Jenene and I drove up the long dusty driveway toward what was to be our new rental home. The garden was overgrown and the house, although recently painted a dull red with white trim, had a general outlook of disrepair. The property, like the Amityville house, had an eerily foreboding feel.
I should have gone with my intuition and turned the car around but as so often happens in these unearthly circumstances I was lured to this house by an elusive pull, it seduced me then attracted me in like a magnet. This house wanted us there.
My bedroom was near the front door and shared an interior wall with an outside room, one of many that had been added-on over the years. The only entrance to this spare room was from the outside via the living area so we used this space to neatly store the empty boxes from our recent move.
Jenene and I were friends throughout high school; she’s vivacious, funny, gorgeous inside and out and has always been the life of the party. We’d often walk home from school together as we lived on the same street in Launceston; it was during these walks that we’d plan our weekend shenanigans. This included what we’d wear to wherever we were going, what lipstick, perfume and underwear fitted the occasion, and who amongst our male friends looked appealing. Yes, we were high school girls on a mission and by the time we graduated we were more than educated in social aptitude.
And so it was that in the red house on the hill Jenene took the bedroom opposite mine and another couple who did their best to pretend they were ‘just friends,’ moved into an area off the kitchen complete with it’s own bathroom. They weren’t around that often, choosing to go camping most weekends, so Jenene and I basically had the rambling old house to our selves, or so we thought…
It was on one such weekend that I woke up in the wee hours of the morning to what sounded like my cat chasing a small buffalo around my bedroom. Through a one-too-many-glass-of-red-wine-haze, I mumbled at him to stop, but it didn’t help. Begrudgingly I turned on my bedside lamp and raised my heavy head to see what was going on.
But my kitty was not chasing buffalo; he was crouched down on the bed beside me hissing through extended fangs. Next to the cat was my boxer dog, snarling with a deep growl lingering in her throat - both animals were staring at the fireplace with their coats standing vertical. I followed their gaze and noticed large clumps of dirt falling down the chimney onto ceramic pots I had on display in the hearth, one of which had just been smashed. My first instinct was that there was a possum stuck in the chimney but the chill that crept over my skin was telling me something very different.
Not wanting to dwell on words such as paranormal, apparitions and poltergeists, I forced myself to stay focused in the here and now while my heart pounded, sending blood rushing with speed through my veins warning my mind to be vigilant. Fear is silent and sharp, intense, and unyielding.
“Well, do something,” my dog whimpered, “and make it quick.” Great, that’s all I needed, a scared stiff drooling boxer farting herself into a frenzy while the possibility of danger neared. In hopes of getting some help or at least a witness to this phenomenon, I attempted to whisper-yell for Jenene, but unfortunately nothing came out of my mouth.
My cat seemed to be doing his best imitation of Linda Blair in the Exorcist and for a moment I wondered if he actually was possessed, but then I realized that with all of the excitement he’d decided it was the perfect time for him to cough up an enormous hairball.
I became aware of a dragging sound in the spare room next to mine, like someone was rearranging the moving boxes - at least this took my mind off the chimney and the frothy mound of gunk that now lay on the bed before me. The noise next door increased until it sounded as though every box in the room was being hurled against the wall that adjoined my bedroom. As the dog and cat scattered, I rolled out of bed onto the floor and began frantically combat crawling across the hallway to Jenene’s room.
“Jenene,” I whisper-yelled as I opened her bedroom door and stood up. One thing about Jenene - she sleeps through anything, anytime, anywhere. The intensity of the noise coming through the wall in my bedroom was rising - if it had a voice I’d call it violent, for it seemed that whatever was throwing the boxes around was getting angrier by the millisecond.
I gave Jenene a not so gentle shake that finally woke her up. Holding my hand over her mouth I shook my head silently pleading that she be quiet. By the look on her face I must have looked frantic as her expression went from pissed off at being woken, to confusion, followed by fear.
As I released my hand from Jenene’s mouth expletives escaped like verbal diarrhea before she asked what was making the racket. I whispered that I didn’t know, but maybe it was a possum, an intruder or a ghost. She said something about it being a bloody big possum before her face broke into a kind of crazy smile. “Oh no Jenene, don’t do that. Please?” My buddy used to have a strange habit of bursting into a fit of giggles whenever she felt herself in a situation that was out of her control or frightening – like once when our kitchen was on fire.
“Jenene, I don’t want to have to slap you.” She gently bit down on her lower lip and managed to pull herself together then suggested that we go into the lounge room and take a peak out the window to see what was going on.
Silently we crept along the dark passage and into the lounge room like two cat burglars then gingerly peaked through the window toward the dreaded room. Much to our astonishment the door to the junk room was closed, but the noise was becoming even more intense. Jenene suggested rather nonchalantly as she stared at me, that one of us should perhaps just run and shove the door open and see what was going on. I thought to myself, “good idea, Sherlock, now off you go, be my guest.”
After it was unanimously decided that neither of us was going to be volunteering for that job, we grabbed the mop and broom and decided that on the count of three we’d both open the door to the living room, charge full speed ahead and shove our weapons against the door then run like hell back inside. This would give whatever or whomever it was time to get out and us time to get safely back inside the living room.
So here’s the picture – two bare-footed young ladies in skimpy nighties armed with flashlights, a broom and a mop with absolutely no idea what they were about to confront. In hindsight perhaps grabbing the car keys and getting the hell out of there would have been a smarter idea.
I realized I was actually more scared of what we wouldn’t see (as in poltergeist), rather than what might be visible. Something about this situation just didn’t feel right and I had a nagging feeling that this was about anger or revenge, but I wasn’t about to go entirely ethereal on Jenene.
Giving each other a nod, we counted to three then charged like two ninjas toward the room. We shoved our weapons into the door, which opened easily, then raced back inside screaming like a couple of banshees.
Panting like wild horses with our adrenalin running amuck we stared ahead and were confronted with… nothing. No boxes being thrown, no zombie-deranged possum – nothing - but it was bone-chilling cold and everything about the night was suddenly awkwardly still and eerily silent. It felt like the life had been sucked out of everything around us. We grabbed each other’s hands and gestured that we’d better go investigate the room.
Nervously we crept toward the open door, drawn in like moths to a flame. We shone our flashlights into the frigid room clueless as to what we’d see then turned on the light. The boxes were all neatly stacked just as we’d left them - no signs of animals, nothing, just cold, cold, air.
I have no recollection of how long we stood there but I couldn’t help think that by getting us into the room, whatever it was had succeeded in what it had set out to accomplish. We turned off the light and retreated into the lounge room.
Realizing how freakishly cold we both were we decided to scurry back to our bedrooms, grab our ugg boots, dressing gowns, blankets and pillows and hunker down in the lounge room together for the rest of the night, but not before we’d turned on every conceivable light in the house. Medicinal Johnnie Walker and Bacardi helped calm our heightened nerves as we sat on the couch together huddled up in blankets with our cats and dog. We replayed the evening’s events over and over again until the alcohol took effect, drowning out our tension and immersing us into sleep.
The next few weeks our lives seemed to get back to some sense of normality, until one night as we sat watching TV the deafening sound of breaking glass in the next room completely freaked us out. The room where the noise had erupted from was in the center of the house and felt more like a passage than a usable room. Against one wall was a fireplace trimmed with a pretty mantelpiece on which Jenene had placed knick-knacks that she’d collected. Above the mantle hung a gold mirror that my mum and dad had given me. I really liked that mirror, but now it lay in a million pieces on the carpet in front of the fireplace.
For a moment we thought the wire holding it up had broken but it was still in tact. Upon further investigation we realized that not one of Jenene’s collectibles had moved, they were all still sitting on the mantelpiece undisturbed. If the mirror had fallen, the knick-knacks would have been on the ground too, that left only one explanation. The mirror had been thrown violently and purposefully to the ground.
It was then that we noticed hundreds of baby spiders crawling over the walls, this was the catalyst that helped us decide to get the hell out of there, not ghosts or poltergeists - but tiny spiders. Through screams of hysteria we grabbed car keys and animals and headed over to my parents house on the next farm. A few days later we were packed and out of the house on the hill.
That happened just over thirty years ago and I think about that house and the events that happened there quite often. On my last trip back home my brother and I were chatting to the manager of the property in question and I asked him if anyone was living in the old place or if he knew of any strange goings on over there. “Well, luv – they say there’s a couple a babies buried up near that ‘ouse, and one time a bloke on ‘orseback went ridin’ up this lane right ‘ere and was never bloody ‘eard of again.” He continued as he pointed in the direction of the original homestead, a beautiful colonial stone farmhouse. “And that fancy ‘omestead gives me the bloody creeps – I always feel like I’m bein’ watched… but yeah, those poor babies. Yep, they’re up there somewhere I reckon – think it happened around the mid eighteen ‘undreds… sumpin’ like that. The whole bloody place is ‘aunted if y’ask me.” Turning toward me he continued, “Well, enjoy your visit.” Then he jumped in his ute and drove off down the lane.
The soil everywhere on the earth has a story to tell – a history of fates, love and everything in between. Maybe the faded red and white house on the hill had a tale to share and for a moment two teenage girls had their toes dangling in the darkened shadows of the collective unconscious. Personally, I think it’s possible that we experienced a rift in time, similar to the space-time-continuums aboard the USS Enterprise, and like Scotty, we couldn’t do much about it. And these days I tend to think twice before I enter a house where I feel that magnetic draw of the unknown, quite frankly - I value my sleep too much.