A true ghost story
We’d been living in the old house for about a week when it first happened. My brothers and I were sliding down the long, wooden banister that ran all the way down the creaky stairs to the ground floor. One evening, while sliding down the rail, we suddenly stopped. We’d smelled something interesting and it made us feel hungry. It was the smell of fried onions, like the kind you smell when you’re standing close to a hot dog stall at a fair.
‘Mum’s cooking hot dogs,’ said Richard. ‘Come on, lets go.’
We slid down to the ground floor and leapt off the rail just seconds before the giant mahogany ball at the foot of the stairs claimed us. (Never slide down a banister until you’ve checked what’s at the bottom, if you want to walk again). We ran into the kitchen and greeted mum with excited smiles and hungry faces.
‘Are we having sausages and onions?’ said I. ‘Is it ready yet?’
‘No,’ said Mum. ‘I’ve not started dinner yet. I’m waiting ’til your Dad’s home. It’s cottage pie anyway.’
Odd, I thought. There was a distinct smell of fried onions and garlic floating around the house. Eventually it faded when the smell of Mum’s cottage pie filled the place and we thought nothing of it.
Until a few days later. We were sliding down the banister once again. I sniffed again. Roast chicken.
‘Is it dinner yet?’ I shouted down from my rail and continued to slide eagerly to the ground floor, licking my lips. I love roast chicken.
‘Nearly,’said Mum. ‘We’re having lasagne. Another ten minutes and I’ll call you.’
‘But I can smell chicken,’ I said.
‘Well, enjoy it,’ said Mum. ‘We’re all having lasagne, I don’t know where you’re eating tonight.’
This was seriously odd now. Why could we smell roast chicken all of a sudden?
When Dad got home we searched that old house for where the smell was coming from, but just couldn’t pin it down. It seemed like the whole place was smelling of the stuff.
Again it faded but about a week later, at exactly the same time – dinner time – we could smell herbs and onions and garlic being fried. Mum was not cooking at the time.
We searched again and eventually, after much sniffing around like sniffer dogs, we pinpointed the source of the smell. It was coming from a small cupboard on the first floor, just at the top of the stairs, before the landing swept round to our right and continued up to the next floor. We opened the door and entered the tiny room used for storing towels and linen. The food smells filled our noses with a giant waft. But why? There was nothing in that little cupboard except a few towels and sheets.
And then my Dad had a brilliant idea. We followed him into his study and watched him silently open an old grey filing cabinet.
He produced a bundle of papers bound with a pink rubber band.
‘It’s the floor plans to the house,’ he said. ‘The original ones, from 1872 when the house was built. It might give us some clues about that cupboard.’
With baited breath we waited for Dad to unfold that big old sheet. Then he laid it out on the kitchen table. Watching Dad trace his finger around the plan we soon heard him gasp.
The linen cupboard at the top of the first staircase, and the source of the cooked smells since we’d moved in, was not a cupboard at all in Victorian times. It housed a small, spiral staircase that led directly to the kitchen.
It was up this little staircase that a range of smells would have drifted from the kitchen every night around dinner time. Onions, butter, chicken, sausages.
Mine may not be the scariest ghost story you’ve ever heard but mine is true. Ghosts really do exist and ours smelled of onions. Can you think of another explanation? It was a little reminder from the past, no question.
Andrew Hammond began his working life in a cheap suit, sitting in the bowels of York Magistrates’ Court, interviewing repeat offenders who always said they ‘didn’t do it’. After several years in the legal profession, Andrew re-trained as a school teacher. CRYPT is Andrew’s first fictional series but he has written over forty educational textbooks for a host of publishers and he can spot the difference between an adjectival and adverbial phrase at fifty paces ‘if only someone would ask him to’. He now leads a dual life: in term-time he is a respectable Headmaster of a school in Hampshire; in the holidays he escapes to his farm in Suffolk and writes gruesome horror stories. He lives with his wife, Andie, and their four angels – Henry, Nell, Ed and Katherine – none of whom are old enough yet to read ‘Daddy’s scary books’. But one day..
Headline are offering a set of the Crypt series books for one lucky UK winner. Just answer this question in the comments and I’ll pick a winner randomly: When was Andrew’s home built? Closing date is 8 November. Good luck!