Bump in the Night

Bump in the Night is a ghost-hunting programme that’s different from all the others. That’s because none of it’s real.

Tony has always wanted to be a real paranormal investigator. His co-workers are perfectly happy to build their careers on falsehoods and cheap tricks, but Tony’s always wanted something more. Something real. Unfortunately, he’s about to get his wish.

When the crew set up in the infamous Lansfield Hall, it soon becomes clear that this won’t just be another normal day. One by one, the crew start to realise there’s more to those spooky ghost stories than they first thought. Subtly spooky antics turn into all-out carnage, bottled-up tensions rise to the surface, and a simple job turns into a fight for survival. If they want to live to see the sunrise, they’ll have to abandon the script.

They aren’t real ghost hunters, but that doesn’t matter any more, because these ghosts don’t want to be hunted.

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6. The Ghost Tour

“Oh no! A ghost!”

“Cut it the fuck out.”

“No, guys, I’m serious! There’s totally a ghost! Look!”

“Andy, I swear to God if you don’t cut it the fuck out!” Tony yelled, turning around as Andy flicked another piece of charred wood at him. Jean had been giggling so much during the last half-hour Tony was surprised she hadn’t suffocated.

“Nah, Tony, there’s ghosts everywhere!” Andy yelled, grabbing another piece of debris from the floor. Tony slapped it away and shook his head from side to side, his hair sending a thin shower of dust onto the floor.

“Mind out, you twat!” Jean yelled, skipping out of the way to save her shoes from the dust. She was, weirdly enough, walking totally fine in her crazy heels, which was more than could be said for the tour guide the studio had hired.

This woman, whose name was Rhonda, had apparently worked at Lansfield back when the council had been dumb enough to offer tours to anyone who paid them enough. Philip had managed to dredge her up to stage a tour for the three investigators, and judging by the look on her face, the tipping point had been a hefty cheque rather than nostalgia. She had a nervous tick which made her blue-smudged eyes flick around like pinballs, her ankles shake in her spike-heeled shoes, and her hand and mouth tremble as she applied her tenth coat of magenta lipstick. Aside from the fact that she was obviously looking forward to her big TV appearance, she did not have the look of a woman who wanted to be there.

“Okay, guys. You ready?”

Gerry usually handled the filming of the group scenes, since he was the only one who never took sides in arguments.

Rhonda just nodded nervously.

“Yeah,” said Andy.

“Whatever,” said Jean.

“Mm,” said Tony.

“Okay, three, two, one…”

Rhonda shoved her lipstick and compact mirror into her pocket. Andy produced his notebook and pen. Jean scrubbed at the immaculate skin under her eyes for the millionth time. Tony shifted onto his other foot, clenching and unclenching his fingers.

“Action!”

“Rhonda, hi! Nice to meet you!” Jean chirped in an insanely convincing impression of politeness, stepping forwards and shaking Rhonda’s hand. Tony gave her an awkward wave, even though he knew he probably wasn’t even in frame.

“Hello,” Rhonda said in a meticulously rehearsed voice. “Welcome to Lansfield Hall. Hope you’re ready to be creeped out!”

“We always are,” Andy replied.

Tony snorted, covering his mouth with his hand.

“Damn it, cut! Tony, you know what you did.”

“I’m so sorry,” Tony said in his fake voice. “Won’t do it again.”

“Action!”

“Rhonda, hi! Nice to meet you!”

“Hello, and welcome to Lansfield Hall! Hope you’re ready to be creeped out!”

Andy stopped scowling at Tony just long enough to say his line.

“We always are.”

Andy’s fake grin made him look like a Halloween pumpkin, but this time, Tony managed to restrain his laughter.

“Come on then,” Rhonda said. “Let’s start in the hallway, shall we?”

She turned on her treacherously thin heel and led them into the next room. Tony traipsed out behind her, followed by Gerry.

“So, this is the Lansfields’ great hallway, or, at least, what’s left of it!” Rhonda gave a pink shiny grin. There was lipstick on her teeth. Tony managed to muster a fake laugh, trying to decide whether she was a better actor than him. Probably.

“You can still see little bits of the family crest on the floor; obviously, it used to be on the wall. I’m sure you all know the general history of the house, so I won’t bore you with all the details.” Rhonda waited a few seconds. Then, her smile dropped like a stone and she looked past Tony, at Gerry. “Was that all right?”

“Sure,” he said, smiling at her tiredly and lowering the camera. “We can go upstairs next, I guess, if that’s okay?”

“Yep.” Rhonda turned and hurried up the stairs, using the blue-and-white police tape as a banister. Tony watched from the back of the group as she reached the landing in the blink of an eye and turned to glance at them over her shoulder. She clearly wanted to get the tour over with as quickly as possible.

“You know the general history of the house then, Andy?” Tony mumbled in a vague upwards direction.

Andy turned around and wrinkled his nose. “Uh, no. Who gives a shit?”

“I do.”

“Well, ‘course you do. You’re the bloody ghost whisperer. Bet you know all their names and everything.”

Tony raised one eyebrow as Andy turned to carry on climbing. “Well, yeah, Andy. I mean, there’s only three. You ain’t got them written down in your official-ass notebook?”

“No.”

“Well, what’ve you been writing?”

“What’s it to you?”

Tony shrugged and kept climbing.

The black crumbs that had caked the ground floor only flecked the walls at the top of the stairs. The corridor’s floor only gave off an inkling of the sensation it was going to collapse at any second. The smell of decay was fainter here and there were still some flakes of ceiling stuck to the rotting beams. Rhonda was throwing her eyes around like mad when they reached her, drumming her fingers on an ashen remnant of banister as she waited for them to catch up. Eventually, she stopped fidgeting and took a left, leading them down the corridor and in through a doorway that was leaning drunkenly to one side.

As he walked into the room, a frozen fist of wind hit Tony square in the face. The only window in the room had no glass left in it. Brittle twigs of ivy clung to the furthermost wall and a grey branch of the hanging tree trailed its fingers through a hole in the ceiling. He tried not to shiver or shudder as Gerry shouted “Action!” for the third time.

“So,” Rhonda said, raising her voice over the whining of the wind and the groaning of the house. “This used to be Henry and Alice’s shared bedroom.”

If the wind hadn’t already been freezing him, Tony probably would have felt a shiver on his spine.

“Anyway, in 1819, Alice actually passed away right here, we believe in the very spot where, uh, you’re standing.” Rhonda pointed to Andy, who stepped smartly to one side. “She was killed after her husband cut off her head with an axe, as I’m sure you all know.”

Jean gasped sharply and visibly stiffened before returning to normal. Tony tried not to look at her.

“Now,” Rhonda continued. “To see what happened to Henry, we just have to look out of the window.”

A huge knot of tree branch was shoving against the empty windowframe, brittle crusts of rope still coiled around it at Tony’s eyeline. He shuddered, leaning further out of the window and dropping his gaze down to the rubble-strewn driveway a good twenty feet below them. When he turned, he saw that Gerry was pointing the camera right at him and tried his best to act natural.

“Wow,” Jean whispered, widening her eyes and twisting one of the rings on her middle finger. Tony couldn’t be sure, but he was starting to wonder whether she was still acting.

“Yeah, so Henry hung himself from the tree, obviously,” Rhonda said. “That’s the famous part of the legend. What a lot of people don’t know is that he actually hung himself by jumping out of the window right here, so he died at his wife’s side.”

“Wow, they must have really loved each other.” Andy pressed his lips together. Tony stared at him, incredulous.

“Okay, cut!” Gerry lowered the camera and everyone lowered their smiles.

“Andy, Henry went bat-shit and murdered his wife with an axe,” Tony said. “You call that love?” He paused, remembering what had happened on the bus. “Actually, don’t answer that.”

“Well, uh-” Andy looked up from his notebook. “So what? They still got married in the first place, didn’t they?”

“Well, some relationships don’t work out so great,” Jean pointed out, gritting her teeth as she yanked her hair free of her earrings.

“Yeah. Like…” Tony trailed off as he glanced out of the window, watching a fog of shadows sliding across the bushes at the end of the garden. “Sometimes people break up. And sometimes it ends with murder-suicide.”

“Well, at least he killed himself after!” Andy retorted, twisting his mouth into what looked suspiciously like a sulk. “Least he felt bad! They could’ve killed each other, that would’ve been really shit!”

“It’s already shit, you knobhead!”

“Guys, guys!” Gerry yelled, holding up his hands. “Chill out. We’ve just got two more bits to shoot and then we’re done. Well, you’re done, I mean.”

“Yeah,” Tony said. “Till it gets dark.”

“Sure.” Gerry looked at Rhonda, who hurriedly pushed herself away from the wall and started picking dust from her fluffy jumper. “You ready? Where else? The kitchen, right?”

“Yep.” Rhonda smiled so thinly her pink lips disappeared. “The kitchen and the back garden. Kitchen first, I guess.”

Tony and the rest of the group followed her back down the stairs. Tony took each step slowly, trying to ignore the fact that his legs were shaking. The wind was breathing down his neck and prying at his spine.

“Three, two, one, action.” Gerry raised his voice behind them. Jean, Andy and Rhonda raised their postures slightly as the camera started rolling. Tony tried not to slouch further against the wall as the group stopped dead in the same place the house did.

In here, in the remains of the kitchen, the wind was heaving and crashing over them in tidal waves. The walls were tarnished with the deep brownish-grey of old rusty metal and thin splashes of white winter light ran down from the gap in the far wall. The sickly grey floor bled black underneath the pile of debris on the driveway, fusing with the gravel, the weeds and the curdled mud the rotting walls hadn’t been able to keep out. Tony’s nose prickled with the smell of burning and when he blinked to stop his eyes from watering, he accidentally caught Andy’s eye. Andy rubbed his nose with the back of his sleeve and shot Tony a self-important glare before fixing his eyes forwards.

“Okay, so we obviously can’t go any, uh… further since all this debris poses a safety hazard,” Rhonda said, twitching slightly as a chunk of stone shifted on the pile. “This kitchen’s actually suffered from two fires; the first one, in the year 1817, actually killed the Lansfields’ eighteen-year-old daughter Mary-Ann.”

Andy was earnestly writing notes in his notebook, but when Tony managed to get a look over his shoulder, he realised the words on the page were just a list of fruits. Andy struck a pose of contemplation for the camera at the mention of the child’s tragic death before writing down ‘lettuce’.

“Now, Mary-Ann is thought to be the most active ghost on the premises, as all my visitors have reported something along the lines of…” Rhonda looked up at the ceiling. “They hear screaming, they smell burning, and there are often sensations of being overly hot or feeling stuffy. I-”

“What about the fires?” Tony asked.

Rhonda looked at him. “The fires?”

“Uh, yeah.” Tony tried not to flinch as the camera turned to him again. “Haven’t there been reports of fires here that aren’t, uh… normal? I read a story about-”

“Ah, you mean the world war story.” Rhonda paused. “Yes, that was actually the second fire that happened here.” She turned back to the group. “In 1915, there was a fire that occurred in the kitchen, and eyewitnesses claim the flames were white and it started spontaneously. Nobody knows how or why it, um… started, and several people have linked it to Mary-Ann’s ghost.”

Jean and Andy exchanged glances.

“Wait,” Jean said in the serrated voice she normally didn’t bring out on-camera. “How’d the first fire start?”

Rhonda’s eyes blurred with worry before she painted the smile back onto her face. “Well, that’s a bit of a mystery too, but a lot of people believe it has ties to the family curse, which brings us to the next tour point.”

Something suddenly flicked Tony in the spine and he opened his mouth to ask another question, but Gerry interrupted by saying “Cut!”

The group dropped their acts again.

“Alright, out to the garden, then,” Rhonda said, swinging around. Tony wondered why she was so tetchy. Nah, that was a lie. He didn’t need to wonder.

Rhonda shoved open a door lolling against one side of the hallway as the wind slapped them like a wet dishcloth.

“Hey, excuse me, uh… Rhonda?” Tony asked.

Rhonda stopped at the edge of a scuff of bushes several yards from the back door. “Um, yes?”

“Whenabouts was the, uh… the second fire? It was 1915, right?”

“Yeah. It was. Why do you ask?”

“Nothing,” Tony said. “It’s just I was wondering why the kitchen still stinks of smoke.”

Rhonda’s eyes widened.

“Okay, Tony, that’s enough,” Gerry said, finalising the adjustments he’d been making to his camera to accommodate the extra light in the garden. “We ready to go?”

“Yep,” Rhonda said, tucking her hair behind her ears as the wind started fiddling with a few strands.

“Okay. Three, two, one, action.”

“All right, so here we are in the back garden,” Rhonda said. “Now, the reason I’ve brought you out here in the biting wind-” she risked a glance at Tony- “is because there’s some really unique paranormal activity out here related to the history of the house. Not the Lansfields’ history- before the house was built. There was allegedly a plague victims’ mass burial site here, and several skeletons were supposedly uncovered by Henry Lansfield’s building team during the construction of the house, possibly confirming this theory. The ghosts out here aren’t nearly as active, but we do get the odd shadow on a wall, and, uh…” her voice wavered and she looked at Gerry before carrying on. “Yeah. Shadows and a few cool EVPs have been caught here. We’re sure these aren’t related to Henry’s death, since his ghost seems to be the most active over by the tree.” She pointed. They looked. “It’s speculated that the activity in the back garden may be connected to whoever was buried here before the house was built, although, like I said, it’s all unconfirmed.”

She paused for a second to dust down her trousers. “Okay, I guess that’s it, then. Does anyone have any questions?”

“Uh, sure.” Jean lifted her chin slightly. “Why was the house never rebuilt, exactly?”

“You mean after the second fire?”

“Yep.”

“Well, it was all to do with the rumours of the curse,” Rhonda said. “There was some talk of renovating it before then, but the paranormal activity was thought too dangerous for that due to various, uh, I suppose, stories that have come out of the house since the Lansfields died here.”

Jean nodded. “Why wasn’t it torn down, then?”

“Well…” Rhonda seemed to suddenly find a dead bush near the wall intensely interesting. “Similar reasons, I suppose.”

“Wow.”

“Any other questions?”

“Yeah.” Tony stuck his hand up. Rhonda visibly sank a few inches, and it may or may not have been related to the fact that she was wearing high heels in mud. “Um, so you started working here how long ago?”

She dipped her eyes. “Five years ago.”

“Okay, and have you ever experienced anything paranormal? Do you believe the ghost stories?”

Rhonda’s ever-present smile vanished for a second before springing back up. “Yes. Yes, I have. A whole lot of it. Anything else?”

There was a long pause, during which Tony tried to figure out whether she was lying for the cameras or not.

“Cut.”

Rhonda looked at Gerry again. “I’m sorry. I know we agreed not to mention, uh…”

“Yeah. It’s okay. You did fine.” Gerry lowered the camera.

“You don’t need me to do it again?”

“Nah, that’ll be fine. Thanks, Rhonda. I reckon we’re done with you now.”

“Great.” She rummaged in her pocket for her keys. The tiny blue car was huddled next to Philip’s hulking Mercedes on the driveway. “I guess I’ll be going, then.”

Andy grinned and ripped a handful of dead grass out of the ground. He chucked some of it at Tony before sprinkling the rest onto Jean’s hair.

“Oh, holy crap, you guys, it’s a ghost!” He said.

“It’s weird,” Jean said, scorching him with her eyes as she picked grass out of her hair. “I could’ve sworn I smelt burning in that kitchen, and it felt really hot too, like she said.”

“You’re just seeing things, you silly thing,” Andy said, snaking his arm around her waist and yanking her towards him. She tried to push him away, but he held her fast.

Tony decided to leave them in peace. Rhonda was leaning against the door of her car, sighing as she tapped something into her phone, and she jumped a little when she looked up and spotted him standing next to her.

“Sorry. Didn’t mean to scare you.”

“It’s okay,” she said, smiling a little more tiredly. “It’s just this ruddy place, you know? Gives me the creeps for no reason.”

“No reason?” He pressed. “Didn’t you mean any of that stuff you said? About the ghosts? Do you really believe it?”

She dropped her eyes back to her phone and gritted her teeth. “Sure I do. You can’t even work here for a day without getting bombarded with creepy bullcrap.”

“And how long’d you work here for?”

She looked up at him, her eyes vaguely pricked with irritation. “A day.”

His eyes widened. “A day? That’s it? You said five years!”

She laughed drily. “I said I started working here five years ago.”

“You quit after your first day?”

“You try working here for longer. It won’t go so well for you.”

“You were saying something to, uh, Gerry just now.” He paused. “The cameraman. About something you weren’t supposed to mention?”

“Yeah.” She shuddered, and it probably wasn’t the wind. “You must’ve heard about that poor Alan bloke.”

“Sure. Why now?”

“Well, it was his skin, they said. Something scratched him into ribbons, didn’t it?”

Tony frowned. “I didn’t hear.”

“They released the report. I got a bit morbidly obsessed after quitting. Y’know, the doctors had no idea what the fuck happened to him here, but they did say one thing.”

“What?”

“It was like he caught the plague.”

The breath Tony took at that point squeezed his chest so tightly he almost forgot how to breathe. “Oh.”

“Yeah. Now-”

“I just have to ask one more thing.”

“God, you’re a talkative one, aren’t you?” She shoved her phone back into her pocket and retrieved her car keys.

“Sorry. Look, what kind of stuff have you seen here?”

“All the stuff I talked about on the tour.”

“W- what? All of it? In one day?”

“Course. And more.”

“More?”

“Yeah. They asked me to skim over the hanging tree stuff cause it wasn’t all that interesting, apparently. Poltergeist activity and all that airy-fairy crap, I reckon your producer called it.”

“Sure.”

“There was one thing I didn’t mention, though.”

“Oh yeah?”

Her fingers wrapped around the neckline of her jumper and yanked it down a few inches. “This.”

Tony tried not to gasp as he realised why Rhonda had been wearing a jumper with a high neck. The brown skin of her throat was blotched with a sickly ring of discoloured scars, like someone or something had tried to strangle her.

“Oh. Wow.” He said. “You got this-”

“Under the hanging tree. Fun, huh?” Sarcasm dripped from her voice. “Looks like I got hung. It just showed up. I didn’t do anything to my neck that day. Now I’m part of the family.” She chuckled bitterly. “Now, excuse me. I want to get the fuck out of here before the Lansfields drag me down to hell with them.”

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