Friday, September 21, 2012
Haunted House Virtual Tour
Continuing the Haunted House Virtual Tour promoting our ghost novellas Blind and Ungentle Sleep (by V.R.Christensen and B.Lloyd respectively), here is a quick peek into one of the famous houses in ‘mock’ gothic literature (we’re not saying which one it is – you can either guess from reading, or from working out the anagram at the end!) – and with many thanks to Flora Bateman for kindly hosting us today !
Diary of a Ghost Hunter
June, anno domini 1785
Took the mail coach from London to Humdon, there to meet Mr Threadfull at the King’s Inn; was there for close on an hour before a dishevelled fellow appeared: in down at heel shoes, out at elbows coat and dusty hat with broken feather trailing over the brim. He called for ale, settled himself down in the opposite corner of the parlour, took out his watch and enquired after the next mail coach.
‘’Tis a deuced nuisance, but my horse took lame on my way here, so I fear I shall have missed the gentleman I came to fetch,’ he continued, in an educated voice that sat ill with his appearance.
‘Then you are, sir, Mr Threadfull?’
‘Indeed no – but I am come on his behalf to fetch one Obadiah Sharpless – are you he?’
‘I am indeed!’
‘Then I shall finish my ale and you shall join me – there is a wild ride awaiting us
out there…’ and he took a deep swig.
Now I began to suspect his temper and inclination to drink might explain his dress; and a wild ride did not appeal while he was in his present state, but I could see no other way out of it.
‘Wild, you say? How so?’
‘Ah!’ he replied, and delved deeper into his mug. He raised an eyebrow when I declined his suggestion that I join him, and evidently had me down for a foolish fellow who would pent later for this abstention.
He thumped his mug down empty, and sallied out to his horse which grazed peacefully outside, attached to an open carriage. This was not in such a dilapidated condition as the driver, who, once I had got in, set himself up in front and drove off with a whip and a curse.
How shall I describe the journey that followed? Through a landscape that turned almost instantly into a barren wasteland, wild indeed as he had suggested, with thickets and coarse grass, twisted withered tree-trunks, to all intents and purposes bereft of life.
In the distance I espied a dark and brooding forest, thickly planted and glowering: into this the hapless carriage plunged, without letup in speed, shaking my bones till I thought to have dislocated at least five vertebrae in the lumbar region.
On and on we sped, down a narrow, dry track that eventually widened out into a fairly respectable drive, and we cleared the forest to face a fashionably semi-dilapidated family mansion, nestling or cowering amongst a few unsettling shrubs and terrifying elms.
My coachman drew us up alongside the less dilapidated part of the building: while the ivy did its best to cover the walls and offer a grim and gothic aspect to the whole, it rather failed in its task, nestling instead in a neat and orderly way around the frame of a longish window, now open. Within, I could just catch a glimpse of a harpsichord and a female figure seated at it – in the middle of performing some elegant French piece.
Some frightful warbling ensued, Mr Listless turned one side of his mouth up in mirthless smile as the female figure continued her vocal torture.
‘Ay, wild indeed,’ he muttered as he escorted me beyond the open window, following the path to the open door. He walked straight in, as if well used to moving about the place; I followed him indoors to a high, dark, cool hall. In the middle of the hall was a table; on the table was a chair, and on the chair stood a man, gaunt, elegantly dressed in dusty clothes and in an attitude of deep thought.
‘Oh, ay,’ came this favourite comment once more from my guide, who went up to the figure and stood, elbows out, staring up at the thinker.
‘Ah!’ exclaimed the man on the chair in sepulchral tones:‘Listless – thou art returned!’
‘I am indeed, sir, and brought your sorry guest to you,’ replied Listelss, almost cheerfully by comparison with this quasi moribund persona.
‘AH – Mr Sharpless – the ghost hunter! Welcome!’ Mr Threadfull (for it was he) extended a hand, from his promontory mobilis.
‘You will forgive my elevated position – it helps with thought on those days I feel in need of clarity; it being higher – clearer – closer to the heavens – closer to the pure air ...
‘Might be purer yet if you went outside . . .’ commented Listless.
‘Ah, but then I would fall prey to the niceties of nature’ by which, I understood, he meant the unfortunate but necessary habit of birds relieving themselves in flight, added to the similar habit of acorns falling from trees and hitting him on the head.
However, he was not lost entirely to the niceties of society, but condescended to come down from his lofty heights to continue the conversation au pied a terre.
‘You will, I trust, be free to stay some considerable time?’ he asked, as we walked around the library.
‘As long as it takes to investigate the question of your phantom,’ I replied, eyeing the sideboard, where Listless stood quaffing port.
‘Ah – the Phantom,’ replied Threadfull, his voice once more funereal and with a definite capital letter, ‘I must tell you, sir, that we have been infested with no ordinary apparition…’ he paused here and gazed into the distance.
‘Indeed. A very particular kind of … spirit …’
I waited a while, but as he ventured no further information, I took pains to question him. This took us from the library back across the hall to the study, to the music room (where the frightful warbler was now mercifully engaged in the creation of a poem) and finally in the dining room – each chamber more cavernous and gloomy than the preceding. We were accompanied by Listless, who took every opportunity of swigging and making enigmatic comments wherever he saw a carafe or decanter.
The phantom appears regularly as clockwork, according to what Mr Threadfull says, and follows the same path every time, hovering in the library, the study, the music room ...
I own to being at least a trifle fascinated, and shall await this night’s events with some curiosity, despite my misgivings concerning the sanity of the inhabitants ...
Diary of a Ghost Hunter, Day One
… I am just returned from the night’s watch; I know not quite yet what to make of it. A figure certainly appeared, barely distinguishable in the broken moonlight; but as all was in almost total darkness for much of the time, I could only guess at its movements and direction. I attempted to follow it, but after blundering fruitlessly into the furniture a few times and bruising my shins, I essayed to reach the door from the library to the hall and collided with a suit of armour; the ensuing clatter and commotion awoke the rest of the household and a blunderbuss was accidentally let off. By the time the candles and lanterns were lit, whatever apparition might have been before, had by now vanished. I may have more fortune tomorrow.
Diary of a Ghost Hunter, Day Two
A morning spent in a tour of the gardens, much overgrown and kept in a deliberate state of neglect so as to better fulfil Mr Threadless’s expectations of what a Gothic family residence should look like.
After falling into a ha-ha, and tripping over a fish-pond, I withdrew to my chamber and remained there save for meals.
I have procured some candles and tinder for this evening’s watch ...
Diary of a Ghost Hunter, Day Three
... am lately returned from the night’s watch.
Better moonlight, and I took my position as before in the high-backed chair near the fireplace. I had nearly fallen asleep when I became aware of some manifestation near at hand ... a rush of air, as of a person walking past . . . the candles had blown out and rather than waste precious moments in re-alighting them, I jumped up to follow - followed the sound of steps across the hall, a whisper of air, the creaking of a door as it was opened by unseen hand – I stepped forward but just as I reached it, the door slammed shut in my face. I took no fright but walked straight to it and opened it. More darkness, more stealthy movement; I followed quickly – again it eluded me, again that whiff of air passing me – I reached out but the door shut quick again ; I rushed out and followed the steps to the music room, thinking surely now I had a chance of seeing the phantom; this time, I reached in time to hear some strange sound; a clink, or chink – glass on glass ? What could it mean?
At last the lazy moon deigned to come out from behind its shroud – and there, silhouetted agains the window I saw the figure oh monstrous! Made up of strange angles and edges and a most hideous head.
The sound of gurgling made itself heard, followed by a genteel belch.
‘Ay, that will be the last of it,’ muttered a familiar voice.
‘Mr Listless!’ I whispered loudly, ‘is that you?’
‘Eh? Whuuzzat?’ he replied.
‘Where are you, man? Have you a light about you? For I have seen the phantom, but I left candle and tinder in the other room . . .’
‘Phantom?’ quoth he, ‘thou hast seen the phantom, hast thou? And what manner of phantom was that then?’
The door opened and a light appeared: Mr Threadfull in nightshirt, holding lantern aloft.
‘I see it! I see it !’ he gasped and stood frozen to the spot.And indeed it was quite a sight: the misshapen head – a great claret decanter tilted back at an angle, held up by broad hand and with elbow sticking out, his hat still on – the phantom was . . Mr Listless himself, a frequent visitor to the nether regions at night when he could not sleep, to help himself to any liquor at hand.
Mr Threadfull remained inconsolable.
I left him the next day, standing on the chair on the table, once more in search of clarity . . .
This was one ‘visit’ to a gothic place from literature – if you hadn’t already guessed which one it refers to, the place name or book from which it is derived is below – as an anagram ... have fun! and think about your favourite gothic place in literature: what would it be like to visit, to meet the inhabitants, alive or otherwise …
The Anagram is: A Mighty Bee Barn
If your appetite has been whetted for pastures new: two new such pastures on the gothic lit scene can be found in: Ungentle Sleep by B.Lloyd and Blind by V.R. Christensen …
Ungentle Sleep: UK
Ungentle Sleep: US