In True Ghost Stories I’ve brought you experiences from my Grandmother’s pub, The Royal Oak (don’t worry, we’ll be going back, there’s a couple of really weird stories still to come!): now I’d like to fill you in on some of my own personal experiences. From the Hotel...
The Hotel was another example of an old building steeped in history, just like the Royal Oak the hotel was built in the 1700s. And like the Royal Oak, it had its fair share of hauntings.
The first story I’d like to share is the first time I actually witnessed a ghost with my own eyes. I’d been working in the pub trade for around ten years and had basically been born into the industry. Even though I’d worked in some really old places, most of which with a story to tell, I’d never actually seen anything for myself. That changed one summer night.
There were some pretty scary non-paranormal stories in the pub trade, (anyone who has ever seen British TV show Crimewatch can confirm that, and holy shit if that isn’t one of the scariest things on television), so whenever I worked in a new place, I followed one simple rule: if my bedroom door had a lock, I used it. (Turns out it wasn’t necessary, but better safe than sorry.)
The windows to my bedroom at the Hotel opened onto a roof. The kind of roof somebody might use if they wanted to gain entry, bypassing the doors. So on this one night, when I was awoken by the rattle of my bedroom door opening behind me, I knew something was off.
When I turned I was relieved to see my dad inside the room, beside the closed door. But he wasn’t looking at me; he was staring in the direction of the windows. It was clear from his posture that he was listening intently to something out there. My dad can sometimes be, well, reactionary, so there was no way I was opening my mouth to speak now, especially after screwing up and not locking the bedroom door.
I was pretty freaked out. He’d never done this before and for a second I thought I could end up on a reconstruction on Crimewatch myself. He just stood there facing the window, looking. And listening. I too turned attention to the window, in an attempt to see the source of what he’d heard. As far as I could make out, there was nothing going on, so I turned back to him. He still wasn’t looking at me. His eyes were fixed, peering through the dark at the windows. It was especially dark as the curtains were drawn, so it was no surprise when he took a few steps towards the window to get a better look, stopping a few feet away.
My eyes were adjusting to the light now and I turned back to the window myself. Still nothing. No signs of movement, no sound. I was still reluctant to say anything. Just because I couldn’t hear it, didn’t mean it wasn’t there, whatever it was. By now, I’m gripped by curiosity. I looked at him, back at the windows, back at him, and then the strangest thing happened...
Right before my eyes, as I was looking at him. The figure I thought was my dad faded into nothing. I slowly sat upright and tried to wrap my head around what was going on. I wasn’t scared, which I found odd. I even thought at this point I might have been dreaming, so I pinched myself. Nothing happened. I tried again, really grabbing and twisting hard. My next thought was Okay, you’re definitely awake. Now what? I sat up for another few minutes trying to explain it. I didn’t fancy the idea of getting out of bed, so I lay back down and after a few minutes, I fell back asleep.
The next morning I woke up, and being the non-morning person that I am, I was groggy. I wasn’t groggy for long as I suddenly remembered what had happened the previous night. Now I’m wide awake with a hazy and more-than-slightly confusing memory of my dad being in my room. Again, not afraid, but curious to find out what he’d been looking for. I quickly got up, dressed, and left my room. Well, I tried to leave, but the door didn’t open.
It was locked.
I hadn’t forgotten. I’d locked the door as I always did. Now I know it wasn’t dad. That was when the fear kicked in. It was also the quickest I’d ever unlocked a door and the first time I’d ever seen a ghost.
It’s difficult to explain to anyone how I can be so sure that it wasn’t a dream and yet I’d bet my life on it. The ghost of a living person is called a Doppelganger (another German word) and is said to often be a harbinger of bad news. I’m happy to report that this took place over a decade ago (maybe two decades – where has the time gone?) and nothing bad happened.
I’m not the first in my family to see a doppelganger. My uncle was sitting watching television with my grandfather at his house one night when nature called. He excused himself and passed my grandfather on his way to the bathroom. He planted his foot on the first step, looked up, only to see my grandfather peering down at him from the landing.
He mumbled to grandad on his way back to his seat. “I’ll wait.”
I’ve also heard a very similar (almost identical) story to my own told on the wonderful Jim Harold’s Campfire podcast, so it does happen. I’m sure there will be some among you who think it was all a dream. Well, that was the first time I saw anything in that room. It wasn’t the last…
Next time in True Ghost Stories, I'll tell you about the second.
Have you ever seen a ghost? Let me know in the comments! As before, I’d like this to be a serious discussion, so no jokes, memes, etc. And please be respectful of others!
As I mentioned in Part One: The Room, the Royal Oak’s remote location added to its character and atmosphere. Is it also possible that it added to the types of ghosts that walked the halls there? In part two, we talk about...
One ghost commonly seen stalking the rooms of The Royal Oak was that of a large imposing figure, wearing a three-cornered hat. This character also had a wooden leg, much like a pirate, though anyone who saw him would tell you they were looking at a highwayman. Whenever he was around, the atmosphere changed to one of foreboding.
Of course, not everybody saw the highwayman, and naturally, there were some who were sceptical of his existence. For some, only seeing leads to believing. Today’s story concerns one such individual.
The pub itself was a big old place, and on weekends it was a nightclub. Despite its isolated location, at weekends, it would be packed. Due to these factors the pub required a large cleaning staff - a cleaning staff who, when not working hard to get the place ready for the next round of visitors, told tall tales of ghosts and hauntings to newer, less experienced colleagues.
The kitchen served as their break room and one break in particular started out like most others. The end, however, was markedly different. On this break, the expected tea and chatter were present, but one of the cleaners, Karen, was not. They shouted to find her, and she swiftly replied.
Karen was in the next room, cleaning a brass-topped table which sat at the foot of the stairs. The rest of the cleaners continued their break when Karen shouted that she would be in to join them as soon as the table was polished. It would normally only take a few minutes, but she entered the kitchen even sooner than any of them expected.
“What’s wrong with you? You look awful.”
Karen stood before them, her face pale, and her hands trembling.
“I’m not going back in there.”
She was met with a stunned silence until Sue, one of the newer, uninitiated cleaners finally asked, “Why not?”
Visibly shaken, Karen replied, “He’s in there… The highwayman.”
One voice laughed in the silence. It was Sue. When she realised that she was laughing alone, she stopped. “You’ve got to be joking.”
“Come with me.” Mandy, one of the longer-serving members led her through to the stairs. They stood side by side at the foot of the stairs looking up.
“See?” Sue said. “Nothing.”
But Mandy knew better. “Listen.”
After a few seconds, there came a sound. A heavy plodding footfall on the stairs. One foot normal, the other, the clump of a wooden leg. Sue’s face drained of colour. It was her turn to tremble.
Needless to say, Sue never made fun of the highwayman again.
So what about the highwayman? One of the more popular theories about ghosts is that they are stuck between our physical world and the afterlife, usually because of some unexpected, shocking or violent end. The theory is that these poor souls wander around as spirits, unaware of their physical demise. If his appearance was anything to go by, could it have been that this ghost was once a highwayman? A dangerous life for anyone. Could it be that he was stuck between this life and the next? And if you visited the site where the pub once stood, could it be that he’s there still, or has he moved on, looking for somewhere new?
Next time in True Ghost Stories, we leave the Royal Oak for a little while and move to the Hotel where I experienced my first ever real life ghost sighting!
Have you ever seen a ghost? Let me know in the comments! As before, I’d like this to be a serious discussion, so no jokes, memes, etc. And please be respectful of others!
The stories you are about to read depict actual events told as truthfully as recollection permits. Occasionally, dialogue consistent with the character or nature of the person speaking has been supplemented. All persons within are actual individuals; there are no composite characters. The names of some individuals have been changed to respect their privacy. In the name of privacy the names of the public houses where these events took place have been changed.
PART ONE: THE ROOM
The Royal Oak once stood in the countryside of South Yorkshire. Built in the 1700s, it was a classic Georgian design, located a few hundred yards from the main road on a long wide driveway that doubled as a carpark. The roads that led to the grand old place snaked through the surrounding countryside and if I pestered long enough, my dad would park the car en route to the pub on moonless nights on one particularly dark road we nicknamed ‘spooky lane’ and turn off the lights. That darkness was something I’ll remember for a long time.
At the time of the story I’m about to tell you, David was living at the pub. This took place before I was born, but I can recall the bedroom now. That’s because it was the one I slept in whenever I stayed over at the pub as a child. The bedroom was almost a perfect square, bar one recess for a built-in wardrobe. I was glad of the simple design because it meant one thing: no shadowy corners for the bogeyman to hide in. In a building that old where spooky events were a regular occurrence that can be pretty important to a kid.
Because of the remote location, security was paramount, so the old building was equipped with sliding chain locks on all of the windows, even those on the first floor accessible only by ladder. The chains were comforting, but while the windows locked, the internal doors did not.
Anyone who has worked in the industry will tell you, the best part of the working day is when the shift has finished, the punters have all gone home, and the lights are out. But it’s not because the work is done that makes this the highlight. Going to bed straight after a busy shift is impossible, so, as the dust settles on the aftermath, it’s the turn of those who worked their backsides off to have a drink and share stories about the shift, maybe tell stories about weird customers or funny events. On the right night, a few extra drinks flow and the banter flies. It’s the closest you’ll get to a campfire without having a campfire.
It was on one of these nights, after saying goodnight to his colleagues on the night of the story, David trudged upstairs to bed. All was quiet except for the sound of laughter drifting upstairs from those he’d left behind. The hour was late, and he was looking forward to a good night’s sleep, but there was a problem. When he reached the bedroom, the door wouldn’t open.
He tried the handle, and it moved. But the door did not. It didn’t rattle, it didn’t budge. He knew the doors didn’t have locks. It was stuck fast. After a few minutes of trying, he gave up and trudged back downstairs for help.
David stumbled back into the kitchen thinking he might have been victim of a prank, but when he relayed his story, the first instinct from those downstairs was to scoff. They had no idea what he was talking about, in fact, they thought he was playing a trick on them.
David dragged Tony and Des upstairs to see for themselves. Both men playfully ribbed David on the journey upstairs, a grown man who couldn’t open a door. Then they tried the handle. It was true, the door wouldn’t budge. After a quick assessment of the situation, it was decided that the best answer was brute force.
Any laughter from their trip upstairs quickly subsided.
After working together shouldering the door, they managed to open the door a crack. Peering through the small gap they’d managed to make, it soon became obvious as to why the door was stuck. The bed had been pushed against the far side of the door.
After more work fighting against the heavy furniture on the thick carpet, they opened the door wide enough for David to squeeze through. A quick inspection revealed that there was nobody in the room and the windows were locked from the inside.
A friend of mine suggested that this bizarre event could have been the result of an earthquake. For those of you reading from outside the UK, earthquakes in England are extremely rare. Is it possible that there could have been a tremor strong enough to move furniture that nobody remembers? A tremor that only affects a single bed in one room, and not smaller, lighter objects in other rooms? I think not. An erathquake strong enough to shift heavy furniture on a thick carpet would certainly have been noticed, if not at the time, then there would have been plenty of evidence after the fact. I’ve told this story to many people, and I’m yet to hear an explanation more plausible than the incredible story itself.
Have you experienced anything similar? Do you have a better explanation then the one above? Let me know in the comments below. I’d like this to be a serious discussion, so no jokes, memes, etc. And please be respectful of others!
I'll see you on Friday for Part Two: The Highwayman.
I haven’t posted for a while so I thought I’d start 2017 with an update on what’s been going on so far, and some stuff I’m really excited about coming up this year.
So in November the website launched and I just wanted to start by thanking everyone for their overwhelming support. I notice a spike in the number of pages viewed and visitors to the site whenever one of you wonderful people likes/shares one of my posts, so your actions are really making a difference! Extra special thanks to those of you who do that. You are epic!
People often approach me in the street and ask “What are you working on at the moment?” Actually, they don’t *bottom lip wobbles*, but if they did I’d say something like: At the moment I’m working on the latest draft of my time-slip action novel Ghosts of September, where a New Yorker goes to bed in 2016 and wakes up in early September 2001, in the week of the September 11th terror attacks. That’s a massive over-simplification of what goes on, there’s a lot of subplots going on in that one (click the above link to find out more. Go on... I dares ya!), and tying all the strings together was a tough job. Then again, that might just be my favourite part of the process! The biggest challenge working on Ghosts has been checking the facts and differences between the before and after of that time. A LOT of research, and obviously, with the sensitive nature of the subject, it’s been an emotional job. It’s coming together nicely now though, and I’ll be putting a sample up on the site soon.
Once that’s done I’ll be cracking on with the second draft of alien abduction mystery The Event, a story I started after completing detective/werewolf/mystery The Death of Laszlo Breyer. I was forced to step away from it because I wasn’t really sure where it was going. (It was an attempt at ‘pantsing’ and as I started out screenwriting, I’ve always been a plotter.) I used the momentum I got writing Ghosts of September to write an ending, and I have to say there are parts of that story I really like, so I can’t wait to get stuck back into that one. As with Ghosts, I’ll be able to put a sample up soon!
“What about the blog?” you cry! Ghost stories, that’s what. Real ones! Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting short stories about real stuff that happened either to me or colleagues and family members during many years spent in the pub and hotel industry. An industry rife with paranormal tales. Out of all of the different places me and my family worked in over the years, there were only a handful that didn’t have some kind of hauntings. Not every spooky event is a blockbuster, the odd knock here, the occasional bump there; basically nothing to write home (or a blog) about, so I shan’t bore you with those. But others… Some of the others have baffled us for years, and of course the best defy any logical explanation. Those are the kind of stories I’ll be sharing with you. And all being well the first one of those will be here within the week, so keep an eye out on social media for that!
There are some other ideas I’ve got (about the blog, screenplays and new books), but I’ll be keeping those to myself for now, and hopefully I’ll have some exciting updates for you on those in the near future!
Remember to like and share ;-) and if you have a friend who you think would like the kind of spooky stuff I write about, why not share it with them? Here’s to a great 2017 for all of us and I hope to see you back here very soon!
In this blog I'll be bringing to you short tales of things that go bump in the night, true stories of weird and unexplained events, and the real-life news of all things odd and macabre, and entertain you along the way.