As a kid, we didn't do a whole lot of Trick or Treating in the sleepy suburbs of Manchester, England. It just wasn't celebrated over there like it is over here. Okay, so we did dress up in cool handmade costumes for parties, but we didn't go door to door for hours on end, collecting giant garbage bags full of candy. We just stuck around our street, well after dark, and dared each other to venture through the wrought iron gates of Urmston Cemetery, tucked into the shadows at the end of our little cul-de-sac (aka NO WAY OUT!)
But this isn't a spooky tale about the cemetery, although I do have a few of those, too. I didn't even have to leave the comfort of our red-bricked Victorian house to scare the pants off myself. This is because there was plenty of paranormal activity going on within the walls of our home. That's right, I grew up in a haunted house.
When you're raised in house where strange creaks, late night groans and pipes pop and squeal in the night you don't pay too much attention to the 'other stuff' until you're old enough to realize you can't explain these strange sounds to your friends. It's more THEIR terror that brings on your own. That's what happened one night, when I had a couple of friends sleep over.
I'd followed the usual routine of brushing my teeth without looking up at the square attic trapdoor in the ceiling above the bathroom sink. It was one of those things you know NOT to do, but never think about why.
Kinda like how everyone in my house flew up the last 6 stairs, then catapulted themselves from the top stair into their bedrooms and slammed the door shut...again, habitual behavior that none of us questioned. We did the same thing going downstairs, only we'd skip the last 5 stairs entirely and just leap to the bottom, swing around the wooden bannister, then run into whatever room we were headed, slam the door shut and settle down, oblivious to our acrobatics. It was definitely Pavlovian behavior.
So on this night, we were whispering and giggling about god knows what when the creaking started. I ignored it, of course, but my friends stared at the corner of my bedroom where a small door hid a marvelous fat pipe around which I dried my socks and underwear. My dad had installed our heating system and ran the pipe from the furnace in the kitchen up through floor in the corner of my room, and up into the attic.
"What the...?" Rachel gasped, pulling the covers up to her chin.
"What is that?" asked Cathy, mirroring Rachel.
I glanced at the cupboard door and shrugged. "Oh, it's just the stools rocking in the kitchen. They'll settle down eventually."
As I said, it was my friends' reaction to my nonchalance that opened Pandora's Box.
"What do you mean, rocking?" Rachel pressed.
I had to think about my answer. "I don't know. They just bang around down there until I fall asleep. You can hear them better if you open the cupboard door."
"Go on then," Cathy urged. "Let's hear it."
I opened the door and we all stuck our heads in the cupboard, straining to see if we could catch a glimpse of the stool party through the big gap in the floor around the pipe. It was definitely much louder.
Rachel backed away and looked somewhat unsettled but Cathy was positively excited. "Shit. This is great stuff!"
"So what else goes on?" she asked, clearly hoping for more.
I sat on the bed and got comfortable. "Well, we used to wake up to find the attic trapdoor leaning against the front door every morning, until dad put a lock on it."
Rachel's eyes widened.
"Go on," Cathy grinned. "What else?"
"There's an old woman who stands on the landing, just behind the stairs," I continued, slowly connecting the dots between the strange nighttime noises of our house. "You can't really see her, but you know she's there, just watching."
I felt a chill creep up my neck as I recalled all the times I'd been afraid to look up at that one spot near my brother's bedroom door, where the blankets were stored in an old chest. It always made my skin prickle to walk passed it, and none of us lingered there for longer than a few seconds. But this was the first time I really considered why.
"Let's go see them stools," Cathy suggested, already heading to the door.
We crept across the landing outside my bedroom, taking care not to glance into the bathroom, just in case the attic door had escaped its lock. When we reached the top of the stairs we all froze. There was that cold feeling again. I wasn't used to fighting it, but my friends were feeling it for the first time so I forced myself to stay put.
"Can anyone see the ghost?" Rachel asked, peering across to the other landing that ran behind the stairs.
"No," I replied, "but I can feel her."
"Me too!" Cathy yelped, starting an avalanche of bodies fleeing down the stairs.
We smashed into each other at the bottom, careful not to scream in case this made the ghost chase us. I don't why we thought we'd be safer if we kept quiet, it's not like ghosts can't walk through walls or anything.
I led the way to the kitchen door, beyond which the stools were rocking and scraping all over the linoleum floor. We always shut this door tight before going to bed, so it wasn't easy to push it open without making a loud creaking sound. We held our breaths as I pressed my body against the door and tried to hold the handle to control the creak....
It didn't work. The door flew open and the racket stopped within a nano second. Faced with nothing but a cold, eerie silence we stared into the room, then stared at each other, then screamed and flew back up the stairs. I think I beat my own record in how many stairs I managed to skip, and how quickly my bedroom door was slammed shut.
About 10 minutes later we were back on the landing, peering into the darkness of the bathroom.
"Go on, just unlock it," Cathy said, her voice still shaking a little.
I climbed on the stool that sat next to the towel rack and felt for the slide lock my dad had secured to the attic trapdoor. "Are you sure you won't run off and leave me up here on my own?"
Rachel and Cathy shook their head, their eyes and mouths wide open.
I felt the lock let go just as the door flipped upward and banged hard against the side of the small square door frame. I hadn't pushed it - it had been yanked away from me by something that felt a LOT stronger than I was. This time I didn't stifle my screams, nor did my friends.
I hit the floor before the stool did and was on my bed, under my quilt with Rachel and Cathy beside me, shrieking and giggling like hyenas.
"Your F.....g house is haunted!" Cathy yelled. "This is the scariest Halloween ever!"
We slept with the light on that night. I never did understand why all our racous hadn't woken up anyone else in the house.
Perhaps they were all just used to the noise and had slept right through it.
Happy Hallowe'en :)
PS Remember to leave a comment below about YOUR scariest Hallowe'en ever to enter to win a FREE listing in the CWO BOOKSHELF!