This is a true story, verified by Lizzie’s sisters –
Ellen Humber and Phyllis Fell.
KNOCK, KNOCK, WHO’S THERE?
– Leicester circa 1964
In 1962, my family –including Granny and the dog all moved from Scotland to live in Leicester in a rambling palisaded villa. Apart from my Granny, all the adults went out to work – Mother in one of the many shoe factories dotted around Leicester and Dad on a building site as a scaffolder. I was thirteen years old and my siblings ranged below me at eight, six and four years of age respectively. We were rarely alone in the house as Granny was there to welcome us home from school and to give us our evening meal before the adults arrived in from work.
There was something spooky about that house in College Avenue, it had a long dark corridor which led from the front door to the breakfast room, scullery and kitchen at the rear. Other doors opened off the corridor giving onto a sitting room and a gloomy dining room in turn. Once, the house must have been splendid, in a Gothic sort of way; high ceilings, marble fireplaces, deep cornices and even bells to ring for the servants in each room. But to us kids it was a scary place and we didn’t like to be left on our own. In fact, there were certain rooms which the dog wouldn’t enter – without its hackles rising.
One day Granny decided to visit her brother in London which meant leaving us alone for several hours until Mother returned from the factory. Granny was very unhappy with this arrangement, but eventually agreed to visit her brother – albeit with the proviso that all four children, plus dog locked ourselves in our parents’ bedroom and stayed there until Mother came home.
Granny left, and I locked us in our temporary prison with food, drink, comics, toys, radio, the dog and a chamber pot in case of emergencies! We watched Granny walk to the end of the street and then settled down for a boring couple of hours until Mother arrived home. Time passed slowly and we tried to guess where Granny was on her journey – Luton, Bedford, St Pancras, the underground . . .
Then, the strangest thing happened.
We heard Granny’s footsteps climbing the stairs and coming along the landing towards the bedroom. The door knob turned once and then sprang back to its original position. Being kids we thought nothing of it. Ours was an old house and things were always sticking and jamming. Then, stranger still, we heard Granny calling out my name: ‘Betty. Betty,’ in her unmistakable Scottish accent. I looked at my sister Ellen for confirmation of what I’d heard and then walked over to the bedroom door and tried the handle. The door was still locked and the key was on our side, just as I’d left it. I went to unlock the door, but remembering the promise I’d made to Granny to stay put until Mother came home, I changed my mind.
My sister and I sat down on the bed and looked at each other, more puzzled than frightened. When Mother came home, we were simply glad to be allowed to run outside and play and didn’t tell her about Granny’s voice, the footsteps or the door knob turning.
Years later I brought up the subject with my sister.
‘We did hear Granny’s footsteps and her voice, didn’t we?’ I asked.
‘We did,’ my sister Ellen replied, emphatically. ‘She called out your name, twice and the door handle turned.’
We exchanged a look and shuddered, knowing that, as adults, we were only just beginning to comprehend we’d seen and heard that day. Had Granny been so worried about us being in the house alone, that she’d projecting her anxiety across the miles from London to Leicester? Or was it something ‘else’; something which wanted us to leave the safety of the bedroom and venture out on to the landing where it was waiting?
The same nameless terror which made us run down the long dark corridor to the safety of the kitchen every time – and the dog refuse to enter the large cupboard under the stairs where we played? Or, was it the old lady my father (the least fanciful of men) purported to have seen on several occasions standing at the foot of his bed looking distracted and mournful?
My sister considers herself a ‘wee bit psychic’, while I consider myself a complete pragmatist. My other sister, Phyllis, told me recently that she’d seen the door handle turn on a couple of other occasions and had been too scared to leave her bedroom. I know there must be a logical explanation for what happened and I’d feel a whole lot better if someone experienced in this field could explain it to me.
Then I could finally lay this story to rest – where it belongs.