It was in the early 1990s that the faucet of my literary spring was turned back on after an incident in an apartment in Dunedin. The four-bedroom apartment was in the centre of the city, at the south-eastern side of the Octagon (central city square). It was the top level of the three-story building, a wine bar below, then a cafe below that, and then in the basement another cafe too. I had moved into this apartment with a friend and work colleague, Scott who knew one of the other two flatmates living in the residence.
The first night I was there I awoke many times to hear the toilet flushing. At first, I thought that this was one of the flatmates getting up to relieve themselves during the night. After a few nights, I asked if someone had bladder issues, to which I was told, ‘the toilet flushes by itself’ in a rather nonchalant manner. Taken aback, I then registered that I was living in a haunted house. This mysterious disembodied occupant was pesky, but not dangerous it seemed, and when the flushing ceased, I felt that perhaps they had decided to move on.
I had been working in a bar called Crossroads and was finishing work around 2 am. One night I came home to find my Scott not home and the other flatmates asleep. I decided that I would call my girlfriend who had been at the bar earlier, but I knew would be awake. During our conversation I walked towards the front door, whispering into the phone as I talked as to not wake anyone. As I got within inches of the heavy oak door that entered into our apartment someone kicked the door from the outside so heavily I could feel the reverberations from a few feet away. My heart thudded in my chest, my skin crept with gooseflesh, and the hairs on my nape prickled. Naturally, I believed it was Scott, scaring me as he heard me on the other end of the phone talking to my Inez.
I put the phone down after telling Inez I thought Scott was at the door playing a joke on me. Opening it seconds later I thought I would find Scott bent over laughing. With the door open I could see no one. I ran downstairs and looked into the Wine Bar, it had closed at midnight, it was deserted, cast in darkness. I ran down to the front door (this whole episode took me less than 15 seconds and no one could have dashed down the stairwell without me seeing them leave, or I hear them racing away) and opened it to a desolate lower Stuart Street at 3 am. The road was desolate, with no cars, no people, nothing. I ran out onto the street to see if anyone was hiding in the doorways of the buildings lining the road, or had raced into the Octagon. I was perceivably alone.
I ran back into the house, raced up the stairs, my heart still beating a rapid tattoo. To this day, I can still remember the tone, the timbre of Inez’s voice when I told her what happened. She said, ‘You have to move out of that flat’. I would do just that, but not before I experienced an event that would terrify, enlighten, and empirically prove to me that possession was real. The culmination of this event would introduce (Lord) Buford Somerset into the literary world and dissolve the mental restrictions I had put what was possible so many years before into dust.