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ALISON'S HALLOWEEN PAGE

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The Old House

(c)Alison, 2009

The estate agent sighed.

“Not again” he thought as he saw the house which had just come on the market, the third time in as many years.

“What’s wrong with the place?” he said aloud, not to anybody in particular, but a junior colleague, who’d only joined the firm a year ago, about the time the house had just come on the market yet again,  turned to him, saying

“Well, from what I saw when I went out a year ago to value it, the owner at the time seemed scared of something. Looked pure white they did. From what I understood, they’d already moved out, and weren’t too happy when they had to come back to let us look round the place.”

The big old house in question stood alone at the end of a fairly pleasant road.  Every prospective buyer had been impressed by the reasonably low  price, although they understood it was due to the amount of work needed doing on the place. That fact had put a lot of people off, but some people were keen to buy and make alterations and improvements.  However, none of them actually got round to making much difference before they moved out.

It started many years ago. Longer than the estate agents on the high street had been opened, five years ago. The original firm who had dealt with that particular property had long since closed and nobody seemed to know what was the longest anyone had stayed in the house.  The house was very old, and any original owners would have been long gone by now. The occupants in the other, smaller houses in the street were all below retiring age, and for as long as any of them could remember, the house was constantly being put up for sale, and none of them had got to know any new occupiers well enough to ask them what the problem was.

The house had been on the market for three weeks when Mrs  Smith, who lived at number 8 got a phone call from her elderly father. He’d slipped and hurt his ankle rather badly, and could she go round to cook him his dinner? Mr Smith, who was used to his wife being around every mealtime promptly decided old Mr Dobbs, his father-in-law should come and stay with them for a while, thus ensuring his wife would always be on hand for his and her father’s every need.

It was about a week later. Dobbs was still at his daughter’s home, and one evening the subject of the old house came up.

“I used to be gardener there, many years ago” Dobbs told his son-in-law. Worked for a very nice family. Lovely house it was, back in the day”. He sighed. “Young people today, always wanting to move on, can’t seem to stay anywhere for any length of time.”

“Oh it isn’t like that” his daughter interupted, “for some reason it’s just that house. People just can’t take to it for some reason”.

Her father gave her a puzzled look.

“I simply can’t understand that. It was such a lovely, happy home when I worked there”.

“You never told us that was one of the places you’d worked”  his daughter commented.

“That was my very first job” Dobbs told her “straight out of school I was. Long before you were born, me lass. When we knew you were on the way we had to move to a bigger place, and I had to get a better paid job. I was sorry to leave the big house, but thats how life is, I suppose.”

Eventually it happened. The day was cloudy, but fairly bright. The removals van drove very slowly down the road, parking carefully outside the big house at the end. Following closely behind was a large, smart car. The driver was a tall, broad-shouldered man of about middle age, with a thick moustache and a slightly red tint to his face. His wife couldnt have been more different. Small, grey-haired, with a very pale face. Last to emerge from the car was a boy. He looked to be around 15 or 16. Fairly tall, jet black hair and a bored expression on his face.

Dobbs was out taking a morning stroll past his former employers house when the new owners drove up. He went to introduce himself and wish the new family well in their new home.

“Dinsmead, thats my name” boomed the red-faced gentleman. “This is the missus, and here’s our lad, Johnny. Come on now, Johnny, dont lag behind, there’s lots to be done here.”

That evening, the new owners of the big house were sitting round their dining room table for their evening meal.

“Whatever possessed you to buy this old house?” exclaimed Johnny suddenly “I dont like it, it smells funny”.

“Now, now Johnny” his father replied “you know we couldnt stay in our old place after Charlotte and Magdelane moved out, it was too much work for your mother. Anyway, what do you mean it smells funny?”

“I dont know,” went on his son “just a bit like cat pee or something”.

Mrs Dinsmead, who’d been silently eating her meal up to this point, slammed down her cutlery and glared at Johnny, furiously.

“Don’t you ever use language like that” she cried. “One more moan from you, and you wont get any more food tonight”

“Leave him be” Dinsmead tried to calm his wife, “give him time to adjust, after all, he’s had to leave all his friends behind”. Then he turned to Johnny and said faceciously “anyway, I dont know how you’d know what cat pee smelled like, we’ve never even had a cat.”

That weekend, Charlotte and Magdalane, The Dinmeads daughters and Johnny’s sisters came to stay for a few days. They both shivered as they walked through the front door, even though the air was warm. Later the first evening, they asked Johnny how he was settling in.

“I keep feeling like there is somebody following me” he told them, “and there’s this strange smell which mum and dad dont seem to be able to smell...”

Just then their mother walked in the room. She looked round to make sure he husband was out of earshot, then she whispered

“Actually, I can smell it too, but you know how your father fusses. I’m sure it will fade in time, but I suppose this house is just a bit musty, since it hasnt been lived in for some months”.

Charlotte and Magdalane were tired after their long trip, and decided to retire to bed early. They’d not been upstairs in the spare room their mother prepared for them, for long, when they came running downstairs, looking flustered and distressed.

“Who threw my nightdress on the floor?” panted Charlotte

“And who put some horrible old leaves all over the bed?” chipped in Magdalane.

“Yes, and thats not all” went on Charlotte. There’s coarse hairs in my new hairbrush, and they arent mine”

“Come now, girls” their father got up to give his daughters a hug, “Did you leave the window open, maybe the leaves blew in”

“No, of course not father” Magdalane said, pulling away, “and I cant even find my own nightdress”.

“See father” Johnny yelled “I told you there was something funny about this place. I think its haunted. I didn’t tell you yesterday, but someone put my new trainers on top of the toilet sistern, and threw all my books under my chest of drawers”.

Mrs Dinsmead sighed.

“I suppose I should have mentioned this earlier, but I found a whole bottle of shampoo had been emptied down the sink and jam has been smeared on the sofa. I had hoped it was you, Johnny, just angry at leaving our old house... but now I don’t know what to think”.

“Nonsense” boomed Mr Dinsmead “thats what it is, absolute nonsense. There’s no such thing as ghosts. Now can we all please get to bed!”

In the morning Johnny was in a terrible state.

“Who’s been messing with my playstation? They’ve scratched one of my games and left it switched on all night”

“Dont look at us” his sisters told him, “we grew out of silly games years ago”.

The rest of the weekend was slightly less eventful. Little things were moved from where they should be, bottles of sauce, and household cleaning fluids were overturned... more clothes thrown on the floor, but nobody saw anybody doing it. Everyone had been affected, except Mr Dinsmead himself. Finally, on the morning of Charlotte and Magdalane’s departure, Mr Dinsmead went into the garage to get the car out ready to give his daughters a lift to the station. He gasped in horror at what he saw. His car – his beautiful car! There was a huge scratch all along the drivers side. He knew that certainly hadn’t been there before, and he knew nobody had been in the garage all weekend.

The police were called, statements were given and all the neighbours were questioned as to whether they had seen anyone unusual, a stranger perhaps, or just anyone acting strangely around the Dinsmeads house. Nobody had seen or heard anything, and for another month the case remained a mystery. During that month other strange, and sometimes sinister things happened to the Dinsmeads. Plates were smashed in the middle of the night, the fridge door was left open, to ruin the motor. Frozen food was left to defrost on the kitchen table. One particularly nasty incident happened to Mr Dinsmead himself. A very unpleasant smelling, sticky substance was smeared all over his brand new shoes.

“Right” he exclaimed one morning. “I’ve had enough of this. As you know, I don’t believe in ghosts, but we haven’t been broken into, so I’m going to bring someone into the house... search for any ‘presences’ as it were”.

That ‘someone’ turned out to be called Mortimer Cleveland, a member of the Pscychical Research Society, and a student of the occult in so far as it helped his work.

“Well Mr Cleveland” boomed Mr Dinsmead as he showed their guest into his home “What are your first impressions?”.

Mortimer Cleveland looked around him. He opened a door and put his head round before coming back into the hall.

“My first impressions are that there is nothing supernatural here, but of course I shall have to have a good look around, and check my instruments. Any particular cold spots?”

“No” replied his host, scratching his head “not that any of us have been aware of”.

Mortimer nodded and followed Mr Dinsmead all around the house.  A bed had been prepared for him in the spare room, and he requested a few hours sleep before his intended night vigil.

That night was the quiestest the Dinsmeads had had since moving in, and in the morning Mortimer Cleveland had some pretty conclusive thoughts on the matter.

“Mr and Mrs Dinsmead” he began “I can honestly say this is the first supposedly haunted property I have been called in to investigate in which I can find absolutely no supernatural nor spirit presence whatsoever. Whatever your disturbances are”, he paused “well, they have not been caused by any ghost.”

Johnny looked crestfallen “I suppose I should be glad our house isn’t haunted” he sighed “except that if it was, then something could be done about it. This way we can’t get rid of what we don’t know is here.”

Mortimer shook hands with Mr and Mrs Dinsmead, packed up all his equipment and left.

If things had been bad before, they took a turn for the worse that night. About midnight, as Dinsmead and his wife were settling down for sleep, Mr Dinsmead’s alarm clock went hurtling across the room. He thought he heard a loud whisper saying

“You’ll never get rid of me”.  Later that night there were bangs and crashes all over the house, and Johnny had all his bedcovers pulled off him. Johnny couldn’t see anyone, but he thought he saw a shadow running out of his bedroom door.  He leaped out of bed to follow, but whoever, or whatever it was, was much too fast for him.  He checked all the doors and windows of the house, but they were all just as secure as his father had left them before retiring to bed.

That’s when an idea came to him. The next night he would only pretend to be asleep.  He would lie awake, and if anyone came into his room he would be ready for them.  He made up his mind not to tell his parents. That ‘thing’ whatever it was might still be around, listening.

The day was pleasantly warm.  One of the first dry days sinced they’d moved in, and Johnny decided to sit in the garden for a while, get as much rest as he could so he would be ready for the long night ahead of him.  He got himself a garden chair, and placed it in the middle of the rather overgrown lawn.

“Hmmm” he thought to himself, “time we got something done about this, but mother and father have been too preoccupied, I suppose”.

He looked around him. He’d not really spent much time in the garden since they moved there.  He didnt like it.  All around were overgrown bushes, patches of moss, gnarled tree trunks, and an assortment of hideous garden ornaments, plus the remains of what at one time just might have been a small pond, now almost covered in reeds and goodness knows what else.  Another thing Johnny didn’t like about the garden.  He felt as if he was being watched, and the shadows... did one of them move? A bird was flying overhead.

“Ah” thought Johnny, “I’ll be afraid of my own shadow next”.

That night, as planned, Johnny stayed awake, listening for any sound at all. He even left his bedroom door ajar, to hear noises in other parts of the house.  A creak... what was that? Johnny held his breath and listened very carefully.  No, he hadnt imagined it, the creak was followed by very quiet footsteps... and the footsteps were coming up the stairs.  Johnny started to sweat.  Would his nerve desert him?  He felt he just had to stay calm.  His bedroom door opened.  He half closed his eyes, hoping whatever it was would think him to be asleep.  Johnny could feel the bedcovers starting to be pulled off the bed.  Up he shot, and lunged into the dark, at where something stood at the bottom of his bed.  It scuttled down the stairs with Johnny in hot pursuit.  It hurried into the kitchen, Johnny was still close behind... it opened a secret panel just inside the entrance to the cellar, then it disappeared into the darkness.

Johnny was petrified, but knew that this might be his only chance in catching the thing that had been ruining their lives for so many weeks now.  Mustering all the courage he could, he ran through the secret door, down a dark, dank passageway, and out into his own garden.  The moon was full, and in it’s light Johnny could see a shape running to the furthest corner of the garden.  Luckily Johnny had long legs and in no time, he was upon the creature.

“Gotcha now, you little demon” he snarled as he looked down onto the most hideous of all the garden ornaments.  A grotesque gnome with a twisted face.

“Let me go” it squealed in a high pitched voice “I’m not a demon, my name is Joel”.

“Well Joel” panted Johnny “if you leave this place and promise never to return, I wont smash you into a million pieces”

“I promise, I promise” it squealed.

Since that night, the Dinsmeads have been very happy in the big house, although Mr Dinsmead did scratch his head a few times, wondering what on Earth happened to the rather large, grotesque garden gnome which none of them had liked the look of.

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