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The Choking Ghost Of House Near Sandyford Place Glasgow

The last time I was passing through Glasgow, I put up for the night at
an hotel near Sandyford Place, and met there an old theatrical
acquaintance named Browne, Hely Browne. Not having seen him since I
gave up acting, which is now, alas! a good many years, we had much to
discuss--touring days, lodgings, managers, crowds, and a dozen other
subjects, all included in the vulgar term shop. We spent the whole
of one evening debating thus, in the smoke-room; whilst the following
night we went to an entertainment given by that charming reciter and
raconteur, Miss Lilian North, who, apart from her talent, which, in my
opinion, places her in the first rank of her profession, is the
possessor of extraordinary personal attractions, not the least
remarkable of which are her hands. Indeed, it was through my attention
being called to the latter, that I am indirectly indebted for this
story. Miss North has typically psychic hands--exquisitely white and
narrow, and her long, tapering fingers and filbert nails (which, by
the way, are always trimly manicured) are the most perfect I have ever
seen. I was alluding to them, on our way back to the hotel after her
performance, when Hely Browne interrupted me.

Talking about psychic things, O'Donnell, he said, do you know there
is a haunted house near where we are staying? You don't? Very well,
then, if I tell you what I know and you write about it, will you
promise not to allude to the house by its right number? If you do,
there will be the dickens to pay--simply call it '---- House,' near
Sandyford Place. You promise? Good! Let us take a little stroll before
we turn in--I feel I want a breath of fresh air--and I will tell you
the experience I once had there. It is exactly two years ago, and I
was on tour here in The Green Bushes. All the usual theatrical
'diggings' had been snapped up long before I arrived, and, not
knowing where else to go, I went to No.--Sandyford Place, which I saw
advertised in one of the local papers as a first-class private hotel
with very moderate charges. A wild bit of extravagance, eh? But then
one does do foolish things sometimes, and, to tell the truth, I wanted
a change badly. I had 'digged' for a long time with a fellow called
Charlie Grosvenor. Not at all a bad chap, but rather apt to get on
one's nerves after a while--and he had got on mine--horribly.
Consequently, I was not at all sorry for an excuse to get away from
him for a bit, even though I had to pay dearly for it. A private hotel
in a neighbourhood like that of Sandyford Place is a big order for an
ordinary comedian. I forget exactly what the terms were, but I know I
pulled rather a long face when I was told. Still, being, as I say,
tired of the usual 'digs,' I determined to try it, and accordingly
found myself landed in a nice-sized bedroom on the second floor. The
first three nights passed, and nothing happened, saving that I had the
most diabolical nightmares--a very unusual thing for me. 'It was the
cheese,' I said to myself, when I got out of bed the first morning; 'I
will take very good care I don't touch cheese to-night.' I kept this
resolution, but I had the nightmare again, and even, if anything,
worse than before. Then I fancied it must be cocoa--I was at that time
a teetotaller--so I took hot milk instead; but I had nightmare all the
same, and my dreams terrified me to such an extent that I did not dare
get out of bed in the morning (it was then winter) till it was broad
daylight. It was now becoming a serious matter with me. As you know,
an actor more than most people needs sleep, and it soon became as much
as I could do to maintain my usual standard of acting. On the fourth
night, determining to get rest at all costs, I took a stiff glass of
hot brandy just before getting into bed. I slept,--I could scarcely
help sleeping,--but not for long, for I was rudely awakened from my
slumbers by a loud crash. I sat up in bed, thinking the whole house
was falling about my ears. The sound was not repeated, and all was
profoundly silent. Wondering what on earth the noise could have been,
and feeling very thirsty, I got out of bed to get a drink of
lime-juice. To my annoyance, however, though I groped about
everywhere, knocking an ash tray off the mantelpiece and smashing the
lid of the soap-dish, I could find neither the lime-juice nor matches.
At length, giving it up as a bad job, I decided to get into bed again.
With that end in view, I groped my way through the darkness, steering
myself by the furniture, the position of which was, of course, quite
familiar to me--at least I imagined it was. Judge, then, of my
astonishment when I could not find the bed! At first I regarded it as
a huge joke, and laughed--how rich! Ha! ha! ha! Fancy not being able
to find one's way back to bed in a room of this dimension! Good enough
for Punch! Too good, perhaps, now. Ha! ha! ha! But it soon grew past
a joke. I had been round the room, completely round the room, twice,
and still no bed! I became seriously alarmed! Could I be ill? Was I
going mad? But no, my forehead was cool, my pulse normal. For some
seconds I stood still, not knowing what else to do; then, to make one
more desperate attempt, I stuck straight in front of me--and--ran
into something--something that recoiled and hit me. Thrilled with
amazement, I put up my hand to feel what it was, and touched a noose.

A noose! I ejaculated, interrupting Hely Browne for the first time
since he began.

Yes, a noose! he repeated, suspended in mid-air. As you can
imagine, I was greatly astonished, for I knew there had been nothing
that I could be now mistaking for a noose in the room overnight. I
stretched out my arms to feel to what it was fastened, but, to add to
my surprise, the cord terminated in thin air. Then I grew frightened,
and, dropping my arms, tried to move away from the spot; I could
not--my feet were glued to the floor. With a gentle, purring sound
the noose commenced fawning--I use that word because the action was
so intensely bestial, so like that of a cat or snake--round my neck
and face. It then rose above me, and, after circling furiously round
and round and creating a miniature maelstrom in the air, descended
gradually over my head. Lower and lower it stole, like some sleek,
caressing slug. Now past the tips of my ears, now my nose, now my
chin, until with a tiny thud it landed on my shoulders, when, with a
fierce snap, it suddenly tightened. I endeavoured to tear it off, but
every time I raised my hands, a strong, magnetic force drew them to
my side again; I opened my mouth to shriek for help, and an icy
current of air froze the breath in my lungs. I was helpless,
O'Donnell, utterly, wholly helpless. Cold, clammy hands tore my feet
from the floor; I was hoisted bodily up, and then let drop. A
frightful pain shot through me. A hundred wires cut into my throat at
once. I gasped, choked, suffocated, and in my mad efforts to find a
foothold kicked out frantically in all directions. But this only
resulted in an increase of my torments, since with every plunge the
noose grew tauter. My agony at last grew unbearable; I could feel the
sides of my raw and palpitating thorax driven into one another, while
every attempt to heave up breath from my bursting lungs was rewarded
with the most excruciating paroxysms of pain--pain more acute than I
thought it possible for any human being to endure. My head became
ten times its natural size; blood--foaming, boiling blood--poured
into it from God knows where, and under its pressure my eyes bulged
in their sockets, and the veins in my nose cracked. Terrific
thunderings echoed and re-echoed in my ears; my tongue, huge as a
mountain, shot against my teeth; a sea of fire raged through my
brain, and then--blackness--blackness inconceivable. When I recovered
consciousness, O'Donnell, I found myself standing, cold and
shivering, but otherwise sound and whole, on the chilly oilcloth. I
had, now, no difficulty in finding my way back to bed, and in about
an hour's time succeeded in falling asleep. I slept till late, and,
on getting up, tried to persuade myself that my horrible experience
was but the result of another nightmare.

As you may guess, after all this, I did not look forward to bedtime,
and counted the minutes as they flew by with the utmost regret. Never
had I been so sorry when my performance at the theatre was over, and
the lights of my hotel once again hove in sight. I entered my bedroom
in fear and trembling, and was so apprehensive lest I should be again
compelled to undergo the sensations of hanging, that I decided to keep
a light burning all night, and, for that reason, had bought half a
pound of wax candles. At last I grew so sleepy that I could keep awake
no longer, and, placing the candlestick on a chair by the bed, I
scrambled in between the sheets. Without as much as a sip of spirits,
I slept like a top. When I awoke the room was in pitch darkness. A
curious smell at once attracted my notice. I thought, at first, it
might be but the passing illusion of a dream. But no--I sniffed
again--it was there--there, close to me--under my very nose--the
strong, pungent odour of drugs; but not being a professor of smells,
nor even a humble student of physics, I was consequently unable to
diagnose it, and could only arrive at the general conclusion that it
was a smell that brought with it very vivid recollections of a
chemist's shop and of my old school laboratory. Wondering whence it
originated, I thrust my face forward with the intention of trying to
locate it, when, to my horror, my lips touched against something cold
and flabby. In an agony of fear I reeled away from it, and, the bed
being narrow, I slipped over the edge and bumped on to the floor.

Now I think it is quite possible that up to this point you may have
attributed my unhappy experience to nothing more nor less than a bad
dream, but your dream theory can no longer hold good, for, on coming
in such sudden contact with the floor, I gave my funny-bone a knock,
which, I can assure you, made me thoroughly awake, and the first thing
I noticed on recovering my scattered senses--was the smell. I sat up,
and saw to my terror my bed was occupied, but occupied in the most
alarming manner. On the middle of the pillow was a face, the face
of--I looked closer; I would have given every penny I possessed not to
have done so, but I could not help myself--I looked closer, and it
was--the face of my brother; my brother Ralph--you may recollect my
mentioning him to you, for he was the only one of us who was at that
time making money--whom I believed to be in New York. He had always
been rather sallow, but apart from the fact that he now looked very
yellow, his appearance was quite natural. Indeed, as I gazed at him, I
grew so convinced it was he that I cried out, 'Ralph!' The moment I
did so, there was a ghastly change: his eyelids opened, and his
eyes--eyes I recognised at once--protruded to such a degree that they
almost rolled out; his mouth flew open, his tongue swelled, his whole
countenance became convulsed with the most unparalleled, and for that
reason indescribable, expression of agony, whilst the yellowness of
his complexion deepened to a livid, lurid black, that was so
inconceivably repellent and hellish that I sprang away from the
bed--appalled. There was then a gasping, rasping noise, and a voice
that, despite its unnatural hollowness, I identified as that of Ralph,
broke forth: 'I have been wanting to speak to you for ages, but
something, I cannot explain, has always prevented me. I have been
dead a month; not cancer, but Dolly. Poison. Good-bye, Hely. I shall
rest in peace now.' The voice stopped; there was a rush of cold air,
laden with the scent of the drug, and tainted, faintly tainted, with
the nauseating smell of the grave, and--the face on the pillow
vanished. How I got through the remainder of the night I cannot say--I
dare not think. I dare only remember that I did not sleep. I was
devoted to Ralph, and the thought that he had perished in the
miserable manner suggested by the apparition, completely prostrated
me. In the morning I received a black-edged letter from my mother,
stating that she had just heard from Dolly, my brother's wife, saying
Ralph had died from cancer in the throat. Dolly added in a postscript
that her dearly beloved Ralph had been very good to her, and left her
well provided for. Of course, we might have had the body exhumed, but
we were poor, and Ralph's widow was rich; and in America, you know,
everything goes in favour of the dollars. Hence we were obliged to let
the matter drop, sincerely trusting Dolly would never take it into her
head to visit us. She never did. My mother died last year--I felt her
death terribly, O'Donnell; and as I no longer have any fixed abode,
but am always touring the British provinces, there is not much fear
of Ralph's murderess and I meeting. It is rather odd, however, that
after my own experience at the hotel, I heard that it had borne the
reputation for being haunted for many years, and that a good many
visitors who had passed the night in one of the rooms (presumably
mine) had complained of hearing strange noises and having dreadful
dreams. How can one explain it all?

One can't, I responded, as we turned in for the night.

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