“Something in that house wasn’t good.”
For almost four years, Vanessa Mitchell lived amongst some of the most powerful paranormal activity ever known.
She bought The Cage in St Osyth in 2004, a medieval property renowned all over the world for its imprisonment of witches in the 1500s – most notably, Ursula Kemp.
The now 46-year-old was blissfully unaware of the full extent of property’s chilling and haunting past when she moved in, but the demons that lived inside soon rose to the surface.
She managed just four years in The Cage and the house has been completely empty since 2009. Now, after 12 years of trying, Vanessa has finally secured a buyer.
She fell in love with the house and made it her home – but once she was in, she couldn’t wait to get out.
The house of her dreams that became her worst nightmare
Born in London, Vanessa moved to St Osyth when she was a young child.
She would walk past the infamous house every day on her way to and from school. Little did she know that years later she would be living inside.
To this day, the mum-of-two is unsure as to why she bought The Cage – but she claims it was the house that chose her.
“I was working away and I came back for a weekend and I saw it was up for sale,” she explained. “
I had a house in Newcastle that was being rented out.
“I thought how can I get the tenants out and get the house on the market in time to buy The Cage?
“I spoke to a paranormal reader, something I never really did, and she said ‘this house has chosen you’. I gave three months’ notice to my tenants and they were out within two weeks.
“I was living in The Cage within weeks.”
While she was unaware of the horrifying secrets that hid within the four walls, Vanessa had grown up hearing stories about the building’s past.
“There’s a plaque on the side of the house that explained who was kept there and that’s what I knew,” she said.
“I didn’t know much else.
“I knew that it was a witches prison and that the previous owner had not long hung himself in there. I was on my own but my friend Nicola came and lived with me.
“It all started on the first day.”
The wrinkled man and the flickering TV
Vanessa has believed in ghosts since she was a child – she’s even seen them.
But nothing compared to the horrors she claims to have seen while living in The Cage.
She explained: “It started happening more and more. Something in that house wasn’t good, I was going to be in trouble.
“When you’re with someone else you’re not terrified, Nicola was with me. I’m used to stuff happening but I did feel more scared now.”
Then, on one sunny spring day, Vanessa saw the wrinkled man.
“I know it was warm because the door to the house was open,” she said.
“I was watching TV and then a man with long, black, scraggly hair and wrinkles on his face appeared.
“He wasn’t old, the wrinkles were just because of his skin. He had really deep laughter lines. But he felt nice and I wasn’t terrified.
“The TV kept going up and down and there was activity before he turned up.”
The blood on the walls
Not long after moving into the house, two of Vanessa’s friends came to visit.
She said: “One was a sergeant major in the army and one was an NHS worker. They came in and sat downstairs on the sofa and Neil said ‘where’s all that blood come from?’
“I just ignored him. But he said ‘you need to come and have a look at this’. There were blood splatters all over the hall floor.
“Maybe 20 or 30 droplets on the floor, it wasn’t smeared. Neil was asking if a window was open and if a cat had brought something in, or if a bird had flown in. He was a solider so he was trying to work this out.
“My friend Kirsty had a go at him and said ‘he’s a trained solider, he knows he shouldn’t touch blood without gloves’. It was blood.”
In 2007, Vanessa had her first child, Jesse, but they lived together in the property for less than a year because she said it wasn’t safe for her son.
“I isolated myself in one room and I was terrified of the house,” she said.
“I was in bed with Jesse when I heard something coming up the stairs.
“The latch on the door was smashing up and down. You know when people say they can feel their heart coming out of their chest? I now know what that feels like.”
Things kept happening. Figures in the house, doors slamming, things appearing in different rooms.
But there was one incident that forced her to leave, for good.
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The toy in the prison room
“At the bottom of the stairs you have to open a door to get up which has a little latch,” Vanessa explained.
“It would always open and slam.
“This happened three years after moving in. Jesse had all these toys and I went downstairs to do some ironing. I was just living in my bedroom completely at this stage.
“I went to do the ironing in the prison room and Jesse’s Thomas the Tank Engine toy turned itself on and started chugging around my feet.
“I ran to the stairs where you have to open the door and there was a man standing at the top. He had a white shirt and chinos on, he wasn’t from the old days.
“I decided after that incident to move out, and this was in the spring of 2008. So many things happened over those three years.”
The haunted house with a chilling reputation
In recent years, The Cage has become a hotspot for movie directors, paranormal writers and ghost enthusiasts.
It’s gained the reputation as the most haunted house in Britain, and Vanessa claims it’s even now considered to be one of the top ten haunted properties in the world.
But for a long time – 12 years to be precise – she was unable to free herself from its grasp.
“I wanted to move out a long time before this but I had nowhere to go and no money to move,” Vanessa said.
“A friend then asked if I wanted to move in with her in Colchester and within two days I was packed and gone.
“I rented the house out to two tenants, one stayed for three months and one stayed for five months. They said exactly the same thing, that it was haunted.
“I went to multiple estate agents over the years but none of them could sell it. Some were telling me to sell it at auction for a much lower price.”
But in May last year, Homes Domus 360 came along, eager to put the property up on their market.
The estate agent group, led by Florent Lambert, promised to promote the sale of the property like nobody had done before.
Florent said: “Vanessa called me at the beginning of May and she’d contacted a few other estate agents.
“At first I didn’t know anything about The Cage but I asked her about it and she told me it was haunted. I was very interested.
“She said a number of estate agents had said it was impossible to sell and they suggested she tried selling it at auction.
“If we know a house is haunted we are obliged to tell people. We wanted to go all the way and play on the fact that the house has a reputation and a worldwide following.”
The company took pictures of the house at night time, emphasising the spooky nature of the property by using candlelight for the shoot.
“It’s not a property you would buy because it’s immaculate,” Florent added. “We tried to make it look gloomy and the pictures were very attractive.
“There were over 30,000 views on Rightmove in 2019, a record for properties in Essex. We made sure to share the listing to lots of paranormal groups around the world.”
Then, after 12 years, a buyer came forward – but not a believer in the paranormal.
‘He went out to sell the house and he did’
There was a huge sense of relief for Vanessa when the deal finally emerged.
“Florent came along and paid a lot of attention to the house, I’ve never known an estate agent like him,” Vanessa said.
“Others were all promises but he went out to sell the house and he did.
“It’s life-changing what he’s done for me. If he can sell this house he can sell anything.
“We received an offer on the house in September and it’s going through the final stages now. We got £220,000 and it was on the market for offers around £240,000, that’s far more than any other agent said I would sell it for.
“The buyer doesn’t believe in any ghosts, she knows the history and she’s not bothered at all.
“It will be interesting. The house has got a mind of its own.”
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