A ripple of a chill raises the hair on my neck as I enter the store room.
Filled floor to ceiling with the detritus of old signage, retired equipment and stacks of objects longing for a glass cabinet of their own; it is a storage space for lost things. Upright in the corner stands a blackened iron chest the size of a circus strongman. No one has opened it, no one has a key, and no one knows what it is. It looms ominously inviting comparison with Trunchbull’s favourite punishment for Matilda’s classmates; The Chokey.
I choose to ignore it and make a quick exit. I’ve found the ‘Caution Wet Floor’ sign for the juice spillage. Besides it’s cold in there.
Even in the when it’s thirty degrees outside it’s always icy in the museum. Ancient stone walls, a foot thick in places, keep it cooler than air conditioning ever could. That is the logical explanation for the cold. We have an under desk heater to roast shins when thermals just won’t do. It isn’t switched on. No, the chill is something else.
Before it was reborn as a museum the building went through several incarnations. Foundations laid by medieval merchants, roots which were built upon, extended, remodelled, destroyed, rebuilt, and finally restored.
Several centuries of life have wandered through these rooms and they have left their mark. Ragged stonework protrudes at odd intervals, timbered floors are worn to a dark polish and a fireplace is scarred by the graffiti of the civil war soldiers billeted there. The stone is silent but if it could speak it would tell tales of war, drunken sailors, wealthy men and broken tenement dwellers.
Urban legend says that some of the souls who laughed, cried and breathed in these rooms never left. Spectres of children, soldiers and a mysterious woman in a long dress have been seen. In the stillness between 5pm closing and the early morning unlocking the ghosts come out to play.
Outlines of figures flicker across the upstairs windows, objects change places, lights which were switched off turn on again of their own volition. Eerie creaks and sighs are heard. Voices and a child’s laughter echo round the ancient walls. Some rooms are colder than others, some visitors claim the very rooms vibrate with the supernatural. For me there’s just a freaky cold vibe sometimes. The ghost stories and superstitious bullshit hold no interest. The stories are good for the tourists though; they lap them up.
Night is on its way as the last visitor is shepherded out. Shut down is efficient; we take less than ten minutes. One last check for stray people then lights off and doors locked. As the heavy front door thunks closed, and the alarm pips good night, I catch something in my peripheral vision.
A grey shadow crosses the first floor window. My skin prickles. I dismiss it. It’s probably just the lights going again as a the result of weird electric wiring. I tell myself I don’t believe in that crap anyway.
I must be imagining it, because there’s no such thing as ghosts… is there?