To mark Halloween, all week (28th October – 1st November 2019) we will be sharing a selection of spooky stories written by members of Lockerbie Writers and A Novel Approach writing groups.
We’re halfway through our week of stories, all inspired by our summer outing to Lochmaben Castle and the ghost stories which we heard there from local paranormal group Mostly Ghostly.
Today, our stories today come from Lockerbie Writers’ members Betsy Henderson and Christina Openshaw.
What lurks in the shadows? What took place many years ago within the archways of Lochmaben Castle? And can a troubled soul ever rest?
Read on and find out … if you dare!
Old Bob by Betsy Henderson
Old Bob had lived in the isolated cottage as long as he could remember. His first memory was of his grandmother teaching him to wring the neck of a pigeon that had been stupid enough to land on the grass beside her. He eventually became an expert and as he grew up he became self sufficient, foraging for everything he needed. The surrounding woods became his shopping centre, the trees he chopped down heated his home during the cold, dark nights of winter and the animals roaming free became his sustenance.
After his old granny passed away he was alone, but he wasn’t lonely. He had the animals of the forest for his companions and he was able to keep himself busy carving different animals. If he occasionally hankered after human company, he didn’t dwell on it. He had everything he needed.
That was until the day he fell from a tree and broke his back. With no-one else for miles around, he was at the mercy of the elements. He tried to crawl back to the cottage but every movement was torture. Eventually, after a long agonising night, inching closer and closer to his home, he reached the door. But he couldn’t stand up to turn the handle. He tried many times but each time, he fell back down, the pain causing him more and more anguish. For many days he struggled again and again, but it was no good. His body wouldn’t let him help himself.
For the first time in his life he was afraid – in fact he was terrified. As he became weaker and weaker, he began to hallucinate. Ghostly monsters were hovering around, waiting to carry him off to Hell. He screamed as loud as he could but it was in vain. No-one was around to hear him.
Eventually he died. His injuries were too severe to heal themselves and he had no food or water to provide for his nourishment.
His body lay at the front door of the cottage for over a year until one night a poacher found him as he was passing. Old Bob was hardly recognisable as a human being, wild animals having gnawed at his hands and feet. The poacher dug a hole and buried what was left of the old man, but there was no dignity. Bob was thrown into the hole like a decaying animal carcass. Obviously he wasn’t happy with this end to his life and he was determined he would not rest in peace.
A few months later Jenny and Jack were looking for somewhere private to indulge in some extra marital passion. They couldn’t believe their luck when they came upon a deserted cottage. It was obviously not being used and even although it was basic, it had all they needed – a bed. They managed to light a fire and boil some water so they could at least have a drink but that wasn’t their main priority.
The bed smelled a bit and the covers were grubby but their passion kept them warm. Afterwards they lay down together, planning other nights they could return to this haven. Jenny said she would try to bring some clean bed-clothes and Jack would bring a picnic. Eventually, they cuddled in together to enjoy what was left of their forbidden liaison. Before long, they both fell into a dreamless sleep.
Old Bob, the vampire, had been watching from the window, jealous that these two lovers were enjoying illicit sex and he had been shoved down a hole as if he didn’t matter – as if he was nothing. His shadow stood at the bottom of the bed – a meal was waiting for him. He crept forward and pounced. Jack had no time to turn away – he felt a sharp puncture in his jugular vein and as the blood was sucked out of him, his life drained away.
At first Jenny was unaware of the drama on the bed beside her, but she awoke to see her lover being relieved of his life blood. The vampire looked up just in time to see the fear in her eyes and hear her scream. He had had his fill for the night so he flew out the window back to his grave in the woods, leaving a terrified young woman alone in the dark, isolated cottage in fear of her life.
How was she ever going to explain what she was doing there – if she ever got out alive!
Ghost at Lochmaben by Christina Openshaw
Lochmaben Castle Ruins – I’d left it late in the afternoon to visit; a last minute decision, I admit.
The car park was surrounded by woods. Through the trees I could spy a glimpse of the shiny loch, as the sun’s rays caught its surface. Just like my car, it was lit only by the sun shining down from overhead. All was quiet, no bird song, no animals and no people – only me.
Behind me stood what was left of the castle. I turned, walked up the slight incline to get nearer. That’s when a funny feeling came over me; my whole body began to shiver. I looked around, still there was no one about, but I could sense something. The area started to take on an eerie quality. Maybe because it’s getting nearer dusk? I thought to myself, although years ago I had been told I was slightly psychic – could that be it?
At the ruins I stood before an archway, looking towards another at the far side; between the two arches, a road’s width of long grass lay flattened and smooth, unlike any of the grass around. My first thought was, this looks just like water. I couldn’t believe how it gave the impression of a stream running through, gazing, transfixed; and for some reason I couldn’t take my eyes away.
It was getting darker as dusk started to fall, then it happened: from somewhere a large dark shape passed by me. It moved towards the first archway, then through it; now I realized what I was watching! The shape was of a small boat as it moved away from me, then it stopped midway between the two arches.
The scene hypnotized me. Dark figures milled about around the boat, people alighting being greeted by others. I just stood stunned by the spectacle playing out before me. I rubbed my eyes to help clear my vision; then looking ahead – nothing, no figures, no shape of the boat.
Just the long flat grass.
Thank you to Besty and Christina for sharing these intriguing and descriptive pieces, inspired by the tales we heard at Lochmaben Castle from Mostly Ghostly. The vampire story is truly disturbing, and in the second story I can picture the boat emerging from the long grass …
Come back tomorrow for more spooky tales … if you dare!!