Written by Dotty Winters


There’s A Ghost In My House* (*allegedly)

Dotty Winters lives in a house that’s rumoured to be haunted. Here, she shares the things she’s learned while sharing her home with the (surprisingly low maintenance) legion of the undead.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

Illustration by Claire Jones.

I didn’t know my house was haunted when I bought it, because Google wasn’t really a big deal back then. All I knew was that it was old, neglected and suspiciously affordable. Fortunately, I am a logical, scientific type and I know that ghosts don’t exist. Unfortunately, despite my logical, scientific mind, I am still TERRIFIED of ghosts. I really am the world biggest spook-wimp. Early ‘90s sitcom So Haunt Me haunted me. As a child I wasn’t allowed to watch Rentaghost, in case Miss Popov made me poop off.

The good news is that, as far as I can tell, any spectral visitors to my home are quiet and tidy (unlike my children).

Local folklore is a bit confused about our house. It’s certainly elderly. There has been a property on this site since 1604 and while some parts date back to the early 17th century, others have been added, changed or destroyed by multiple fires over the years since.

The building is now split, and several families live here. There’s a tunnel from the basement that leads to a local church. We’ve been told that the original purpose was so that the residents of the main house could take their dead straight to the church, without walking the body through the streets. These days it would certainly provide a more direct route to the takeaway, although accidentally stumbling across a long-discarded corpse might spoil your appetite. Older neighbours tell us that they used to play in the tunnel in the 1970s, but for now we keep it bricked up at our end, to keep the hordes of the undead out.

“When your neighbours’ children draw pictures of their imaginary friends they will sometimes draw a small girl, in period costume, but you won’t ask too many questions.”

Not long after we moved in, a local historian solemnly presented us with a dossier of school history projects written about the house and its ghosts. In retrospect it has occurred to me that schoolchildren’s homework probably isn’t the most reliable source for historians to work from. Nevertheless, it seems that the most famous apparition is that of a small girl (the worst of all the ghost-types). Details of her story are pretty sketchy. She’s said to hang about in a doorway in a hat and can be heard breathing fast as if she’d been running. The period of her clothing is consistently described as “olden days”-ish.

Some of the projects were very detailed, but I can’t award any of them more than a B minus as the referencing of any actual paranormal research was pretty poor.

Still, I don’t want to take any chances. My house is carefully arranged according to the ancient principles of Feng-Shouldn’t. There are bowls of conkers to repel spiders, a polite notice to repel door-salespeople, a rope of garlic to repel vampires, and Peppa Pig on repeat, to repel even the most fearless phantoms.

A haunted house, yesterday.

A haunted house, yesterday.

Even if I had been able to research the house online before we moved in, I probably wouldn’t have found out the things that I needed to know. It turns out that no one really tells you about the truth about living in a famously haunted house. I’m going to leave this article here, so that the next time someone Googles it, they don’t get Googlewhacked.

If your house is known for being haunted:

• It’s hard to get a plumber. Plumbers seem to be an unusually superstitious bunch. Ours travels from over 30 miles away and can’t work a computer.

• You will never get trick-or-treaters at Halloween. Depending on your viewpoint this might be a bonus. Either way you will get to eat a bucket of Haribo all by yourself (at least) once a year.

• You’ll have dodgy electrics. You will use this to explain everything. Even that time the wind-up toy moved by itself.

• Sometimes you’ll drink wine with your neighbours and all commit to investigate the tunnel. Then you’ll sober up and watch Netflix instead.

• Anyone you meet over the age of 60 who finds out where you live will look at you in wonder, and say, “Oh…You live there. How do you find it?”

• When your neighbours’ children draw pictures of their imaginary friends they will sometimes draw a small girl, in period costume, but you won’t ask too many questions.

Overall, after 15 years of living here I have very little to report. I’ve not met any of the ghosts in person, and to be honest, they probably feel like the moment has passed. I imagine it’s the paranormal equivalent of when you don’t quite catch someone’s name after asking twice, and then have to pretend to know what they’re called, for the rest of all time. As lodgers go they’re fairly low maintenance, and it would be a shame to have to leave all my worldly chattels behind and hot-foot it to the local Travelodge just because they decided to make an appearance.

I love my house. I love its age and its history. It’s home – a noisy, busy place full of children, cats, other pets and caked-on Weetabix. If there are any extra beings living here that do decide they want to attract my attention they’ll probably just have to wait their turn. But I will confess that late at night, if the wind is howling and I hear a tapping on the window, I’ve been known to sleep with the telly on…

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Written by Dotty Winters

Nascent stand-up, fan of fancy words, purveyor of occasional wrongness, haphazard but enthusiastic parent, science-fan, apprentice-feminist.