St. Andrews Ghost Stories/Related by Captain Chester

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3071952St. Andrews Ghost Stories — Related by Captain ChesterWilliam Thomas Linskill

Related by Captain Chester.

In my travels I have met many very extraordinary and remarkable people with hobbies and fads of various kinds, but I never met a man of such curious personality as this old friend of mine, Captain Chester. All his methods and ideas were purely original. Everyone has some hobby; his hobby was ghost and spook-hunting.

We were sitting one lovely September evening in the gardens of one of the hotels at Bonn, which stretched down to the river Rhine, listening to the band and watching the great rafts coming down the river from the Black Forest.

"By Jove, sir," said the old man, "I have shot big game in the Rockies, and hunted tigers and all that sort of thing; but, zooks! sir, I prefer hunting ghosts any day. That Robert de Montrose was the first I saw. There are shoals of these shades about, a perfect army of them everywhere, especially in St Andrews. Gad, sir, you should hear the banshees shrieking at night in the Irish bogs. I don't believe in your infernal sea serpents, but I've seen water kelpies in the Scottish and American lakes."

I told him I had never heard a banshee or seen a water kelpie.

"Very likely, sir, very probable. Everyone can't see and hear these things. I can,"

I told him I had never seen a disembodied spirit, and didn't want to.

"Gad, zooks! sir, I consider disinspirited bodies far worse. They are quite common. I allude to human bodies that have lost their spirits or souls, and yet go about among us. Zounds! sir, my cousin is one of them."

"Ah," he continued, "detached personality is a curious thing. I can detach my personality, can you?"

"Most certainly not," I said, "what the deuce do you mean?"

"Mean," he said, "I mean my spirit can float out of my body at will. My spirit becomes a sort of mental baloon. I can then defy destiny."

"How in thunder do you manage to do it anyway?"

"By practice, sir, of course. When my spirit floats out of my body, I can see my own old body sitting in my arm-chair and an ugly old wreck of a body it is. It is bad for one, I admit; it is very weakening. Another thing may happen; another wandering spirit may suddenly take possession of one's body, and then one's own spirit can't get back again, and it becomes a wandering spirit, and is always trying to force itself into other people's bodies. Then one's spirit gets into a mental bunker, you see."

"I don't see a bit. It is most unpleasant. Tell me about ghosts you have seen, and about that dagger you gave Major Montrose."

"Oh! so then you are not interested in eliminated personality?"

"Not a bit," I said, "I don't know what it is. Tell me about that dagger for a change."

"Oh! ah! Well, the dagger Robert of Montrose gave me proved of great use to my old friend, Bob Montrose, on many occasions. It had a wonderful power of its own. Once he got into a broil with a lot of Spanish fellows one night, and as he was unarmed at the time he was in a remarkably tight corner. Suddenly something slipped into his hand, and, by Jove, sir, it was the dagger, and that dagger saved his life. Another time he found himself in an American train with a raving lunatic, and if it had not been for the protecting dagger he'd have been torn limb from limb. After that he took it everywhere with him."

"Where is it now?"

"Well, there's an odd thing if you like. Bob died in the Isle of France, where Paul and Virginia used to be. He was killed by a fall, and is buried there. He left the dagger to me in kids will, but no human eyes have ever seen that dagger since his death. It may have been stolen, or it may have gone back to where it came from into Robert of Montrose's stone kist in the old Chapter-House at St Andrews Cathedral. Probably its usefulness was at an end. and it was needed no more. Bob told me one queer thing about that dagger. Once a year near Christmastide (the dagger hung on the wall of his bedroom) it used to exude a thick reddish fluid like blood, which used to cover the blade in large drops, and it remained so for several hours—and, again, sometimes at night it used to shine with bright light of its own."

"That is indeed wonderful," I said, lighting another cheroot, "but tell me more about the St Andrews bogles. Astral bodies, dual personality, and things of that kind depress me a bit."

"Well, that is odd," said old Chester, "I love them. I was in St Andrews I rented a fine old house, with huge thick walls, big fireplaces, funny corkscrew stairs, such rum holes and corners, and big vaulted kitchens. It's all pulled down now, I believe, and a bran new house built; but I hear the vaulted rooms below are left exactly as they were. People didn't take to the old house; they heard noises and rappings, and saw things in the night, and so on. We all saw things. My brother met the ghost of a horrible looking old witch, quite in the orthodox dress, on the Witch Hill above the Witch Lake. It upset him terribly at the time—made him quite ill—nerves went all to pot—would not sleep in a room by himself after that. He made me devilish angry, sir, I can tell you."

"Perhaps it was Mother Alison Craik, a well-known witch, who was burnt there."

"Likely enough, sir, it may have been the old cat you mention, an old hag. Then my nephew and I saw that phantom coach in the Abbey Walk one windy moonlight night. It passed us very quickly, but made a deuced row, like a lifeboat carriage."

"What was it like?"

"Like a huge black box with windows in it, and a queer light inside. It reminded me of a great coffin. Ugly looking affair; very uncanny thing to meet at that time of night and in such a lonely spot. It was soon gone, but we heard its rumbling noise for a long time."

"What were the horses like, eh?"

"Shadowy looking black things, like great black beetles with long thin legs."

"And what was the driver like?" I asked.

"He was a tall thin, black object also, like a big, black, lank lobster, with a cocked hat on the top. That's all I could see. On the top of the coach was an object that looked like a gigantic tarantula spider, with a head like a moving gargoyle. I can't get at the real history of that mysterious old coach yet. I don't believe it has anything whatever to do with the murdered prelates, Beaton or Sharpe. However, the coach does go about. Another wraith I saw at the Castle of St Andrews was that of James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, third husband of Mary Queen of Scots. He lies buried in the crypt of Faarveile Church, close to the cattegut. Before his death he was a prisoner at Malmo; then he was sent to Denmark, and died in the dungeon of the State prison at Drachsholm."

"I am awfully interested," I said, "about those times, and in Bothwell and Mary in particular."

"Odd's fish, sir," said Chester, "so am I. I went to Faarveile to see Bothwell's well-preserved body. The verger took me down a trap-door near the altar, and there it lies in a lidless box, a very fine face, with a cynical and mocking mouth. He murdered Darnley, and he was treated and buried as a murderer in those bygone days. At Malmo folks say he was tormented by the ghosts of his mad wife, Jane Huntly, and by Darnley. He ended his days in misery, and serve him devilish well right, say I. I love and revere lovely Mary Stuart. Damn it, sir, he deserted her when she was in a fix at Carberry Hill, the curmudgeon."

"But what of the appearances of the Earl you saw?"

"Met him twice at the Castle—no mistaking him—a big, knightly, handsome fellow. Spirits can easily at times assume their earthly form and dress. I recognised him at once—the sneering lips and all, just like his pictures, too. When he glided past me his teeth were chattering like a dice-box, and the wind was whistling through his neck bones. I addressed him boldly by name, but he melted away. One sees these apparitions with one's mental eyes. I saw him again leaning against the door that leads to that oubliette in the Sea Tower of the Castle. Egad, sir, he exactly resembled the body I saw in the old crypt at Faarviele. He often appears there, and at Hermitage Castle also. No mistake, sir, that was Hepburn, the Earl of Bothwell. I must tell you some other time—(it's getting very late now)—of the ghosts I saw in my house at St Andrews, and of the Prior or Monk of Pittenweem. I must turn into bed now. I go to the service at the Cathedral here early to-morrow."

Then the tall figure of Captain Chester strode away and left me alone to my meditations.

Well! I suppose if I had been Captain Chester, left alone there in those gardens, I'd have seen a ghost or two with my mental eyes; but, instead, I saw a fat waiter approaching, who told me my supper awaited me.