I began writing a reply to a discussion of "The Haunted Bed Frames" (http://www.yourghoststories.com/real-ghost-story.php?story=22401#comment), when I realized that I'd written over half of a story which may be worth of submitting to YGS in its own right. Chronologically, this is the third haunting event in my life; however, as I was only tangentially involved, it is the easiest story to tell. As I was nine at the time, and my Grandad had the significant experiences, each detail is presented to the best of my recollection; that said, I have almost no sense of time, so what seems like a week in my memory may have been an entire summer...
Though I've lived in the US for more than a quarter-century, I was born and raised in Leicestershire, England. If you look at the National Geographic map of England, Leicester is right under the letter "G" in "ENGLAND." It's a small city in the midlands, but it has a remarkably complex past that has been pivotal in shaping the western world on more than one occasion (Simon de Montfort's idea called "Parliament;" the death of King Richard III --then the death of Henry VIII's advisor Cardinal Wolsey-- changed British politics; David Attenborough, the documentarian/educator extraordinaire, was born there; and the discovery of genetic fingerprinting at the University of Leicester changed the modern sense of identity).
I love history, I also love antiques, relics, and historical objects; my wife is justified in accusing me of "bringing home more junk" on a regular basis. Only once in my life has an antique object made me feel wary: a beautifully-carved bust of an African Woman's head, in teak. It stands out in my memory with remarkable clarity, considering the fact I have quite clear memories from the age of four onward. I think Grandad won it betting on dominoes at the pub, or somesuch. He was so proud of winning a piece of art that he showed it off to his visitors. His visitors were mostly family, as my more-sociable Grandma had died a few years earlier.
The sculpted woman wore an elaborately-carved headscarf (almost turban-like), she had a serene expression on her youthful face, her neck curved out to her shoulders and the entire artwork stopped below her collarbone. It seems odd, in retrospect, that she'd apparently been carved with great care and detail, but I can't recall any indication of her irises: her eyes were either closed or blank. Additionally, she had been carved without the pedestal or plinth I was accustomed to seeing as stands for busts in castles and museums; she simply rested on the flattened base. The craftsmanship was elegant; the word "exquisite" better conveys the artistic details of this piece. The rich tones of the polished wood showed off her high-cheekboned dignity. She was a beauty, but one who appeared indifferent to her own beauty.
Grandad placed her in the living room initially, but he moved her into one or two different locations before he finally set it on the south-west windowsill of his bedroom, to the right of his bed. My brother and I were encouraged to play with our toy cars on the floor of this room, because children were not allowed to make any noise while the television was on (his TV was always on). We were usually kept as far away as possible from Grandad while Mum visited him.
When I entered the room with the bust, she was a compelling presence; I just knew that the bust had been moved to that room before I had seen that it had been relocated. Once I'd discovered where Grandad had moved it, I'd be uncomfortable when looking at it, but I'd feel a sense of dread if I sat with my back toward it. I kept telling myself, "I'm a big boy, now. I know it's a piece of wood. I'm just imagining that *she* has feelings," but I remained unconvinced by my sensible rationale. Though the bust worried me, I tried not to let anyone know that I felt dread when I was close to it.
I later discovered that she scared not only my mother, but also her younger brother and his wife. The sculpture made my dad uneasy, too: Dad still hates anyone knowing that he can feel fear, but he told Mum this bust concerned him. (Yes, a lot of what I learned as a kid was due to eavesdropping; I'm curious, not nosy!)
Once the bust had been installed, the temperature in Grandad's room slowly dropped a few degrees per week, until the difference between the bedroom at one end of the short hallway and the living room at the other end (which had the same-sized windows, south-western exposure, and the same central heating thermostat) was noticeable. Grandad started to have unusual dreams. He was a strange and selfish man who'd been one of eleven children, he'd gotten away with some indiscretions as a handsome teen, he'd become disillusioned as he chased Rommel back-and-forth across Egypt, then he spent much of his adult life alienating people; God only knows what qualified as "unusual" in his dreams. Not only did he suffer from a lack of restful sleep at this time, but also he became ill over a period of several weeks. His symptoms baffled doctors by failing to respond to customary treatments, apparently justifying Grandad's delusion that the medical profession was filled with well-intentioned but ill-informed quacks.
His health had been getting worse for 6 weeks or so when he woke up in the middle of the night and the world was "not spinning like [he] was ill" but, he insisted, "it was swirling." He'd had no sense of balance in this peculiar, psychedelic state: he had thought he was having a stroke. As he turned to reach for the phone on his nightstand (to the left of the bed), he *knew* that the bust resented his turning his back to her. He turned his head to look, and the bust was stationary. The window sill, the window, the curtains, and the wall were part of the bizarre "swirling" effect, but the bust was the calm center of the visual storm. He never explained how he maintained eye-contact with the bust without putting on his glasses, but he told Mum and her two brothers that he crawled backward out of his bedroom into the hallway without taking his eyes off of her and, once he was safely across the threshold, he struggled to close the door.
He refused to go back into his bedroom until his elder son, a fireman, arrived and removed it from the apartment. My rather pragmatic uncle said that the room had seemed a little chilly to him, and he could see his dad was shaken up, but nothing else seemed out of the ordinary. Grandad had used the gas stove to light a cigarette, had made himself a cup of tea, and was squinting at everything because he'd left his glasses and his lighter on the nightstand. Grandad told my uncle that the head "spoke" to him; she didn't move her mouth, but she had changed her expression; to the best of my knowledge, he did not tell anyone what the carving had said. My uncle had thought that Grandad was having a mental breakdown, and -as far as I know- only showed up in the middle of the night to see if he should call an ambulance.
I'm willing to discuss this peculiar series of events, but I have included all the relevant details I can recall (and probably some irrelevant ones, too) in this account. I have no idea what my uncle did with the wooden head after he'd taken it from the apartment; it had been on the window sill, then he'd removed it. Grandad died almost two decades ago, my mother and uncles now live in three different countries (each uncle has divorced and remarried), and some family members have lost track of each other on purpose; additional information would be difficult to obtain. I'll add my more-personal stories to the YGS archive in the upcoming months.