I recently submitted a story about an unseen presence which made me uneasy in my parents' first home. In a very slow version of what is now called "property flipping," my parents improved that house to make it more valuable, so they could sell it and move into a nicer house a couple of miles away in Humberstone, Leicester. The area had been a village, but it had long since been consumed by the urban sprawl of Leicester City. When we moved there, over thirty years ago, the metamorphosis into a suburb had been completed, but the village streets were still distinguishable from several decades of new construction. I'm fond of the village portion of Humberstone because we temporarily lived in a caravan situated on a dairy farm which had been part of the rural history of the area (much of Elm Farm is now the parking lot for a Tesco's supermarket). We stayed in this trailer while the house's upstairs bathroom was updated with new fixtures and the ground floor of the house was gutted and re-arranged by the reliable builder who'd modified our first home: a scruffy, amiable man named Potter. (When he'd renovated our first home, I'd been about two or three years old, and I'd muddled up a few words resulting in the nickname "Mister Pottermus," which he'd found hilarious. He remembered us from the first house, including our names and his nickname!)
Our new house was a semi-detached one, meaning there was a substantial wall shared with another home, which was built in a mirror-image to ours, but that the two homes formed a single structure. When we bought the house, I think that the previous owner probably had died (as an adult, I've been to enough estate sales to recognize the look). My parents never mentioned this, but the amount of stuff that was left behind in the smallest bedroom looked more like the hoarded odds and ends of a lifetime than a few items abandoned by relatives. I got the larger of the two children's bedrooms, and my brother got the small bedroom, which was tucked under the eaves, on the understanding that both of us would play with our toys and games in my bedroom. After living in a 16-foot caravan with my family and two dogs, surrounded by a cow pasture and a cow byre for about a year, I was thrilled to have some space, so I agreed to this arrangement, and was rewarded with a foosball table: one of the few sport-based games which gives me a fair shot at beating my athletic little brother.
Now, my brother's tiny room was the first door on the right at the top of the stairs, my door was directly across from the top of the staircase, my parents' door was to the left of my door, and at the end of the very short landing was the bathroom door. My brother's room was not only small in terms of floor space, but it also because half of the room was under the steeply-pitched roof. His bed was against the wall, but if he'd stood up on his bed, he'd have given himself a concussion on the ceiling. Because this room was a peculiar shape, and because my brother spent much of his time outside or in my room, my parents used the small space between the foot of his bed and the window for storage of unwieldy odds and ends: primarily plastic sheeting.
These plastic sheets were folded over and stored there because after all of the renovations to create the longer living room and the combined kitchen/dining room, my parents had a couple of unrelated expenditures and had no money to buy energy-efficient windows. Dad used clear, heavy sheets of plastic to seal off the windows in the winter, which was quite an effective deterrent to drafts, but these sheets of plastic spent several months folded up in a stack at the end of my brother's bed.
We'd lived in this house for a year when my boy scout troop went on a week-long spring camping trip which was a hell of a lot of fun, despite the weather. I think it didn't rain on three of the seven days, but the weather report consistently mentioned unseasonably cold conditions, fog, drizzle, rain, and one night of high winds which collapsed the assistant troop leader's tent into a waterproof sleeping bag. When I returned home, looking forward to a hot bath and a good night's rest in my own bed, I had an unpleasant surprise; my aunt had been staying with my family while I was away, but she wasn't leaving for another day or two. She had discovered that my uncle was having an affair, and --in the distraught logic of a heartbroken woman-- had accepted her soon-to-be ex-husband's sister's offer of a place to stay for a week, because it wouldn't occur to my uncle to look for her in my bedroom (I can't fault that line of reasoning; can you?). My parents "asked" me to share my younger brother's tiny room while my aunt slept in my room for one more night. My aunt has always been kind, humorous, and thoughtful, but her independent spirit had been devastated by this betrayal; she'd needed to spend several days secluded in my bedroom, weeping and gathering strength of resolve to face the situation. I tried very, very hard not to be upset by not sleeping in my own bed for the eighth night in a row as it was quite clear that much more important issues than my mattress were at stake.
When we were sent to bed, we'd turned out the light, but my brother and I were still chatting about what had happened while I'd been away when we heard the sudden "crump" of plastic sheeting being compressed firmly and slowly. We interrupted each other with the usual, "Shhh!" "Did you hear that?" "Shut up! Listen!" nonsense of loud kids getting each other to be quiet, while there were two more "crump" noises, about three seconds apart. My brother whispered that he wanted me to turn on the light. I didn't want to move, but I was lying between where he was in the bed and where the light switch was on the wall beside the door; any movement would have meant getting closer to the source of the noise for a few seconds, so I would not budge. While we told each other what to do, there were four more "crump" noises, but they were only two seconds apart. While we were getting upset with each other, the noises were getting louder and faster too. While the noises didn't get physically closer to us, they were getting faster, as though someone were standing on the plastic sheets, then stepping up and down, increasing speed, and running in place in the dark --all in a place where children could not stand upright because the sloped ceiling was in the way. We freaked out, shouting Sunday-school prayers and screaming for our parents.
As my parents opened the door and turned on the lights to discover what the problem was, my brother claimed he heard a screaming sound move from the foot of his bed, over him, through the wall, and down the staircase. I did not hear this sound, but he was quite clear that it wasn't the racket I was still making, nor was it his own screaming because he was huddled up on his pillow, as far from the foot of the bed as he could get.
I do not know what the source of these footsteps was: the deceased former owner; projected psychokinetic energy from my distressed aunt; some sort of poltergeist manifestation of my own discontent over being turfed out of my bedroom; or some other phenomenon I cannot imagine. We did not have a rodent problem (our dogs would have noticed that), the dogs had the run of the downstairs rooms but were trained not to go into bedrooms, the breeze does not create footfall sounds of increasing tempo, people do not break into children's bedrooms to begin their nocturnal exercise routines while doubled-over under the sloped ceilings, and no natural phenomenon I can think of would account for a noise moving toward my brother in order to depart via a brick wall then descend the staircase. Besides, I've got better hearing than my brother, yet he heard it leave and I did not. My uncle's affair was with a woman who was alleged to practice witchcraft, but I never learned if she was a harmless Wiccan who celebrated nature or if she was a malign enchantress who'd signed a pact with Satan to gain occult powers.
If my memory serves me well, the incident I've described lasted a couple of minutes at most, but calming down and refusing to let our parents switch off the light lasted much, much longer. I have no idea why it happened; I had slept next to an allegedly-haunted forest for a week (I think this was more to stop scouts from leaving in the night than anything else) with no effects, but was terrified to the point of gibbering lunacy by an insidious stomping on sheets of heavy plastic while staying in my brother's room for one night.
I do enjoy the analytical discussions here on YGS, so I welcome any questions, observations, or guesses.
To say I "triumphed over the struggles" is probably a stretch, though. I think "self-aware to prevent falling into the same traps most of the time" is more accurate. 👀 Of course, that's the first step to paranoia; I'm under the impression I'm watching me *all the time.* 👀