Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Ghost in the Stairwell - Part 1

The following is a true story… I know because I was there…


The town centre of Trowbridge, all the streets, shops, offices, car parks and houses, is built upon the site of the old town castle. The castle itself was torn down hundreds of years ago and no obvious physical evidence remains. It can be traced from above quite easily though as many streets follow the route of its old walls and ditches.

Back in the late 1980s I worked for a well known supermarket chain and the branch I worked in was built more-or-less above the main castle site. As soon as I started working there other staff began telling me stories of various ghostly incidences which had occurred over the years, things moving, half-glimpsed figures walking through walls… you know the kind of thing. I dismissed it all as the usual tosh folk like to imagine… but rumour had it that the store was actually built above the old castle dungeons and was haunted by the spirits of poor souls who had died in various unimaginably horrible ways…

One Saturday in November I was working late. Now, these were the days when there was no 24 hour shopping, indeed hardly any evening shopping either. The store closed, like every other shop in town, at 5.30 on Saturdays. I was, at this time, manager of the stock control department. Almost all stock control was carried out first thing in the morning and the team of staff were all generally going home by 4pm, but we’d recently had a new computer system installed to finally drag us out of the dark days of pen, paper and sales calculations… needless to say, although it seemed state-of-the-art to us, it was a bit crap and required a hell of a lot of accurate data input.

I had elected to stay late, on my own, to do some overtime, working on into Saturday evening in order to get all the stock data updated. The stock control office was upstairs, next to the staff canteen. At about 4pm I shared a quick coffee break with the duty manager of the day, a young chap, Mr Crawford, who was fairly new to the store. Nice bloke as I recall, a bit soft but friendly enough. Afterwards I went back to the office and carried on.

The office itself was L-shaped with one door, the door had a face-height window in it. The computer station was round the corner from the doorway, so anyone working there was invisible to outside observers.

After a couple more hours I could see I was nowhere near finishing the job so I headed back out for another coffee and a smoke. (Of course this was when you could light up INDOORS in the workplace, thus ensuring that the chances of developing lung cancer were spread equally amongst smokers and non-smokers alike. Ah, happy days.) Entering the empty room I realised someone had switched all the lights off. I reached for the light switch but then realised the huge windows were enough to illuminate the room from the car park lights outside, it gave the place a kind of warm, soft, orangey glow which I rather liked, so I left the lights on, lit a fag and stood, musing, at the window while I smoked. Then I grabbed a mug of coffee and took it back into the office.

It did all seem very quiet but I knew the small team of twilight shelf-fillers were beavering away downstairs, getting the stock on the shelves ready for Monday (no Sunday trading in those days, oh however did we survive?!). I set my coffee down and carried on working.

At about 7pm I had finished all I could do and decided it was pub time. The twilight team were due to finish at 8 so I thought I’d slip away quietly and perhaps claim for an extra hour’s overtime if nobody spotted me on the way out…

I switched everything off and popped to the canteen for one last smoke - I did smoke very heavily in those days. Once I’d finished that I grabbed my long black raincoat from the cloakroom and headed for the stairs…

The stairway itself led down directly to staff reception, hence it was quite easy for staff to slip in and out unnoticed when there was only a small crew on and nobody manning the reception desk so I was still hopeful I wouldn’t be spotted and would be able to blag some extra overtime… I walked slowly onto the landing at the top of the stairs and peered down at the desk, wondering why the stair lights were also off… and there, next to the desk, was a dark figure, totally still, its white, ghostly face fixed on mine and piercing dark eyes stared up at me through the stygian gloom…


Part 2 to follow…

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