Things That Stamp About in the Night

          It was the Christmas when I was 15.  I usually shared a bedroom with my sister, but she was staying with relatives, so I had my bedroom to myself.  I went to bed last, and lay awake reading, my bedroom door closed.  Lying there, I heard my brother walk from his room to the bathroom.

         Then he walked from his room to the bathroom again -- only without first returning to his bedroom.  After that he went up and down the stairs several times – sometimes without bothering to come back up before going down again.  Sometimes he started down the stairs without having walked across the landing to get there.

          At first I explained these gaps in the footsteps as my inattention, but soon I started to be annoyed.  Sometimes the footsteps started inside a bedroom, sometimes outside the door.  They made circuits of the house – across the landing, down the stairs, back up the stairs and back along the landing.  They’d do this several times in a few minutes, sometimes walking up the stairs without going down them, or vice versa.

     It went on and on. A couple of times I called out, asking what was going on but no one ever answered me.

     In the early hours, I heard my baby brother start to cry. My parents woke. I heard my mother say something about baby-powder. It was downstairs, she said. My Dad said he would go and fetch it.

     I heard Dad get out of bed, walk across the bedroom and out of the door, across the landing and part way down the stairs. Then Mum called, "It's all right. It's up here." Dad turned and climbed back up the stairs and into the bedroom.

     Soon after that, I turned off my light and went to sleep.


The next morning, it being Christmas, everyone slept in and my mother and I were the first up.

     I asked her what on earth had been going on the night before. She didn't know what I was talking about.

     "All the tramping up and down and walking about the house," I said.

     She hadn't heard anything.

     I gave her an account of it, ending with how I'd heard Dad go half-way downstairs to fetch the baby-powder.

     "He never got out of bed," she said.


I couldn’t believe her.  She insisted that when the baby had cried, she had asked my Dad to fetch the powder, and he’d started to get out of bed – but then she’d found the powder, and Dad had lain down again.  He’d never left his bed, let alone walked out of his room, along the landing and down the stairs.

          I didn’t know what to think.  I had heard the footsteps.  I’d been awake and reading.  When my brother got up, I cross-examined him, but he swore that, not only had he heard no footsteps, but had never left his bed.
          But my Dad, when he got up, said yes, he’d heard the footsteps.  “I got up about four and went round the house, I was so sure somebody had got in.”  There was no break-in, but even after he’d returned to bed, he’d heard the footsteps for a while.  He’d eventually dismissed it as some kind of dream or imagination and gone to sleep.
          But we both heard the footsteps.  It made me uneasy to remember that I’d called out, demanding to know what was going on.  There’d been no answer – but what had ignored me?  I was glad I’d stayed in bed.
          I wasn’t scared at the time, as I had no doubt that the footsteps were being made by some member of my family – though I was puzzled by their continual roaming of the house, and the odd gaps in them.  If my father hadn’t heard them too, I would probably have dismissed them as imagination.
       Sleep well!