By Anneka Dalrymple
I was a weird kid, I had a weird house, weird parents, and a weird childhood.
Picture a large gloomy looking house, like the one’s in horror movies, covered in greenery that looks like it’s alive and a skinny smug looking cat sitting outside. The one in the middle of the street that somehow always stays under the one, singular cloud in the sky. That, was our house.
Built in the early Victorian times with the word ‘Ebinezer’ inscribed on the front, our house stuck out like a terrifying sore thumb. Kids didn’t even come trick or treating at our house for fear of the witch coming out and casting a spell. That witch was my Mother. With an unfortunate nest of straw like hair on her head and the family nose large, with a big bony bump in the middle, along with our SIX cats. You can’t blame them for being a bit wary...
It wasn’t until around year four I came to realise I was different. I knew I was terrified of going to bed, that I would cling to the table leg in absolute desperation to avoid...upstairs. But I never really had much thought as to why. There were bibles dotted around everywhere and funny looks between my parents and older sisters but, as a kid you sort of care more about creating your snail hotel in the garden, or about the full afternoon line up on the Cartoon Network or, when are we going to the Zoo?!
I remember the afternoon that my eyes opened a bit more, when I sort of inadvertently got ‘accepted’ into my family’s circle of knowledge. I was sitting on the front room floor happily stressing our Labrador Jenna out, poking her nose or eye or something. My sister and Mum where cleaning. All of a sudden my eyes were drawn down onto the glass coffee table in front of me...The dog, relieved at my distraction no doubt, scuttled off, my hand remained in the stroking position, unaware the dog was no longer there. “Mum, that polish just moved” My Mum and sister glanced at each other, wide eyed and full of an almost cocky know how. “No it didn’t” said my Mum “ Yes it did” I said, “It just moved, on its own, along the table”
I was now annoyed by their lack of belief in me, I was a grown up you know, a knowledgeable 9 or so year old grown up! Quick as a flash Mum picked up the polish and took it away and continued her cleaning with my sister, thinking that I would just forget about it with no explanation. I’ll have you know I was harassing her about that for at least 3 minutes before a brand new Sylvanian Families came on TV! You see I think my family kind of felt it was special, like they were in some sort of ‘club’ for people that have ’seen’. So many times I overheard conversations that literally scared the baby teeth out of me.
Upstairs in our house alone at night was like a higher version of ‘the cellar’ and by cellar I don’t mean some lovely inviting wine cellar with warm cosy lighting and a distant smell of sweet memories and walls that tell a thousand stories. Oh no I mean the one that the lowest paid actor in the film goes down against all advice in the horror movie, the one with the creaky steps and the flickering lights and the definite stench of death. That one. Walking up the stairs to bed on a night was like walking directly onto the set of The Poltergeist to me.
Things would go bump in the night and Dad would just say “Ooh that bit of statue from Sadlergate were a badun” chuckle to himself and that would be that. Dad was a builder/handyman of sorts and used to bring interesting bits and bobs home from jobs that he had worked on. My parents believed that a certain page of the bible would ward away any evil spirits these items had brought with them. 1 Corinthians 12:12-27. On occasion my Dad had been known to remove some of these items that were deemed too evil and ‘get rid’ of them. I later found out that getting rid of them involved throwing them into a deep lake or the bottom of the canal.
One story they used to tell a lot was the one about my step brother Marc. When I got a little bit older this story came up regularly about ‘Our Marc’. You see the stories would be told with humour, as though they were funny. According to my Dad, one night Marc went to bed and my Mum started talking to him. What they are supposed to have spoken about has changed over time. All sorts of subjects have been exchanged, like a family evolving folk law.
Anyhow he chatted away, and went to sleep. In the morning, he went downstairs for a morning cuppa and started chatting to my Mum, making reference to the conversation. All eyes looked at each other round the table, “Marc, I went to bed at 9, it wasn’t me you were talking to duck”. My Dad would always exclaim at the ending of the story “It was a spook! he was talking to a spook! S8*#t himself he did your brother!”. My second ghostly experience (after the remarkable story of the polish) was terrifying to the soul. Gut wrenchingly chilling, almost unbearable to tell...
I was in bed reading yet another Enid Blyton, happily tucking into stories of sandwiches and ginger beer when I looked to the left slightly. One of those times when something catches your eye and your peripheral vision hangs on despite your best efforts. We had a giant pile of teddies opposite my bed, loads of them, all happily watching over me (or evilly staring at me). I noticed an arm twitched. One of my teddy bears arms twitched. I was on edge but, sleepy enough to ignore it and switch my eyes back to the ginger beer and sandwiches. It happened again, my eyes were drawn to the side, did its arm twitch? Did it? Hearing my sisters voice in my head calling me a big baby I ignored it again and went back to the book. Suddenly, it was waving at me. That bear, was full on moving its arm up and down. I can only imagine the gurn of fear on my face. I know my screaming capacity was taken away fully because no noise came out, just an inhalation of any moisture I had in my speedily drying gurny mouth. My spell of horror was broken quickly by a noise...one that sounded alot like...my...sister... hang on! It was giggling! full human giggling!
I got up quickly, looked round the door and saw my sister’s eyes bright with evil, devil like devious happiness. Holding her stomach in ecstatic laughter. Was she so cruel as to have witnessed my ghostly encounter and directly laugh in her little sister’s face as she was scarred for life? But what was it in her hands i could see? Ever heard of that thin cotton like plastic thread you can get on a reel? That is practically invisible? The one you could say, tie to your innocent younger sisters teddy bear to make it look like it was moving alone? Yes, I had been duped. My lovely, caring older sister had taken me for a right ride. There was no waving teddy, possessed by an evil spirit. You’d think I would be relieved, but sisters being sisters a large screaming crying mess I became, and my sister was deemed cruel by my parents. I was scarred for life, put off teddies forever. All of these issues in the house to some would be considered jovial family banter, light hearted generational myths and of the most part, that's exactly what they were.
There was one incident however that was never ever talked about in this way. In fact, it was never actually talked about. I heard snippets, bits and bobs, smidgens, but never a full story. Even to this day (I am now 27) it is not discussed properly. Just a wide eyed, sad look on my parents face when references to it are made. This incident, was in our washing room. My Dad was a DIY disaster (still is) and many a trip to A and E occurred with various parts of his body hanging off/missing. The angle grinder was usually the culprit and some misinformed ego filled attempt at an at home quick fix the reason. Ours was one of those houses that was always ‘being decorated’. People were not allowed round because we were always ‘decorating’. The washing room, was a room that was one of the few original (surviving) parts of the house. It was downstairs and was a long rectangle shape. There was nothing Erie about this room to the naked eye. It was not like the loft or like the creaky upstairs rooms full of creaks and crooks and ghostly nooks. This room was to all intensive purposes normal and ‘friendly’.
Through snippets of conversation, overheard exchanges and various blobs of shared information from my siblings the account of what happened appears to be somewhat shocking. My mother, was brutally attacked by an evil spirit on several occasions in that washroom. In that one room, something beat her and continued to sexually harass her for months. This unknown entity had pushed her to the ground and wrestled her around, punched her and touched her. Mum had 5 children in the house at one time, that room held the washing machine. With daily swathes of washing and my Dad too busy ‘building’ she had no choice but to go in. When asked about this, Mum looks sad and looks down. She gives a weak smile and says in her ever protective manner “It’s all done now, finished with, nothing to worry about”. And if I’m honest, I don’t push for more. Regardless of whether it is true or not, if someone feels they have been through that, it has to be damaging and forever scarring.
For me I am happy to laugh about the ghosties and ghoulies now. I have feelings sometimes, like something non human is around. But I find more fear in the living these days, and have learnt an open mind is a wiser mind. For peace of mind though, one should never dismiss an old family tip. For my new house I received what to many would have been a very strange present from their parents, but to me it brought a smile to my face, and a strange comfort in my heart. Wrapped in a bundle of pink tissue paper was a bible with a bookmark and on the bookmarked page was 1 Corinthians 12:12-27.
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