This is a true story. I have not dramatised nor embellished any of the things that I saw and experienced that summer in the mid 1990s.
I have, however, omitted certain events that do not bear direct relevance to the phenomena and I have changed all names of people and places for the sake of privacy.
Whether you believe it or not is up to you.
I have my own theories about why what happened, happened, that I shall discuss in the concluding part of this story and you are welcome to discuss this and speculate yourself. I have no finite ‘explanation’ of the phenomena at Beaumont Grove and no clear hypothesis to explain it.
I only know what I saw.
The House on Beaumont Grove.
A true ghost story
The first thing you noticed was the flies.
The flies were the first thing anyone noticed when they stepped behind the walls of ‘Wynwood House’, a three storey Edwardian terrace which looked just like all the other Edwardian terraces on Beaumont Grove.
The swollen, black bluebottles buzzed listlessly against the window panes and hummed around the strip light in the kitchen. When you went to sleep in the bedrooms, you could hear them brushing against the insides of the curtains like little breaths.
Wynwood house was home to five students during term time; all boys
“It’s a student house.” we said , almost as if we were trying to excuse the place’s idiosyncrasies.
the living room on the second floor.
And the door that never stayed shut.
After the first week, no one said “It’s a student house.” anymore.
“It’s a ghost.” We said instead.
“It’s the ghost….it’s Steve. Steve the ghost.”
At first we said it with a smile.
The students were home for summer and during their absence, we filled that empty, damaged place with our empty damaged selves.
Wynwood house became a sanctuary for us, a sort of flop-house. None of us officially lived there; we didn’t pay bills and we came and went as we pleased. There were nine or ten who regularly slept there a few days on and off, returning to our parents’ houses to eat proper food or wash our ragged black clothes. We were of similar age; fifteen our youngest, seventeen our oldest; our parents didn’t understand us and the ‘normal’ kids at school called us ‘freaks’.
With our black nail polish, white faces and sooty smudged eyes, we had one hobnail boot entrenched in childhood and the other poised over the swamp of adult life.
Music, drink, cigarettes were the only things that mattered that summer; but we would come to find what mattered most of all was that we had each other.
We never knew how much that would mean to us by the end.
I don’t think I ever knew how, but my girlfriend at the time; Carla, knew the students who lived in Wynwood house and it was she who had negotiated our stay there when they went home for summer.
Carla’ was Wynwood House’s unofficial guardian; its gatekeeper. It was Carla who brought me there for the first time.
The club kicked out at 2am. In our leather trousers and smudged make-up; we staggered through the streets, linked arms, plumes of cigarette smoke over our shoulders, the uneven pavements that glistened with fallen rain beneath our boots; past the rows of dark windows like a hundred sleeping eyes.
Half way up Beaumont Grove, to Wynwood house.
The flies were the first thing I noticed; in that kitchen, beneath the jaundiced yellow of the strip light. There were already a few other people there; sat on the floor, perched against tables, slouched in doorways. I didn’t know any of them, recognised familiar pale faces from the dance floors; we shuffled out feet and dropped our eyes.
Wynwood house had brought us together.
“Look at these.”
We were outside in the back yard; dawn peering at us as our fingers reached out but didn’t dare to touch. Grey faces in the wall; eyes and cheeks and mouths between the bricks. Affixed to the wall with rough, hasty concrete, as if whoever had stuck them there was in a great rush.
“They’re weird…” Someone said.
To look at them too long would send a strange, whirling sensation through your head as if you were falling.
We went back inside, but you could still feel their eyes.
That night all of us slept in the living room on the second floor; we drank neat vodka in the dark and curled like a nest of grubs together in a mound of sleeping bags and cushions.
I awoke in the little bedroom on the top floor. The attic room. At the top of a flight of stairs and a landing , it was the size of a cell. One tiny window in the sloped ceiling that would only open an inch or so. I could hear the sounds of people coming from downstairs so I pulled on my clothes and clattered past the landing. A closed access panel at its base that opened onto what was presumably the eaves triggered a fleeting memory from last night to float up from my mind.
“I don’t like that…it creeps me out.”
I turned and continued down. The door at the bottom of the stairs was wide open and through it I could see one of the others propped up on the sofa in the living room, reading a comic.
“Alright?” I didn’t know her name.
She looked up. Grinned. Her eyeliner was still immaculate.
“Yeah, sleep well?”
Still too young to experience the ferocity of a true hangover, I was still surprised how spritely I felt considering how much vodka we’d drunk. I had a vague recollection of the attic ceiling spinning.
“I didn’t.” The girl on the sofa said.
“Bloody thing chucking stuff down the stairs all night.” She nodded at the open door behind me.
“What do you mean? I wasn’t…I…”
I looked back at the open door. There was nothing there. I closed the it behind me and went downstairs to the freezing kitchen with the flies to see if I could find a cigarette.
When I came back up, the attic door was wide open again.
I thought of that little landing and Carla’s voice.
It creeps me out.
As the weeks passed; each of us would absently close that door in passing, only to find it open again. That was the first of Wynwood house’s little idiosyncrasies.
Steve the ghost.
That stubborn little attic door. It’s safe to say we admired its defiance.
By the end it was the last thing we would remember about that place.