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House Near Blythswood Square Glasgow The Haunted Bath

Scary Books: Scottish Ghost Stories

When Captain W. de S. Smythe went to look over ---- House, in the

neighbourhood of Blythswood Square, Glasgow, the only thing about the

house he did not like was the bathroom--it struck him as excessively

grim. The secret of the grimness did not lie, he thought, in any one

particular feature--in the tall, gaunt geyser, for example (though

there was always something in the look of a geyser when it was old and

, as was the case with this one, that repelled him), or in

the dark drying-cupboard, or in the narrow, slit-like window; but in

the room as a whole, in its atmosphere and general appearance. He

could not diagnose it; he could not associate it with anything else he

had ever experienced; it was a grimness that he could only specify as

grim--grim with a grimness that made him feel he should not like to

be alone there in the dead of night. It was a nuisance, because the

rest of the house pleased him; moreover, the locality was convenient,

and the rent moderate, very moderate for such a neighbourhood. He

thought the matter well over as he leaned in the doorway of the

bathroom. He could, of course, have the room completely renovated--new

paper, new paint, and a fresh bath. Hot-water pipes! The geyser should

be done away with. Geysers were hideous, dangerous, and--pshaw, what

nonsense!--Ghostly! Ghostly! What absurd rot! How his wife would

laugh! That decided the question. His wife! She had expressed a very

ardent wish that he should take a house in or near Blythswood Square,

if he could get one on anything like reasonable terms, and here was

his chance. He would accompany the agent of the property to the

latter's office, and the preliminaries should be forthwith settled.

Six weeks later, he and his family were installed in the house, which

still reeked with the smell of fresh paint and paper. The first thing

the Captain did when he got there was to steal away slyly to the

bathroom, and as soon as he opened the door his heart sank. Despite

the many alterations the room had undergone, the grimness was still

there--there, everywhere. In the fine new six-foot bath, with its

glistening, gleaming, wooden framework; in the newly papered, newly

painted cupboard; in the walls, with their bright, fresh paper; in

the snowy surface of the whitewashed ceiling; in the air,--the very

air itself was full of it. The Captain was, as a rule, very fond of

his bath, but in his new quarters he firmly resolved that some one

else should use the bath before he made the experiment. In a very few

days the family had all settled down, and every one, with the

exception of the Captain, had had a bath, but no matter how many and

how bitter were his wife's complaints, try how he would, he could

not, he positively could not, bring himself to wash in the

bathroom--alone. It was all right so long as the door was open, but

his wife resolutely refused to allow him to keep it open, and the

moment it was shut his abject terror returned--a terror produced by

nothing that he could in any way analyse or define. At last, ashamed

of his cowardice, he screwed up courage, and, with a look of

determined desperation in his eyes and mouth--an expression which

sent his wife into fits of laughter--set out one night from his

bedroom, candle in hand, and entered the bathroom. Shutting and

locking the door, he lighted another candle, and, after placing them

both on the mantelshelf, turned on the bath water, and began to


I may as well have a peep in the cupboard, he said, just to satisfy

myself no one is hiding there--for every one in the house knows how I

hate this beastly bathroom--with the intention of playing me a

practical joke. Supposing one of the maids--Polly, for example, I'm

sure she'd be quite capable--took it into her pretty head to--but

here the Captain was obliged to stop; he really was not equal to

facing, even in his mind's eye, the situation such a supposition

involved, and at the bare idea of such a thing his countenance assumed

a deeper hue, and--I am loth to admit--an amused grin. The grin,

however, died out as he cautiously opened the door and peered

furtively in; no one--nothing was there! With a breath of relief he

closed the door again, placed a chair against it, and, sitting down,

proceeded to pull off his clothes. Coat, vest, under-garments, he

placed them all tenderly in an untidy heap on the floor, and then,

with a last lingering, affectionate look at them, walked sedately

towards the bath. But this sedateness was only momentary. The first

few steps he walked, but, a noise in the grate startling him, he

suddenly assumed an air of the greatest gaiety, and, bowing with mock

gallantry to his trousers, he now waltzed coquettishly to the bath. It

was grim, horribly grim, and horribly hot too, for, when he felt the

temperature with one of his squat, podgy toes, it made him swear quite

involuntarily. Turning on the cold water, and slapping his thighs

playfully, he felt again. Too hot yet, far too hot even for him! He

loved heat. More cold! and he was hoisting one chubby leg to feel

again, when, a repetition of the noise in the grate making him swing

round, he lost his balance, and descended on the floor with a hard, a

very hard, bump. For some seconds he lay still, too sulky and

aggrieved even to get up, but, the draught from under the ill-fitting

door tickling his bare flesh in the most immodest fashion, he roused

himself from this lethargy, and was about to raise himself from the

floor, when the lights went out--went out without a moment's warning,

and he found himself engulfed in the most funereal darkness. To say he

was startled is to put it very mildly--he was absolutely

terror-stricken--far too terror-stricken to think of moving now, and

least of all of getting up and groping for the matches. Indeed, when

he came to think of it, he had not seen any matches in the room, and

he had not brought any with him, his wife had flurried him so much.

The moment the candles were extinguished the grimness sensibly

increased, and he could feel all around him, thickly amalgamated with

the ether, a superphysical presence, at once hostile and horrible.

Then, to bring his terror to a climax, there issued from the bath a

loud rubbing and splashing, as if some one, some very heavy person,

was vigorously washing. The water rose and fell, squished and bubbled

as it does when one is lying at full length in it, raising and

lowering oneself, kicking and plunging first on one side and then on

the other. Whilst, to add to the realism, Captain Smythe distinctly

heard gasping and puffing; and the soft, greasy sound of a well-soaped

flannel. He could indeed follow every movement of the occupant of the

bath as graphically as if he had seen him--from the brisk scrubbing of

body and legs to the finicky process of cleaning the ears and toes.

It was whilst the bather was occupied thus that the cupboard door

began to open very quietly and stealthily, and Captain de Smythe heard

the chair he had so carefully placed against it being gradually

propelled across the floor.

Then something, he would have given anything to tell what, came out

and began to steal towards him. He tried to crawl out of its way, but

could not; his limbs no longer acted conjointly with his brain, and

when he opened his mouth to shout at it, his voice withered away in

his throat. It came up to him, and directly it touched his naked skin

he knew it was a woman--a woman with a much-beflounced silk skirt and

silk petticoats--a woman whose person was perfumed with violets (a

scent for which the Captain had a particular weakness), and without

doubt, loaded with jewellery. Her behaviour did not betray any

symptoms of embarrassment when she encountered the Captain lying on

the floor, but, planting one icy-cold high-heeled shoe on his chest

and the other on his cheek, she stepped on him as if he had been an

orthodox cushion or footstool, purposely placed there for her

convenience. A hollow exclamation, which died away in a gasp, issued

from the bath, as the woman, with a swift movement of her arms, threw

something over it. What followed, the Captain could only surmise, but

from the muttered imprecations and splashes in the water, it seemed to

him that nothing short of murder was taking place. After a while the

noises in the bath grew feebler and feebler, and when they finally

ceased, the woman, with a sigh of relief, shook the water from her

arms, and, stepping off the Captain, moved towards the fireplace. The

spell which had, up to the present, enthralled the unfortunate

Captain, was now broken, and, thinking that his ghostly visitor had

betaken herself right away, he sat up. He had hardly done so before

the darkness was rudely dissipated, and, to his horror, he saw

looking at him, from a distance of only a few feet, a white, luminous

face, presumably that of a woman. But what a woman! What a

devil!--what a match for the most lurid of any of Satan's male

retainers. Yet she was not without beauty--beauty of the richest

sensual order; beauty that, had it been flesh and blood, would have

sent men mad. Her hair, jet black, wavy, and parted in the centre, was

looped over her shell-like ears, which were set unusually low and far

back on her head; her nose was of that rare and matchless shape termed

Grecian; and her mouth--in form, a triumph of all things heavenly, in

expression, a triumph of all things hellish. The magnificent turn of

its short upper lip, and the soft voluptuous line of its under lip;

its sportive dimples and ripe red colour; its even rows of dazzling,

pearly teeth were adorable; but they appealed to the senses, and in no

sense or shape to the soul. Her brows, slightly irregular in outline,

met over the nose; her eyelashes were of great length, and her

eyes--slightly, ever so slightly, obliquely set, and larger than those

of living human beings--were black, black as her hair; and the pupils

sparkled and shone with the most damnable expression of satanical

hatred and glee. The whole thing, the face and the light that emanated

from it, was so entirely awful and devilish, that Captain Smythe sat

like one turned to stone, and it was not until long after it had

vanished that he groped his way to the door, and in Adam's costume,

for he dared not stay to put on his clothes, fled down the passage to

his bedroom.

From his wife he got little sympathy; her sarcasm was too deep for

words, and she merely ordered her husband on no account to breathe a

word of his silliness before either the children or the servants.

The injunction, however, which was naturally carried out to the

letter, was futile as a precaution, for, on running into the bathroom

one morning when every one else was downstairs, the eldest boy,

Ronald, saw, floating in the bath, the body of a hoary-headed old man.

It was bloated and purplish blue, and had big, glassy eyes that stared

at him in such a hideous, meaningless manner that he uttered a scream

of terror and fled. Alarmed at the noise, most of the household ran to

see what had happened. Only the Captain remained behind. He knew only

too well, and he hid, letting his wife and the servants go upstairs

alone. They entered the bathroom--there was nothing in the bath, not

even water, but, as they were leaving, they ran into a dark, handsome,

evil-eyed woman, clad in the most costly of dresses, and sparkling

with jewellery. She glided past them with sly, silent footsteps, and

vanished by the cupboard. Cured of scepticism, and throwing dignity to

the wind, the Captain's wife raced downstairs, and, bursting into the

drawing-room, flung herself on the sofa in hysterics.

Within a week the house was once again empty, and the rumour getting

about that it was haunted, the landlord threatened the Smythes with an

action for slander of title. But I do not think the case was taken to

court, the Smythes agreeing to contradict the report they had

originated. Astute inquiries, however, eventually led them to discover

that a lady, answering to the description of the ghost they had seen,

had once lived at ---- House. Of Spanish descent, she was young,

beautiful, and gay; and was married to a man, an extremely wealthy man

(people remembered how rich he was after he died), old enough to be

her grandfather. They had nothing in common, the husband only wanting

to be quiet, the wife to flirt and be admired. Their neighbours often

heard them quarrel, and it was declared that the wife possessed the

temper of a fiend. The man was eventually found dead in his bath, and

there being no indications of violence, it was generally supposed that

he had fainted, (his wife having been previously heard to declare that

he often had fainting fits), and had thus been accidentally drowned.

The beautiful young widow, who inherited all his money, left the house

immediately and went abroad, and the neighbours, when questioned by

the Smythes as to whether anything had been seen of her since, shook

their heads dubiously, but refused to commit themselves.