As you may know, I am currently taking a break, but wanted to share some of my earliest posts with you, that you may have missed.
This was the first ghost story I ever wrote on the 5th of April 2018.
Quite appropriate now as Halloween was yesterday.
All the best 🙂
In Velvet Dreams
He couldn’t believe it. Ever since he was a little boy, he always wanted one of those grand Victorian houses, like the one in Mary Poppins. With the house prices in London sky high he could see his dream getting further and further away. It was surprising, but here it was for sale, the House of his dreams.
He worked as a freelance journalist and so money was not flowing and sometimes the stream dried up completely for a short time. He had just come to the end of a lucrative contract and he had saved every penny, living mainly on baked beans just so he could get the biggest deposit he could. He was quite lucky in that his Uncle owned the flat he lived in, in Clapton, and so he paid minimal rent.
He was just walking past an estate agents window and browsing like you do, when he saw in the corner, a picture of his dream house. At first, he thought it was just a flat, because the price was so low, about half the usual price for a London house. No, it was a three-bedroom townhouse, with an attic and a basement. He enquired inside and the salesman nearly bit his hand off. Apparently, it had been on the market for a considerable while.
“Oh, it’s in need of being modernised, of course, and the garden is no more than a courtyard, tiny, but no one really has a garden in London anyway. When would you like to view?”
We arranged for a viewing the following afternoon, a Thursday.
As soon as I walked into the house, I could feel it. You can sense an empty house, particularly one that hadn’t been lived in for some time, this one felt inhabited. Stepping into it, you felt ominous like an intruder into someone else’s domain.
I turned around to the estate agent, a young lad with sandy hair called Steve, and I asked him.
“So, who else lives here then?”
Steve tried to laugh it off, but I looked him straight in the eye and he eventually came clean.
“Well, yes, it is supposed to be occupied, not by anyone who can pay us rent of course, but there are supposed to be ghosts. I admit that’s why it’s been on the market for a while. That and the old décor.”
I looked around at the wallpaper, it was an old-fashioned flock but somehow it seemed to fit the place perfectly. It didn’t seem to have aged much. The shuttered windows kept most of the light out, and the heavy dark green velvet curtains looked like they had been made yesterday, despite looking like something out of an old Victorian melodrama. It appealed to him. He had loved watching Upstairs and Downstairs and anything of that genre. This seemed to fit his dream perfectly. There wasn’t any furniture, but he knew where he could pick up some cheap Victoriana. A few whatnots and some red glass lamps and it will look like a museum piece. He fancied living in a museum.
“So how many occupants are there exactly?” He asked the increasingly anxious Steve.
“Apparently there are two. A little boy who is heard running up and down the stairs occasionally. He’s harmless. Then there is another one. They call her the Lady in Velvet.”
“What can you tell me about her, I take it she isn’t as harmless as the boy then?”
“Look, I don’t know anything really, I’ve never seen anything. It’s all a load of rubbish if you ask me. I can tell you a few more things about the house, but if its silly gossip about ghosts, you’re better off asking the locals about it.”
Steve took me around the rest of the house. There were a lot of stairs. The ground floor had the Kitchen and dining room, then the next floor had a living area and a small bedroom, which he would make into a study. The next floor held the master bedroom and a bathroom and then the final floor held another small bedroom and the narrow staircase up to the attic. Every room had period features and was quite immaculately clean, like a fastidious team of servants still busied around the place. Even the carpets didn’t seem very worn at all.
I’d decided that, despite the ghost stories, I was going to take it. After all, with prices the way they were, I knew this was my only chance of achieving my dream. When opportunity shows you the way, you have got to take it, or you will be tortured by the ghosts of ‘what if’; a far more terrifying prospect than a little boy who likes running up and down stairs and a lady in a velvet gown.
The legal shenanigans took a couple of months and I’d spent the time trying to find out more about the house. I looked up some things online and I frequented the local pubs and chatted to some of the older residents. I hit the jackpot when I was introduced to Old Henry. Old Henry had lived in the area all his life and so had his parents and grandparents. His grandmother had actually been the parlour-maid in the very house I was buying. All in all, I was able to piece together a very interesting story. So good was it that I entered it for a writing competition and it won first prize, £10,000.
The story went as follows.
Once upon a time, a young wealthy factory owner from Lancashire brought his beautiful, young wife and little son to live in this house. It was in the 1870’s and the house was only young itself then. They had been happy for a short time until one day the young man left the house to go to the bank and was never heard from again. His wife despaired and despite a search by the police, a body was never found. She had had enough money to live, but not enough for luxuries and so the servants were dismissed and she lived there very frugally with her little boy. Then that winter there was a flu epidemic and the little boy was carried off by it. Grief-stricken without her husband or her little boy, the lady lived on in the house all by herself until she died in 1900. When they carried her body out of the house she had been wearing an old moth-eaten velvet dress. People had remarked how it looked like she’d never even changed her clothes. Then just before the first world war, another family bought the house. A man, his wife and their three sons. The three sons were all called to fight and none of them came home. The wife died from a broken heart, so everyone had said. The man lived on, but folk said he became a bit simple in the head. He talked about hearing noises in the house. A boy running up the stairs and the swishing of a dress. Then he spent good money on replacing all the furnishing, in their original style. Not long after that, he’d disappeared No one knew where he’d gone, but the house was empty. Then for a time, the house was used as an office for a firm of solicitors until in the 1980’s it was put up for sale again as a house. A couple of families lived in it, but they didn’t linger, after a few years they always put the house up for sale again. Now the house had a new owner, keen to investigate the stories and see for himself if they are true.
I felt very comfortable in the house, once I finally got it furnished the way I wanted it. I’ve searched through all the markets and charity shops and have acquired quite a lot of original Victorian furniture and furnishings. I’d made sure the bathroom and the kitchen had all the modern conveniences though. I like to wallow in nostalgia about some things, but in others, I like to embrace modernity.
It wasn’t just the house that got a make-over, I bought myself a whole new outfit from Camden market. A lovely long frock coat with a high collar in Bottle green, with a green velvet waistcoat and gold pocket watch. I always liked a bit of dressing up and now I look exactly like a Victorian Dandy. I did draw the line at the Tophat though, I did still have to live in the real world after all.
People did ask me at first how I can sleep in this house, knowing what I know about its past. Well, I suppose I shouldn’t be able to really, but ever since I first stepped foot in the house, I have felt like a welcome guest. I feel very comfortable here. I don’t mind the noises of the little footsteps on the stairs or the sound of swishing velvet along the carpet outside the living room. I am quite used to it now.
He was sitting one evening by the fireplace. A warm glow was coming from the coals and the Victorian gas light was filling the room with a gentle light. He was reading one of the classics by Charles Dickens when there came a tap at the door. He’d said come in even before he’d realised that he was actually alone in the house. The most beautiful woman he had ever seen walked in, she had strawberry blond hair piled high on her head and a high necked maroon velvet gown covered her slim delicate frame and made swishing noises as she walked over to him.
“Are, there you are my dearest, I have been looking everywhere for you. You just don’t know how lonely I have been without you.” She reached out and he instinctively touched her hand.
With that, he felt transported back to another time. He still sat in his large armchair, but the furnishings had become much more lavish, the colours garishly bright. The soft delicate hand felt so warm in his. Then he heard the footsteps of a little boy and he too came running into the room wearing a blue sailor suit, with a huge grin on his face.
“Papa, Papa, you’re home!” The boy jumped up into his lap.
He felt he had come home at last.
Not long after, Steve was talking to his friend Mike as they put up the for-sale sign outside the Haunted house.
“No, we never did find out what happened to him. The neighbours say that he’d been acting odd for days. I always thought he was a bit funny in the head, even when I showed him around last year. Oh well, back on the market it goes.”
With that, they walked back to the estate agent’s office on the next block.
No one heard the sound of laughter coming from the house. It was a happy house now.
I have also included the following word prompts: