Up until I was about five or six, I lived in a house in Birmingham that wasn't in a very nice area. When we moved out, it was demolished to make way for a small industrial park. All pretty normal there. But that house was the centre of a lot of ghostly goings on based around me and my mother, most often involving my deceased grandmother who had been dead for around fifteen years by the time I was born.
My mother often says of how I would disappear into my room for hours at a time, before coming back and saying I'd been playing with a lady. She expected it was an imaginary friend of some sort, and thought little of it - what else was she meant to think? But one day, my parents took my to my maternal grandfather's house for a visit, and I noticed a photograph I'd never seen before. According to my mom, I pointed at the woman in the photo, my grandmother, and said something along the lines of: "Mom! Look, that's the lady I play with!"
This terrified her, not because she doesn't like the idea of ghosts but because she didn't want Granddad to know that I was claiming to be playing with his dead wife, especially since before that time I had never seen a picture of her - this was before I turned three and got the patience to sit through family photo albums. She had been aware of her mother in the house, particularly in the kitchen (for some reason, around us all ghosts retreat to the kitchen!) when she was cooking, and so immediately thought that it had been her looking after me when she was too tired to deal with a child. A supernatural babysitting service, if you will.
There was another occurrence in my bedroom there when I was about four or five that terrifies me to this day if I think about it too hard. I couldn't sleep for some reason, and was lying in bed bored out of my mind when I thought of reading a book by the light from my nightlight. I was sitting on the floor, quietly reading in an attempt to send myself to sleep, when I heard really heavy footsteps coming up the stairs and onto the landing, heading for my door. Thinking that I'd get in real trouble if I was caught (and anyway it was getting a bit cold by this point), I naturally dove into bed and acted as though I was asleep.
The footsteps stopped when they entered my room, and I cracked an eye slightly open to see if they were convinced (I know, I know, forgive my kid's reasoning!) and had the biggest scare of my life. There was a man there, his face in shadow because his back was to the light, and he was terrifying. He had wild hair in some sort of twisted halo about his face, I think it was red, and a long shirt on that was untucked from his trousers. He was like a silhouette in three dimensions; the only colour I could see was around the edges where the light was hitting him. To this day, just picturing him in my head makes my mind shudder away and it takes ages for me to calm myself down.
I used the most powerful guard any child has - the duvet. Yanking it over my head, curling up to make myself as small as possible, I made my breathing as quiet as I could and lay there listening to my heart beat as I prayed to God or whatever was listening to not let the monster get me. Every time I closed my eyes, it was as if an imprint of the man had burned itself into my eyelids so I kept my eyes open until they were watering just so I didn't have to blink and see him again. He registered as a monster to me, and I was so utterly scared even when I thought I should yell for help I just couldn't let any sound escape my lips.
Eventually I fell asleep (or passed out in terror, take your pick) and woke up the next morning to a nice, monster free room. I thought I might have made a mistake, that it was one of my parents coming in to check up on me after hearing noises, and so to stop myself working into a frenzy the next night I asked them if they came in. The answer was no, both had slept like logs all night.
That experience meant I couldn't sleep without the duvet over my head until I was fifteen years old, and even now I imagine a thick strong shield around me every night before I sleep, no matter how tired I am. I have three wind chimes and three dreamcatchers in a little triangle around my bed, too. Even if it doesn't do any good up against ghosts and monsters, at the very least it let's me sleep peacefully.
I'm still not sure if I'm sad that a piece of my history was lost when the house was knocked down, or glad that no-one else encountered that monster. I'm not even sure if I ever will be.