The Howarth Haunting: Epilogue

“You’re calling from what? The Manchester Guardian? No, thank you. I have no interest in talking to a provincial paper,” said Sir John and put down the telephonic device.

“These people are like seagulls,” said Sir John to Marie. “They make a racket and pick away at you.”

“Still, it is nice to have you home,” said Marie. “I missed you.”

“And me, you,” said Sir John. “The constabulary had lots of questions, not a few I couldn’t answer. And none seemingly that Lady… that Miss Scrote could answer.”

Marie coughed. “That is her real name?” she said.

“Yes, it seems it is. It’s generally agreed now that her father was Robert Scrote so she’s no longer Lady Howarth and instead is plain Miss Violet Scrote. The newspapers started to get interested, as well, and they had even more questions than the police.”

The telephone rang again.

“Hello? You’re from where? The Washington Post? But the events didn’t occur anywhere near Sussex!” said Sir John, and put the phone down angrily.

“It’s a shame they don’t pay money for these conversations,” said Sir John. “I don’t think Lady… I mean Miss Scrote is likely, or even able to pay us.”

“Oh, that would be monstrous,” said Marie. “People would just make up stories for money…  What will happen to her anyway?”

“To Miss Scrote? Well, it seems Lord Edward had a cousin, Margaret,  who is delighted to take ownership of Grimley Hall. She has an estate already so probably won’t move there. She has said that Miss Scrote may stay there for a while, perhaps work in the kitchens or something, and have a small room. They’ll pay her a reasonable wage, even though she has no employable skills as such.”

“So she won’t move to Cheapside?” said Marie with a smile. “It must be the cousin who sent this,” she continued, indicating a large object on a table in the room.

They both walked over to the table and looked at a bulky object tied under a large piece of tarpaulin tied by string. There was a note that read, “Awfully grateful, Margaret.”

“I didn’t look,” said Marie, “in case it was one of your experiments.”

Sir John untied the tarpaulin and they both peered inside.

“How interesting,” said Sir John and replaced the tarpaulin. Marie did not stop him. “Must be the Howarth naval connection, I suppose.”

Octopus 2“How Interesting!”

“But tell me, how was your trip to the village?” said Sir John. “Did you find Alice Copsey?”

“I did,” said Marie, “and I read her her letters. She was so old and frail. I think this is why the ghost was so active. He didn’t want her to die not knowing the truth. She listened quietly to the letters and at the end she smiled like an angel. And a single tear ran down her face.”

“You may well be right. There hasn’t been a single haunting since you uncovered the skeleton,” said Sir John, when the telephone rang again.

“Now look here, I don’t care who you are or where you are from, but I have no wish talk to you so please GO AWAY!” He paused and turned white. Then his head bobbed down quickly. “Your Majesty!” he said weakly.

Cup of Brown Joy and the Silv’ry Tay

This very evening we shall be repairing to local hostelry The Yellow Book to hear the work of a young poet called Professor Elemental. I’m not sure which academic institute awarded him this title, so cannot speak on that point, but I have heard that he is a first rate wordsmith. Interestingly, there is a novelty element to his literature in that he has set his work to a sort of rhythmic drumming. This shall be interesting to observe although frankly I don’t think this sort of thing is likely to catch on. 

But thinking of great poetry set to music I was reminded of the famous poet William McGonagall whose own ode The Famous Tay Whale was  set to music.  Those unfamiliar with Mr McGonagall’s work are urged to seek it out forthwith. His use of language and masterful command of metre are truly breathtaking.

McGonagall

Of course famous though this work is, perhaps his greatest poem is The Tay Bridge Disaster. The opening and ending are included here to allow you, gentle Reader, to bask in wonder at the power of this work. So evocative and profound is this writing, it has been known to reduce men to tears.

Beautiful Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay!
Alas! I am very sorry to say
That ninety lives have been taken away
On the last Sabbath day of 1879,
Which will be remember’d for a very long time.

¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨¨

It must have been an awful sight,
To witness in the dusky moonlight,
While the Storm Fiend did laugh, and angry did bray,
Along the Railway Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay,
I must now conclude my lay
By telling the world fearlessly without the least dismay,
That your central girders would not have given way,
At least many sensible men do say,
Had they been supported on each side with buttresses,
At least many sensible men confesses,
For the stronger we our houses do build,
The less chance we have of being killed.

The Howarth Haunting: Chapters 13 & 14

Lady Howarth, SIr John and the Bishop were in the haunted room. There were some dull thumping sounds as the Bishop began to speak, waving his crozier. Small objects occasionally flew across the room. Lady Howarth stood imperiously in the middle of the room, defying the spirits, whilst Sir John was wearing the Ectoscopic goggles and looking around wildly. His hair was nearly on end, although it was hard to tell if that was ghostly forces or just terror.

The Bishop was intoning something slowly, when there was a commotion at the door and Marie burst in.

“What is the meaning of this?” said Lady Howarth.

“You must stop this at once!” said Marie. “There is no need for this, I know what has happened.”

Just then the butler came into the room. “Now then, madam, you can’t go in there,” he said and looked puzzled.

“I thought I told you to stop anyone coming in?” Said Lady Howarth to the butler.

“I meant to, your Lady,” said the butler, “I don’t know what happened.”

Marie addressed the Bishop, “Monseigneur, you must stop.”

“I don’t know who you are, but I am in the middle of a sacred rite. It is highly dangerous to stop now whilst the spirits are arisen.”

“But it is wrong to continue, I can show you.” Marie turned to her husband. “Mon cher, make ‘im stop, things are not what they seem. I ‘ave it all figured out.”

“What is it, Marie?” said Sir John, “What have you figured out?”

“Sir John, you will remove yourself and your wife from this room,” said Lady Howarth sternly.

Mon cher, please listen to me,” said Marie.

“Sir John, did you hear me” bellowed Lady Howarth.

Sir John looked at Lady Howarth, then at Marie, and then back between the two, his face looking anxious. The Bishop had paused his litany.

“Sir John!” said Lady Howarth at fever pitch.

“Lady Howarth, I am talking to my wife!” said Sir John loudly, then getler to Marie, “What is it?”

“It’s what you said at the start,” said Marie, “how we should not be biased by stories and just use fact. What you saw in the portrait in the hall, what you saw the first time you used the goggles, what you saw in the corridor… something is wrong and I can prove it.”

“How?” said Sir John.

“We need to go back to the corridor,” said Marie.

“Out of the question!” said Lady Howarth. “Smyth, remove these two!”

Arrêter,” whispered Marie then ran for the corridor to the west of the room.

“Smyth!” bellowed Lady Howarth, but the man seemed rooted to the spot.

Chapter 14“Pardon, Monseigneur”

Marie ran down the corridor and stopped in front of the portrait of the two boys. Lady Howarth, the Bishop, and Sir John arrived at the end of the corridor, with a bemused looking Smyth behind them. All the paintings and the ornaments were moving and rattling now, creating a racket. The ghostly voice that came out of the Thanatograph could be heard behind the walls.

“What in blazes is that voice?” said the bishop. “What’s it saying? Usurper?”

“I will show you!” said Marie and pulled the boys’ portrait off the wall and threw it to one side. She started banging on the wall with her fists. There was a sound like a drum as she did.

“She’s gone mad!” said Lady Howarth. “Smyth, stop her!”

Smyth muttered something, although it was hard to tell what over the din. It may have just been a cough.

“She is possessed by a demon!” said the Bishop and made towards Marie. He put his hand on her forehead and muttered something in Latin. Marie turned around to face him, looking wild and confused. Then as he continued, her features softened and she smiled.

Pardon, Monseigneur,” she said, and snatched his crozier. She stood away from the Bishop and the wall and held the crozier behind her head. She swung it round with a grunt and hit the wall. A crack started to appear.

“Stop it! Stop it now! Have you forgotten who I am!” shouted Lady Howarth. Marie brought the crozier down a second time and the crack widened.

“I have not forgotten who you are,” said Marie, “but I’m not so sure you know.” With a final swing the crozier smashed into the wall. Plaster fell everywhere to reveal an alcove. And in the alcove, were the bones of a young man. The rattling and chaos and voices stopped instantly.

“I present,” said Marie, breathless, “Lord Edward Howarth.”

“What rot!” said Lady Howarth.” My father is buried in the Howarth mausoleum.”

“Your father may be,” said Marie, “but your father wasn’t Lord Howarth. He was the boy, Robert: Lord Howarth’s childhood companion, and his murderer.”

“This is nonsense,” said Lady Howarth. “What proof do you have for these allegations? You will leave my house at once!”

“Something strange has happened here,” said the Bishop. “It cannot just be swept under the carpet, Lady Howarth. Madame Jennings, you make a bold claim, what evidence do you have?”

“Here,” said Marie, “are letters from Lord Howarth. They explain most of what happened. The rest is…” Marie went silent as she realised she could not explain what she had seen. Sir John went to his wife, seeing her confusion.

“The rest is conjecture at best and hogwash in reality. In any event, there is an easy way to disprove it. Lord Edward had a fall from a horse as young boy. His leg was fractured and never quite recovered. That was kept secret of course to maintain his manly reputation. I don’t know what this macabre find is, or who it was, but unless it has a…”

“…Severe fracture on the upper left femur?” interrupted Sir John, who had been staring intently at the bones, “not made at the time of death, years earlier I would say. Looks like he lost a tooth as well.”

Marie glanced down at the portrait she had thrown from the wall. The picture of Lord Edward looked like it was smiling in a lopsided way, self conscious of his smile.

“I’m afraid, “Lady” Howarth, that it seems there is something to this allegation. As I said, this cannot simply be swept away. The constabulary should be called. There are… implications,” said the Bishop.

“But it can’t be,” said Lady Howarth, turning white. “I would be penniless, a commoner. I’d be forced to live somewhere like Cheapside!”

“Oh,” said Marie. “I’ve been there once.” She put her handkerchief over her nose.

The Howarth Haunting: Epilogue

A Rudimentary Exposition of a Device of Mine Own Inventing

A large number of our readers have requested information on how some of my marvellous devices work. It is almost as if they doubt the veracity of the account presented herein! Below, for the general edification of our audience, is an explanation of how the Thanatograph functions. I hope this clarifies the matter. We are available to carry out demonstrations in the Home Counties for a small fee.

Sir John Jennings

imageedit_1_8693561110 (1)

  1. Motive Crank: a clockwork spring mechanism allowing the device to operate
  2. Aetheric Conductor: this will collect the thoughts of any local phantasm
  3. Psychic Amplifier: increases the strength of the spirit thoughts captured
  4. Vocalic Convertor: modulates the spirit energy into sound waves
  5. Speaking Horn: allows the quiet sound waves produced to be audible to the human ear

The Howarth Haunting: Chapters 11 & 12

Marie sat in the chair in the bedroom and tried to calm her mind with some crochet. Sir John was with Lady Howarth and the Bishop and they were getting ready to start the third attempt to rid Grimley Hall of its unwanted guest. Marie was thinking of the crying boy, trying to solve the puzzle before it was too late. There was a knock at the door and she went over.

“Tea, Madam,” said a quavering voice outside the door.

“But I didn’t…” started Marie then opened the door. Outside was the maid from the day before. She held a silver tray with a pot of tea and a cup. It was shaking so much the tea things were rattling. Also on the tray was a set of letters, tied with ribbon.

“I’m sorry Madam,” said the maid, “but I couldn’t help overhearing you yesterday. About AC and EH and… and some letters. Alice Copsey. She’s my aunt, see. Well my great aunt. There were rumours of her and… and the old master…”

“Rumours?” said Marie.

“Well, more sort of facts. They were sweet on each other ‘parently.  She told me about these letters what he wrote, showed me in secret. But she couldn’t read nor write, and she was embarrassed to say, Madam.”

“You’ve read them?” asked Marie.

The girl hung her head. “I can’t read nor write neither. She said, my aunt, I mean, she said when he left, he never said a word of goodbye to her and when he come back, he wouldn’t go anywhere near her. He were like a different man. I thought maybe you could find out what happened. And maybe it’s something to do with all this business, like what you and Sir Jenkins was saying.  She said it broke her heart Madam, when he left. She’s never looked at another man all her life, not even now in her dotage.”

And with that the girl, turned and practically ran away.

“The letters spell it out,” said Marie. She sat back down and looked at them all. The first few were love letters from an Edward Howarth to Alice Copsey. He regaled her with fine words and regretted the circumstances that kept them apart. Marie snorted. She looked at latter letters and he was worrying about his forthcoming enlistment to the navy, how he would miss her, how he feared she’d find someone else. Marie went to the last letter and started to read.

letters 2“Tea, Madam”

“I have a made a plan, a wild plan, maybe, but one I will carry out. I have spoken with Robert and everything is arranged. On the day we leave for Portsmouth, I’ll stop the carriage by the woods, and will go deep inside. Meet me where we went last summer and sheltered from the rain. Robert will disguise himself as me and will join the Navy on my behalf. His friend Cuthbert will go disguised as him.  It will be a good life for Robert, being a naval officer, better than he could have hoped for. As for us, I shall bring a little money and we can elope and start a new life. We will be poor Alice, but we will be together. I gladly, madly throw this manor, title, and fortune away to be with you. I choose you Alice. I choose you.”

“It’s beautiful,” said Marie, “but it’s not what happened. What happened to you?”  She said it idly to herself then looked up and, with no surprise, she saw the apparition looking at her. The ghost boy pointed at the Thanatograph, which began to spin without assistance…

“Where is she? I don’t understand,” said a voice. “You gave her the letter, Robert?”

“That I did, Edward. Same as all the others,” said another voice.

“Then why isn’t she here,” said Edward. “Your friend Cuthbert manage to make it.”

“Maybe because it’s cos she can’t read,” said Robert.

“She can’t… then how did she read the others?” asked Edward.

“She didn’t, but she was too embarrassed to say, and you was too arrogant to ask,” said Robert.

“Well, if she hasn’t read it, she doesn’t know I’m here,” said Edward.

“No. No-one knows you’re here,” said Robert. “…‘cept me and Cuthbert.”

“What’s that, what do you have there?” said Edward. “Is that a knife? What are you? My God!”

There was a nasty sound, wet and harsh, and Edward made a gurgling sound.

“But, I gave you everything,” moaned the dying Edward.

“Let’s just say I wants to make sure you ain’t coming back, if you changes your mind.”

The Thanatograph stopped, and Marie leaned back. “Mon Dieu,” she said. The boy with the tear pointed at the Thanatograph again and it spun some more.

“Why are stopping here?” said Cuthbert, but it was a new voice, a man’s voice.

“I want the staff to go ahead, make sure that all the old faces have left in case they recognise me, and make our bedrooms nice and warm.” said Robert’s voice, sounding rougher, older, and more assured.

“But why here, Bobby, of all places. It gives me the creeps, you know, when I think about it.”

“Oh grow up, Cuthbert. And it’s Lord Edward to you. Here, get digging, we’re going to take him, or what’s left of him back to the Mansion so no-one ever finds out.”

“Why me, though?” wailed Cuthbert.

“Well for one, I’m Lord of the Manor now, and for another, because you done him in the first place.”

“Don’t remind me,” moaned Cuthbert. “I sees him in my mind every day.”

“Oh cheer up – look here’s ten pounds, you can take that to the tavern afterwards and see if you can’t forget your worries.”

The Thanatograph ground to a halt and Marie ran out of the room, heading to the exorcism.

The Howarth Haunting: Chapters 13 & 14

The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 10

Marie and Sir John sat in a small sitting room and were preparing to take afternoon tea. A collection of dainty sandwiches and small cakes were already on a tiered tray next to a line drawing of the HMS Dreadnought, signed ‘E Howarth’. 

“So I spoke again to Lady Howarth, and she explained her latest initiative,” said Sir John to his wife. “She has sent for the Bishop. Apparently he can perform an exorcism which is guaranteed to work, no matter how diabolical or malevolent the haunting. He should arrive tomorrow.”

Sir John sat back and looked at the small pile of sandwiches and cakes in front of him, without touching one.

“I’m invited to attend to observe, and in Lady Howarth’s words, ‘learn’.”

He continued to look at the pile in front of him without moving.

“You are not ‘ungry?” said Marie. “You are waiting for the tea?”

“More the former,” admitted Sir John. “It’s our first case, and we don’t have an answer to our mystery. I’m not even sure if the ghost is this peasant boy or the gambling ancestor… or somebody else”

The maid came into the room carrying a tray with a teapot, cups, and sugar and walked carefully over to the couple.

Butter Fingers 2“Butter Fingers!”

“I know what you mean,” said Marie. “I am sure there is more to this than it seems. But we are not completely lost. We ‘ave some clues. For example, we ‘ave ‘EH + AC’.”

A loud crash interrupted the two, and they saw the maid had dropped the tray a few feet away from them. She looked white with shock at the act.

“I’m so sorry, sir,” she said and started to gather up the pot and things. “Really, really sorry.”

“Never mind,” said Marie. “No one is ‘urt.”

She took the tray out, and the Jennings continued their gloomy reverie.

“Of course, we don’t know who AC is … and it ends tomorrow for sure?” said Marie, thinking of the mournful boy she had seen.

“It seems that way. The Thanatograph is not to come to the exorcism, either. Apparently Lady Howarth did not appreciate its presence. I’m paraphrasing; what she said was a bit more direct than that.”

“We ‘ave so little time,” said Marie, as the maid brought another tray. “If only we knew what it meant, ‘the letters spell it out’.”

There was another crash, and the Jennings both looked at the maid. She had dropped the second tray and the tea things were scattered on the floor.

“Butter fingers!” she said absently and began picking up the things, flushing red.

“No problem,” said Sir John with a forced jollity. “Er, perhaps we’ll leave the tea for today, just the, er, sandwiches and cake will be fine.”

The Howarth Haunting: Chapters 11 & 12

Piranha Pete’s Last Fight

“Mon cher, there is another strange document in your brother’s cabinet. It is even more bizarre than the last.”

 

The crowd’s mood was ugly and the air was dank with smoke, booze and sweat. The earlier bouts had been okay, a nice warm up, but now it was the one they’d waited for. Piranha Pete, legendary champion of this bowl, would bow out tonight. And word had it that some upstart from up north reckoned they could best Pete. As if! This is the man who fought off Sucker O’Toole and his octofists of fury, the man who destroyed Kid Tuna, who made a fool of Manuel O’ War.

Pirahna Pete 2

Pete came into the bowl to the cheers of the crowd. There was no doubt he was getting older now. The wrinkles were starting to show and the pace was slower. But when he raised his piranha fists into the air everyone roared. As the crowd chanted, “Pete, Pete, Pete…” he joined in the chanting.

Then the opponent came out. There was silence for him, partly respectful, but mostly brooding.

“What’s he packing?” shouted someone as the crowd tried to see what type of fish fist he had. There seemed to be a towel draped over them so no-one could see. He clambered into the bowl and the announcer shouted:

“Tonight’s contender, Jack ‘The Sword’ Mancetti.” There was a shriek of surprise as the newcomer removed the towel and waved two swordfish at the audience.

“Frick, he’ll kill Pete!” said one man.

“Show some loyalty!” snarled his friend. “Pete’ll do it, you’ll see.”

The crowd was silent as the two men squared up. Pete looked a little nervous and who could blame him, what with those two spears facing him. The round started and the two men danced around each other for a minute. Then, at great speed the younger man flicked his wrist and one of the swords dragged across Pete’s chest. The audience gasped and moaned as a thin red line appeared on the piranha man.

It seemed to set Pete off though, as he lunged angrily with his fists. They were snapping like crazy, but Mancetti ducked underneath. To the crowd’s horror, Mancetti landed a blow on Pete’s shoulder, the sword jabbing into him. Pete howled in pain and pulled backwards, landing on the ropes to steady himself.

The crowd was silent now. Surely this couldn’t be happening.

“I can’t watch anymore,” said Pete’s daughter, tears streaming down her face, covered by her manta-hands. The swordfish boxer moved forward again, a smirk on his face as he stabbed his vicious fish forward. Again, the sword stabbed into Pete, and again Pete howled. But this time his left piranha came up and gripped the sword in its teeth. Mancetti tried to pull back but couldn’t. As he tried in vain he got a face full of piranha as Pete struck with his right.

The crowd found its voice again as the piranha nipped Mancetti again and again, whilst the swordfish boxer tried to pull away.

“Break,” shouted the ref. At the last second Pete let go, so Mancetti fell backwards and onto the floor.

The ref started the count as Pete steadied himself, piranhas at the ready. But as Mancetti tried to get up he slipped on one arm. The other fish, taking all his weight, snapped at the sword. The crowd roared. He was one sword down.

“Three, four, five…” intoned the ref, as Mancetti looked around wildly. The towel that had hidden his secret weapon, now useless, came flying in from the side. The bout was over, Pete was the undefeated champion and the roof went off the bowl.

About a year later, with Pete full into retirement, he bumped into Mancetti in a bar.

“I gotta thank you for that bout. I learned a lot that day,” said Mancetti. “I don’t use those swords no more, got ‘em filed off. Cos I learnt that in fish boxing, like in life, if you put all your punch in one fin, you can wind up on your ass.”

Pete nodded slowly, approvingly.

“You know what son, with an attitude like that, you may make a decent fish boxer one day.” Then he tipped his hat, tipped the waitress, and coolly left the bar.

The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 9

Marie was sitting in the bedroom crocheting a shawl when her husband returned, pushing the Thanatograph into the room.

“Ow did it go?” she said.

“Not terribly well,” said Sir John. “In fact, it was awful. The exorcism was a disaster. The Thanatograph insulted Lady Howarth, and the priest had to be given gin to calm down.”

“I ‘eard,” said Marie. “Well, the screaming at least.”

“Lady Howarth was most animated,” continued Sir John, “and she used some very colourful language. It’s not really the sort of thing one says in front of a man of the cloth.”

“Oh dear,” said Marie. “ Still, I have some good news.”

“You do?” said Sir John, the colour returning to his cheeks.

“Yes, I did my little sneaking and I found something.”

“Really!” said Sir John, becoming animated.“What was it?”

“On the back of the painting…” started Marie.

“Yes!” said Sir John eagerly.

“Some initials were etched – EH + AC” Marie said.

“Is that it?” said Sir John, looking a little dubious.

Mon cher – don’t you see – EH is Edward Howarth – the father.”

“Yes?” said Sir John.

“So ‘oo is AC?” asked Marie.

“I dont know,” said Sir John.

“Exactly!” said Marie, looking triumphant.

alice“Just Nonsense!”

“My dear,” said Sir John, gently, “I’ve had rather a long day, so maybe I’m missing something, but don’t we now have two mysteries instead of one.”

“Yes,” said Marie, but I ‘ave an idea.”

“Oh, good!” said Sir John.

“We use the board.”

“Oh, dear,” said Sir John.

Mon cher, I know you don’t like this way, but it works sometimes, no?”

“It just so … unscientific,” said Sir John.

“What can be the harm?” said Marie,

“Very well then,” said Sir John, “but I remain skeptical on this issue.”

Marie  pulled the cloth off the table to reveal a set of bits of paper with hand-drawn letters in a neat circle. She took the glass near her and turned it upside down and put it in the centre of the table. She closed her eyes and rested her finger lightly on the glass.

“Ready,” she said, and heard her husband swallow hard and say, “Yes.” in a croaky voice. He had fished out his notebook in readiness.

Marie said, “Ok then – I ask ‘oo is AC?”

The glass shook a little and started to move across the table under Marie’s fingers. Sir John frantically scribbled down the letters that were touched by the glass. At first there was a slow graceful movement, but gradually the glass moved quicker, barely touching each card as it swung wildly from one to another. Finally, the glass lurched crazily around the table before Marie gasped as it flew out of her fingers and across the room. Letters scattered from the table in the wake of the glass.

“What do we ‘ave?” she asked.

“Let me see,” said Sir John, who started reading his notes.

“What are the words?” said Marie. “I can’t tell.”

TLSIO

“Oh, for goodness sake,” said Sir John. “Well, I presume that’s some sort of supernatural joke.  It says the letters spell it out. You see, it’s not anything meaningful – just nonsense.”

The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 10