The Room

Do you like ghost stories? My first husband and I loved them. Not that we believed in ghosts, though. Far from it. We were dedicated to debunking every spooky story we could find – which isn’t hard to do, given that most psychic phenomena can be explained by natural events and the gullibility of the believer.

When Graham came across an advert in a magazine offering a cash prize of £10,000 to anyone willing and able to spend a night in the master bedroom of Eastbury House, it was too good an opportunity to pass up. And so it was that three weeks later, we travelled to Eastbury. It was a once handsome manor house that had now fallen into decay. The very fabric of the building seemed to exude a melancholy which lay at odds with the lush beauty of its surroundings.

The elderly Mr Carter, with whom my husband had arranged our stay, showed us around the house and led us to the master bedroom – the supposedly haunted room where we would spend the night. It was pleasant enough; well lit and nicely furnished. A fire burning brightly in the grate sent dancing shadows across the lavish pictures that hung from the walls, making them seem vibrant and curiously alive.

Mr Carter urged us not to  stay, telling us that no-one had ever collected the reward.

“Don’t worry about us. We’ll be here in the morning to collect the money,” grinned Graham. “And you know what happens if you don’t pay the exorcist? You’re house is repossessed.”

The old man scowled and quietly stated that he doubted we’d find our words so amusing by morning. He turned and left the room, closing the door behind him, leaving us to settle ourselves in for the night. We set up our recording equipment and occupied ourselves listening to the radio for a few hours . As we’d expected, nothing untoward happened and we both retired to bed.

Some hours later, I awoke with a start. Graham was standing by the recording equipment. He  beckoned me over. The dials were flickering wildly. I became aware  that the atmosphere in the room had begun to change, becoming heavy and oppressive, and a deep booming began that seem to issue from the very air itself, resonating painfully in my chest.

The room grew hotter and hotter, and filled with haze. It seemed to me that  the walls began to recede and the pictures that hung from them took on a preternatural fluidity, tortured shapes emanating from the frames, clutching fingers reaching out to us. The air was now so thick with heat and noise that I could scarcely breathe and my heart hammered with fear. I ran to the door and reached for the handle, but Graham stopped me.

I could see him speaking, but his words were obliterated by the incessant booming. “The money,” he mouthed.

How could he care about the money? I had never felt such terror. All I wanted to do was escape. Summoning every ounce of strength I had, I pushed him away and turned the handle.

On the other side of the door the world was normal. No noise, no heat. Mr Carter kept watch in a chair on the other side of the hallway. He stared straight through me. Had I imagined it all? Where was Graham? Sick with fear, I ventured back inside the room.

Save for the stench of sulphur and burning rubber, the room appeared otherwise entirely empty. Not a stick of furniture remained, no pictures hung from the walls, and of Graham there seemed no trace. The fire still burned in the grate, the flames licking hungrily at a dark, familiar object – Graham’s shoe. I ran to the grate and pulled all that remained of my husband from the embers. And there, branded into the sole were the words “Clark’s. Size 9”.

The punch line of this story is the punch line of an old Dave Allen sketch, though the rest of the story is of my own imagining.

My first husband’s name really was Graham and, when I first read this story out to my daughter, she said that she had believed the story up until Graham’s apparent demise (he is, I believe, a serving police officer in the Met), and had been going to say to me that she didn’t realise Graham and I had been ghost hunters.

Eastbury House does exist. It is a lovely, well-kept manor house in the not so lovely surroundings of the A13, Dagenham.

It was a very hectic night at the club for me: our website was down and I hadn't earlier taken note of who was doing what a bit slack for an EVP! As it was, our President was unable to come, so I was acting president too; the table topics master didn't turn up, and a last minute replacement had to be found (fortunately, I had spare table topics already prepared); three speakers dropped out; only two or three guests were there and we barely had enough members to fill the roles. A few weeks ago, we had standing room only! With all that lot to handle, I was a gibbering wreck, made far worse by the knowledge that I had only written the speech on Saturday, so hadn't rehearsed it that much not like me at all! As a result I was quite sure I'd make a complete muff of the speech, so I surprised myself when I didn't. In fact,  I felt I delivered this speech well and was rather pleased with myself and the audience seemed to like it too. I forgot to collect my comments, though, so I haven't been able to add them.