Oct 29  |  Alex Grehy

*I quit, your house is creepy!*

I groaned. All I needed was a house cleaner, two hours a week, to keep the cobwebs under control, but one after another they left.

I turned the note over, hoping she’d left an explanation. It was useful when they did. Living with ghosts was all about setting boundaries of acceptable behaviour.

The second cleaner had run away, screaming, when a grass snake slithered through the front door, chasing a toad. She didn’t give me time to explain that the snake was harmless. That snake was following its appetite and the toad was just answering the call of a visiting witch spirit. She’d enjoyed attracting wildlife into the house, which explains the cobwebs.

The third cleaner left after the accident. There was a rational explanation. A leaky pipe, wet rot weakening the wooden frame of a kitchen cabinet which gave way and crashed to the floor, spilling its load of glassware. The mess of sharp shards had covered every surface. Mercifully, there was no living being in the kitchen at the time. Another poltergeist, I guessed. They like destruction, but they’re not murderous.

I looked at the note again, the latest cleaner hadn’t elaborated on why she quit.

“Did you scare her off?” I asked my border collies. They were staring intently at the window where the sunlight had outlined an ephemeral form on the rain-washed glass.

“Good dogs!” I said, giving them a fuss. Their ghost detection stare was unnerving, I could hardly blame the woman for running away.

“Welcome.” I said to the ghost outside the window. The eyeless form, less substantial than a shadow, somehow turned to face me. “Would you like to come inside and rest awhile. Just a few rules – no malice, no mischief and my bedroom is off limits. You may be benign but that doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you.”

The ephemeral form seemed to snarl, though it didn’t have a discernible face. I looked at the dogs, they were asleep. I turned back to the ghost, but the sky had clouded over and the figure had disappeared

I shivered involuntarily. I’d always believed that I had nothing to fear from the dead. I had to believe that, or I couldn’t live next door to a cemetery. I hadn’t anticipated that my home would become a halfway house for spirits, a place where they could come to terms with being dead before passing on. I’ve tried to make them welcome, trusting my dogs to assess the nature of each visiting spirit. So far, they’d all been benign.
I spent the evening in a futile internet search for a new house cleaner. As darkness fell, the dogs started pacing. I opened the back door to let them out, but they just crowded around me. A cold breeze raised the fine hair on my arms. I slammed the door shut. The dogs were frantic, running up and down the stairs. I relented and followed them into the bedroom – an early night would do me no harm. I undressed quickly and snuggled into bed.

But the dogs didn’t settle. They circled the bed, alert, guarding. Yet I couldn’t sense anything amiss. Visiting ghosts had always respected my boundaries, though I had a wreath of warding herbs on my bedroom door just in case. The collies stopped circling. One focused on the door, growling fiercely. The other leapt onto my bed, tugging the duvet over my head. I felt him standing over me, protective. I heard the door creak, the dogs began to howl.

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