My childhood home was almost a hundred years old. Deep set in bush land, far back from the road. Hard to get to unless you followed a snaking driveway up through the eucalyptus and ferns and camphor laurel. Stashed, almost secret, deep into the thickly forested hillside. Six foot pythons living in the ceiling (once we found an eleven foot shed skin).
When we moved there, I was four. I remember a giant mango tree in our back yard, older than the house. Standing beside my mother in the outdoor laundry I watched a little boy, all dressed in white, kicking through the fallen leaves at the base of the tree... Searching for something. He never looked at me, or even looked up. Being a little girl, eager to be friends, I ran to my room to adorn myself and be pretty for him. I put on my colourful plastic bangles and rushed back out... But he was gone. I asked my mother, still washing clothes, in plain sight of the tree, where the boy went. She looked at me strangely and asked what boy I was talking about. She hadn't seen him. It's worth mentioning that there was only one way into our property, as it was cased on three sides by thick bush land, acres deep. It's possible, but unlikely, the boy came through the woodland. Less likely still, that he approached without us seeing. Impossible that he came by the road because he would have had to come through our garden, in plain sight.
My little brother's room was at the back of the house, by a winding path, overlooking the hill and the forest. He was two when we moved there. By four, telling me of footsteps up the path at night and whispering in his window. He was a quiet kid, not one for make believe or attention seeking. He told me he saw a lady running up the path sometimes, but she was there and then she wasn't, and he wasn't sure if she was real.
By six I was absolutely convinced that our house was haunted and considered myself rather an authority upon the matter. One night as we were being put to bed, and I was being tucked in, my little brother knocked on my door, white, eyes wide, shaking, terrified. He was always a quiet little guy... I believed him when he said he heard voices in his window. That night the voice had said his name. He was so frightened I told our parents he could sleep in my room, with me. And he did. To this day he backs the story of that night up. He's twenty nine now. I believed him then and I believe him still.
It's strange, as kids, I never thought our parents took us seriously. Only as a teenager, after they divorced and my dad sold the house, did I find out that only did they believe us. They were spooked by the house as much as we were.
My dad built a verandah onto the kitchen and knocked out the old back door. Before he knocked it out, you could smell kerosine burning in the kitchen at night. But only in one place. Liquid kerosene smells different to burning kerosene, and there wasn't even any kerosene in the house. After he knocked out the door it never happened again.
One night in the living room we heard a gunshot outside the back door. I remember mother and father looking at each other, something passing between them. My dad loaded his gun and turned the lights out. They told me to stay inside and be quiet. Dad searched but there was no one there. We had kelpies, and none of them had made a sound.
Another strange thing was how when I walked the kelpies as a little girl, before school. There was a place on the hill, at the edge of the forest, where they would bark and bark and refuse to go any further. In my own childlike way, I understood someone lived there with us and they were lonely. I gave him a name and left him food and paintings I had done. I liked to think I brought him comfort. Maybe I did. It was a strange house...
Years later, when my family had split up, one night dad lay in bed with my stepmother. She was on the edge of sleep when she saw a man standing in the doorway to the bedroom, in silhouette. Aboriginal looking. Looking back at her. She quietly asked my father if he could see him too. Softly, in the dark, she heard my father reply, "Yes. In the doorway." Dad sold the house not long after that. He said it didn't feel right.
Truth is stranger than fiction and I ended up renting the same house a few years later, from the man my father sold it to. I was searching, with my boyfriend at the time, for a house in the forest, where I could have a garden and a cat. Everything was out of our price range and I suggested we go for a drive through my childhood neighbourhood. My old home was up for rent, and affordable.
It felt totally odd moving back in, the fact it was haunted was not the least of it. I will never forget the first night we spent there, before the power was switched on. Sitting in the kitchen, it was mid-winter, freezing (for Australia), the wind howling through the forest around the house, my kitten curled up in my lap. Through the huge glass sliding doors that overlooked the yard, a translucent white shape floated up the stairs and across the verandah. I was rigid with fear, praying that I had imagined it. When my lad looked at me he said, "You saw that too" Luckily he was a steely as I was. We slept in the centre of the house, surrounded by candles. Spooked, but that was before everyone had a mobile phone and no way were we walking three km into town.
Oddly enough, when his two best mates moved in, the one who had my brother's old room said he heard footsteps on the path outside his window every night. I never had the heart to tell him about the night my little brother heard his name whispered through the window.
As my little cat grew, he would hiss at things I could not see. My pet python would strike at things I couldn't see. Once, I was looking after a bird for a friend and was holding it, for it was hand reared. Without warning, the bird panicked (the cat was nowhere near, not even in the same room) and,fluttering, shrieking and flying at the windows. Eventually it found its way out and flew away.
I had recurring dreams of a little girl with dark eyes and a sweet sad face, always in the forest, in the same place where my kelpies would bark as a child. She never gave me any insight into the house or herself, she would only look at me and then I would wake. I don't know if the dreams had anything to do with the house, but when we moved (plainly I did not renew that particular lease) I never had those dreams again. Like a switch was shut off. I did a cleansing and prayer to goddess to bless the ground and dwelling before I left that house for the last time. It was a beautiful house to grow up in... But it had a history as viscous as tree sap.
I never researched it, I don't want to, it's finished for me. But I hope that my prayers for the lost spirits were heard. May they be held in light.