This Student Life: The house is haunted but we're not scared - honest

Spring Term, Week 3 at the Manchester Student House: There's a horrible stain on the floor - and it's spreading. But scarier still: who wrote `kill' on the cellar wall? By Cayte Williams
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The Independent Culture
THE STUDENTS' huge grey-brick house in Fallowfield is rambling, dead creepy and gradually falling apart. There's a Dennis Nilsen-style cellar and the front garden shields all kinds of nameless menaces behind its high hedge and brick walls.

Rachel, who shares the top floor with Dani, has discovered an eerie stain on her kitchen floor. Or, rather, what used to be her kitchen floor. You may remember that Rachel had the bright idea of inviting the local environmental health officer to the house because the landlord was dragging his heels over some major repairs. No one else was particularly bothered, but to Rachel it was the principle of the thing.

Unfortunately, her plans backfired horribly when the officer declared her kitchen a health-hazard (there was no fire escape) and promptly arranged for it to be removed.

All that's left now is a few marooned food cupboards above a sea of rubbish, dirty plates and beer cans. Weaving between the debris is the said stain. "It's greasy, and it keeps growing," says a bemused Rachel, pointing to it fearfully with her toe. She hasn't touched, sniffed or investigated any further. "I don't have a clue what it is..."

Dani and Rachel are spending less and less time in the house. While everyone else is happy to live in communal squalor, they have tried to make the best of their little pied-a-terre. And where did it get them? Squalid little quarters with all the atmosphere of the Bates Motel.

It's common knowledge with the rest of the house that they intend to move out, but Rachel is being coy. "I'd rather not say," she says. The relationship between Rachel and Dani and the boys has cooled down considerably, and any queries about the girls are met with "we never see them" or "we just say hello" and a shrug. Their falling out is hardly surprising. If Dani and Rachel move out, what is there left to rent? A couple of rooms leading out to a gutted kitchen.

This is not the first time something inexplicable has happened in the students' gloomy halls. Last year, after watching The Exorcist, Leona went down into the cellar to re-light the boiler, saw "Kill" written in red on the wall, and was so spooked she couldn't sleep.

Ian has his own chilling story. "The guy who comes here to do the maintenance says that a man who once lived here went mad and killed his son," he explains, "and now he haunts this house. When I first moved in here on my own, I used to hear knocking and rattling noises coming from upstairs and I knew no one else lived here. But I'm not scared. I don't think anything's going to harm me."

Rachel is obviously not happy about living in a haunted house, and even Tasha is spooked. "Everyone's scared to go into that cellar," she says with a nervous laugh, "but I genuinely believe it was one of Ian's mates who wrote `Kill' on the wall." The rest of the boys think the whole thing has got out of proportion.

Leona and Tash, however, are making a stand against the broken boiler. Rather than buying little heaters for their rooms, they are planning to hold out against the cold until it's fixed. "It's the principal of the thing," they say. Or is it just that they are simply too scared to go into the cellar?