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» Creepy!

The night our dog died
When our family dog died, I was in my early twenties still living in the home I was raised, an Indian family in the suburbs of London

As anyone who has had a pet will know, it was devastating for all of us and it marks the one creepy story in my life

The evening that our dog passed away, my younger brother walked into my bedroom at about 2am and quietly asked if i was awake. Of course, that did the trick and I said I was. "Can you hear that?". With such a question, I was wide awake in a nano second and sitting upright. I strained to pick out what he seemed to hear very obviously, but couldnt hear anything. he repeated twice "there, can't you hear that?". I might add at this point that my Brother is very level head-headed. Very anti drugs and anti anything that results in loss of mental self control, very stoic... So i did not think then, or now, that he was imagining it and asked him what he could hear. "I can hear Dad outside calling me"

I got out of bed and in my sleepy state, I imagined that perhaps our Father had gone sleep walking or got stuck outside (why, I didnt know, but I was trying to match scenarios to what my Brother was telling me). He had never done either. So, we walked to my Parents room and peered into the darkness. I quietly called out "Dad?" and he woke with a slight start obviously a bit suprised to have both his adult sons looking in to the room. This time my brother just said he could hear a voice in the garden and now the whole family was awake

What followed would be comical if it wasn't so odd at the time. We all quietly trooped downstairs and I picking up the nearest solid object as now I supposed there must be an intruder in our back garden

Our garden is accessed by huge sliding glass doors. It means that you can see the outside clearer than the inside because of the ambient light from the street. As we walked towards the doors, it was obvious that the garden was empty

Again, my brother asked "Cant you all hear that???" By now he was slightly bewildered more than anything. My Father asked "what exactly can you hear?" and he told him what he told me orginally "Dad, I can hear YOU calling out to me". I still remember my Father's reaction when he asked him to repeat what he just said. My Father's face showed a sense of recognition & sadness. He seemed to nod.. He looked out at the garden and said to all of us "everyone go to sleep, I am going to stay up a while"

At this point I just thought the whole thing was rather silly and happily trooped up to bed, and was asleep immediately

The next morning, I came downstairs and of course asked what all that was about. My brother was already awake, but my Father was waiting for me to get up before saying anything

My father is a hindu. The religion is the world's oldest major religion and is a unique combination of culturally led traditions, supersitions & dogma. My Father is a humble man and never imposed the religion on us London born boys (he even sent us to Roman Catholic Schools without blinking). So he chose words knowing that his audience were in many ways removed from his beliefs, neither familiar nor overly skeptical

he told us that according to Hindu belief, when animals die, they dont know that they have passed on. Humans know that they have died, so, unless they have 'unfinished' business, they dont hang about. But pets want to come back into the home that they have lived in for years. As they are on the outside, they call out to someone in the family in a human voice that this person will recognise in the hope that they will let them in.

I went quite cold, and my Brother was so unnerved, his face actually went completely blank

My Father then said that he had sat facing the garden and prayed for our pet dog and told her to go in peace.

I never questioned my Brother about it and he did not defend what he said he had heard nor started to fob it off as something imagined

We never spoke about it again
(Wed 13th Apr 2011, 5:03, More)

» Overheard secrets

Voila, les anglais sont fou
When I lived in Paris, was in a block where every floor had two apartments, each a mirror of the other. I lived next to an elderly couple, very sweet, very polite in a borgeousie french kind of way. Never really had any friendship with them, except for a smile, a "Bonjour" and a few pleasantries when we passed each other on the stairs.

A few months into my stay, I missed having a pet around and got a nine week old kitten. A while later, as usual, I passed the old man on the stairs and he asked how I was. We started chatting a bit (bit of a challenge, as my limited O'level french hadn't really got any better). To my surprise, he asked me if I had a new girlfriend. Thinking for a few moments, I realized that he must have heard me talking to the kitten so I replied "non, j'ai une nouvelle chaton". He stared at me for a few seconds with a look of surprise and then started giggling. He giggled SO hard, that soon he was clutching the bannister and was almost choking with laughter. I just stood there, lamely smiling (as you do when everyone is laughing at a joke you don't really understand). I assumed I had said something stupid in French. When he finally got his breath back, he wiped his eyes and told me in English, "my wife and I thought you had a sex-mad new girlfriend". Ok, now really confused, but then it hit me: like all kittens & puppies, my little one was always wanting to play at 3am, or early in the morning when I was sleeping in weekends. My automatic response was to shout at her, and they must have heard that through the adjoining wall

"leave me alone, it's Saturday morning!!"
"fuck sake, go to sleep!"
"get off me!"
And the classic (when she would scratch me to get attention):
"Stop scratching me, that bloody hurt!"

(I might add that I love her dearly..she's been around for 15 years now... just have limited patience at 3am)
(Mon 29th Aug 2011, 18:27, More)

» Random Acts of Kindness

Swimming Instructor
As a young boy, I was absolutely terrified of learning to swim. I would sit at home cross-legged infront of the sofa and read books like the ’Ladybird book of swimming’ and think of it as a manual, like any budding geek. But, as soon as I got near a swimming pool, the smell of chlorine would have my heart hammering away. It was as scary as the smell of a dentist's surgery or the sight of wrapped needles in a Doctor's.

But, I was pretty determined to learn and my Mother submerged me (no pun intended) in twice weekly lessons. It seemed to me that I was always at the pool after school, walking nervously out of the changing rooms with my arm bands as fully inflated as I could get them and a huge ’float’ under my arm.

This story is about an instructor at the pool who patiently, every lesson, would hold the float infront of me and tell me sincerely that he would not let go of it while I splashed my feet and fearfully concentrated on keeping my head well above water. In retrospect, the man's patience was extradinary. Against the impatience of my bored Mother in the spectator’s gallery (who insisted like any Indian ’tiger’ mother that I ’should be doing better’) he never pushed me to do more, but waited until I volunteered to go to the next level. Because he never broke his promise and respected me that ’I’ knew when the time was right, I trusted him in return. Each step was a huge leap, like doing the breast stroke with arm bands, but with the float within reach, and slowly getting further away from it.
The penultimate step, was swimming without arm bands but with him holding both his hands under my chest as I paddled along. I can’t tell you how long it was between our first lesson until this point, but it must have been several months.

To this day, I remember the moment in the shallow end of the Borhamwood Swimming pool as I was swimming towards the side after countless repetitions. Paying patient attention like he had been for ages, he must have noticed that all fear had left me and without saying a word, he let his hands fall away from me and I was swimming for the first time in my life. I remember feeling esctatic, like I had just learned how to fly. From then on, you couldn’t keep me out of the pool and within a few years, I even joined the school swimming team

I said this story is about the instructor. I don’t know how old he was..to my young eyes he was an ’adult’, he could have been a teenager. Nor can I remember what he looks like. But I know to this day that his name is Ken. I know this because the next time I visited the pool, he presented me with a tiny ’winners cup’. It’s made of proper metal with a black base and although it has two handles (like any big trophy) it’s only about 4 inches high. On it, he had engraved My full name and his, and the date when I finally learned to swim.

It was the the kindest thing he could have done. As an instructor employed by the pool, he could have just gone on to the next kid.. But, he knew that learning to swim was the first ’big’ achievement of my life and he treated it as such

40+ years later, I still have that little cup. I wish could find him and thank him for what he did: his patience with a very scared boy, ignoring a stupidly impatient Mother, and most of all understanding and respectfully recognising how proud that little boy felt.

I might add, my Mother can’t swim to this day...
(Mon 13th Feb 2012, 20:32, More)

» War

Killer Bovines
Like all of us who had a normal 70's childhood, I was raised with Commando & Warlord comics (used to read them with a bowl of Frosties most mornings) and an entire unit of Action Men (all had gripping hands and could go into battle with a scorpion tank, an artillery piece and a gyrocopter for support)

As I grew up, these were replaced by airfix soldiers (I always though the Africa Korp was the coolest) and I became addicted to wargaming, with SPI games bought from Games Centre, and a subbuteo field was turned upside down for extra realism with my model army

By my twenties, therefore, I was hankering to do it for real and after an initial foray into the OTC at University, I joined a TA unit

I suppose every Regiment thinks they are hardcore, but it can't be denied (especially after a few G&T's) that this one had high training standards (by that I mean distances marched, and weights carried). Add to that lots of unusual extras like learning morse code, 'resistance to interrogation' courses, and doing everything in teams of four made it extra sexy. Frankly, we all saw Bravo 2-0 as kindred spirits

However, the story I relate shows that sometimes 'hardness' is just skin deep

During one particular weekend, we were on 'patrols' in a team of four moving tactically through some part of the Cornwall countryside (I know it was Cornwall because it would not stop raining).

Now, essential to the plot, I must tell you about one particular army routine (called SOPs or 'standard Operating Procedures), called an 'obstacle crossing'. An example of its application would be crossing a road when enemy might see you. It starts with everyone lying in a semi circle with their weapons pointing outwards in an arc, then crossing one by one, and ending up in a similar fashion (but facing the other way obviously) as the last one crosses. It's kind of SOP thats says 'yep, perfect place for an ambush, let's be ready'

So, here we are, soaked, no sleep the night before and it's about 3am now. We are looking very 'war-like' as you would expect, all gear, guns and faces streaked with cam (just lurve using the lingo). After emerging from a wooded area that we had 'advanced' through quietly for 2km, we come to a stone wall about waist height. It is completely apparent there is no enemy anywhere (I say this because it was basically a navigation exercise, and even the directing staff would not be stupid enough to go out in this rain), but the boss decides we have to do an obstacle crossing.

We dutifully get down in an arc with weapons ready (it's amazing how much noise mud can make) and the first man crosses over. In a moment begins a rumbling sound. In my sleepy state, I could have sworn the ground was shaking too but, even if I imagined that, the sound is unmistakeable. We then hear 'Christ, get over here quick!' from the bloke who first crossed. SOP goes out the window (he's practically shouting it) and the three of us bundle over the wall

The rumbling is still getting louder and through the rain & darkness I can see the edge of the hill ripple. It was seriously weird, like the ground was moving in waves towards us. I remember my pulse beginning to race wondering what the fuck was going on, squinting in the rain, trying to work out what I could see. Instinctively we all lowered our weapons ready to shoot (fat lot of good that would have done as we had about 20 blanks each).

There we were, hard soldiers, standing in an arc, guns at the ready, fingers on the the triggers, safety off ready for some kind of showdown. I kid you not, SEAL TEAM 6 could not have looked cooler

About 30 seconds later we are surrounded by about 100 cows, standing silently, staring at us. They must have heard our footsteps and thought 'Great, we're going to get fed'. I know what the they were thinking as they were all salivating bucket loads (bit like the two aliens from The Simpsons). Yes, we special forces soldiers were surrounded and outnumbered by cows. Having that many cows looking at you like they want to eat you is actually rather unnerving (especially when you are so tired to begin with) and every one of us was jerking our gun from left to right, breathing is gasps

The standoff was broken however, when one of group said "Hang on, aren't cows herbivores?!"

We fell about laughing

I seriously wish we had cameras. Every time I see the aliens on The Simpsons, I am reminded of the time I thought I was going to get eaten by cows
(Mon 4th Jun 2012, 17:11, More)

» Terrified!

Terrifying hotel stay
This is a recent experience and, when I went through it, I wished that the 'creepy' qotw was still open. But, I write it here anyway because you can go check out the hotel for yourselves next time you are in central London and see how you react. I, for one, was shitting myself.

My colleagues at work (feeling in a generous mood) treated me to a weekend at the Lanesborough hotel in Knightsbridge for my Birthday..basically a swanky boys weekend. I had no idea about this hotel, but it's seriously luxurious. When you arrive, a butler in a penguin suit unpacks everything for you and your ’outfit for the evening’ is pressed.. You are given personalized stationary ( complete with business cards) so that when you go shopping, you can leave a card for the packages to be delivered. No minibar, but a range of large crystal decanters..etc etc. Each floor has that butler on standby and I must admit I got used to having my own personal Jeeves quite quickly

The first day and evening, we lapped it up..We sat in the bar drinking martinis and generally behaving like ponces. Went to sleep in a massive bed feeling very good about life.The next day, in the afternoon, I was walking out of my room and as I was locking the door, noticed five middle aged women standing in the corridor looking around them smiling. As I was walking towards them to get to the lift, I thought their manner was a bit odd (no one really hangs about in hotel corridors) and asked if they were lost in a friendly way. They laughed self-consciously and told me that they used to work on this floor when it was a hospital. I must have looked surprised, and so they nattered on, taking out an old photo album to show me, full of b&w photos of themselves in uniforms reminiscent of Carry On Nurse movies... They told me that they had come down to London for the weekend and the management of the hotel had let them walk around for old times sake. I asked them what my floor was and they said it was the ward used when people were in and out of intensive care, and pointed out the window to the curving road where the ambulances would come in. They were reminiscing as much to each other as to me and one of them mentioned ”Wasn't the grey lady on this floor?” and another one said ”no” just as they remembered that I was still standing there. Of course, I had to ask ”who was the grey lady?” and they all went quiet. Realising they had put their foot in it, they started by telling me that it was all ”ok”, there had been a service by a priest when they had started converting it to a hotel and then told me (still standing there, really wishing I hadn't asked the question) that they always knew when a patient in intensive care wasn't going to make it because they would ask the nurses ”who is the kind lady in the grey uniform?”. Many patients had given them several descriptions such that they reckoned that ”she” was wearing the uniform of a nurse in the crimean war, when the hospital was originally built.

So, all excited, I went to join my colleagues in the hotel bar. One of them is mega superstitious, and whilst going a shade of grey himself, he asked for the concierge to come and have a word. I related what the nurses had told me and this concierge spoke quietly and rather seriously that, yes, there had been ”instances” in the 17 years he had been working there. The official line was that there is ”nothing” to worry about, but he said that a number of staff had seen things that had ”really scared them” (his words) resulting in them handing in their notices and just walking out.

I asked what the most recent one was and he told us this:

Two weeks before, a ”well known politician” was in town with his entourage. The concierge was on the night shift and this big shot came downstairs in the middle of the night, in his pajamas, out of breath. He insisted that there was a woman in his room. Being who he was, there was extra security present 24/7 and they immediately went up to investigate. They returned saying the room was empty and the concierge meanwhile tried to reassure the frightened politician that, look, when we look at the computer records of the use of your key-card, no one has entered the room through the door. To which he replied ”she didn't come through the door, she came in through the wall”. He refused to go back upstairs and they had to wake his staff to pack up all his stuff and he checked out immediately.

At this point, I am beginning to get decidedly unsettled. The rational part of me said, ”don't be silly, perfectly simple explanation to all of this”. But, having a casual encounter with the nurses, seeing their photo album made me superimpose the vision of a hospital (and a Victorian one at that) onto the luxury facade that had been built up. Add to that a concierge who seemed to confirm what these strangers had told me was too much of a coincidence.

We carried on drinking and enjoying ourselves, but as the day progressed, all three of use were getting more and more quiet, and lost in our thoughts, knowing that at some point we would have to walk upstairs to our rooms in, what was to us now: essentially a haunted house

The irrational side of me took over when I did so. I have to admit I was really scared. I went through the normal routine of getting to bed (brushing teeth, having a piss), in quiet terror, my heart hammering away and I refused to look at any mirrors (or the walls for that matter). I did not sleep a wink but lay under the quilt, every single sound amplified by my imagination

The next day, my colleagues looked as knackered as I felt. We were happy to check out..

I know, they might have all been taking the piss...that thought did not help at the time

When you go visit it, think of a hospital and the layout of the place will make sense. In addition, ask if you can see the special luxury cigar smoking room in the basement. It's at the end of a long corridor and has no windows but set up with leather sofas and industrial strength extractors. The concierge told us it used to be the morgue.
(Fri 6th Apr 2012, 15:38, More)
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