Many and dark are the nightmares of my childhood, etched forever in graphic detail and filed away in boxes marked ‘DO NOT OPEN’ in the darkest corners of my mind. Such was the frequency of these disturbing night episodes that my youthful mind was forced to develop strategies for coping with them that didn’t involve waking with a fright.
I have no doubt that the house I spent my first seven years in was haunted, and my dreams provided innumerable open doors for the supernatural entity that infested our home to leach into my consciousness where it could inflict misery and mental torture, the effects of which would remain with me long after the night episodes were past.
As I became more accustomed to the nightmares that plagued me almost every night, they seemed to change and adapt to better take me unawares. A dream would begin as a happy experience, with me laughing, playing hide and seek or some other childhood game, then suddenly descend rapidly into something quite horrible.
While hiding in the wardrobe I would suddenly hear another person breathing in the dark beside me. Frantically, I would try to open the wardrobe door to escape into the bright, sunlit room, but of course, the door would be stuck. Cold fingers would touch my hair and face and then grab my throat and squeeze. At that point I would wake up and run to my parents’ bedroom, diving in between them for a few minutes brief respite, until forced to return to my own cold, unwelcoming bed.
Strangulation was almost always the endgame in these episodes. I eventually learned that whilst dreaming it is best to avoid cupboards and unfamiliar doors; they were usually just a trick to separate me from my dream companions and take me to a place where bad things would happen, culminating in the cold clammy fingers of my unseen tormenter grasping for my windpipe.
As I became increasingly wary, the dreams would change subtly and the kind faces of those I loved and trusted would be replaced mid-dream by hostile angry figures oozing with dark malevolent purpose. I would realise then what was happening, that my dream had been ambushed, and the dream was becoming a nightmare. I discovered then that by sheer force of will I could change the course of events in my dream, change the people back to friends.
My bedroom held other terrors for my fertile imagination to seize upon; at least that is what my parents perceived as the source of my ‘stories’. Above my bed was a shelf, and on that shelf I kept my gloves, amongst other things. My mother thought the shelf a good place to put them, as they were easy to find and in plain view. One night, while lying in my bed with my eyes squeezed shut, waiting for sleep to take me, I was startled by the soft thud of my gloves landing on my face.
I didn’t immediately make any connection, between the gloves and the entity that tortured me, but after the glove fall became a regular night event I realised what was happening and began to place heavy objects on them to prevent them from moving on their own.
Learning to control my dreams brought me a degree of respite from whatever it was, but didn’t entirely keep it at bay. My bed was in a corner of the room with a wall to my head and another on my right hand side. The mattress I slept on had rounded corners that left a yawning triangle of darkness in the corner where the curve of the mattress didn’t meet the walls. As I lay in my bed one night, I felt the icy grip of the cold hand from my dreams suddenly grasping at my throat. I squirmed away in terror, turning my head towards my attacker even as I slid desperately away from it. The hand let go instantly and from the corner of my eye I saw a glimpse of something pale disappearing down that dark triangle at the corner of my bed. From that night on, I slept with a pillow stuffed deep into that hole, to keep the creature at bay. Once or twice after that I forgot the pillow and suffered the waking attack, but I had by then acquired a reputation as a fantasist in our house and I eventually stopped telling my family about the assaults.
The events that took place in that house were too many to catalogue here and I have mentioned just a few for the sake of brevity. I don’t know what it was that bridged the gap between my waking days and my tortured nights and I would love to say that when we finally left that house, the episodes stopped – but they didn’t.
My phantom stalker pursued me to our next home where it continued its campaign for some years after, with gradually declining frequency. Eventually, sometime around puberty, the visits stopped altogether and I was left with nothing more than a fear of the dark, which I have (almost) completely overcome, and an appreciation that there are some dark things in this world that defy any logical explanation.
If you have had anything similar that has happened to you, I would love to hear about your experiences, good or bad. Perhaps you feel embarrassed to admit openly what occurred for fear of being labelled a fruitcake, if so, that’s fine. You can send me an email if you like to firstname.lastname@example.org and I promise I will treat your correspondence with complete discretion.
Thanks for reading. J