Copyright Oggbashan October 2003
The author asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
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This is a work of fiction. The events described here are imaginary; the settings and characters are fictitious and are not intended to represent specific places or living persons.
Why did I do it? I'd had a few drinks but that was no excuse. We were sitting or lying around in the living room after the party. Most of the guests had gone. We'd cleared away, washed up, and the few of us staying overnight were too excited for bed yet. The open fire was glowing in the grate providing the only light in the room. It was close to Halloween so somebody suggested that we should tell ghost stories.
Many of the stories we had heard before either as fact or fiction. When it was my turn to tell a story, I decided to tell one that my London friends would not have heard because it was local and personal. In fact eventually I would inherit the wreck of the house where the story is set.
"Back in the 1850s," I started "my family lived just over the hill in a house built in the 15th Century. It was a rambling dwelling with many small rooms and few decent ones. The servants, for we had servants in those days, lived in the oldest wing of the house. We, that is my family, intended to modernise it and at the time of the dreadful events the builders had arrived and were demolishing part of the house to make a new modern wing.
It was the night of Halloween. The family were visiting friends in the village for a Halloween fancy dress party. You must understand that in the 1850s ladies could not dress themselves. They had to have assistance. If they were poor they asked their sisters. If they were comfortably off as we were then..."
"And are now!" someone rudely interrupted. It was true. I was twenty-five years old, living in my own large house with grounds, and owed not a penny.
"...As I was saying, we were comfortably off. It would have been inconvenient to walk to and from the party in fancy dress so the ladies took their maids and the gentlemen took their valets. We had given the rest of the servants the evening off to attend a servants' fancy dress ball in the village hall. Apart from the housekeeper, who was suffering from a slight diplomatic cold because she couldn't bear to be seen to let her hair down among the junior staff, all the servants not required to help the gentry dress would be at the village hall. Even the maids and valets would go once the gentry's party had started.
However, three of the other servants didn't go. Everyone had expected that they would be at the village hall but hadn't noticed their absence. They were two of the under-maids and the assistant gamekeeper. From now on I'll call them the maids and the keeper because no one now cares about the fine distinctions in the servants' hierarchy.
Both the gentry's party and the servants' party were going well when a bell was heard loudly ringing from my family's house. It was the old alarm bell from the original part of the house that was swinging wildly, its clapper crashing out with such a noise to penetrate through the music and animated conversation.
People in a whole variety of fancy dress spilled out of both parties. My family rushed back to their house. There they found the housekeeper still tugging on the bell rope. There was a haze of smoke around the old wing of the house and flames from a lean-to outhouse attached to the wing. The housekeeper was out of breath and unable to speak. The village people, servants and gentry all arranged themselves in a chain of builders' buckets from the old moat to the burning section.
The housekeeper gasped out that she had been dozing when she heard a shot, possibly two from the servants' wing. She had just found the two maids and the keeper lying dead when she noticed the fire so she sounded the alarm.
While she was liberally plied with brandy from the gentlemen's hip flasks some of the men went to investigate. They found the keeper naked and dead on his bed. He had been gagged and tightly bound with strips of cloth. In the room were the bodies of the two maids. Both had been killed by the keeper's double-barrelled shotgun at close range. One had been shot through the heart; the other had taken the barrel in her mouth and possibly had committed suicide. How the keeper died no one could decide, either at the time or at the coroner's inquest. There was no sign of injury on his body. The verdicts were "Death by unknown cause" for the keeper, "Murder by person or persons unknown" for the first maid, and charitably "Death by shotgun accident" for the second maid.
All three bodies were buried in the local church's graveyard and there they still lie."
"That is interesting, I suppose, Henry," said someone "But it isn't a ghost story."
"Not yet it isn't. I have just set the scene."
"Get on with it!"
"OK. OK." I said.
"The deaths remained a mystery. From time to time people reported seeing the two maids walking through the house and hearing their voices coming from the keeper's room. They never heard the keeper's voice. His former room was used as a storeroom because no one would sleep in it. Many people didn't even notice that the maids were ghosts until after many years the style of their uniform clothes didn't match the uniform dresses worn by the then current maids.
The family ignored the ghosts. We had a few other ghosts that kept to the grounds so a couple of dead maids wandering around the house were just an interesting feature of the property. We didn't talk about them except to confirm, if asked, that they were ghosts.
In the 1920s one of my great-uncles decided to try spending a night in the "haunted" room. He didn't see anything but heard the maids arguing. Apparently the keeper had seduced both of them. The maids wanted him to choose one of them and they were arguing about how he should make his choice because both of them were pregnant and he couldn't marry the two of them. My great-uncle thought they would have been better off without the keeper marrying either of them but he was thinking in 1920s terms and not in 1850s terms when a pregnant maidservant without a husband would be discharged without a character and could literally starve.
Actually I don't think my family did that to pregnant maidservants even in the 1850s but some families certainly did.
My great-uncle was frightened but fascinated by the maids' conversation. One of the maids apparently concealed herself in the keeper's room while the other went to get him for the confrontation that he wouldn't be expecting. My great-uncle waited. He heard the footsteps of the maid and keeper entering the room. The maid persuaded the keeper to allow himself to be blindfolded and gagged by promising him a surprise if he did. Apparently the keeper agreed. Then both maids overpowered him and tied him up.
My great-uncle didn't stay to find out what the maids did next because he felt an invisible gag fill his mouth, something cover his eyes and the maids' cold ghostly hands around his body. He ran. As he ran he heard faint sounds of a struggle followed by a female exclaiming, "We've got you now!".
Since then several people have tried to listen to the ghosts but no one has dared to spend a night in the haunted room. The ghosts are heard most clearly on the evening of Halloween. As far as my great-uncle could tell the maids give the keeper an ultimatum and an ordeal. He has to demonstrate his love for them and then choose one. He would also have to contribute to the upkeep of the other and her child if my family discharged her.
The maids' voices become indistinct, as if they are whispering, just before one shot is heard, followed in seconds by the other.
The maids are still seen and heard today if anyone is around. The house was bombed in 1941 and only the old servants' wing still stands. It is still habitable if as draughty and inconvenient as it has always been. We haven't bothered to improve it. We just keep it weather tight and basically maintained. Someday, perhaps, we might restore it but we can't do much to it because it is listed as a building of historic interest.
That's my ghost story. You can see the outline of the old house through that window."
"You can't leave it like that, Henry." Said one of my friends. "Ghost stories, like all stories, need an ending or an explanation. Your story is unresolved. How did the keeper die? Why did the maids die? Why do the ghosts walk? What caused the fire?"
My other friends agreed that my story was wholly unsatisfactory, leaving too many loose ends. Which brings me back to where I started. I'd had a few drinks and I was annoyed that they were not impressed with my true story. I volunteered to find out the rest "even if it means I spend Halloween night in that room". I actually said that.
Now it is dusk on the evening of Halloween. It doesn't seem such a good idea as I walk slowly through the deserted house towards the haunted room.
Since that convivial evening a few nights' ago I had done some research in the family archives. Now I knew far more about the events of the Halloween in 1852 than I had known when I told the story. Three people had died that night.
Joshua, the assistant gamekeeper, who was usually called Josh, had impregnated two of the under-maids, Patience and Felicity. They found that they were pregnant and because they were friends they told each other. Only then did they realise that Josh had been two-timing them.
They had told their friend Rosemary who had provided much of the background leading up to the events of Halloween night to the Coroner. He had decided that Rosemary's evidence should not be given in open court because while it might provide evidence of motive there was no one alive to be prosecuted. He kept the proceedings strictly to the evidence of the events of the night. A copy of Rosemary's evidence was kept in the family's papers.
Rosemary had told Patience and Felicity that they weren't the first to find themselves pregnant after an encounter with Josh. A milkmaid had committed suicide a year ago, but because she was from another village, few people had known of the connection with Josh. Rosemary also told them that Josh was "walking out" with a barmaid from the local public house.
The two maids were horrified. Separately both Patience and Felicity had assumed that Josh would marry them when he knew that they were pregnant. He couldn't marry both of them and Rosemary's news of the milkmaid and barmaid suggested that he would be reluctant to marry either of them.
The two maids planned to confront Josh on Halloween. Felicity had been most recently with Josh so she would try to persuade him to meet her that night. Then both of them would tackle him. Rosemary actually used the word "tackle" and said she didn't realise when they said it that they had actually meant to attack him physically.
The inquest records showed more detail about the events.
Josh had been in the lean-to outhouse carving a decoy duck and working by candlelight when he was called away. He had left the large candle burning in its holder. Normally that would have been safe, but when they left the door hadn't been closed fully. The wind blew it open and the candle fell among the wood shavings, causing the fire. The wind blew the fire away from the ignition source so the evidence was still there. The flames had burnt through the roof of the outhouse and blackened the main house wall above it.
I had seen the blackening and stood in the re-roofed outhouse that is now used as a store for the gardener's tools. Josh's bench is still there showing scorch marks.
The inquest knew nothing about what happened between Josh leaving the outhouse and the discovery of the three bodies. Those who have seen the ghosts tell the story. One maid is seen walking alone towards Josh's bedroom carrying some bulky cloth in her arms. The other maid is seen slightly later apparently arm in arm with an invisible Josh and faintly heard talking to him.
Several people who had seen the ghosts commented on one oddity. The maids were wearing their normal heavy uniform dresses but without a crinoline. Both had difficulty with the masses of skirt.
The inquest report agreed. Neither maid was wearing a crinoline under their dress. Their crinolines were found in their bedrooms. The inquest decided that it was unusual and would have made walking awkward but it wasn't relevant to the deaths.
What happened in the room was not really resolved at the inquest. Josh was dead. The bruising on his wrists showed that his hands had been tied for some time before he died. On the rest of his body the ankles had been tied first, then several strips of cloth had been bound around his legs, and then more strips had bound his arms to his naked body. He had struggled against the bonds. His mouth was tightly stuffed with soft cotton and bound in place with another strip of cloth. A fourfold thickness of cloth covered his eyes. The blindfold had been made beforehand because the cloth was stitched to ties that had been fastened behind his head. Apart from some dampness on the outside of the gag there was nothing to show how he had died.
Patience had been shot through the heart with one barrel of Josh's double-barrelled flintlock shotgun. The muzzle had been against her clothing but the shotgun was too long for her to have pulled the trigger herself. The doctor who examined the bodies commented that Felicity could have committed suicide that way because her arms were significantly longer than Patience's. It was assumed but not stated, that Felicity had killed Patience.
Felicity had killed herself by putting the shotgun's barrel into her mouth and pulling the trigger. Her head was a mess but her hands still grasped the shotgun. The coroner's verdict had been merciful. Felicity was buried in the churchyard where she should not have been if she had been proven a suicide.
The coroner had commented on the presence of a cotton dress bag crumpled on the floor. It certainly wasn't a normal item in a man's bedroom. There had been no explanation for it. Perhaps it had been the bulky cloth that the ghost of Patience had been seen carrying? But why? No one knows.
I am almost at the haunted room. Earlier today I had put a double airbed and two sleeping bags zipped together there. I'm not ready to go in. I admit it. I'm scared stiff. To delay the inevitable I turn round and retrace the path Josh took that night. When I reach the outhouse I turn my torch on Josh's scorched bench.
"Josh" a soft voice sounds in my ear.
"Who's there?" I ask.
"It's me, Felicity. You promised..."
"I'm not Josh!" I protest. Felicity doesn't seem to hear me. I can't see her.
"Come on, Josh. Everybody else is enjoying themselves. Why don't we?"
I still can't see Felicity's ghost. I can hear her clearly. Her voice is soft and seductive. I can understand why Josh would want to go with her.
Then I jump. An invisible hand threads itself under my arm and gently tugs at me. I don't resist. I want to find out what happened. I'm petrified but also fascinated. Felicity's voice is right beside my ear. She must be my height.
"You are going to have an unforgettable experience tonight. We have hours and hours."
Felicity's invisible arm pulls at me. I leave the outhouse and enter the main house, using my torch to light my way. I can feel that Felicity is moving awkwardly and her invisible skirts impede me as well. As my eyes become accustomed to the darkness I am aware of her shape beside me. I turn my torch in her direction and start as I see her plainly. She is the ghost I have seen before but now she seems solid and as real as I am.
Felicity is tall. She is slightly taller than my five foot ten inches. In 1852 she must have seemed a giantess. Her brunette hair is held in a white mobcap. She is smiling at me. No, she isn't, not at me but at Josh. My torch shines straight into her brown eyes and she doesn't react at all.
"Josh, I want a favour from you before we get to your room."
Josh must have replied but I do not.
"I want it to be a surprise. I want to blindfold you just before we go in. Do you agree?"
I say nothing.
"Thank you, Josh. I want to play some games with you. It will help if you take off your shirt and let me tie your hands."
Josh must have protested.
"Come on, Josh. You don't want to spoil my surprise. I'll give you a kiss now if you will."
That must have persuaded him. To my horror Felicity turns to me, takes my face in her hands and kisses me. If she weren't a ghost I would enjoy this lingering kiss.
Her hands move to my jacket and slip it off, dropping it to the corridor's floor. Her hands nimbly unfasten my shirt and remove it. How I don't know. My shirt can't be the same as Josh's was. She pulls my vest off over my head. Now I am naked down to the waist.
Felicity turns me so my back is to her. I want to resist as she winds some material around my wrists. My torch drops to the floor with a crash that she doesn't notice. She ties my hands painfully tight. I open my mouth to object. She stuffs it full of cloth. As she ties the gag in place she kisses me on the cheek.
She eases her arm back through mine and leads me towards the haunted room. Part of me wants to go, to solve the mystery. Another part is screaming silently into my gag that this can't be happening. I can't be tied and gagged by the ghost of a woman who died one hundred and fifty years ago. It just isn't possible.
Whether possible or not, Felicity has had one effect on me. I want to make love to her. She is attractive and her natural scent is causing an instinctive reaction. She notices and her hand slips from my arm and across the bulge in my trousers.
"Not long now, Josh. I'll do something about this."
Her hand pushes gently against my groin.
We arrive at the door of the haunted room.
"Time for the blindfold, Josh, and then the surprise."
I cannot reply through the gag. Josh couldn't have either.
Felicity reaches under her white waist apron and pulls out the white blindfold. She shows it to me.
"I made this out of one of my old chemises. It still smells of me. Sniff."
She holds it to my nose. It smells of pussy, natural unperfumed clean female pussy. My erection hardens.
Felicity fastens the blindfold over my eyes. It is very effective. Felicity has pushed her hand down my trousers and grabbed me. I hear the door open and follow her through it pulled by a soft hand gripping me firmly.
The door clicks shut. Now I am really terrified. I am in the haunted room where three people died but I am gagged, blindfolded, my hands tied and my most sensitive part firmly held in an attractive female ghost's hand. I had expected at most to watch, to observe, to try to understand. I hadn't expected to participate. Would Josh's fate be mine?
How could Josh's fate be mine? Felicity is a ghost. Ghosts can't affect living people. As if to prove me wrong, Felicity's hand squeezes my erection. Then she lets go and pulls out her hand.
"Now." she says quietly.
Things happen fast. Material is dragged over my head and down my body to the floor. I'm inside some sort of large bag. A hand pushes me and I fall forwards landing on a soft bed. My feet are lifted and the bag tightens round them. Hands seem to be all over me tying my arms and legs together. Then all movement stops. I am bundled up in a package and totally helpless.
"We've got you now!" says a female voice that isn't Felicity.
"Of course we have, Patience," said Felicity's voice. "Now let's get him ready."
Ready for what? I think.
Their hands remove my shoes and socks, untie the bonds on my ankles, move the bag up my legs and bind my ankles again. A heavy body straddles my legs and slides up them as the bonds and bag are moved. The bag is bunched at my waist as hands unfasten my trousers. They and my underpants are pulled down through the straddling legs that unclamp to let my clothes pass then scissor round me again until my knees are tied together.