“she made no reply and just carried on looking at me”
In the early 1950s I was working as a store manager in a small town. It was Friday night at the end of my first week and I had lots on my mind as I was still learning about the store. It was past closing time and the sales assistants were queuing up to be paid at the office. The staff supervisor was watching them from the bottom of the stairs and I told her I would go and check the stockrooms.
I went upstairs to the first floor and approached the stairs to the four empty attic rooms on the second floor; there was a window behind me. At the top of the twelve steps there was a gallery leading to two rooms on the left and two on the right. As I approached the stairs I noticed that an elderly lady in a long black dress was standing at the top of the stairs looking down at me. Her dress was covered by a long white apron and her silver hair was in a bun.
Assuming the old lady had lost her way, I greeted her and asked if I could be of any assistance, but she made no reply and just carried on looking at me. I then explained that the store was closed, but the lady still made no reply. Silently she stood looking at me for what seemed like 2 or 3 minutes and I began to wonder if she was confused. Eventually I mounted the stairs and as I did so she turned to my right, and walked along the gallery towards two of the empty rooms. She was now out of my line of sight so I couldn’t see which room she went into. I was concerned and not wanting to frighten her, I decided to check the other rooms first and then collect her if she hadn’t left by then.
Without leaving the landing, I put my head round the doors of the left-hand rooms to check that the windows were closed. I then walked to the other side of the gallery where the old lady had gone. I didn’t know which room she was in, so I looked in one of the rooms, checking behind the door just in case. The room was empty. I then went to the other room assuming she would be there. Like the previous room, that too was empty at which point I was puzzled. I couldn’t see how she could have got past me without being noticed ~ particularly as I was looking for her.
I then wondered if the lady had somehow found her way downstairs. I came back down to the first floor which was secure. Upon reaching the bottom of the stairs on the ground floor I asked the supervisor if the elderly lady had now left the building. However, the supervisor replied that no one other than me had come down the stairs.
I was puzzled at this, but the supervisor then asked me to describe the lady, which I did. She immediately asked me to follow her out of earshot of the store assistants and said “If I were you I’d keep quiet. If the girls hear about it, you won’t have any staff.” Apparently I had just reported only the second sighting of a ghost!
The ghost was thought to be one of a pair of sisters who used to run the wet fish shop that had previously stood on the site of the store building. My description exactly matched the other person’s account.
The lady looked as real as a normal person and I had no idea that she was anything else.
I subsequently married and later mentioned the encounter to my mother-in-law who had lived in the town for many years. She had known and shopped with the sisters in question and was able to confirm that my description matched the lady who worked in the shop.
About three years later I was standing in the yard behind the store watching a lorry-load of goods being delivered. Suddenly I felt a very strong punch on the front of my right shoulder which sent me reeling back 6 to 8 feet into the wall behind me. As I staggered backwards, the ground where I had been standing caved in to the old fish cellars below. Had I remained where I had been a moment or two before, I would have dropped the 12 feet to the cellar floor, along with all the masonry.
I have always wondered if this event was connected with the old lady I encountered at the top of the attic stairs. I frequently worked alone and late at night on the sales floor, and although I never saw the lady again I could feel her presence keeping me company.
You will have noticed that I haven’t named the store or the town. Although it is now over 60 years since this happened there is now an occupied flat over a new shop built on the old site. It concerns me that the current occupiers might be worried by what happened. Not everyone is comfortable with unseen company!
Richard May 2017
Categories: More than the Material