A weekend in a haunted cottage
I am blessed in many ways.
You know those days when you think “GOD, I HATE MY LIFE! It’s nothing but getting up, going to work, working, having a lunch break (admittedly sometimes this might involve Digby) working again, coming home, eating something (maybe edamame?) watching TV and then slumping into bed”?
Well, I get those days too, and then I remember that I am truly lucky to have some friends and, even more fortunate that sometimes we arrange to have a weekend away from the drudgery of day to day life.
As 2010 crawled to it’s inevitable end, three of us went away to Herefordshire for the weekend. We were excited! We were staying in a cottage which dated back (in part) to the 17th Century, I love history and cottages (really?) and a Grade II listed building – WITH A PROPER KITCHEN and a WOOD BURNING STOVE was just what we needed before the assault of Christmas.
Then we google mapped it. Remote isn’t the word. The word would probably be “MiddleOfNowhere” if such a word existed.
A flurry of emails including the words “Axe murderer” “Certain Bloody Death” “Bodies Eaten by Rats” ensued, until we all took a dose of GRIPUP and decided we would probably be fine.
We arrived late. It was dark. Very, very dark. The headlights of my car shone ineffectually into the blackest black I have ever seen.
We were staying here
Is it just me or is this house actively frowning and bearing it’s window-y teeth at us?
We settled in, drank a little wine, ate a little food and then realised that not only were we in the middle of nowhere, but that not one of us had a mobile phone service. We wandered desperately around the cottage, holding our i-phones up above our heads, waving them around outside the front door, until we finally gave up and packed them, forlornly, back into our bags.
Bereft without our links to Facebook and Twitter we played a little Trivial pursuit.
We fed the wood burning stove to keep warm. Eventually we noticed that there was a landline phone which was unplugged, so we plugged it in, made all necessary calls and went to bed.
I was exhausted after a day of driving and fell into bed with a sigh. I switched off the light, cwtched down into the unbelievably soft pillow and suddenly I was wide awake. I opened my eyes, closed them again, opened them and there was no discernable difference between the two states of eyelid. I waved my hand in front of my open eyes…NOTHING. It was the pitchest dark I have ever encountered.
My body went mental, my ears became radar machines – I could feel the membrane on my ear drums vibrating with every creak of the old wooden beams. My heart decided that now was a good time for a bit of concentrated pumping, my adrenal gland woke up and said “HEY! LET’S GET THIS PARTY STARTED!”, my skin prickled and all the saliva in my mouth (which I hadn’t even been aware of) decided to take a well earned break and vanished.
With an arm so shaky that it took me three tries to get to the lamp, I flooded the room with light.
I sat up and looked around. The room stared blandly back.
I don’t want to prolong this but, basically, this is the sequence of events for the next four hours.
Light Off – *creaky noise*
Light On – *nothing*
Repeat until daybreak.
We were all downstairs very early. My friends seemed unconcerned at my tales of a sleepless night and the fact that I was sure someone was in the room with me, and after a couple of cups of coffee, I started to think I was being silly.
We decided to explore…
We spent the rest of the day in Hay on Wye which is one of my favourite places in the UK. Book obsessives and antique lovers are urged to visit (by me) and we had a wonderful time. Much food was eaten and many bookshops visited.
We also discovered a spot that had mobile coverage! We went a bit mad
And so, we returned to the cottage.
Again, we lost all contact with the outside world, again we laughed and joked about taking rusty scissors to bed. By now, I was pretty much at the end of my tether of tiredness. We sat in the front room, feeding the stove with kindling and wood we had collected
And then the phone rang. We all looked at one another.
Vicky leapt out of her chair “It must be someone who we called last night!” and she hurried to the phone..just as she reached it, the ringing stopped.
1471 – gave us the number of a received call from the night before.
So far. So coincidence.
We all sat back down, fed the fire, chatted, and then the phone rang again. Vicky The Brave got up again to answer the call. As she reached for the receiver, it stopped. That’s a bit weird.
This happened again and again, until we decided that there must be a fault on the line and unplugged the bloody thing.
10 minutes later it rang again.
(nah, it didn’t but BLOODY HELL, That would have been spooky!)
So the impenetrable dark surrounded the cottage once more.
I was, by now completely exhausted. I could barely keep my eyes open. I collapsed into bed and tried to sleep with the light on. No good.
I switched the lamp off and someone came into the room. I could feel them standing there looking at me. I switched the light on…nothing there.
I read for a while (my eyes rolled as I tried desperately to read the book and drift off to sleep) and everytime I nodded off, I snapped back awake.
So for the second night running I remained resolutely awake, despite being utterly worn out.
The next morning we prepared to leave. By now I was struggling to articulate myself in any sort of meaningful way, and we were heading for a 200 mile car journey.
There was a little guestbook which had been filled out by lots of happy guests. As I idly flicked through the comments before packing up the car:
“A little piece of paradise, so peaceful and wonderful, Jonty and Emerald caught some minnows in the river!! <picture of minnow by JONTY>”
“Amazing stay, it’s so lovely to really relax”
I realised that not one person had commented on the fact that the place is clearly haunted. It would appear that quite a lot of people had brought their children to this place.
My friend put “Lovely place, fab kitchen, Party Spanner is convinced it’s haunted”
HA HA HA! Way to scare the shit out of the next lot of guests. (I put a little amendment in saying something like “NO! It’s not haunted, kids! It’s arrrrghhhhhhh………” afterwards. *brushes off hands*)
Looking back, I can attribute most of my feelings to the fact that we were staying in a remote cottage, away from the usual light and noise of town. The comforting hum and flash of a headlight as a car passes the window was replaced by the eerie creak of a floorboard settling and the blank nothingness of complete darkness.
Do I believe that the cottage we stayed in was haunted? Yes, I think I do. I was immensely troubled during our visit, and just felt generally spooked, however, at the time my friends were very comforting and assured me that they felt completely comfortable.
It is only since we left the cottage that I have learned that they too had sleepless nights, that they too felt scared and nervous pretty much for the whole weekend.
I wonder why we didn’t all just share one room?