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The shape behind the curtain


If you’ve read the last three issues of The Leither you’ll have noticed our area has a chilling tale or two to tell.

Today’s spinetingler finds in a basement flat situated halfway along Regent Road, the location where the following event took place in June of 1979. At the time, the grand properties occupying this exclusive address, were in dire need of repair. Basements were occupied by students and those unconcerned with rising damp and bars on the windows.

The situation was not a problem for the four students who rented one such property, until the strange occurrences commenced.

Over the following weeks they encountered - noises in the night, the sound of heavy breathing and objects vanishing throughout the building. The events came to a sinister conclusion for all four students when they decided to sleep in the same room. Where they had this unnerving encounter.

A warm furry animal jumped onto a bed, and the occupant began stroking and talking to it. When asked to stop talking to himself he said he was talking to the cat, at which point the others each claimed the cat was on their bed, as did a fifth friend who was staying over.

A terrifying reality crept up on them when they saw the solitary house cat sitting watching them from the end of the hall. What then, was on the bed?

Further up Easter Road you’ll find the steep cobbled path that leads to Calton Hill and Regent Terrace. (The area previously housed the Greenside leper colony, a repository for yet more chilling tales).

Our primary interest here is Windsor Street, which sits in the shadow of the spectral and imposing London Road Gardens. It is a winter night in 1983…

Have you heard a demon roar? The following is an accurate account of just such an encounter, which once told is not easily forgotten. How to tell such a tale, where everything that existed until this moment pales into insignificance, where the presence of evil will mark you forever.

Hogmanay is a liminal time when everyone declares their good intentions for the coming year. Given the night in question, I would like to declare that I wasn’t inebriated. Having clarified that, I’ll begin

I was living at the time in an old basement flat in Windsor Street, Leith. There had been word of strange occurrences in the property, but nothing could prepare me for that dreadful night. The room where the incident happened had floor-to-ceiling red velvet curtains, invoking luxury and warmth.

The adjoining door to my friend’s room was open, she had retired earlier that evening. Later, when I went through to my room, I was immediately aware of something abnormal, though I did not incline what this might be -nothing seemed amiss.

Instinct drew my gaze towards the curtains, which seemed to be prevented from lying flat. Something was causing a sizeable physical form to appear in the soft, crushed fabric.

Without a thought I lifted my arm to open the curtains, which is when I heard a roar so loud and primal that it could have come from the pit of hell itself. Time stood dreadfully still. Sensing danger, every part of me wanted to turn around, run away, never look back. But my body froze with fear and the room’s temperature dropped dramatically to match mine.

My warm breath hung like wispy strands of white cirrus cloud streaking across the sky. Seconds slowed to unholy hours, a waking nightmare, which did not stop till the sound from the beast abated.

All the while, my friend next door was screaming on her bed. For she, too, had heard the shape b ehind the curtain.

The long hallway sat steeped in darkness. The presence of the usual speck of light from the peephole was absent. The intensity in the Windsor Street address continued over the coming hour. Something was standing at the end of the hall…

A slow, distant sound of breathing was emanating from the dark passageway, heavy and steady with an overbearing sense of menace. Whatever stood before the door commanded its position with significant mass. Nobody could leave the building.

We huddled together in the living room, terrified to switch on the hallway light for fear of what terror the light may expose. We were greeted with darkness and the sound of heavy breathing each time. Slowly we glanced around the door. It felt as if the hallway’s blackness was growing with each terrifying minute, was the amber glow from the stair lessening? Was the shape now drawing nearer, extinguishing the light from the eyehole?

Eventually, the terror would subside.

The glow of the light slowly began to reappear, and the terrible sound of breathing faded, replaced by the sound of Hogmanay revellers in the stairwell. The nightmare was finally over.

After that night, I never looked behind closed curtains again. I did have another encounter with what I have come to refer to as The Demon. But that, as they say, is a whole other story. ■

John Tantallon

Twitter: NightmaresNorth

Our primary interest here is Windsor Street, which sits in the shadow of the spectral and imposing London Road Gardens. Photograph: Stefano Pollio


Our primary interest here is Windsor Street, which sits in the shadow of the spectral and imposing London Road Gardens


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