Monday, October 19, 2009

A Ghost Tale for Tuesday

Please welcome today's guest story teller, Nicola Burnell. She grew up in the English countryside, and first came to America after graduating college in England. She's been in the States a while now, living in Florida, Vermont, Texas, and now Cape Cod. Her home is across the street from my own.

I first met Nicola one April vacation week, when her youngest son spied my children playing in the yard and insisted on coming over to meet us.

We've been friends ever since.

She taught the writing classes where I first started my manuscript for Unfolding the Shadows, and is currently working to finish her own novel. Nicola is also the Publisher of CapeWomenOnline, the magazine where I serve as the Editor. Neighbors... Friends... and now Co-Workers. Having a glass of wine together serves many purposes.

Over the years, she's told me some spooky tales of ghosts and poltergeists, and all manner of psychic encounters with the spirit world. Today she's sharing a tale from her childhood in England. Take it away, Nicola!

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I didn't realize I was living with a ghost until I was a teenager. I was so used to the late night banging, creaking and scraping sounds of my red-bricked Victorian home that I never even noticed them. Nor did I question why the hair at the back of my neck prickled whenever I passed a certain area in the hallway, or why I bounded up the stairs like a cat on acid, even when I wasn't in a hurry.

My father, a central heating engineer, had installed the main pipes from the heating system in the kitchen up through the floor in one corner of my bedroom. This pipe then continued up into the attic. The small gap around the pipe in the floor gave me a distorted view into the kitchen below. It was only when my friends, who were sleeping over, asked me about the loud noises coming from the kitchen that I began to understand the haunting going on around me. The wooden stools that lined the breakfast bar were rocking back and forth, loudly!

We all gathered around the pipe, our hearts in our mouths, to listen to the wooden stools banging against the linoleum. We dared each other to creep downstairs to catch the stools in motion. When we reached the middle of the stairway, we all froze.

Something was watching us from the shadows of the hallway below.

That was the moment I recognized the feeling I'd been experiencing my whole life. There WAS something in those shadows and I'd been bolting passed it for years.

I took the lead, as it was my house. I didn't want to let my friends know I was as scared as they were. We pressed our ears to the kitchen door as the stools continued to bang and now scrape across the linoleum floor. We counted to three, then pushed the door open and flicked on the light.

The stools immediately stopped their rocking and a deathly silence smothered us. Every chair was exactly where it should be; neatly tucked under the counter, not moving an inch.

We talked ourselves into believing we'd imagined the noises and wandered back to bed. Later that same night, we were awoken by a loud bang. Once our screams subsided, we ventured back downstairs to find the small square door of the attic entryway leaning against the front door. I replaced the door and secured the latches, recalling as I did so that my father had added the latches because he was tired of having to put the door back every morning.

My friends suggested that we had poltergeist in the house. I laughed. It wasn't poltergeist! It was the lady in the Victorian black dress, with the white lace collar, that I'd seen in the kitchen when I was washing the dishes. The same lady who stood in the hallway, day after day, as I sprinted passed her. The lady who once walked out of my front door, then disappeared when she reached the garden gate. I'd seen this ghost so many times but never really acknowledged her. She was as familiar to me as the wallpaper.

When my mother sold our house, my sisters and I spent the last night sleeping on the floor of the front living room. With no carpet, furniture or curtains anywhere in the house, the sounds our ghost made on our final night were so loud our bones began to shake. The floorboards groaned, the stairs creaked and the attic door shook itself loose from its hinges and found its way down the stairs to rest against the front door one last time.

Thanks for such a spooky tale this Tuesday, Nicola! For more of Nicola's writing, check out . The current fall issue features a memoir piece by Nicola telling of the brush with death fourteen years ago that changed her life. Read it at

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