A real ghost story?

I’ve never really held too much interest or belief in things that go bump in the night. Yes I’m a fan of horror and fantasy but that’s in the world of fiction. I don’t really go in for “based on real events” type stuff. If that’s on the promotion for a film or a book then it’s usually best avoided. But then a thing happened…

About three months ago I was alone in the house I share with my wife. She had gone to visit friends for the weekend. Good, if you’re going to have a ghostly encounter then it’s always best to be on your own. That way you can prove it to no one and the realm of the ghost remains firmly in the not yet explained bracket.

I think it’s important to explain that a couple of nights prior to this event I’d watched the horror film the Babadook. It had spooked me slightly, but in a fun way. I certainly had no problem sleeping after watching. I feel it’s worth mentioning though as maybe that did play a part on my general mood and imagination.

I live in a house built around the 1920-30s. It’s had many prior inhabitants. I know nothing of any dubious events having taken place under our roof. I’ve shared this place with my wife for around 7 years. Nothing unusual has ever happened prior to the events of a few months back.

My wife and I have separate bedrooms. Please understand this is nothing to do with a strained relationship. I’m a restless sleeper and I work late hours while she works early. We love each other very much. It’s fair to say though that my wife’s bed is much comfier than mine. So with her being away I’d decided to sleep for the night in her room. I was just settling into bed when the noise started.

As I’ve already mentioned I’ve lived in this house for a while. I know the noises it makes. I can place where they come from and what’s causing them around 99% of the time. This was a new noise but it was also I initially thought familiar and completely explainable. I live on the second floor of two flats with my neighbour below me. Her front door is right next to mine. So when I heard what I thought was the noise of somebody struggling with a key in the lock of either mine or her front door my first thought was, that’s the girl downstairs coming home. But the noise didn’t stop. My next thought was well she must be drunk, it’s Saturday night, she’s obviously put the wrong key in the lock. But the noise didn’t stop.

After maybe one or two minutes of this I then began to become concerned that someone was trying to get in my door. So up out of bed I got and went to the window. I strained at an angle to see if anyone was on the door step. I could see no one. I’m hearing things I thought. Bloody Babadook.

I climbed back into bed. Now, I’m not entirely sure of the duration of the wrong key in the lock noise I could hear but it did stop. ah well that’s that I thought and began to drift into sleep. Then it started again. By this point I was getting irritable and a little spooked. It was distinctly coming from downstairs front door area. Was I wrong? Is it the sound of a key? It had rhythm to it chk…chk…chkchkchk…chk.chk.chk over and over again.

Once again I went to the window. Still nothing. Fuck this there’s definitely something going on down there. I decided to get dressed and go down and investigate. I actually felt a bit tentative opening the front door but of course once I did there was nothing there. Back up to bed.

Over the next hour the noise seemed to intensify and it began to be joined by others. I obviously understand these new noises would most likely be attributed to my hearing now being on heightened alert. As well as intermittent and fairly lengthy periods of the key noise there were loud creaks and yes bumps that sounded like they were coming from inside the room I was in. Some of them were  loud and distinct and always in the background the now fairly constant key noise.

By now I was spooked yet in not panicked…just disconcerted. I decided the only plan of action would be to go sleep on the couch. I’d come to regret that.

Lying on the couch I could still hear the key noise but now it was more distant, as it should have been I was now further from the front door but the bumps and the creaks I could now hear were coming clearly from the room I had just vacated. I must have been exhausted (we were by now into the middle of the night around 3 a.m.) because despite all this I started to drift into sleep. That’s when the next thing happened.

The door leading into the living room where I’d decided to bed down can have a fantastically loud creak if it is allowed to close very slowly. I was now positioned with my head on the couch closest to said door. Just as I was drifting off a loud creaking almost cracking noise started. I sat bolt upright and turned to see the door to my living room opening slowly. It had been ajar by about and inch initially but now was swinging toward me and towards being open fully.

Rather than be dumbstruck I actually said aloud, “You have to be fucking joking.” Once the door was fully open it connected with the side of the couch I was on. I grabbed it and swung it shut with such force the door jammed in the frame. I was now convinced there was someone in the house with me.

I didn’t even run for a weapon which on reflection would have been the smarter move. Instead I took a breath and pulled the door back open. Nothing there. I then searched both my room and that of my wife. Nothing…but the noises had stopped.

As I pointed out I must have been exhausted because despite all this I did manage to fall asleep on my couch. I dismissed the door to the fact this is an old house. I also reminded myself that, yes that door does swing on it’s own it does it all the time.

It was while being out in town the next day that a thought about the swinging door occurred to me. I was so stuck by my realisation that I was eager to get home and test this theory that had just struck me.

I climbed up the stairs and there was the door as it usually always is, slightly ajar about an inch. I gave it a gentle push and it did what I was expecting it to do. It swung back shut on me. I was right in thinking that the door moves on its own…but it swings shut not open. No matter how many times I tried to get it to swing slowly open and stay there it always swung shut on me.

Was that the end of things? No. On arrival home I told my wife of the events she put it down too many films like the Babadook or a rat in the floorboards. I think it’s fair to say she came up with these explanations more for reassurance of herself than anything else.

The following night I was back in my own room and drifting off to sleep. That’s when the key in the door came back. Chk…chk…chkchkchk…chk.chk.chk. It wasn’t just the noise that made me immediately sit up. it was the fact the rhythm of it was identical to the night before. It was as if I was listening to some kind of recording.

I didn’t hang about and headed straight for the couch. while back in my refuge all the other noises started coming from the room my wife was now in. I could hear them actually disrupting her sleep as she was muttering and stirring in her bed. she is however a really deep sleeper and they didn’t wake her fully…but they still went on for a bit.

After that I heard the key noise only once more. A single play of it’s usual rhythm then nothing. And that’s the way it’s stayed.

Just the other week I was telling my mother about this and she reminded me of the footsteps on the stairs that can be heard in the house I grew up in. this reminded me this isn’t the only spooky story I know. But I’ll tell that one another time.

I once heard a theory that perhaps the  stone and mortar and general fabric of  the buildings that surround us could perhaps record sounds or memories. Like a tape can. I’m starting to think that’s maybe not such a bad theory…and still sounds a bit more reasonable than ghosts.

Drug Tales. no.1

When I was younger me and friends, like many youths in the 1990s, used to experiment with drugs. I’m going to post a series of stories here regarding this. Most will be funny. It was a fun time…but there’s always at least one horror story.

*NB (if any of the moral brigade/authorities/police read this I now work as a Vicar and do a pile of charity work)

“Have you ever danced with the Devil in the pale moonlight”  So asks the Joker of his victims in Tim Burtons version of Batman. I’d gone to a screening on my own. The first time I’d ever done such a thing. When that fateful line was spoken it resonated to my core. Why? Because just a month before I think I maybe had done just that.

LSD as you may or may not know is a fairly potent psychedelic drug. Now I’m not going to get into here the ins and outs of what it does, or any hippy notions of “opening the doors of perception” or any such stuff. I’ll keep it simple. Me and my tripping buddies probably went on about 20 LSD trips between 1990-95. And that was it for me. I now feel it’s a young persons experience and I’ve got too many worries about repairing the back gate and potential Armageddon scenarios to go opening up those “doors of perception” What if I can’t get one shut again?

When we took decent LSD for me it did this 1. Made me hallucinate in a very pleasant and mild way. 2. Loosened me up enough to realise  I could come out with funny diatribes and impressions that made people laugh (I suppose this was the start of me becoming the comedian I now work as today) 3. Made all involved laugh a lot (or was that me?)  4. Made us rap about cod philosophies that our young minds knew little about. 5. Made us more perceptive. (perhaps) 6. Generally made you feel pretty great. A huge feeling of wellbeing.

So, there we were. It was a Friday night and me Chaz and his girlfriend Alison had scored three blotters of acid from our mate up on a trip (pun intended)  from his London squat. Blotters often came with an image printed on them. These were called Jokers. Yup, that’s right…they had an image of Batman’s the Joker on them. Believe it or not the irony/memory of this has just struck me now. Hmmm, so much for increased perception.

And so we took our trip and headed out for a splendid time, For a few hours a splendid time was what we had. I remember the trip first kicking in when the three of us were in a taxi going across Edinburgh. “Orange” was the one word remark that Chaz made. And we all started giggling in fits knowing exactly what he meant without another word having to be said. You see street lights are orange and the generally glow they gave off was starting to be greatly accentuated by the chemicals.

And so we made our way about the streets of Edinburgh laughing, chatting and occasionally stopping dead mid pace to look at an interesting pattern on a wall. Eventually when we reached Stockbridge it was decided we should venture off the streets and follow a riverside walk called St. Bernard’s well. Id never been here before. Once we were a bit along the way I was struck at how isolated this bit of town was even though we weren’t too far from the heart of the city. What also struck me was the loud sound of the rushing water running beside us. I actually joked “well if someone wants to rape or murder us this would be the perfect place to do it because nobody would hear a thing.” I’d come to regret that notion shortly.

It was decided we should get off the path and get down by the waterside for added sensual shenanigans. So we climbed down a steep embankment and got by the river shore. The predictable lobbing of stones and rocks into the river began and after a bit Chaz and Alison wandered a bit up the river leaving me isolated. I was stood tripping merrily away when that unusual feeling hit me. How we do these things we’ll never know. But I suddenly felt as if someone was watching us. So I turned around and there up the bank leaning on the fence we had cut through was a figure. Or was it? I’m tripping you see so the first thing I think is, “you’re seeing things John” The  reason I thought this was purely logical. Because if that was a person standing looking at us then they would be a confidant person indeed. After all this was a murderers paradise.

And so I stood staring at this figure. Imagined or not I was now becoming convinced there was something there. Was it a statue? There was something unusual in the way they were standing. But eventually the potential severity of this situation began to dawn on me. If that was a person he was stood staring at me only 20 feet up an embankment while I stared back at him…for a while…and there were three of us.

I decided to turn quietly away and make like I was seeing things. I pretended in my physicality that I’d seen nothing untoward. I then made my way up the river to my friends and with my back turned to the thing that may or not be there quietly explained the situation to them. Telling them not to turn quickly. And then all three of us did turn. There was nothing there.

Now at this point I have to explain a thing to the hallucinogenic uninitiated. When you hallucinate on LSD you don’t just make thing up out of thin air. There has to be an object that your eyes misperceive. When we turned around and there was nothing where I had seen something I knew I’d been staring at a person and they’d been staring back at me…for a while.

We made our way back the river bank. I didn’t want to alarm Alison too much (a misguided sexism as she was equipped to deal with this situation as any of us) so I took Chaz aside and explained I was convinced someone had been standing watching us. I asked what was the quickest way out of this isolated area as we’d walked along it quite a way and he explained we were better to keep going forward rather than backwards. Eventually to clear the air we started to make a joke of Johns imaginary stalker. But to be on the safe side Chaz  would walk backwards and me and Alison would walk forwards so we could be absolutely sure no one was following us. It became a laugh and a game. I was now convinced we were in the clear. I was wrong.

About 20 minutes later we emerged back onto the streets of Edinburgh. I had no clue where we were. it was 3. a.m. so there was no one about. We were walking up some back street of Edinburgh and I thought “I’ll just have one last look behind me.” there emerging from where we’d just been was our stalker. I knew it was him immediately. What had been a silhouette became a person. Long hair, long jacket and in my heightened state of perception really fucking dubious, in fact obviously very dangerous.

I turned away and said nothing. I turned around again and he’d halved the distance between us. I then began to panic. “Chaz how far are we from an area where other people might be?” Chaz sensed my panic and turned around. “That’s him he’s been stalking us. He’s not afraid mate. There’s something really wrong here”

Our predator was now on the other side of the road from us level. He must have ran to cover that distance. He looked scary, evil and seemed to have some kind of intent. And whatever that intent was he was about to let be known. He opened his lengthy jacket and let us see he was carrying a shotgun. We were frozen.

That’s when I realised what I’d seen earlier. I mentioned he seemed to be standing in an unusual position. He’d been pointing a gun at me.

That’s when the group of revellers came around the corner. I’ve never been so relieved. he just turned and walked nonchalantly away.

We made our way home fast. When back at the flat we realised that all that had saved us was that when he’d pointed his gun at me I had reacted in a really calm and unusual way. The LSD had saved us. Had I panicked, had I screamed I’m sure he would have been on us.

Anyway the moral of the story is we took another trip a few months later and all was well in the world again. No visions of stalking bogeymen, no fear of walking again across the city at night. And that’s when something hilarious happened…I’ll tell you the next time.