Stranger in the Night

By Chef Big_Sid

Around 2006 my girlfriend at the time, Chloe (now ex) and I were looking for a house to rent in Nottingham. We didn’t have much of a budget and most of the places we looked at were in really shitty areas or ridiculously small. We eventually found a place in a nice neighbourhood, that was easily big enough for the two of us. A red-brick Victorian semi-detached built in 1839. It was old and creepy, but big enough and cheap enough for us to decide to move in. The place was pretty run down and hadn’t really been modernised much. It still had single-glazed windows and a crap heating system, so it got very cold in the winter, to the point that ice would form on the inside of the windows.

When we moved in we shifted a lot of the landlords furniture and crap to make way for our own stuff. We were originally going to put this stuff into the attic, but it was really difficult to gain access to it. The way into the attic was through a hatch in the ceiling of a closet outside of the master bedroom and the ceilings in the house were so high we could barely reach up even standing on a table, so neither of us fancied trying to maneuver large objects up there. We just piled stuff up in one of the spare rooms. This was our first place together, so it was quite nice to have a home to call our own, even if it was only rented. However, We both worked odd shifts, so many nights, one of us would be alone in the house while the other was at work.

Chloe started complaining that she was hearing creaking and bumping noises in the middle of the night. I tried to reassure her that the house was old and was bound to make some odd noises as the temperature changed but she always seemed nervous whenever I was working nights and she was going to be home alone. She started spending some nights staying with friends nearby, just to avoid sleeping in the house alone. I just thought she was getting upset over nothing. One night, I was at home on my own, in bed trying to fall asleep, Chloe was working a night shift when I heard a sneeze. I wasn’t sure if I’d dreamt it or actually heard it. I assumed If I had heard it, it must have been someone walking down the street outside.

Things went on like this for a while, we both felt a bit uneasy staying in the house on our own at night and I think it started taking a bit of a toll on our relationship, possibly combined with the fact our shift patterns meant we were usually only sleeping together for one of two nights a week.

The lock on the front door was broken since we’d moved in so we’d bolted it from the inside, and were using the back door to get in and out of the house. Only one of the deadbolts on the front door was working, the other was jammed. The back door had a single flimsy lock, so seeing as how at the time Nottingham was burglary capital of the UK and how Chloe was uneasy enough as it was, I decided to fit some new deadbolts to both the front and back doors. I reminded Chloe that she must be sure to lock them before going to bed, but that she would have to get up in the morning to unlock them so I could get back in after work.

Every morning I’d arrive home from work and be able to get into the house because the deadbolts were unlocked. Most mornings Chloe would already be up, but on a couple of occasions she was still fast asleep when I went to the bedroom. I had gotten annoyed with her for forgetting to bolt the door but on each occasion she swore she had bolted it. She assumed she must have been getting up early in the morning, still half asleep on autopilot, going downstairs, unbolting the door and going back to bed. I assumed she was just forgetting to lock the door properly at night.

Chloe confronted me one day and asked me why I kept messing with her phone, and asking me if I was spying on her or didn’t trust her. This took me by surprise because I hadn’t touched her phone to my knowledge. She accused me of deleting text messages and photos from the phone. I denied this, but she didn’t seem to believe me.

One weekend I was working nights yet again and Chloe was at home. She’d arranged to meet up with some friends and go out for drinks. In the early hours of the morning I got a hysterical call from a clearly scared and clearly drunk Chloe telling me that there was someone in our house. I had an overwhelming feeling of dread. I worked fifty miles away from home, it would take me the best part of an hour to get back. I’d assumed she was inside the house when she’d called, but thankfully she wasn’t. Once I got her to calm down and explain what had happened, she said she’d been on her way back home after seeing her friends. The taxi had pulled up outside the house to drop her off, and she’d been just about to get out when she saw our bedroom light switch off and a figure move past the window inside the house. She freaked the fuck out and told the taxi driver to carry on driving, and was currently on her way to a friend’s house.

I told her to call the police. Later she called me back, the police were fucking useless as expected on a Saturday night in the UK. Too busy dealing with drunks to do anything else. She explained to them what had happened, they’d heard how drunk she was, confirmed that none of the occupants (e.g. me or her) were in the house, so therefore deduced that it was not a matter of life and death and could wait until later, gave her a crime number and told her some officers would be in touch.

I left work and headed home. I wasn’t going to sit there while someone stole all of our belongings, even though I assumed it would already be too late by the time I’d got back. As I got to within about 10 minutes of home, I called the police, quoted the crime number, explained who I was, told them I was going to the house and that if I found anyone inside that shouldn’t be there that they’d better make sure the officers that did eventually attend had a body bag in their car.

Strangely when I arrived home a police car was already there and two officers were stood on the driveway. One was shining a torch around while the other talked on his radio. I parked up, and went over to talk to them. I explained who I was, and what had happened. They told me that they could not see any signs of forced entry. I asked them if they would come into the house with me and have a look around to make sure all was well.

Once satisfied that there were no criminals hiding inside, they spent then next 10 minutes giving me a lecture about veiled threats involving body bags, drunken girlfriends seeing things and so on before a radio message came through to one of the officers and they hurriedly left, speeding off in their patrol car with the blue lights on. It was about 5AM by this point on Sunday morning and it was starting to get light. I wasn’t in any mood to sleep, and was still freaked out about the events of earlier. I called Chloe but her phone was off, I left her a voicemail explaining that I was home, police had looked around with me and everything was safe. I sat in the living room watching TV and drinking coffee while the sun came up.

At about 9AM a taxi pulled up at the end of the driveway and out of it climbed Chloe, looking a bit disheveled. She walked into the house bare footed, holding her high heels in her hand and just started crying and shaking uncontrollably. She was so sure of what she’d seen, she was convinced she was going to come home to find all of our valuables taken and windows smashed or door locks forced. Now she realised nothing of the sort had happened, she was now convinced she was going insane. I tried to put it down to her being drunk, or maybe a weird reflection in the window of the taxi had made her think she’d seen something, but she was insistent about what she’d seen. Eventually I stopped trying to reason with her, because she was just getting more and more upset. Eventually, she cried herself to sleep in my arms as we sat on the sofa.

I took a few days off work, so I could be at home with Chloe. Things started to settle down a little and seemed to be getting back to normal after a few days. I eventually went back to work, and Chloe said she was OK being by herself at home during the night. I didn’t believe her, but I had to go back to work. They’d been pretty good about it all, and had let me take special leave but after a week they started calling me asking when I might be able to come back otherwise I’d have to go on unpaid leave which we could not afford.

The morning after my first night back at work, I got home and could not get into the house. The door was bolted from the inside. I tried calling Chloe’s phone but it eventually went to voicemail. I stood below our bedroom window and shouted for her. There was no reply. I peered in through the downstairs windows but couldn’t see Chloe anywhere. I went back around to the back door and was about to try and break it down, when I glanced up and noticed a ghostly white face peering through the frosted glass of the bathroom window above me. I called out to Chloe. There was no reply, but now I could hear sobbing coming from inside the house.

I unlocked the main lock of the back door, pried a paving slab out of the lawn with my bare hands and used it to smash my way through the deadbolts. I struck the door at the bottom where I knew one of the bolts was and heard a loud crack as the wood gave way. I did the same at the top of the door and it flew open, bouncing back towards me and nearly knocking me out in the process. I ran up the stairs, calling out to Chloe. I could hear sobbing coming from the bathroom. The door was locked. I drove my shoulder into the door, as hard as I could and it burst open as the small privacy lock gave way.

Inside I found Chloe, sitting naked in a bath full of water, with her knees up to her chin and her arms wrapped around her legs, rocking back and forth, crying, shaking from cold and fear and as white as porcelain. I grabbed a towel and scooped her up in it. She was ice cold and just had an empty look in her eyes but was otherwise seemingly unharmed. Several hours passed with me just holding her, until she stopped shivering and seemed to snap back to reality. Her skin had regained a healthy pinkish hue and after a few cups of tea, she finally began to tell me what had happened.

After I left for work, she’d gone to run a bath. After about an hour of relaxing in the tub, she was about to get out and dry off when she thought she heard footsteps on the landing outside the bathroom door. She sat quietly and listening. A shadow appeared along the crack under the door and someone whispered “Chlooooeeeee.” from right outside. At first she thought it was me, and that somehow I’d come home from work early and was trying to spook her and was just about to lay into me for being an arse hole after everything that had happened recently, but then louder the voice came again. “Chlooooeeeee”. She did not reply, because by now she was sure it wasn’t me. There was a knock at the door, like someone tapping it with their knuckles. Then louder banging as the door was punched by the unknown person on the other side. She froze. Her phone was not in the room, so she had no way to call for help, so she just sat there, being as quiet as possible while the voice outside taunted her. It called her names, said it was going to set fire to the house, going to break the door down and rape her. This went on for about 10 minutes, and after the voices stopped, Chloe had not been able to bring herself to leave the bathroom. She just sat and waited, and waited until I’d eventually come home and broke down the door. After the first incident, I think she somehow doubted herself, and she seemed genuinely uncertain if any of what had happened had actually happened or if it had all just been in her mind.

Chloe went to stay with her friends indefinitely. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, and was determined to prove one way or the other whether she really was going insane or someone was fucking with us. I spent the day re-securing the broken deadbolts on the back door, and then got busy setting up a laptop and webcam downstairs. I hid them on a bookshelf, and set the laptop up to record an image from the webcam every 5 seconds. The webcam had shitty low light ability but it was all I had. I headed off to work.

The next morning, I arrived home and cautiously went inside. I quietly crept through the house checking all of the rooms. No one was there. I rushed to the laptop to check through the images. There were in excess of 10,000 photos. I spent ages looking through the thumbnails, looking for anything that looked unusual. As far as I was concerned, I should have 10,000 identical photos of a dark empty room. In the end that’s what I had. I deleted the photos and set up the laptop again for the following night. This went on for about four days. Each time I would check through the pictures and find nothing.

Finally on the fifth morning, about 2,000 photos in, I saw something. Over the course of about 3 pictures, I could see a dark figure in the room. It looked like a man, about six feet tall. I could not make out anything about his features or clothing because of the quality of the pictures, but there was definitely someone in the house. The pictures showed the person coming down the stairs and heading towards the kitchen and the returning in the opposite direction and going back upstairs, rather than coming in from one of the external doors. I nearly lost my shit. My flesh began to crawl, I slammed the laptop lid shut, picked it up and RAN out of the house. I jumped in my car, locked the doors and called the police.

They arrived quickly this time, and I showed them the photos I had, explained everything that had happened over the last few weeks and begged them to turn my house upside down to find out who was hiding in there. Another police car arrived with two more officers in it, to make a total of four and they began a thorough search of the house while I waited outside chain smoking.

About 10 minutes later, two of the constables came outside looking worried. I asked them what they had found, but they told me to stay put, before hopping the garden fence and going to our neighbour’s front door. They banged on the door hard. “Police! Open the door!”, they yelled. After doing this a few times one of the officers kicked the door repeatedly until it burst open, shattering one of its small windows in the process and they both disappeared inside. Another police car turned up. Both of the officers, a man and woman got out and headed into our neighbours house. I still didn’t know what was going on, until about 15 minutes later when the female officer approached me, and asked me to come and sit in the back of the patrol car.

She explained to me that her colleagues had discovered the mortar missing from between the bricks in my attic. The bricks were loose and could be removed by hand. Upon removing the bricks, they were able to gain access to the attic of our neighbours house, but found that the hatch into the upstairs of the building was locked shut. When they gained access to the house, they found a man asleep in an upstairs bedroom, who they arrested on suspicion of unlawful entry and possession of a controlled substance.

They got in contact with the owner of the house to come and secure the place. It turned out that the house next door was supposed to be vacant. The landlord was currently looking for a new tenant he told me, having evicted the previous one months before after noise complaints and finding the house had been damaged. What had actually happened, is the old occupant had himself a set of keys cut, pretended to move out, and hidden in the attic then continued to live in the house, with some of his junkie friends and had removed the mortar from the bricks in the party wall of the attic so they could gain access to my house. Inside they’d apparently found hunting knives, needles and small quantities of drugs but the police had taken all of it was evidence. What they left behind, whether intentionally or just because they didn’t spot it, was a shrine to my girlfriend made of a stolen photo of her, one of her thongs and a lock of her hair that looked as though it had been neatly cut from her head. I never told her about that.


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