West Country cottage houses a dark secret.
A few months ago, Breaktime News came across the startling true story of paranormal activity in a Cornish dwelling. The property is sited near to the market town of Liskeard.
Today, former resident Tim Murrow shares his recollections of what happened on one particular terrifying evening in the 1990s…
At the time, I was staying in a cottage. It was in a pretty bad state of repair and we had been trying to get the place back into some kind of shape. It was watertight, which is about the only thing that could be said for it.
We felt quite happy and safe in the place so we were surprised one night when something odd happened.
We were watching TV and I felt something fall from the ceiling, it was a small spray of dust. I looked up and saw the floorboards moving, as if someone was walking around upstairs.
On turning the TV down, footsteps could clearly be heard and the boards above were moving in such a way as to seem as if someone was walking around in a circle in the empty bedroom above the lounge.
I, quietly as I could, climbed the staircase and, prepared to ‘repel the boarders,’ burst into… an empty room. I searched the other rooms but found nothing.
‘It’s an old house,’ I thought. “Could it be just… the wind?’ Hmmm.
Returning downstairs I was met with questioning looks to which I shrugged my shoulders. We soon returned to the TV after an uncomfortable few minutes, only for the footsteps to begin again. Once more we turned the TV down and watched.
Rattling windows and footsteps
In hushed tones, we discussed what it could possibly be, was it a cat that had got in? But then, something changed. We heard the window rattle and open, then we heard footsteps run up the road towards the crossroads. I rushed to the door and looked out.
It’s a fair way from the lower end of the house up to the crossroads, so I would easily have had time to see… nobody…
I returned indoors after having a quick look around and went upstairs to find the window… shut! Hmmm.
We agreed that we had both definitely heard the window open and positively heard the footsteps running away. If it was a cat, it was a big one… with boots on. Puss-in-boots? Nah.
So, an uneasy night ensued.
In the morning, a parcel arrived. It was for a couple that lived opposite. I crossed over the road and knocked on their door. It was early as we hadn’t really slept that well, so I was met with our very bleary-eyed neighbour. I gave him his parcel and he invited me in for coffee, which I gladly accepted.
After the initial niceties, the conversation turned to our mysterious evening. He laughed, ‘so you’ve met Uncle Jack then.’
Uncle Jack: the restless spirit
He continued to tell me a story of this soldier that had been mortally wounded in the Boer War and was invalided back to here for his final days. He, apparently, grew up in the cottage we were in and was quite the rebel.
He frequently got sent to his bedroom and would escape by jumping out of the window and running away. This sounded somewhat familiar, I thought to myself.
Although he had seemingly described what had happened the previous night, I had to regard it with a degree of skepticism: ‘are you telling me that we have a ghost?’ I asked.
‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘and his name is Uncle Jack.’
‘Perfectly harmless,’ he offhandedly continued.
‘Why Uncle Jack?’ I enquired.
‘It’s got something to do with a large picture that is in that house,’ he replied. ‘Don’t know much more about it. The old lady that used to live there told me all about it, I think she was some relation of his.’
A cold feeling flushed over me as I knew exactly what picture he meant, there was an old sepia photograph in a frame that hung just inside the front door.
It was a large, sort of A3 size, picture of a typical Victorian soldier. Head and shoulders shot with the stereotypical handlebar moustache and some faded lettering underneath.
I said my ‘thank yous’ and returned home. I opened the door and went to the picture, took it from the wall and into a better light. I can’t recall exactly what it said, but I recall the name on it was Jack Short.
Footsteps going round and windows opening
Anyway, time passes and we get on with repairs in between work and sleep. Every now and again, we would experience the footsteps going round and the window opening, footfalls running up the road.
The first few times, I was curious and investigated, thinking that there is some kind of prank going on, but after that it was more a case of, ‘There’s Uncle Jack off again!’ It became a bit of a joke.
Occasionally I had noted, though, that when I went upstairs, the window was, in fact, unlatched, and, once or twice, actually open. One such time it happened when we had a storm and the window had swung back so far as to break the hinges.
As a temporary measure I tapped a nail through the frame to keep it shut until I could repair it… and promptly forgot about it.
It was a few days after this that we found ourselves in a local pub and we got into a conversation about ghosts and the like. I announced that, ‘we have a ghost!’ and related the tale of our spectral uncle.
Of course, there was much disbelief, so we invited a few to come back with us to ‘experience the ghost,’ to which they readily agreed.
We returned home later on, our audience eager to be entertained. It didn’t happen regularly, so I was kind-of hoping that ‘Jack’ would perform for us tonight.
So, we all sat watching the late night TV. I pulled out a couple of bottles of wine and we sat talking.
Ceiling planks flex
Now, at this point I need to describe the layout of the house. The main door at the bottom end of the cottage, enters into a small, narrow kitchen with the stairs up to the bedrooms at the far end.
It’s a wooden half spiral staircase which leads to a corridor, off which, the bedrooms are situated. The lounge door was next to the front door, putting it directly under ‘Jack’s bedroom’ (as it had become known).
The underside of the stairs protruded into the corner of the lounge. You get the general picture without me turning into an estate agent. Anyway, I digress…
We were all sitting comfortably, watching some show on the box when one of our guests said, ‘somethings just fallen in my drink!’
Right on cue, Jack was performing for the crowd. Round and round he went, our friends weren’t far short of amazement. Then the window rattled. I went cold, I had forgotten to repair the hinges and it was still nailed shut!
The footsteps returned to pacing round and round, the ceiling planks flexing with each step. We were in alien country now, this had never happened before.
The footsteps stopped and the bedroom door creaked open. We were all silent, I don’t think any of us were even actually breathing at this point. The footsteps went out onto the landing and then began to climb down the stairs.
We watched the underside of the treads bow under the weight of someone slowly coming down into the kitchen. The door between the kitchen and the lounge had a lock on it, I jumped up and slid the lock into place and backed away.
The wooden door bulged and the whole place violently shook
As I live and breathe, I am not exaggerating when I say, it was as if a rhinoceros was the other side of that wooden door!
The wood bulged where something huge pushed against it and we could all hear that it was close to bursting into splinters!
Suddenly silence… for a few seconds. The door relaxed. It felt like a lifetime since I had taken a breath.
Then the whole place violently, thunderously, shook. It was like a jet had just passed a few feet over the roof!
Our guests had passed the stage of amazement and had to resort to astonishment, maybe with a side helping of terror.
They very quickly made their excuses and left, probably dining out on this story as they remember it. As did we, a few days after.
So, here’s my ‘Arthur C Clarke Mysterious World’ bit. Was it a ghost? Was it someone pranking us? If so, how did they time it to… whatever it was that made the place shake?
I guess the only kind of answer is asking the current owners. I wonder if they have experienced anything.
Featured image: Breaktime News artist’s impression.