On the 25th February 1949, the Willesden Chronicle covered the following strange story on its front cover, regarding some very intense poltergeist activity at the American Shoe Stores Ltd, 321 Kilburn High Road, NW6, titled: ‘Kilburn Workshop Is Haunted.’
A Poltergeist or mischievous spirit is said to be haunting the shoe repairing dept. of the Anglo-American Shoe Stores Ltd, 321 Kilburn High Road and the workshop where a series of queer events have taken place during the past 3 weeks, has now been vacated. The story of broken locks and benches, shoes thrown about, nails scattered over the floor, ringing bells, tapping on doors and electric light bulbs which pop out of their sockets, sounds incredible. So persistent are the extraordinary happenings, however, that Mr Jim Best, the shoe repairer, his manager, Mr Charles Fishburn and 3 girl assistants in the shop are all convinced that there is something supernatural about them.
The incidents have been confined to the one work room which has an entrance just around the corner in Dyne Road and in this same room, Mr Best, a 38-year-old cripple, who lives in Donaldson Road, Kilburn, has worked for more than 20 years. Interviewed he said: “I have put up with all sorts of things for 3 weeks, but when heavy hammers start whizzing by your head, it is time to make a change.” He is now working in another room at the rear of the premises. Mr Best continued: “At first when things began to fall off the shelves, I thought there was a logical explanation. When things got worse and shoes which disappeared were found outside in the road, I thought somebody was having a joke. When doors were forced open, I suspected housebreakers. Now I know none of these things are possible. Queer happenings take place in this shop when both doors are closed and I am here alone.”
Then said Mr Fishburn: “We thought Jim was going mad but if he’s mad then we are all mad too. The locked street door was forced open several times so I had two new locks and a bolt put in. I have locked the door myself and made sure no-one was in the shop, but still the door was opened.” Mr Best continued his story: “Yesterday, while a visitor was in the shop with Mr Fishburn and me, a heavy rasp flew across the room with terrific force and broke the glass in the street door. The day before that, two electric light bulbs came out of their holders and dropped on to the floor. Several others have been smashed. This character has also smashed my big wooden bench to pieces.”
Mr Fishburn questioned about his assistants, said he thought at first they were playing jokes on Jim, but they too have been the victims of the poltergeist. The first girl, 17-year-old Ann Dopson of 64, Warlock Road, Paddington, said: “We all know there is something in this room, but we shall stick it out together. I was in there the other day with Betty (another assistant) when a heavy soldering iron hit me on the shoulder and caught Betty in the stomach. Then we heard a crash one day and found the counter ripped off.” Said her colleague, 18-year-old Betty Bowler of 26, Torbay Road, Kilburn: “It is all true and I have had a book thrown at me as well.”
Mrs Kay Beaven, another assistant stated: “I found a shoe in the road one day and several times when customers have brought odd shoes in the shop, having found them outside, they have turned out to be the ones for which Jim has been searching for days. I wonder why he (the poltergeist) always takes the left shoe ?” The poltergeist, who sometimes works at night, is not without a sense of humour – one of his latest tricks is to dye brown shoes black and to pour solution into other shoes. Mr Fishburn is hoping to have the goblin’s activities scientifically investigated and would welcome the advice or help of any expert on the subject. A reporter who was invited to look over the room saw signs of damage, but there were no unusual activities in the room while he was there.