The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 3

Continuing our repeat of The Howarth Haunting…


Sir John and Marie sat in the large lobby of the mansion with the bags they had brought from London. The Jennings’ instruments and devices were in four large suitcases and their clothes and personal effects were in one. An art gallery worth of portraits from all ages glared down at them from the dark wooden walls and a large stuffed moose regarded them suspiciously.

“I’ll send for the carriage presently,” said the ageing butler.

“Thank you, er Smyth, whichever tavern in the village you recommend,” said Sir John, and looked around the room. “Impressive selection of artwork. Who’s that imperious looking chap on the end.”

“That’s the first Lord Howarth, who built the original Grimley Hall. It was somewhat smaller than the current incarnation.”

Marie looked around the room, trying to find a likeness of the apparition she had seen. The pictures were mostly of men, and mostly older men. Only one seemed to be more youthful, but he didn’t look like the boy at all.

“Oo is this younger man,” said Marie. “All the others seem much older.”

“That is Lord Charles Howarth, who died in … uncertain circumstances … in the northern wing,” said Smyth, looking meaningfully at Sir John.

“In the room we are currently…” started Sir John, finishing by waving his hand.

“The very same, sir. He was found dead in that room after a night of cards with friends. He had seemingly lost a large sum of money. Nothing was proven, so no charges were brought. I believe the local priest was trying to exorcise his spirit when he was forced to leave by some unpleasantness.”

Stay? Here?“Stay? Here?”

“I see,” said Sir John. “Oh, and what of this chap here – he looks a rum sort, there must a few stories about him.”

“That,” announced Lady Howarth, appearing from the top of the stairs, “is my father. He built four factories, increased the family fortune by tenfold and extended the house to its current form. He was a true Howarth, full of vigour and strength. And certainly not rum. Why are you leaving Jennings? Your job is far from complete.”

“Yes, indeed,” said Sir John, “but we have set up specialist instrumentation in the room and will return in the morning to get the results. I expect we will have some answers then.”

“There is no need to leave, we have room for you here. Smyth can arrange everything,” replied Lady Howarth.

“Stay?” said Sir John, with a slight waver in his voice. “Here?”

“Yes, I see no problem with that. Put them in the north wing, Smyth, there is a vacant room there as I recall,” said Lady Howarth.

“The bedroom directly below the haunted room?” said Smyth. “The room that once was Lord Charles’ bedroom?”

“Yes…” said Lady Howarth. “Yes, I believe it was.”

“Well, Lady Howarth,” said Sir John, forcing a smile, “we are most grateful for your hospitality.”


The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 2

Continuing our re-run….


“And this is the room where the most activity has occurred,” said the middle-aged Lady Howarth as she led Sir John and Marie into a large empty room on the second floor of the mansion. “The furniture was removed after…” she continued when Sir John interrupted her.

“No, Lady Howarth, I insist you tell me no more. Objectivity is the key to good science. If we hear more we may be somehow prejudiced.”

Lady Howarth looked at Sir John and made a face like she was chewing lemons. “As you wish,” she said. Marie walked by the fireplace and ran a finger over the dusty mantelpiece.

“No one ‘as cleaned here for a while,” she said and knelt down by the fireplace.

“The servants won’t come in, haven’t done for years,” said Lady Howarth. “You’re French?”

“Oui,” said Marie.

“I went there once,” said Lady Howarth and put a handkerchief over her mouth and nose.

“First, I will examine the room using these Ectoscopic Glasses. These allow me to see the traces and the nature of any spectral apparitions.” Sir John donned a bulky pair of brass and chrome goggles. He tipped forward from the weight at first, then steadied himself and moved around the room. Lady Howarth watched with a bemused look on her face and, as she was doing so, Marie put her hand in the fireplace and scooped up some ashes.

ocus-pocus-sepia2“‘Ocus Pocus”

“I think I detect something,” said Sir John pacing around the room. Marie started walking around edge of the room and when no-one was looking she dropped a little ash in each corner.

“Yes!” proclaimed Sir John. “A definite trace left behind. Something very old and potentially evil… there!” He pointed in front of himself and pulled off the goggles to discover he was pointing at Lady Howarth. Her lips were very thin.

“Perhaps if you wait outside,” he said. “I think maybe your presence is affecting the aura.”

She left wordlessly and closed the door with a tut.

“I think maybe this isn’t the ideal device,” Sir John said to Marie. “I’m going to get the Thaumograph. If I set it running overnight we can capture any supernatural activity.”

He left Marie and she moved to the middle of the room. She put her palm flat in front of her face and blew the last few ashes into the air.

“‘Ocus, pocus,” she said.

The sun was already lighting the dust in the room, stirred up by the movement of the three people. But now the dust seemed to congeal in front of Marie. At first it looked like a funnel shape, as if the wind had caught it. But then it grew more form and the image of a teenaged boy formed. A dust tear ran down his face.

“Tell me,” said Marie gently. Just then, there was a crash as Sir John came through the door, holding a contraption of metal and black material on a tall tripod. The dust image dissipated in front of Marie at the sound of the noise. Sir John dragged the object into the centre of the room.

“Now,” he said triumphantly. “Now we shall get answers.”


The Howarth Haunting: Chapter 1

Dear Readers, as faithfully promised at the weekend, we are travelling back in time, not just to the Victorian Era, but to the very start of the Jennings and Jennings stories. We present, or re-present…The Howarth Haunting

All was quiet in the drawing room at Southampton Row when Sir John Jennings burst in, brandishing The Times.

“Well it’s in, my dear! The advert is in! Shall I read it to you?”

His wife looked at him warmly and said gently in her French accent, “I have heard it, peut etre?”

“Perhaps not the final wording. I think I had the polished article in the end. Ahem… ‘Jennings and Jennings, Paranormal Investigators, available for hire in the Home Counties. Are you plagued by supernatural goings on or troubled by fantastical events? We can help, using the most modern scientific advances, to rid you of even the most ancient of terrors. 3 pence an hour, double on Sunday.’”

“Very good, mon cher,” said Marie Jennings, working on some crochet. “Now, I suppose we wait.”

“Indeed,” said Sir John, pacing around the room. “Anytime now we may get a card or a telegram or may even a contact on the new telephonic device.” He indicated a large brass object with a mouthpiece and a listening horn.

“The Queen has one you know!” he added.

“You may have mentioned that,” said Marie.

“Yes, sorry dear, to be such a bore. It’s just so exciting to finally put all of these ideas into action. The years of tinkering, inventing. There was a time when only you believed in me, I fancy, when you were the only one who understood my fascinations.”

Victorian phone 3 (1)“Your Majesty?”

He was interrupted by a buzzing noise coming from the telephonic device.

“What should I do?” he said, turning white.

“Perhaps you should answer it?” said his wife.

Sir John grabbed at the listening horn and put it to his ear and moved to the mouthpiece.

“Your Majesty?” he said, then quickly, “No, no, sorry I just thought… No, no I wasn’t expecting her to… Please stay on the line. Who are we? We are investigators of the paranormal, madam. We use scientific breakthroughs, many of them of my own invention and fashioning to uncover the truth and shed some light on the darkest of domains.”

He winked at his wife as he said this and she smiled indulgently.

“Experience? Well some of our work is of a theoretical nature at this juncture…. Yes, but I’m confident we can… Well let’s say no result, no fee, how’s that? Yes, good… and the nature of the er, event? Oh, a haunting…Oh yes, that shouldn’t present any problem. But surely a priest could be called… Oh, you did… Ran screaming from the building, I see… No, not at all… and the address? Grimley Hall, Woesbury. Well that sounds like a… like a place. You’re about half a day away I think. Tomorrow? Say at lunch? Good.”

Sir John put down the phone.

“Well Mrs Jennings, we have our first case”

Marie smiled up at him and noticed that his hand was only shaking a little.


Your Call is Important to Us

Extract from “Your Call is Important to Us: Towards a Socio-political Praxis of On-Hold Music by Dr Jeff Grunt.

It has been well documented in this treatise how poor cultural framing of “on-hold music” can induce cognitive dissonance in the intended audience. British users of Southern Rail’s helpline demonstrated this cross-wiring of outcome and intention quite clearly when 56% reported they were “quite distressed” or “very distressed” when hearing The Four Seasons by Vivaldi, apparently as it reminded them that British weather was more homogenous, located as it is in a generic “single season” paradigm of rain and wind.

What has been less well researched has been the kinetic-auditory impact of, for example, timbre and “note envelope” parameters. Anecdotally, a lower-quality under-developed timbre may induce a certain displeasure, but there has yet to be a wide-scale analysis of, for example, whether Beethoven’s Ninth is less likely to provoke negative-biased responses when played by a full orchestra rather than on a stylophone.


Nevertheless, an early attempt at producing telephonic music may prove instructive, especially as to its demise. The “Telharmonium” (pictured above) was an early electronic instrument developed in the later Victorian era by a Thaddeus Cahil. Three versions were produced, the last weighing around 200 tons. The instrument itself would take up an entire room.  Thus, proving unwieldy to travel, the instrument was used primarily for telephone users to listen to music. However, despite the relative unavailability of recorded music at that time, the telharmonium was not a success. Notwithstanding the tremendous power consumption required, the fatal flaw seemed two-fold.

The first problem noted was that the basic sound, a sine wave, was “pure and clear”. Although there were options to modify this source, I contend that this purity, this perfection, may well have contrived to create displeasure. The sounds may have been unearthly or ethereal to the listener used to the more visceral sounds of a street urchin playing a violin. Secondly, there are also reports of cross-talk incidents, where conversations were interrupted by ghostly music. In all, by the early part of the 20th century, the instrument had lost favour and fell into disuse.

We can, I think, conclude clearly that here we have less a sociological issue than a timbral one. I shall be exploring this more thoroughly in the next chapter “Windpipes and their Role in Helpdesk Worker Abuse.”

(Dr Grunt is Lecture of Muzack at UMIST and is also author of “Elevation: The Use of Religious Music in Lifts” and “Liminal Exotica: Bossa Nova Rhythms and Hotel Lobbies”)



Announcement and Errata

Well Gentle Reader, we have come to the end of our story. From next week The Benthic Times is very pleased to announce the  commencement of another Jennings and Jennings adventure. A story of  machiavellian manipulation, of Mephistolean mind control, of melodramatic machinations called…. The Mancunian Mesmerist.

For those of you who hanker to hear a little more of the goings on at Grimley Hall, fear not. Every artistic endeavour is bound to fall foul of some errors or problems, and ours most surely has. For your general entertainment and edification we present, in the language of the common parlance, the “bloopers” from the Howarth Haunting.

“I think I detect something,” said Sir John pacing around the room.

“Yes!” proclaimed Sir John. “A definite trace left behind. Something very old and potentially evil… there!” He pointed in front of himself and pulled off the goggles to discover he was pointing at empty space.

“I’m over here, dear boy,” said Lady Howarth. Both Marie and Sir John burst into laughter.

From next door came a creaking noise that Marie knew was the Thanatograph. It sounded like something was happening this time, as a thin voice came through. Marie could just make out her husband saying, “Remarkable, isn’t it?” Then Mrs Howarth said loudly,

“What’s it saying – sounds like – ‘you’ something – ‘you – snake?’ ‘YOU SNAKE!’ No… no it doesn’t, does it? It’s supposed to be you serpent, you sodding serpent.”

Marie could hear laughter through the wall.

%22You Serpent!%22“You Sodding Serpent!”

“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 maid daintily put the tea on the table and stood back. The Jenningses both looked at it in a confused manner.

“Oh!” Started the maid suddenly a look of shock on her face. “Oh, bo…”

“Butter fingers!” quickly interrupted Marie, and Sir John started laughing.

“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 facts about her and… and the old master…”

“Rumours?” said Marie, whose shoulder were starting to shake a little.

“Yes madam, facts that were like rumours, but were actually more sort of facts.” Marie shoulders were shaking uncontrollably. “You know what madam, I’ll come back and try again,” said the maid, desperately  trying to suppress a smile.

“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.

Merci, 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. The crozier broke instantly into 3 pieces leaving Marie with a short piece in her hand. The bishop and and Sir John started chuckling and Marie could barely hold onto the crozier for giggling.

“You just can’t get the staff these days,” said Lady Howarth, provoking much hilarity.

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.

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 glasses 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 Ladyship,” 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 glasses, 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 we 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