At one time in my life I saw a great deal of two intimate and charming friends, Lord and Lady Wynford. Alas! both have now passed over.
Lady Wynford was born Caroline Baillie of Dochfour, and owing to her Scotch blood, and her relationship with many of our great Scotch families, she was profoundly interested in ghosts. Lord Wynford, on the contrary, had an absolute horror of the subject, and always left the room whilst it was under discussion. Though very dissimilar, husband and wife were the best of friends. She was very handsome and a brilliant woman of the world. He was shy, retiring, and deeply religious. A perfect example of a true gentleman of the old school, and an aristocrat to his finger-tips. I was devoted to them both, and they were very kind to me in giving me their warm friendship, though at the time of which I write I was only a girl of about twenty years old.
At that period the great topic of conversation amongst ghost-hunters was Glamis Castle, the most celebrated of all haunted houses. No ghost book is ever considered complete without reference to this celebrated Castle, and the story usually narrated is, that in the secret room some abnormal horror lived, and that the heir, Lord Glamis, and the factor, had to be told of its existence by the Earl of Strathmore in person. This information was of so terrible a nature that it changed not only the lives of those two men, but even their personal appearance. They grew aged and haggard in a single night.
This story was readily discussed in old days by members of the Strathmore family, who were just as keen as outsiders were to probe the mystery. To-day it is universally believed that the monstrosity is at last laid to rest, and that though other ghosts still walk the Castle, the worst has departed forever….
Lord and Lady Wynford paid their visit to Glamis, and I looked forward eagerly to their return in a week’s time. I went to see them the day after their arrival back again, and was met by Lady Wynford alone. Before I could question her she began to speak of the visit.
“I don’t want you even to mention the word Glamis to Wynford,” she said very gravely. “He’s had a great shock, and he’s in a very queer state of mind.”
She paused, and I ventured to ask, “But what sort of shock?”
Then she gave me the following account: —
“Wynford and I occupied adjoining bedrooms. We were having a delightful time. Glorious weather, and a lot of very pleasant people. I really forgot all about there being any ghost. We were out all day, and very sleepy at night, and I never heard or saw a thing that was unusual.
“Two nights before we left something happened to Wynford. He came into my room and awakened me at seven o’clock in the morning. He was fully dressed, and he looked dreadfully upset and serious. He said he had something to tell me, and he wished to get it over, and then he would try not to think of it any more. I was certain then that he had seen or heard something terrible, and I waited with the greatest impatience for him to continue. He seemed confronted with some great difficulty, but after a long pause he said —”‘ You know that I have always disbelieved in the supernatural. I have never believed that God would permit such things to come to pass as I have heard lightly described. I was wrong. Such awful experiences are possible. I know it to my own cost, and I pray God I may never pass such a night again as that which I have just come through. I have not slept for a moment. I feel I must tell you this, in fact, it is necessary that I tell you, because I am going to extract a promise from you. A promise that you will never mention in my hearing the name of this house, or the terrible subject with which its name is connected.’
“I was speechless for a few minutes with perplexed amazement. I had never heard Wynford speak like that, nor had I ever seen him so terribly upset.
“‘But,’ I said at last, ‘aren’t you going to tell me what has so unnerved you?’
“He began pacing up and down the room. ‘Good God, no,’ he exclaimed, ‘I couldn’t even begin to tell you. I have no words that would have any meaning or expression. Don’t you understand, there is no language to convey such happenings from one to the other. They are seen, felt, heard! They cannot be uttered. There are some things on earth I know of now, that may not be related to the spoken word. Perhaps between a man and his God, but not even between you and me.’
“We were silent again for some minutes, during which he continued to pace the room, his head drooped on his breast. I was really seriously alarmed. I even feared for his reason, and I couldn’t form the smallest conjecture as to what had been the nature of his experiences. I was quite convinced of one thing. What he had seen was no ordinary ghost, like Lady Reay’s Tudor Lady. She might have amazed him, but it required something much more terrible and awe-inspiring to have reduced him to such a condition of mental misery and desolation.
“I wanted to comfort him, to sympathize with him, but something about him held me at arm’s length. It was his soul that was suffering, and with his soul a man must wrestle alone. I felt that his deep religious convictions of a lifetime had been violently dislocated, for all I knew shattered entirely, and I felt profound compassion for him. I may have had doubts, on many points. I confess to being a worldly skeptic, but Wynford’s faith has always been so pure and childlike, and I have striven never to jar him on religious subjects. Now I feel as if somehow, everything that he has ever had has been taken away from him.
“At last I said, ‘Don’t you think we had better leave to-day? We can easily make some excuse.’
“He stopped and looked straight at me, so strangely.
“‘No, I can’t leave to-day: I must stay another night here. There is something I must do. Now will you give me your promise never to mention this subject to me again? We may not be alone together again to-day. I want to get it over. Promise.’
“I gave him my promise at once. I dared not have opposed him. I was horribly frightened. He went out of the room at once, and I lay thinking and shivering with dread. ‘What was it he had to do? Why could we not leave to-day?’ It was all so mysterious.
“Well! the day passed in an ordinary manner, and if Wynford was more grave than usual I don’t think any one noticed it. Then came the night I so dreaded. Of course I didn’t sleep at first, I was too anxious, and I heard him come up to his room half an hour after I did. The door between our rooms was closed, and I lay awake listening intently. I heard him moving about; I supposed he was undressing, and his man never sits up for him. Then after a time there were occasional creaks which I knew came from an armchair, and I knew that he had not gone to bed.
“I suppose I must have fallen asleep, because the next thing I was aware of was Wynford’s voice. He was speaking to some one, and seemed to be in the middle of a conversation. When he ceased speaking I strained my ears to catch a reply. I could hear no words, only his voice. Then a reply did come, and it simply froze the blood in my body, and I felt bathed in ice, and had to put my finger between my teeth, they chattered so horribly.
“The reply was a hoarse whisper, a sort of rasping, grating undertone, that was not so much a whisper as an inability to speak in any other voice. There was something almost inhuman in those harsh, vibrating, yet husky words, spoken too low for me to catch. I knew at once that no guest, no member of the family, spoke like that, and I could not conceive that it could be a servant. What could Wynford have to say to any servant of Lord Strathmore?
“A clock somewhere in the Castle struck three. No; I was certain that the presence with him, whatever else it might be, was no human being dwelling under the roof of Glamis.
“At times they seemed to hold an argument; sometimes Wynford’s voice was sharp and decisive, at other times it was utterly weary and despondent. I dreaded what the effect might be upon him of this awful night, but I could do nothing but lie shivering in bed, and pray for the morning.
“How long it went on for I can’t say, but the conviction came to me suddenly that Wynford had begun to pray. His voice was raised, and now and again I fancied I could hear words. The rasping whisper came now only in short, sharp interjections or expostulations, I don’t know which. The even flow of Wynford’s words went quietly on, and I began to be certain that he was praying for the being who spoke with that terrible whisper. It occurred to me that he might even be trying to exorcise some unclean spirit.
“At last a silence fell. Wynford stopped praying, and I hoped that the terrible interview was at an end. Then it began again, and for quite an hour the prayers went on, with long periods of silence in between. I heard no more of the terrible, husky whisper.
“I fell asleep again and did not awake till my maid brought me early tea. No sooner had she gone than Wynford entered, fully dressed. Though he looked desperately tired and wan, he seemed quite composed, and as if some weight had been removed from off him. He said he was going for a stroll before breakfast, and, of course, I remembered my promise and put no questions. I have come to the conclusion that a hundred people may stay any length of time at Glamis and see or hear nothing. The hundred and first may receive such a shock to the nervous system that he never really recovers from it.”
Such was the mysterious story that Lady Wynford unfolded. I saw her husband the next day, but beyond being graver than usual in his manner I detected no difference in him. He never referred, even in the most indirect way, to his visit, but he must have inferred by my silence that I had been warned not to mention the subject. Many others must, however, have done so, for every one, who at that period passed a night under Glamis Castle roof, was eagerly questioned by friends and acquaintances on their return.
The only occasion on which I visited Glamis was on the night of a ball, given in honor of the Crown Prince of Sweden. The curiosity of the guests was held in check by servants being stationed at certain doors, and entrances to corridors and staircases, to inform rude explorers that they could not pass. It is hard to believe that such a course of action was necessary, but I personally watched little parties being turned back towards the ballroom and sitting-out-rooms, showing that intense curiosity may even prove stronger than good breeding.
What Wynford saw that night will never be known, but one fact remains. It left so deep an impression upon him that he was never the same man again. He became graver and more wrapped up in his own thoughts month by month, and the change that ended in his death his wife attributed to those nights passed in Glamis Castle.
Ghosts I Have Seen And Other Psychic Experiences, Violet Tweedale, 1919: pp. 164-174
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: Of course, the most notorious ghost at Glamis was the so-called Monster of Glamis, said to have been a monstrously deformed creature–the legitimate heir, kept locked away in a hidden room. This secret was known only to the Earl, his factor and his heir and was said to be revealed to the Strathmore heirs when they reached their majority. It was also said that some of them, upon learning of the skeleton in the family sealed-up room, never smiled again….
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.