I had just arrived in time for dinner when I drove up to the old house. Elizabeth had been given the hotel in her great aunt’s will. She had invited me and two of our friends Anne and Paul, to come over for a barbecue and to stay the night. Elizabeth rang me on the way saying that it was going to rain so we would have to have the barbecue inside, under the grill.
The house had grey stonework on the front. At the side you could see very old bricks, concealed by thin wiry branches of some kind of climber that had grown almost to the moss-covered roof. I remember thinking how strange it was that the climber hadn’t got any leaves on it in the middle of spring. I could then see that it was dead.
A rusty sign hung over the door; I couldn’t make out what it said, but I guessed it had the name of the hotel on it. Below it was a brand new black door. I brought out my bag from the boot. The sun was setting behind the house and everything had a pale orange glow. There was a slight bitterness in the air and I felt quite cold. I suddenly felt a few drops of rain on my face. I looked up as the clouds burst with their weight and the rain came down in buckets. The pale orange glow that everything had, turned dull and grey. I rushed to the door, fortunately Elizabeth opened it and I ran in.
“I made it,” I said
“We almost gave up hope. Here, give me your coat.”
“How are you then?” I asked
“Ok, awful weather. Do you want to go into the dining room, Paul and Anne are there”
Elizabeth took my coat from me and disappeared into a small room at the far right end of the house. I stood in the hall. In front of me was a beautiful dark staircase. It was very broad and had a red coloured carpet going up the centre. You could see the upstairs rooms through the wooden railings that protected anyone walking on the landing, from falling to the ground floor. The hall was bare, apart from a small table with a telephone on it. The carpet in the hall stopped a few inches from the skirting board and I could see an old dark wooden floor.
I walked into the dining room. It was a warm and inviting room, with dark wooden panelling on the walls. A recently lit open fire gave enough light for the room. Anne and Paul were seated, enjoying a joke. They both said hello simultaneously.
We talked for a while about each other’s journey to the house.
“Lovely day for a barbeque” Paul joked.
I looked out through the window; the rain was still coming down. I suddenly saw that I had left my boot open. I jumped up quickly
“I’d better close the boot”
I went outside and closed it. As I was walking back up the steps, a movement of the curtain of the far right bottom window caught me eye. It must have been Elizabeth in the drawing room. I stepped back ready to wave at her. The curtain moved back where it was. As I was walking back to the dining room I felt a slightly raised bump under the carpet. I wondered what it was. I got on my knees to feel it with my hand. It was bolted to the floor. Perhaps it was a door to the cellar or something.
I entered the dining room again. Barbecue smells were coming from the adjoining kitchen as Elizabeth walked in with a tray of lots of different barbeque food. I wondered who I saw moving the curtain at the window. I decided it must have been her cat.
“Let me help” I suggested.
I followed Elizabeth back into the kitchen.
“Ouch! I burnt my finger!”
Elizabeth had grabbed onto a hot tray without oven gloves. I rushed over to the tap.
“Quick, run your hand under the tap”
“Thanks, I wasn’t thinking… Well I was but not about what I was doing”
She had something on her mind I could tell.
” Something strange happened this morning and yesterday”
I was sitting in the drawing room near the window and something caught my eye” Elizabeth began.
“What was it”?
“Well I thought it was the postman outside on the drive. He just stood for ages in the same place. I was very busy with what I was doing so I sort of forgot he was there. I began to think, he’s crazy just standing there like that”
“What was he doing”?
“I never had the chance to see. I wasn’t looking at him directly, but out of the corner of my eye. I dropped my pen on the floor I picked it up again quickly and looked directly onto the drive where he was. He was gone. There wasn’t anyone there.”
Well perhaps he just hid behind a tree. Maybe, it was a tree but out of the corner of your eye it looked like a person?” I reassured her
I thought it was a bit odd. I didn’t want to add to her confusion by suggesting that it was anything but a tree.
“I suppose it could have been, but…this morning it happened again. I was in here looking out of the window again, exactly as before when I looked directly out at what I thought was someone standing there, well the person disappeared.”
I didn’t know what to say. The area outside the kitchen had many trees. In the distance you could see some of the road.
“Hmm, well…” I began
“Is everything alright” a voice came from the dining room.
” Yeah, we’re just coming.” Elizabeth replied
Elizabeth went ahead of me. I stared outside the window. I was puzzled because I had no real explanation for what she had seen.
“You must have been your aunt’s favourite niece? If she left you this lovely house” Anne asked.
“I never met my aunt. So you can imagine how surprised I was when I found out I had been given an enormous house, and my very own wood”
“Does the wood have a name?” I asked
“Not officially, but someone in the shop told me the wood is called weeping widow woods or something. I’ll be changing that though ”
“Sounds a bit creepy, why’s it called that?” asked Anne
“Well…I don’t know, they didn’t say… He was probably just the village idiot talking rubbish” Elizabeth replied, while eating.
“So you’re going to live here then?” I suggested
“No. I’m just going to decorate it and sell it for three times the price”
“You could set it up running as a hotel again” I suggested
“No thanks! I too busy. When my aunt bought it she had it as a hotel but only a couple of people came to stay. She almost went bankrupt.”
Elizabeth started telling us about he aunt she had never met and how she came to buy the house.
“Well the house dates back to about the sixteen fifties. I know it doesn’t look like it, but about a century ago, someone bought the house and totally re-modernised it, well it was modern then. That’s why you don’t see any beams anywhere”
“What happened after it was modernised?” I asked
“I heard that the man who bought the house, just went away. He didn’t even sell it or anything; he left it exactly how it was. Perhaps he was going to come back to the house but he died.”
” Then, your aunt had it” Anne said.
“Yes only for a year or so. She didn’t live in it. She still owned the house but no one lived in it for the thirty years she had it. Now it belongs to me.
When we’d finished eating, Elizabeth said she would show us around the house before we had dessert. I couldn’t wait. We were led across the hall to the drawing room. The drawing room was the same size as the dining room but it looked smaller because it had more in it. There was a bookshelf a desk near the window; it reminded me of the mystery person Elizabeth had seen. On the other side of the room were a few boxes that hadn’t been impact yet. In the centre was a big coffee table, with a couch and a couple of armchairs around it.
“It’s a nice big room, What colour are you going to paint it?” Paul asked walking over to the bookshelf
“I don’t know to be honest. Nothing too bright”
We noticed as we talked, it echoed.
“Can you hear that, it echoes?” I said
“Strange! I thought only places that didn’t have anything in them did that.” Paul answered.
“Maybe its because it’s a bare floor” Elizabeth suggested.
I didn’t think having a bear floor would just make a room echoed like that. I didn’t know what it was.
“Here’s the office. It’s not very special it’s just got a computer in it”
Elizabeth led us into a tiny little room. Then into a slightly bigger room next to it. It was empty.
“I don’t know what to do with this one, or those two” pointing to two other rooms opposite next to the dining room.
“Now for the best room in the whole house. I was so thrilled when I walked in here for the first time, come one”
We followed her into a huge room that took up the space the size of three upstairs rooms above it. The room was a library. We could see why Elizabeth was so thrilled when she walked into the room for the first time. The walls were covered in shelves from the ceiling to the ground, there were even books above the doorframe. The left hand sidewall didn’t have any books on it, just a window. We all agreed that the room was wonderful.
“I can’t believe all these books were just left here,” Elizabeth said
There were so many books there. I walked over to them, the were books that I had never heard of before and others that were very famous. Elizabeth said that most of the books were about history. We all spent a long time in there looking through the books.
Elizabeth wanted to show us the rooms upstairs. There were twelve bedrooms upstairs all together
“I’m afraid I can’t show you this one” Elizabeth said
“Why not?” I asked
“I haven’t been given a key for it. Anyway the door is rotting away so if It’s disturbed it might fall of”
The door was just the same as the others, but the wood was rotted. I touched the door as I bent down to look through the large keyhole. A piece of the wood came off in my hand.
“Oh no, sorry about that.”
“It doesn’t matter I’m having it replaced next week”
Through the keyhole was just a plain room. There wasn’t any furniture in it, apart from a metal bed frame. I could just about tell it was a four-poster bed. The material that was hanging from the frame was in rags and covered in dust and cobwebs.
We looked in the other rooms. They were all very similar in style and size.
“This is a great house. I can’t believe you don’t want to live here!” Anne said
“It’s a lovely house” Paul agreed.
“It is, I know. It’s too far away from everyone. Anyway it’s too big”
We returned to the dining room.
“It’s still raining” Anne said
At that moment the wind picked up, thrashing the rain against the window along with leaves from the trees outside. I got up and went to the window. The clouds were the colour of charcoal and were changing shape and texture all the time.
It was getting darker now. The trees were shaking vigorously in the wind. Branches creaked as they threatened to break off. Elizabeth returned from the kitchen with dessert.
“Summer fruits with ice-cream” she announced.
When we had finished we decided to play scrabble in the drawing room. Elizabeth made hot chocolate for us. We all took a mug and wandered into the dining room. I entered the dining room first, momentarily stopping just inside the doorway to take a sip of the hot chocolate.
“Ugh! Yuk,” The milk in it was sour.
“What is it”? Anne asked
” This milk…ugh! Its sour”
“It can’t be, mines fine.” Elizabeth said
Paul and Anne agreed.
“Well it’s very strange. I put exactly the same milk in yours!”
“I’ll get you another one.”
We sat down, as we set the scrabble game up, Elizabeth returned. She handed me another drink.
“Thanks… Yes it’s fine. I wonder why the milk was off in the other one?”
“It might have been at the bottom of the bottle”
That didn’t really explain why it was sour, because if the bottom was off, surely the rest would be as well.
The rain and wind turned into a thunderstorm as we carried on playing scrabble. We were busy talking when suddenly with out any warning the lights went off.
“Don’t worry its just a power cut, I’ll get some candle from the kitchen” Elizabeth reassured us.
A very small amount of light was coming from the moon, and from the occasional lightning flash. Paul said he was going to help Elizabeth find candles so he went and followed her. We suddenly heard a small bump followed by an “ahh!” from Paul.
He called out to us that he had tripped on something. Elizabeth came out from the kitchen with a box of matches and candles in one hand and a lit candle in the other. She helped Paul up.
“What did you trip over?” she asked
“I don’t know? I just felt something in front of my foot and I ended up on the floor.”
“It might have been this bag,” she said, picking up my bag next to the door
“I suppose so, except I wasn’t walking near the door”
“Well you couldn’t see where you were going, so perhaps you thought you were heading to the kitchen and you were going in the other direction”
Elizabeth and Paul came back and lit the other candles and placed them around the room.
A few hours past we all felt very tired and the electricity hadn’t come back on. Elizabeth told us that all of the rooms had electric except the kitchen, which had oil lamps so the rest of the house was in complete darkness. I announced that I wanted to go to sleep, everyone agreed. We each took a candle up to bed and said good night to each other. I walked into my room, the candle blew out straight away. Perhaps I walked in there too quickly. It frightened me as I stood there in the pitch black. I re-lit the candle and put it on the table next to the bed. It took me ages to get ready for bed as I could hardly see anything.
I got into bed and blew the candle out. I dropped off to sleep quickly but I awoke frequently to the sound of thunder. My room was cold and I began to not feel tired anymore. I desperately tried to just go to sleep but I was wide-awake. There wouldn’t be enough light to read a book if lit the candle. I began to feel increasingly uncomfortable in the room. Every flash of lightening made me more tense. I had no reason to feel anxious but something was making me feel uncomfortable.
I began to wonder if the others were still awake and if they were feeling as uneasy as me. I began to concentrate on a noise that wasn’t coming from my room. It sounded like scratching or rustling. I listened to it for a while waiting for it to stop because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go to sleep listening to it.. It wasn’t continuous; it stopped occasionally for a few seconds then started again. After a while I realised it must have been Elizabeth’s cat, he might have been in a room somewhere and wanted to get out. I got out of bed and it the candle. I walked down the carpeted landing and very slowly walked downstairs to where I thought the scratching was coming from. As I approached each door, I found they were all open, apart from the drawing room where we had been and I didn’t remember seeing the cat there, or anywhere else for that matter. I opened the drawing room door but nothing came out, the noise continued.
The cat might have been upstairs somewhere, the strange thing about it was that I could tell where it was coming from. I decided to get a drink of water. Remembering that the kitchen had an oil lamp I turned it on the light hurt my eyes a bit, as it was so bright compared to a candle. The scratching noise stopped. I poured a glass of water and turned around. A hand came round the corner turned the gas lamp on the wall off. I was a startled by this. It must have been Elizabeth, maybe she heard the scratching noise and came downstairs to find the kitchen light had been left on, and so she switched it off.
“Elizabeth?” I called out in a loud whisper.
Nothing. I grabbed the candle and went after her. There was no one there. I looked around me. Feeling terrified. I held the candle up toward the stairs.
“Elizabeth?” I whispered again
It was Elizabeth coming down.
“Couldn’t you sleep either” she started.
I looked at her and look back towards the kitchen.
“Did you turn off the light… in the kitchen just a minute ago?” I asked
I explained what had happened. Elizabeth knew I wasn’t joking. I promised her that someone had reached round the door and turned the light off. By now I was almost trembling.
“There was a scratching noise coming from downstairs…I…came down to…” I was perplexed about what had happened.
Anne appeared with her candle. She told us that something had woken her up.
“Something sat at the foot of my bed. It wouldn’t move”
“What was it, what did you do?” asked Elizabeth
Anne explained that she couldn’t see anything because it was dark and when she lit her candle, what ever it was just got off.
“It must have been your cat Elizabeth. I thought I heard it scratching down here but when I came down, there wasn’t…”
“My cat?” She interrupted “I didn’t bring my cat to the house?”
We stood looking at each other without saying anything. What was it I had heard scratching? What had sat on Anne’s bed? Who had turned of the kitchen light?
“You didn’t say why you had come downstairs?” I asked Elizabeth
“I don’t want to scare you. I might have imagined it. I don’t know”
“I couldn’t sleep and there was a flash of lightening”
“What about it? What happened” Anne asked.
“In the flash of lighting, there was…someone there!”
“Who was it?” I asked
” I don’t know, he was just standing there staring at me. Then in the next flash of lightening he was gone” Elizabeth was deadly serious.
“I know I didn’t seem scared, but I didn’t believe it”
as Elizabeth was explaining, my mind wandered onto other things. She had told me about two similar incidents, about a man standing outside and then just disappearing.
Again we didn’t know what to say to each other, we were all terrified, as we knew that there was something in the house that couldn’t be explained.
Suddenly, we heard footsteps begin from know where. They were slow and heavy. They were coming from the upstairs landing. Three of us didn’t dare move. I looked at Anne, Anne looked at Elizabeth, and Elizabeth looked at me. I could hardly breath, just taking frequent shallow breaths. The footsteps carried on. I tried to speak but found I couldn’t, I was too stunned. Eventually a few words came out in a weak whisper.
“The floor…it’s not…wood; it’s carpet.”
The footsteps were clearly being trodden on a wooden floor. It sounded like the person who was walking had turned around and carried on the other way. Again the footsteps were precise and evenly trod. Then they stopped. We still stood frozen.
A door upstairs creaked open. It was Paul. He slowly came down.
” What’s happening? I heard footsteps”
None of us answered.
“And I heard a banging noise earlier as well?”
The haunting sound of the footsteps started again. This time they were plodding down the stairs. Towards us! They stopped at the bottom of the stairs. We couldn’t see anything, but we all felt that there was someone there. A chilling feeling came over me as I realised that what ever it was, was walking behind me going in a clockwise direction. I could tell it was walking behind my friends as well one by one. It was encircling us. The footsteps went up the stairs again. They walked along the landing. Then a door slammed shut! We all gasped. We expected them to start again but they didn’t.
A rattling sound was coming from behind me. I slowly turned round. The rattling stopped in-between sounds of scratching. The sound was coming from the floor. Then the whole floor started to rattle. The sound of scratching became even louder. Upstairs we could hear faint tapping coming from the room Elizabeth didn’t have a key for. The tapping became faster and louder. The whole atmosphere became unbearable as the sounds became deafening. The whole house was just possessed and cursed. I couldn’t stand being in there any longer. I rushed out the front door, followed by Anne, Paul and Elizabeth.
It was getting lighter outside I could make out that my watch said half past four. I walked backwards looking up at the house. None of us said anything to each other. We just looked and stared at the house. We knew that what ever was in there, wanted us to get out!
We were too confused to notice we were getting covered in the last few drops of rain from the thunderstorm. We all went over to my car and sat down inside. We didn’t say much at first. I think it was Paul first spoke.
“what are we going to do?”
“we should just all go in there again…together, to get our things. Then go”
We decided that none of us should be left in any one room alone. As a group we went into each other’s rooms to get our bags and came back downstairs again. We couldn’t stay in that house for a moment longer and if that meant driving back home wearing pyjamas we would. We put on our shoes and coats outside. Elizabeth locked the front door and got into the car with me. Anne and Paul got in their cars and Elizabeth travelled with me.
We were able to talk about things that had happened in the house on the way home, but Elizabeth got upset so we had to change the subject.
Unusually I didn’t speak to my friends for about four days. Then Elizabeth phoned me.
“I did some research into the house”
“Oh…what did you find out?”
“A few hundred years ago, people used to hide catholic priests in their houses”
“Oh yes I heard about that, the protestants wanted to kill them didn’t they?” I replied
I wasn’t sure how this fitted in with the house. However everything was going to unfold.
“The house has a ‘priest hole’. It’s in the floor, in the hall.”
“I think I saw it. I felt a handle under the carpet”
“You did? Oh. Well then that is probably what you felt”
“So then about this priest hole?” I asked
“There was a priest down there, the old women who lived they’re kept him in there. With the door locked”
“Have you been down there”? I asked
“No, not after what I heard. Anyway, the old lady that lived there had a bed-ridden husband who she nursed day and night. He lived in the locked room for about nineteen years!”
“What happened to him?”
“I don’t know, he just lost the use of his body. He couldn’t even feed himself!”
“Oh! That’s awful,” I said
“I know. It must have been. Anyway the old women slept downstairs in the drawing room”
“Why didn’t she sleep in an upstairs bedroom?”
“I don’t know? One night the old women went to bed as usual after saying goodnight to her husband and the priest”
“She died! She was fairly old and just passed away during the night. The old man upstairs and the priest in the hole were left to starve to death”
“Oh no! That is horrible”
“It was months before someone came to the house to discover two dead people!”
“There were three”
“They didn’t find the priest for about fifty years”
I felt sick that I had stayed in a house where all this had happened.
“People have reported hearing sounds like we did. Some people have walked past the woods at different times of days and have heard weeping”
Everything slotted into place.
“weeping widow woods, that’s why it’s called that?”
“yes people said they have heard a women crying after her husband and the priest”
“What are you going to do with the house now?” I asked
“To be honest I don’t know, I just never want to set foot inside there again!”