Friday, March 04, 2005

Haunted Holiday: Ectoplasm woe

Haunted Holiday

"When the room is quiet..."

When Mrs Duck and I got married, way back in 1991, we were paupers. Which came as a shock for her, because she was marrying me for my money, which was, unfortunately, completely tied up in pork belly futures. Stony broke that we were, we decided on a honeymoon in Devon. Brixham to be precise, a fisherman's cottage overlooking the harbour where William of Orange landed in 1688 with claims on the throne and a tasty duck recipe. Our honeymoon turned out to be a rather magical couple of weeks, with a view to die for, spoiled only by the toilets backing up raw sewage all over the place, and the unfortunate incident where I managed to lose my eyebrows.

A couple of years ago, we thought it would be nice to return there as a family and relive the magic while estate agents and solicitors went through the motions of selling our house. The four of us - myself, Mrs Duck and the ducklings. Oh, and because we'd left it far too late to arrange cover - Molly Moo the Clock-Up Cat as well.

The house was called Pebblestones, and it was an 1800s terraced house in a line of similar cottages halfway up the hill overlooking the harbour. We couldn't get the original cottage we'd been to before, and still bitter over the whole eyebrows thing, it would probably have caused nothing but trouble.

The place was cold, and a chill ran through the living room and kitchen. An unearthly not-of-this-world chill, as the summer sun belted down outside, icy fingers running down the windows. Molly sat, hunched up against the front door and refused to move. Fine, strange place - cats are like that. Or so we thought, mortals. She stayed there for a whole week, hackles up and not a very nice catty-cat-cat to be around.

Ok, so it was cold, and the nights were full of bumps and creaks, and you felt that someone was watching you in the bathroom while you were taking a dump, but that's the kind of feeling you get in a strange, old house built onto the side of a hill. Yes? It was, I surmised, just old Mr Jones from the penny arcade trying to scare everybody away so he could claim the pirates' treasure hidden in the town library. And we were the meddling kids.

I didn't want to mention anything in front of the offspring, but the place was seriously freaking me out. It turned out that Mrs Duck didn't want to mention anything to me either, and she was pooing herself on a regular basis. Molly had taken to flattening herself against the bay window and following unseen objects around the room. We both knew the place was strange, we just couldn't bring ourselves to admit it.

All perfectly normal, and despite going through an "I want to believe" phase at the time (poor deluded me - I even thought crop circles were genuine - twat!), I was certain that there was a perfectly rational explanation for it all, and dammit, I would say so to my lovely wife.

So, with the ducklings safely tucked up in bed, I marched out of the kitchen determined to tell her that, hey, this was an old house and we should expect strange noises and sudden icy-cold draughts.

And there, on the couch next to her, sat The Fisherman.

Short, stocky, bearded, wearing what appeared to be waterproofs, he sat staring out of the window at the harbour below. Slowly, his head turned to Mrs Duck, just as she turned her head to talk to me.

They were face-to-shimmering face.

"Sssssssssssss....." he said.

"Stop looking at her chest!" I offered, except it came out "Meep!"

"......." said Mrs Duck, as he vanished.

From upstairs came screaming. The ducklings.

"There's a man in our room!"

Oh my blummin' God.

By the time we had bounded up to the freezing first floor, he ("An old man! With a beard! He was pointing!") had disappeared through the wall and into the airing cupboard.

The Yellow Pages failed to come up with numbers for the Ghostbusters Torbay franchise or the local 24 Hour Exorcist, and I was disappointed that there was no ectoplasm to be had either. Damn you Agent Mulder for filling me with false expectations! What's the point of getting haunted if there isn't gallons of green goo all over the place.

The night was spent, wide awake, listening to the drawers on the dresser downstairs opening and slamming shut and the cat trying to tunnel her way out of the place.

Thoughts ran through my head. Of death. Of the afterlife. Of the fear of the unknown. But most importantly - could he see my nob through the bed-covers?

The following morning, I decided against a shower, because I've heard all about what sailors get up to, and we fled. I could hardly bring myself to use the toilet, either. You know what happens when you cross the streams.

As the car sped away from Brixham and the relative safety of home, Mrs Duck told me that she's seen loads of ghosts in her time, including most of the senior members of her family as they trotted off to the other side, and is particularly highly tuned to these things. Now she tells me.

Which probably explains the ghost dog in our new house. Cursed, I am.

(For a small fee, you can still rent this cottage for the holiday of your after-life)

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