Room by the Sea
This comes from Elliott O’Donnell’s Haunted Britain 1947
Blackpool and its neighbourhood have quite a number of alleged hauntings.
Mrs. Deane M. Ward, after a talk I gave on “Werewolves” at the Faculty of Arts, when it was in a street off Golden Square, told me the following experience she recently had in a boarding-house near the sea front.
She went there in September. Staying in the house was a Miss Harrison, a hefty young girl, fond of riding, swimming and most out-door sports. Noticing one morning at breakfast how tired and pale she was looking, Mrs. Ward, who sat next to her and was a very kindly disposed woman, asked her if she was feeling ill..
“Not exactly ill,” was the reply, “but worried. I had a bad night.”
Sensing that she was labouring under great agitation, which she was striving hard to control, Mrs. Ward enquired if there was anything she could do for her.
“If, when you have finished breakfast,” Miss Harrison replied, “you will come somewhere with me where we can talk without being overheard, I shall be very grateful.”
Wondering very much what the girl could have to say, Mrs. Ward, as soon as the meal was o’ went for a stroll with her on the sea front.
“Would you think I am a very nervy, imaginative and not a normal kind of person?” Miss Harrison asked.
Mrs. Ward emphatically shook her head. “I certainly should not. You strike me as just the reverse.”
Miss Harrison smiled a little wanly. “So I believed I was until last night. Now I’m not so sure.”
Mrs. Ward, becoming interested, regarded her curiously. “Why, what happened last night?”
“Let’s sit down and I’ll tell you,” Miss Harrison exclaimed, pointing to an empty seat. Seated there Miss Harrison began. “I felt it very close in the night, in spite of the window being wide open, and not being able to sleep I got out of bed, switched on the light and started reading. I hadn’t done so for long when there was a little clicking sound and the light went out. Puzzled to know the cause, I switched it on again and in a few minutes, just as I was interested in the book I was reading, the same thing happened again. There was a click, and the light was turned off. It seemed to me with great deliberation.”
Mrs. Ward, who was thoroughly materially minded and did not believe in ghosts, suggested there was probably something wrong with the !wiring.
“I did think of that,” Miss Harrison said, “but listen to what happened next. I was thinking of getting back into bed when I noticed a peculiar light, seemingly emanating from the wail facing me. As I looked at it, it grew brighter and it was what followed that worried me so.
“The wallpaper was one of those old-fashioned flower designs, thoroughly inartistic, and so often seen at one time in seaside apartments and boarding-houses. Now, however, the flowers were no longer there, but in their stead were wheels and cubes perpetually moving. The wheels kept revolving and the cubes turning over and over. I heard a noise like moaning behind me. I turned. No one was to be seen but everywhere I looked I saw revolving wheels and turning over cubes. They seemed to be composed of molecules in a constant state of vibration. I cannot describe them better.
“They were on the ceiling too, and I suddenly realized they were gradually getting nearer me. Unable to stand it I went out on to the landing and stayed there till it began to grow light when I summoned up the courage to go back into the room. I was half afraid to look at the walls, but I need not have been, because the wallpaper was as usual. The wheels and cubes were no longer to be seen.
“What I’m so worried about,” Miss Harrison said, “is my brain. Either these wheels and cubes were objective, in which case they were very unusual psychic phenomena, or else there’s something wrong with my mentality.”
“Biliousness, very probably,” Mrs. Ward remarked.
Miss Harrison shook her head. “But I’m not bilious. I never have Y been.”
“Your eyes then,” Mrs. Ward persisted. “Astigmatism, I’ve been told, j plays all manner of tricks with one’s vision. The wheels and cubes were just optical illusions.”
But Miss Harrison would not have it. “I might have thought so,” she said, “had I not been told quite recently by a London oculist that my sight was extremely good and that there was no need for me to wear glasses. No, if anything is the matter with me it must be mental. I am deliberating leaving here today, although my time isn’t up till a week tomorrow, I feel I cannot face another night in the room.”
Mrs. Ward thought for a moment or two in silence. Though she was such a sceptic with regard to the supernatural the girl’s story interested her. “How would it be if I changed rooms with you?” she said at length.
Miss Harrison’s face brightened. “Do you really mean it?” she exclaimed. “It would be most awfully kind of you. But it will be such a bother for you moving all your things. Have you thought of that?” Mrs. Ward nodded.
They changed rooms that morning. Regarding her experience during the night, Mrs. Ward gave me a very graphic description.
She said, feeling rather tired after a long walk, she went to bed earlier than usual and fell asleep almost as soon as her head touched the pillow. She awoke, to hear a clock in the house striking, but did not Count the strokes. The room felt so close that she got up, switched on the light, and opening the window wider, put her head out, to get a breath of fresh air.
To her surprise it was raining rather heavily and the-wind was cold. Drawing in her head quickly, she was wiping the rain off her hair and face when there was a click and the light went out. She at once turned it on and stood waiting, in half-amused expectancy, to see if it would go out again.
Presently there was a seemingly deliberate click, the light again went out, and Mrs. Ward perceived, emanating from walls and ceiling, a peculiar wan glow, which increased in brilliancy till the whole room was illuminated with an eerie light. But that was not all.
On all sides of her, in the place of the very ordinary wallpaper, were whirling circles and cubes that kept turning over and over. Hardly able to credit her senses and not a little startled, Mrs. Ward gazed at the moving phenomena in a state of helpless fascination, and as she did so they gradually drew nearer to her.
Hemmed in on all sides and unable to move or make a sound, she watched them as, inch by inch and foot by foot, they kept approaching her, everlastingly turning round and round and over and over; and she felt as if the life was slowly being sucked out of her. Exerting all her will power, she made a dash for the door, and tearing it open, tumbled half on to the landing floor.
Miss Harrison did not conceal the satisfaction with which she listened in the morning to what Mrs. Ward had to tell. They tackled the lady who owned the establishment and told her there was something very queer about the room, that it was unquestionably haunted in a very remarkable way. This the lady denied, and was so very rude that they paid what they owed and forthwith left.
Two years later Mrs. Ward met a lady abroad who had recently stayed in the Blackpool house, and she told Mrs. Ward that while she was there a gentleman declared the room he had been put in was haunted, and was very angry with the owner of the establishment, who reluctantly admitted that other people had complained about the same room and said that in future she would have the haunted room used only for lumber.
She told the gentleman there had been no complaints about the room till after an old man, long resident in the house, had gone queer and been put by his relatives in a mental home, where he shortly afterwards committed suicide. In his younger day she had been a mathematical professor in some University, and after he left, the room he had occupied was found to be littered with pieces of paper covered with numbers and geometrical figures and diagrams; very possibly the beginnings of problems, which his poor, worn-out brain was unable to complete.
Had the crazy thoughts of the once clever mathematician, Mrs. Ward wondered, permeated the walls and atmosphere of the room he occupied, which she felt must be the room of her and Miss Harrison’s very unpleasant experiences, and through some mysterious means and agency have taken temporary objective forms, rendering themselves capable not only of being visualized but also of change of position.
“In other words,” Mrs. Ward said, “the room was haunted by the poor professor’s mad brain. I believe such was actually the case, because as I stood looking at those revolving circles and turning over cubes, I got the impression of mad disorder. The air was charged with insanity.”