Everyone has heard of the haunted house at the end of the street and the one at the end of mine was no different. The Stenham House looked ancient and nothing returned there expect for crows. Though the place couldn’t have been older then any of the other houses around. Neglect and abuse had caused it to age a hundred plus years and the fact it had been abandoned for twenty of those years now didn’t help.
Standing before it, I took the place in for the last time. Nature had pretty much taken over and it was hard to see a red brick and white wood frame under all that green. There was no fence and the wild front garden came right up to the pavement. The reminds of a driveway poked through the tall grass. As far as I could tell all the doors and windows were locked and still intact.
I had lived next door to the place all my life and could just about remember the last family who had lived there. Somewhere, I have a photo of me and the three children, all older then myself standing in front of the house. I was about five and wearing a horrible red and white polka dress. The two boys had been in jeans and t-shirts whilst their sister was in a white dress. As an only child, it had felt nice to be accepted into a bigger family.
Then one day they had vanished, left in the middle of the night never to return. No one knew what had happened nor did anyone try to find out. I guess I’d asked about it and my parents had probably told me they had moved away, but I had no memory of it. What I did know was that no for sale sign had ever appeared and the Stenham house had been left to finish rotting away.
I walked around the back, the grass and flowers crunching under my boots. There seemed nothing menacing about the place in the bright summer sunshine. At night though the house became something else…Alive was the only way to describe it. Lights flashed on and off in windows, things were moved about, voices and crying could be heard but never fully made out.
A crow called out loudly, startling me. I looked up, saw flash of black on a window ledge and heard a flapping of wings. Not stopping, I rounded the corner. The back garden stretched like an unexplored jungle. Bees and other insects were buzzing about and a ginger cat was lurking in the shade of a tall bush. I walked into the middle, feeling a touch of dampness against my legs.
The roof had caved in and I could see slices of the rooms on the upper two floors. A thin curtain was fluttering in the breeze and a piece of pattern wallpaper was also moving in the first room. There was the edge of a wardrobe in the second window and the possible grey frame of a bed in the third. On the next floor, I could see children’s wallpaper peeling away and the edge of a wooden bed frame.
I fell into thinking whilst I took this all in. Everyone knew the story of the Stenham house, it was something of a legend in my town. Though really, no one was sure of the whole truth. The house had been built for Doctor James Stenham who had moved from the city with his wife who was also a doctor and their four children in the late 1800’s. They had held clinic in the house and offered illegal services, like abortions.
Across the next ten years, first the children one after the other then his wife died. Stenham tried to save them all though experiments which often involved other dying people, corpses and animals. He went insane, convinced he could bring them all back if he could just discover how to do it. He kept pet crows for company and barely talked to anyone.
Thirty years later, he was found dead at the bottom of the staircase. It had been made to look like he had fallen but he had been murdered. The rumour was Stenham had been killed by a man avenging his lover’s the death after the illegal abortion the doctor had given her.
From then on, only a few people had lived in the house and they had reported the place as being haunted. It had never seemed to be bother me expected for finding it harder to make friends and children telling me strange stories about the house next door. I had never heard the babies crying, the woman wailing or the screams in the dead of night. Nor had I seen the lights flashing in the windows, the sounds of furniture being moved or the footsteps. Perhaps, though I hadn’t been listening hard enough.
Coming back the front, I spotted a crow watching me from the collapsing porch. The black of it’s feathers and eyes looked out of place against all the green. The crow called loudly at me as if warning me to stay away. Keeping to the edge of the grass, I walked back to the pavement. When I reached it, I turned and saw that the crow had been joined by eight others. They were silently watching me.
Hurrying away, I went to say goodbye to the old woman who lived opposite the Stenham house. She had been a good neighbour and my babysitter for many years. I knocked on the door of her nicely kept house and waited for her to answer. I stole a few glances over my shoulder and saw the crows were still there.
(Inspired from: https://mindlovemiserysmenagerie.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/first-line-friday-26-05-17 with thanks)