We would return home to find the taps turned on full-force, requiring wrenching back into inaction.An oven, on the third floor, would have its rings switched to red hot, making the house’s already airless attics crackle dangerously with heat.
One bright August day, drinking tea in the kitchen, we elders – me, my sister, Nanny and mother – finally admitted that something was happening.
We laughed and teased each other but, my God, it was a relief.
My grandmother bedded down there next, innocent of that summer’s events, then refused to ever again. Somehow this was – and remains – the most horrifying thing I had ever heard.
READ: Ghost stories: A night in England's most haunted bedroom Still, the part of the narrative that brings most fear to the few friends in whom I’ve confided it is this.
Once – comically, but in ghastly, unequivocal fashion – it even seemed to relieve its excess energy with a few strokes on her rowing machine.
This may sound like nothing, but I cannot tell you the uncanny monotony of its nightly repetitions.
I wrenched my pillow over my ears, telling myself it must be a trapped bird. Behind the fireplace, crammed up the chimney, were Victorian newspapers recording the house’s murder. My mother started behaving oddly – pensive, distracted. This is how she described it – not a ghost, but a dead child dressed in Victorian clothing, visible from the knees up.
We eldest and Nanny Williams, our beloved summer-holiday addition, interrogated her. It had a certain logic: a child appearing to a mother. Sounds could be denied; but sights would be too appalling.
Like all youngest offspring, he was a golden child: charming, vivacious.
That summer he changed: rendered quiet, hollow-eyed, with the air of a tiny old man.