Let me tell you a scary story

Lady Grim, a Halloween anthology with stories from 13 great authors, is now available for pre-order, and I’m super excited to be a part of it. My story ‘The Grand Malum’ is mainly set between two hotels; ‘The Bonum Hotel’ and ‘The Grand Malum,’ both sitting along a deserted mountain road in Virginia. If you’ve had Latin in school, you may have an idea where the story is heading.

Do you believe in ghosts? I do.

I won’t give anything away about my short story, but I will tell you about my own paranormal experience, twenty-one years ago.

I was seventeen and visiting my father and his wife in London. They’d spent a year renovating this huge redbrick Victorian mansion on Elgin Avenue in Maida Vale, a leafy residential neighbourhood, and had only just moved in. 

Although the house was beautiful – filled with antiques and restored to perfection – I felt uncomfortable there but didn’t mention this as they were so proud of it. 

They put me up in a lovely bedroom with an ensuite upstairs, and that first night, I had trouble sleeping. When I woke up from a restless dream around 2 am, the room looked different from before, and that confused me. The white walls were now covered with red wallpaper, and I remember sitting up in bed, wondering what was going on. There was a shimmer in the air, like a highway mirage, yet the room felt unusually cold.

The bathroom door opened, and a woman walked out of with a silver tea tray. She was wearing a yellow dress and a white apron. Her hair was long and gray, pinned up neatly, and round glasses were sitting low on her nose. The impression I got from the way she looked was that she came from another time. I assumed it was a dream, so I didn’t panic but instead tried to wake myself up.

But then she looked at me as if she’d only just become aware of my presence, and at that point, I became so scared that I couldn’t breathe. It didn’t feel like a dream anymore, but at the same time, she didn’t feel real either. What I knew for sure, though, was that there was something very, very wrong about her.

I think I screamed because my father and his wife came upstairs and tried to shake me out of my terrified, frozen state. I was in shock, shivering with fear and cold for hours after that. 

When I was finally able to speak again and described my experience, this was what they told me:

*They’d stripped red wallpaper from the walls in my room during the renovation.

*There used to be a food lift where the bathroom was now.

*They’d flown over a psychic woman from Poland only a month before because the housekeeper’s five-year-old son kept talking up the stairs as if he could see something others couldn’t, and the pets in the house frequently became restless and frightened. My father and his wife had felt uncomfortable, too, at times.

*The psychic woman had performed a ritual to rid the house of evil spirits 

I slept downstairs, and the next day, they called the psychic woman as clearly her ritual had not worked. She told them to pack up and get out of there as she felt something terrible was about to happen. They didn’t – it was their house after all, and although they were planning on selling it, they hadn’t even put it up on the market yet. 

A couple of weeks later – by that time I was back in the Netherlands – my father and his wife were out for the night and got a phone call from the neighbors, who urged them to come home immediately. 

The house had spontaneously caught fire.

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