This is another passage from the spirit-writing of local psychic Keith Credge (1943-2004).
In the last years of his life, Mr Credge claimed he was taking dictation from lost souls during hundreds of trance sittings. Most of the writings are fragments but others take the form of complete narratives. Rose’s story is exceptional because parts of it have been verified (as far as these things can be) by the Society.
Out of respect for the surviving relatives, her surname and house number have been removed from the transcript.
Broughton Society for Paranormal Research, 31 October 2020
I’ve been alone in the dark for five thousand and twenty-two days now with nothing to do except get my thoughts in order, so I’m happy to tell my story and think I’ll do it well.
My name is Rose. I was brought up near Moor Lane, in a Salford suburb that was almost Prestwich. I knew this from an early age because my parents were incapable of saying where we lived without quickly adding that it was almost in Prestwich. When Engels came to Salford in the Nineteenth Century, he found an old man living in a pile of dung, and a critic would say it hasn’t changed much—but our corner of the city was nice enough. Maybe because it was almost Prestwich.
There isn’t much to say about my youth. My early memories are a jumble of dream logic and magical thinking, stitched together like a patchwork quilt. When I got older I folded it up and put it away. It’s still there in the back of my mind and it smells faintly of the sea and sun-cream. I find it a comfort in this dark place, where I’ve been stranded for five thousand and twenty-two days, with nothing to do except get my thoughts in order.
In adult life I was the senior editor of a publishing house, with a secret ambition to write my own literary fiction. My husband was a GP in Cowley. We were very comfortable in Oxford, but I wanted to retire to Greater Manchester because all my family were there. My husband was sceptical of Salford—”almost Prestwich” or otherwise—until a beautiful house came up for sale on Blackfield Lane.
We weren’t ready to retire but I thought we could rent it out in the meantime. My husband grumbled but acquiesced. Since it was my dream rather than his, we agreed that I would take the sabbatical to do it up. Thus I found myself boarding a train to Manchester on a cold wet day in November, full of ideas about real fires and oval rugs and crystal chandeliers.
It was raining when the taxi brought me to Blackfield Lane and it’s raining now. I can’t see it but I can hear it. The wind-whipped droplets, lashing the house like handfuls of rice.
I’m still here, you see. I vanished but I never left.
When I first arrived, it was already dark and raining hard. Great liquid sheets of it, hitting the ground like glass meteors. I put my jacket over my head and ran to the door, cursing the strange new keys as I fumbled with the lock.
When I finally got inside, the first thing to hit me was the smell of damp. I walked through the house in a horrified daze, tormenting myself with long deep sniffs. Where was it coming from? Would it ever go? What if a time came when we thought it was gone, but we’d just got used to it, and people were too polite to say?
I made my way through the house, opening all the windows. I wanted to catch something red-handed, like a leak in the ceiling or rising damp, but there was nothing obvious. Nothing at all. The whole place simply stank.
“Great,” I said out loud.
I plugged in a phone and got a dial tone, which was a small victory. We’d asked for the line to be re-connected but didn’t think it would be. Then I rang my husband to tell him about the smell.
“What about the rest of it?” he said.
I looked around.
“Well you saw it yourself,” I reminded him. “It’s quite presentable. If we’re having tenants, we can leave most of the rooms till we move in ourselves.”
“Are we, though? I don’t think we decided.”
“I suppose we didn’t. What do you think?”
There was a long pause.
“Well we don’t need the money,” he pointed out. “Do we?“
We agreed to discuss it another time, but I think we’d reached a point where neither of us could be bothered renting it out. It was a small weight off my shoulders, of the kind you don’t even notice till it’s gone.
I unrolled my inflatable mattress and bedded down in one of the rooms. It took a long time to get to sleep, and I began to wonder why I hadn’t booked a hotel for the first few nights—at least until I got a bed delivered—but I couldn’t go back in time. I just lay there feeling sorry for myself.
When I finally nodded off, I had a nightmare.
In my dreams it was raining. I watched in horror as countless leaks ran down the walls. Enormous drops of water welled up on the coving, leaving dark grey tracks as they skidded to the carpet. In places, the plaster was so damp it had turned to wet clay. I scooped it off in handfuls, trying to work out how bad it was.
Deeper and deeper I went into the wall. I couldn’t even find the brickwork beneath. I can’t remember what I did find, but I know I woke up screaming.
The next morning I explored the house properly, this time in a better frame of mind.
The previous owner had started to improve the property, apparently without much conviction. Here and there was evidence of half-finished work, like a bag of screws with the corner ripped off, or a dusty hammer stood on end. A post-it note with a plasterer’s number had fallen to the floor and curled up, like something that had died of old age.
I poked my head in the loft and was surprised to find a folding camp-bed. It looked a lot better than the inflatable mattress, so I lowered it through the hatch on the belt from my dressing gown. Then I went to a charity shop in Prestwich and paid for a chest of drawers, a small table, a jewellery box and a lamp. My plan was to put them in the room with the camp bed, just to make it more cosy in there.
I can still see them now. They’re set out before me, right where I left them. When morning comes, they’ll be thick with dust, like they were yesterday, and the day before, and the day before that. I’ve watched the dust settle for five thousand and twenty-two days, like a blizzard of snow in slow motion. Tomorrow, it will be be five thousand and twenty-three, and the dust will be a tiny bit thicker. This is how I live now—watching the dust as it fills the room.
By the end of the week, I wasn’t worried about the smell any more because it seemed to have gone. I was coming and going enough to think that, if it was still there, I’d at least notice when I came back from town. I put it down to the house being uninhabited for several months with no ventilation.
It was surprisingly hard to get contractors to come. A decorator poked his head in the bathroom and promised to get back to me with a quote, but I hadn’t heard back and felt I never would. I went to B&Q and had a long talk with them about a new kitchen, but they weren’t due to visit for a while.
In the meantime, my husband and I formally agreed that we wouldn’t bother looking for tenants, so I made a start on stripping the rooms and planning the décor. In the evenings, I half-heartedly worked on a novel I’d been trying to write for nearly eight years, which began with the joyless words, “The whole house smelled faintly of lamb but dinner was ruined.”
“I think I misjudged this,” I told my husband on the phone. “I thought I’d have a team of people to manage, but it’s all so slow. I need something to happen.”
I could tell he was smiling at the other end.
“Be careful what you wish for,” he reminded me.
That night I had another bad dream.
It was the same as the first one. All the plaster in the house had turned to wet mush. I clawed it off the walls in a blind panic, trying to work out how bad it was.
Before long, my fingers discovered something in the plaster. It was the brim of a hat, caked in wet cement. I wiped it clean then backed away in horror.
A living face was buried in the wall, with two bright eyes and a mouth like the moon.
It leered at me like the Cheshire Cat and I woke with a cry of fear.
When morning came, the room smelled of damp. I sat up stiffly and saw, to my horror, a huge wet patch by the window. It started at head height and went all the way to the floor.
I got up and went to investigate. It was almost the shape of a man. Halfway down the wall it split in two, making an uneven pair of legs.
“Great,” I said sarcastically.
I brushed my teeth and found a Yellow Pages. I tried eight builders and only one of them answered.
“I’ve got water coming in,” I told him.
“In through the ceiling or rising from the floor?”
“It’s starting half way up the wall.”
I could hear him checking a diary.
“I can’t get there till next Friday,” he said. “I can do—one o’ clock on Friday?”
It was far from ideal, but no one else answered so I had to take it. After I hung up I went through the whole house, obsessively sniffing and checking for leaks. I didn’t find any others but I postponed my plan to hang the new wallpaper. I felt irrationally sure that, wherever I put it, rain would come in and instantly ruin it.
The downpour continued on and off for the whole day. The damp patch didn’t grow or change shape. It just got darker.
On day ten, I woke to what I thought was an intruder in the corner of my room. When my head cleared and my heart stopped pounding, I saw that it was just the damp patch on the wall. It really was uncanny, the way it resembled a man. I could discern a head, shoulders, waist and legs, but it was just my brain looking for patterns. I struggled to remember the word for this and it suddenly came to me.
“Pareidolia,” I said in triumph.
I had no choice but to wait for the builder. In the meantime, I kept checking the damp. I’d never seen a leak at head height before. There must have been a crack in the bricks, I realised, because I could see the shape of the fissure where the water entered. It was a band of damp across the top of the head, like the brim of a hat. It gave me an eerie sense of déjà vu but I couldn’t think why.
After dinner, when I sat down to write, I put my long-suffering manuscript away and tried something new. “I had no choice but to wait for the builder,” I began. “In the meantime, I kept checking the damp.”
There was a peal of thunder and it started to rain.
The contractor postponed twice but eventually came to look at the leak.
“It’s through here,” I told him.
He stepped into the room and looked around.
“Right there,” I told him. “In the corner.”
“Which corner, sorry?”
I looked at him in surprise. He was blinking right at it.
Then my skin began to crawl because it was clear he couldn’t see it.
“That corner,” I said—pointing it out.
He went to check but seemed bemused.
“It looks fine,” he said.
I didn’t know what to say because it couldn’t have been more visible. Not to me, anyway. I was fearing for my sanity at this point but didn’t want to make a scene.
“Well it’s fine now,” I lied. “But that’s where it gets wet, when it rains.”
He pressed his hand to it, getting black he couldn’t see on the tips of his fingers.
“It feels dry enough,” he said. “So you won’t have to replaster, at least.”
“Well that’s good,” I said weakly.
He went through the motions and found a cracked slate at the edge of the extension roof. It wasn’t in the right place, but he gave me a rehearsed spiel about how water finds its own route, then offered to come back and fix it for eighty quid. After I accepted he left me in a daze.
Eventually I rang my husband.
“How did it go?”
“There was a cracked slate on the extension roof,” I heard myself say. “The water found its own route. He’s coming back to fix it.”
“I suppose you’ll need a plasterer next.”
“He didn’t think so.”
“Really? You said it was a right mess?”
I turned to look at the dark shape in the corner. It—or was it him?—seemed to be watching me.
“I must have been exaggerating,” I said.
For the next few days I seemed to move through life in a dream. I kept finding myself in the room with the damp patch, looking at in in confusion.
Before long, I no longer thought of it as a damp patch. Other people could see damp patches. It was simply the shape of a man with a hat. It reminded me of those shadows in Japan, etched onto buildings by nuclear fireballs. They were the outlines of people who had died, frozen in time in Nagasaki, or on the steps of a bank in Hiroshima. Mine was waiting by the window, loitering among the house plants.
But waiting for what?
I considered moving out, or at least picking another room to sleep in. For some reason I didn’t. A peculiar sort of fatalism had come over me. I don’t think I ever got over the shock of discovering that only I could see it. From that point on, I sleep-walked through my life, doing bits of DIY in the day and staring at the shadow in the night. Before long, it even had a face. Two bright eyes and a mouth like the moon, watching me from the corner of the room.
You’ve guessed by now that my story doesn’t have a happy ending. Whoever he was—whatever he was—a time came when he stepped off the wall and came to life. I woke in the middle of the night to find him standing at the foot of my camp-bed, grinning down at me.
When I tried to scream, he climbed on the mattress and pressed a cold hand over my mouth. The smell of mildew was so strong that I almost passed out.
Very dimly, I remember him lifting me from the bed and carrying me to the corner of the room. Then—somehow—he sealed me in the wall he’d come from. It gave way like porridge and swallowed me whole. He stood back to admire his handiwork then melted into nothing.
And here I remain. I can still see the room but I no longer have my former shape. I’m two-dimensional now, spread through the plaster like a web of spores—or maybe just a patch of damp.
From my strange new vantage point, I watched my husband, and then my sister, and then the police come to visit. I was powerless to call out to them. I saw them slowly give up on me. I watched in silence as dust filled the room and settled on my possessions.
I don’t know who the man was, or why he put me here, or where he went, but I strongly believe that my capture was the price of his freedom. It has a perverse sort of logic. One in, one out. The house must have its ghost. If you sleep here you will dream of me, just as I dreamed of him.
I’m waiting for the day when someone else buys the property and moves in. I’ll see if I can will myself into being, like he did, until I’m strong enough to step off the wall and seize my replacement. Then I’ll melt into darkness and simply go away. To heaven or hell, if such places are real, or the never-ending peace of non-existence, I cannot say.
In the meantime, I’ve been alone in the dark for five thousand and twenty-two days with nothing to do except get my thoughts in order. Tomorrow it will be be five thousand and twenty-three and the dust will be a tiny bit thicker. This is how I live now—watching the dust as it fills the room.
The narrative you just read was produced by Keith Credge over the course of four different sittings. After his death, it was edited it into a single document by volunteers at the Broughton Society for Paranormal Research. Edits were made to correct misspellings, redact personal details and remove duplicated material. Other than that, the original text was unchanged.
In recent years, we’ve established that a woman called Rose did indeed move from Oxford to Kersal and subsequently vanish. The house on Blackfield Lane remains in her family and is presently unoccupied—or, at the very least, has no living tenants.
Broughton Society for Paranormal Research, 31 October 2020
Ellis Reed, 01/11/2020