I've had a few supernatural experiences in my life, I must admit in my younger days what we call the supernatural intrigued me, and sometimes I even seemed to attract these things.
Let's just say I dabbled.
I no longer dabble.
This was my very first experience of such things, you may or may not believe this account to be true.
For me that is not important, what is important to me is that after so many years I finally get to tell the tale.
The room was a modest furnished bedsit in the basement of a large house on King Street,Brighton, Sussex, England.
For the young couple with a small child who had just arrived in town it seemed to be a lucky find.
So they paid the modest rent in cash, and moved in immediately, it would only be until they could find something more suitable.
I was that small child.
On the first morning when the heavy curtain was drawn back to let the early morning sunlight into the room, I found I could, by standing on the window seat, see out onto the busy street outside.
There was a group of workmen resurfacing the road, a smell of tarmac, and the busy bustle of work going on and a Steam Roller!
Such excitement, a steam roller outside my bedroom window.
I frantically waved at the driver, and wonder of wonders he spotted me and waved back.
Such joy, I had just woken up, hadn't even had any breakfast or got dressed yet and a steamroller driver had waved to me, what a way to start the day. This was going to be a great place.
The evocative aroma of hot tarmac is still a favorite of mine to this very day.
The strange dreams started that very night.
There was an old gas cooker in the room. It had two smaller burner rings at the back and a single larger burner at the front, with a grill below it and a separate oven with a pull down door beneath that.
It sat directly opposite the foot of my bed, and It seemed to dominate the room.
Suddenly in the middle of the night I was awoken with a start, and sat up in bed.
It was freezing cold and the room smelt even damper and mustier than it had before.
I peered into the darkness and could see the form of the cooker at the end of my bed.
It was very dark, and I could not see much of the room but the cooker was strangely visible, not luminescent, but seemingly an ominous brooding presence.
As I looked at it there was an almost imperceivably expanding and contracting of the cooker's sides as if it were breathing or perhaps as if something inside was pushing at the heavy metal sides attempting to escape.
What a strange dream, I really wanted to wake up, but I could not. I tried so hard, but I just couldn't.
As I watched, with mounting trepidation it became clear the entity within had found a way out, a means of escape.
It was rising up through the gas rings.
First in ethereal wisps of mist or perhaps cloud or smoke.
These tendrils escaping seemed to hover just above the cooker and started to form into three distinct shapes.
There were two smaller ones emerging from the two rings at the back of the cooker.
Their features were indistinct, more like the faces you might imagine in wooden veneer or on wooden furniture as you stare at it for long enough.
It was almost as if they were hiding, as a child might play peek-a-boo.
The larger 'thing' emerging from the front burner ring was larger, an ominous presence.
This dream was really frightening me, but I could not make myself wake up.
So I did what any four year old child would do.
I clamped my eyes shut and hid under my blankets hoping it would go away.
And fell asleep.
The next morning it was obvious it had all been a bad dream, a vivid and frighteningly realistic nightmare, but just a dream.
The cooker was there, in the centre of the wall opposite where I slept, but it was just a rather careworn and nondescript old cooker.
More importantly, the workmen were still working on the road outside, although the steam roller couldn't be seen, the group of workmen saw me and gave me a wave.
That night the dream came to me again.
The same three figures emerging from the cooker, the two smaller childlike figures seemed unthreatening, however their faces seemed more defined now. Thin and whitish grey, their eyes and mouths inky black voids.
Somehow to me they seemed to be almost kindred spirits, for just as I was not permitted to leave my room, they seemed unable to leave the cooker.
Their heads just seemed to emerge from the top of the cooker rings to hover over where a gas flame might be.
Occasionally one of these faces would rise, as if craning to get a better view.
In my innocent childish perception their presence seemed almost normal.
This sounds inconceivable as an adult, but my four year old self just accepted the situation as a fact.
These dreams were now becoming a regular recurring event. The three figures, rising, emerging from the cooker, me transfixed in silent terror is the most enduring image, burnt into my memory.
I learned many years later from my mother that she was puzzled why I repeatedly woke up, at precisely 3am, saying "Make the lady go away, she's standing by my bed".
I actually don't remember saying that.
No doubt I also sought the comfort, security and protection of my parents bed, I honestly don't remember if I did or not either.
The 'Lady' was the larger dark malevolent figure that emerged from the cooker.
This entity had power, authority and horrifically it had demonstrated the power to leave the cooker.
It rose from the cooker followed and flanked by the two smaller shapes, yet this time continued to rise, a towering darkness that once it reached the ceiling of the room then began then rolled towards me, a dark ominous cloud.
After time it became apparent that she could now materialize very quickly.
Sometimes this form would seem to drift sideways to the right towards where the sink was.
To me that was almost a relief.
Sometimes I would awaken knowing that her presence was imminent and fearfully watch the cooker, but instead she would rapidly and silently approach me at an angle from the darkest corner of the room rushing towards me seemingly in an attempt to surprise me or to somehow catch me out.
She absolutely terrified me.
Often she would just stand at the side of my bed, always the left side and just stay there.
She was clearly getting stronger, and now she was more clearly defined.
Although I would never have had the courage to look directly at her, I could now make out certain features. There was the thin white strip of a face with a pointed chin, and a black emptiness for eyes.
The mouth was clamped in a thin disproving line. That occasionally opened to silently mew or mouth a moan to reveal an empty black hole of a mouth of absolute blackness.
She wore a long black pleated crinoline dress that enclosed her from its high round neck to the floor, it bowed out in a bustle below the waist.
The dress was in a poor condition, some of the edges had frayed to reveal a worn grey colour beneath.
You might think it curious that a four year old boy might notice such things.
I did so as I peered through a crack in the blanket that I was cowering under to see if she was there.
That dress was a mere foot at most away from me. I can still smell the musty dank smell of it, like an autumnal graveyard.
Yet seen from a distance at the opposite end of the room the dress had a certain luminescence reminiscent of a crow's feathers glinting in the light of a full moon.
I hated her horrible brooding presence, the icy coldness seeping in through the bed clothes to chill me to the bone.
This horrifying entity was clearly checking me out.
She terrified me.
Even to me, many years later it seems strange that my four year old self, cowering under those sheets and blankets with my eyes clamped shut, knowing and feeling that presence beside the bed, I could somehow just fall to sleep eventually.
On at least one occasion, I distinctly remember mentally resisting the urging to close my eyes and sleep.
Clamping my eyes open in defiance I stared at that dress from my prone position in bed from under those bedclothes and then, as a fog might lift or an early morning sea mist burn off the wall behind her became more visible to me, and she just faded away and was gone.
Perhaps it was the grey light of dawn that finally drove her away.
I began to recognize when she was about to appear, and it always filled me with apprehension and fear.
The drop in temperature, and that musty, dank smell of old clothes that pervaded the air. I would smell that smell, and shiver knowing with dread certainty that her appearance was imminent.
I dreaded the nights.
I was an obedient child, I would do as I was told. I was rarely left alone, if my mom went away she would leave me in the care of another adult, this was normal.
So one mid-morning, when my mom had to pop out, she left me for a few moments in the room with instructions for me to not touch anything and that she would be back very soon.
It seemed perfectly natural that an adult should appear, even though I had not noticed her enter the room.
Strangely for some reason I could not look directly at her, but when she suggested a game of course I wanted to play.
I had few toys, no friends and craved attention and playtimes.
To play the game first I should gather a few things, namely a towel and a cushion.
The game was that I should first lower the oven door and place the cushion on it, then drape the towel over the long horizontal grill handle so it falls down over the open oven door.
Next I should turn the gas oven on, and then kneel down and lay my head on the pillow with the tea towel draped behind me.
I knew it was naughty to turn the gas on, something I had been warned to never do, but a direct instruction from an adult authority figure overruled my trepidation.
I turned the gas on.
I knelt down and placed my head on the pillow. The soothing voice urged me to close my eyes and think of nice things like candy sticks, lollipops and toffee apples.
At first I thought I would just play along, no open defiance, I would just not breathe.
Eventually of course I had to take my first breath, but first I had to let that last breath of fresh air that I had taken silently dribble out from my nose and mouth, I could not betray the fact that I had not been breathing.
But then on my empty lungs I had to take my first deep breath.
The horrible smell of gas was disgusting and overpowering yet I was assured it would only be for a short while and that then things would be better.
I settled, and took another breath. It didn't smell too bad, and a calm acceptance flooded over me. I felt very relaxed and quite sleepy, I just needed to close my eyes and fall asleep.
The sound of the key in the door woke me from my trance-like state.
Not wanting to be caught out in the naughty game I had been playing in her absence I jumped up and hurriedly switched off the gas and shut the oven door and sat innocently on the floor as mother walked in.
She smelt the whiff of gas in the air, looked at the cooker and then walked over and opened the window to ventilate the room.
My parents found other more suitable accommodation, a ground floor flat in Hove, and we moved into it very shortly afterwards.
We were in that dark dank basement room for about a month. My strange dreams stopped from the moment we moved out, and left that cursed cooker behind.
When remembering this short interlude in my childhood, and from the perspective of many years later, for some reason I think she only had one child, I feel the other was some unfortunate who had subsequently been convinced to play along with her 'game'.
It's also strange that the 'nice things' I should have been invited to think about were things I was not actually familiar with at the time.
I first encountered a toffee apple at a fair, about four years later, and to be frank, I wasn't that impressed. I much preferred candyfloss.
Candy sticks had gone out of fashion by then too, the nearest equivalent for me then would have been a 'stick of rock'.
Perhaps somehow I was part of a reenactment of a previous tragedy, but mostly I think she was just looking for a new playmate for those children in the cooker.