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The Hairy Ghost
I was the only guest in the hotel that night, and I wouldn't have been there at all if it hadn't been for the weather. Mind you if it hadn't been for the weather there would have been some more guests; and as things turned out I think I would have preferred it that way, I mean more guests at the hotel and me not there. But Webster would have been there whatever the weather; well after all, it is Webster this tale is all about really, and if I hadn't been there I couldn't tell you about it could I? So perhaps it's a good thing I was around. All the same, it gave me a bit of a shock at the time; but you can judge for yourself.
Well to start at the beginning, to coin a phrase, I had been doing a job for the firm out in East Anglia. I quite enjoyed it really. The work had been interesting, the local people charming and hospitable and the weather was incredibly warm and sunny. November is not the best time of the year in that part of the country, but the week I had been there it had been more like the month of May. On a couple of days I had even managed a visit to the coast near Great Yarmouth.
The job came to an end on a Friday evening, and I packed the gear into my car then set off on the long journey to Bristol. I intended to drive through the night, then have a relaxing weekend at home with the family; but little did I know what fate had in store for me.
By coincidence the ending of the job came at the same time as the spell of warm weather finished. Just as I was setting out on my journey home, so a cold weather front was high-tailing it out of the arctic. It seems that there had been a committee meeting of the weather gods and they had been really agitated when they learned that East Anglia was still receiving summer weather in the middle of November. So the cold front was dispatched post-haste and it was due to clash with the warm weather right over Norfolk.
Of course as I drove along, I knew nothing of this until the two weather systems collided right at the spot where I was. One moment I was driving through a fine autumn evening and in the next I had lost my vision.
Immediately the cold hand of panic put my heart into a higher gear and I felt my pulse racing; but within a few seconds I realised what had happened. Without warning I had driven into a wall of dense, swirling fog, but it was no fog like I had ever seen. Making progress through it was like trying to find one's way through the Annual General Meeting of the Pipe and Cigar Smokers Association.
My speed was reduced to walking pace and it was soon apparent that I could not complete the journey that night. So when at last I came to a village, I parked the car and went in search of a hotel.
Going in through the front door of the hotel was like arriving on another planet. Outside it was wet, clammy and wholly inhospitable. Even X-rays would have found difficulty in making their way through that fog! The reception area was warm in everyway. As the heavy oak door closed behind me with a determined thud my attention was drawn to the cheerful crackling of a large log fire. Its heat and the smell of pine pervaded every part of the room.
The proprietors, a pleasant man and wife in their thirties, greeted me as if I were the prodigal son. I was quite overwhelmed and blessed the happy chance that had brought me there. There were it seemed, no other guests. All the people who had been due to arrive that night had telephoned to cancel because of the fog. As a consequence all the staff had been sent home, leaving Mr. and Mrs. Collins to themselves.
Staff or not those good people insisted on looking after me properly, and after a superb meal and an evening of pleasant conversation and drinks in the bar, I made my way to bed.
"We've put you in the oldest part of the hotel," said Mr. Collins, who earlier had told me that the place originally had been a manor house and dated back some 300 years.
Before I went to sleep I peered out of the window, but there was nothing to see except that grey, choking invisibility which had crept over the world. It was like being in an enormous saucepan of cold porridge, and just about as pleasant. I shuddered and, mighty glad of the warm comfortable bed, fell asleep within a few minutes.
The girl was brunette, beautiful, and very, very friendly! We had just been cast away on an uninhabited island in the tropics; you know, the sort of place where clothing is not an essential part of life. I'd no idea how we got there; but that's not important in a dream is it!
Anyhow, the two of us were just beginning to enjoy ourselves, when I was woken up by someone shouting and banging about. What a way to come out of a dream like that! I reckoned that some guest in the hotel must have had too much to drink and was making a fool of himself. I put my head under the pillow to shut out the noise. I can't stand blokes who can't hold their drink ------ " Wait a minute," I thought, "There are no other guests!"
I put the pillow aside and sat up. The noise had stopped. I listened for a minute or two, then started to get myself comfortable, intending to try to get back into that dream of mine.
No such luck! Mind you if the brunette had known what was going to happen next, she would have been miles away.
My eyes had just pulled down the shutters for the second time that night, when the shouting started up again. This time I was wide awake and listened carefully, to work out where the noise was. Slowly it began register in my brain that the shouting was coming from the bathroom attached to my hotel room.
That made me angry! This drunken so and so had not only disturbed my sleep and spoiled the best dream I'd had for years, but he had even invaded my bathroom. I picked up the heavy glass ashtray from the bedside table, and without turning on the light, made my way across the room to the bathroom door. Just as I reached out to grab the handle, I heard something hit the other side of the door.
Whatever it was fell down and smashed on the tiled floor. Whoever was in there was becoming dangerous and that made me even more angry. The light switch for the bathroom was outside the door, so I pressed it on at the same time as I kicked open the door. If I told you that I was unprepared for what I saw, it would be a whopping great lie, and that is an understatement!
There, in the middle of the bathroom was some geezer, in an untidy beard and wearing fancy dress, holding my toilet bag and taking out the items one by one. Then throwing them away. "Oi!" I shouted, "What are you doing with my gear?"
Do you know what? He totally ignored me. Just as if I wasn't there. If I had been angry before, now I was furious, so I reached out to grab his beard. The trouble was, instead of getting a fistful of hair, as I expected, my hand passed right through his head without me feeling anything.
Staggering back against the door, I felt as if I'd seen a ghost. Come to think of it, I had seen a ghost, and what was more, I was still seeing him. At that moment he looked up and said, " Oh there you are. I thought you'd never wake up."
I pinched myself, just to check that I really had woken up. It hurt, so I presumed that it wasn't all a dream; and if it wasn't a dream, I had a ghost in my bathroom who was throwing my stuff around. Mind you if I'd seen a ghost anywhere else, I think it would have scared the pants off me, if you know what I mean.
This one, however, made me angry. Apart from that, he didn't look like a ghost, with that long scruffy beard. I tried to work out what to do as I looked around the bathroom at the mess. Just about everything was scattered around the floor now: hairbrush, comb, toothpaste, after-shave and the glass which had held my toothbrush lay shattered at my feet. That must have been what had hit the door just before I kicked it open.
To be honest I didn't know what to do. After the experience of my hand passing through him, it was pointless trying to do anything physical. I felt like bopping him one of the nose, but I couldn't could I! Neither could I grab him by the scruff of his neck and throw him out, even if I had been able to find his neck through all that hair.
"Where have you put it then? Where's the razor?" He was standing there, staring at me. My now empty toilet bag was still in his hand.
It suddenly dawned on me what he was doing, and it tickled me. Here was a ghost in my bathroom and he was looking for something to cut off his beard. I started laughing. Well, laughing hardly describes it. I practically fell apart it was so funny.
I put down the ashtray I was still holding and sat down on the edge of the bath. I had to; my side was hurting so much it felt as if it was bursting, and I couldn't stop the tears from rolling down my face. He started screaming at me, " Stop it! Stop it! You're just the same as the other ghosts. They all laugh at me. How do you think I feel?"
It was impossible to feel sorry for him, with his fancy dress and that monstrous beard.
"You don't need a razor." I said, " You need a scythe. Anyway what are you doing growing a beard ? I thought ghosts didn't do that sort of thing."
He looked forlorn as he replied," They don't. It's just me. The hair won't stop growing, and I can't do anything about it. The other ghosts will not accept me and don't take me seriously. They say that if my hair is still growing then I'm not a proper ghost. So what can I do? I'm not allowed to be a ghost and I can't come back to life. This hair has been growing since I died two hundred years ago. If it goes on much longer I'll be tripping over it. Oh, I wish they had cut off my head when they killed me!"
Then he started moaning, and believe me, it was a horrible sound which set my teeth on edge.
"All right, all right." I said," I'll go and fetch my shaver from the other room." I went back in the bedroom and picked up the electric shaver from the bedside table. When I turned around there was the ghost right next to me. He wanted to know what I was doing. So I had to explain that we no longer used open razors like he had shaved with when he was alive, and now had special machines to do the job.
He was fascinated and told me his name was Webster, and that he had been killed by a band of robbers in the year 1790.
" Right," I said, "Let me trim this beard for you." I got him to stand still in front of me. Then I plugged in the shaver, set the trimming device, and switched it on. The moment it started buzzing, all hell broke loose.
Webster let out a howl that would have made a polar bear feel cold. Then he ran through the solid wall and vanished. That was bad enough, but he kept up that awful howling - and I mean awful! Now the sound was coming from the bathroom again, so I switched off the shaver and went in search of him.
Sure enough there he was, standing in the bath, or rather standing through the bath, because he had only partly re-materialised. "Don't do that again," he wailed, "That terrible machine sent shivers up and down my spine."
Well that started me off again. Just think of it! A ghost getting scared of an electric shaver. If it hadn't taken place in front of me I wouldn't have believed it. So it may be difficult for you, but you're just going to have to accept that I'm telling you the truth.
So what happened next? Well I calmed him down and told him to be logical about it. If he wanted his beard and hair trimmed then he had to use the facilities available at the time; but if he didn't, then he'd be tripping over his hair in a year or two. So I got him settled down and picked up the shaver. I'll tell you what - a nervous ghost is something to see, and he was terrified.
"OK. Keep calm," I said, "I am going to turn it on."
"I'm ready," said Webster through gritted teeth. He closed his eyes and waited. It was a good thing he did close them, because before they were shut they looked like those of a petrified rabbit. The moment I turned on the shaver and the buzzing started, he let out another howl and ran straight through the wall and out into the corridor.
Well, I opened the door and looked but he'd gone.
For about ten minutes I sat on the bed waiting, in case he came back, but there was no sign of him; not even a little moan. So I tidied up the mess in the bathroom, picked up the broken glass and went back to bed. I didn't sleep of course. I just lay there thinking about what had happened. I wasn't even sure if I was angry, frightened or amused, but I certainly wasn't tired.
When I went down to breakfast I was just going to tell Mr. Collins about Webster, when I thought of that enormous meal I had eaten the night before, and all the whisky we had drunk in the bar. It occurred to me that he might not believe the story, so I didn't say anything. Shortly afterwards I checked out, after apologising for breaking the glass.
The fog had cleared and it was a cold frosty day, and I was soon back on the road heading for home.
So there it is; sounds a bit far fetched doesn't it! Honestly, I swear to you it is as true as I am sitting here. The funny thing is, I went back there a few months later, but I couldn't find the hotel. I couldn't even find the village.
Must have taken a wrong turn I suppose.
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