The tapping man
by Brian Bethell
The house I was born and raised in was built in 1848 and was well over a hundred years old when I entered the scene. It consisted of three rooms one upon the other. The room we slept in was called the garret situated as it was at the top of the house. One night whilst our parents were out my siblings and I were in the garret...not sure what we were doing, just being there I suppose.
It was I who first heard my elder sister call out. 'You don't live here mister, go away' I turned to see an old man wearing glasses and carrying a walking stick which he began tapping on the floorboards. I was transfixed. How did he get there? Who was he? We lived in a small community and knew almost everyone for streets around but this man I didn't recognise. The man didn't seem to be aware of our presence but he was as solid and as human looking as any one might.
My sister repeated. 'Go away Mister, go on' It was then that the old man turned to look at us and began to walk the length of the room towards the far wall, his stick still tapping away.
Still, we children didn't think there was anything supernatural about the man or why he was there.He eventually reached the far wall, turned and looked at us and then he simply vanished.
My sister insisted he walked through the wall but I didn't see that,to me he just disappeared. That was when the proverbial hit the fan so to speak and it was every brother and sister for themselves as we ran hell-for-leather from the room and down the stairs. We ran,hysterical round to where we knew our parents to be and told them, amidst tears and pure fright what had happened. We described the man and my gran just shook her head in a kind of knowing way almost as if she recognised him but would not admit it.
It was only many years later I heard the story of a previous tenant called Mr Flood who lived there with his married daughter. Mr Flood slept in the garret and towards the end of his life became senile; he took to constantly walking up and down his room with his walking stick. In those days there were no rubber bungs at the end of walking sticks - they were all metal tipped and so made a distinctive sound as they struck the floorboards. It was weeks before me and my siblings could be persuaded to sleep in the garret again, in the meantime we were ensconced with our Auntie Kate in another part of town.