I should begin by saying that I am not one for imagining all kinds of things that go bump in the night. Ordinarily, when my head hits the pillow I am out for the count and a whole host of screaming banshees would not stir me from my reveries. Nor does it bother me to stay alone in this 300-year-old house despite having been advised it is home to a plethora of phantoms including a ghostly valet, a pianist and by all accounts, a very attractive - if melancholy - redheaded lady. Provided they go about their business and let me go about mine unhindered, I take the view that there is plenty of room for us all. Besides, I have never had so much as a passing glimpse of any spirit other than those that come out of a bottle and we have plenty of that variety! Indeed, I have often suspected that those who claim to have seen or heard anything are rather sensitive sorts unaccustomed to the peculiar charms of older properties. The sound of wind whistling down a chimney or the gentle creaking of floorboards gives them great cause for concern and is nearly always attributed to some malevolent spectre rather than the weather forecast. It is, therefore, with some embarrassment that I recount my tale of horror in the house!
It began with my usual rounds - checking the windows were closed, doors secured and unnecessary lights turned off. There were no guests that evening and I was delighted at the prospect of an early night. I retired to bed in one of the most conveniently situated ground floor rooms. With my mug of cocoa and a good book I was confident of a pleasant hour of unwinding, followed by the sweetest of dreams. It was all going so well! Drowsiness had overcome me and I was gently drifting off when a gust of cold air crossed my face. I opened my eyes, confused and disorientated. Had I dreamed it? I looked across to the bedroom door which I had left slightly ajar. There was a faint glow from the emergency exit light beyond but all seemed as it should. It was then that I saw it - a shadow moved across the light dimming it momentarily. I froze and stared at the door hoping that it was a figment of my imagination or perhaps a brief interruption to the electrical supply. Was that a noise I just heard! I retreated further down the duvet and for the first time in twenty years wished I had not stayed alone in the house. I fixed my eyes on the door and watched aghast as the dim light became brighter and brighter until the corridor was ablaze. By now I was on the verge of a cardiac arrest and imagining the light was that at the end of the tunnel, so often described by those near to death. Unable to stand it any longer, I crept out of bed, fumbled for my toweling robe and steeled myself to face whatever awaited me on the other side of that door. Slowly, very slowly, I pushed the door further ajar and peered through the gap. I was aware that the door was making a terrible groaning noise and vaguely wondered how I had never noticed it before. I resolved to drench it in WD40 if I survived. I gave it one last brave push, resulting in yet another screech of the hinges and summoning every last drop of adrenaline, lurched into the corridor prepared to do battle with all the forces of Hades. It was then I saw it. The back door was wide open and someone with a head torch on was clearly running for their life. I padded across and peered around the door in time to see a vehicle leaving at high speed.
This final paragraph is by way of an apology to the poor vegetable delivery man who was clearly most perturbed at finding what must have seemed an abandoned building. With the house in darkness, he had found his way in by torchlight, using a door I had failed to lock when doing my rounds. I can only imagine his terror as a door began to slowly and noisily creak open behind him and a figure dressed in a long white robe began to emerge from the shadows. No wonder he dropped the box of fruit and vegetables and scarpered!