Behind the scenes sources at ITV’s X-Factor are claiming that the programme’s production team is in the grip of panic ahead of the Halloween edition, with rumours of seances and Ouija boards being used to try and contact producer and judge Simon Cowell. “My sources are telling me that no one has seen him since last week’s show,” claims Daily Norks showbiz reporter Bruce Poke. “Although, confusingly, many of the production team and contestants have claimed that they can still feel his presence around the studio, with many reporting the sensation of having him standing behind them and looking over their shoulders as they work. Indeed, according to one insider, when one of the acts Cowell is mentoring hit a bum note during rehearsals, one of the studio lights exploded above them – as if an invisible Cowell was registering his displeasure!” There have also been claims that an invisible Cowell is making his influence known in ways other than exploding lights, with several production staff claiming that they have heard his disembodied voice making pithy, sarcastic comments to them as they work. “I clearly heard him say ‘You really are a pile of steaming shit’ after I spilt coffee all over Mel B at rehearsals,” one runner told the showbiz reporter. “There’s no mistaking his condescending tones and razor-sharp wit. But when I turned around, there was nobody there!”

Some reports are linking the mysterious disappearance of the pop impresario with a recent attempt to exorcise evil spirits from his London mansion. “Nobody has seen him since he had Britain’s top ghostbuster in to drive out the spooks he’d become convinced were haunting the place,” claims Poke. “One story is that he has been spirited away by the ghosts, who were enraged at the attempt to cast them out of the house, another is that something went wrong with the exorcism and that Cowell has been marooned in some spectral parallel dimension, invisible to the living, manifesting himself as only a disembodied voice!” Cowell’s conviction that his home was haunted stemmed from a series of bizarre phenomena he and others had experienced in the property over recent weeks. “It all started with sightings of what they at first thought was a fox in the garden – Cowell’s Yorkshire terriers were terrified of it, whining and howling whenever it was glimpsed,” explains Poke. “They put up an electric fence to keep it out, but it did no good – it got to the stage that the dogs wouldn’t go out into the garden at all, the intruder was scaring them so much!” The phantom fox incident was followed by disturbances inside the mansion, including sudden drops in temperature, strange sounds like penny whistles and other badly played musical instruments and doors opening and closing by themselves. There were also reports of strange shuffling figures, sometimes apparently performing acrobatics or juggling, being glimpsed at windows or in empty rooms.

“It all culminated with what sounded like ghostly singing – out of key and strangulated – it would start faintly, then grow louder and louder, before fading away again,” alleges the reporter. “It got so bad that nobody could sleep in the house for the noise every night. It was then that Cowell decided he needed to call in an exorcist – he’d seen how effective it had been in the X-Factor house when contestants had been menaced by unquiet spirits.” It was at this point that Cowell enlisted the services of the Reverend Harold Krabbs, former publican, psychic, ordained priest and exorcist. “For fifty years I was just an ordinary bloke,” Krabbs told the Daily Norks in an interview. “Then one night, during a lock in at the pub I was running back then, I’d tied a few on and ended up falling down the trap door into the cellar, hitting my head on a barrel of Watney’s Red Barrel so hard that I was unconscious for a couple of hours. When I came to, not only did I have a splitting headache, but I found that I could see and hear spirits!” With his new found powers, Krabbs realised that the falling customer numbers at his failing pub were down to the presence of evil spirits driving drinkers away. Whilst he succeeded in exorcising the spirits, they took their revenge by burning down the pub. “But there was a silver lining,” the seventy four year old observed. “I was able to use the insurance pay out to study for the priesthood by correspondence course and set myself up as an exorcist. You’d be surprised at how much demand there is for that sort of thing.”

With nearly a quarter of a century’s experience in ghostbusting, Cowell decided that Krabbs – coincidentally the subject of a Sky Living TV series produced by his company Syco – was the ideal man to cleanse his house of evil. “I met Simon at the property last Monday evening. It was obvious from the outset that the property was possessed of evil spirits – you could feel their presence as soon as you opened the front door,” Krabbs told Bruce Poke. “I decided it was best if I started the exorcism immediately – that’s when all Hell broke loose!” The exorcist described to Poke how furniture flew around, as if being juggled by phantom performers, and the air was filled with a cacophonous mixture of out of tune musical instruments and human voices. “I got the impression that these entities were somehow the embodiment of the crushed spirits and ambitions of rejected X-Factor and Britain’s Got Talent contestants – feeling slighted by Simon they had unwittingly projected their anger and frustration into the spiritual realm,” Krabbs explained to the journalist. “Their antics were, I believe, intended as some kind of ‘audition’, to prove to Simon that he was wrong to reject them.” In the ensuing chaos, Krabbs and Cowell were sperated. “When I finally got things under control and expelled the spirits, there was no sign of him,” he recalled. “I searched the house, but he wasn’t there! I tried ringing his mobile number, but got the unobtainable signal. It quickly became apparent that he had disappeared completely.”

Whilst Reverend Krabbs fears that Cowell could have been dragged back to the spirit realm by the exorcised spooks, others have suggested that the X-Factor was himself exorcised from the house. “Our psychic experts have speculated that he was the most evil presence in the house,” says Poke. “Resulting in him being cast back to Hell.” Sceptics have cast doubt on the whole disappearance, claiming that it is merely an elaborate publicity stunt and pointing out that the current series of the X-Factor has been lagging behind BBC rival Strictly Come Dancing in the ratings. Others have suggested that it is all a prank, the ‘ghosts’ simply being rival judge Louis Walsh with a sheet over his head. The X-Factot production team, meanwhile, has stenuously denied rumours that this weekend’s shows will have to be cancelled in Cowell’s absence. “We’re working hard to make sure Simon’s here, in spirit if not body,” a show insider told Bruce Poke. “We’ve already had some success with a Ouija board – we’re sure that it is Simon who spelt out that Mel B had a ‘fat arse’. We’re also preparing for the Reverend Krabbs to hold a séance involving the other judges, with the hope of being able to materialise Simon ectoplasmically in time for the show.” However, if Cowell can be summoned, the production team is worried about the possibility of violent outbreaks of poltergeist activity in the studio if any of his acts are voted off of the show.