Royal Hotel, Guernsey, CI, 1977. Chrissie, school friend of mine at the time. Wearing my jacket holding my soft toys as one does sitting in the haunted lounge. Behind her the French doors leading to Mum’s room and the bathroom.
And here I am also in the lounge wearing my I’m-cool-I’m-in-stripes-bought-from-the-shop-that-sells-incense jacket.
Final part of my real-life spooky and scary I have to admit, encounters…
‘Have a look. I dare you!’ Chrissie whispered.
‘Absolutely not,’ I replied pulling the blanket up over my face. It was all right for her she was always seeing ghosts and took it all in her stride. I, on the other hand, had never seen an apparition and was scared stiff at the prospect of doing so.
‘I can see the face of a young man and a lady dressed in Victorian clothes and they’re both smiling down at me.’
The atmosphere was certainly chilling. ‘What do you mean they’re smiling down at you?’ I whispered.
‘I can’t understand a word you’re saying,’ replied Chrissie. ‘Come out from underneath your blanket.’
‘I said, what do you mean they’re smiling down at you?’
‘Well, they’re on the wall blending in with the pattern of the wallpaper.’
At this stage I was debating with myself whether to pluck up the courage and have a look or not when after a few more moments of dithering I made my decision.
‘I’m going to have a look,’ I announced in anticipation of having my name put forward to receive a medal of bravery along with a brief mention on “Newsround”.
‘I wouldn’t bother,’ she said and chuckled. ‘They faded away about half a minute ago!’
I had missed my opportunity of actually seeing a ghost or two but I had no reason to disbelieve Chrissie, not with her track record. It wasn’t unusual for her to mention in passing her latest encounter with someone casually as one does, but most people would be referring to a solid form as opposed to the other kind.
‘I bumped into a cricketer last night.’
‘Really? Who was it? Viv Richards?’
‘No, it wasn’t her… we were driving along at the time when I happened to mention it to my friend. He ended up practically steering the car into a ditch. He told me at that exact moment I’d seen the cricketer we’d been driving past an old cricket ground.’
‘It’s a cricket ground that hasn’t been in use for over a hundred years.’
The apparition stayed with Chrissie in full view through the windscreen for about five minutes before eventually disappearing and blending into the velvet stillness of the night. Her friend hadn’t seen a thing. I, on the other hand, believe I can’t see ghosts and for a period I dithered as to whether I wanted to or not. Now, however, I know for certain. NOT. Definitely not.
Then it happened.
Mum had gone out on the town with Harry to a fun packed evening of ‘chicken in the basket’ followed by cabaret and dancing to Sid Jazz and his Band at one of the numerous hotels to be found on the island. They saw The Krankies live one evening direct from Las Vegas or was it Little Wallop? Nonetheless they enjoyed the performance immensely.
Chrissie and I were getting ready to go to dinner in the beautiful dining room downstairs. It was a large room full of starched white linen tablecloths, gleaming silver and crystal chandeliers hanging from its beautiful high ceilings. A mirror ran along the whole length of one wall giving the impression of an even larger and luxurious room. The hotel wasn’t ostentatious at least not back in the late seventies during the period when Mum lived there. It gave off an ambience of nicely comfortable with hints of an old genteel lady clinging to a bygone era. It was a friendly place. It wasn’t snobbish or affected. I found both the hotel and the island exciting and attractive although that wasn’t to last.
I was in the bathroom. It was a compact room but bright due to its large window which let in a lot of light and sunshine. I’d showered, dressed, had applied my full make-up and was battling with my bleached and recently shorn hair. Chrissie was in the lounge putting the last-minute touches to her outfit, when suddenly, I became aware of a change in the atmosphere.
It was exactly the same experience, at least momentarily, which had led me to the discovery of Dad’s body. A feeling that something life-changing had happened or was about to happen. And it was just like the time when I had this strong compulsion to turn round only to encounter a shark bearing down on me. And it didn’t thrill me with joy. It unnerved me. And it was scary. That was the main difference. I was acutely aware of being scared which hadn’t been the case at the time of my father’s passing at least until I actually found his body and then the terror set in. But this was scary. Scary because I’d suddenly turned into Mystic Meg but mostly because I knew, I was absolutely convinced, something was happening over which I had no control.
And I knew from the depths of my soul it was something bad.
My first thoughts went to my friend in the lounge. I called out to Chrissie but received no answer. That alone alarmed me. I took a deep breath, turned away from the mirror, took a couple of steps, peered round the doorway of the bathroom towards the lounge but as the French doors were half closed my view was obstructed.
I stepped from the bathroom and slowly but steadily walked through Mum’s bedroom and into the lounge to find Chrissie standing in the middle of the room staring at the front door of the suite. An atmosphere was certainly present in the room. That much was certain. I couldn’t see it. I couldn’t touch it. I couldn’t smell it. And I couldn’t hear it. I had no idea what it was but something, or, someone was there, close by.
I think I might have whispered something along the lines of, ‘What is it?’ and in response, almost as if in a daze, Chrissie slowly turned her head to look at me before eventually turning back to stare at the door. I stared back at her and without speaking we managed to communicate with each other. We acknowledged we were in the middle of something supernatural and it was something that couldn’t be explained.
Once again, Chrissie’s eyes were fixated upon the door as were mine. I stood perfectly still too scared to do much else but not only that, I felt like we were caught up in this thing. Whatever it was, it had us in its grip. Chrissie continued to stand a little in front of me, a few feet away, absolutely motionless as together we satisfied this strong compulsion to watch the front door to the suite.
For a few seconds, nothing happened, when very slowly the door began to open. No noise, no other movement in the room, nothing else was happening apart from this door slowly opening. We continued to stare as it opened further and further. The atmosphere in the room turned oppressive, menacing, and the air became littered with slivers of sheer terror and what was left of my hair really did start to stand on end, when suddenly, a state of semi-consciousness returned and I knew I didn’t want to be a part of it any longer. Something deep down in me or from a higher realm, fought back, and the spell broke. The door slammed shut. A quick glance at Chrissie told me she was still in her trance-like state and hadn’t even reacted, so if I wanted to look on the other side of that door, I knew I had to do it alone.
I wobbled towards it. My free hand – not the one grasping my hairbrush like my life depended on it, reached towards the old brass door handle. I hesitated. I wasn’t sure if I did want to see what was on the other side after all. Visions of blood and maggots oozing from some old sea captain’s face like Stephen King’s idea of Captain Bird’s Eye, was not immediately appealing but then spurred on by the fact Chrissie was there with me, at least in body, curiosity won and I yanked the heavy door far enough open to be able to see into the hallway beyond.
Nothing. No one was there. At least no one I could see. The entrance hall was completely empty. And it was impossible for someone to have made their escape in such a short space of time, besides which, there was nowhere for them to hide. I checked the two exits but the doors, one upstairs and one which led outside into the hotel’s courtyard and car park and was only ten feet from the suite, hadn’t been touched. I know this for a fact because once opened those doors which were on a type of heavy spring mechanism took ages to close. I returned to the suite and Chrissie. Chrissie! Her complexion looked like uncooked bread and it didn’t occur to us to have a large brandy but if anyone ever deserved one we did.
We didn’t know what to think but agreed we had probably experienced something not of this world. We didn’t understand what had transpired and we had no idea what the outcome would have been had I not broken the spell. But we were ninety-nine per cent sure it hadn’t been a joke as we had momentarily suspected. Bizarrely, we didn’t talk about it that much, if at all, we took it on the chin unlike nowadays when I wouldn’t be able to leave it alone. We simply accepted it and that was that.
One last thought, the door to our suite was a big heavy fire door and how it managed to shut with such ferocity and swiftness remains a mystery to this day.
My next brush with the supernatural was with a dearly departed cat of mine nearly twenty years later, but nothing has been as intense as on that occasion which took place on a warm summer’s evening in Guernsey back in 1977.
Reads like from a book, doesn’t it! Maybe that’s because it is. Forthcoming autobiography not in Wolfie’s name, my maiden name, Rosemary Bach. That’s if I ever get around to finishing it… so close, final checking to do, final this, that and the other…
Best to you,
Me again. To the left of me is THAT door. Yes, the front door to the suite. It’s just out of range.
And once again this is me in the spooky lounge looking rather spooky myself. Why I included this I have no idea really. Wearing a bikini and sun visor as obviously it was extremely warm and bright inside the room during the evening.