It’s difficult to deny the presence of ghosts when one has an encounter with the spirit world.
Growing up, I was haunted by weird dreams and often experienced things that other kids didn’t. Perhaps I was just a weird kid (who grew into a weird adult). Some of the dreams continued into my teens but the experiences grew less and less and finally stopped. Until one cold night spent in a four hundred year old Yorkshire inn.
The Old Silent Inn outside the tiny village of Stanbury, clings to the edge of the moors made famous by the doomed lovers, Kathy and Heathcliff, in Emily Brontë’s book Wuthering Heights. Steeped in history, the inn is said to have played host to Bonny Prince Charlie on his retreat back to Scotland in 1746 after the failed Jacobite rebellion. Allegedly, the hostelry was then called the Eagle Inn, but changed its name to the Old Silent Inn after the villagers kept quiet about the Bonnie Prince’s clandestine visit.
The inn has everything you would expect to find in a building more than four centuries old: Thick stone walls, mullioned windows, flagged floors, and a massive log fire spitting and crackling in a hearth big enough to park a car. Horse brasses and pewter mugs decorate the walls and blackened oak beams span the ceilings.
My wife and I had booked a room for the night. We drove there, checked in, left our bags in the room and then walked over the bleak moors to Top Withens, the ruined farm that many think is the hall that features so prominently in Emily Brontë’s book.
Returning late afternoon, we watched from our window as dusk spread across the moors and our room grew dark.
We had a dinner reservation for eight o’clock. We left our room and walked towards the stairs leading down to the dining room when the hairs on the back of my neck began to rise and I turned around. The far end of the corridor was in shadow but other than a rather incongruous illuminated sign that said Fire Escape, the corridor was empty.
We sat and ordered dinner. The dining room was quite busy but this early in the season few people were actually staying at the inn. After dinner, and despite the roaring log fire, my wife said she was cold and would like her sweater.
Knowing I would probably bring the wrong sweater, it’s what husbands do, I offered her the room key and said I would order some drinks while she was away.
She now surprised me by saying she didn’t want to go upstairs or be in the bedroom alone.
And to my shame, I realized that neither did I.
Leaving her at the table, I climbed the stairs and reached the landing.
Our room was half way along the corridor. The same shadows lurked at the far end but I could see they were now moving. The red light in the Fire Escape sign flickered and died. As I approached our room the temperature dropped. My hand began to shake and fumbling for the lock, I dropped the key. Every nerve screamed run. Unable to tear my eyes away from the moving shadows, I crouched and my hand touched the key. Sobbing, I thrust it into the lock, flung open the door and leapt into the room. The door slammed shut behind me. I don’t remember touching it.
In the dim light, my wife’s sweater mocked me from the top of her bag. I picked it up and clinging to it sat on the bed. I sat there for quite a while trying to make sense of what had happened, but of course in my heart I knew.
I also knew that I had to go back down stairs. I had to force myself to open the door.
Outside the room the temperature was back to normal, the shadows were just shadows, and the light in the Fire Escape sign glowed bright. It was just an ordinary, empty, rather musty, hotel corridor.
I handed my wife her sweater. She looked at me for several seconds. “You were gone a long time,” she said, adding, “are you okay?”
I only looked away when the waiter came to clear the table and invited us to sit at the bar.
The evening passed pleasantly, my wife slept well and, to my surprise, so did I.
Next morning, at breakfast, I caught one of the waitresses looking at me several times and eventually looked up to find her standing next to the table.
There was something about her. The hairs on the back of my neck began to rise and a cold shiver ran down my spine.
“Sir, do you mind if I ask you something?” she said.
“No, I don’t mind at all,” I said.
“Last night, upstairs, you saw something, didn’t you?”
Hesitating a little too long, I said, “Yes … at the end of the corridor. How did you know?”
“I always recognize the ones who have seen it. You are very lucky.” And with that she turned and went about her business.
Lucky or unlucky? You decide.
On our last visit to the UK, I asked my wife if she would like to spend a couple of nights at the Old Silent Inn. I think you can guess her reply.
Gary E. Brown©2020