The sound of the blowing winds whistling through the rattling windows could be heard through the lantern-lit drawing room of a venerable manor house. It whispered the ghostly curse of a foul murder, which damned it to emptiness. Thick, torn curtains wavered at each blow of the winds shaking the dust of time from its patterns into a macabre dance. A stream of light from a lamp partnered the flowing air, and it cast demon forms on the damp-streaked walls. Wooden paneling together with the worn oaken stairs creaked anguishedly in erratic rhythm with the rasping of the rusted hinges of the ornate doors.
The vast salon was bared of all furnishing save a deal table set in a far corner. A bright hurricane lamp rested on a far end; in the center was a ringed notebook filled with historical data pertaining to the manor house and its surroundings. Close at hand were a tape recorder, and a fortifying bottle of Glenlivet Malt with a half-filled glass. Alongside the table was aluminum folding chair occupied by a tall lanky figure in his middling years, busily attending to his recorded notations.
James Hendriks, a well-known American mystery writer, paused in his work from time to time and searched in the gloom. His strange fascination with investigating ghostly sightings and other strange and mysterious phenomena inured him to the dismal surroundings. No sign of trepidation was featured on his florid face, but his laughing brown eyes and friendly grin showed signs of the fortifying malt which strengthened his resolve.
The American mussed his thinning greyish-black hair as he thought of his purpose of coming to this dismal setting in the eerie hours of a stormy night. A foul murder had been committed upon a young trollop within the walls in years past. Every night since, on the full moon, a ghost in the spectral form of a young woman wandered through the manor in search of her hidden remains; it cried out in hoarse moaning tones in the futility of not discovering the object of the search. Local legend has it that the wraith wants its bones to be buried in consecrated ground with the proper rites, and then it could rest.
According to a legend, the luminous ghostly image was seen at the twelfth hour at the call of chimes; it wafted mysteriously from a room on the upper floor of the manor. The lore told how spectre glided slowly down the winding staircase and, after a few minutes of wavering through the corridors, it disappeared through the unlocked door leading to the pantry. There the image circled around a debris-covered stone slab, moaning eerily as it vanished into the mist of the unseen.
”Well,” mused James Hendriks, “according to lore, the apparition should appear at the midnight hour. Another twenty minutes and we shall meet.” He thought jokingly, “Should I bow down to the fair lady before I make my introductions? Or should I take her by her fair hand as she spooks about the manor?” He laughed nervously at the tactless rambling that ran though his mind.
Then he searched through the historical data. “Just to check,” he mused as he listened to his voice recording.
The celluloid turned slowly on the sprocket releasing his voice... The spoken words narrated the events of that time. “Long ago during the era of mad King George...” It told of a dashing young nobleman, who was a notorious womanizer who bundled off many a weeping woman with a filled belly, after he had his pleasure.
Phrases told of the love nest built in the Kent countryside by this rake, a Lord Percy Carringdale; the two-storey country house, aptly called “The Elysian Lodge” was set in delightful gardens bordered with stately poplar trees. It was a pleasurable stage for the many visitors to its outlandish revelries.
The spinning reel continued in the tale. The rooms in the manor were spacious and well furnished with stout oaken but comfortable and purposeful furniture; armour fitted with the might of cold steel set in the salon, dining hall and library displayed the power of the reigning lord. The walls were decorated with brass candle fittings, shining blazonry and with paintings of noble lords and bosomy and genteel ladies. But one of the bedrooms at the upper floor of the manor was arranged in the manner of a bordello with gaudy furnishings and decorations; its wide bed with feathered mattress, satin sheets and fluffy pillows was quite ample for the many trysts. The servants knew of its purpose, but remained silent in tongue.
It was wintry night when the sound of murder was echoed through the manor; a cry in a vacant house as the servants were dismissed after the charge of debt was issued against the lord for his losses at the turn of the cards. The love nest had evidence of the foul deed as the satin sheets and soft pillows were covered in the gore and blood of late nobleman’s paramour.
The body of the young damsel had disappeared along with the remains of her pitiful hoard of jewelry. Brutal robbery was suspected at first. There was neither sign of her once living form nor any trace of her jewels uncovered, despite the untiring efforts of his majesty’s watch.
According to legend, the murder victim was a pretty, yet coarse young lady, the last acquisition of Lord Carringdale. He had adored her for the ample warmth of her soft body; in return for her love, she was given a few tokens in the form of precious trinkets.
Words of lore spun in tales and song told that the hand of a thief did not inflict the murder of the young lady; it was that of Lord Carringdale himself. The verses of the legend told of his damnable bad luck at cards and of his mounting losses. The gambling debt was presented and the Lord faced ruination.
That fateful night was one of drunken debauchery mixed with loud argumentative and threatening demands for jewels to cover debt. A negative reply on part of the terrified damsel led to damnation. The crazed Lord Carringdale screamed at her to take her blasted precious baubles to the devil. Madness engulfed him through fury mixed with drink and he hit the poor creature with the power of his clenched fists, Blow after blow was rained murderously on the trollop’s body until the flow of blood covered the dark bluish marks on her skin.
Lord Carringdale laughed at the beaten figure as he swallowed bitter dregs of drink, “There, my pretty little thing, now you can have your lovely trinkets.” Then with an unsteady hand, he decked the remains with the guarded jewels. He laughed drunkenly, “My, my are you handsome! His laughter increased as it roared through the love nest.
”Now, my lovely, time for beddie-bye” he slurred. “Not here, my dearie, not here!” He wrapped her bloodied body in a small rug unaware of a slight movement. He hoisted the horrific burden on his shoulder, and on tipsy feet carried it from the room of pleasure. He made his way drunkenly down the circular staircase, lifting his head in madding laughter and hoarse shouts. Lord Carringdale skirted the lower floor and headed for the pantry.
There he dumped the bundled remains on the hard floor. With drunken strength he slid open the heavy stone covering of the drainage pit. “Sleep tight little one! he called out as he pushed his guilt into the foul grave. He fell on the recovered stone and laughingly called out, “Sleep tight, sleep tight. After a moment or two he lifted his depraved body from the stone floor and stared once towards the pit; then he staggered from the pantry with caustic oaths to his lips.
But her spirit rose from the foul grave and haunted him the following days, driving him to a fit of madness. The spectre appeared in all forms in the imagination of his guilt. His imagination increased to hearing her voice in the cry of murder and retribution. His tormented sleep turned into nightmares of horrendous proportions, which pictured within his guilty mind the sight of his victim covered in blood and gore and surrounded in the glimmer of precious stones.
Within time Lord Carringdale ran about the manor in a fit of madness screaming and ranting. “Drive her away!” he called out loudly again and again as his eyes saw the ghostly figure. Louder and louder he yelled until that day when those who passed by the manor heard his screaming voice and the watch was called; physical harm to the Lord was suspected. They forced their way into the manor and saw the horror of lunacy before their sight; the king’s men had to use strong measures in order to secure the royal person. Then they brought him into custody struggling in the strength of his body, and screaming in the madness of his voice.
At the crown court the noble lord was rendered crazed after the foul deed, unable to give evidence. Thus the judiciary, after hearing testimony from the king’s men at arms, ruled that the onus of the charged debt was the cause of the murderous act.
The spoken narration continued. The ghostly apparition of the young woman was always sighted on the night of the full moon driving later occupants to distraction with its luminous sight and moaning cries. A history in the later years told of haunting terror that drove to madness those who tried to live within the manor’s walls. One tenant was turned into a raving maniac. Another was found hanging from one of the crystal chandeliers. A husband and his wife, along with their two daughters were driven half naked and in terror through the poplars into the unknown.
The taped related the tale of trembling fear of those who neared The Elysian Lodge and its neglected grounds, ending the weird tale.
Suddenly, from a mysterious source, a clock loudly chimed the hour of midnight. Howling, the winds bellowed; fury swept the winds through the darkened rooms. Moaning sounds could be heard flowing from the former trysting bedroom, sounding louder with each beat of the chimes. Then a luminous spirit appeared in the upper story. The wraith made its way slowly through the upper story and spirited down the spiral staircase. Then it wafted purposefully towards the door leading to the pantry, disappearing through the stout oak.
James Henriks watched in awe and fright the movements of the ghostly apparition as she skimmed the corridors; his skin prickled in fear and the palms of his hands were clammy in nervous sweat. He had heard the chiming of an unseen clock but was in wonder to the sound as the manor was empty of all furnishings. The American quickly grabbed the bottle of mash, lifted it to an open mouth and gulped down the remainder of the liquid contents.
The fortifying drink gave him additional courage and in that state he decided quickly to follow the ghost. He took hold of the lantern, and held it high to light his way. He made his way, with trembling feet and trepidation in his soul, towards the luminous brightness. It was only a brief moment when James opened the heavy door to the larder and spotted the specter circling the dirt-encrusted slab; the writer heard her moanful eerie tones momentarily before she disappeared.
James Henriks placed the flickering lamp on the remains of a marble shelf. Then without a drunken thought he allowed his trembling legs to move towards the last place where the specter was sighted. The American bent down to inspects the site and with an unsteady hand tried to push aside the gathered debris. As he worked his head started to spin from the effects of the fortifying mash and he fell into a deep swoon.
A cock crow from a near distant forced disheveled James Hendriks to wake from his deep drunken sleep. He sat up quickly from his perch on the dirty floor, stretched his aching arms, and rubbed his sticky eyes. The morning sun, filtering in from a large dirty window, caused wonderment in mind, “What the devil? How did I get here?” A moment elapsed and clarity returned to his thoughts. The American quickly rose from the floor, stretched his arms once again, and with both hands cursorily brushed the dirt from his clothes.
Then James looked down at a visible corner of a stone slab, his place of rest where he fell in a drunken sleep. Slowly he remembered the events the night before. He chuckled softly, “That lovely young spirit circled this stone. I wonder why, I wonder? Well, lets take a look and see what’s under it.” The American searched around for a suitable tool to pry and lift the stone slab. A piece of strong, yet suitable length of iron was pulled easily from window bars. “Yes that will do,” he mused.
It took James Hendriks a considerable amount of work to clear the collected debris from the stone slab before he was able to distinguish its borders. It took an equally amount of time to clear the encrusted dirt of the past before he was able to inspect the stonework. Then with a good deal of pressure, James was able to insert the iron bar along one side; slowly but surely James shifted and lifted the heavy covering. Then with an extra bit of effort moved it allowing the dust of time to waft from it. Another shove on the stone and the opening to the drainage pit was enlarged.
James Hendriks peered in with a touch of curiosity and he received a shock and an equal surprise when he saw the contents in the shallow enclosure below. There, within the sight of his wide opened eyes, was a smallish crumbly skeleton in a fetal position; its neck and limbs were bedecked with jewelry, both with precious and semi-precious stones set and strung in gold and silver. Around the skeletal remains, James was able to discern bits of fine cloth and threads of a carpet.
The authorities were then notified and they took the proper official action. The bones were given a proper Christian burial in a grave enclosed in small resting-place in the local churchyard; a placed tablet above indicated the presence on an unknown believer of the faith. The jewels were found to be quite valuable and the property owner, namely the Crown court, presented the collection to a museum. Only one thin silver band was left on a bony finger; it was inscribed on the inside “To My Beloved Daughter.”
As to James Hendriks, the American mystery writer, he received a substantial reward from the rightful heirs, a deserved blessing from the church, and above all, acclaim for his new best-seller.
And in the Kent countryside near the Elysian Lodge the whispering winds are at rest.
Copyright © 2003 by Norman A. Rubin