Short, scary ghost stories

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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online

Scottish Ghost Stories


With every step she took the stink increased, and by the time she had reached the cupboard she was almost suffocated. For some seconds she toyed irresolutely with the door handle, longing to be back again in bed, but unable to tear herself away from the cupboard. At last, yielding to the demands of some pitilessly exacting unknown influence, she held her breath and swung open the door. The moment she did so the room filled with the faint, phosphorescent glow of decay, and she saw, exactly opposite her, a head--a human head--floating in mid-air. Petrified with terror, she lost every atom of strength, and, entirely bereft of the power to move or articulate a sound, she stood stock-still staring at it. That it was the head of a man, she could only guess from the matted crop of short red hair that fell in a disordered entanglement over the upper part of the forehead and ears. All else was lost in a loathsome, disgusting mass of detestable decomposition, too utterly vile and foul to describe. On the abnormal thing beginning to move forward, the spell that bound Mrs. Murphy to the floor was broken, and, with a cry of horror, she fled to the bed and awoke her husband.

The head was by this time close to them, and had not Mrs. Murphy dragged her husband forcibly out of its way, it would have touched him.

His terror was even greater than hers; but for the moment neither could speak. They stood clutching one another in an awful silence. Mrs. Murphy at length gasped out, "Pray, John, pray! Command the thing in the name of God to depart." Mr. Murphy made a desperate effort to do so, but not a syllable would come. The head now veered round and was moving swiftly towards them, its awful stench causing them both to retch and vomit. Mr. Murphy, seizing his stick, lashed at it with all his might. The result was one they might well have expected. The stick met with no resistance, and the head continued to advance. Both Mr. and Mrs. Murphy then made a frantic attempt to find the door, the head still pursuing them, and, tripping over something in their wild haste, fell together on the floor. There was now no hope, the head had caught them up; it hovered immediately above them, and, descending lower, lower, and lower, finally passed right through them, through the floor, and out of sight. It was long ere either of them could sufficiently recover to stir from the floor, and when they did move, it was only to totter to their bed, and to lie with the bedclothes well over their heads, quivering and quaking till the morning.

The hot morning sun dissipating their fears, they got up, and, hurrying downstairs, demanded an interview with their landlord. It was in vain the latter argued it was all a nightmare they showed the absurdity of such a theory by vehemently attesting they had both simultaneously experienced the phenomena. They were about to take their departure, when the landlord, retracting all he had said, offered them another room and any terms they liked, "if only they would stay and hold their tongues."

"I know every word of what you say is true," he said, in such submissive tones that the tender hearts of Mr. and Mrs. Murphy instantly relented, and they promised to remain. "But what am I to do? I cannot shut up a house which I have taken on a twenty years' lease, because one room in it is haunted--and, after all, there is only one visitor in twenty who is disturbed by the apparition. What is the history of the head? Why, it is said to be that of a pedlar who was murdered here over a hundred years ago. The body was hidden behind the wainscoting, and his head under the cupboard floor. The miscreants were never caught; they are supposed to have gone down in a ship that sailed from this port just about that time and was never heard of again."

This is the gist of the story the clergyman told me, and, believing it as I undoubtedly do to be true, there is every reason to suppose that the inn, to which I have, of course, given a fictitious name, if still in existence, is still haunted.

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