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Book Chat: The People Under the Stairs

Welcome to the first Always Write edition of Book Chat. If you have a short story you’d like published on Always Write for our next book chat, contact me below or by email.

What started out to be a spooky short Halloween story by Hugh Roberts turned out to be something real and sinister. 

Nine-Word Summary of People Under the Stairs

People under the stairs tormented Gloria, suffering from dementia. 

Progression from Scary Story to Menacingly Real

Hugh thought that his readers might focus on fear of the ghoulish people under the stairs like children worry about the Nightmare in the Closet.  He and many of his readers toyed with the fear of imaginary people in the comment section.

“I hope Gloria’s story doesn’t give readers too many nightmares. It may be worth not looking in the cupboard under the stairs for a few days.”


Readers responded to the fun spookiness of the story. However, most took the discussion in a different direction and focused on the protagonist’s struggle with mental illness.

“…Are they real? Or are they figments of her dementia?”


“…Gloria’s dementia fueling her ghosts under the stairs, especially since she sees herself. Just vague enough though to make you wonder, though! Reminds me a little of the movie The Others(?) with Nicole Kidman, thinking she and her kids were haunted by ghosts, when in reality they were the ghosts!”


Some readers inferred facts.

“Apparently she carries a love hate relationship with the people under the stairs. I see them as her alter ego, her bad side maybe even having murdered her husband some years ago. …No, I think she’s living with the guilt.”

Mr. Ohh

While readers played along with the idea of the people under the stairs being scary, they always turned back to ponder Gloria’s dementia.

“Luckily, we don’t have stairs in our camper van! …I cannot imagine Gloria having dementia for thirty years, so she must have an incredible imagination.”


The Dreaded Disease – Dementia

Diana drew the discussion to a conclusion and moved it from being scary to being one of society’s most unnerving health issues.

“Eek. A scary story, Hugh. The element of dementia complicates the reality. … The unreliable narrator was a great addition to the story.”


For me, the phrase, “unreliable narrator” unlocked all the mysteries and discrepancies that troubled me about the story. Hugh responded with incredible transparency.

“My mother had dementia, and some of the elements of this story were what I picked up from her. I often thought that she seemed to be living in a book, yet other times I wasn’t quite sure what she was saying was true or just what the dementia was showing her.

My mother died at the age of 78. We first noticed the signs of dementia when she was in her early 70s, so she went through the different stages of the condition at a slow rate, Marsha. It was heartbreaking watching what I can only describe as something else taking over her body. The worst part for me was when she could not remember who I was. 

Dreams fascinate me, especially when they include strangers. I’ve often wondered if they are figures of my imagination or are people who are real and who I may have had a fleeting encounter with.”

Hugh Roberts

After reading Hugh’s comment, there wasn’t much left to say. The story of a demented narrator trying to share her dream world with those on the outside made perfect sense.

Thank you so much, Hugh, for sharing, not only the story, but the amazing discussion in the comment section.

Understanding and Preventing/Decreasing Dementia

Book Chat 2

I am looking for more brave souls to send me their short unpublished stories to publish on my blog Always Write supporting hobby bloggers. Following the publication of your story and the discussion, I will do a follow-up summary of the comments – typical teacher -style. Hugh suggested that I include a pingback to your blog as well, which sounded like a great idea to me.

Stories should be no more than 750 -1,000 words. Please include a brief biography, a picture or headshot, and contact information. If you want to include a picture or photo with your story, please feel free to do that.

You are free to publish your story elsewhere after it appears here.

As always, thanks for visiting and commenting.

Marsha Ingrao- Always Write

39 replies »

  1. Marsha, this was fab. I like when you dive deep. It’s always interesting to learn what spurred an idea for an author’s book and Hugh’s story about his mum was a great insight to the conception of that story, and then Hugh takes off with a story in his usual traditional Hugh direction. 🙂 Hugs xx

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks, Deb. The entire experience was fabulous. It just sort of transpired as we chatted over email. I wrote one for the next month, and I’m really pleased how it came out, too. For next month I heard from Cathy Cade, and we have worked together to create a great post. She did the story, and I put together the art work. It’s really rewarding so far. Anne Goodwin is going to do the January story that will come out on Jan. 19th. So it’s taking off. Yay! It gives a lot of exposure to quite a few people., and as you say, people are going deep with the conversations. So cool. Thanks for the comment. I’ve sort of gone off the deep end here. 🙂 Lots of love & hugs. Have a great weekend. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Janis, Your blog name sounds familiar, so I’m sure we’ve met. I’m glad you found this and commented. Story Chat is something that Hugh and I dreamed up, and he was the guinea pig with his iconic horror story. We had such fun with it. I hope you will feel free to join me in Story Chat, or Writer’s Quotes Wednesdays or any number of writing and photo challenges that our blogging friends host. Thanks again for stopping by. I’m going to head off to check out your blog now. 🙂

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Marsha, thanks for wrapping up the discussions on my short story ‘The People Under The Stairs.’ I enjoyed reading all the different versions of what the reader thought was going on. Some of the comments made me wonder if there is a thin veil between our world and the world of those who have dementia. Does that veil get thicker or thinner as the patient goes through the different stages? And at the end, does the patient briefly cross over into our world again before they depart?

    Liked by 1 person

    • That is a good question. I think it would depend on the dementia. I am not a medical person, but have only personal experience with elderly people in my family to go on. But doesn’t Alzheimer’s actually deteriorate the brain? We had a discussion about this at the dinner table yesterday, believe it or not. I think of dementia as the overarching term. But those who are senile I think of as having plaque build up in the brain. That could indeed be like an on and off again switch. There is so much we don’t know, but it would be a good topic to research.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. What a deep dive into the story and all it evoked for the readers. Such a touching response from Hugh – a master story-teller indeed. This was a fascinating look back. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and including my link. 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

    • Thank YOU, Diana. I think your insight was key. I agree that Hugh’s closing comments closed the discussion beautifully while still leaving the reader to draw their own conclusions. You are very welcome for and deserving of the link. Thanks for participating!

      Liked by 2 people




Hi, I'm Marsha Ingrao, a retired educator and wife of a retired realtor. My all-consuming hobby is blogging and it has changed my life. My friends live all over the world. In November 2020, we sold everything and retired to the mile-high desert of Prescott, AZ. We live less than five miles from the Granite Dells, four lakes, and hundreds of trails with our dog, Kalev, and two cats, Moji and Nutter Butter. Vince's sister came with us and lives close by. Every day is a new adventure.

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