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Scottish Ghost Stories (Elliott O'Donnell) online
CASE V - THE SALLOW-FACED WOMAN OF NO. -- FORREST ROAD, EDINBURGH
The Public unfortunately includes a certain set of people, of the middle class very "middlish," who are ever on the look-out for some opportunity, however slight and seemingly remote, of bettering themselves socially; and, learning that those in a higher strata of society are interested in the supernatural, they think that they may possibly get in touch with them by working up a little local reputation for psychical research. I have often had letters from this type of "pusher" (letters from genuine believers in the Occult I always welcome) stating that they have been greatly interested in my books--would I be so very kind as to grant them a brief interview, or permit them to accompany me to a haunted house, or give them certain information with regard to Lady So-and-so, whom they have long wanted to know? Occasionally, I have been so taken in as to give permission to the writer to call on me, and almost always I have bitterly repented. The wily one--no matter how wily--cannot conceal the cloven hoof for long, and he has either tried to thrust himself into the bosom of my family, or has written to my neighbours declaring himself to be my dearest friend; and when, in desperation, I have shown him the cold shoulder, he has attacked me virulently in some "rag" of a local paper, the proprietor, editor, or office-boy of which happens to be one of his own clique. I have even known an instance where this type of person has, through trickery, actually gained access to some notoriously haunted house, and from its owners--the family he has long had his eyes on, from a motive anything but psychic--has ferreted out the secret and private history of the haunting. Then, when he has been "found out" and forced to see that his friendship is not wanted, he has, in revenge for the slight, unblushingly revealed the facts that were only entrusted to him in the strictest confidence; and, through influence with the lower stratum of the Press, caused a most glaring and sensational account of the ghost to be published.
With such a case in view, I cannot be surprised that possessors of family ghosts and haunted houses should show the greatest reluctance to be approached on the subject, save by those they feel assured will treat it with the utmost delicacy.
But I have quoted the above breach of confidence merely to give another reason for my constant use of fictitious names with regard to people and places, and having done so (I hope to some purpose), I will proceed with the following story:--
Miss Dulcie Vincent, some of whose reminiscences appeared in my book of _Ghostly Phenomena_ last year, is nearly connected with Lady Adela Minkon, who owns a considerable amount of house property, including No. -- Forrest Road, in Edinburgh, and whose yacht at Cowes is the envy of all who have cruised in her. Three years ago, Lady Adela stayed at No. -- Forrest Road. She had heard that the house was haunted, and was anxious to put it to the test. Lady Adela was perfectly open-minded. She had never experienced any occult phenomena herself, but, very rationally, she did not consider that her non-acquaintance with the superphysical in any way negatived the evidence of those who declare that they have witnessed manifestations; their statements, she reasoned, were just as worthy of credence as hers. She thus commenced her occupation of the house with a perfectly unbiased mind, resolved to stay there for at least a year, so as to give it a fair trial. The hauntings, she was told, were at their height in the late summer and early autumn. It is, I think, unnecessary to enter into any detailed description of her house. In appearance, it differed very little, if at all, from those adjoining it; in construction, it was if anything a trifle larger. The basement, which included the usual kitchen offices and cellars, was very dark, and the atmosphere--after sunset on Fridays, only on Fridays--was tainted with a smell of damp earth, shockingly damp earth, and of a sweet and nauseating something that greatly puzzled Lady Adela. All the rooms in the house were of fair dimensions, and cheerful, excepting on this particular evening of the week; a distinct gloom settled on them then, and the strangest of shadows were seen playing about the passages and on the landings.