After the Tapping on the Window incident, things grew quiet. I had a few encounters in the following years, but nothing of note. It wasn’t until I was in my final year of primary school that I had my next true experience of the 'supernatural'
I was ten years old, and the school had planned a weekend away at a campsite bordering a vast forest. Having lived on the edge of one for some time, and considering what had happened there, the prospect wasn’t exactly appealing to me, but my whole class was going, and I wasn’t going to be the one weird kid who stayed at home whilst everyone else went off and had the time of their lives. So I went.
It is worth stating that the site wasn’t exactly what I was expecting, the word campsite implies bonfires, makeshift tents and sleeping bags; this place was more of a leisure centre situated on the edge of a forest. Not that I minded, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to sleeping in a cramped tent in the middle of nowhere. There were two dormitories, which were split up into boys and girls accordingly, not that any of us were all that interested in the opposite gender at that age.
We arrived later than planned at the site that evening, so that meant the trek into the forest was postponed to the next day and instead we sat through a dull two hour orientation before being allowed to retreat to our bunks. Did I mention we had bunk beds? Me and my friend Mark agreed we would take turns sleeping on the top bunk; the first night I was on top.
For some reason our teacher, Mr Gardner, who was supervising the visit seemed to think it was a good idea to tell us all a horror story before lights went out. Needless to say, the reaction was terror met with a stubbornness to show terror in an intensely childish way. The lights soon went out and Mr Gardner wished us all ‘goodnight’ before returning to wherever it was the teachers were staying. The dorm was deathly silent, there seemed to be no external noise whatsoever, the only sound was our collective breathing and snoring.
I lay awake, as I was accustomed to do in strange places, and let my mind wander. Mark seemed to have no trouble sleeping far beneath me as his breathing grew louder and somewhat more erratic as he fell deeper into sleep. The room was swelteringly hot and I could barely stand to stay under covers. It was when I came to the decision to remove the duvet that I heard something; something that wasn’t the sound of someone breathing. Footsteps. I looked around the room to see if anyone had gotten out of bed, seeing no-one, I placed my head back down on my pillow. No sooner had my ear touched the cloth than I heard the same sound again, only louder. There was no doubt now, the origin was outside, it had to be. I bolted up again and peered around the room, scrutinizing every bed. Had someone gone outside? Every bed was filled, no-one was absent; who was it? I listened intently for a while. I heard the footsteps grow ever closer and then start to pace back and forth past the building.
There were two doors to the dorm, one of them led straight outside, and that door remained locked during the night, the other led to the main centre and presumably where the teachers were staying. The footsteps would circle the building, coming to a stop when it reached the corridor that led to the main centre and would then return the other way. Occasionally they would stop for a few seconds right outside the door, and when they did, I held my breath.
I leant over the bannister and tried to wake Mark.
“Psst! Mark!” He stirred slightly, but it took some persistence to bring him to consciousness.
“What? What’s wrong?” he muttered, drowsy and barely awake.
“Listen… do you hear that?”
He stopped for a few seconds, listened, and then placed his head back on his pillow.
“Hear what?” The footsteps were louder than ever. There was no way he couldn’t hear them. The memory of my brother reawakened, and I dismissed the entire thing, if I made myself believe it wasn’t real, it would go away.
“Never mind- sorry.” Mark grunted back at me, and was asleep again in an instant. Despite my persistence and determination, the footsteps didn’t go away, but oddly, after some time, the sound no longer disturbed me, it became almost soothing, and I was able to finally rest.
The following day was the big hike through the forest. Due to my lack of sleep, dislike of forests and general uneasiness of the whole situation, I found myself dreading the upcoming trek, but as ever I continued with the crowd.
The hike was led by one of the site’s members, an middle aged man with greying sideburns and a slight limp as he walked, then there were two other teachers, Mr Gardner being one of them. Mr Gardner stayed generally with the centre of the group whilst the other teacher brought up the rear to make sure no-one lagged behind or got lost.
I have to admit, to my surprise, I rather enjoyed the experience on the whole. I had repressed, what I considered to be a rational fear, of forests, and therefore believed I would hate every moment of the trek, but in truth after the first ten minutes or so, I forgot all about my fears and suspicions.
It was only when we stopped for a break during the walk that I discovered Mr Gardener seemed to have something of an obsession with horror stories. We were all sat in a clearing, on the floor, listening to him speak of what he knew about the forest we were currently in.
“This forest is famous for one reason, and one reason alone,” he opened dramatically, “years and years ago, a family came camping in the forest, a father, a mother and their daughter, this was before the centre was here mind, they were fully fledged campers; none of these creature comforts you kids take for granted these days. They ventured deep into the forest and set up their tent, the day was clear, but when night came the weather turned and the tent was beaten relentlessly by the wind. It became so bad that the tent threatened to blow them away, even with the weight of them all inside it. As soon as the wind calmed down slightly the father resolved to return to the car and retrieve more nails to hold the tent down for the rest of their stay. Despite protests from both his daughter and his wife, he left quickly lest the weather turn on them again. It took him longer than he expected to make the journey, and it was dawn by the time he returned, only when he did return did he discover the camp site abandoned, with no trace of his family in sight. Stricken with worry and grief, he searched the forest relentlessly, and hopelessly, for them, but found no sign of them anywhere. Neglecting his own needs in despair for his family, he succumbed to dehydration. He died, but he still wanders through the woods each night, endlessly searching for the family he lost- for the family he abandoned.”
It was a good story, slightly illogical, but entertaining. Looking back, the story doesn’t frighten me in the slightest, but at the moment it was told, after hearing what I had heard the night previously, it scared me more than I cared to admit.
After the hike was done, and we returned to our dorms as night fell, I got that sickly feeling of fear deep in my stomach as Mr Gardner told us his horror stories and then turned out the lights. I don’t need to tell you that it happened again, I don’t need to tell you that the noise came again. I was on the bottom bunk that night, and for some reason, that made me feel all the more vulnerable. I heard the leaves crack and crunch under the boots patrolling outside, I heard the mud squelch and stick to the soles, I heard the careless scrape of someone dragging their feet. I was being ridiculous. It was probably just a member of staff patrolling the site, just a normal duty, just doing his job, how had I not thought of that before?
Because it didn’t feel- right.
At first I was afraid of the footsteps; then I grew bored of them, they were not harming anyone, so why should I care? It was only when I noticed a shadow passing the window that the fear came back. There wasn’t a shadow before… Oh god, there definitely wasn’t a shadow before.
I didn’t notice at the time, but there was no light that could possibly have projected a shadow outside, or inside for that matter, but I was so consumed by terror that I did not stop to consider this. Despite the impossibility, there it was, faint, but definitely there; a shadow systematically passing each window in time with the footsteps.
It was one thing to deny I had been hearing things, but I could now see with my own eyes that someone was out there. I woke Mark up by kicking the underneath of the top bunk.
“What now?” He asked, just a little too loudly, clearly frustrated for being woken up two nights in a row. Some of the other boys woke up due to Mark’s outburst, I didn’t care; I was too scared to take any mind of them.
“There’s someone outside!”
“Just look!” I pointed at the window the shadow was passing. Mark glimpsed at it with tired eyes.
“I don’t see nothing!”
“I think I saw something!” one of the boys from across the room stated. That was it then, it wasn’t long before the whole room erupted with some fearful and some annoyed chatter. Honestly, I was thankful for the fact I wasn’t alone in my consciousness, and in the midst of the talking the shadow and the footsteps faded away.
The next day consisted of cramming in literally as many of the centre’s activities as it was possible to do in one day. Whilst I enjoyed archery, rock-climbing and canoeing, to name a few, my participation was somewhat half-hearted due to my weariness. Most of the boys were also in a similar condition, the lack of sleep the night previously had drained us all. As darkness started to set in that night we all packed our things ready for an early departure the next morning.
That sick feeling only grew stronger the darker the day became. Something was coming, I knew it, but I didn’t know what ‘it’ was. If legend were true, there was a man out there, dead due to dehydration, searching for his lost family in our dorm. In my childish ignorance I believed that it might even be the case. Not that I cared all that much about the reasoning, all I could concentrate on was the fear, and the terrible anticipation.
The footsteps came later that night. They were clumsier, more uncertain; more real. To my shock, someone from across the room acknowledged the sound before I said anything.
“There’s someone outside!” There was suddenly a hushed, frightened murmur of agreement. Mark, who was usually such a natural sleeper, sat bolt upright in the bed, his eyes wide. The shadow was there too, stumbling instead of drifting, past the windows, one by one, footsteps dragging along behind it. It circled the dorm countless times. Everyone in the room seemed to be holding their breath, scarcely daring to breathe for the fear that whatever was outside would hear us inside, and want to come in.
We had all heard the story Mr Gardner had told, and at that point, we all believed it to be true, without a shadow of a doubt.
The footsteps made one final rotation around the building before stopping abruptly; directly in front of the door.
Silence permeated the room. The darkness seemed heavier than ever, thicker than fog. I don’t know how long that silence lasted. It felt like forever. But I know how it ended.
The whole room seemed to shake, vibrations rippling through every particle, invading every corner of our dorm.
Our reaction was exactly what you would expect. Panic erupted; screaming, shouting, crying.
Again, the sound was almost deafening in comparison to the footsteps. I could see the door tremble at the impact, even through the hindering darkness. Someone managed to locate the light switch and flicked it on. This did nothing. Now we could see, we could see the door threaten to break open at any second and let whatever it was out there; inside.
This continued for a while. Eventually it became apparent that whatever it was that was causing this noise, didn’t have any intention of coming inside, it was merely making noise. This did not lessen to fear, it merely meant that we understood even less than we thought.
Eventually a member of staff, along with a teacher, came to investigate what all the commotion was. Needless to say, they were just as terrified as we were, only they did their best to hide it.
They both approached the door slowly, before turning the lock and swinging it open.
At first, the person at the door was unrecognisable, his forehead was dripping with blood from where he had repeatedly smashed it with the door and it had trickled down his face, into his mouth and down his chin; but on closer inspection, you could just make out Mr Gardner.
For a while he simply continued to rock back and forth as if the door was still there. Then when the teachers shook him he merely didn’t respond. He stood solemnly, silently for a while and then collapsed into a heap on the floor. The teachers dragged him inside and made sure he was still breathing. I remember all of the staff assuring us that ‘everything’s okay’ and to ‘go back to bed,’ like that was going to happen.
Eventually Mr Gardner woke up. He woke up with an ear-shattering scream. He screamed as if he was in a severe amount of pain, as if a limb were slowly being crushed under a large amount of weight, but not only that, it was almost as if he was screaming for something lost, there was a hint of sadness in his guttural screeching. He was dragged out of the room, kicking and screaming at the top of his lungs, digging his nails into the ground as he was carried away, and we were left with unanswered questions and thumping hearts supervised by a member of staff for the rest of the night. No-one slept, we were all haunted by the crazed look in our teacher's eye, and the scream that still resonated in our ears.
The trip soon became something of legend once we had returned to school. Mr Gardner was forced to take a leave for a time, we saw him again before the end of the year and he apologised for his actions saying he didn’t know what came over him. Of course all the kids believed he was possessed by the spirit he spoke of in the woods. I don’t think so. I later discovered he had been having problems at home, his wife had divorced him and was refusing to let him see the children. Understandable then that he should feel an emotional connection with the tale he spoke of and latch himself on to a reality where what he did was possible. That is my explanation anyway- doesn’t explain the footsteps I heard for the first couple of nights though- but there you have it.
If you are anything like me you may have noticed some similarities between the two incidents, both events transpired over three nights, both events involved me hearing a phantom noise, and both ended with a dramatic outcome. Many of my experiences have followed a similar pattern, and it is why I write this, to show a sense of repetition and routine in all paranormal activities, and therefore prove that they are not always what they seem, but in my experience, they are most certainly to be feared.