|via British Newspaper Archive|
Last week's Link Dump included the story of "The Watcher," an anonymous figure sending eerily threatening letters to the new owners of a New Jersey mansion. The "Sunderland Echo" for July 23, 1949, carried the story of a similar, but arguably even more menacing, English case of harassment.
What is the truth behind the strange occurrences at 51 Nile Street. Sunderland? Who are the two "well-spoken men" who are said to lurk on the roof tops? What is the explanation of the "blood-stained shroud" which is supposed to have appeared and just as mysteriously disappeared?
For a month mysterious happenings have been terrifying 65-year-old Mrs Harriet Clark, tenant of the house in Nile Street.
She said to-day that "men wearing sandshoes climb to the windows and enter the house in the early hours of the morning."
She also said that she has handed over to the police a note she found sticking to an upstairs window. It was made of letters from newspaper headlines, and read "I Will Get You All."
Sitting in the second floor living room at 51 to-day, Mrs. Clark and relations told me their strange story (writes a Sunderland Echo reporter). Broken glass from a window which was "mysteriously broken” in the middle of the night lay on the window sill.
"It all began about a month ago." she said. "At about 1:30 a.m., we heard the back door creaking," said Mrs. Clark. "One of the family ran out and found the back-room light on, and the key from the door lying on the floor. There was no one there. Since then five windows have been broken during the night. My daughter Eva, aged 25, became so frightened that she rarely comes home during the day now. She spends the night at her sister's home.
I sit up with relations until 6 o'clock each morning—too scared to go to bed since a face appeared at the window behind my bed-head."
Mrs. Clark showed me marks on the windows of her kitchen which appear to have been made by burning cigarettes. They are about the height of a man's mouth from the wide window ledge outside, 20ft. from the ground.
She told me that about 10:30 last Thursday a mysterious parcel was found in an outhouse.
When we brought it in and opened it we found what looked a shroud embroidered with lilies. It bore marks which appeared to bloodstains.
“Unfortunately we wrapped it up and put it back in the outhouse and it disappeared by the time the police arrived."
"If it was a shroud. I can only that it must have been made for someone with plenty of money—it was so fancy."
Mr. William MacDonald (36), son-in-law of Mrs. Clark, spends most of his spare time at the house now, "waiting to try and catch these men.”
After one of the incidents he ran out and saw a man in sand-shoes climbing out of a window of an empty house next door.
"I chased this man and another as far as Tatham Street at about two o’clock in the morning. There I caught up with them, and one who was well spoken, turned and said they had only been taking lead from a roof.
"Then they knocked me down," he added.
"The police have been working hard since we reported the letters to them, but these people seem to know when the police are about. They did not come last night for instance."
Other people living at 51 Nile Street corroborated the details, and said that the intruders sometimes come twice in one night.
As police keep check, Mrs. Clark watches out from her windows on to the warren of narrow streets in the neighbourhood, sleeping by daylight.
A follow-up story appeared in the same newspaper two days later:
Miss Eva Clark, the 25-year-old Sunderland girl who is afraid to go home to her "haunted” home at 51 Nile Street had a threatening letter this morning and its contents were not ghostly. It is now in the hands of the police.
Her mother, 63-year-old Mrs Harriet Clark, who complains that strange things have been happening in the house for a month--including the discovery of a "blood-stained'' shroud--told a Sunderland Echo reporter to-day that the letter was written in such bad English that it marked the writer as uneducated. "People are wondering about the mystery of No. 51,” it read. "But there is no mystery about it. We have been watching you for some time and we are out to get you."
The letter was addressed to Miss Eva Clark, bore a Sunderland post mark and was franked at 5:30 yesterday.
Miss Clark, who now sleeps at the home of relations because she is afraid to go home, has not written to tell her 23-year-old Coldstream Guardsman fiance of the happenings at home. He is L. Cpl. Elliott of Seaham Harbour, now serving in Burma. The couple plan to marry when he returns from abroad before Christmas.
During the week-end dozens of sightseers stood outside the house. Strangers stood in groups in the front and back streets talking about the mystery.
"Three strangers called and offered to stay up all night in the house to try and help us," Mrs. Clark says. "We did not accept the offer.
"On Saturday night the sounds of footsteps across my ceiling returned again," she said.
Very oddly, this is the last I have been able to find about this story. As far as I know, the Clark family and their mysterious tormentors dropped from public view. This would seem to suggest either that the miscreants finally gave up their sadistic games, or it was discovered that someone in the Clark household engineered a hoax attack.
But what reason would anyone have to persecute the family in such a risky manner? And what would anyone in the household get out of staging these creepy visitations?
Your guess is as good as mine.