The old house on the cliffs overlooking the sea must have been quite a place when it was built over 300 years ago. But now it was a little worse for wear and its once impressive gardens had long been neglected. The owners had plans to restore the place to something like its former glory. So, rather than allowing the place to stand empty until the restoration work could start, they had let Ken and Jessica live there rent free. The pair of them were quite excited about living in an old house that was supposed to be haunted. Then I got a call from Jessica inviting Mandi and me down for the weekend. She had already told us quite a lot about the house so I was looking forward to actually seeing the place and meeting the ghost. A couple of weeks later Mandi and I threw our cases in the boot of my car and set off on the 200 mile drive down to the coast.
It was early afternoon when we drove up the tree-lined gravel drive and parked the car in front of the house. Jessica took us on a grand tour of the place. I imagine that living there would be great in the summer but now in late autumn the house was cold and draughty. We had finished dinner and it was getting late and we still had not heard anything about the ghost. Jessica explained that her name was Elizabeth and the story goes that her child was murdered in the hallway. Every year since on the anniversary of the night of the murder, the ghost of her mother has been seen in the hallway looking for her lost daughter. Ken added that as today was the 8th October it was the anniversary of that foul deed, so she was due to appear tonight. I pooh-poohed the idea of there being ghosts.
After which Jessica came back with; “Whether you believe in ghosts or not, I bet you wouldn’t stay in that hallway by yourself tonight.” Perhaps I should not have had that last glass of wine but I volunteered to stay in the hallway all night just to prove that the mourning ghostly Elizabeth did not exist.
I was expecting to sleep on a camp bed in the hallway or at least on a mattress on the floor. But both Jessica and Mandi reckoned that as soon as they were asleep I would leave the hallway, snuggle down in the bed, pull the bedclothes over my head and sleep safe away from any spooky visitors. So the plan was to tie me to the post at the bottom of the stairs so that I’d have to stay there all night.
“We’ve got to do this, just in case you change your mind.” said Jessica as she tied my wrists and elbows behind the post.
A length of rope around my waist pulled my body back against the post. All my protestations were in vain and soon my ankles and knees were tied. Then a large wad of cloth was pushed into my mouth and yards of duct tape wrapped round my head to keep it in place. “That’s so you don’t make a noise and frighten the ghost away,” explained the ever helpful Jessica. With that all three of them went upstairs to their warm beds. As Jessica reached the top of the stairs she called out; “Remember me to Elizabeth.” With that she switched off the light.
It was a pitch black moonless night and as the house was several miles out of town there were no street lights, nearby houses or passing traffic to relieve the blackness. The whole house was wrapped in a cold eerie silence. But I had the grandfather clock on the other side of the hallway with its never ending tick tock tick tock to keep me company. The only relief from the slow and monotonous tick tock tick tock was when it chimed the hours and quarter hours. Between the clock marking every quarter of an hour I drifted in and out of a fitful sleep. I was just nodding off again when I heard a cry. My first thought was that it was the cry of child. Perhaps the ghost story was right after all. My heart was beating faster now as I strained to see what or who was making the noise. Then I felt soft warm fur rub against my leg. It was no ghostly child; it was Jessica’s Siamese cat. Relieved, my heart beat returned to something near normal.
I could not remember if the last time the clock chimed an hour it was two o’clock or three - and, as yet, there was no sign of any ghost. Once more I struggled against the ropes, but there was no way that I was going to get free – I had been too well tied.
I started to doze off again lulled by the rhythmic tick tock tick tock. In the silence between the ticks every board in the old house now seemed to be creaking. But I was shaken out of any thought of sleep by an unearthly howling noise. I was convinced to this was the precursor to Elizabeth making her annual appearance. Any chance of it being the ghost was dashed as flashes of lightning lit up the sky. There were rumbles of thunder and a gale howled round the house. But, of course, it was just the weather for a ghost to appear! The storm subsided and I could see the first flickers of dawn’s light. No Elizabeth had appeared so I was still convinced that stories about ghosts appearing are a lot of old rubbish.
Eventually Ken and Jessica came downstairs and untied me. I was exhausted and just about every inch of my body ached. I had a shower and put on some fresh clothes before joining the others for breakfast. As I was digging into one of Jessica’s delicious omelettes Ken turned to me and said. “I’ve got an apology to make. I’ve just checked and the anniversary of the murder all those years ago is today, the 9th and not the 8th of October. So you’ll have to do it all again tonight.” You can guess what my response to that suggestion was!
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