Monday, October 19, 2015

The Haunting of the Green Bank Hotel by Elliott O'Donnell 1908

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Technical form of apparitions: Phantasms of the dead
Source of authenticity: Evidence of eye-witness
Cause of haunting; Murder

One afternoon in the July of this year I took tea with Lady B__ at her club in the West End. Lady B__ is a very old friend of mine, our friendship dating back to the days when I wore Eton collars and a preparatory school cap. She was in unusually high spirits at the thought of a cruise in the Baltic, whilst I was equally exuberant at being once again in London after a very trying sojourn in a particularly remote and isolated town —a town renowned for pilchards, pasties and Painters.

Now, there is nothing mean nor petty about Lady B__; she is generosity itself: so kind, so courteous, and withal so daintily pretty that to be near her, even, is to be in Elysium. Remembering the interest I had always taken in matters psychical, she had invited several friends especially to meet me, and it was from one of them—Miss Charlotte Napier—that I heard the following story:

"Chancing to be stranded late one night at Bardsley," she began, "owing to a slight miscalculation of the time-table, I had no other resource than to put up at the Green Bank Hotel in Russell

"It was a very ordinary hotel; ordinary both in accommodation and appearance. One part of it— that in which I slept—possibly dated back to the Elizabethan period, but the rest—most hideously
renovated—was quite modern.

"Outside my room—No. 56—was a long and somewhat gloomy corridor connecting the old and new portions of the house.

"I retired to rest about eleven—closing time—and had been asleep barely an hour before I awoke with a start to find the room flooded with a pale, phosphorescent light.

"The moon shone through my window-panes: it gleamed with an unearthly whiteness across the bed, and thence across the room, glancing upon the panels of the door in such a manner that I was
constrained to follow its course and to fix my gaze wherever it shone.

"The door was a mass of light: I could see each crack and scar upon it, even the finger-prints on the white handle, with painful distinctness. A sudden sensation of horror overcame me; I would have given anything to have been able to look elsewhere.

I could not.

"All my senses were centred upon the door; it enchained, it drew me, and as I gazed at it in helpless awe the sound of footsteps from without suddenly broke upon my ears. Instantly all my faculties were on the alert, and I became the victim of a curious sensation unlike any I had hitherto experienced, but which I have since learned is the usual effect of psychic manifestation. I felt the proximity of the unnatural. An icy coldness stole down my back, my teeth chattered, my hair seemed to rise on end, and the violent palpitation of my heart made me sick and dizzy. My faculties had indeed become abnormally acute, but my body seemed no longer alive, and I knew that whatever happened I should be absolutely incapable of action. My powerlessness was soon to be put to the test. Sitting bolt upright in bed, in obedience to an irresistible impulse, I listened, listened with all my might. What were those sounds? They were certainly unlike any I had ever heard before, and the kind of terror they imparted was hitherto unknown to me. Perhaps the nearest semblance to the kind of fear I then felt is the fear inspired by the sight of a lunatic. I could not stir, I could only wait and listen. The unnatural nature of the footsteps was emphasised by the brilliancy of the moonlight—quite an abnormal feature in itself—and the intense hush, which, stealing surreptitiously upon the house, obliterated every other sound.

"The footsteps gradually became interpretative— two people were rushing headlong down the corridor!

"From the light, flying footsteps of the foremost, and the heavier tread and ever-increasing pace of the hindermost, I concluded it was a race entailing vital consequences, and that the fugitive would soon be caught. Caught! but not, pray Heaven! at my door.

"What on earth had happened? What could happen in a well-regulated hotel?

" Fire, robbery, or murder?

" MURDER! Great drops of sweat broke out upon my brow at the bare thought.

"The moon shone in, whiter and more coldly than ever, whilst the steps drew nearer and nearer—so near, in fact, that I fancied I could detect the sound of breathing. Short, sharp-drawn gasps of agony accompanied by easier and more strenuous inhalations.

"Who were the actors in this invisible drama? Were they both men? I imagined not! Indeed, a thousand horrible ideas suggested themselves to my mind—to be interrupted by a terrific crash on the
upper panels of the door that made me all but die with terror. Never had I suffered as at that moment. I strove to scream—it was in vain; my tongue clave to the roof of my mouth; I could utter no sound.

"The door (which I had taken the precaution to lock) was unceremoniously burst open, and into the room rushed a very young and fragile looking man clad in the costume of a Cavalier of the time of
Naseby, whilst close at his heels there followed a gigantic Roundhead armed with all the terrible paraphernalia of war.

"The tableau was so totally different from anything I had anticipated, and withal horribly real—so real that had it been in my power I must inevitably have raised a hand to interpose.

"Indeed, the wretched fugitive made straight for my bed, and, falling on his knees beside it, clutched the counterpane convulsively in his fingers. His ashy face was so near mine that I not only saw every feature in it with damning clearness, but I read the many varied expressions in his eyes.

"They were awful. I read in them despair, terror, hate, overshadowed in the background by an insatiable craving for every imaginable vice.

"Yet they were beautiful eyes—beautiful both in formation and colour—too effeminately beautiful for a man.

"His hair, which fell in a wild profusion of ringlets over forehead and shoulders, was of a rich chestnut hue and most luxuriant.

"He wore neither beard nor moustaches; he was absolutely clean shaven, and his skin shone with all the milky whiteness of that of a young woman.

"His features were neatly moulded and extremely delicate; his hands well shaped and narrow, whilst his fingers, long and tapering, were crowned with pellucid filbert nails.

"Attired in the most costly and elegant manner, a manner that suggested the court fop rather than the soldier, he formed in every way a marked contrast to his puritan pursuer. The Roundhead was a huge, brawny fellow, dressed in a leathern jerkin and heavy riding-boots—his soiled and muddy clothes betokening the wear and tear of an arduous campaign.

"His face, always ugly, and naturally, perhaps, sullen and forbidding, was now positively diabolical; rage, hatred, and triumph vieing with one another for supremacy.

"Catching hold of the Cavalier by his silken tresses, and pulling back his head by brute force, the Cromwellian slowly and deliberately drew the keen blade of his knife across the doomed man's throat.

"The horrid deed—transacted amid the most preternatural silence—was perpetrated so close to me that I was obliged to witness every revolting detail, and although I felt sure the victim was bad and vicious, I did not think the vileness of his character in any way justified the atrocity of his assassin.

"The murderer had barely accomplished his fiendish design before a deadly sickness came over me, and I fainted.

"On recovering consciousness, the room was once again in darkness, nor could I discover in the morning any sign whatever of the awful tragedy.

"On making inquiries in the town, I learned that the inn was well known to be haunted, other people, as well as I, having witnessed the same phenomenon, and that during the recent renovations a skeleton had been unearthed at the foot of the main staircase.

"I saw it in the local museum, and instantly identified the costume it wore as the one I had seen on the hapless fugitive. But—the skeleton was that of a WOMAN!

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