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Episode 18: Coming Home


Colm: Good morning Amsterdam! This is Colm Kelly speaking, Communications Manager of the Manchester Paranormal Collective, at your service. We saw your notice last week calling for relatively plausible statements that might be helpful with your current case, and we found a quite recent one that we reckon matches it pretty closely. Uhm, let us know if it was helpful, and if you’re ever in the neighbourhood, feel free to take a peek in our archives in person! We’d love to work with you lot again some time in the future, it’d actually finally give me something to do, what with London being so secretive and our lovely Welsh neighbours never replying to emails. Actually, we do still have some ongoing research into this specific story, so we’ll send you the results of that as soon as possible, but for now, uhm… Good luck, I guess! Enjoy? No that’s weir-



Lara: Statement of Sylvia Dorther, regarding the house and belongings of her late father. File date is the 12th of March, 2021, courtesy of the Manchester Paranormal Collective. Audio recording by Lara Stray from the Amsterdam Students’ Association for the Paranormal.

Statement begins.

In the spring of 2016 I cut ties with my father. I thought it would be for good.

I don’t really need to go into the details, but let’s just say it was a petty fight that I tried to resolve time and time again, but dad was stubborn to the bone. I did inherit a lot of that from him, but eventually I was the first to crack. He wasn’t at my wedding the year after, he wasn’t at my husband’s funeral after that, and I shouldn’t have been surprised when he didn’t show up at mum’s either. They got divorced when I was 12, it wasn’t pretty. That’s life, I guess, but it still stung to have to organise the service on my own. Mum deserved better.

I didn’t see him for almost five years. Didn’t miss him, didn’t even think about him, I’d moved into Manchester and I guess he always stuck back where I left him in that dingy old town. I know he did, actually, because six months ago I suddenly got a message from my old neighbours. I hadn’t talked to them since I moved out and they confessed they hadn’t really talked to my dad in years, but they always used to see him go out in the evening, around sunset, to buy groceries. They hadn’t seen him come out in a month, they said, and they were starting to worry something had happened to him. He didn’t appear to have any friends or contacts, so they tracked me down on Facebook and asked me if I could check on him. I protested, asked if they couldn’t go in and see, but they were both unwell and infirm and hadn’t been able to do much more than ring the bell.

It had gone unanswered.

Reluctantly, I drove back to the house where I grew up, on a barren little street with cracked pavement. It was early autumn, cold as hell, and the only living things there were the uniform hedges lining every little front yard. Well, I think they were probably on the way out, too. My father’s house looked uninhabited, curtains drawn, lights off, and some post half sticking out of the slot in the door. I visited the neighbours who offered me tea, but I was uneasy and worried and left quickly. They didn’t have much to say to me, anyway.

Three times I rang dear old dad’s doorbell to no avail before I walked around the block, into the narrow little alleyway that ran behind the row of houses, and climbed the tall fence. Standing in the backyard I felt a chill run down my spine at the sight of how little had changed since I’d left. It was mostly empty, cut off from the neighbours’ yards by a wooden fence at least ten feet tall, tiled ground, a plastic table and two matching lawn chairs. The only other things there were a rusty old bike with two flat tires and a leaky old rainwater barrel. Tufts of grass were growing out of the cracks between the tiles, the table and chairs were coated in a green residue and there was a big puddle by the door. The large window was mostly obscured by piles of trash, old books, clothes, blankets, objects, all covered in dust. Dad was a hoarder even when I was little, and it seemed to have gotten worse.

The door was open, though it was partially blocked by a broken old hoover and a pile of yellowed magazines. Once inside, it didn’t take long to find him, slumped into a chair in the dark living room. Honestly, I’d expected to find a corpse, but when I saw my old man for the first time in half a decade he was alive.

I almost wish he hadn’t been.

He was almost unrecognisable, his hair and beard grey and unkempt. They reached down almost to his hips. His skin was sagging, deeply set with dark wrinkles. In the fading light coming from the kitchen window, I could hardly tell where his frayed clothes ended and the upholstery of his old chair began. He would have been just past 60, but looked no day younger than 90. I called out to him, and his eyes slowly opened. They were the same awful blue as they used to be, even if they were bloodshot and glassy. It took a while, but eventually I think he recognised me.

I didn’t need an apology, really, though it could have been nice. I didn’t need him to hug me, ask me how I’d been, ask how mum’s funeral was, he was an old rotter and I knew he didn’t care. But maybe I’d hoped for any sign he’d ever cared about his only child.

All he could muster was a quiet, venomous “Get out of my house”.

His hands trembled as he said it, some spittle dribbled down his chin as he spat out the words. My stomach churned. I bolted out the door, and left him to rot.

Maybe that makes me a bad person, I think it was pretty clear he was going to die if he stayed there in his own filth, but he’d dug his grave and I wasn’t about to reach a hand down to help. He’d probably just drag me down with him.

Maybe I did feel a pang of shame deep in my stomach when about a month ago I received a notice that he’d gone missing. After trying and failing to reach me again, the neighbours had called the police who had broken in and found the house empty. Not a single sign of life. The doors were locked and bolted from the inside, the windows were all shut, and my father had seemingly up and vanished without anyone seeing him leave.

I slept on it for two weeks. Every morning I would curse him out over my coffee and convince myself I was finally done with him for good now. Every evening as I went to bed I tried to repress the thought that maybe, just maybe, he could show up at my door any day.


One morning, after not having slept a minute, I decided that bastard was going to haunt me for life if I didn’t get rid of him myself, so I got in my car and drove back to his choked old house, planning to throw out all his old junk and in the process get him out of my head forever.


When I pulled up to the house in a flurry of wet snow, something had changed. The house, even if it was old, dirty, and neglected, had always been just a house before, no matter how many bad memories I had of it. Now, though, it seemed to lean forward and over my head as I stepped through the gate of the front yard. A fraction of a sag in the façade gave the windows a hateful gaze, and each step I took toward the front door was heavier than the last. The door was unlocked. I pushed it open and squeezed past the rubbish in the hall, into the depths of my father’s home.


It felt like I’d fallen into a deep pit.

What little light came through the kitchen window hardly reached the living room. Every wall was covered in bookcases, loose shelves, stacks, piles, paintings, pictures, and dust. So much dust. It was a carpet on the floor, though so little of the floor was visible under the statues, chairs, broken appliances, vases of dead flowers, discarded furniture… I felt myself break out into a sweat and my lungs contracted as I breathed in the stale air. I felt hollow. This place, or some version of it, was the house where I was born and raised. The weight of it all pushed down on me, I didn’t want to touch anything.

I shook myself out of a daze and headed to the door upstairs, but tripped over an old framed drawing, shattering it as it and I fell to the floor together. I cut my hand on a shard when I tried to get back up, and I started bleeding onto the floor. Deep in the foundations of the house, something creaked like an old stiff spine and I ran upstairs to the bathroom to find our old medical kit. I doubted he’d gotten rid of it.

Every step of the narrow stairway was littered with shoes, rubbish bags, stacks of paperwork, I clambered over them and wondered if he could have even used it in the state he was in. The upstairs landing was darker still and I had to use my phone’s torch to find the light switch. A lamp on the ceiling crackled to life, though barely, and in the old bathroom whose tile floor was wet and smelled of mildew I managed to find an old bandage that seemed clean. Across the landing, the door to my childhood bedroom stood at a crack, and was thrown open by a passing draught.

I tried to remind myself of what I’d come here to do, that it would be better if I started downstairs, pitching everything I could get my hands on into the backyard. I couldn’t. As much as I hated it, something deep inside me wanted to burrow into the piles, peel back the layers and find anything that might explain where he’d gone.

Maybe something of mine. I don’t know.

The landing was cramped, the door mostly blocked by a stack of boxes filled with something heavy, but I worked my way into the open door. The windows were closed. There shouldn’t have been much of a draught at all. Besides my old bed, stripped of all linens, the room was barren and icy cold.

Not entirely, actually, I found an old notebook on the floor beneath my bed. Unlike anything else in the house it looked like the dust hadn’t touched it. The cover was slightly wet to the touch. Inside was something of a diary, or a poetry collection. Dad had been a failed writer in his youth, a pretentious poet who could only ever write about himself. Most of the writing was old and some of it I recognised, but near the end of the notebook there were newer passages. More sombre, almost frightening, and uncharacteristically self-aware. He was a dramatist, notoriously, never afraid of hyperbole, but I felt lightheaded at reading them. I turned to the window for some fresh air, but as much as I pulled on it, it wouldn’t budge. My vision fading at the edges, I sat down on the bare mattress to catch my breath.

I found it hard to get back up.

My vision blurred.

I must have passed out.


It was dark. Darker than before. I ran a hand across my face and noticed my fingertips still felt wet.

The door was open. The light on the landing was off.

I got up off the bed, wiped the dust off my coat, and prepared to walk back out of the house. Maybe I would have to come back. Then I felt a tremor in the floor.


It was light, but persistent, enough to throw me off balance. I fumbled around for my phone and turned on the torch, I was scared to trip over something again. Maybe I would break something. Maybe I’d be unable to leave. My hands shook, but I held onto the phone and stepped out onto the landing.

I swear it was smaller than before. The ceiling sagged down like skin and some liquid was dripping from it, into my hair. I couldn’t tell what it was, but it felt viscous. Out of the bathroom, a thin stream of water dribbled into the hallway and down the stairs.

I went about carefully climbing back down to the living room, by now clearly not thinking straight. That must be why, as I opened the door at the bottom of the stairs, I realised I was instead at the top, my hand on the door to the attic. The forbidden attic, dad’s office. I froze and turned back around, but the stairs behind me were hopelessly blocked by boxes and boxes of god knows what. Surely I would have remembered climbing through that, I thought, but there were no signs that I had either way.

I felt a tug of air coming through the crack in the door. Oxygen. Maybe dad had gone mad from some kind of gas leak. It would explain what was happening to me, and it would mean I seriously needed to get out of there, or to open a window at least. I quickly opened the door and stepped in.


There were no windows in the attic.

When I first shone the beam of my torch into the room, at first I saw nothing but what looked like hundreds of little stars shining back at me from the darkness.

When my eyes had gotten used to the sight, I realised they were reflections. The light bouncing off little glass surfaces all around the room, on the walls, the ceiling, the floor, cabinets and tables around the room. It looked big, bigger than I’d thought possible, but then again, it was so very empty.

As I walked carefully into the room, the images behind the glass became clear. Every inch of the space was decked in picture frames. The first ones I saw, the ones closest to me on the floor, seemed familiar. They were faded, mostly colourless and little more than vague shapes, but one looked like my 10th birthday party, another I recognised as one of my parents’ wedding photos. It felt strange to see them framed, my father was not a sentimental man in that regard. At least, I never thought he’d care to keep these.


I turned to the right wall, and it was closer than I expected. I figured I must not have looked properly before, the room wasn’t all that big after all. These pictures were less faded, but… stranger. I didn’t recognise them, though some of the moments depicted I remembered. Me and my dad fighting in our living room, much emptier then, when I was 16. A picture of me the day I moved out unannounced, standing in the doorway holding a big cardboard box. My parents sat opposite each other in the kitchen. My mother crying, my dad completely expressionless.

These shouldn’t exist. Nobody had been taking pictures at any of these moments.


I looked up to check the contents of a cabinet that had been at the far end of the attic. It was close enough for me to clearly see the pictures within, much too close. Certainly closer than it had been before. The moments were all wrong now, me and my mother staring in dead-eyed through the kitchen window, a faceless mass standing in the front yard brandishing knives. Me, eight years old, staring at the camera with a wide grin and blackened eyes. My mother, with beastly claws, pinning my father up against a wall.

I looked back at the door, I was standing a few metres into the room, but it was barely a room now. The walls had closed in like a hallway, empty of anything save the dozens of pictures still lining every surface. The door lay closed at the end. I had not closed it behind me. The pictures were mostly just faces now, cruel faces, grinning, threatening, shouting, pointed teeth, burning eyes, me, my mother, long gone people I vaguely remembered, ones without eyes or recognisable features but still glowing with malice. I sprinted for the door and tried the handle. No luck. I stepped back and threw my shoulder against it. A creaking sound erupted, but it still did not open. Again I hurled myself at it, my body loudly protesting, again, again, I felt the back wall touch the back of my foot and saw the horrific faces behind the glass close in in my peripheral as I readied myself for one last push, hit the door, and in a rain of splinters and broken glass, fell headfirst down the stairs.


The boxes and other junk cushioned my fall somewhat, but I was bruised all over as I rolled onto the landing into something wet that stung at my skin. I quickly scrambled up and realised the stream of foaming water from the bathroom had turned yellow and smelled acrid and sharp. Like stomach acid. The ceiling sagged down lower still, my father’s hoard had multiplied and now filled up almost the entire space. Reaching the stairs was nearly impossible and the thin layer of fluid on the floor seemed to be growing.

I crawled and climbed, up and over, cutting myself on stray corners and edges, finally reaching the stairs. I ran down, slipped as the carpet came loose and I nearly fell, though I caught myself on the railing. As it rolled down, I couldn’t help but imagine the grey carpet seemed unkept and knotted like hair. It joined the other rubbish at the bottom of the stairs. Everything had rolled down and formed a big pile that blocked the door.

I dug through and pushed it aside, as the tremors in the floor intensified and caused the house to creak and pop like worn joints. I pushed open the door, stumbled out into the old living room and leaned against a wall to catch my breath. It gave way under my hand, feeling less like wood and more like leathery skin, and my hand suddenly started burning like I’d placed it on a stovetop. When I pulled back and wildly pointed the beam of the torch at the wall it looked like nothing more than planks of wood, though the grain couldn’t help but remind me of the wrinkles in my father’s weathered face. The air was thick with dust and fear and something in it was vile, solid and tasted like hatred.


I ran for the door, it too was blocked by collapsed piles of scattered things, though not enough to stop me from pushing it open far enough to fit through as a roar from above shook the house and everything in it. While I wormed my way out I took one last panicked look back and saw myself reflected in a mirror on the floor, propped up against an old wooden chair. I had red-brown stains across my face, my clothing soaked in awful fluids, and instead of my own, the eyes that looked back at me were my father’s piercing blue.


I felt them bore into me still as I jumped into my car and left that street for good.

Nobody else ever saw my father again, but I knew he was right where he’d always been.

You’ll find his last writings attached. Make of them what you will.

Statement ends.

The attachment reads as follows:


The windows are all shut firmly, every once in a while a draught picks up the dust that surrounds me, and sends a chill down my spine. It wears away at me. It wears away at the house.


From behind glass, forgotten faces look my way, discoloured, shapeless, they hold no names. Between the frames lies a void of many more eyes, which I dare not look at, for fear they might be my own. My footsteps grow heavier, and so do my eyelids. It’s getting harder to move.


My thoughts wandered to the outside for the first time in

My thoughts wandered to the outside. I wondered, if the curtains have been shut for so long that I can’t remember what the sky looked like at night, why do the pictures still fade? If my legs no longer care to take me up the stairs, why does the carpet fray more each passing day?


Around me lies the evidence of many lives lived. It seems I’ve become another trinket to be put up on the shelf. To be left in a corner, when the shelves become too hard to reach. To be crushed at the bottom of an ever growing pile when no corners are left bare. To remain. To remain full of memories best not remembered.


Why do I cough when I haven’t been breathing? Why do I hunger when my body lies perfectly still? Why does my body lie perfectly still? Why do the bricks lie perfectly still? Why does the draught still move? Why does the draught still move? Why does the draught still move? Why does the draught still move?


When it is done, what will be left? A living, creaking man, or a cold, dead brickwork of sorrows?




Colm: Manchester Paranormal Collective, this is Colm Kelly speaking, how may I help you?

Lara: Hello uhm… Mister Kelly? My name is Lara Stray, I’m calling on behalf of the Amsterdam Students’ Association for the Paranormal.

Colm: Ah, it’s ASAP! Just Colm is fine, the boss keeps telling me it’s unprofessional, but we’re all a little nuts in this line of work. No need to pretend otherwise, right?

Lara: [NERVOUS CHUCKLE, BECOMES SLIGHTLY MORE RELAXED] You’re not wrong mist- Colm. I was just calling to follow up on the Sylvia Dorther case. Have there been any advancements in your research since you sent over the file?

Colm: Well it’s been about a month, so I sure would hope they’ve worked on it, but you never know here. We’re always neck deep in some kind of crisis. Let me check that for you, just a moment.


Colm: Yeah, doesn’t look like much has happened at all. It’s got a little note saying you guys are on it, probably means it’s not a priority here. Sorry about that. Any updates from your side?

Lara: We do have something! I’m actually a little glad we got to it first, our research team was really proud of the work they got done. It’s their first big find so uhm, yeah. So. Miss Dorther sold the house, as you said in your file, and we got a hold of the company that now owns the property. It took a little convincing and some impersonation and- actually, that’s not important, the point is, we heard that they’ve had plans to empty out the house and renovate the interior for the entire time they’ve had it, but they haven’t started.

Colm: Alright, that’s not that weird, that lot’s always slow, I mean, Manchester Paranormal is quite small and I’m trapped in like a… a bureaucratic slog on the daily, so-

Lara: [INTERRUPTING] No they did try, but they couldn’t… They couldn’t find the house.


Colm: They couldn’t find the house.

Lara: That is what they said.

Colm: But they bought it. It’s just a terraced house, it’s got neighbours, it can’t be that hard.

Lara: They couldn’t really tell us more than that, I’m afraid, but…

Colm: Ooh, there’s a but?

Lara: Oh god I’m so sorry, I’m not allowed to talk about speculations in a professional conversation.

Colm: I won’t say nothin.

Lara: Well… Maybe the house wants to be left alone?

Colm: Hm. I like the way you’re thinking there, Miss Stray… It did seem to want to trap Sylvia inside though, didn’t it? And then there’s the odd detail that her bedroom was the one place that seemed rubbish-free and safe, right? I’ve seen some hostile houses and this one definitely has some odd quirks about him.

Lara: If I may, Colm, you know a lot about this file for just being the communications manager.

Colm: Hey, a fella’s got to do something with his time… Ah well, anyway, do I need to tell anyone here to take another look at the case?

Lara: Actually I think we’d like to finish this one, if that’s okay with you, I think the boys would be upset if they couldn’t get to the bottom of it.

Colm: As you wish, I’ll leave it to your boys! Lovely talking to you, Lara, call back anytime if the story gets juicier!

Lara: I’ll see what I can do! Bye bye!

Colm: Bye bye now!



Lara: [QUIETLY] Shit, the tape.



This episode of For The Record was written and directed by Floris “Swiftly” Bordewijk. It was edited by Jo Mendacium, and starred Kate Bullen as Lara Stray and Lou Sutcliffe as Colm Kelly. It used sounds from, under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial License. For full accreditation, see the show notes. To be kept up to date on new episodes, submit your statement, or to get involved in production, you can follow us on Twitter @ftrecordpod, on Tumblr at fortherecordpod or view our website at Stay safe, take care, and always know your way back home.