Frivolous Monsters

A Christmas Eve Horror Story

I seem to keep my neighbours under close observation and scrutiny; from the man who looks like a beetroot Roy Kinnear over the back, to his neighbour whose wandering hands creep into our garden over the fence to very visibly snip through all our creepers which climb up his patchy conifer that overhangs our garden, but this Christmas Eve tale of English horror revolves around the house next door to us which, at the beginning of 2016, was still for sale after being briefly haunted by a previous owner who still had unfinished business in this realm.


But this is no ghost story.

Her gutted house had been bought a couple of years ago from the family of the deceased by an odd family who, in the previous August, had undergone a suspicious spurt of activity and finally cleared away the renovation rubble which had been piled upon their drive for a year. They’d bought the “little old Jewish lady” house for £115 K in March 2014, to “live in” they told my Dad, although as soon as it was finished it was suddenly up for sale for £165 K.

They’d knocked the chimney off, knocked some walls out, turned the garage into a very obvious pot den, but the most extreme family member was the long-haired tomboy daughter whom, I discovered, sang unselfconsciously to herself in the back garden – “…oh, I think that I’ve found myself a cheerleader” – whilst she went about her hobby of hitting things which were unable to fight back: plants, trees, brick walls: she wasn’t fussy.

And whilst she sure cleared that small space of decades old foliage behind their garage-cum-drug emporium, thus weakening our house’s defences, she also seemed to have gone to town on the small piece of wall we shared at the bottom of our gardens because suddenly it resembles a shattered tottering death trap. Still, they caused the problem, they sorted the problem…or at least they put up a bit of flimsy wooden fence on their side and stopped worrying about it.

The most bizarre incident with the daughter I witnessed was when she had a bizarre lovers’ tiff in the street which involved much screaming, shouting, crying, and – true to form – the smashing of something on the pavement before he had the decency to put his foot down and drive away. My greatest fear, with the house being up for sale, was that it would now be bought by someone worse. To counter this I hoped that the increased fifty grand asking price would only act to imply “no riffraff”.


At the start of 2016 the house next door finally sold and in April the construction family moved out. I did wonder who was next to join the circus and then I overheard a commotion between a bearded man who looked like Danny Dyer and a balding pensioner as they shuffled cars about outside after which the former said to the latter: “I have had the car up the drive…but it’s the cars opposite”.

Before the house had sold I had seen someone struggling to be the first person up that narrow drive since the 1980s, when the Bernsteins had a red Lada and the road was quiet, and I knew then and there that some fool had bought it thinking that it was a going concern. The street was built in the fifties, the houses opposite had no drives, and so in the 21st Century the road is usually chock-a-block. If I’m ever lucky enough to buy a house, especially one at such an inflated price, I’d like to think I’d do some due diligence first.

My Dad later heard beardy on his phone telling someone to come around and see his new house, which he thought was marvellous, and he went around and interrogated our new neighbour who it turned out was called Dave and that all he’d ever wanted in life was a drive and a garage. Little did he seem to know that his drive was inaccessible and that his garage was a pot den. Silly Dave. I imagined that we’d soon lower his expectations…and wondered if Mrs Bernstein was still about and haunting the place.


I’d been cultivating our sparrows, finally winning in the war against the sparrow hawk, twice having to nearly punch it out of our privet hedge empty-handed, and we have been blessed this year with loads. I fed them bread on top of our shed roof, right next to Dave’s tree at the end of his long drive, and they used to appear from it en masse flitting out briefly when it was safe to do so.

But then Dave got a man in to widen his drive entrance.

Then he got some men in to remove the sparrow tree which blocked his view.

And so the sparrows have gone.

The last time I threw food onto the shed roof it just rotted.

Now Dave zooms up and down that drive at all hours shooting out into the street like Batman. Fair play to him: he had a dream; he made it happen.


Losing the sparrow tree really opened up our back garden to public view from the street, and so my Dad started pruning his side of our privet at the front in case he started getting any more ideas, and then the Jewish lady on the other side had her hedge removed and now you can actually see into our dining room from the street. The outside world encroaches still further.

So the sparrows have mostly moved to safer pastures; and the foxes stopped coming long ago, or so we assume; and the hedgehogs all disappeared long before hibernation; but I still every day put the leftover cat food scrapings out on a plate for whoever is out there, even if it’s just the birds, and so it was late one winter night, at 2am when I found a full bowl of combined leftovers as I headed off to bed and it had just starting to pour down outside, that I decided I would unlock the back door again and take it out, dressing gown flapping in the wind, because I’m not shy in flashing the neighbours, and I opened the back door…and that moment was when I found it.


A single wet footprint outside the back door.


Just like Robinson Caruso on the beach.


I was not alone.


I did say this was a horror story.


There was no obvious sign of anyone, but who really knows what goes on, in the darkness, when no-one is looking. So sleep tight this Christmas Eve and hold your loved ones close…if you’re lucky enough to have them.





Of course I went all Sherlock and set about photographing the scene of the crime to record the evidence, only regretting later that I didn’t put down an object to judge a sense of scale, after assuring myself that the assailant had left and that it was safe to do so.

It had only just started to rain heavily and my Dad had gone to bed a couple of hours previously so I imagined I’d had a close call.

I showed the photographs to my concerned parents the next morning and my Dad checked the pattern against his shoes and it did not match.

It did match his slippers though.

It turns out, forensic fans, that you don’t get the finer pattern printed from sodden slippers from heavy rain, but you do from the light rain we’d had a couple of hours earlier when he’d been out to check the shed was locked.

Case closed.

Except to say that I bought my Dad a sparrow colony nesting box for Christmas.

Happy Christmas everybody. Don’t let the monsters in the darkness bite.



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13 thoughts on “A Christmas Eve Horror Story

  1. Great urban moments. Is this Bury?
    Glad you solved the case of the single footprint, though I feel kinda sad about the sparrows.

    • Yes, there or there about. The sparrows are still around, but the more trees and bushes that get taken only makes them all the more vulnerable. I was surprised to see a sparrow hawk dive into a privet hedge like a rabbit down a hole, but the noise of sparrows within alerted me and the second time I actually ran out to slap the hedge to frighten it off. It probably has claws like razorblades so I shouldn’t hope to get too close.

  2. I’m sorry you have lost so much of your greenery (and privacy). Do you have room to do more plantings on your side of the fence to act as a screen and attract the wildlife?

    • No, due to our neighbour’s odd shaped house he has a side garden. That’s why the sparrow tree backed onto our shed roof, built on concrete. The strip of land behind their garage, which hadn’t been touched in decades, we don’t even think belongs to them next door but the neighbour over the back. He’s not notices and so it just looks like a new status quo has been established.

  3. Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a horror story although the closest I usually get is watching the Muppets’ version of a ‘Christmas Carol’ which my daughters insist we do every year as it’s become a bit of a family tradition.
    I’m looking forward to hearing whether your Dad manages to attract some sparrows.

    • Yes, last year I got a book of MR James ghost stories. As this latter bit happened in November I thought I should write this for Christmas Eve, but then left it with 24 hours to go. It was an effort getting it out in that time.

      The sparrows do hang around a couple of small trees against the fence since my Dad hung some fat ball holders in them. I did think the sparrow colony would go on the fence behind it, so that they’d be visible from kitchen window, but my Dad read the instructions and apparently that’s the last place you’re supposed to put it. So I guess it’s going to be sadly out of view. We’ll see how it goes.

  4. Happy new year FM.

    Love Denise.

    • Denise, there’s a line in this which is heartfelt and honest, coming from me who’s been single for so many years now that it hurts, but I did worry that it might upset you. And I didn’t want to do that. I hope that it didn’t and that you had an enjoyable Christmas with family. All my best.

      • No Fm, it didn’t upset me in the regard that I echoed the sentiment. It just pulled at my heartstrings for a moment.
        Thanks for your sensitivity.

        Christmas day was hard but I flew to Boston to stay with a friend on boxing day so the thought of that got me through.

        Life goes on.

    • For a long time I imagined you meant Boston, America, which sounds very impressive before you consider that there’s one in Lincolnshire which is a lot nearer. Life, as you say, goes on and I know you’re a person to make the most of it. I hope you enjoyed Boston…whichever one it was.

      • Am I going to fly to Lincolnshire?
        I’m in Boston Massachusetts USA. ( well Hopkinton. A little town just outside) visiting my friend. Who’s invited me to distract me from new year without Michael. .
        I’m spending hours watching the local sparrows and other more colourful birds fighting at the bird feeder hung in the snow. The red squirrels are doing thier best to get in on the act! Previously they stole the fat balls so my friend is hoping the new feeder is squirrel proof.It’s fascinating and good therapy. . So I understand where you are coming from, when he demolished the tree. Such a loss.

  5. Happy new year, FM!

    • And the same to you even though WordPress has had another overhaul, for the worse again, which seems to penalise photographers by shrinking and cropping their images on the reader page and making everybody’s posts look identical. Maybe they’ve improved since their roll out, and the complaints, I don’t know but it makes all this seem more futile.
      All my best all the same.

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