These events take place some 26 years ago, in the Winter of 1988. I’m 44 years old/young now, back then I was an 18 year old student returning home for the Christmas break. My Dad was 42 at the time, and is now in his late 60s.
My name is Paul Jones, and back in '88 I was a 1st year undergraduate student at Manchester, and visiting my family for Christmas back home in our small town in North Yorkshire. The town we lived in was basically an old village, but nowadays my parents lived on one of those purpose built (dare I say yuppy-ish estates) a couple of miles up the road from the old village itself. All 4 and 5 bed detached houses on some old farm land. An estate of about 30 or 40 houses populated by Yorkshire’s more affluent class at the time. My Dad was from the village originally, and when he'd made a good bit of money through his consultancy work, we moved back up that way. His dream you see , returning home but to a bigger place than the 2-up-2 down he grew up in.
Anyway, it was very cold Friday in December when he picked me up; drove all the way to Manchester for me which was nice. It took us about 2 hours to get home and we made it back for about 5pm. My Mum was out that night. She managed to get a job as a council officer in Leeds, for 3 days a week, and was on her work’s Christmas party down there. She was sharing the 30 mile cab journey home at about midnight with a couple of her new colleagues who lived reasonably close by.
All was well, my dad and I slumped on the couch when we arrived back. Switched on the TV and discussed dinner. His suggestion was a quick curry at home, then down to the pubs in the village for a couple of cheeky pints. Of course a couple meant 5 or 6 but it was all good. We had lots to talk about and he was keen to find out how University was going. Plus we’d always bump into a few of the local characters down in the village and have a good laugh.
My Dad rustled up one of his 30 minute homemade curries whilst I unpacked and had a quick bath. We scoffed it down, had a breather, and by about 7pm were ready amble down to the pub.
The pubs were in the village itself. Which was either a 2 mile walk round the roads, or cut through our estate, across the old farmer’s field and down over the river and through to the village – which approximately cuts the journey in half. In principle I have no issue with the latter route, it gets dark and muddy down there, and I very rarely do that particular trek if I’m on my own, but I’m not averse to it and it makes sense for 2 blokes to save time.
So off we go, at this time, 7:00pm it’s dark already, but there’s a few dog walkers down there and even some parents leading a few kids to something going on in the village. It’s a gorgeous winter night. Very cold, but dry, and with a slight, overhanging mist. Not obstructive, just picturesque.
We get into the nice warm pub at 7:30pm and spend until 11pm sipping ale and catching up. My Dad’s a great guy, a jack the lad in his day, 6 feet 2 and built like a heavyweight camp. But with extreme intelligence to compliment it. He aced grammar school and went to Oxford before working commerce in London, and later returning back up North when I was 10. He now owned a business and technology consultancy out of Leeds, but seldom had to work himself. A good gig if you can get it. Everyone in the village knew him and gave him an almost hero’s welcome when he returned. About 11:15 we left the premises and walked back up the road. It crossed my mind right then which route we’d take home. Don’t get me wrong, and I big lad myself, but to be honest, on my own, I’d have taken the long but well-lit route back. But my Dad diverted left up to the field instinctively.
The short cut itself was probably half a mile. Up a track. Across a field. Up another bit of track, past an old, abandoned school house, across the bridge, across another short bit of grass, then through an alleyway onto our estate.
It was extremely poorly lit. The only real light was our estate in the distance and an old, 1950s style lamppost just next to the river bridge. The bridge itself was about 30 feet long and 15 wide.
Anyway, with 5 or 6 ales is running through my blood – Dutch courage – I amble on walking just behind my Dad, up the narrow track, up to the field and making our way across it.
Now, as we come up to the second bit of track, I see what looks like a figure on the bridge – no big deal – someone walking a dog late, or having a cheeky cigarette away from their nagging wife, or whatever. Who knows? Anyway, we edge up towards the 2nd bit of track next to the bushes and past the old, creepy schoolhouse and I can see it’s a woman … which … just surprises me really. She looks elderly too, haggard in fact. My Dad doesn’t even seem to have noticed, he’s trudging away in front of me and his eyes aren’t as good as mine these days.
“Shit”, I think, who is this woman? I get a horrible feeling inside me that makes my veins turn to ice. We get right up to the bridge, under the lamppost and my Dad lifts his head up and visibly jolts ….. his arm actually swings back to stop me, then he edges forward. OH MY GOD I think, this woman is looking right at us, her face is indescribable. Her hair and skin look like they could fall off. And her grin is nothing short of pure menace. She looks a hundred years old, and is wearing a kind of faded black, overcoat. I feel terrified, her teeth look like shark’s teeth and she’s stood with her back to the bridge wall, just grinning at us. Not inanely, it has a kind of (and this sounds weird) “told you so” feel about it.
“What the hell do you want?”, my Dad barked loudly and firmly. I was now in a state of shock. I was trembling in fear. There was something wrong here. My Dad’s a tough guy. Too tough. A few months earlier a couple of hooligans had tried their luck mugging him in the city and he flattened them both in seconds. But .. I don’t believe it .. he’s scared!!! Now he’s scared??!! How is this possible? An old woman!!” I’ve NEVER seen him scared in my 18 years on this planet!!
“State your bloody business” he said, this time a little more composed but just as firmly. She grinned all dead eyed at us and we edged passed on the bridge, with him keeping himself between me and her the whole time. Luckily the bridge was pretty wide for its size, and we were never closer than, say 12, feet. We just edged past her and she didn’t stop looking at us once. Not even to blink. Her eyes were perfect white and black. Like looking at coal on a linen sheet. Her hair was like white wool. Thick and stringy, but kind of tough looking like rope. Her teeth, oh god her teeth! Sharp. Sharpened even. I couldn’t see a tongue. She was vile. Unholy looking. I was severely disturbed by her, and I was disturbed by my Dad’s fear. As we slowly crossed the bridge and entered the dark again my Dad refused to turn around and we actually went through the process of walking backwards, through the field all the way back to the alley that led us to our estate. Perhaps a whole 80 or 100 yards.
My blood ran cold and my heart was in my mouth. I nearly threw up. But I was confident that she didn’t follow us. We saw and heard nothing and you could still see her silhouette in the lamppost light on the bridge from the alley that we had now entered.
“It’s Ok, it’s OK” I’m thinking as we can almost feel the light behind us shining from our neighbourhood. But then, as we were kind of backing through the ginnel I glimpsed a dark, blind spot and OH MY GOD her face was there, SH!I T she had followed us, she was stood 6 f*cking feet away, somehow my Dad takes what I think was a swing with one hand and forces me back with the other whilst turning and we both run the remaining 20 yards back to our well lit street.
We burst out of the alleyway like a couple of man men, before hurriedly composing ourselves. “What the hell?” I gesture to my Dad. He ignores me and just pushes me along the road to our house which is probably 200 yards further up the street.
We bolt into the house, lock the doors and turn the lights on. We’re sat in our kitchen, one of those huge ones with the island in the middle, and my Dad is anxiously looking though all the windows.
“If this is a joke it aint f*cking funny” I say.
And I never swear in front of him, never in my life.
But he just mutters “it isn’t”.
He picks up the house phone and calls Ray. Ray is my Dad’s pal from childhood, a fellow villager who also returned after making a few quid, and who lives on the same estate.
“Ray, come over to mine, now!” my Dad says.
I hear muttering on the other end, as my Dad pours himself and me a shot of Scotch.
“No, now”! he orders then puts the phone down.
We sup our Scotch, well my Dad necks his and pours himself another, and in 2 minutes flat Ray is knocking on our door. He enters and my Dad locks it behind him.
He pours Ray a drink, and says to him in a voice I’d say was a cross between angry, perplexed and exhausted
“Guess who we’ve just seen down by the river”.
“Who?”, Ray says looking wide-eyed.
“Bloody Edith Chapman” my Dad responds.
Ray momentarily goes a colour I’d describe as blue/green with a hint of red. He puffs his cheeks out, and says “well, I don’t know what to say, Paul” (Paul also being my Dad’s name).
“It’s a bloody conundrum though, right?” my Dad responds.
I bark up, “who is she?”
“Edith Chapman” Ray says. “An old woman from the village”.
“Right?” I say inquisitively.
“Carry on”, my Dad chirps up, pouring another shot.
“Yeah”, Ray said,” hmmm, Edith is a very sad and disturbed woman. She’s very old, and lives in what is basically an abandoned cottage down by the river. I can’t believe she actually owns the thing, it’s decrepit to look at. She was once found in a villager’s bathroom late at night. A woman, Pauline Johnson it was, got up to go to the toilet, and she was there. I mean, can you imagine? I’m not 100% sure what happened with that case. Pauline died shortly after.”
“Bloody hell”, My Dad interjected, “that really happened??!! I remember the … rumour, but”
“Yeah it happened, it happened alright” replied Ray. “It was seldom spoke of because the case collapsed when Pauline died. And just to disturbing to contemplate. But it happened. She was caught walking around people’s houses with some regularity. Very disturbed. Edith was terrifying. None of us went near that bloody house. But that’s the least of it. The woman is some kind of witch or demon”
“What?” I said, “no way. How? What the hell?”
“IT always was”, Ray says. “You can’t kill what’s dead already” he sighs
“Come off it” my Dad interrupts sharply.
“Bloody true, Paul”. Rays fires back. “No-one, and I mean no-one knew where she came from. Legally speaking, she didn’t even exist. No records. No legal income of any kind. No employment. No birth records. Even her age was estimated on hearsay, it quoted birth as being 1920 in local document, and yet… well I’ll tell you story alright. Remember by Great Uncle William?
(I’ll just add here that Ray’s Great Uncle was a local man who became a very senior type of lawyer called a King’s (or latterly Queen’s) Council. He was born in the early 1890s and lived to a grand old age, dying only 18 months earlier, in 1987)
Ray continues ” 3 years ago I went up to visit him in his retirement cottage near Whitby. It was the last time I saw him. We were having a kind of off the cuff conversation about land being developed in Yorkshire, and here to be precise, and Uncle William said that the new developments will have to stretch all the way down to the river to cope with housing demand. I then casually mentioned that they’ll have to turf out the old crone if they do, and his eyes lit up”
“Who”? he asked abruptly. Despite being 90-odd years old at this point, and physically impaired, his mind was still razor sharp and I doubt he ever forgotten anything in his life.
“Edith, you know” Ray responded.
His Uncle looked stern. “Son, remember I told you about my life as a child, growing up on the outskirts of Harrogate. I was nearly 8 years old at the turn of the 20th century. Well, in the year 1900 Edith Chapman was a grown woman with some accumulation of years. If she was alive now she’d be 140 years old, at least”
“So we’re being chased by a 200 year old woman” I speak up.
“2000 year old demon more like” Ray replies. “That is not a woman”, not human”.
Right there and then the front door goes, we momentarily shit out pants before realising it’s my Mum coming home. We see her in outline, through the kitchen door and down the long hallway to the front door, were she signals something with her hand before sloping off upstairs. The time is now 12:30am and she’s no doubt drank half her weight in wine. “Best keep quiet” my Dad says.
We sit there talking quietly and contemplating for perhaps 45 minutes. We eventually calm ourselves down and go with the theory that it’s just a mad old crow and nothing supernatural, then SHIT, again, the phone rings.
“Who the bloody hell is this at this time?” my dad mutters.
He picks up the phone, “Hello”
“Hi Paul, it’s Mr Parsons, down the road”
(old Mr Parsons is a fella who lives about 5 miles away. He’s known our family since my Dad was a kid)
“Hello Mr Parsons”, as my Dad still to this day called him.
“Now don’t panic” Mr Parsons says “everything is OK and no-one is hurt”
“What the hell are you talking about?”, My dad asks in a pretty rude fashion, that was not typical to him at all
“Linda (My Mum, My Dad’s Wife), she’s here. Their cab skidded on the road and hit a curb. Took out one of the wheels so they’re stranded. I’ve had a drink but I’ll drop her and her colleagues off in the morning in the land rover”
My Dad drops the phone and a look of sheer, undiluted terror washes over his face. I was close enough to the phone to hear it all and there’s tears falling down my face. Ray was busy pouring a drink at the other end of the kitchen, My Dad looks at me and gestures down the hall towards the stairs. “Who .. . the fuck … is upstairs in our house?” he asks me. I’m in tears and I’m just shaking my head .
“Get the gun from the garage, Ray” my Dad says.
“What” ray replies
My Dad gives him a look that somehow manages to convey the whole story and Ray darts out the back door and towards the garage. My Dad and I just stand there and stare down the hallway towards the stairs.
Ray enters back in. My Dad snatches the gun and checks it’s loaded. Right, “Me first, follow behind” he says. “Stay together!”
We creep down the hallway and there’s uncanny deathly quiet. The sound of literally nothing. We reach the bottom step and prepare to turn the corner left that leads us to the top …
SHIIIT!!! OH GOD NO!!!! This creature is just stood at the top of the stairs, looking down at us, now wearing one of my Mum’s white dresses, it’s fucking her, she stands there grinning with pure evil at us. Stood on the top step facing downwards! Her face is worse than before. Distinctly not human. Beastly. Menacing. What the hell is going on?!!!
My Dad goes crazy, then her face turns from grinning to predator- like and she seems to plummet down towards us in for the kill. My Dad unloads the shotgun and the noise in incredible, I fall sideways banging my head on the bannister and I can hear the ringing in my ears. I hear and vaguely see the creature fling aside my Dad and Ray and we’re all subdued on the floor. The sheer terror as I feel vaguely conscious but now have the woman standing over us. I instinctively reach for the gun but as I grab it I don’t see her, there’s a prolonged piercing shriek that sounds like nothing of this world and that makes me feel like death is imminent, my Dad and Ray are trying to pick themselves up off the floor, both scramble and the front door is open and she’s gone .…
All 3 of us are suffering minor injuries and a great deal of shock. My Dad wants to pursue with the gun in hand but we hold him back and lock the doors.
The 3 of us spend all night awake, guarding the house until Mr Parsons, true to his word, drops my Mum off at about 8am.
By this time Ray has gone home and the gun is stashed under the stairs, but the whole stairway is littered with shot gun pellets and stinks of gunpowder .
We lie, I don’t know why, but we say we got home from the pub and though there was in intruder, but it was an animal, cat or fox or something. She’s displeased but seems to somehow swallow it on my Dad’s promise to have the whole area sorted and redecorated within the week.
I feel guilty because I didn’t go back home for 2 years after that. I met my parents at various places, London, Manchester, Spain, but never went back to the house and not long after, my parents retired early to the South of France.
All this has come back to me recently. In 1997 I got married and moved to nearby Lancashire where my Wife is from. Subsequently we’ve had 2 children and life has been very good to us. We’re very happy
Now this is where things get a bit … coincidental, my Wife’s best friend, after years of being a Brigit Jones style singleton, has just got engaged to a guy from my old village. His address …
… is MY PARENTS OLD HOUSE! I’m not going to lie, I nearly passed out when my Wife told me.
We’re invited up to a party on Saturday the 13th of December, in 2 weeks; the plan for the early part of the evening is that the ladies will sort out the dinner whilst the guys nip across the field and the river for a couple of pints in the village.
Credit To – LeeD