A Haunting Experience

The year is 1977. The location is England.

A bunch of kids visit a Manor House, without adult supervision. One of them likes to do his background research. 

“It’s 15p admission for adults” says the caretaker, who is not exactly the most friendly type.

The two young girls exchange a glance.

“Over 14 is adult,” laughing-boy makes it clear.

“We’re from Florence Home,” says Dawn, the frumpier young lady with the short hair, explaining her position, and status.

“We got free passes,” says the longer-haired, more fashionable.

The abrupt-in-manner, jobsworth, snaps his fingers, and gestures to the girls to produce the passes.

The trendier girl hands Grumpy-Man a piece of paper.

“Only good for one visit” he says, with some satisfaction, spitefully tearing the pass in half to immediately nullify it.

“We only come down here ‘cause they chased us out the Telly Room.” says the trendier girl, in a defiant-teenager type manner.

Grumpy-man snaps his fingers at Dawn, the sensible girl. She lets out a sigh, and then, being a bit more grown-up, she tries to engage in a little chit-chat with old Laughing-Boy.

In a friendly manner, Dawn talks about the weather, and how wet and muddy it is outside. He responds by rolling his eyes. She puts her own pass down on the desk, for clearance.

“Come on Dawn.” Her impulsive friend calls her away.  

The caretaker then walks over to a lad who is studying a booklet on a spinning stand.

“You with them?” he flicks his head. “You from the Home, in all?”

“It’s not a ‘Home’, it’s a Camp,” says the well-spoken boy. “It’s a Holiday Camp.” He hands the caretaker his free-pass, for approval. “I’d like one of these, please.” The boy shows him the booklet he was reading.”

“25p that’ll be.” Laughing-Boy says, sternly. “That’s not included, that’s extra.” the lad gets informed, in no uncertain terms.

The boy’s face, momentarily, looks pained. He then dips into his pocket for the fee, and hands the coins to Laughing-Boy.

“You’ll have to move along sharpish,” says the caretaker. “I close up at dusk, and that’s in half-an-hour.”

The young lad’s face falls. “You could have told us that before you took our passes.”

“There is to be no illumination. This is a Manor House. Preserved intact. Unique it is. Unique in the whole country.” says the Voice of Authority.


2


A notice on the entry-door says:

VISITORS ARE REMINDED
THAT TOUCHING THE
FURNITURE OR EXHIBITS
IS STRICTLY FORBIDDEN

Dawn and her friend wander about a bit, whispering to each other. The young lad walks through the entrance-door, reading aloud from the booklet he has invested in:

“Many of the contents of the Great Hall date back to the earliest history of the house. These superb pieces of furniture, walls hung with arms…”

Getting bored, Dawn’s friend bangs on the standing armoured figure with her hand, loudly. Dawn tells her off. Her friend then walks over to the lad.

“ Here, where’d you get that programme?” she says to him, in a petulant manner.

"Where’d you get that programme?"

“It’s not a programme.” he replies. “Don’t be daft.”

“That brochure then. Where’d you get it?” she’s getting jealous and her voice is becoming whinny.

“It’s a Guide Book. And it’s got the whole history of the place.” he shows her.

The lad shows her that the booklet says that the Manor House family are the most ancient in England.

“You bought it?” she says. “You went and gone and bought it?” she says, mockingly. “How much’d it cost?”

“What’s it gotta do with you, it’s my money.” he’s getting annoyed at her.

Dawn goes over to a huge display of flowers, sitting on a big, polished, table.

“They’re real. Them flowers are real,” she says, with surprise.

Dawn’s friend carries on hassling the lad. “You’re not asked to spend your own money. It’s an outing. It’s classed as an “outings”. What’d you think you get a free pass for?” She shakes her head at his foolishness.

Dawn goes closer to the flowers. “They don’t ‘alf smell nice,” she says.

“You ain’t ‘alf bossy, Karen.” the lad says.

Karen whinges on: “What am saying is, guide-books outta be provided for.”

Karen’s voice is getting shriller. “That money you spent on that is for your ‘gifts and souvenirs’ ” she tells him. “That’s outta yer gifts and souvenirs allocation.” she looks at him, with disappointment on her face.

The lad walks away from Karen. “Give over. Let’s have a decent look at the place.” He starts to look around. “They close down at dusk. “We only got half an hour.” he informs them.

“We only got ‘alf an hour.” the lad informs them. “According to what he said.”

“Aff an hour? Flippin’ cheek,” Karen says.

“D’you wanna ‘ere what it says, or do you wanna carry on moanin’ ?” the lad asks her.

“The hall, with its banners and trophies. It’s windows, bearing the heraldic arms of the lords of the Manor, wonderfully preserves the atmosphere of the sixteenth century.”

“How long ago is that?” asks Dawn.

“Five hundred years,” answers the lad.

“Four hundred,” says Karen.

“Nearly five hundred,” the lad replies.  

“All that time,” says Dawn. “Haven’t they kept it nice. It's ever so big too. Take a terrible lot of polishing, it must.”

“And you can bet it’d be you and me doin’ it. And no wages either. You never got wages in them days.” Karen lectures her friend Dawn.

“You never got wages in them days.” Karen lectures her friend Dawn. “Animals. That’s how they used to treat the servants. Just like animals.”

“Karen, shut up.” Dawn turns away from her friend.

“Well, you ask the professor here.” Karen looks over to the lad. “Ain’t that right Phil,” she says to him.

Karen then stands right behind Dawn, and speaks into her ear, in a melodramatic tone. “You’d be out there in the barn, dossing down in the straw, with rats crawling all over yer.”

“Shut up Karen, you’re ‘orrible you are.” says Dawn.

“Yeah,” says Phil. “What are you picking on ‘er for.” he scolds Karen.

“Well, it’s boring innit.” Karen says to him. “Holiday? Some ‘oliday I don’t think.” Karen’s voice is grating.

I don’t think it’s boring” says Dawn. “Anyway, we might not have been servants. We might have been the Lady of Manor, like her.” They all look up at a giant painting on the wall.

“Don’t be daft,” Phil laughs. “That’s not a lady, that’s Charles the 1st.”

“Well I don’t know, do I.” Dawn says, with embarrassment.

They move along a bit, and stare up at some smaller pictures.

“That one then,” Dawn points up at a picture. “That’s a lady.”

“Hang on,“ says Phil, as he refers to his booklet. “Lady Sophia Ledsbury 1465 to 1481 betrothed to Sir Philip of the Manor.

“You know what,” says Dawn. “She looks like Karen. She’s got the same eyes.”

“She was drowned.” says Phil. “It says: a reproduction of the gown, worn in the painting, which is by an unknown artist, may be seen in the principle bed-chamber…”

“What do you mean drowned?” says Karen.

“Tradition has it, that this very gown, was worn by Lady Sophia, after her drowning…” Phil goes on.

“Well thanks very much. I’m not looking to get drowned.” Karen gives Phil a disapproving look.


3


Phil continues: “She was Sir Philip’s newly-wed bride. What happened was, Sir Philip, took up arms against the King, and went off to fight under Henry Blanford, Duke of Buckingham, leaving his bride, of a few days, at his ancestral home. After the defeat at Exeter, the King declared him and outlaw, which forced him to flea back here, and go into hiding.”

“I like her dress,” says Karen. “Must ‘ave cost a fortune, even in them days.”

“The King’s men found out about his hiding place, and surrounded the Manor.”

Suddenly realising how important she is, Karen sweeps over to the stairs, and adopts an elevated position. She waves her hand about, in a commanding way “I’m Lady Sophia.” She looks down at Phil, in a condescending manner.

Karen walks down, regally, from her pedestal, and shifts one of the big chairs, at the grand table. She sits on it.

“Here. You’re not supposed to move them.” objects Dawn.

“Why wench? Get me a slice of venison pie.” orders Karen.

Dawn is becoming unsettled at the personality transformation. “What do you mean?”

Karen turns to Phil. “And what treasures have you brought back from your travels in the Indies, Sir Philip?”

Playing along, Phil kneels down in front of her. “No mere bauble, my love, but a jewel beyond price. The famous Black Diamond of the Mogul Emperor.”

“Rise, my Lord,” commands Karen. Phil stands up.

Karen turns to Dawn. “Be gone, wench!” she puts on a cross face. “And fetch refreshment for Sir Philip.”

Dawn is looking very uncomfortable.

“Silly kid’s games. I’m not playing. I don’t like it.” Dawn walks away.

Laughing-Boy enters the room. He strides over to Karen, with a face like thunder.

“You touched it!”

“You what?” says Karen, acting dumb.

“The furniture!”

“Well, I could hardly sit down, without touching it, could I?”

“You moved it. Strictly forbidden! It’s there on the Notice Board, plain as day. Applies to all.”

Karen is still sitting on the big chair, at the grand table.

Visitors are strictly forbidden to touch the furniture or the objects displayed." Laughing-boy’s voice is trembling with emotion, he is so appalled.

"It doesn’t," says Dawn

"What? What’s that?"

"It doesn’t say that. What you said. The notice says: visitors are reminded that touching the furniture, or exhibits is strictly forbidden. That’s what is says. I’ve ever such a good memory, you go and look." says Dawn. "The notice is more polite."

“Cheeky kids, coming here, in contravention and defiance.” The caretaker’s head is trembling with rage. “Get up. Come on, get up!” he waves at Karen. “I’m not ‘avin it. Ki…ki…kids coming here and abusing their privileges.”

“Excuse me Sir,” interjects, young Phil.

“Eh?”

“We didn’t mean any harm. My friend felt a bit queer and so I told her to sit down.”

Karen gets up out of the chair. “Oh, give over, Phil.” she smirks.

The caretaker walks over to Karen, and looks at her, right in the face. “You will replace that article. You will put it back. You will replace that chair in the precise spot where you found it. The precise spot!” he points at the slightly-out-of-position chair. Phil, helpfully, repositions the chair, in one, swift, motion. This assuages the caretaker.

“Very well,” he says. “And now you can leave. Go on. All of you.” he waves his hand towards the exit door.

“We haven’t seen upstairs yet.” says Dawn.

“And nor you shall.” comes his reply. “I’m closing now. Come on. Out of it!”

“But other people have gone up there.” says Dawn, pleading for fairness.

“I’m well aware of that.” he says, snappily. “When I come down here I want you all gone. Is that clear? I want you out of it!” He then proceeds to walk up staircase. “Closing now, ladies and gentlemen!” he pronounces, as he climbs the stairs.

The caretaker walks up the staircase. “We’re closing now, ladies and gentlemen. Closing time please!” he informs any straggling visitors.

Phil clutches his booklet, and mutters to Dawn, in subdued tones, as they both wander towards the exit door. Karen is nowhere to be seen.

“Psssst!” exclaims Karen. She is hiding in a recess, behind some big logs that are sitting in a grate. There is a door, next to her, which is out of view from the main hallway.

“Hey, you better come out, he’s ever so cross already,” advises Dawn.

Karen is standing at the wooden door. “Oh. Blimey,” she says. “There’s a loose bit, nearly come off in me hand.” she says.

“Oh, have you broken it? Trust you,” says Phil, becoming exasperated with Karen. He tries the handle, and the big door swings open a bit.

“Hurry, he’s coming back,” urges Dawn.

“Well, duck in ‘ere then.” Karen suggests. The three of them squeeze through the gap and close the door behind them. They are now out of view.

Meanwhile, the caretaker is diligently escorting the remainder of the visitors out of the building. One man actually puts a coin in the hand of the caretaker. 

“Oh, thank you very much Sir,” the caretaker thanks the happy visitor for his generosity.

Dawn is looking quite stressed. “We won’t ‘alf cop it, if he finds us.”

“Shutup!” Karen whispers. They wait until all the other visitors have left the building.

“All right, open the door Phil, we better go back I suppose.” says Karen.

“About time too,” says Dawn, nervously.

“Here, there’s no ’andle this side,” Phil says, worriedly.

“Well give it a push, give it a push,” whines Karen.

“What we gonna do?” Dawns voice is now raised in pitch.

“Oh, that’s marvellous, innit” says Karen, sarcastically, “Nobody got a torch I suppose?”

“We better shout for help.” says Phil, with resignation.

“What?” says Karen, “And have old grumble-guts catch us? I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction.”

Karen walks through a bit. “Hey, it sorta goes round the corner.”

Karen stumbles along, through straw and cobwebs. “Blimey. I can see some light!” her voice echoes. 

“Karen? Karen, come back, I don’t like it.” says Dawn, sounding scared.

“I’m through!” Karen calls, with her voice echoing. She is standing in a dusty cellar-type area that has opened up a bit.  

“I’m not going in there,” says Dawn. “Dunno what there might be.”

“Come on Dawn.” the lad encourages her to move through the debris and cobwebs.

“C’mon,” Karen shouts back to them. “You don’t want to spend all night in there, do ya?”

“It’s too small, the hole …” says Dawn.

“Come on!” says Phil, losing patience, and nudging Dawn, the fearty, through the narrow, dark, passage.

“It was ‘er that got us in ‘ere.” Dawn defends herself. Dawn then appears at a little opening where she can see Karen standing there.

“What’d you get us in ‘ere for?” Dawn accuses Karen.

“Oh why don’t you shut up!” replies Karen.  


4


Phil then comes through the small opening, with the help of Karen pulling him a bit. “It’s no good,” he says to Karen, “She’s scared stiff.” Dawn is still hanging back.

Karen and Phil are standing in a small shaft of light. There is a set of dilapidated, and rickety, wooden stairs nearby.

“Look Dawn. You got one chance. If you don’t do as Phil says, we’re gonna climb those stairs and leave you behind. You wanna stay in there on your own?”

“You’re wicked you are, Karen. You’re proper evil.” Dawns says, in a trembling voice. “I’ll report you when I get back. You just see if I don’t.”

“Hmmm” say Karen, indifferently.

“Karen’s only telling you for your own good,” says Phil. “Oh, come on Dawn, have a shot, we ain’t gonna leave you behind.”

With a lot of grumbling and groaning, Karen pulls Dawn through the small opening. Next, they attempt push Dawn up the wooden steps to freedom. “Help me,” says Dawn, “It’s wobbling.”
Phil then takes the lead, and makes his way up the staircase. In the near darkness, Karen and Dawn follow on behind.

Phil makes his way up the staircase. In the near darkness, Karen and Dawn follow on behind him.

“I wonder where it goes?” he says.

“It’s ever so spooky…” says Dawn.

“Oh, come on,” says Karen. “I like this. Phil you go first, and Dawn can follow.” She nudges Dawn up the stairs.

“It’s some sort of door.” says Phil. “Doesn’t seem to be a catch, or anything.”

“It’s getting dark, I don’t like it,” says Dawn,

“Give it a shove,” says Karen, “Try and budge it Phil.”

Dawn sits on the steps. “Don’t just sit there Dawn, give us an ‘and.” orders Karen, while grabbing her shoulder.

“Oh, stop niggling,” says Phil. I think there’s a crack here. Maybe I can get my knife in it.

“Course, you know we are gonna be stuck ‘ere all night,” says Dawn, pessimistically.

“Oh, give ‘im a chance.” says Karen.

And then the night comes.

After a lot of squabbling by the girls, and levering, and pushing, by Phil, the door, at the top of the stairs, begins to open up a bit. “Hang on, I think its moving.” says Phil.

Dawn warily walks into the new space. “Karen!” she says, with fear in her voice, as she sees some figures standing there.

“They’re dummies, stupid!” says Karen.

“There’s some candles here.” says Karen. “If only we had a match.”

“I’ve got matches.” says Dawn.

“Now she tells us.” says Karen.

“You said a torch,” says Dawn. “I haven’t got a torch, but I have some matches.” She takes the box out of her bag, and hands them to Phil.

Phil goes about, lighting up some candles.

“What you doing with matches anyway?” asks Karen.

“For me woodcraft session …”

“You’re supposed to hand them in.” Karen gives Dawn a row.

Dawn folds her arms over her chest, and sighs.

The girls see the figure lit up by the candlelight.

“Cor!” says Karen.

“That’s the one in the picture. The one Phil was reading about.” says Dawn.

Karen goes over to the figure of the lady. “You’re not supposed to touch it,” warns Dawn.

“Oh, give over, Dawn. Give us a hand with these laces, there’s ever so many.”

Young Phil reads from his booklet.

“The King’s men had the house surrounded. But, at night, Sir Philip slipped out, and cut’n the throat of the hapless sentry, he slipped away to the river’s bank where he hid in the undergrowth. But the alarm was raised, and hearing his pursuers all about him, he took up a stone, put it in his cap, and hurled it into the river. The King’s men, hoodwinked into thinking he was drowned, gave over their further hunting. He hid all day, and got away at night.”

“But what about the girl though?” chimes in Karen, who is now in costume.

“Well.” says Phil. He reads out from his booklet.

“They showed her his cap, and in her despair, and supposing her lover to be drowned, she betook herself to the river’s edge, and flung herself in, forsaking life, for love.”

Karen is enchanted by the story. She just sits there, staring.

“Well, a wouldn’t put that on, not after someone drowned themselves in it.” Dawn breaks the spell.

Karen rises from her sitting position. “Why don’t you shutup!” she says, with intensity in her voice.

Dawn remains silent. She just looks at her friend.

“Why don’t you shut up!” she says to Dawn.

Karen then realises that her abrupt reaction was a bit over-the-top.  

“Oh, it’s not the original, it’s just a copy.” she says.

Karen then goes over to the lad. “Here Phil, why don’t you put the fella’s gear on,” referring to Sir Philip, “It’ll be ever so spooky.”

Phil thinks about it for a moment, he smiles a bit, and then says, “Nah.” He refers to his booklet again: “When he heard about Lady Sophia, life had no further joy for him and so he fell into a decline, and so after Sir Philip died, they brought his body back and buried him, beside her, in the private chapel.”


5


“Oh, I don’t like stories like that,” Dawn shakes her head.

“It’s not a story,” says Karen, “It’s what ‘appened.”

“It’s spooky ‘ere, I wanna go back to camp,” says Dawn. 

They hear creaking, then a banging and thumping-sound.

“What is it?” says Dawn, worriedly.

“It’s coming from the squint,” says Phil. “There is a kinda spy-hole, so that the Master of the House can see what’s going on down below.” He walks over to a small opening and peers through it. Karen pulls Phil out of the way to have a look herself.

“It’s him,” she says, “The geezer.”

“It’s him,” Karen says, “The Warden.”

Laughing-Boy is wandering around the Great Hall with a big torch.

“Perhaps he saw the light. I’ll just go and get him.” says Phil. He heads for the door.

Karen stops him. “No. Put the fella’s gear on, quick.”

“What are you on about?” he says.

“You and me,” says Karen, with mischief on he face, “We’ll go down and haunt him.”

You’re not leaving me up ‘ere,” says Dawn.

“Oh, Karen, don’t be daft.” says Phil.

“All right. You stay ‘ere if you’re scared.” says Karen. She then picks up a candelabra, with lit candles, and heads down to the hall.

Phil doesn’t do as he is told by Karen. He and Dawn go over to look through the squint. “We can watch her from here,” he says. As they watch, the caretaker walks away from their view.

“Oh, he’s gone,” Phil says, with disappointment, “She’s missed him.”

Karen slowly descends the Grand Hall stairs, with all her gear on, and carrying the lit candles.  

“I don’t like it,” says Dawn, as she and Phil watch through the spy-hole. “It’s ever so spooky.”

Karen looks up to the picture of Sir Philip hanging on the wall.

“Phil, it is you, isn’t it?” says Karen. She walks towards the ghost. The figure of a man comes down the staircase and holds its hands out to Karen.

“What’s she doing? Let me see what’s she’s doing.” says Dawn, as she tries to see past Phil as the look through the spy-hole.

Karen puts her arms around the figure of a man. They can see her doing this from the spy-hole, but they cannot actually see the figure.

“She’s ever so good,” says Dawn, with a smile, complimenting her friend’s acting skills. And then her expression turns to worry as Karen’s head falls back and she begins to gently fall over. Karen slowly leans back, as if she is letting herself fall into something behind her. Into a river. Dawn and Phil can see the currents of water.  And then Dawn lets out a loud scream. It’s all getting too real. 

They can hear the water lapping as the strong current pulls her under. Karen collapses on the floor. Dawn and Phil run down the stairs to attend to her. The grumpy custodian appears with his torch.

The lad gets down on the floor to check on the collapsed girl. “Phil,” she cries, in a distant and dazed voice.

“Get her on a window-seat, over here, quick,” barks the custodian. The two kids lift Karen and sit her up on a chair, while grumpy shines his big torch on them.

“I’m wet,” says Dawn, with surprise. “I’m all wet.”

“So am I” says Phil.

Karen is soaked to the skin.

The caretaker looks fearful. “Get that dress off her.” he orders. “Get it off her!”

The custodian is beside himself. He touches the dress.

All three kids are in a state of shock.

“I’m sorry,” says Karen, now fully recovered. “It was a lark,” she says, apologetically, but her face shows an expression of euphoria.

“Get that dress off her, and get out!” he says. “That’s all I ask.”

THE END