On my home page I mentioned I would be posting some of my short stories for you to enjoy. So I thought it was about time I shared the first one and what better story to begin with than the story that won first place in a Halloween Contest and ended up in an anthology alongside some other amazing scarey writing.
A Renovator’s Delight came about after hearing a ghost story in the perfect setting, arounf a bon fire one cold winter evening. I mulled it over in my head, added a little twist or two, shortened the time frame and before I knew it a spine tingling tale was born. So sit back with a hot chocolate, be prepared for goosebumps up your arms and whatever you do, don’t forget to leave on a night light.
Bill was the one who insisted we buy the old English pub. ‘A renovator’s delight,’ he had said. ‘Just a little TLC and we would be making money in no time.’ It stood deserted on a lonely corner at the edge of a tiny country town. Run down, it had been empty for many years.
We moved in on the morning of All Hallows Eve, so again, Bill had the brilliant idea to invite the townsfolk to a Halloween party that very evening. Afterall he argued, ‘What better place to get to know the neighbourhood than in a spooky looking old pub before we begin to fix it up?” There were already webs and spiders aplenty. The curtains were faded and shabby, the shutters broken and worn. The floor boards all creaked. The carpets were covered in mildew and stank of must. Not to mention the paint was peeling from the walls both inside and out. Lichen grew all over the broken tiled roof and moss grew through the cracks in the concrete floors in the downstairs bathrooms. Other than supply the food and drinks we only had to add a few candles and pumpkins and the scene was set for a perfect spooky Halloween night. I handed invitations out around town and posted a few on the shop windows.
Darkness engulfed the countryside quickly that evening as thick grey clouds swept across the plains leaving no hint of the moon or stars to guide our visitors down the street. Bill hung a lantern on the pub’s verandah and watched with eager anticipation to greet our first guest’s arrival. Gradually they began to file up the stairs, shook hands and entered the bar, all eyes ablaze with curiosity. There were ghosts, ghouls, vampires and witches galore. A mummy and even a zombie or two, it was great to see everyone had come prepared for the occasion.
The party was in full swing when I noticed a group whispering in the corner. I grabbed a plate of chocolate coated noodle spiders, jelly frogs and other assorted treats and wondered over to join them in the pretext of offering them something from the platter. A young girl dressed in the cutest devil’s costume stood looking quite horrified as she listened to a tall man in a vampire’s outfit.
‘Is there anything wromg?’ I asked feeling somewhat concerned by the expression on the faces of the entire group now that I glanced at them all.
‘You do know the reason why this pub was such a bargain, don’t you?’ the vampire replied. I shook my head, I assumed it was because it was so run down. The tall vampire figure leant closer to my ear and whispered, ‘It’s haunted!’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ I laughed.
‘No, it’s true,’ he nodded. ‘People who stay here overnight hear doors slamming and someone screaming, then there’s the constant flooding of the sinks for no apparent reason.’
‘Bad plumbing is all,’ I offered, after all, what other explanation could there be?
‘Just you wait. You’ll see!’ He grinned, turned and walked away. Either he was a superstitious fool, or townsfolk were playing tricks as they didn’t want outsiders buying into their local businesses. I was just about to go and find Bill and discuss my thoughts on these turn of events when I first heard it.
A blood curdling scream came from somewhere in the hotel rooms above us. Everyone suddenly froze. You could hear a pin drop. Another door slammed shut and the piercing scream shrilled out again.
‘Stay here!’ demanded Bill as he raced up the stairs towards the hotel accommodation that was attached to the pub. No one moved. The only sound we could now hear was Bill’s footseps overhead as he ran from room to room. The silence was deafening. Time seemed to stand still.
Gasping he evetually came rushing back down. ‘There’s nothing up there!” he sounded surprised. ‘Someone’s playing a very good joke, well done,’ he laughed in an attempt to calm everyone down. I looked around at the crowd huddled together at the bottom of the stairs, none of them were laughing. They all looked terrified. ‘Come on!’ Bill encouraged. ‘We’re all here to have fun. Start the music back up, let’s get this pary rocking!’
Slowly our guests began to relax and enjoy themselves once more when Bill burst back into the room and rushed over to me quite annoyed. ‘Damn kids are playing more tricks.’
‘What’s wrong now?’ Although I needn’t have asked as he dragged me towards the main bathroom fascilities I could see the problem. Water was spilling out over all the sinks onto the floor, out the doors soaking the already musty carpets.
‘Someone stuck all the plugs in every sink in every bathroom of the hotel and turned on all the taps full blast!’ Without another word or hesitation we ran through the building making sure all the taps were off and collected all the plugs. Bill locked them away in the safe in the office. ‘Let’s see them try that again,’ he said triumphantly rubbing his hands together rather smuggly.
We rejoined the party and tried to calm down but it wasn’t long before the blood curdling scream returned. Doors banged and water poured from the bathrooms once more. ‘This is ridiculous!’ Bill was really getting annoyed now. While I ran to the main bathroom to see what I could do, Bill raced back upstairs to try to catch the culprit in the act. The screaming and banging grew louder and more persisitant uptairs. Whenever I heard Bill at one end of the building, the screaming would start at the other. It seemed no matter where he was the noise harrassed us from the opposite end. Our guests had obviously reached the ends of their limits, they also started screaming in terror and began to pour out the front door.
I found the bathroom sinks had all been blocked again but this time with toilet paper and rags. Shaking somewhat I cleaned up the mess as best I could then staggered back to the bar to collapse. Bill also returned exhausted.
‘Nothing,’ he shook his head. “I just don’t understand. Who could have done any of this or how?’
‘Well,’ I hesitated. ‘I hate to say it, but I was told this evening that this place is haunted.’
‘I think I need an energy drink,’ mumbled Bill. ‘I put a box down in the cellar. Come on. I’m not going down there alone.’
When we reached the bottom of the cellar stairs, Bill stopped and looked around. ‘You know, this room doesn’t look big enough.’ He started to pace it out across the floor. ‘The room above is twice the length of this one. Most pubs this age had a cellar the same size as the floor above.’ He stepped it out again to confirm his suspicions. Then before I knew it Bill had picked up a sledge hammer and begun slamming into the brick wall in the middle of the room. A thick dusy cloud billowed around us and engulfed the room as brick after brick crumbled at his feet.
It was strange, I hadn’t heard anyone come down the stairs behind us, but all of a sudden a young girl stepped up beside Bill. She wore very old tattered clothes and no shoes. Bill saw her at the same time I did and stopped breaking down the wall.
‘I’m sorry love,’ he gasped a little out of breath while he looked her up and down. The party’s over and you shouldn’t be down here. It’s a bit dangerous. Did all the noises you heard tonight frighten you?’ She didn’t reply though. Instead she simply stared for a few moments as Bill wiped the sweat from his forehead. Then she turned and to our shock she walked right through the brick wall as if it wasn’t there.
‘What just happened?’ I whispered unable to believe what I had just witnessed. Bill shone a torch to gaze through the hole he had just made. We could see the rest of the cellar stretched out in front of us, racks of old dusty wine bottles lined the cobwebbed walls.
‘You’re not going to believe this,’ he said as he pointed the torch towards the floor. ‘There’s a skeleton lying on the floor on the other side of the bricks directly opposite where we watched the girl just walk through!’
We put the pub back on the market the next day. We may have found the ghost’s body, but we weren’t prepared to share the pub with a restless, mischievous spirit.
Note:If you enjoyed this ghost story you may like to read the others in the anthology, however unlike this one, most of them are not recommended for children.