When Marilyn and Rick move into their new house, strange things begin to happen. Have they got a ghost – a very clean and tidy ghost? Marilyn decides to find out more about their new home.

1 Looking for a house
‘It’s all right, Rick. It’s only the post,’ she called.
Six or seven thick brown envelopes lay on the doormat. Marilyn picked them up and took them into the kitchen. Rick was sitting at the table. He was finishing his breakfast.
‘Is there anything for me?’ he asked.
‘They’re all from estate agents,’ she said. ‘I hope there’s something this time.’
She put three envelopes down in front of Rick, and began to open the others herself. They had been looking for a house for three months. They were tired of the small flat, and they were tired of paying rent every week. They had been saving to buy their own house for nearly two years. They began looking through the letters from estate agents.
Rick looked up. ‘Here’s one,’ he said. ‘Listen. Perfect first home. Two bedrooms, large living room, modern kitchen, bathroom, garage, small garden. And it’s in Balmoral Avenue, on the new housing estate. £68,000. What do you think?’
‘What number is it?’ she asked.
‘Er … let me see. Thirty-five. Yes, thirty-five Balmoral Avenue.’
‘That’s funny,’ she said. ‘I’ve just been reading about the same house. Look, here’s an advert from Norman and Naylor. I phoned them yesterday.’
‘Ah, my advert’s from Burchill and Bradley. Yes, it’s the same house. Well, that’s normal. They’ve put the house with two estate agents. Which one shall we phone?’
‘It doesn’t really matter,’ said Marilyn. ‘Give me the adverts. I’ll phone when I get to work.’
‘Work … yes, what time is it?’ said Rick.
‘Oh, no! It’s nearly half past eight. Come on, we should hurry … if you don’t want to be late again.’
Rick and Marilyn hurried out to the car. On the way to work they talked about the house. A lot of their friends lived on the new housing estate, and they’d been looking for a house in Balmoral Avenue, or in one of the roads near it, Sandringham Drive or Osborne Way. Marilyn stopped the car outside Rick’s office.
‘I’ll call the estate agent, and I’ll call you later,’ she said. Marilyn worked in an office near Rick’s. She usually had the car because there was more parking space at her office, and because she finished work half an hour earlier than Rick.
Burchill and Bradley ESTATE AGENTS
189, Turnberry Road, Sandbourne, Wessex Telephone: Sandbourne (01702) 461594
35 Balmoral Avenue, High Trees Estate, Sandbourne
Detached house, built about two years ago. It has gas central heating, superb modern kitchen, and a nice garden.
GROUND FLOOR
LIVING ROOM: (3.8m x5.55m) Two radiators, 6 electric points, TV point, fitted carpet. Nice view from window.
KITCHEN/DINING ROOM: (4m x3,42m) Modern cooker and fridge, washing machine point, 4 electric points, tiled
floor and walls. Excellent fitted units. Radiator.
HALL: (1.72m x4.1m) Electric point, telephone point, fitted carpet. Large storage cupboard under the stairs. Radiator.
GARAGE: 1 electric point. Window.
FIRST FLOOR
BEDROOM 1: (3.51 m x 3.76m) Radiator, 2 electric points, fitted carpet. Fitted wardrobe.
BEDROOM 2: (3.19m x 3.27m) Radiator, 2 electric points, fitted carpet.
BATHROOM: (2.5m x 2.75m) Modern bath, sink, shower. Small radiator. TOILET.
35 Balmoral Avenue is in the middle of the High Trees Estate, three miles from the town centre. The High Trees Shopping Centre is a short distance away, and so is the High Trees First School.
PRICE: £68,000
Norman & Naylor
ESTATE AGENTS 54 High Street, Sandbourne, Wessex Tel: Sandbourne 513216
35 Balmoral Avenue, High Trees Estate, Sandbourne
A modern detached house, built two years ago, with full gas central heating, excellent modern kitchen, and attractive garden.
GROUND FLOOR
Living Room (3.8m x 5.5m) Large picture window, 2 radiators, 6 electric points, TV point, fitted carpet.
Kitchen/Dining Room (4m x 3.5m) AEG cooker, Indesit fridge, point for washing machine, 4 electric points, tiled floor and walls. Fitted units. Radiator.
Hall (1.7m x 4m) Electric point, telephone point, fitted carpet. Large cupboard under the stairs. Radiator.
Garage 1 electric point
FIRST FLOOR
Bedroom 1 (3.5m x 3.75m) Radiator, 2 electric points, fitted carpet. Fitted wardrobes.
Bedroom 2 (3.2m x 3.27m) Radiator, 2 electric points, fitted carpet.
Bathroom (2.5m x 2.75m) Modern bath, sink, separate shower. Small radiator. Point for electric shaver.
Toilet With modern WC.
The house is in the very popular High Trees Estate, about 3 miles from the town centre, with an excellent bus service. It is about 1/2 mile from the nearest shops at the High Trees Shopping Centre and 3/4 mile from High Trees First School.
£68.000
2 Appointment to view
Marilyn hurried into her office, and put the two adverts down on her desk.
She telephoned Burchill and Bradley at five past nine. The phone rang several times, then she heard a voice. ‘Hello, this is Burchill and Bradley Estate Agents. This is a recording. I’m sorry, there isn’t anyone here at the moment. The office is open from nine thirty until five thirty. If you would like to leave a message, we’ll call you back.’
Marilyn put the phone down. She didn’t like telephone answering machines. It was easier to call the other estate agent. She looked at the advert again. There it was, Norman and Naylor, 513216. She called the number.
‘Good morning. Norman and Naylor. This is Mrs Adams speaking.’
‘Oh, good morning,’ said Marilyn. ‘I’ve been looking through your adverts. I’m interested in 35 Balmoral Avenue. I wonder if I could see it?’
‘Ah, yes,’ said Mrs Adams. That’s easy. The owners of 35 Balmoral Avenue are both out at work all day. They’ve given us a set of keys. I can take you round the house at any time. Today, if you like.’
‘Could you show us at lunchtime?’ asked Marilyn. ‘My husband and I both work too. But we’re free from twelve thirty until one forty-five.’
‘That’s all right. I’ll meet you outside the house at … one o’clock. Will that be all right?’
‘That’s OK, yes. We’ll see you then.’
‘Do you know where Balmoral Avenue is?’ said Mrs Adams.
‘Oh, yes. We’ve been looking for a house on the High Trees Estate.’
‘Right. I’ll be outside the house in a blue Ford Mondeo at one o’clock, then.’
‘Thank you,’ said Marilyn. “We’ll be in a white Volkswagen. See you at one.’
Marilyn felt very excited. They had seen a lot of houses in the last few weeks, but she felt really interested in this one. She phoned Rick at work, and told him about the appointment. They agreed to meet outside Rick’s office at twenty to one.
3: Their first house
Rick was waiting when Marilyn arrived at the office. He jumped into the car, and they drove to Balmoral Avenue. They parked behind the blue Ford Mondeo. Mrs Adams got out, and came to meet them.
‘You know, it’s much nicer when the owners aren’t at home,’ she said. ‘Yоu can ask as many questions as you want.’
‘Yes,’ said Rick, ‘and you don’t have to agree when they tell you how nice the green and orange paint is.’
Mrs Adams laughed. That’s true … now let me find the right keys. I’ve got so many sets of keys in my bag.’
Mrs Adams found the keys, and opened the door. Marilyn and Rick had been looking for a house just like it.
‘It was built just over two years ago,’ said Mrs Adams, ‘and it has everything you’ll need … central heating, a modern kitchen, and it’s been decorated very well. The carpets were put in two years ago, and the cooker and fridge are included in the price. The kitchen’s beautiful. Come on, I’ll show you.’
They went into the kitchen. ‘Have you got any children?’ said Mrs Adams.
Marilyn and Rick looked at each other. ‘No … not yet,’ said Marilyn.
‘Well, there’s an excellent school just down the road, and you can see the garden from the kitchen window …’
Everything was easy. That evening Mrs Adams took them to see Mr and Mrs Barclay, the owners of the house. They were very nice people. They were moving to a bigger house. Marilyn and Rick agreed to buy the house. Two months later it was theirs! They moved in during September. They spent a lot of time painting and decorating. The house didn’t really need decorating but they enjoyed doing it. They had been living in rented flats for years, and this was their first house. The weekends were wonderful. They painted, cleaned, decorated and worked in the garden. By Christmas the house really seemed like home.
4: A ghost in the house?
The first of the little surprises came early in January. Marilyn and Rick arrived home, as usual, just after six o’clock one Tuesday evening. Rick opened the door, and went into the kitchen to make some tea. Marilyn followed him in.
‘Rick,’ she said, ‘did you pick up the letters in the hall?’
‘No,’ he said, ‘you know I didn’t. You were just behind me.’
‘Well, that’s funny. Look, the post arrived after we’d left for work. It always does at this house. So, usually it’s lying on the doormat when we get home. Right?’
‘Yes,’ said Rick. ‘Why?’
‘The post isn’t on the floor now. It’s in a neat pile on the table, next to the telephone.’
Rick followed her into the hall. There were four or five letters in a pile on the hall table.
‘Maybe … maybe the post arrived earlier than usual today. Perhaps it arrived before we left for work. Maybe we picked it up, put it there, and forgot,’ he said.
‘No, I’m sure not,’ said Marilyn. ‘You see, I was waiting for this letter. It’s from Wendy. I was thinking about it on the way home.’
The next surprise was two weeks later. They had been out to dinner with friends on Wednesday evening, and they hadn’t woken up when the alarm clock rang. Rick woke up at twenty to nine. They both got dressed quickly and left home without breakfast.
They didn’t make the bed, and they left their nightclothes on the floor. They were usually very tidy people, but there wasn’t enough time. When they got home, Rick went upstairs first.
‘Marilyn,’ he said, ‘come up here.’
Marilyn walked into the bedroom. The bed was made.
Everything looked neat and tidy. She pulled back the bed covers. Rick’s pyjamas and her nightdress were folded neatly on the pillows.
‘I’m sure we didn’t make the bed,’ she said.
‘Did you come home at lunchtime?’ asked Rick.
‘No, of course not. I never do. There isn’t enough time.’
‘Well, you had the car,’ he said.
‘No, I worked through the lunch hour today. We were busy,’ she said. ‘Rick, is this a joke? Did you … ?’
‘I didn’t come home either,’ he said.
‘Then, we forgot,’ said Marilyn. We made the bed and forgot we’d done it. We drank a lot last night. I mean, we forgot those letters a couple of weeks ago.’
There were a few more surprises in the next few weeks. Once they found the letters on the hall table again. Another time the bathroom light was on. Rick was annoyed. He always worried about the electricity bills.
‘Did you leave the bathroom light on?’ he said angrily.
‘No,’ said Marilyn. ‘Anyway, you were in the bathroom after me this morning. Rick, you’re beginning to forget everything.’
Another time they were late for work, and they left their coffee cups on the table. When they got home, the coffee cups had been washed up, and were standing on the table.
Rick laughed. ‘Maybe there’s a ghost in the house,’ he said. ‘A very tidy ghost.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ she said, ‘it’s a new house, not an old castle. There’s no ghost.’
Suddenly there was a flash of lightning, and the noise of thunder. It started raining. She looked out of the window.
‘Rick,’ she said, ‘there isn’t a ghost, is there?’
They both laughed then.
They didn’t laugh at the next surprise. They had been out to dinner, and they got home late. They were both tired. They went into the living room.
‘I’ll make some tea, Rick,’ said Marilyn. “You look in the newspaper and see what’s on television.’
She went into the kitchen.
‘Marilyn,’ called Rick, ‘where’s the newspaper? I can’t find it.’
She came back into the living room. ‘It was on the coffee table. I put it there this morning.’
‘It isn’t here now,’ said Rick.
They looked everywhere for the newspaper, but they couldn’t find it anywhere.
‘I’m tired of this,’ said Rick. ‘Let’s have a drink.’
He went to the cupboard to get the bottle of whisky they had brought back from holiday two years before. They didn’t usually drink whisky, and the bottle was nearly full. Rick opened the cupboard, and there was the newspaper! It was folded neatly, and it was lying next to the bottle.
‘Why did you put it in here?’ he said.
‘I didn’t. I was reading it before we left for work, and I put it on the coffee table,’ said Marilyn.
‘I haven’t opened this cupboard for weeks,’ said Rick. ‘Anyway, neither of us would put the newspaper in here. What’s happening?’
Marilyn sat down. ‘Rick,’ she said, ‘you don’t think there is a ghost here, do you?’
‘What? A tidy ghost? I’ve never heard of a tidy ghost.’
‘Why not?’
Rick sat down too. ‘But it’s a new house.’
‘Maybe someone died here. Maybe one of the Barclays’ parents lived with them. Maybe they died here,’ said Marilyn.
‘Or maybe there were houses here before . . . before the High Trees Estate was built.’
‘I don’t know,’ said Marilyn. ‘Maybe we should ask Mr and Mrs Barclay. We’ve got their new address.’
‘We can’t,’ said Rick, ‘it sounds so silly. “Excuse me, Mr Barclay. Did you leave a ghost here? Did you forget to take it with your furniture?” I can’t ask them.’
‘Well,’ said Marilyn, ‘I’m going to the library tomorrow lunchtime. I’m going to discover what was here before this house was built.’
5: A visit to the library
The next day, at twelve thirty, Marilyn hurried to the Sandbourne Central Library. She went over to the man at the desk.
‘Excuse me,’ she said, ‘have you got any books about the history of Sandbourne … old maps, anything like that?’
‘Oh, yes,’ he said. ‘What do you want to know?’
‘Er, I’m interested in the High Trees Estate area. I live there, and I’ve always been interested in history.’
‘Well, come over here, we’ll have a look.’
Marilyn followed the man to a shelf of books about the history of the area.
‘I’m very interested in old stories … ghost stories … things like that,’ she said.
‘Ghost stories?’ he said. There won’t be many ghost stories about that area. It’s all new.’
‘Er … what was there before the housing estate?’ asked Marilyn.
‘Well, that’s easy. It used to be High Trees Farm. They knocked down the farm five, maybe six years ago.’
‘Have you got an old map?’ she asked.
‘Yes, I’ll find it for you,’ said the man.
When Rick came out of the office, Marilyn was waiting in the car. She opened the door.
‘Rick,’ she said, ‘I went to the library today.’
‘Why?’ he said. You don’t believe there really is a ghost, do you?’
‘I found an old map of the area,’ she said. There used to be a farm. The estate is built on an old farm.’
‘So?’ said Rick.
‘I looked at the map. The farmhouse used to be where Balmoral Avenue is now. It used to be right in the middle of Balmoral Avenue.’
‘Yes?’
‘Well, our house, number thirty-five, is right in the middle of the Avenue. Perhaps our house is just where the farmhouse used to be. I looked in another book. The farmhouse was built about two hundred years ago.’
That doesn’t mean there’s a ghost! There are thousands of old houses with no ghost stories. Anyway, I don’t believe in ghosts. And neither do you.’
‘Until today,’ said Marilyn. ‘Can you explain about the newspaper in the cupboard? The letters? The bed that was made? The clean coffee cups? The light in the bathroom?’
‘We’ve been very busy,’ said Rick. We’ve been busy at work, and we’ve been working hard in our free time on the house. We’re forgetting things, that’s all.’
‘I hope so, Rick,’ she said. ‘I hope so.’
They arrived home. Marilyn opened the door and turned on the light. There, on the hall table, was a neat pile of letters.