The phantom music.

Before long we left the quiet house as i came to call it and we ended up journeying down south to be closer to family. We moved to a town called Midhurst in West Sussex and it was a far cry from the flat lands of East Anglia, with rolling hills, crumbling castles and a beautiful forest practically on our doorstep. It was like stepping into another world. It was lovely to be close to our ageing family as we had spent most of our lives living hundreds of miles away from them and although mum struggled financially as we were in a more affluent and expensive part of the country, we tried to make the best of it and find our feet. Though me and my sister were still annoyed at having to share a room. Me and Lil made friends with a group of teenage girls who lived in the town and we would doss down the estate with them. I thoroughly enjoyed taking the dogs on long scenic walks through the forest which was breath taking, on top of the wooded ridge you would look down upon a large sandy clearing with a large turquoise blue lake nestled within. It really was a special place.

On one of these cold windy winter nights a few weeks after we moved in we took a stroll through the busy town exploring and seeing what our new place had to offer, our estate was at the top of a hill and the whole town descended down it. We found quirky pub restaurants in ancient buildings, fancy jewellery boutiques, the windows filled with expensive shiny trinkets and charity shops which were a bargain hunters dream as the wealthy citizens of that area happily parted with designer handbags, old wooden carved furniture and antique books and i ended up finding one of my most prized possessions in one of these shops. It was a 1919 limited edition Midsummer nights dream with beautiful colour plates and it still has the original Foyles Charing cross book stores sticker on the inner cover.

After descending the hill and having a good nosy around i pleaded with Lil if we could go and have a look at the ruins of Cowdray castle. I do not know what the fuck i expected to see in the pitch black darkness but Lil reluctantly agreed and we aimed for the long walkway that led down to the ancient site.

In the warmer months they would hold day events and fairs for the local area and tourists and i was hoping that when the weather picked up we could go with mum for a day out as i love historical places and i am fascinated by their often tumultuous past, plus this place is said to be cursed which is more than enough of an excuse for me to want to check it out. When reaching the beginning of the lengthy path we stood there getting lightly spattered by rain drops trying to make out an outline of the left over remnants. We couldn’t see anything, the path was partially lit at the end we were stood but a few yards further ahead it disappeared into the inky black shadows, the lights of Midhurst did not reach the ghost of this place and i was disappointed that we weren’t able to see more. I looked at her with that mischievous look on my face that she has gotten all to used to seeing over the years.

“Shall we go down there?” I asked her and she rolled her eyes.

“It pitch black Amy we won’t be able to see anything….plus it is creepy as fuck. Look at it.”

“Yeah that is kind of the point, what else have we got to do?” I have no idea how i got her to agree to it but boredom leads people to do questionable things, so i linked my arm through hers and pulled her a bit closer for moral support and mainly because it was a truly black place and if we needed to run for fear of some madman lurching out of the darkness then i knew she was there right beside me. We made it about a third of the way before slowing down and chickening out, the darkness of the place was a bit too much and we both agreed it was stupid idea as we would not see anything anyway. We decided to head back towards the inviting lights of civilisation and in that moment as we turned something caught our attention. A faint melodic tune travelled on the wind from the location of the castle, it was old music the sort you hear in a medieval based historical drama as the camera slowly pans to the courts musicians playing solemnly in the corner entertaining well to do guests as they stuff their faces with greasy turkey legs. It sounded a lot like a flute or a similar sounding pipe like instrument and the strumming of a lute. It was soft and gentle and we both halted and turned to each other and pulled a face.

“Did you hear that?” I asked

“Yes… but it can’t be coming from there they don’t look like they have anything going on tonight.” Lil turned back in the direction of the castle. She was right, if there had been an event going on down there the place would have been lit up and we would have seen it, on a shitty cold night like that one in a roofless building any organisers would have been unlikely to hold an event in that kind of weather. But we both heard it distinctly and deciding enough was enough we headed back home not sure what to make of it.

Up until this point things hadn’t been creepy at home and i was hoping that the activity might have stayed in Lincolnshire but a few months later i would be proven that this was not the case.

Mum and Lil had gone to bed and as i couldn’t sleep i had stayed up in the tiny kitchen with a large square board propped up on the kitchen side. I had my earphones in listening to some RnB and was painting a fantasy scene of a water nymph emerging from a natural pool. Right beside me was the fridge freezer with bits of paper and bills dotted all over it with magnets. I was concentrating on my art channelling my inner Rembrandt when one of the letters level with my head jerked outward from the fridge door getting my attention. I pulled my earphones out and stared at it for a few seconds wondering if i was imagining as i was starting to get tired. Just as i turned to get back to painting it happened again but more violently this time and the sound of the paper rustling made me jump back. I was surprised that the letter was still on the fridge considering it had just been yanked with some force and being brave i took a deep breath and a step towards it and placed my hand firmly on the paper.

“Stop it… now.” I told whichever spirit it was in my best don’t screw with me voice, having been terrorised for years i wanted to stand my ground and be strong and show that i would not be pushed out of the room. I slowly took my shaking hand off of it and as soon as there was a space of a few inches between it and the paper it happened again, it was pulled up in a sharp jerking motion which unnerved me to my core. The kitchen was so small, i was not comfortable sharing such an intimate space with whatever this was and with panic rising in my chest i literally downed tools, dropping my paintbrushes on the side and leaving the light on i fled into the bedroom. Lil was fast asleep in her bed and i was sleeping on just a mattress along side her bed, we didn’t have enough room on the trailer for another bed base so i was making do until i could get a new one. Seeing my quilt was all turned around as i had been too lazy to make my bed up that morning i quickly darted over to the other side of the room and switched on our table lamp. It was one of them ones with the dimmer switch and not wanting to wake my sister i turned it on as low as i could but with enough light i could see to straighten my covers out. As i was rearranging my quilt the lamp started to flicker, so lightly at first that i did not notice straight away but then it became more noticeable and was rapidly flipping between low light and complete darkness. I fixed my eyes on it knowing that whatever had been in the kitchen with me had now followed into the bedroom and i frantically started whispering Lil’s name trying to wake her up.

On the fourth attempt which was no longer a whisper but more of a shout she opened her eyes and lay there silent and motionless for a few seconds, i just assumed it was because she had been startled awake and was wondering what was going on but she told me afterwards that she felt like a heavy pressure was holding her down and she wasn’t able to move or make a sound until it lifted. Finally sitting up and without a word she looked at the lamp watching it behave erratically.

“Why is it doing that?” She asked me in a low voice bringing her knees up to her chest, she could feel the change in the air too.

“I don’t know, weird shit started happening in the kitchen and i turned it on to make my bed and it randomly started doing it.” I told her, by this point the low light was getting brighter and it would stay like that for a couple of seconds before switching back to pitch black and vice versa. I should add here that we had never seen it do this before but after this event that lamp would act almost as a warning beacon when paranormal activity was going to occur and it would begin a strange sequence of flashing and flickering alerting us to any presences within our space. I perched next to her on the bed not quite sure what to do about the situation and my heart was hammering in my chest, whatever this was it did not feel friendly. We sat there for a minute watching it flash on the brightest setting, so bright it hurt to directly look at and then back to pitch black before Lil suggested we should try asking it questions to see if it responded.

We started off with Do you belong here? It then flashed bright.

Did you follow us? It stayed black.

Are you a male? It stayed black.

Are you a female? It flashed.

Are you a negative spirit? It flashed.

Do you want to harm us? It flashed.

Who do you want to hurt… Lil? It flashed.

Me? It flashed.

Have you been here a long time? It stayed black. It started to flash erratically again and the atmosphere in the room became unbearably heavy. That feeling of dread was accompanied by a darker presence in the room and we could feel it studying us. Lil had started freaking out and i was only just keeping my fear from showing when i bolted of of the bed and switched it off at the wall. Dashing back to bed i jumped under the covers and assumed my usual cocoon pose wrapping the quilt tight around me being sure to tuck my feet in. Lil feeling vulnerable asked me if she could get in my bed with me and i agreed knowing we would both feel safer together. It was comical thinking back to it now, wrapped tightly in her quilt she rolled off the side of her bed and landed on my mattress with a thud, with my mattress against the wall and her bed on the other side it was a squeeze but we lay there side by side, eyes wide like quilted sausage rolls. Neither of us could sleep and when mum woke up around 6 am to let the dogs out for a wee on the balcony from our room she seemed was surprised to see us both awake.

Feeling a little braver with mum up and about we got up and had a coffee and told her about what happened, although she was sceptical at first i could see she was irritated at the realisation that things might not be normal in this house either and i always wondered whether she blamed me for that.

We tried to demonstrate what the lamp was doing but neither of us could twist the dimmer switch as quickly as it had been doing it on it’s own.

That was the one screwed up night we had i that house, the ominous feeling of another presence would come and go at random and the occasional thing would move but nothing as scary as that event. It is strange how a feeling, a sense or emotion can make you feel as though you are being threatened without a visual apparition to back it up but it is an unmistakable vibe that washes over you when something has bad intentions towards you. You can almost smell danger in the air, it is primal, something deep within us that stretches beyond logic and rationale.

Again we stayed here for a short time and after six months we all struggled to get on our feet financially so mum moved us back to where we came from, we moved into an annex joined onto a vicarage one village over. Although i am sure you can imagine being in an old setting like this things were not going to be quiet on the paranormal front. I am glad we moved back i have always enjoyed the friendly nature of country folk and being able to have a chat with a complete stranger during a bus journey or waiting in line at the bank. I have often thought about the phantom music we both heard and can still hear it plainly in my memories. Maybe it was an echo from the past spilling out into our world. Maybe other people have heard it too.

Photo by Marius Masalar on Unsplash

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