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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