03 Jan The Manor House
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"The Manor House"Written by
Estimated reading time — 19 minutes
Let me start by saying that I’m no professional storyteller. I just have a story to tell.
Every summer my parent’s would drive from our home in rural Lincolnshire, to our holiday home in a little village in the West Norfolk coast. I won’t say where exactly, but it was a beautiful village, a ten-minute walk away from the beach. All the houses were made from Norfolk stone and flint, quiet, picturesque and the kind of place where everyone knows each other; there was a real sense of community. I loved it there. My house was in the heart of the village, it was called Manor Lodge because it used to be living quarters for the servants who worked in the Manor House that backed on to my garden. The Manor House had been abandoned since I could remember. No one ever went back there and no one knew who owned it, so it was just forgotten about. Left to become derelict.
I would spend my time playing with my friends Dylan and Peggy, their parents had holiday caravans on the main site in the village so we spent a lot of time together in the school holidays. We would ride our bikes to the beach and play, or hang out in the park, typical things 10-year-old kids would do. In 2001, it was normal for parents to let kids out unsupervised until dusk fell. That was our call to go home, before the darkness descended. And, seeing as we were in a safe village, no one really worried about us.
My story starts here. It was the beginning of the summer holidays and neither Dylan nor Peggy had arrived with their families for the summer. I had been at our house for a week already and I was bored so I went out into the garden to play. Our garden was fairly large, a few flower beds that my mum liked keeping herself busy with and a conservatory where my dad sat in a lounger and fell asleep in most days. The end of the garden was like a mini forest. Nothing major, save for a few small trees that I could hide under or make a den in. This particular morning I found the very end of the garden. A six-foot wooden fence sealing off the boundary. It was quite rotten and was clear that no one had been back here to check on it for quite some time. Now, me being me, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to kick a hole in the rotting wood and see what was on the other side; I was quite a curious and inquisitive kid so I just went for it.
When I made a hole big enough I wasted no time in scrambling through. I found myself in a small, overgrown field. Tall, yellowing grass and thistles dominated the expanse but it was quite easy to navigate my way through. I was tall for a 10-year-old so I could see over the top of it with ease. The Manor House was on my right. I had to stomp down a path to the middle of the field before the surrounding trees subsided and the house came into view. It was huge, more of a Mansion than a Manor. Dark red brick, brown, wooden window panes and covered in thick ivy. I carried on making my path until the field ended and a gravel driveway at the front of the house appeared. The front door was incredible. Painted black wood with cast iron decoration, it was like something out of a Harry Potter film. I noticed a small number 1 etched into the wood; I just assumed it was the house number.
I lifted the cast iron latch and tried to shove the door open but it must have been locked from the inside. On the right of the door, there was a window that looked into what I thought was the living room. I pressed my face to the glass trying to see inside. It was pretty much empty. Old-fashioned wallpaper had been ripped from the walls and there were crayons strewn all over the floor. It looked like a child had ripped the paper down so they could draw on the walls, but the room was so big I couldn’t quite make out what the drawings were. As I mentioned before, I was quite a curious kid, so I scouted the exterior of the house to try and find another way in. I carried on walking along the right-hand side of the house when I came to a small side door overgrown with ivy. We don’t have poison ivy in England so I knew I’d be ok pulling as much of it off the door as I could. You might think this was predictable, but this was genuinely what happened, as I pulled the ivy off the door I saw the latch was broken, it didn’t shut properly so it was ajar, ready for anyone to walk in.
Opening the door and stepping inside, I found myself in a small corridor that led to the living room and what I assumed was the kitchen beyond. I wanted to see the drawings so the living room was my first stop. As I entered, a pungent smell hit me, stale and damp, as if something had died in there. Holding my sleeve over my nose I walked up to the back wall where the drawings were and took a closer look. They were clearly a child’s drawings, simple but had enough detail to know what was happening. My eyes widened as I processed what it was I was seeing. They had drawn a story. A dark story. An expressionless, young girl, I think about my age, was pictured holding hands with a black silhouette of a man, he was terrifying. As my eyes scanned to the next drawing he was beating her with his bare fists, a punch reigning down onto her face, another showing him twisting her arms behind her back, her bones snapping like twigs; all the while the girl was completely expressionless. The last drawing was of the girl locked in a cupboard under the stairs. It looked like she was banging against the door, crying and trying to get out. It surprised me to see this was the only drawing she had an expression in; it was one of true desperation and fear. The man wasn’t in the last picture, but the child had started to write something in black crayon. The letters R U N were shakily drawn onto the wall, but before the child had a chance to finish the letter N it trailed off, the crayon mark furiously running across the wall as if being dragged away. I followed the crayon as it ran across and then down to where the wall met the floorboards. I wasn’t expecting there to be anything else but I was wrong. Splatters of deep red were at the end of the crayon trail as well as on the floor. It didn’t take a genius to realize what it was…Whoever drew those pictures died right after drawing the last one.
I ran. I ran as fast as my legs would carry me, right back through the side door, through the field and back into the safety of my garden. My mum was in the flower bed and saw my disheveled appearance.
“Are you okay, love? You look like you’ve seen a ghost back there!”
“I- I’m fine, mum. I just got a bit too into the game I was playing, that’s all.”
I hurried back into my house and didn’t come out for the rest of the day. Something bad happened in the Manor House, and I wanted to know what… But there was no way in hell I was going back there on my own.
* * * * * *
Dylan and Peggy arrived two days later. I hadn’t stopped thinking about what I saw in the Manor House. Who drew those pictures? What happened to them? Who was that man? These questions floated about in my head but I couldn’t figure it out with the little information I knew. I had to tell Dylan and Peggy, I wanted them to come with me.
The day after they arrived, they both came over to my house. “Guys, I have to tell you something but you have gotta’ promise not to tell your parents ok? Swear?” Dylan and Peggy both glanced at each other, obviously hooked on what I was going to tell them.
“Okay,” said Dylan. “What is it?”
“The Manor House…” I told them. “I went there two days ago. I saw… Well, I don’t really know what I saw, this is why we need to go back.”
Dylan was always keen for an adventure, Peggy not so much.
“Alice, what exactly did you see?” Peggy asked, a little unsure of what I was asking her.
“This is the thing,” I replied. “I saw drawings, kids drawings, but they weren’t of dogs, or fairies, or anything like the stuff we draw Peg’s. They were… dark. The last one was just a word, RUN.”
My 10-year-old self couldn’t quite describe the menacing, murderous drawings accurately. But Peggy understood.
“Are you sure this is a good idea?” she asked both Dylan and I. “Won’t we get into trouble?”
“Oh, come on, Pegs!” Dylan exasperated at her. “This sounds awesome! Don’t you want to explore?”
“Fine! I’ll go, but I still don’t think it’s a good idea.” Peggy folded her arms and winced as she asked her next question.
“So, when are we going to do this?”
“Now!” I quickly answered back. “I need to figure this out guys and I don’t want to go alone. I’m scared.”
We walked down to the end of the garden, through the gap in the fence, followed the path to the graveled drive, and walked to the side door I found two days ago.
“Through here, follow me!” I beckoned to them. Both Peggy and Dylan followed and I showed them the drawings in the living room. “See?” I said. “What do you think?”
Dylan took a closer look. “I thought you said they stopped with the word ‘run?’” he said, confusion in his voice.
“It- it did.”
Underneath the word, there was a new picture. A little girl in a pink jacket was holding hands with the silhouetted man. It definitely wasn’t there the day before.
“Alice, I really don’t like this. Can we go?” Peggy said this with unease, like she was truly afraid. I didn’t understand why until two days later.
We made our way back into the hallway, and there he was. A tall, black silhouette of a man stood at the end of the hall blocking access to the main entrance hall. All three of us froze, staring into the only part of him that had any features; his gleaming white, evil eyes. The form moved towards us with a jolt. We turned and ran.
Panicked and in shock we raced through the field and I lost Dylan and Peggy.
My parents weren’t home when I made it back to my bedroom. I slumped down onto the bedroom floor, my back pressed against the door and tried to catch my breath. I assumed Dylan and Peggy made it out of the house as I was certain I heard them running after me. Kid’s didn’t have mobile phones back then so it wasn’t like I could text them to make sure they were okay. I had to just hope…
Dylan finally showed up two days later. His mum saw what state he had returned back to his caravan in and thought he was ill so kept him in for a couple of days until he appeared better. Neither of us had seen Peggy. We went to knock for her at her caravan but no one was home. Her parents were very sociable people, so they were probably at the beach or out with friends for the day so we didn’t think much of it.
Dylan and I played for most of the morning. Neither of us brought up the Manor House incident. I think we were both scared to even think about it, let alone talk about it. We were pretending as if nothing had happened and, to be honest, I was more than ok with it. This was probably the one time that my curiosity was curbed through pure, unadulterated fear.
As lunchtime approached, Dylan was getting ready to go home. He left his bike in my back garden so went to go get it.
“Uh, Alice, is that Peggy?”
I squinted to the trees at the very back of the garden and sure enough there she was!
“Oh my god, Pegs!” I cried out. “Where have you been? We called for you but no one was there.”
Peggy smiled. “I’m okay,” she said. “I’ve been playing in the field. Come and play.”
Peggy disappeared back into the trees so Dylan and I followed, eager not to lose her again. We were all stood in the overgrown field, unsure of what to do next.
“I keep thinking about the Manor House,” Peggy casually told us, shocking both Dylan and me.
Peggy seemed so afraid the last time we went, and now Dylan and I were afraid too. How could she seem so nonchalant about what happened?
“Really?” I replied. “Why?”
“I don’t know. I just feel drawn to it. I want to go back inside. Come with me?”
She was very eager for us to say yes, so we reluctantly agreed. Were we mad?! Two days ago we were running from an evil presence in that house and now we were going back?! It was classic, ‘Don’t go in there!’ horror story moment, but we stupidly did it anyway.
We slowly walked up to the front door and decided what to do next. I surveyed my surroundings again, familiarising myself with quick exit routes should I need to run again, when I noticed the number 1 on the doorway was scratched out, and in its place was a freshly etched number “2.” Weird, I thought.
I refused to go back into the living room so this time we chose to explore the kitchen. Peggy seemed a little more anxious now she was back inside the house, which although was a bad thing, it was more normal than her carefree attitude to the situation outside; that unnerved me much more.
The kitchen was tidy, no plates or bowls, kitchen equipment or anything like that left around, but an inch thick layer of dust coated the counters, cupboard doors hung off of their brackets and mice droppings everywhere. It looked like it hadn’t been touched for years. Strange considering someone must have been living here, I mean, who else could’ve added that drawing in the living room? Or changed the door number to “2?”
We had a look in some of the cupboards, wiping away the dust but found nothing unusual or out of the ordinary. Dylan kept a lookout for the silhouette man, but he never showed. Maybe we imagined it? As I was scoping out a cupboard that was full of canned food from 1902, Dylan called out to us, laughing.
“Guys, a crayon just rolled through the doorway…”
“Ha, we’re in a creepy house, you’d think something more frightening would appear through the door than a crayon!” I replied trying to stifle my laughs. Although I was scared, I took this opportunity to laugh down the situation we were in, making it appear like I was less frightened than I was, and to be honest, laughing at a crayon was helping.
I followed Dylan through the kitchen side door that led into the main entrance hall. It was a large room with a double staircase to the right side, double doors that led out into a courtyard at the rear and the dark wooden door with the cast iron decorations to the front. The door was bolted shut from the inside; that’s why I couldn’t get in the first time I came here. Dylan was stood by the side of the stairs, holding the black crayon that rolled into the kitchen. The stairs cupboard door was open and he was transfixed on whatever it was that was inside.
“Dylan? What’s the matter?” I asked as I walked up to stand next to him. When I saw what was inside the cupboard under the stairs I gasped.
The walls were covered with bloody fingernail scratches, like someone had desperately tried to get out. I instantly remembered the drawing in the living room of the terrified little girl locked in the cupboard under the stairs. This blood was fresh… The person’s fingernails had come off on to the wall they had scratched so much. It was a scene of absolute horror. In a state of disbelief, I noticed something crumpled in a pile on the floor of the cupboard.
“Dylan, what’s that?”
Dylan bent down to pick up the heap of pink material and we realized.
“Wasn’t Peggy wearing this jacket when we came here the other day?” Dylan asked me.
She was. Peggy’s pink jacket was now on the floor of the cupboard under the stairs, soaked in still wet blood. And above it on the only clean patch of wall was a drawing of the silhouette man, his eyes boring into us like he was coming for us next.
A scream erupted throughout the house and that was all it took to jolt Dylan and I from our shocked states and once again run from the house. Dylan dropped Peggy’s jacket and sprinted to go back through the kitchen and out the side door, but our pathway was blocked.
Silhouette man was stood in the kitchen doorway, this time grinning at us; he made no other movement which rattled me to the core. Why didn’t he come for us? Thinking quickly, I remembered the front door could be unbolted from the inside. Dylan followed me to the door and helped me with cast iron bolts. They were heavy and stiff, I couldn’t have moved them on my own. When we saw daylight again I was relieved. The house was so dark and dingy it was easy to lose track of what time of day it was, and something about the light felt safe. I didn’t look back until I was once again in my garden, Dylan behind.
“Where’s Peggy?” I asked, panting and out of breath.
“I don’t know,” Dylan replied, equally as exhausted. “I thought she was following me, but I guess not.”
Just as he finished his sentence, my dad came out into the garden with Dylan’s parents and two police officers.
* * * * * *
“Alice, Dylan. You need to come inside. Now,” my dad demanded.
We obediently followed, thinking we were about to get the telling off of our lives for trespassing, but when one of the officers opened his mouth and started talking I was absolutely dumbfounded.
“Alice. Dylan. I’m sure you are aware by now your friend Peggy Langdon has been missing for two days. Have you seen her in the last 48 hours?”
I literally couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
“No, she hasn’t,” I replied in confusion. “She was just with us. We were exploring the Manor House. I know we shouldn’t have been in there, but she was honestly just with us!”
Dylan nodded furiously in agreement as I began to explain everything to the police officers.
“I went exploring on my own about five days ago. I got a bit freaked out because I saw some weird drawings on one of the walls in the house. Peggy and Dylan came back there with me so I could show them and it freaked them out too. That’s when we saw him. The silhouette man! We ran and then we all didn’t see each other for two days. Peggy showed up this morning in my garden and she wanted to go back to the house. We found blood and fingernails and a pink jacket we thought was Peggy’s under the stairs. We got scared and ran again. We’ve all just come back from there… At least, I thought we all came back…”
I trailed off realizing that when we got back to the garden Dylan pointed out that Peggy wasn’t with us.
“A pink jacket, did you say?”
“Yes,” Dylan replied. “It was in the cupboard under the stairs, along with the blood and the fingernails. We thought Peggy must have dropped it when we ran away the first time, she wasn’t wearing it when we saw her today.”
“Kids, Peggy was wearing a pink jacket the day she went missing. Are you sure she was with you today?”
I tried hard to think back to the first day we all went to the house; the day the police claim Peggy disappeared. And I remembered… As clear as day I remembered the new drawing in the living room. The drawing of the little girl in the pink jacket holding silhouette man’s hand. I remembered being freaked out that a new drawing had appeared. I remembered seeing silhouette man standing in the doorway of the living room, and I remembered me, Dylan and Peggy running. Peggy running in her pink jacket… Only, I lost them both when I returned to the garden.
“We were with her right up until I found the cupboard,” Dylan said.
I burst into tears at the realization my friend was gone. It all added up. But I was just with her!? My mum enveloped me in a hug and tried to soothe me but I was just inconsolable.
“We need to investigate the house immediately. If what you are saying is true, then that blood may belong to Peggy Langdon. Thank you for your time, kids. I’m so, so sorry this is happening to you.”
The two officers left and within the hour there were more police officers with their sniffer dogs, forensic tents going up and men in white overalls flooding our back garden; searching the fence and the Manor House for any clue as to where Peggy could have gone. That evening, the tents were taken down as quickly as they were put up and the police left the area. I didn’t understand. Didn’t investigations take a lot longer than a few hours? I was playing with Peggy at lunchtime and now it was almost 10 pm and the police had pretty much left. All but two officers remained and they looked extremely irritated. There was a knock on our front door and my mum answered.
“Mrs. Taylor, may we have a word with you and Alice?”
She called me down from the confines of my bedroom and the scalding began.
“Alice.” One of the officers addressed me. “Did you know it is against the law to waste police time?”
I obediently nodded and waited for him to carry on.
“Good. So you know that making up stories about your friend when they are missing is very wrong and scared her parents into thinking she was dead?”
At this remark, a look of bewilderment spread across my face and I couldn’t hide it even if I tried.
“I wasn’t making it up! It happened! I swear it did! I was with Peggy at lunchtime!” I couldn’t have sounded more exasperated if I tried. I couldn’t understand why he didn’t believe me until he spoke again.
“Alice, we searched that house for all the things you said. The blood, nails, even the drawings… There was nothing. Not a trace. We didn’t even find her pink jacket. There was no evidence to even suggest you, yourself, had been in that house.”
In frustration and anger, I screamed and I cried. What was happening? My head felt completely scrambled and I couldn’t make sense of anything that was going on. Reality was a blur now and I didn’t know what to believe. The icing on the cake what when the officer continued,
“We haven’t been able to find Dylan since we spoke to you both earlier. His mum found a black crayon in his room, but nothing else out of the ordinary. Do you know where he is?”
I shook my head and tried to speak through my sobs.
“He might be hiding at the park. He doesn’t like getting told off,” I managed to say.
“Thank you, Alice,” the officer replied. “And Mrs. Taylor, I think your child may have an overactive imagination. You might want to take her to see someone. Might be ADHD. You know what those kids are like…”
The officer shook his head at me then called his colleague to leave. I was still sobbing away in my mum’s arms. Fatigued and emotional my dad took me off of my mother and carried me upstairs to bed where my mum changed me into my yellow pajamas. I drifted off to sleep quickly through sheer exhaustion.
The next day passed fairly quickly. I slept for the majority of the day and refused to talk to anyone or come out of my room. Every hour I’d look out of my bedroom window to the back garden and try to relive what happened. Try to make sense of it, but no matter how hard I tried to organize the events in my mind, I just couldn’t. It was impossible.
At 6 o’clock in the evening, my parents announced they were going for dinner and tried to persuade me to come. I ignored them and after 15 minutes of trying, they left and told me to come and get them if I needed them. They were going to the pub next door to our house so weren’t far away. To be honest, I was glad for the peace and quiet. I took comfort in being alone, adult’s were untrustworthy in my mind now and their presence disgruntled me.
7 o’clock passed and I did my new ritual of looking out of the window to try and piece my thoughts together when I saw them…They were stood at the bottom of the garden waving at me, beckoning me to come outside. I rubbed my eyes in disbelief and looked again. Dusk was beginning to fall and the sky was an incredible burnt orange color, but it was still bright enough to make out who it was at the bottom of the garden. I sprinted out of my room, down the stairs and straight out the backdoor that led to the garden.
“Peggy! Dylan! I knew I wasn’t lying!”
I raced over to them but before I got there they ran into the trees and back through the hole I kicked in the fence. I chased after them in elation that I knew I wasn’t going mad, or fabricating stories about my friends. They were here, not missing, and I knew it! I knew it! I could hear Peggy laughing with delight, and I followed her giggles all the way to the front door of the house. The numbers 3 and 4 were now etched into the front door and I still couldn’t figure out why but at this point I didn’t care. I just wanted my friend’s back. I wanted to prove to everyone that I wasn’t lying. I hesitated at the front door a little while longer, remembering all the negative things that happened in this house until I was snapped back to reality by Dylan calling my name.
“Aaaliiccee!” he chanted. “Aaaliiccee!”
I took one last look at the beautiful summer night sky and proceeded to follow Dylan’s chant to the living room. No one was in there and the room fell silent upon my entrance. A wave of dread suddenly filled my body at the realization I never actually followed them into the house. I was here on my own. Looking over at the back wall the drawings were there clear as day, except this time, another new drawing was added. The picture of a girl in yellow pajamas with the number “4” scrawled above her head, holding silhouette man’s hand. It was me…
* * * * * *
“And that was the last time anyone saw Alice again,” Toby announced proudly as he retold ‘The legend of Alice Taylor’ to his little brother, Harry, and Lily his school friend.
Toby’s grandparents bought Manor Lodge, Alice’s former house, 5 years after her disappearance. Because of its background history, his grandparents bought it incredibly cheap. They knew the full story but they weren’t worried. Their child, Toby’s mum, was grown up and had moved out with her husband so it was just his grandparent’s that occupied the house. That was until his grandmother got dementia and kept wandering off… It was then that his grandfather decided to move them to assisted living accommodation and passed the house over to Toby’s parents. And then along came Toby, then Harry two years later.
Toby was a confident 13-year-old boy, he had a lot of friends and was well known within the village for being a bright, aspiring boy. The kids at the village school talked about Alice regularly and a few even claimed to have gone to the house but those kids were exposed to be lying when they couldn’t prove where they gained access. The house was well guarded with barbed wire fencing and ‘No Entry’ signs warning people away from the dangers the house might contain. Alice and her friends went missing roughly twenty years ago now and the village tried hard to forget. It was never brought up by adults and if anyone mentioned it, it was quickly shut down as a legend and untrue to protect the villages credibility and safety.
But Toby being Toby, he had other ideas. He wanted to the top dog of the school, and by proving he had gone to Manor House, he could gain that status. It would be easy for Toby, his house backed onto the Manor House after all. If anyone was likely to gain access it was him.
It was Saturday morning, around 9 am, and Toby, Lily, and Harry stole a pair of wire cutters from his dad’s toolbox in the garage and made their way to the end of the garden. A thick wire fence sealed off the boundary which Toby was able to cut through with ease. His dad would be furious when he found out he ruined the fence; It was incredibly expensive to put up. But at this point, Toby didn’t care. They all scurried through, being careful not to tear their clothes on the freshly cut wire, and found themselves in the overgrown field, just like in the legend…
“Okay,” Toby said with assertiveness, “we need to do what Alice did and make a path that leads to the middle of the field. Then we should see the house on the right. Ready?”
Both Harry and Lily shook their heads. They had heard the story countless times before on the school playground, and even though it was said to just be a legend, they still believed it enough to be put off from going there properly.
“Can’t we just watch from here?” Lily replied nervously.
Toby scoffed. “Fine, but I get to call you both wimps for the rest of the year!”
Lily and Harry were willing to take that risk. Being called a wimp was better than being arrested for trespassing. They helped Toby make a path to the middle of the field but stopped when they saw the house. Toby continued stomping down the grass, it was harder than it looked and he wondered how on earth a 10-year-old girl could manage to do this on her own, let alone a 13-year-old boy.
Eventually, he got to the gravel driveway and took a moment to catch his breath and take in the enormity of the Manor House. It was just like they described in the legend; dark and menacing. But this spurred Toby to investigate even more. He walked up to a window that caught his eye, something was glinting from inside. As he peered through he saw it was the kitchen, a steel saucepan hanging up on the wall glinting in the sun. On closer inspection, Toby noticed drawings all over the kitchen walls. It looked like a kid had drawn them with crayon.
“Who uses crayons anymore? Haha!” Toby laughed to himself, it was all about gel pens in school now, crayons were lame.
But nonetheless, he wanted to see what the drawings were a bit closer up. In the legend the drawings were in the living room; maybe the legend was wrong?
Alice was stood in the corner of the kitchen, hoping with all her might that the young boy outside the window could see her drawings; could see that the drawings were of him, locked in the cupboard under the stairs. But he appeared to ignore her warnings.
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you,” she whispered.
As Toby walked up to the huge front door he thought he heard a voice, but shook it off and told himself to stop being stupid. The legend wasn’t true after all. He stopped and took in the beautiful features of the door as he opened it. Dark slats with cast iron decoration and the number “5” etched into the wood.