The haunted hotel

By Rachel Roberts

I’m not sure I believe in ghosts, but I try to keeo an open mind, and when the travel magazine I write for asked me to do a tour of the Haunted Hotels of Britain, I agreed. I was curious, and prepared to be surprised.

I soon realized that the more a hotel and its staff publicized their ghosts, the less likely you were to have a scary experience. At a luxurious hotel in a Scottish castle, the staff had all been dressed in period costume. One man had even been wearing a headless horseman outfit, with very obvious eyeholes in the chest. It was too theatrical to be frightening.

On the other hand, I had felt far more nervous at an old inn in Cornwall, where the staff had been unwilling to talk to me about their legendary “grey lady”. They said the stories were just local nonsense and refused to look me in the eye; but I felt they were hiding something. I can’t say I noticed any strange “cold” areas in any part of the inn - a typical sign of paranormal activity - or any creaking noises that weren’t normal for a centuries-old building. Nevertheless I had trouble sleeping. It could have been my imagination, but I felt there was something strange about that old Cornish pub.

My experience at Flitton Manor Hotel was very dufferent. An acquaitance of mine had stayed there for a business conference and had had an “unpleasant experience”. My acquaitance, a very practical, down-to-earth person I’d known for years, had said categorically thet he wouldn’t “never go there again”. That, of course, put the hotel at the top of my list, and I had saved it till last.

I discovered on the Internet that Flitton Manor had a history of paranormal activity, which had suddenly worsened after builders had discovered a walled-up room during renovation work. The owners had converted this new space into another bedroom, but after a series of almost poltergeist-like attacks, with objects flying round the room and guest screaming in the middle of the night, they had been forced to close it again, and things had calmed down.

The receptionist was a smart young man in his early twenties. When I introduced myself and told him I was the journalist writing about haunted hotels, he looked down, smiled to himself and then looked back at me intently.
“I’d love an eye witness account”, I said cheerfully. “Have you ever seen any ghosts here?”
Like the staff of the Cornish inn, he seemed reluctant to talk, but eventually said, “I’ve never seen an actual ghost, but I’m sure someone moves my things around. I keep my pens in this old mug. Several times a day I find someone has put them in the drawer. I put them back in the mugt and a minute later they’re back in the drawer”.
“Some colleague playing a trick?” I asked.
“Maybe. They all say no”. He shrugged. “The cleaning staff say the same thing happens to them with their cleaning equipment; or they tidy a room and five minutes later they find an imprint on the sofa, as though someone had sat down on it, even though no one has entered the room”.
“Any idea who the ghost might be?”
“He shook his head. “Some say an old housekeeper - maybe that’s why she keeps tyding things up!”

My bedroom was a large bright room with a good view of the grounds, an old-fashioned furniture. I put my bag down beside a plump velvet armchair and had a shower before going down to dinner. During the meal I quizzed some of the waiters but, like the receptionist, they were vague.
There was no one about as I walked up the stairs to my room after dinner. I walked slowly, listening for any unusual sounds, but heard nothing. If there were any real ghosts in this hotel, it was obvious they weren’t going to show themselves to me.
I had trouble sleeping that night. I tried to relax but my ears kept searching the darkness for ghostly I think i fell asleep abour 3 a.m.

Not surprisingly, I woke up late the next morning. I had to vacate the room by 10 o’clock and I still didn’t have any new interesting information about this hotel, the last of the series, the one I’d been convinced would provide me with a real ghost story. I washed up and dressed quickly, determined to force the morning staff to give me a story before I left.

It was when I went to pick up my bags that I saw it, and m,y blood froze. It was such a small, insignificant thing, but the implications made my legs go weak and I literally fell onto the edge of the bed. The plump velvet armchair was no longer as it had been the evening before. There was the deep imprint of a heavy body on its fat cushions where someone, not me, had sat during the night.

[SpeakUp, ottobre 2014]

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