraid to be in the house alone, especially upstairs where much of the activity occurred.
Medium Glenn MacArthur visited the residence on two occasions. On the first, he claimed to have made contact with the spirit of a young girl who died in the house, speculating that it might be the ghost of Mary Manley, who passed away in 1843 at the age of seven and was buried nearby in the graveyard at St. Martin’s. She was the daughter of James Manley, who had constructed the row known as Commercial Buildings – of which Number 5, Church Lane is a part – in 1836 and whose family became its first occupants. However, it is instructive that Mr. MacArthur had reportedly lost a child himself some years previously and you have to wonder if there was not a degree of projection at work.
However, on his second visit MacArthur alleged to have detected the presence of another spirit, that of an anonymous man who had died in the house sometime in the past. He thought this man was an alcoholic who used to pawn his property to get money to spend on drinking and who was searching the house for something he’d lost or that had been hidden from him. MacArthur believed this individual was responsible for the more substantial occurrences such as the incident with the mirror, whilst the girl had only engaged in more mischievous, low-level activity. However, the medium cautioned that events would yet reach a crescendo before finally dispersing. Whether his prediction was accurate is not recorded.