by Frank E Earp
Of the three stories related below, only the first has been previously publishes. The others two have remained in the close family until now.
To begin at the beginning; I was born in the haunted bedroom of a haunted house. Not that I ever experienced anything of the phenomenon. I have many happy childhood memories of Halfway House. The only ‘spooky’ thing was the occasions when one or other of my two older cousins tried to frighten me by playing, – badly, – on the organ in the front room. A place strictly out of bounds for younger members of the family, with all the best furniture and two giant glass showcases full of stuffed birds, – acquired somehow from Wollaton Hall, – it was my grandmother’s pride and joy.
Halfway House was a large rambling building close to the canal on Woodyard Lane, Wollaton. It had once been a part of the Middleton Estate. I my research shows that its name was derived from the fact that it was halfway between Wollaton Hall and Aspley Hall.
The house was semi-detached but I do not know if the neighbours ever experience any of the supernatural activity. There was no gas or electricity and only single cold water tap in the small scullery. The toilet, – next to the pigsty 100 yard from the house, – was a seat over a large tub which was empty weekly by the night-soil men.
My grandparents and their young family had moved into the house in the 1930’s. My father’s bedroom, – the one in which I was born, – was at the front of the house with a view towards the cannel. He was one of the first to experience something of the activity, – waking on occasions to find his large iron bed had moved over three feet from the wall.
By the time I came on the scene the ‘ghost’ was an established part of the family. My grandfather seemed to know when things would happen. “Go to sleep early tonight” he would say, “Charlie is walking”. These nocturnal ramblings seem to have been limited to three to four occasions a year one of which was around three nights before Christmas.
The focus of the activity seemed to be the hall and stairs and the front bedroom. Things began with the sound of slow footsteps on the stairs, – ‘like someone in carpet—slippers’ witnesses would say, – and the sound of a hand rubbing on the wall.
The noise would reach the top of the stairs and there was a pause, and then, from the door an intense black, formless shadow would enter the room. Slowly, this would spread and the air became oppressive. As it reached the bed witnesses say that you could not avert your eyes and it felt as if a great weight was pushing down upon your body, making it impossible to move. If the candle was lit on the bedside table, as the darkness passed over, it would splutter and the flame would ‘burn low’.
Slowly, as the darkness passed through the room, the original light intensity would return, – beginning at the door. Witnesses would be released from its spell and the candle would flare back to its former brightness. The darkness left the room through the part wall by the window and as the last trace exited, the whole room returned to normal. It was all over until the next time Charlie walked.
I never discovered if the neighbours ever experienced the presence, as it entered through the wall of the adjoining bedroom. However, I did discover that behind this wall was a small room – my father described it as an apple store, – which once connect both sides of the house.
For a time, my aunt and uncle, – my mother’s sister, – occupied the downstairs front room as a sort of bedsit. As far as I am aware this was the first time the room had been used as a bedroom. As a teenager, I overheard my father and uncle discussing Charlie’s Christmas visit. My uncle was earnestly describing how events that we originally believed began with footsteps on the stairs, actually started in their room.
My aunt and uncle were sitting talking by the light of a storm lamp, – fortunately, my cousins were asleep. Without warning, silently a black mass began to rise from the floor at the centre of the room. It had the same effect on them as those who had witnessed the events in the bedroom. The darkness began to fill the room – almost as a column. Although the flame was covered by glass, the light of the lamb was almost extinguished as the darkness engulfed it. Slowly, the mass moved towards the door to the hall and stairs. As it passed through the door, the light of the lamp flooded back. For a few seconds, there was silence, and then the sound of footsteps and a hand on the wall as Charlie ascended the stairs.
As well as working on the farm with my grandfather, my father had various other jobs. For a time he worked for British Rail as part of a ‘maintenance gang’. One cold and frosty morning he found himself in the old ‘lines man’s hut’ on the stretch of line a field away from Halfway House. Sitting with a colleague enjoying a freshly brewed cup of tea, my father distinctly heard the sound of heavy footsteps approaching the hut. Thinking it was a fellow worker coming to join them, my father, – who was nearest the door got up and opened it. Peering out in both directions he could see no one. The instant he closed the door, – before he could return to his seat, – the sound began again. Thinking that this was some practical joke my father instantly opened the door and rushed out onto the track. The morning air was silent except for bird song and there was no one to be seen. The process continued for several minutes with my father opening and closing the door, – door closed footsteps, door open no footsteps. Finally, the door was closed and my father sat down and the sound stopped. His colleague, an old hand, – then explained that this was a regular occurrence on such a morning. If ignored the footsteps continued for a few minutes and then stopped, but never seemed to get any closer to the hut.
By the time I was born, my father was working as a ‘faceworker’ at the nearby Wollaton Colliery. The pit had been in operation from the 1800’s and there were a number of abandoned and disused workings. One of these, a flooded ‘road’ was supposedly haunted. This took the form of the sight of a miner’s helmet lamp approaching the witness, accompanied by the sound of splashing footsteps through the water. Like the railway hut ghost, the sound and sight never seemed to get any closer.
Miners are stoic fellows and are not easily frightened, however my father witnessed one poor chap almost scarred out of his wits. Returning to the surface after a shift my father was with a group which included a miner who had transferred from another pit. Passing the old workings, like naughty school boys they dared the new man to go along the tunnel. Leaving the well-lit road, without hesitation the man boldly disappeared along the tunnel into the darkness. He returned over five minutes later looking shaken and frightened. He refused to say what he had seen and vowed never to enter the abandoned section again even if ordered to do so by management.