Do you enjoy writing? If so, why not enter our competition. Your mysterious story can be ghostly, funny or historical and the winners will have their stories read out at our Hallowe’en fun day on 31st October 2012 and will receive a one year family membership for all Sussex Past properties.
There are 3 age categories: 7 and under; 8 to 13; 14 and above
Maximum 900 words – less is fine! Closing date for entries 1st October 2012.
Please email your story to email@example.com or send to ‘Story-writing competition’ at the address below. Good luck!
Full terms and conditions at: www.sussexpast.co.uk/termsandconditions
Michelham Priory, Upper Dicker, East Sussex, BN27 3QS
Here is a sample story:
Midsummer Night’s Dream
© Helen Winters
‘I’ve never seen any ghosts here,’ the middle-aged woman said to 18-year-old Rose, looking up from her book and smiling, in response to Rose’s question. Rose didn’t believe this, but she preferred sitting next to a comforting human being in a tiny kitchen, rather than walking up and then down those really scary stairs by herself. Which she would have to do if she wanted to get to the changing room, put on her own clothes, eat her sausage rolls and meet her parents in the car park.
Rose was a young drama student. Michelham was an old ruined priory with a Tudor house attached. Rose was here with several dozen other students putting on a Shakespeare evening as part of their course. This involved dressing up in weird outfits and proclaiming from stairs, pulpits, gardens, barns, halls and balconies, to doting parents. As the darkness drew in, the tea lights in their waxed bags dotting the great lawns bloomed like luminous flowers. It was all very beautiful. And scary, now that the event had finished and Rose couldn’t find anyone else in the priory except this woman. They must all be outside. She knew one thing – she did not want to go up those stairs by herself again. Where it turned at the first floor…when she had gone up there to the changing room, she had been aware of something brushing its fingers over her face.
‘Do you work here?’ she asked the woman, politely, not really interested in the reply.
‘I suppose I do. I usually sit in the house when it’s open to the public although a lot of them just look straight through me. I’m here tonight to keep an eye on things, make sure you young people are safe. I thought your show was very good. My name’s Helena, by the way.’
‘Thanks.’ Rose was starving. Where was everybody else? The woman was plump and pleasant-faced, with hair that didn’t quite suit her, Rose decided. Even for someone middle-aged. What must it be like to be that old? She must be at least 45. With a strange crick in her neck so her head was permanently at a very slight angle.
‘Do you want me to come upstairs with you?’Helena asked, as if she could read Rose’s mind.
‘Oh. Thanks very much.’
So they walked up the creaking steps together,Helena in her fleece and skirt and sensible shoes and Rose in a rather fetching green and blue queen-of-the fairies outfit – she had been playing Titania in her last scene.
‘Doesn’t this place scare you?’ Rose asked as they reached the first landing.
‘No. I’m used to it.’Helena smiled. ‘Although these stairs can be a bit treacherous.’
Rose could smell the damp stone and the old carpeting. Horrible. She looked down the stairwell into the hall, stippled in shadow and faint light.
‘This place must be haunted, though. It’s, like, ancient.’
‘Well, even if it was, I wouldn’t tell you. I don’t want to frighten you.’
‘Now you are frightening me. You’re not telling me stuff.’
They reached the changing room.
‘Are your parents here tonight?’ Helena asked, as Rose got her stuff together.
‘Yeah. They’re waiting for me in the car park.’
‘Then you’d better hurry. I want to get home too. May I have a sausage roll?’
‘Sure. Help yourself.’
They went down the stairs again. As they reached the first landing, Rose tripped. But Helena, who was in front of her, whipped round and caught her just in time, steadying her.
‘Are you OK?’
‘I…I think so. It was as if somebody pushed me.’
‘You’re imagining things. Anyway – I saved you!’ Helena smiled.
‘Don’t worry, I’ll be fine now,’ Rose gabbled on, desperately wanting to find her parents.
As she ran towards the car park, she suddenly realised she hadn’t thanked Helena for saving her from a broken neck, so she reluctantly turned back. When she got to the stairs she avoided looking up at the place where she had fallen. She turned left towards the kitchen. But there was no door. She must have gone the wrong way. But how could she have done?
‘Can I help?’
She wheeled round, frightened and confused. A cheerful-looking man stood there, armed with a box of spanners and a large key ring.
‘Are you lost?’ he asked. ‘I’m the Operations Manager.’
‘No. Yes. I’m looking for a small kitchen. I was sitting in there with a nice woman – I think she’s a house guide – I wanted to thank her for – something – she came upstairs with me and stopped me having a bad fall – we were sitting in the kitchen…’ she tailed off, feeling stupid.
‘There’s no kitchen here.’ The man frowned. ‘There was one once. But that was years ago. The door was blocked up on this wall. You get to it round the other side – it’s a staff cloakroom now. And there aren’t any house guides on duty tonight.’ He looked at Rose strangely.
‘But she told me she sits in the house. Her name’s Helena…’
The man opened and closed his mouth like a panic-stricken fish.
‘She can’t be. She lived here years ago when the priory was a private house. Nobody knows how it happened; but she was found at the bottom of the stairs with a broken neck. She probably fell. Or someone pushed her…’