This is a true story.

Many years ago, not all that long after I graduated from film school, my brother and I, and our friend Rod moved into the house in Cambridge St. It was a nice house. Big. It had a huge camphor laurel in the back yard, a tree that is a pest in this country, but is a beautiful tree, nevertheless. To our dismay the landlord eventually cut it down. But I digress.

On the day that we took possession of the keys, we walked around the house deciding where everything would go, and who would get what bedroom, as you do. The house was big enough that we had the luxury of an extra room that was to be a small music studio for my brother and I (Rod got the big double bedroom by way of compensation).

Steve and I stood in the new music room, discussing how we would fit it out. The room was on the second storey, and looked down past the dense green foliage of the camphor laurel and onto the garden of the neighbours next door. It was a beautiful sunny Sydney day in early autumn. There was a pause in the conversation. Quite clearly, from inside the room we both heard the sound of a dog panting. The room was small. There was no dog. Steve looked at me.

“Did you hear that?”


“Did it sound like a dog?”


We looked around the room. Steve did the Twilight Zone theme.

I would like to say that a cloud passed over the sun and the birds went quiet, but none of that happened. It continued on being a bright sunny day with chirping.

Some weeks later Steve was at home by himself. He was upstairs in the bathroom and was just about to open the door when he heard, quite plainly, the sound of a dog running up the stairs and along the corridor to stop just outside. Now Steve has never been that comfortable with dogs, so he was a little reluctant to open the door. He waited for a minute or two. There was no further sound. He opened the door slowly. There was nothing there (you knew I was going to say that, right?). His first thought was that someone had left the downstairs door open, and a dog had come in off the street and headed up the stairs. But you’re already ahead of me – the front door was closed. There was no dog to be found anywhere in the house.

A few weeks passed. I had been at home, alone, for most of the morning. I was just about to go to work. I was in the dining room downstairs. I grabbed my bag, picked up my keys from the dining room table and headed off down the corridor that led past the stairs to the front door. Just as I drew level with the stairs, I heard, quite distinctly from a sort of cupboard that had been built in the stair recess, the scratching and clawing of an animal about the size of, oh, a medium sized dog. You know the sound – that sort of rapid-fire scratching that dogs do when they want to get at something. Now I had seen the inside of this cupboard. It was about a cubic metre in size, and, phantom dogs notwithstanding, was completely empty.

The scratching continued, quite audibly, for a few more seconds and then abruptly stopped. I was so completely freaked out, that I could not pass the stairs at all and had to leave the house by the back door (which entailed going down the side alley, climbing over a locked gate and going to the front door to lock it before I could leave).

I told everyone when I got home. We looked in the cupboard. There was nothing there. We all did the Twilight Zone theme.

Fast forward a month or so. Rod had met a new girl, Kim, and we had been having an introductory dinner. The mood was mellow and we had retired to the loungeroom (downstairs, toward the front of the house with a double doorway that opened out into the hall right at the bottom of the stairs). You can imagine the scene: a darkened room lit with a few candles, some glasses of what in those student days would undoubtedly have been cheap wine, and something vaguely hippy-trippy playing on the record player (no CDs in them days, youngsters).

We were all sitting facing inwards. Kim was facing the door. The chat meandered across many and various subjects, and eventually, there was a thoughtful lull. Kim, who was a fairly quiet girl, chose this gap in the conversation to observe:

“I didn’t know you guys had a dog.”

“Er… that’s because we don’t,” I said.

“But I just saw one,” she said.

A few minutes ago, she told us, she had seen quite plainly a small black and white dog like a Spaniel walk past the bottom of the stairs. The downstairs doors to the house were closed.

Clouds passed in front of the moon. The candles flickered. We drank some more wine. What else do you do?


The Cow wishes all our readers a spook-filled Samhain with at least as many treats as tricks!

Idea for the Halloween photoshopism from the gorgeous weirdpixie