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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online

Scottish Ghost Stories


The last time I was passing through Glasgow, I put up for the night at an hotel near Sandyford Place, and met there an old theatrical acquaintance named Browne, Hely Browne. Not having seen him since I gave up acting, which is now, alas! a good many years, we had much to discuss--touring days, lodgings, managers, crowds, and a dozen other subjects, all included in the vulgar term "shop." We spent the whole of one evening debating thus, in the smoke-room; whilst the following night we went to an entertainment given by that charming reciter and raconteur, Miss Lilian North, who, apart from her talent, which, in my opinion, places her in the first rank of her profession, is the possessor of extraordinary personal attractions, not the least remarkable of which are her hands. Indeed, it was through my attention being called to the latter, that I am indirectly indebted for this story. Miss North has typically psychic hands--exquisitely white and narrow, and her long, tapering fingers and filbert nails (which, by the way, are always trimly manicured) are the most perfect I have ever seen. I was alluding to them, on our way back to the hotel after her performance, when Hely Browne interrupted me.

"Talking about psychic things, O'Donnell," he said, "do you know there is a haunted house near where we are staying? You don't? Very well, then, if I tell you what I know and you write about it, will you promise not to allude to the house by its right number? If you do, there will be the dickens to pay--simply call it '---- House,' near Sandyford Place. You promise? Good! Let us take a little stroll before we turn in--I feel I want a breath of fresh air--and I will tell you the experience I once had there. It is exactly two years ago, and I was on tour here in _The Green Bushes_. All the usual theatrical 'diggings' had been snapped up long before I arrived, and, not knowing where else to go, I went to No.--Sandyford Place, which I saw advertised in one of the local papers as a first-class private hotel with very moderate charges. A wild bit of extravagance, eh? But then one does do foolish things sometimes, and, to tell the truth, I wanted a change badly. I had 'digged' for a long time with a fellow called Charlie Grosvenor. Not at all a bad chap, but rather apt to get on one's nerves after a while--and he had got on mine--horribly. Consequently, I was not at all sorry for an excuse to get away from him for a bit, even though I had to pay dearly for it. A private hotel in a neighbourhood like that of Sandyford Place is a big order for an ordinary comedian. I forget exactly what the terms were, but I know I pulled rather a long face when I was told. Still, being, as I say, tired of the usual 'digs,' I determined to try it, and accordingly found myself landed in a nice-sized bedroom on the second floor. The first three nights passed, and nothing happened, saving that I had the most diabolical nightmares--a very unusual thing for me. 'It was the cheese,' I said to myself, when I got out of bed the first morning; 'I will take very good care I don't touch cheese to-night.' I kept this resolution, but I had the nightmare again, and even, if anything, worse than before. Then I fancied it must be cocoa--I was at that time a teetotaller--so I took hot milk instead; but I had nightmare all the same, and my dreams terrified me to such an extent that I did not dare get out of bed in the morning (it was then winter) till it was broad daylight. It was now becoming a serious matter with me. As you know, an actor more than most people needs sleep, and it soon became as much as I could do to maintain my usual standard of acting. On the fourth night, determining to get rest at all costs, I took a stiff glass of hot brandy just before getting into bed. I slept,--I could scarcely help sleeping,--but not for long, for I was rudely awakened from my slumbers by a loud crash. I sat up in bed, thinking the whole house was falling about my ears. The sound was not repeated, and all was profoundly silent. Wondering what on earth the noise could have been, and feeling very thirsty, I got out of bed to get a drink of lime-juice. To my annoyance, however, though I groped about everywhere, knocking an ash tray off the mantelpiece and smashing the lid of the soap-dish, I could find neither the lime-juice nor matches. At length, giving it up as a bad job, I decided to get into bed again. With that end in view, I groped my way through the darkness, steering myself by the furniture, the position of which was, of course, quite familiar to me--at least I imagined it was. Judge, then, of my astonishment when I could not find the bed! At first I regarded it as a huge joke, and laughed--how rich! Ha! ha! ha! Fancy not being able to find one's way back to bed in a room of this dimension! Good enough for _Punch_! Too good, perhaps, now. Ha! ha! ha! But it soon grew past a joke. I had been round the room, completely round the room, twice, and still no bed! I became seriously alarmed! Could I be ill? Was I going mad? But no, my forehead was cool, my pulse normal. For some seconds I stood still, not knowing what else to do; then, to make one more desperate attempt, I stuck straight in front of me--and--ran into something--something that recoiled and hit me. Thrilled with amazement, I put up my hand to feel what it was, and touched a noose."