Last night I had a nightmare. Not just a bad dream, but a proper knicker-wetting, hair-raising terror fest of a nightmare. I don’t have them often, thank goodness, because this one left me gasping for breath and terrified to go back to sleep. Apparently I screamed loud enough to scare Big half to death, not to mention my Frenchie Wilson who was being little spoon in between us as it was a chilly night (and he thinks he is dog royalty and therefore perfectly entitled to sleep in our bed). I vaguely remember being chased relentlessly by some sort of Medieval spectre and I guess I screamed when it finally got me but the details are now mercilessly hazy. As Big, now fully awake, was trying to calm me down I cried and gasped for air, my heart pounding in my chest. I refused to let go of his hand and finally fell back to sleep clutching his fingers in a vice like grip.
This unpleasant nocturnal experience got me thinking about the supernatural. I have been asked more than once if I believe in ghosts. Humans are naturally curious beings and this question is often asked upon meeting someone for the first time in order to spot a kindred spirit. Generally speaking there are two camps, those who believe wholeheartedly in the existence of otherworldly spirits and those who think the idea is a load of tosh. I have always been a sceptic until I experienced something I simply couldn’t explain.
About ten years ago we took the children on a family holiday to Belgium. We rented a big house which sat in acres of countryside and invited Big’s parents, his sister, her husband and their three children to join us. The house was over a hundred and fifty years old but had a large kitchen and a hot tub in the garden. There was a barn full of old bicycles and a home made wooden go cart, much to the delight of the children. One of the out buildings housed a sauna and gym. These modern additions were, I supposed, added to attract holiday makers, but the main house was furnished sympathetically to the style of the period. The children quickly found a huge games room with exposed stone walls. There was a full sized pool table in here and a large tapestry hanging on the wall depicting a gory battle scene. The owner of the property had also shown us a tiny, draughty television room right at the back of the house but had told us that no one ever used it and the reason became apparent when several members of our party, myself included, spent a few minutes in the room and began to feel very strange. My niece, who was ten at the time, declared it too cold and said she felt like someone was watching her. My mother in law refused to set foot over the threshold, rubbing her arms and hurrying away and I spent just a few minutes there before a feeling of impending doom settled over me, forcing me to hurry back to the rest of the family. Upstairs there were four large bedrooms and several bathrooms. The children quickly decided to sleep together in one big room and set about moving beds around to accommodate everyone. My in laws and my sister in law chose rooms at the front of the house next to each other, which left Big and I with the room at the back. It had wooden floorboards with holes in, some large enough to see straight down into the games room below and was underneath the eaves of the roof. There was a vast dark oak wardrobe with musty drawers and on the other side of the room, a double bed. Next to the bed was a door which led to a narrow stone staircase. Unlike the main staircase which came up from the kitchen, this was hidden away, a secret route coming out in the far hidden corner of the spooky television room downstairs. I was more than a little freaked out by this staircase and instructed Big to pile our suitcases up against the little door. I pretended that one of the kids might come through the door in the night, playing a prank on us, but actually I was pretty sure that none of them would be brave enough to use the stairs as they were very dark and scary.
We had a wonderful week, the area was beautiful. We cycled along the banks of the canal, relaxed in the hot tub and sunbathed on several beautiful nearby beaches. On the final night we went to bed, ready for an early start to our journey home the following day. The children had been complaining all week about scratching noises in the walls of their room. We put it down to rodents but they insisted it was keeping them awake. Our son came and woke me up in the early hours. He was frightened and rambling about a “monster” so I took him back to his room and stayed with him until he fell asleep then I returned to bed. I was slowly drifting off when I heard a noise. I looked across and saw the door to the secret staircase moving. The doorknob turned slowly from the outside but our packed cases were up against the door. I froze, totally paralysed by fear as the doorknob continued to turn left to right. It stopped abruptly and I drew in a breath just as a flickering flame appeared from beside the wardrobe. It hovered in mid air next to the window as if someone were carrying a candle. Then it moved slowly toward the bed. The temperature in the room dropped dramatically and my teeth chattered. I felt as if someone was sitting on my chest and all the air was being forced out of my lungs. I tried to speak, to alert Big, but no sound came from my throat no matter how hard I tried and Big, having enjoyed a few beers that evening was snoring loudly, oblivious to my terror. After what seemed like ages but in reality was probably a few minutes the flame disappeared and I stopped shivering as the temperature returned to normal. I was still unable to move and for the next hour or so I lay in bed staring into the darkness, my heart racing. Eventually Big roused and got up to use the bathroom. I told him what I had seen and he put his arm around me, telling me it was all a bad dream but I knew that I wasn’t asleep when it happened.
In the morning I told everyone what had happened. My father-in-law then said that a few days before he had been on the landing and someone had whispered ‘hello’ into his ear from behind him. My brother-in-law admitted that he had been alone in the games room and he had suddenly felt cold like a fridge door had been opened and my son insisted that something had woken him in the night, which of course I knew about. We all agreed that there was something strange about the house in Belgium and it may be a coincidence but the following year it was put up for sale.
Since that night I have been a total believer. I know what I saw and felt. I can’t explain what happened and I don’t try to. I just accept that what I experienced was real and that I was privileged to be allowed a peek into the world of the supernatural.
Thanks for reading. xx