Saturday, December 8, 2012

"The Horror of the Haunted Castle" by Ellen Lynn

Witches, ghosts, haunted castles! Do they belong only to ages long past. Are they only tales told by tellers of fairy tales. To Alice Martin such things were nonsense. She said she couldn't believe them.

Alice was a typical, fun-loving, American college girl—and besides, she was studying sciences. A scientist knows that every phenomenon, no matter how strange, has its own physical cause and effect. Eerie creatures, apparitions arise from the frightened minds of superstitious people. Science clears away the mists and fog surrounding weird beliefs. So Alice, with her pretty face and charming figure, was quite sure of herself and could venture where most people might tread cautiously. That is until Grinling Castle came into her life.

A group of exceptional students of science were going abroad to spend a year studying at an ancient University near Paris. Alice was elated when she was chosen to join the group and she won the permission of her indulgent parents to accompany the selected party under the supervision of two of the instructors. They were a gay and happy group as they set sail for Europe.

In ancient Europe, Alice found studying most stimulating. In addition, she was very popular with all the male students, French, Italian, German, English. Hans Karel, a young assistant instructor was particularly smitten with her and she had had a few dates with him. He was not unattractive with his blond hair and teutonic stiffness. But there was something—she couldn't quite put her finger on it—that made her feel not quite comfortable with him. Perhaps it was his eyes: they were steel blue, cold and penetrating. She felt that his eyes saw through her and knew—knew—that it was Professor Loring, head professor in mythology, that she couldn't dismiss from her real thoughts, and her heart.

Prof. Loring had requested her to assist him with the manuscript of his book on the Origins and Causes of Legends and Superstitions. She had felt not only proud and honored by his selection of her—but her heart fluttered strangely when his deep, brown eyes looked into hers, and taking his pipe from his mouth, he asked, "Miss Martin, would you care to spend some of your evening hours assisting me with my manuscript?" Hans Karel, the science instructor, was standing nearby at the time, and she noticed how strained he was as he listened to them.

"It would be an honor," she had answered. "I'm on the edge of a great discovery in the supernatural but I need a live assistant to scare the ghosts." They both laughed. He was quite young for a professor and very handsome. And then she had noticed again how hostile Hans had looked, his lips drawn into a thin line and his eyes shooting cold sparks. Suddenly she wished she could break her date with him for that evening. He was such an intense young man. Well, she'd keep it this time—but no more dates after that with Hans Karel.

It was wonderful working with Matthew Loring; but he had been right—it was hard work searching old tomes for proofs of ancient ghosts and like phenomena. "Alice," he once said, "I'll have to give you credit when my book goes into publication. Rather, I should say, it will be a pleasure to give you credit." They were standing close together and she looked into his eyes, flushing at his words. Suddenly, he took hold of her hands, then drew her to him and kissed her lips. A cough broke the silence. They had not heard Hans come into the room. The professor calmly released Alice, said, "I'll be back in a little while, dear. I'm going to my office now." And he left the room. Alice turned to Hans. He was glaring at her and his face was scarlet.

"So," he spluttered, "It's 'dear', is it? And sneaking kisses instead of working. So that's why he picked you to assist him? He makes believe his only interest is ghosts and then he steals my full of life girl."

"Your girl!" Alice exclaimed in astonishment. "Why, Hans, what right have you to make such a claim? And as for the kisses—I'll have you know this is the first time he ever kissed me, and he did so because I wanted him to. I'm in love with him."

"Bah! He loves only ghosts. That's where he should be—with them. The fool, believing in such silly things."

For the first time in her memory, Alice felt a sense of fear as she watched Hans's reaction to her words. From bright red, his face turned pale as ivory. His breath came in short spasms and his fingers were clenching and unclenching rapidly.

When the book was nearing completion, Alice became thoroughly fascinated with the mounting proofs of those who had returned from the graves to haunt the land of the living. But now she and Professor Loring realized they needed personal proof to complete their manuscript and crown it with real success. They believed that the old forbidding and forbidden ghostly Grinling Castle would give the proof they needed.

Then one day the Professor barged in with an open letter in his hand. In a voice filled with elation he said, "Alice, at last I've got permission to visit the Grinling Castle. At last I've gotten through the taboos and red tape. I truly believe that even the government officials believe that the castle is haunted, and know that ghosts must inhabit those musty, decayed walls. They warned me not to go—but finally granted permission. Then will my manuscript be complete."

Alice rejoiced with the professor. Then he turned and grasped both her arms. "My only regret is it is so dangerous that I have to leave you behind, Alice—just when I've found you—fallen in love with you." Happily, Alice returned his kiss as the thought of the strange Hans flitted through her mind when she heard, "and Karel has offered to come along to confirm my findings."

Matthew Loring and Hans Karel departed the next morning for the distant Grinling Castle. Hans sat grimly at the wheel as Matthew chatted gaily about his anticipation of their findings.

"I know, Hans, we can arouse at least one of the famous ghosts of the castle. A personal encounter would show our disbelieving world that the dead do come back at the right time and place."

Hans stared straight ahead as he spoke, "You're in an unusual mood, professor. One would almost think you're in love."

"You've guessed it, Hans," was the quick reply. "I'm sure you know I'm in love with Alice Martin, my pretty little American assistant. When my manuscript is complete, after Grinling, we will marry."

The car shot ahead at a sudden increase of speed. Prof. Loring turned to stare at the man at the wheel. Hans' face was ashen grey and he leaned forward as he stepped on the accelerator. The needle pointed to 80!

The two men remained silent the rest of the trip. When they reached the castle grounds a heavy mist had settled over the thick trees and wild hedges. The grounds had not been tended for many years and a thick maze of branches and vines made it difficult to penetrate to the building. But they finally got through and Prof. Loring started to jot down notes as he mounted the cracked and crumbling steps of the house.

Inside, from the high-vaulted ceiling hung draperies and cobwebs, and huge flying creatures darted about in the dim light. Suddenly a long, thin, scream assailed their ears.

Prof. Loring turned to Hans and whispered, "Hans, I know it. That was the voice of a ghost! The Grinling ghost. Europe's most famous ghost."

"Not quite, Loring," Hans answered. "My reason still tells me it was the sound of the wind through the cracks. And that's how ghost stories arise—from just such sounds in a ruined building."

As the Professor answered, a wild thought darted through Hans's burning mind. Here was his chance for revenge—and for Alice Martin. Yes, he would do it—and have a wonderful alibi to cover himself! That balcony running around two walls, high up toward the ceiling, and the rickety railing...! Hans quickly mounted the steps and called to Loring down below. "Come up, Professor, look recent shadowy foot prints—without weight—inhuman." Eagerly, Loring took the steps two at a time. "Yes, where are they?" he asked Hans. "There, look down there," said Hans. Surprised, Loring leaned over and Hans carried out his plan; with two hands he pushed hard—and Loring crashed through the rotting rail, his body somersaulting in air as he gave one awful scream. It landed with a loud thud on the stone floor below and a cloud of dust mounted high, high up to the gloating face of Hans.

"Now, Professor, you can be a ghost along with the rest of the company here. Perhaps you can let us know from the next world all about ghosts and such. Maybe there you can finish your foolish manuscript." Then Hans left the castle feeling like a conqueror.

Everyone was shocked at the terrible accident that had befallen the popular Prof. Loring. Alice couldn't believe that he was dead. "But Hans," she asked over and over again, "Surely he knew the railing was rotted. Why did he lean against it at such a height? What was he looking for?"

For months Hans tried to win Alice's interest, but she could not get over the tragic event, and she avoided him. Every night she dreamed of Professor Loring—Matthew—and his unfinished manuscript and imagined him falling, falling, over the creaking railing of the balcony at Grinling Castle. Then, one night, in a dream, the dead Loring came back, he spoke to her: "Alice—beloved—make Hans go back to the Castle, and have him bring my unfinished manuscript. Hurry, hurry! Now it can be finished—now I know!" She woke with a start from this vivid dream. Three nights in a row the same thing occurred. The fourth day, Hans phoned her and she told him to come to see her. She decided to obey the instructions of her dream—Matthew's voice was so clear to her.

"Hans," she said, "I want to visit Grinling Castle. Will you meet me there? After I see the place of his death I will be able to forget him. Please take his unfinished manuscript with you. Let us leave it there. Please, for my sake."

"I am not permitted to take you there, Alice, but if you wish it I shall go to the castle and leave the manuscript there. Would that please you?" Hans offered quickly.

Alice felt that would fulfill the orders of her dream. The next day Hans left with the manuscript in his brief case. He said he would return the following day.

A week later, Hans had not returned. Alarmed, Alice notified the police. She accompanied them to the famous old haunted Castle. They found the remains of a new body—Hans, apparently dead six days. On the ground were the scattered pages of the unfinished manuscript. The police permitted Alice to pick them up. To her amazement, there were additional pages—a new chapter written in Matthew's handwriting. But she knew no one would believe her. The manuscript had been finished! And the last paragraph read:

"Yes people have avenging ghosts after all Hans hurled me to my death, but I couldn't die till I was avenged. It was my own ghost that really brought him back to the castle and made him jump from the balcony from which he hurled me. Now the world can know the truth."

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