Peter Sutton's story:
When the council estate expanded Northwards it butted up against pre-existent Victorian housing. That part of the estate was seldom visited by us. It was because of the house right at the edge, the one with the forest behind it. Us kids knew a witch lived there. There were dolls in the window. We all knew they were voodoo dolls but we couldn’t tell our parents that or the witch would get us.
There were six of us, on the day it happened. I don’t remember who suggested we play dares but it was me who dared Paul to go to the witch’s house, knock on the door and run away. Paul showed no fear. He strolled, seemingly nonchalantly, up the path to The House and knocked on the door. He turned around to run but the door opened straight away; it was dark in the hallway and light outside and we couldn’t see who opened the door. Perhaps it opened itself. Paul stopped, turned around, we could see him talking and then he went inside. The door closed behind him.
He would never have gone inside unless the witch cast a spell on him. Never. The rest of us wondered what we’d say to his parents when he didn’t turn up for dinner. Steven’s lower lip trembled and it looked like he might cry. I was shitting myself. I did this. It was my fault. Barnesy said we’d have to go and rescue him. None of the rest of us had thought that. None of us were that brave. Once he’d said it though we couldn’t chicken out. We came up with a plan to sneak around the back.
When we snuck behind into the forest we could see that the fence hadn’t been maintained. It was pretty easy to move a few planks aside. We discussed what to do if the garden was full of poisonous plants or dangerous animals. I can’t remember what our plan was, it involved sticks and using our jumpers to wrap around our hands but in the end we didn’t need it. It looked like a fairly usual garden. Must be keeping up appearances we said to one another.
One by one we all went through the fence on our bellies. I half expected there to be a dog. I had climbed into a big house’s garden the summer before and been chased by an Alsation. I had badly sprained an ankle jumping over the wall to escape. I wasn’t keen to repeat that experience. There wasn’t a dog though.
We all grabbed sticks and ran at a crouch across the garden to the back door which Steven opened. Probably the bravest thing I’ve ever seen him do. We crept into the kitchen and we could see the witch standing with her back to us. A low murmur came from her. She was probably still casting her beguiling spell on Paul we thought. We hadn’t planned this far ahead, we had no defence against her magic, we were only armed with sticks.
“Get her” Barnsey cried and we charged, all yelling our heads off. Steven ran to grab Paul who was also shouting. The witch started shouting too. It was bedlam. I remember landing a corker of a shot on her face and seeing a spurt of blood spray across the wall. I felt pretty good right at that moment. Powerful. She fell to the floor and we continued to pummel her. Paul tried to get us to stop but he was compromised, under her spell. My arms ached when I eventually stopped, the palms of my hands were sore. “Run” I shouted and we all did, Paul hesitated but Barnsey grabbed him and pulled him after us.
When the police came to the door my Mum was pretty upset. I denied everything but it did no good. We’d been spotted of course and Paul had blabbed. He said she’d only been a little old lady who wanted a chat and had offered him cake. We all knew you don’t accept sweets from a stranger. Paul said that the old lady knew his mum, that she’d actually been to his house. We knew though that this was part of her disguise, a cunning spell she’d cast on him.
He hasn’t come to visit me once. I don’t know about the others. They split us up. It’s pretty lonely in the big house. The other boys are mean. I’ve been beaten up a couple of times. Apparently it’s not what gentlemen do. Beat up old ladies that is. She’s still alive though. I saw her in court. The journalists said we hung our heads in shame. I don’t know about the others but I just wanted to avoid her eyes. I didn’t want her to cast a spell at me.