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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online

Scottish Ghost Stories


"Oh, do come to my room!" she cried. "Something has happened to Mary." (Mary was one of the housemaids.)

We both accompanied her, and, on entering her room, found Mary seated on a chair, sobbing hysterically. One only had to glance at the girl to see that she was suffering from some very severe shock. Though normally red-cheeked and placid, in short, a very healthy, stolid creature, and the last person to be easily perturbed, she was now without a vestige of colour, whilst the pupils of her eyes were dilated with terror, and her entire body, from the crown of her head to the soles of her feet, shook as if with ague. I was immeasurably shocked to see her.

"Why, Mary," Margaret exclaimed, "whatever is the matter? What has happened?"

"It's the candle, miss," the girl gasped, "the candle in Miss Trevor's room. I can't put it out."

"You can't put it out, why, what nonsense!" Margaret said. "Are you mad?"

"It is as true as I sit here, miss," Mary panted. "I put the candle on the mantelpiece while I set the room to rights, and when I had finished and came to blow it out, I couldn't. I blew, and blew, and blew, but it hadn't any effect, and then I grew afraid, miss, horribly afraid," and here she buried her face in her hands, and shuddered. "I've never been frightened like this before, miss," she returned slowly, "and I've come away and left the candle burning."

"How absurd of you," Margaret scolded. "We must go and put it out at once. I have a good mind to make you come with us, Mary--but there! Stay where you are, and for goodness' sake stop crying, or every one in the house will hear you."

So saying, Margaret hurried off,--Alice and I accompanying her,--and on arriving outside my room, the door of which was wide open, we perceived the lighted candle standing in the position Mary had described. I looked at the girls, and perceived, in spite of my endeavours not to perceive it, the unmistakable signs of a great fear--fear of something they suspected but dared not name--lurking in the corners of their eyes.

"Who will go first?" Margaret demanded. No one spoke.

"Well then," she continued, "I will," and, suiting the action to the word, she stepped over the threshold. The moment she did so, the door began to close. "This is curious!" she cried. "Push!"

We did; we all three pushed; but, despite our efforts, the door came resolutely to, and we were shut out. Then before we had time to recover from our astonishment, it flew open; but before we could cross the threshold, it came violently to in the same manner as before. Some unseen force held it against us.

"Let us make one more effort," Margaret said, "and if we don't succeed, we will call for help."

Obeying her instructions, we once again pushed. I was nearest the handle, and in some manner,--how, none of us could ever explain,--just as the door opened of its own accord, I slipped and fell inside. The door then closed immediately with a bang, and, to my unmitigated horror, I found myself alone in the room. For some seconds I was spellbound, and could not even collect my thoughts sufficiently to frame a reply to the piteous entreaties of the Holkitts, who kept banging on the door, and imploring me to tell them what was happening. Never in the hideous excitement of nightmare had I experienced such a terror as the terror that room conveyed to my mind. Though nothing was to be seen, nothing but the candle, the light of which was peculiarly white and vibrating, I felt the presence of something inexpressibly menacing and horrible. It was in the light, the atmosphere, the furniture, everywhere. On all sides it surrounded me, on all sides I was threatened--threatened in a manner that was strange and deadly. Something suggesting to me that the source of evil originated in the candle, and that if I could succeed in extinguishing the light I should free myself from the ghostly presence, I advanced towards the mantelpiece, and, drawing in a deep breath, blew--blew with the energy born of desperation. It had no effect. I repeated my efforts; I blew frantically, madly, but all to no purpose; the candle still burned--burned softly and mockingly. Then a fearful terror seized me, and, flying to the opposite side of the room, I buried my face against the wall, and waited for what the sickly beatings of my heart warned me was coming. Constrained to look, I slightly, only very, very slightly, moved round, and there, there, floating stealthily towards me through the air, came the candle, the vibrating, glowing, baleful candle. I hid my face again, and prayed God to let me faint. Nearer and nearer drew the light; wilder and wilder the wrenches at the door. Closer and closer I pressed myself to the wall. And then, then when the final throes of agony were more than human heart and brain could stand, there came the suspicion, the suggestion of a touch--of a touch so horrid that my prayers were at last answered, and I fainted. When I recovered, I was in Margaret's room, and half a dozen well-known forms were gathered round me. It appears that with the collapse of my body on the floor, the door, that had so effectually resisted every effort to turn the handle, immediately flew open, and I was discovered lying on the ground with the candle--still alight--on the ground beside me. My aunt experienced no difficulty in blowing out the refractory candle, and I was carried with the greatest tenderness into the other wing of the house, where I slept that night. Little was said about the incident next day, but all who knew of it expressed in their faces the utmost anxiety--an anxiety which, now that I had recovered, greatly puzzled me. On our return home, another shock awaited me; we found to our dismay that my mother was seriously ill, and that the doctor, who had been sent for from Perth the previous evening, just about the time of my adventure with the candle, had stated that she might not survive the day. His warning was fulfilled--she died at sunset. Her death, of course, may have had nothing at all to do with the candle episode, yet it struck me then as an odd coincidence, and seems all the more strange to me after hearing your account of the bogle that touched your dear father in the road, so near the spot where the Holkitts' house once stood. I could never discover whether Lady Holkitt or her daughters ever saw anything of a superphysical nature in their house; after my experience they were always very reticent on that subject, and naturally I did not like to press it. On Lady Holkitt's death, Margaret and Alice sold the house, which was eventually pulled down, as no one would live in it, and I believe the ground on which it stood is now a turnip field. That, my dear, is all I can tell you.

* * * * *

"Now, Mr. O'Donnell," Miss Macdonald added, "having heard our experiences, my mother's and mine, what is your opinion? Do you think the phenomenon of the candle was in any way connected with the bogle both you and I have seen, or are the hauntings of 'The Old White House' entirely separate from those of the road?"

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