During my recent trip to Scotland I had an unusually spooky experience. I was traveling with my good friend Meg, her husband Terry and their daughter Hannah who is 15. Hannah was my travel buddy on this trip and we shared a room in two of the three hotel/guest houses along the way. Hannah is a delight, and charged as I was with looking out for her when separated from her parents, I took my job seriously.
We arrived in Inverness the evening of June 1, 2007 by plane from the Isle of Lewis in the Outer Hebrides (“ooooh that’s looovely, thank you very much”). There was the usual high level of stress and anxiety associated with shuttling the four of us and our ten bags between destinations involving an airplane, taxis and a rental car. Picture this: driving on the wrong side of the road ~ a fifteen year old in the front seat on the passenger side hiding her eyes behind the map yelling “sidewalk, Sidewalk! DITCH!” I sat in the back seat trying to shut up and not be critical lest some one makes me drive!
Finally we arrived at our hotel The Waterside Inn. It was picturesquely located along the tree lined river Ness in the heart of the city. The hotel was made up of several brownstone buildings crowded cheek by jowl with each other. There was no access between them, beyond the front doors. It was an unusual arrangement for a hotel. I’m sure it was once a series of private homes that had been converted to a dozen or so en suite rooms.
Our building was very old, sporting elaborate plasterwork moldings and the same decorative gingerbread stonework on the exterior as the other buildings along the Ness. Because it was so ancient, it did not have an elevator, so naturally we were located in a room on the top floor. Three I think, though it felt like thirty flights to our rooms. Our suite of rooms was wedged into what I believe may have once been an attic or a garret (snort! Garret, I love that. It’s so UK…). The two bedrooms and bath were all off a small central alcove that served as a secured (or so I thought) entrance hall to our tiny adjoined rooms. My bedroom was a double and Hannah had a twin room with two beds just opposite the bathroom. There was barely six feet between our doors. Once we carried our two tons of bags (ok, I carried MY two tons of bags) up the seventy five flights of stairs and settled in, we left to join Meg and Terry for dinner in the Waterside restaurant two doors down.
After a wonderful dinner (ooooh, yes, that’s looooovely) where I ate the Haggis (I never thought I’d be championing anything made with pluck from a sheep but it was surprisingly very good) and sampled Meg’s blood pudding (I was certainly relieved that it wasn’t a custard type pudding – or Meg’s blood for that matter– ick makes me wanna gag just thinking about that ~ bleech. It was more like a brownie than what we think of as pudding here), we all had our share (ok, more than our share 😉 of wine (Hannah excluded) then went our own ways for the night.
Still restless, Hannah and I walked to the corner and back. It was 10:30 or so and the sun was still a recent memory in the lavender and navy night sky. The rooftops along the river Ness outlined in contrast to the sky above with the turrets, spires and Victorian gingerbread common to Inverness like that on our hotel. I let Hannah into the front door and went to sit by the river for a few tranquil moments. It was one of those moments where you quiet yourself and realize how really big the world is and what a small part of it you are. There really is something more out there in the world besides my little corner of Kansas.
I finally went back into the hotel and climbed into bed satisfied with another wonderful (oooooh yes, that’s looovely) vacation day in Scotland. I expected to sleep through till dawn, tired as I was from travel, but that was not to be.
Now, I’m not generally superstitious or easily prone to the willies due to visits of ghosts and goulies but, I have to say it wasn’t the least bit restful in that room. I don’t know if maybe I was hallucinating from the haggis or was tormented by a ghostie. Something definitely wasn’t right. I woke up several times in the night with an odd sense that someone was watching me. I swear I heard someone bumbling about in the entryway. At least twice I awoke, worried that someone was out there, yet I wasn’t coherent enough to act, not that it would have been sensible for me to do so had there truly been a threat.
Finally, I climbed out of bed when I noticed a strange diffused red light moving across the wall in my hotel room (the drapes were closed by the way). It was like a reflection from one of those LED tail lights on a semi trailer, you know the ones, a circular cluster of bright red lights. It wasn’t a single light though, of that much I’m certain.
I suppose I’m a Unitarian, if I have any religious affiliation at all. We Unitarians pride ourselves in being accepting of all things spiritual, to a humorous extreme at times. So here I am in Scotland trying not to upset or disturb the local people, wildlife, and certainly not the dead. I would never presume to be anything but courteous to any ethereal presence that I would come across. This however was getting personal. I remember feeling threatened by this unnatural phenomenon as I watched it move across the wall and I perceived it as a threat. I had to make sure, if nothing else, that it didn’t get to Hannah in the other room. I had to prevent it from doing something evil (who knows what – blinking perhaps?). It was very urgent. So, in my half drowsed state I began chasing the lights across the wall with my palm like a cat after a laser toy. I kept sliding my open hand across the smooth white wall until I finally got frustrated and smacked the wall hard, yelling “NO!” quite loudly. The lights seemed to stop moving after that and I stepped away from the wall fully wakened now by the stinging of the skin on my palm. After my heart stopped racing and my brain settled down, I finally stepped back into the room rationalizing what I had seen into a reflection from the red light on the TV, though that wouldn’t explain why it seemed to move across the wall. I hadn’t imagined myself moving my hand. I heard the shhsh of my skin as it slid across the plaster. Finally deciding that there couldn’t possibly really be a threat, I climbed back in bed.
I managed to go back to sleep but woke several times and looked around, never really feeling quite settled after that. I have to admit in the morning when I turned on the light I checked behind the picture on the wall to make sure there wasn’t some hole that could have been used to trick me. There wasn’t. So now I’m left wondering if that brain of mine is playing tricks or in actuality has been in cahoots with the spirit world. If my brain is sharing a joke with some sly Scottish specter, (with me the butt of it) well then I’m glad to have contributed to the amusement of the great beyond and hope my part in their comedy is remembered when the time comes for me to join their cast.
**Thank you so much, Gretchen for sharing your wonderful photos and adventure.
Tomorrow: Caridad’s encounter with a ghostie – or worse – in Mystic, CT.