My father was an Anglican vicar, and at that time (early 1960s) clergy houses tended to be large, old, difficult to heat, quirky,characterful,inconvenient and often beautiful. The Vicarage we lived in at the time was all of the above, (except beautiful, although to me it was, and is... It's still there, though no longer a vicarage). I also thought as a kid that it was really old, but my dad told me it was built "only 60 years ago ": a red brick, late Victorian/early Edwardian detached house in a huge garden, surrounded by trees. It was on a quiet lane that became a path that led into the woods, there were maybe half a dozen other houses on the lane, and a small park opposite.
The garden was great for playing in, for making dens with friends, climbing trees, hiding from parents, and I loved it. The house, though I loved it too... That had its moments. All the main downstairs rooms and all the bedrooms except mine still had the push-buttons for the electric bells that rang in the kitchen, left from the days, long before our time in the house, when there had been a housekeeper and maid to answer them. Above the kitchen door was a panel with markers that showed from which room the bell was rung. This was the room we used all the time for everyday meals and activities, being more like a family living room linked by an always open door to another room where the cooking /kitchen things happened. It was also the warmest room with a big coal fire and a cat, a slow ticking clock and a radio, and a lot of my toys and games. It was homely and cosy and comfortable. Except when a bell rang from an EMPTY room.
I'd be sitting there drawing or reading, or talking to my grandma; my dad out, Mum where I could see her in the Cooking part of the kitchen, my sister away at boarding school, and a bell would ring, and the little marker would indicate "Dining- room " or "Study ", or any other room that I knew was at that time unoccupied. I don't remember any sort of regular time for this to happen, or that it came more from one room than another, but I do know it happened fairly regularly. It did scare me and I wanted answers to HOW? WHO? And WHY?. Mum and Dad said it was something causing a short in the wiring that made the bells ring, and I remember feeling that particular type of child's skepticism at the adults' explanation (" Yeah, right, whatever, but I'll pretend to believe you ") but eventually I got used to the bells that rang by themselves and just accepted it as one of the quirks of the house. But I was always a bit wary of going into those rooms in case Something was there.
And then one day when I was about seven, I was doing my piano practice in the lounge. This was a large bay-windowed room, making it one of the lightest rooms in the house. Sitting at the piano, the window was diagonally to my right, and slightly behind me. On my left, and almost opposite the window, was the door to the hall. I could see the door and the velvet curtain over it (draughty house!) in my peripheral vision as I practiced scales and arpeggios, possibly not with the application they required, because I noticed the door was slowly opening and I heard my name said twice, as though someone wanted my attention. As I turned fully to look I caught a glimpse of a head with white hair just disappearing back round the open door as though they'd just peeped into the room and called me. Thinking it was my grandma who wanted me I said " Yes Nanna? ", but there was no answer.
I hopped off the piano stool and went to the partly open door, expecting to see her in the hall but she wasn't there. I looked towards the stairs to see if she was on her way up them but there was no sign. I assumed she'd gone back along the hall to the kitchen, though I was surprised she'd been so quick, as the hall was long and she was in her eighties and didn't move fast, so I made my way to the kitchen to see what she wanted me for. There she was, in the armchair by the fire, talking to Mum, who immediately wanted to know why I'd stopped my piano practice after only 10 minutes? I told her it was because Nanna had put her head round the door and called me just a couple of minutes ago, and I'd come to see what she wanted. And yes, I'm sure you know where this is going... Nanna had been there in the kitchen with Mum the whole time I was a playing the the piano in a different room. There was no-one else in the house at the time, and the only person there with white hair was my grandma, who had never left the kitchen. But something opened that door, and something said my name, and something with white hair peeped into the room.
Needless to say, they thought I was looking for an excuse to get out of piano practice so I had to go back and finish it. I wasn't particularly scared by this, just completely unable to find an explanation for what I'd seen and heard, and really annoyed that they didn't believe me. I did however push a small coffee table up against the door this time. Just in case.