I HAVE been haunted, plagued, obsessed, for the last week by “the thing that lives under the stairs”.

The front part of our farmhouse is more than 300 years old and has undergone many renovations and modernisations.

Two large inglenook fireplaces now house wood-fired and oil-fired stoves. So possibly not such great steps forward, but at least the remains of the spit in one of the fireplaces is no longer necessary to cook a haunch of venison or sirloin of beef. My oil and electric fired cookers in the kitchen do that job admirably.

Several years ago John took up the wood floors in two downstairs sitting rooms and the front hall revealing standing water, some rather cross frogs and a grumpy toad. But we have not investigated, or renovated, the area under the stairs and I shudder to think what might be lurking beneath the carpet.

Now it just so happens that there is a small cloakroom area under part of the stairs. It has a partition one side that blocks the under stairs area and a skirting board that, to my mind, is not a close fit to the cloakroom floor.

Around the house, and especially at this time of year, I have strategically placed mouse traps. But, and this is what is alarming me most of all, the traps that I set under the stairs this week always have the bait taken, but never, ever, go off.

To tempt my prey I have tried a variety of traps and different temptations, including bacon, cheese, chocolate and peanut butter.

At a friend’s suggestion I

scattered flour around the traps so that maybe my intruder would leave floury footprints back to its lair. Not a sign.

I am left with the thought that the intruder may be descending from the roof of the cloakroom on some sort of thread towards the bait in the trap, rather like a cunning jewel thief finding a way round infra-red beams guarding treasure.

But tonight will be different. I have bought a trap, which won’t kill my vermin visitor, but will hopefully incarcerate it until I know what it is. There is a way in, but theoretically, no way out.

A small key is provided to release the captive and the trap is intended for use by kind-hearted individuals who don’t want to kill their prisoner, but intend to release them some way away from home. Unlike me. No second chances if I trap this cheese thief. I just want to know what it is and then...oblivion. And hopefully, no ghost.