Electrical: Fortean Phenomena

Ball Lightening 1901

Unusual electrical effects are common occurrences but for the most part they go unreported for various reasons that we will cover in these pages. This is such a huge subject that I was reluctant to start writing about it – too much work involved. But, I find it fascinating and that makes the work worthwhile.

We take a look at Iverson Cottage, of interest because I have had… more or less… the same thing happen to me and my wife although with less serious consequences. I originally read the story in Fortean Times, but no one seems to have recorded it except the Fortean message board, the original source of the piece below. Followers of strange events will notice, as I did, the connection between this and the famous Canneto di Caronia case that as far as I know is still intermittently ongoing.


This is a story concerning the strange happenings in the home of a father and son in a small Somerset town some 120 miles west of London, and events, sometimes bordering on the bizarre, in the home of a married couple and their son in a Kent village.

There is a striking similarity between the two cases; weird phenomena centred around the electrical supply; official bodies unable, or perhaps unwilling to help and of course, the inevitable scapegoat – in both cases the son. Numerous theories have been advanced to explain the phenomena but none completely fits the bill.

Somerton is a small, but delightful, Somerset market town. Iverson Cottage, the home of Frank Pattemore and his son Nigel, lies unobtrusively in the heart of Somerton. Within this peaceful looking cottage 83 year old Frank and Nigel are being plagued by strange phenomena.

Adisham is a small, quiet and secluded Kent village lying between Canterbury and Dover. 3 Church Lane is situated near the end of a quiet country lane on the edge of the village. Now boarded up and dilapidated it was some ten years ago, he home of Mr and Mrs Joe Orchard and their son David. Like Frank Pattemores cottage, the Orchards home consisted of a lounge and kitchen downstairs and two bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs and it was in this quiet rural home that the Orchards suffered phenomena which were at time, so bizarre as to be beyond belief.

Frank Pattemore bought Iverson Cottage in 1976 and he and Nigel enjoyed six happy years and a good electricity supply until 1982 when it was noticed that an unusually large number of fuses were blowing on both the cooker and lighting circuits. SWEB, the local electricity board were informed and their engineers thoroughly examined the troublesome circuits but could find nothing wrong. These circuits were rewired by SWEB and when their engineer switched on the supply, there was a loud explosion which destroyed the fuse board. From that moment there began a long saga of strange happenings; light bulbs exploding, light fittings melting and falling out of the ceiling, switches becoming welded and unusable, the meter turning even when all the circuits had been isolated, television sets catching fire and the phone ringing of its own accord.


Exerts from SWEB, NASA and the Electricity Research and Development Centre carried out research and investigation and the Cook Report put in an appearance with their own experts but, although 2000 volt surges were recorded the problem remained unsolved and in fact, got worse. By this time SWEB had carried out numerous repairs and two complete rewires but now objects not directly connected to the electricity supply were being affected by this elusive force.

A battery radio set also suffered damage resembling a lightning strike and during one of my visits for the purpose of research, a journalists miniature tape recorder persistently switched itself off when it was placed within a strange forcefield which runs diagonally through the Iverson Cottage.

Frank Pattemore has been visited by experts in many fields; physicists, electrical engineers, psychologists, psychic researchers, mediums, dowsers – and strangers who purport to be officials of one kind or another. They often give a name and telephone number but can never be traced afterwards. Theories advanced have included radar, lasers, poltergeists, ghosts and ley lines but all have been flawed.

The problems for the Orchards began in 1976 when their son, David, was 15. Before this they had spend a number of very happy years in the cottage. The first indication of trouble was with interference electrical equipment – a vacuum cleaner glowed and a television set switched itself on and off. These were minor problems compared to what was to follow.

Phenomena now began to be associated with water; there would be a whooshing sound, as Mrs Orchard described it, and boiling hot water would appear everywhere – in the dogs basket, in the television set, on carpets, mattresses and books and even in electric bulbs. The strange thing is that when the water was emptied the television set would work as though nothing had happened. The water always “left it’s mark” – a circle with a dot in the centre.

More bizarre happenings were to follow. Objects would float across the room from their situation on shelves and the sideboard, sometimes slowly and sometimes with such force that they would smash windows or doors and continue their flight outside. A settee, chairs and tables would upend themselves and were held firmly “until the force gave them up”

A broom was snatched right out of Mrs Orchards hand and became attached to the ceiling; a line of books on a shelf flew, one by one, down the stairs, one striking Mrs Orchard on the forehead; the pet cat levitated and hovered close to the ceiling and then ran out terrified when it was released; water pipes bent and buckled as people watched in complete amazement.

What this strange and inexplicable force is and why it should appear only after an appreciable number of serene and happy years, nobody knows. Radars and laser are both line of sight and therefore can be ruled out because other houses remain unaffected. Neither of the homes is situated on a ley line and thus, energy cannot be obtained from this source.

Leakage of electric charges from the mains is hardly a candidate to be considered seriously as it would have to be an enormous amount to create the tremendous field necessary to lift the heavy objects which were moved. In one instance a Rayburn stove moved across the floor, watched by an incredulous official from the local authority.

In both cases very large induced electromotive forces have found their way into the neutral conductor. These surges have been measured at 2000 volts plus, and one day in August 1991, we recorded 11 such surges between 11pm and 11am at Frank Pattemores home.

If, as two electricity boards say, this is occurring within the house, it can only imply that it is being cause mechanically and knowingly by one or more occupants or that is being created by an unknown force within the house or, unwittingly by one of the occupants. If this is the case, the problem falls within the realm of poltergeist activity. An interesting facet of Frank Pattemore case is that, while we were carrying out our research, Hamish Miller, co-author of The Sun and The Serpent, found the same diagonal energy beam with his dowsing roads that we had found with our orthodox, and considerable more expensive scientific apparatus, although he had no prior knowledge of our findings. He also obtained one of the strangest reactions he had ever seen from Frank Pattemore himself.


Research into the cause of the phenomena has been hindered by the attitude of those in authority. Official bodies have been obstructive and devious.

SWEB, before the beginning of the investigation, told the writer that the media exaggerated and the phenomena wasn’t worth investigating because they were only looking for a simple earth fault. If this were the case, why was Nigel Pattemore followed for two days by two men in a dark blue car and later arrested at work by the same two men and taken to Yeovil Police Station under completely false pretences? He was told that there was to be a meeting concerning he electricity supply at his home and his father would also be at the meeting which was to place in Yeovil; the police station was never mentioned.

The truth of the matter that was whilst he was being kept at Yeovil police station, his father was having the indignity of suffering his home being searched under warrant. Nigel had already suffered the same indignity at work when his lunch box was searched under warrant and his sandwiches taken apart. The possibility of this action being yet another red herring cannot be discounted.

The danger of a preconceived notion stopping all further research is amply illustrated in the Orchards’ case. In desperation, due to bizarre events taking lace in his home, Mr orchards called in the police and was visited by a PC from Bridge who then telephone SEEB at Folkestone. As a result, SEEB wrote to Canterbury Subdivision HQ of Kent Police suggesting that quantities of water had been thrown into electrical appliances despite the fact that many gallons could be seen running down the lane.

The police responded by a letter showing that once a preconceived notion has been instilled, the intelligent consideration and analysis of evidence goes out of the window.

“As is known, we both have the same ideas as to the cause of these incidents and the police, in fact, have advised the parents of their feelings in this matter. However, the parents refuse to accept what has been said and prefer to delve into the mysterious occult for the apparent cause.

So there we have it. The police, although totally lacking in evidence whatever, had formed the opinion that the Orchards’ son David, was responsible for the bizarre happenings at Church Lane, Adisham.

We are, at present, no-nearer to solving the mystery of the strange force that, so dramatically, invaded the Orchards’ home and still plagues the home of Frank and Nigel Pattemore. Neither do we know whether and authority knows what is happening but won’t admit whether they, too, are in the dark.

Whatever the force is, it does not obey the known laws of electromagnetism but is without doubt very powerful.

{Bill Love is a physicist by profession and has worked in such a capacity with many large companies. I visited him in Dover in 1996 to enquire about these cases. I was impressed by the level of research which he carried out on these cases. I feel that much more could have been done by the authorities to further research on these cases and the conclusions which were drawn were not the final answers. Bill Love has accumulated a large amount of data on such cases and would like to hear from people with information on similar happenings. Please contact this magazine to be put in touch. – ED}

Here is my own letter to Fortean Times written around 2008:
Reading FT174 today I noticed that in Readers Letters there was a piece about “bizarre electrical phenomena”. It referred to previous articles like FT171:48 and FT80:19. I read 171 the other day but I will have to search for 80.
This took me back to the spring of this year when about 11:00PM one night I heard a loud bang outside. Nothing was found on investigating, but the next day there were electrical utility vans everywhere. The power was off for hours and no one seemed to know what the problem had been. It was only several days later that I noticed what must have been the trouble. Living in the sticks, we have communal overhead power lines and I noticed that one of the three phase wires at the back of the house had broken and had been repaired in a slipshod manner. It had obviously snapped or melted and been repaired by wrapping wire around what was left of the power line. This must have been done the night of the bang as I had watched the progress most of the day.
The bang must have been the destruction of the cable by whatever. A new transformer had been installed and all other equipment had been replaced only a few months previously and I thought it strange that it should fail so soon.

All this got me wondering about what was going on, as early last year I received an Electricity bill that was about £600.00 above what I usually pay and it took me six months to convince the power company that I was not smelting large quantities of steel in my back garden and that I don’t even own a Bessemer Furnace.

Power surges seemed to be the answer and the FT articles bear-out the fact that electricity suppliers don’t take kindly to them – in fact they seem to treat them like the recent Mod UFO fiasco.
Little information exists about power surges and they are usually attributed to lightening, solar flares or solar coronal mass ejection, oh, and switching lights on and off. There were no storms on the night of the bang and the Sun seems to have behaved itself lately; I was sitting quietly with no switching and it was, after all, late at night.

A Google produced nothing new – this is hardly surprising, as no serious high voltage electronic research has been done for about a hundred years. Woops!

Anyone got any info on this?

In fact the problem continued with long life light bulbs lasting two weeks, the freezer froze its last sausage and the TV blew a fuse. As I attempted to plug my PC into a socket a spark an inch (25mm) long jumped onto the plug pin. More strange, but just like the victims above, there were two tangible *tracks* right through the house where a tingling sensation could easily be detected with the hands just below waist height.

Just like the other cases the electricity authorities did not want to know about the problem. I eventually got a slight response when I contacted the energy minister. It seems that such things are the responsibility of the company who owns the national grid. They came and did numerous tests, one of which involved disconnecting the whole house from any electricity source. As I stood watching the guy turned to me and said that the house was still alive even though there was no connection to the mains. (This could be a clue!). They left a monitor plugged into the mains and asked me to post it back to them after a couple of weeks. I never heard anything from them since that day.

It’s at this point that I started my own research, I found a kindly soul online who had spent many years working for the energy dictators. I was told that this is not unusual and happens to houses in rural locations where the house is on the end of the line… as mine was.

Fortean Times: Another electrical nightmare
Bill Love’s article on the bizarre electrical phenomena at Iverson Cottage [FT171:48] mirrored a case I examined in detail in my book Testimony (Victor Gollancz, 1996). (See also “Paranormal Power Theft” FT 80:19 April 1995)
Heol Fanog, an isolated stone cottage not far from Brecon, Powys, was plagued with similar electrical problems -bills massively out of proportion to use, the meter whizzing round when no electricity was being used – but it was also accompanied by a range of disturbing, seemingly supernatural phenomena. These included ghosts, unaccountable smells, disembodied footsteps, apports, suggestions of possession of the inhabitants and demonic apparitions. Whether these happened in any “real” sense or whether the altered state in the house adjusted the perceptions of the residents is open to interpretation. But what, for me, is even more disturbing is how the family who lived there-Bill and Liz Rich and their children-were treated by human agencies. The local electricity board acted in a similar way to South Western Electricity Board in Mr Love’s account, at first denying all knowledge, then trying to blame the Richs, and finally subtly attempting to discredit the family by implying they were secretly siphoning off the electricity (in some way that escaped the notice of a battery of electrical engineers). Various religious representatives, psychics and fringe characters pulled the family from pillar to post. Finally BBC Wales came to the house to launch an investigation and produced one of the most appalling pieces of journalism I have ever come across in my years as a national newspaper and magazine writer. Completely devoid of balance, its conclusion was that the Richs were, basically, cheats and liars because the electricity drain happened at times when you would expect peak use, so they were clearly “somehow” stealing the electricity and trying to dodge paying for it.
The breakdown of any kind of logic really made their documentary a piece of such extreme stupidity it was almost high art, and should have been treated as such if not for the effect on the family. The Richs were falling apart, suffering inexplicable phenomena that were very, very real to them (and happening to such a degree that it threatened their sanity), while at the same time having their characters assassinated by monolithic organisations. BBC Wales’ derogation of responsibility was the final straw.
Having spent a great deal of time with the Riches during the course of writing the book, I can categorically state that they were in no way trying to cheat the electricity company. Their distress was very real and extremely troubling. I considered this a one-off, yet the Iverson Cottage account made me wonder how often this is taking place around the country and what phenomenon is really at work here. Are the electricity companies covering up something that could affect their business status? Dowsers at Heol Fanog also claimed to find a confluence of “black streams”, as discussed in the Iverson Cottage feature. Was there something in the construction of the cottages that contributed to what happened -Nigel Kneale’s Stone Tape, perhaps? I do know that many engineers and physicists couldn’t explain the electrical phenomena at Heol Fanog (never mind the rest of it) so perhaps a different approach is needed.
Mark Chadbourn Moira. Derbyshire
FT174 September 2003

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