“Good thing our hosts are away for the day!”
“We will finally be able to share ghost stories, which is an impossible task in their presence!”
It was the beginning of spring, the beginning of the 20th century. The count and the countess of Strathmore had invited some twenty guests to enjoy the weekend in their castle of Glamis, Scotland.
Amongst them was my father, Christopher of Greece, who recounts the story.
The Strathmore’s domain spread through thousands of acres of land. The castle’s imposing mass appeared at the end of a formidable alley of old oaks, spiked with tours and turrets of pink granite. It still retained the looming aura of the formidable fortress it had once been.
New wings added there and then since the 17th century made it more hospitable, and the aggressive ramparts, which had made the castle impenetrable for centuries, had been destroyed.
That particular morning, during breakfast, the count of Strathmore had announced that an important administrative matter on his vast lands would take him away for most of the day. Lady Strathmore, pregnant once again, had retired to her chambers to rest and begged her guests to forgive her absence.
Left to their own devices, the guests had foregone the usual stroll, discouraged by the stinging breeze blowing through the park. When instead the housekeeper, put at their disposition in the absence of the lady of the house, suggested exploring the castle, they all eagerly agreed.
All that had resided at Glamis agreed that it was both a welcoming and unsettling place. The castle of Glamis was composed of a haunted chapel, secret passages, walled rooms, window-less vaulted chambers, crypts, dungeons, narrow stairs leading nowhere, and underground spaces best left unexplored.
The scholar of the group informed his audience that in the times when the castle was but a simple hunting retreat, it had been the gruesome theatre of king Malcolm II of Scotland’s murder.
It was therefore by no coincidence that Shakespeare chose Glamis as the setting for Duncan’s bloody murder in Macbeth. Thane of Glamis had the three witches called him upon their meeting. Some even say the deed had taken place in the room wearing the victim’s name: Duncan Hall.
Glamis’s list of ghost was so extensive that they rushed through the story of the little boy sitting by the window, undoubtedly a badly abused servant of the family some two hundred years ago. The vampire that had found a human form as a maid, later unmasked when she was found sucking the blood of a guest and condemned to die of hunger locked in a secret room was barely mentioned…We were all eager to discuss the most famous of Glamis’s occult residents: Earl Beardie, or Count Crawford of his real name.
This cruel and vicious monster had been the most hardcore player of the kingdom. One Saturday, he had come to play dices with his neighbour, the master of Glamis. They had played all evening, but at midnight lord Glamis had brought the game to an end. Count Crawford had gotten up and insulted his host. Angered, Lord Strathmore had pushed the count to the stairs, hoping to be rid of him, and the man had tumbled rather than walked down the steps. Despite all this, still mad from alcohol and gaming, Crawford had refused to leave the premises. Stumbling into a room neighbouring the entry hall, he had taken a sit and had ordered for the servants to play against him. They were sufficiently terrorized to refuse. Raving mad with rage, the count had declared, “If none will play with me, I’ll play with the devil himself!” No sooner had he spoken the words that a terrible noise was heard at the castle’s doors.
Upon opening, the caretaker had encountered a tall, imposing man, dressed all in black, his face hidden behind a scarf. The man asked to be taken at once to “Earl Beardie”. The caretaker obliged, and left the two men face to face in front of the gaming table before carefully closing the door.
Devoured by curiosity, all the servants had pressed their ears to the casements. The biddings had soared meteorically until Earl Beardie had cried out :
“If I cannot pay you, I will sign an acknowledgement.”
As the butler put his eye to the keyhole, unable to contain his curiosity, a blazing tongue licked his eyeball. The excruciating pain made him scream so loudly that Earl Beardie heard him and, leaving behind the gaming table, he wrenched the door open bellowing: “Kill all that leave this room! »
Then, turning to the butler writhing in pain: “ This man, or devil, playing with me suddenly looked at the door and said, “strike this eye,” and a flame went through the keyhole. Serves you right, that’ll teach you to spy on me.”
Earl Beardie had then gone back with the firm intention to resume his game, but his opponent had vanished along with the debt acknowledgement he had signed. All that was left for him to do was to return home.
Five years later, he died…
But soon after his death, rumours claimed he had never truly left this world and that he still haunted it. Terrifying noises could be heard from the gaming room. First dices thrown time and time over on the table, then swearing, blasphemy, cries of rage, hurried steps and blows against the wall.
“But he was not part of the family,” contested one of Lord Strathmore’s cousins, “he was merely a neighbour!”
The scholar contributed his two cents: “Maybe, but we do owe the horrible Ogilvie affair to your ancestor. And it is your uncle that uncovered the abomination.”
TO BE CONTINUED…