When I was about 10 years old, my grandparents bought a shop in the small seaside town of Hastings on the south coast of England. The "Olde Towne Store" was located in the oldest part of the town, with buildings dating back as far as the 14th century.
The shop door opened directly onto the sidewalk. To the back of the shop on the right-hand side was a new addition, comprised of a living room, kitchen and toilet. The remaining living quarters were located on the second floor. To get to the second floor, one had to walk through the shop to the back left-hand corner and up a narrow, winding staircase. Two bedrooms and a lounge were located on the second floor. Behind a hidden door in the lounge wall, a steep winding staircase led up to the main bathroom and two attics. The attics were located in the peak of the roof and were virtually useless in terms of usable space due to the steep pitch of the roof.
Although the house was very old and creaky, it didn't have a creepy feeling.
One night during my family's first visit, my grandmother and I were downstairs in the kitchen making tea. Everyone else was upstairs in the lounge watching TV. Nana handed me a plate of cookies and asked me to take them upstairs. I walked through the shop and turned to climb the stairs to the second floor. Standing on the second step was a man who appeared to be perfectly solid although completely grey in colour. He wore a long coat with a type of top cape attached. I couldn't make out his facial features to gauge his age even though he was facing me. My immediate thought upon seeing him was, "He's not supposed to be there". Surprisingly, I wasn't afraid and calmly turned around and walked back through the shop to tell my grandmother about him. She told me I was talking nonsense and the street light outside the shop must have caused a shadow to appear on the stairs. I insisted that I saw him and took her back through the shop to show her. Of course he had vanished by the time we got back to the stairs. My grandmother then told me not to say anything to the rest of the family as I would frighten them for no good reason. Feeling somewhat miffed because I knew I hadn't imagined the man, I agreed to keep quiet.
A few days later my mother came bursting into the kitchen to report that she had been taking fresh towels up to the bathroom at the top of the house and encountered a man standing on the top of the stairs. Her description of him fit mine to a "T". He simply stood and watched her before vanishing. Like me, she couldn't see his face clearly.
One evening when we were all upstairs watching TV, my mother dashed downstairs during a commercial break to put on the kettle for tea. She ran through the living room and straight through the grey man! He was standing in the living room when she burst in and couldn't stop in time. She said she felt icy cold at the time.
During a subsequent visit to the house, my sister watched as a man walked past the rear bedroom door and headed towards the stairs leading down into the shop. In order to get to the stairs, he would have had to pass by the front bedroom where I was reading. I saw no one go by. Somewhere between the two rooms, he disappeared.
My mother saw the grey man on several other occasions. Once he was standing in the bathroom at the top of the house and another time he was standing in the shop.
Many times a strong smell of old pipe tobacco permeated the air, especially at the base of the attic stairs in the upstairs lounge and sometimes on the attic stairs themselves. When encountered on the stairs, the smell was always accompanied by a rush of cold air.
Items were forever disappearing and reappearing all over the house which caused lots of frustration and confusion with everyone blaming everyone else.
One evening whilst sitting in the upstairs lounge alone, my mother distinctly heard a cough come from beside the fireplace in a very masculine tone.
On another occasion, I was attempting to fall asleep in the front bedroom. I'm guessing the time would have been after midnight as the pub next door had long since let out its patrons and closed its doors. I heard a woman's voice say "Release me" three times in a progressively agitated voice. The voice originated from just outside the bedroom doorway. It frightened me as to that point, there was no hint of a second spirit in the house. I told my grandmother about it the next morning but to my knowledge, no other incidents involving a woman occurred.
My grandmother checked the old town records and ascertained that the shop was originally an apothecary (pharmacy) and later a printing shop. It appeared that a past tenant - an elderly man - had fallen down the attic staircase and died in the lounge. This seemed to explain his preoccupation with the staircase.
After living there for about five years, my grandparents sold the property and moved to another part of the country. Many years later, my grandmother and I visited the town and stopped by the shop. It had changed quite dramatically and was no longer a shop but a tea room. The tea room was closed; however we knocked on the door and the new owners (who also owned the pub next door) invited us in. They showed us the extensive renovation that they had completed, most especially in the attic area, which had been completely revamped and consisted of high-ceilinged bedrooms where the old low-ceilinged attics used to be. My curiosity got the better of me and I inquired as to whether they had experienced anything unusual in the house. The immediate reply was "Oh, you must mean Old Willy - the old man". They went on to describe similar experiences to those we had encountered. They also said that during the renovation, especially the installation of the new attic roof, he became very upset and would stamp around upstairs and was constantly slamming doors and windows. Once the new roof was securely in place, he settled back down to his usual routine.