Tainted Ground Part 2
Life was good for Sean and his family back in 1988. His skill as an architect was being recognised, and he had commissions to last him for the next three years. If he had any business worries at the time, he can no longer recall them, but his private life took a battering four years before, when his wife Lorna, suffered postnatal depression after the birth of their second daughter, Alison. Her recovery was slower than her doctors expected, and it was only now, after Alison’s fourth birthday, that she started to rally. They agreed that a change would be of benefit, and as they both dreamed of moving to the country, this seemed as good a time as ever. They viewed many houses before deciding on the newly built dormer, which was to become the stuff of nightmares.
“I remember the first time we viewed the house,” Sean said. “Lorna shivered, and remarked on how cold it was, but I put that down to the months it had stood vacant or her nerves. I feel guilty when I think back to how many times I blamed her nerves over the next few months, and how angry I became at her at times.”
They moved in two months later, and the first few weeks were taken up with decorating and landscaping. The only thing odd about the place was the actions of Lady, their Golden Labrador. She refused to go into the house, and they were forced to buy her a kennel. As this is a farming community, she could not be allowed to roam around, so they had to chain her up all the time. Sean put it down to the new surroundings, and told the children that she would come round in time.
“I’m not sure if we were too exhausted at night to notice what was going on,” Sean said. “I only know that those first few weeks were among the happiest we had known in years.”
Once the general upheaval of the house move was over, and the children settled into their new school, Lorna was left with more time on her hands than was good for her. Unlike the town, she could not just pop to the shops or jump on a bus. In the country she became a prisoner, and once Sean’s car disappeared each morning and she waved the girls off on the school bus, the day stretched out before her. The cleaning took a little of her time and daytime TV bored her. Sean wanted to purchase a second car, but she was against the idea. Since her illness, she no longer felt she could cope with driving, even if the roads round there were deserted most of the time. Sean finds it hard to recall exactly how it first started. He remembers Lorna complaining of scratching in the walls and doors opening and closing by themselves, but he put the scratching down to the field mice that could be seen scampering through the grass outside, and the doors nothing more than the wind. Then small objects started to disappear, and there were constant battles between his wife and daughters over this. They began to suspect Shelly, their eldest child, who at the age of eight, had protested against leaving the town and all her friends. At first, the noises in the night and the sound of doors slamming were blamed on her, and they saw it her way of payback.
“Then one night, there was this terrible crash from the kitchen,” Sean said. “It sounded like an explosion. I got up, angry at having been disturbed, and ready to give Shelly a piece of my mind. I looked in to her bedroom to find her pretending to sleep, but when I shook her, it was obvious that she had been sleeping. Of course, my first thought after that was burglars, so I went back into my room and took a golf club from the closet. Lorna was awake by then, and despite my warning for her to stay in bed; she followed me down to the kitchen. I’ll never forget the scene when I switched on the light,” he paused and took another gulp of the whiskey. “Every cupboard and drawer was open, and the contents scattered on the floor. The fridge door hung on one hinge, and it had suffered the same fate as the cupboards, but that wasn’t the worst,” he gave a nervous laugh. “I know its sounds comical now, but if you’d been there to witness it, it was terrifying. The cutlery drawer in the Welsh dresser was open, and we watched as an assortment of knives, forks and spoons, started to walk up and down the length of the wood. You know the way a child might stand them on the handle and pretend to make them walk? Well, that’s what the cutlery was doing, and it continued for about a minute before collapsing in a heap. Lorna was hysterical by this time, and her sobbing roused me out of my trance. The pills she had managed without for months came back into use, but it took me some time to console her. I still thought there was a rational explanation, if not rational, something like a poltergeist. I’d read about such things being associated with children, and poor Shelly was once again believed to be the culprit. Lorna refused to stay in the house the next day, so I dropped her at a friend’s on my way to work. The only thing I could think of doing was calling our new parish priest, and he agreed to come and bless the house. Whatever it was that haunted us, took offence and we didn’t have a minute’s peace after that.”
Other than pictures falling off the walls, and the children complaining that theirs beds were shaking at night, there was nothing more disturbing, until the next sickening act.
“We were invited to a wedding,” Sean said. “It was one of my clients, and we had no choice, but to go. Lorna wasn’t up to it, so I explained this to the clients, and agreed that we would go for the meal and come home after that. Since we would be gone for hours, and it was a miserable, wet day, I dragged Lady inside and locked her in the utility room. I thought I was doing the right thing. A least she’d be dry, and there was enough food and water to keep her going until we got back. I can still hear her howls echoing down the hallway, as I closed the front door. We arrived back about six hours later. We had left the hall light on, but to our dismay, every light in the house was on. I had that feeling; you know the one you get in the pit of your stomach?” He asked.
Bill and I nodded; we both knew the feeling well.
“I knew something was wrong the minute I opened the front door,” Sean continued. “I made Lorna and the girls stay in the car, while I checked the rooms, and I’m thankful to God that I did. The smell hit me as I walked towards the kitchen. It’s hard to describe, but it was a combination of that raw, butcher shop smell mixed with something more foul. I called out to Lady as I approached the utility room, and I’m not ashamed to say that my hand shook as I pressed down on the handle. My stomach turned at the overwhelming stench rushed out at me, and grabbing a towel I put it over my nose before going inside. Lady lay in a heap behind the door, and I had to push her lifeless body back so I could get inside. The wood on the back of the door was splintered from where she had used her nails trying to escape, and the fur on her paws was caked black from the blood. It was her eyes I will never forget, they were open wide, and I wouldn’t have believed an animal could show such fear. I called the local vet, because I wanted the children to think Lady was sick. The shock of her death would affect them badly, and I was too weary to deal with it at that time. I also wanted to know what happened to her. He was at a loss to know what she’d died from, but he bundled her body up and took it away to examine it further. The girls were upset, but I said the vet was taking care of her, and they could see her next day. I know it was wrong of me, but I needed time to get my story straight. I even lied to my wife, so she wouldn’t be worried, and the episode with the lights was forgotten as everyone was more concerned about the dog. It was hard to tell my family the next morning that the vet rang to say Lady was dead. What I didn’t tell Lorna was that the vet found nothing to explain her death, and said with a nervous laugh, that you would swear from the look in the dog’s eyes that she had died of fright. Things got much worse after that.”
Sean went on to describe the endless nights, as Lorna lay asleep beside him. Her doctor had prescribed more pills for her anxiety, and still more to help her sleep. Sean didn’t have the luxury of oblivion, so he lay there listening to the footsteps overhead. Remember the house was a dormer and built so there was no attic, so unless the footsteps were on the roof, he couldn’t imagine where they were coming from. There were too many incidents to record here, but as the days passed, the disturbances increased. Then it started to affect the children. One night, exhaustion took over and he managed to drop off, only to be woken by the sounds of Shelly’s screams. Springing from the bed, he rushed out into the hall, to find the little girl running towards him.
“It’s after me, Daddy,” she ran into his arms.
“Who’s after you?” Sean brushed her sweat-soaked hair from off her face.
“The monster,” she sobbed, and buried her head against his shoulder.
“There’s no monster,” he patted her back. “You just had a bad dream.”
“”There is, look,” Shelly turned, and pointed down the hall.
Sean said he’d heard the expression about the hair standing up on your head, but he’s never experienced it until that night. Something was crouched at the end of the hall; a massive, black shadow that seemed to pulsate with hatred. As he watched, it blended back into the wall. He put Shelly in the bed beside her mother and went to get Alison. Once the child was safely in the bed with his wife, he decided to dress. His pyjama top was stuck to him, so he went to the ensuite and turned on the taps in the sink. He didn’t dare use the shower, as he was afraid to leave his family alone even for a few minutes. He didn’t even close the door, but started to splash water onto his face. He would dress and wait for the morning to come, he decided, though he had no idea what he would do after that. There was no point in calling the priest back in, and this was in the days before psychic investigators. To say he was at his wits end was not an exaggeration. Once dressed, he lay down on the bed beside his sleeping family and watched the curtains, praying for the first light of dawn to creep through them. Despite his terror, he fell asleep and woke to a searing pain.
“I felt a sting on my forehead,” he said. “Like a bad paper cut, and this woke me. I brought my hand up to feel the skin and found I was bleeding. I became aware of the same sensation on my stomach, and to my horror; my shirt was stained with blood. When it opened the buttons, there were deep scratches running across my skin, but the material on my shirt was untouched. I was shaking as I went back into the bathroom, and I had to bite my lip to stop myself from crying out, as I started to wipe the blood away. The more I wiped, the faster the blood flowed and I saw that the cuts were deep, deep enough to require stitching. I tied a towel around my waist and rubbed the blood from my forehead. The cut here wasn’t too bad, and as I rubbed at the skin, I felt the familiar feeling of dread that I’d felt in the hallway return. The mirror on the medicine cabinet above the sink seemed to mist over, and I couldn’t move as I watched it swirl and take shape. There were things, I couldn’t call them people, more like rotten, zombie-like horrors, and they were coming out of the wall behind me, Jesus,” he stopped, almost panting, as he relived that night. “They reached out to me; I felt their nails on my back and remember nothing after that, until I felt another sting on my arm. The paramedics were placing a line under the skin at the back of my hand. They thought I fell and hit the sink, but there was no sign of a head injury, other than the scratch on my forehead. Lorna and the girls came with me in the ambulance. I was feverish for three days after, and it was only when I recovered consciousness, that I realised how badly I was hurt. My back was torn into ribbons and the criss-cross of black stitches ran like railway lines across the skin. Lorna and the children stayed with friends, but the experience had touched all three in a terrible way, Shelly most of all. Lorna told me the child had witnessed the attack and was a nervous wreck.
“She keeps saying that you took their names,” Lorna said. “Shelly says that over and over again. Daddy took the monsters names.”
There was silence for a moment, and Bill used this opportunity to heap more turf onto the fire.
“We never went back there,” Sean said. “Afterwards, when I was fully recovered, physically I mean, I don’t think I’ll ever recover from it mentally, I started to ask questions about the house. The builder laughed at me and dismissed me as a nutcase. Then someone said I should talk to Bill here, and he told me the truth about the foundations.”
“I knew from the minute they dumped the headstones that it would be a place of deep unrest,” Bill said.
“Couldn’t you have sued the builder?” I asked.
“I thought about it,” Sean said. “But where was my proof? He closed one company after another, and there were no assets in his name. My solicitor checked all that out for me, and it would have taken years and money I couldn’t afford, to fight him in the courts, and I’d probably be laughed at in the end.”
“What happened with your family?” I asked.
“Lorna never recovered. Her nerves were already bad and that house was the final straw,” Sean said. “She’s been in hospital for over two months this time, and there’s no hope of a full recovery. Alison was very young, and she seems to have forgotten all about it, but poor Shelly…,” his voice trailed off.
“Shelly died two years ago,” Bill finished the sentence for him.
“She didn’t die two years ago,” Sean’s eyes blazed with anger, and when he turned to look at me, I saw the tears gathering. “She committed suicide” he said. “She took an overdose of pills.”
“I’m so sorry,” I reached out and touched his hand.
“I know, thank you,” he held on to my fingers as though they were a lifeline. “It was the house that killed her. She never recovered from the fright, and the things she saw there. You can’t imagine what her death did to her mother, to all of us.”
Bill refilled Sean’s glass, after persuading him to stay the night. Sean stood up as I was saying my goodbyes. He staggered a little, and it was obvious that the whiskey was taking effect.
“If anyone ever tells you that a ghost can’t hurt you,” he said, as he pulled his shirt free from his trousers. “Tell them about this,”
He pulled the shirt up under his chin and I saw the raised, white lines of the scars on his stomach. He turned so I could see his back, and I promise you, it was every bit as bad as he said it was.
Bill walked me to my car.
“That poor man,” I said.
“Now you know the story, do you believe it?” He asked.
“Of course, I do, why do you ask?”
“Because nobody else will,” he said, holding the car door open for me.
“You’ll be surprised how many will believe it,” I said, and after a moments thought, added. “I think I’ll go back by the bog road.”
“You do that,” He said.
After promising to come back in the week for another slice of horror, I drove out of the yard. The bog road is narrow and in bad condition, but it meant I didn’t have to pass that accursed house. I pushed up the rear view mirror so I didn’t have to look in it. I was nervous after listening to Sean’s story, and afraid of what I might see looking back at me. The three miles drive down the lonesome road seemed to take forever, and I didn’t look left or right, aware of the barren landscape and the ghost lights that are seen there. For the first time I was glad when the lights of the main road came into view, and I was done with the darkness for another while.
That’s it for another week, dear reader. Bill has supplied me with a wealth of ghost stories to keep you entertained well up until the witching season, Halloween. Sleep well.
Copyright © 2011 Gemma Mawdsley