Do YOU have scary neighbours? Tell us about it and win a copy of #themagpies

Mark Edwards

‘Few of us actually live next to door to Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murder who chopped up fifteen visitors to his flat and flushed them down the toilet…’ says Mark Edwards, this week’s guest. Well, I dunno. I suspect my neighbour of similar offences, but as I have no proof… *sigh* Read on for the story behind The Magpies  – and a competition to win a copy of the book (which is brilliant, by the way – review is here)

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In The Magpies, a young couple move into their first home together and start planning the future – imagining all of those things that form plot points in the story of most people’s lives: nesting, marriage, kids. But, unfortunately for Jamie and Kirsty, they have moved into a building where the neighbours are not as friendly as they first seem. And soon, the young couple’s nest is under threat of being torn apart…

In my twenties, I lived in a flat in a converted Victorian building in St Leonards-on-Sea, a small town stuck onto the side of Hastings, where I grew up. My then-girlfriend moved into the flat first and lived alone for a few months while I was finishing university. During this time on her own, she met our new neighbours – a couple in their early thirties who spent the next two years doing everything possible to make our lives miserable: constant complaints, insulting letters and notes, hoax parcels, cigarette butts pushed under the door… It was all quite low-key stuff, although some of the letters, in which they complained about such things as the sound of ‘the toilet brush thrashing about the pan’ and my ‘boring guffaw’ (guffaw? I don’t guffaw!) were flabbergasting.

It made me think about how much worse it could get. What if our neighbours had not just been a bit nuts, and pesky, but actually….evil? What if they had set out to ruin our lives? Could they have done it? How would we have reacted? Thus the seed of The Magpies was born. I wanted to write a horror story that had no supernatural elements – more an everyday horror that could happen to anyone.

In Britain, we are obsessed with our homes. Apart from other people’s sex lives, cats, fuel prices and the rubbishness of the country’s public transport system, it’s one of the golden topics that everyone is interested in. Property prices, what the people next door have done to their living room… It’s a middle-class conversational topic that we never get bored of.

And while we are obsessed with our – and other people’s homes – we are thrown together, crammed onto this little island, forced to live in close proximity to other people and all the annoying things they do. Most of the stuff that irritates us about our neighbours is pretty mundane: excessive noise, where they park their car, the cat that craps in our flower beds, the mental Christmas lights that make their house look like Las Vegas every December.

Few of us actually live next to door to Dennis Nilsen, the Muswell Hill murder who chopped up fifteen visitors to his flat and flushed them down the toilet in his flat. Not many of us have neighbours like Fred and Rose West, or even the 83-year-old gran Ethel Watkins who was recently convicted of waging psychological warfare against her neighbours after a football landed in her garden. Ethel banged on the walls all night, made up rude songs about the family and taunted them over the death of their baby.

But what if we did live next door to a psycho who is intent on ruining your nest? What would you do? In The Magpies, Jamie is forced to make a decision – should he stay and fight, or run? What do you do when all of your dreams, and the things you took for granted, are dismantled or smashed to pieces? Especially when you have no real idea what you’re up against.

The Magpies was released last week and the reaction from readers has, so far, been incredible, which is a relief as I was nervous about putting out a solo book. But people seem to connect with the story and find it exciting and scary. Now that it’s in the Amazon top 40 I’m bracing myself for all the reviews complaining about how there aren’t any real magpies in it, when they thought it was an ornithological guide, but hopefully the book will connect with people and make a few readers have sleepless nights – and not because there’s an 83-year-old woman banging on their wall and making up rude songs about them.

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About Mark

Mark was born in Tunbridge Wells and grew up in Hastings on the south coast of England.  He started writing after he left university, where he studied Sociology, and wrote half-a-dozen novels during the 1990s while doing two of the worst jobs in the world: working for the Child Support Agency and Connex Rail, where he spent his days being shouted at by angry absent parents and even angrier commuters. He secured an agent but was unable to get a publisher.

In 1999 he featured on a BBC documentary about aspiring writers, which led to his partnership with Louise Voss.  As well as writing, he is a freelance marketer, copywriter and operates IndieIQ, a website for self-published writers.

You can find out more about Mark and Louise at their website Louise Voss and Mark Edwards and on their facebook page where they interact with readers and hold loads of competitions 🙂

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!!COMPETITION TIME!!

Mark has kindly donated a signed paperback copy of The Magpies for the winner of the best scary/crazy/weird neighbour story. Tell us about your experiences in the comments below, and Mark will pick a winner.

Comp will close on 7th April.

Note – some people have issues with my commenty thing – sorry about that! You don’t need to sign in or enter your email to comment and you don’t need to connect to twitter etc, but please put a way of contacting you in the comment thread so we can send you your book if you win!

UPDATE: The winner of the book is Anna (@ruanna3) – well done for surviving that one, Anna! Thanks to all who entered – some very scary tales 🙂

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19 thoughts on “Do YOU have scary neighbours? Tell us about it and win a copy of #themagpies

  1. I’ve not had neighbours that are too bad, but the worse we’ve had are neighbours whoose teenagers had a party, it got advertised on fb, (groan), LOADS of drunk teenagers turned up, and then 2 proceeded to run across the top (!) of my car, and dented it. My husband tried to catch them but them split up. Rubbish. Not funny. I loved that car too…sob.

  2. When my boys were younger and their football happened to occasionally go over the fence into the neighbours garden she would confiscate it, and keep it for about 2 weeks before throwing it back. One time they thought she was out and crept in at the back to fetch the ball and heard a voice booming out ‘what do you thing you’re doing!’ They never tried it again, she scared them to death.

    (Not sure if I’m signed in or not, but I’m Christine Caple on Facebook)

    • Haha! Reminds me of when my little brother and his mate thought it’d be funny to throw onions from our veg patch over next door’s wall and try to break the panes of their greenhouse… one day the neighbour came round with a carrier bag full of onions and said to my dad ‘I believe these are yours…’ not sure which one is the bad neighbour here! 😉

  3. One of my neighbours during my Uni years was perfectly pleasant in her behaviour and manners and so my housemates and I didn’t have any negative interaction with her- that is until one random afternoon when she came over and apologised in advance for all the dead spirits she’d said had escaped through the walls of her house and into ours, following her latest seance! She said she’d told them to get back to her but they hadn’t, and that she doubted that they’d harm us! Even though I’ve always been sceptical about ghosts, after that particular comment, I think it was fair to say that I crapped myself for a good few nights after!

  4. Oh. Neighbors.

    Whelp. I’ve decided the house next door is cursed. From day one, I’ve known something strange was afoot when the neighbors dropped off their granddaughter for us to babysit while we were moving in. Then there was the next set of neighbors who loved having late night parties complete with a disco ball and mariachi band. Next up was a group of gentlemen who threw up security cameras and had a barrage of lady friends coming in and out of the house complete with clothing racks and filming equipment. I use to sit at my window and watch them going in and out of the house without shame. When my neighbor, a local cop, stopped by to ask if I’d seen anything suspicious I couldn’t hold back the laughter. Afterward, the house was back in the hands of the late night partiers, who didn’t even bother to move furniture in and simply used the house to party. Our neighbors now are a picnic compared to the others, their cat only uses the spot right outside our door as a litter box, their beat up truck only sat in front of our house for a year (complete with a leak & cobwebs), and I think there are 20 people living there at random times, but I can’t confirm it. I do know there are 3 to 4 little dogs who yap like crazy, only to be stopped by a CAN YOU PLEASE SHUT THE *BEEEEP* UP that can occasionally be heard from our kitchen window. Oh. And they have a creepy angel statue in their yard that I SWEAR is going to kill us all one day.

    And that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.
    YAY FOR NEW RELEASES!!
    Congrats. *HIGHEST OF FIVES*

  5. OK when we first moved in our neighbours seemed fine, has us round for afternoon drinks and everything. Then father and 13yr old son had a fist and swearing fight in front of us and our 9month old child. We distanced ourselves from them and just waved and came up with excuses for not going round.

    Anyway we discovered through another neighbour that they had tried to sue me coz I had once driven over their grass verge and when that didn’t work encouraged their dogs to poo in our garden and drive. Then when we had builders working on an extension, the husband called the police as he claimed that my builders had been inappropriate with his wife and threatened to beat her up.

    It didn’t stop there, the wife came to my work after that coz the police didn’t take them seriously and told me to watch my back, as I’d become a right snob since I had purchased a new car and someone would soon sort me out if she had anything to do with it.

    The fact that they had a leaky oil spluttering van in the street outside my house for 5 years was also a bit annoying.

    Needless to say I no longer wave and smile when I see them 🙂

    Laura (@lejamez)

  6. I had a neighbour once who used to let her Yorkshire terrier out every morning and evening, watch it wander into our front garden and do its daily business. When I asked her to keep it inside her gated garden, as I had toddlers and young children who played on my front grass lawn, she let go with a string of verbal abuse. I backed away and played it subtle instead. Just sat with a bucket of water by the upstairs window…managed to half drown the wretched thing several times before she thought better of letting it crap in my garden again! We moved away a couple of years later.
    Now we just have a wobbly old man and his wife next door who has issues with our garden not being as perfect or regimental as his…perfect, is far, very far, from what ours is. We now have a German Shepherd (wish I’d had her when the terrier was about!) who thinks the old man will murder us in our sleep and takes offence whenever she sees him pottering about…
    On the other side we have just recently lost a crowd of young guys who rented it, and thought nothing of climbing scaffolding and wandering about on our roof at 3am whilst having a drink…then sheepishly climbing down when we stuck our heads out of the window and said they’d fall off if they weren’t careful!
    Neighbours eh? I’d like to live in a detached house out in the middle of a field…preferably…

    • Haha – the dog poo is becoming a recurring theme! We actually wanted neighbours when we moved, hoping for friendly bbqs and borrowing cups of sugar… I’d like to live in the 1950s, I think! 😉

  7. As soon as I saw this contest, I knew I had to enter. I actually had a very creepy neighbor experience.

    Shortly after my grandmother died, I moved into her little house in a small, working-class suburb. When my mom was growing up there, it had been a tidy little neighborhood, with flower boxes and regularly-painted shutters. It had declined over the years as the original residents died and renters/indifferent owners came in.

    My grandma used to complain about her next door neighbor, a guy in his early 40s and his wife, but I never paid it much mind. They were slovenly, left garbage and rusted out metal contraptions in their yard, kept a pit bull chained up, neglected their lawn. I found them unpleasant, but just avoided them. She eventually divorced him and moved away.

    After my grandmother passed away, I moved in so that I could keep the house up, save on rent, and get a little bit of breathing room from staying with my parents. I was newly out of college, happily broke and living on my own. It did get a little quiet sometimes, but I was content.

    Around eleven o’clock one night, I got a phone call on her house phone. I said, “Hello?”. The other line was quiet for a few seconds and then a man’s voice, speaking through some kind of voice distorter gadget. “Helloooo,” he said back to me, echoing.

    I was creeped out, but said, “Who is this?” He echoed me again, “Whooo is this?”. I hung up the phone.

    I received at least 2-3 calls a week after that, sometimes with static and breathing. Sometimes he’d laugh.

    I didn’t call the police, as I didn’t really have anything to go on. I tried tracing it and the call was masked, but I was almost positive it was him. He was always ordering stuff from those high-tech spy companies and I occasionally thought he was listening in on me from next door.

    I didn’t tell my parents; I thought they’d make me move out. But it did make me afraid, to think of him sitting there, listening in and making weird little calls to me.

    One night I heard him moving around out there, probably taking out the garbage. I walked out and stood there in bare feet on the back patio, looking at him.

    The calls stopped after that, but I moved out shortly after.

    -Anna
    @ruanna3 on Twitter

    • Oh God Anna! All I can think about is that film with the girl babysitting and she keeps getting the calls and the bloke coming to the door… Can’t believe you coped with that!! Thanks for sharing – some seriously scary neighbours out there! X

  8. Just had a thought about the neighbour on the other side of my house.  His front room curtains have never been opened ever (in the 9 years he has lived there).  He has the biggest brick house down the bottom of his garden – he calls it his shed, but the blacked out windows??!!  He wanders around his house using a torch at night – really??!!  His garden has funny waterproof rectangles over the patio area – my husband and I often joke that one day the police will knock on our door and ask us if we knew the bodies were burried under the patio…have to admit we’ll probably end up saying he was a perfect neighbour – kept himself to himself and is ever so lovely to our cats!! 😉  Just starting to realise I need to move house!

  9. And the winner is….

    *DRUMROLL*

    Anna and her creepy calls!!!

    Well done, Anna – you win with the weirdness! Please can you email me your address and I will pass it on to Mark 🙂

    Hope you enjoy the book!

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