Once upon a murky and pluvial eventide in the year of 1877, I was a welcomed visitor to a quaint village of England. I had passed along the way the civil parish, on the top of a hill by the gorge that encompassed the rows of the inspissated oak trees of the forest of dark and luxuriant foliage seen.
I had received an invitation, by the illustrious patrician the Earl of Buckingham, who had requested the presence of several members of the local personages to assist a special gathering. I was not informed in the correspondence, the reason or justification for the invitation, except that it dealt with a significant subject. Indeed, it was a matter that intrigued me excitingly, and I was not one to reject so casually, an invitation that was enticing. Even though, I was a man of logic and practicality, I still retained in me, this ambiguous and curious nature to know the reason, why I had been invited for this unique occasion. Therefore, I did not hesitate to assist and thus, it was my expressed desire to be present at the convivial gathering, with the others.
I had arrived at the house in carriage, as the rain fell on the ground of the estate. It was autumn, and the rainy season had started in earnest within the region. In spite of the rain drops, I was able to descry the discernible gloom that shaded the façade of the mysterious House of the Earl of Buckingham.
I shall attempt to make an accurate description, and allow the reader to envisage the house's intrinsicality. It was of an Elizabethan style house constructed of rubble stone, with a stone slate roof that protruded over the two-storey building and the attics, above the quoins. The large windows evident had clammy casements that sheltered the Gothic porch at the centre of the east side of the house. The idyllic garden of ere was then a token of the imperturbable and sombre place of drooping rosebuds and hawthorns that were unmistakably patent in uberty. It had seemed that the known sound of the dirge of the death knell had condemned the house to solitude devoid of a cheerfulness. I felt a Delphic augury of death was somehow attached to the house, but at that precise moment, I thought only of entering the house.
The Earl of Buckingham had cordially greeted me once inside, with the utmost gentility expressed. He was certainly, an amiable and unassuming fellow, who enjoyed the apperception of ambiguity and the elements of surprise. He was an ingenuous man of eccentricity and observation, as it personified his own quirk. He was a willowy man of finery dressed in a smicker Gothic silk white shirt, and with a gray paisley Putnam vest. He bore a puffy Prussian blue silk tie, with a traditional black cutaway coat over the shirt and vest. His trousers were black, and his polished shoes that had a slight sheen. What I found to be conspicuous was the magnificent top hat he had on for the unusual occasion, and the sterling silver watch he carried in his right hand. His smile was self-confident, and his gesticulations were clear manifestations of his subtle persona.
Inside, the house was imposing, with old tapestries that hung over the wainscotted panelled walls, with the black crushed velvet draperies. The house lacked the typical variegated colours of stateliness. The main hall was capacious and captivating but eerie, and disguised in a Stygian hue of secrecy, as a long stairway could be visibly seen. There was a disconsolate component of obsolescence and disenchantment that I had perceived inside the house. The dark colours that were apparent had arrested my definite perceptiveness, as I felt the cold air within the hall. The fine Ottoman rug that had engraved a very distinctive representation of a basilisk and the coat of arms in the hall, at the entrance clearly had fascinated me.
There was a certain irresoluble mystery of the house, and about the portrait hanging over the fireplace, as I entered the antechamber that was nearby. There was a phial on top of a lone dresser that I noticed, with prudent discretion. I had descried the specks of dust that covered the Regency carved mahogany chairs. I had felt an extraneous sentiment, when I had walked through the hall and the corridor, as if the previous tenants of the house had been observing my every step I paced.
The Earl of Buckingham was occupied, with greeting the other invited guests. I began to observe intuitively the interior of the house, with the uniquity that it possessed. I was an admirer of exquisite architecture. However, this particular house had no remaining appeal that would merit such token appreciation.
The guests had belonged to the avant-garde of the local gentry or an affluent family. As with the others I was anxious to know the reason we had received a generous invitation. When the entire guests arrived, he proceeded to reveal the reason we were gathering. There was a pressing urge in the guests to hear the Earl of Buckingham speak. His expectant disclosure we had anticipated then, with a heightened interest and attention.
'Perhaps you are all wondering now, why I have invited you to this special occasion. And the actual reason that I have chosen you to attend this momentous gathering is for you to be willing participants, to the enthralling and chilling night of spiritualism. I have invited a very famous necromancer Madam Pasternack to be the medium for this unique experiment of this night. Fortunately for us, she has graciously accepted this invitation and challenge knowingly. Tonight, we shall attempt to communicate, with the mysterious and unwist world of the afterlife', the Earl of Buckingham spoke.
I was stunned by the revelation, but as with the other participants I was eager to partake in this bizarre experiment that was proposed, by the Earl of Buckingham. We were all quite familiar, with the process of spiritualism and had participated in previous séances, but nothing would prepare us for this night. I shall endeavour to make a physical reference of the others, according to the characteristics that mostly distinguish them. Of the six members that were present, all I knew by mere reputation. There were four men and two women. First, there was Mr Benton, an elite banker of short stature and corpulent, with animated florid cheeks. Second, there was Mr Hartford a middle-aged man gangling with an adverse idiosyncrasy, who was the proprietor of the largest estate in the area. Third, there was Mr Bonner, an enigmatic painter, who was of medium height with a wide moustache that resembled cat whiskers. The last gentleman was the most renowned or celeberrimous Lord Timmons. He was a scholarly playwright and an earl, who was elderly and of a slight frail constitution. His oblong face and aquiline nose were also indicative of his features. The twain women were Mrs Trotsky, a middle-aged woman who was a dowager, with a wan complexion. Then there was Mademoiselle LaFleur, a young lovely woman, who was a French marchioness.
The one common denominator that united us all was the interest in the praeternatural world. Each of us had our intimate or personal intentions, and we were myrmidons to a certain extent of spiritualism. My reason was what always had intrigued me about this matter, the afterworld.
Shortly, we began the orphic session of spiritualism, with Madam Pasternack. We all were seated in a hall, where a circle table and chairs were placed, with our hands together. There was an absolute silence, except the thundering bolts of lightning that roared, with the storm that had accompanied the brontide. The medium started with her ritual. The lamplights were turned down, except for the lamp in the nearby corridor. We were attentive to every word spoken. This uncertain disquietude was felt by all the guests, as she proceeded. She had informed us what the ritual would contain, and she warned us not to unravel, with the abnormality that could occur in the form of wraiths.
During the séance, we all displayed a curiously intent look on our countenances, as she dozed into her profound trance. She invoked the existing name of the ghosts who were present. Then she had respectfully requested the names of the chosen loved ones that we had written on paper to induce the impalpable wraiths to appear. At first, nothing sequential had truly transpired, during the enacture of the séance. But after a brief interval, the table began to move, as a sudden volution of the draperies manifested.
The rousing sound of the storm had increased gradually and began to pound the shutters of the windows. The raps of a door were audible, and the heavy sound of footsteps was heard as well, coming from the corridor above. Then from the glass container that was an apport a visible albicant vapour formed, and developed and illumined into the guise of a strange man dressed in elegant Victorian clothing. Immediately one of the guests, Mr Hartford had recognised the individual clearly.
'Good God it is Jonathan, my dear son!'
The odd ghost then stared into our eyes, as his gaunt expressions were convincing. He seemed to be warning us of something of urgent essentiality that we needed to regard its relevancy at once. His words were unintelligible and implicit to be coherently understood. However, he did leave behind the telling words in a sheet of unmarked paper that would confound us, within an inconclusive antinomy.
The peculiar words written vividly were, 'Beware of the Mephistophelian Heretics of the house!'
Nothing more and nothing less of words were written clearly. He quickly disappeared, as Mr Hartford implored him to stay. The medium was also imploring him to stay and to then communicate with us. But he left, as he looked behind and sensed the presence of another spirit nearby.
'Do not go Jonathan yet, for your father wishes to speak with you!' Madam Pasternack had entreated.
'Jonathan, my boy, do not quit, I implore!' Mr Hartford ejaculated.
There was nothing that either of them could do to prevent his unexpected departure. Mr Hartford had attempted to rise to his feet, but Madam Pasternack told him to not rise, as she was still in her deep half-conscious state.
It was then that from the darkness of the corridor emerged, a minatory embodiment of true horror to be seen. It was a female phantom, whose pallid face bore white eyes of depravity, and only a vague and lifeless stare that brought apparent dread to our confounded minds. She was not at all a prepossessing sight, and her evocative expressions were as with the son of Mr Hartford extremely intense, but not fully comprehended. There was more of a terrifying and alarming presence witnessed in her than Mr Hartford's deceased son. You could visibly see the extraordinary intensity in the eyes of Madam Pasternack and hear it in her impassioned voice.
Afterwards, the incontrovertible voice of the nefarious apparition was heard plainly, through the compelling voice of the medium. The voice would sternly warn us of an unsuspected danger that lurked nigh.
'You will all perish on this night decidedly! All of you are condemned to the irrevocable madness of this house!'
Madam Pasternack was on the verge of collapse, as the intensified session had depleted her vigour completely to the point of death. She fainted, as I rose to my feet to examine her. The lamplights were lit anew, and after a few minutes, she awoke from her transient stupor unaware of the incident. The apparition of ghastliness had vanished too into the thin air instantly.
We were all in shock with the inexplicable occurrence that was witnessed personally. Though we had all been present at the séance, this was by far, nothing that any one of us had previously ever beheld before. We were all lost for words for a moment, until Mr Benton a philodox by nature spoke candidly.
'Verily, are we to believe this insidious hoax of this psychagogue?'
'Are you suggesting Mr Benton that what happened tonight was a clever hoax?' Mademoiselle LaFleur asked.
'Why indeed so I bewray this deception. This was all an impromptu concoction! And you should be ashamed of yourself, sir', Mr Benton stated.
The Earl of Buckingham then replied, 'What we saw tonight Mr Benton was no illusionary éclat or use of any allusion.'
'Then you are implying that what we actually witnessed was no misleading hoax, my lord?' Lord Timmons enquired.
'None at all!' The Earl of Buckingham replied, who was immutable in his undeniable affirmation and had an assertive personality.
Mrs Trotsky was with Madam Pasternack, who was recumbent in a settee, when she said, 'I don't want to entermete, but this is indeed very unsettling. Whether true or not to you, I do believe what we witnessed here was real'.
But Mr Benton insisted, and was a man intransigent and unconsentaneous, 'You can equivocate all you want my lord, but I still do not believe in any of this'.
'There is no need to whinge or be fractious. Why must we believe that we earthly people cannot be visited, by the world of the dead? I understand your argument Mr Benton, but we are all personages of this occurrence', I responded with a mild quip.
'With all due respect you utter whatever facile inanities the medium and the earl prefer to hear!' He retorted in levity.
'Notional or not, the approachability to the afterworld is plausible and at least, a discretionary analogy can be undertaken. We are all flustered', Lord Timmons answered.
'An assuasive glass of Sherry will allay our concerns!' The Earl of Buckingham interjected.
The proposal was kindly accepted, and the animadversion that had been expressed was sought to be averted. The untoward storm had prevented the guests from leaving thereafter. Thus, we all sat in the hall as the storm had persisted, as the rain had prevented us, from departing the house. Naturally, we discussed at length the séance, and the unknown occurrence of the unwonted apparitions that appeared. Even though some of us were in disagreement, with what had actually betided for the most part, we were in unanimity in believing that something queer or unholy had manifested.
After further contemplation we decided to attempt the séance again-but it would not eventuate. As we gathered to begin the séance Madam Pasternack would be possessed, by a demonic spirit. The voice which was frightening and commanding uttered a daunting phrase that would haunt us the whole night.
'The hour of thy death is near! Ye will all perish, at the hand of the tenants of the house!'
She shrilled and fell on the floor, as she started to experience an abrupt convulsion. I along with Mrs Trotsky tried to prevent her, from biting down on her tongue, as was usual with these episodes. After a few frantic minutes, the convulsion stopped. However, she fainted and quickly was taken to one of the lower chambers, where she could rest and regain her equanimity. We were all totally taken aback, by what had happened to Madam Pasternack.
Soon the thundering increased even more, as all the shutters in the house flapped back and forth, with great force. The sound of the familiar footsteps was heard anew afterwards, as these occurrences were troubling.
Incredulity entered in me, and now I was truly concerned, with the fatigated and debile health of Madam Pasternack, and the undefined phenomenon that was occurring. The tempest had foreshadowed the events of the night and condemn us to the unrestrained scelestic horror that was unleashed, from the Plutonian world of the dead. We were instantly affected, by the dint of deep thoughts and the inexplicable occurrences in the house that were enshrouded, within a surreal mystery. If there was still a lingering doubt that what was unfolding was an obvious hoax it would dissipate afterwards, with the next dramatic occurrence that would not dispel our fears.
Whilst we the men were gathered in the hall in dissent, a strange figure emerged, from the corridor. It had appeared to be a wraith that bore the guise of an ambiguous woman. The ghost was not recognised by anyone, except the obdurate Mr Benton, who vociferated his discontent ere. Only he recognised the derivative identity of the spectre, who was his late beloved wife.
'My God is it you Martha? My dear Martha, have you come for me now?' Asked Mr Benton.
His eyes were vividly moved and convinced of what he had truly seen. The apparition of his deceased wife stared at him, with such a concerned look, and pointed to the end of the narrow corridor. It was as if she wanted to warn us then. Of what no one knew what that warning meant!
But there was something that the peculiar apparition left as a sign, and that was a brooch that was found on the floor after she had vanished. Mr Benton had recognised the brooch with immediacy, as belonging to his late beloved wife. His arrant reaction was expressible, and the brooch was indicative of the clear manifestation of the wraiths.
'This brooch of Martha my late wife I gave the day we got married ten years ago. She was a brilliant governess, intelligent and a God fearing woman, who I loved'.
'If what you are confirming is truthful, then what we are dealing tonight is no mere imposture, but a daunting actuality. And if so, what are we to do in accordance?' I enquired.
'Your enquiry of the topic is legitimate gentlemen, and perhaps we should research more thoroughly this exciting phenomenon tomorrow in the morning. It is getting late, and I would prefer to leave at once if there no objection', replied Mademoiselle LaFleur, as she overheard the conversation.
'Leave the house you say Mademoiselle. It is impossible. Do you not hear the roar of the tempest? Do you not hear the thunder and the rain? The ravine has surely overflooded, and the roads are in no conditions to be traversed. Therefore, I understand your concern for Madam Pasternack, but she is resting now. I shall have the doctor visit tomorrow and examine her. Moreover, we cannot forsake this pressing need to investigate the spirit world', the Earl of Buckingham said.
'Indeed, you are definitively correct in your assumption my lord. The conditions of the roads are not propitious, for travelling', Mr Hartford responded.
'I agree, and this mystery I am eager to solve', Mr Benton had exclaimed.
The tempest had increased in intensity, and the rain drops could be heard fallen heavily, on the roof of the house. It was then as several of us the guests were in one of the antechambres that a wicked apparition had manifested before the fireplace. At first, the ghostly image was vague and shadowy, until the contours of the wraith were visible to be seen. We who were in the antechambre had quickly seen the apparition before us. It had an overpowering impact that intimidated us, as the eyes of the ghosts were without pupils. But its imposing shape had massed and hovered. We looked befuddled and startled, with the occurrence. No one knew who the wraith was at first, and what he wanted. He did not utter a single word in the beginning. Instead, he remained firm in his position, whilst we stood in awe not knowing what the ghost wanted. We did not get closer, but the spectre did, as he advanced towards us.
'Who are you malevolent ghost? What do you seek?' Asked Mr Benton.
'It is Lord Joseph Buckley, the once Earl of Buckingham, my ancestor', the Earl of Buckingham replied.
'Are you Lord Joseph Buckley? And if so, have you come for our souls? Tell us! What did you come to say, so that we may know and communicate with you?' I asked the ghost.
He opened his mouth, and a swarm of flies came rushing from his gaping jaws towards us. We immediately fell on the ground covering ourselves, as the swarm flew above us. For five minutes, the swarm of flies flew above us, until they fled through one of the windows that had been opened, by the ghost. Once the swarm vanished, so too, did the ghost. We then rose to our feet and had attempted to comprehend the recent incident.
The hours passed and it was midnight afterwards, as the wooden clock in the hall struck so forcefully. It was the bewitching hour of the roaming ghosts. This we would soon discover to be a premonitory reality, and a phantasmagoric horror that terrorised the house and us the guests. The precursor of the finality of the storm would never manifest, and its ponderous effects were felt throughout the rest of the night and early morning.
We gathered in the hall and began our diligent investigation and discussion. We had discussed at length the abnormal antecedents that had transpired. A plethora of queries was introduced, as we sought to deduce by way of logical inference the mystery that bound our intrigue. We ended the questions, with a rising inflection, and the necessity to explore the omniscience ingrained in our ruminative brains.
The origin of the house was indispensable and basal to the circumstance that befell. The appropriate person to ask was the proprietor himself, the Earl of Buckingham, who was receptive to our questions. When asked of the veritable history of the house, the Earl of Buckingham informed us that the house had belonged to the family of the earl and was constructed by his forefather over two hundred years ago. He showed us the deed of the house, which evinced the original owner. However, there was something that he seemed reluctant to divulge forthwith, and it wasn't until Mademoiselle LaFleur enquired that he finally made a shocking revelation. He confessed that his deceased ancestor had been involved, with the anomalous practice of satanism.
This was indeed a disclosure that was an exclamation of no expectancy. How was this intertwined, with the essence of the house? It was kept a secret by the family, due to the opprobium that it brought. According to legend and strange documents found and excerpted after his death he was a Satanist; although he never made a profession of his belief, it was a facet of his duplicitous nature. The Earl of Buckingham then handed us a grimoire called the 'Libri antiquorum infernum demergeris' (The book of the ancient netherworld) in Latin that explained everything. It spake of the nine halls of hell, where the horrid misfits and the outcasts dwell and dow, inside the fathomless wanion of the hellfire behind the starkness. The gossipers tied tongues are in sprawl, with the taut knots binding their words of backbiting, as they deafen within the eerie silence of the first hall, amidst the throng who witness then their backsliding. There are the liars whose untruth bans them all, to the lashing and end of the scathing whips of steel, as they reddened in the hollow walls of the second hall, before the headsmen and the overlords as they kneel. There are the thieves with hands cut off and squawl, within the slices heaved within the mounds of the stench, as they twitch therefore in the foul corner of the third hall, within the unmistaken web of an unbearable sticky clench. The brazen whose pride is blinded and call, by the wonts undermining their hearts too coldhearted, as they are wrapt slowly in the cloths of the fourth hall, underneath the pricking thorns of the broken-hearted. The greedy with the need of wealth and gall, in the golden wedge locked in the melted lead withinwards, as they are smothered in the hardened siles of the fifth hall, where the wrackful souls of the mean stand hinterwards. The adulterers whose sins of flesh do not stall, the never-ending whims wielding their sinful bodies of lust, as they wallow within the unyielding illness of the sixth hall, within the unsightly specks shaping of the blowing dust. The murderers with their deeds of a scrawl, before the sharpened daggers that slain them all quickly, as they are fettered in the shackles of the seventh hall, amidst the gruesome whirlpool of teeming blood thickly. The wicked whose guilt is heard as they fall, above other yemeless wretched sinners as the worst, burning within the sweltering fire of the eight hall, with the gnawing rats of the dungeon of the accurst. The shrewd devil whose shadow men dread, within these hoary halls that haunt them soon, as men walk towards the shining light then straight ahead, where they abide in a great hall before they are sent to their doom. The direful truth of the grimoire was ensconced and inveterate in the horrendous vault that existed, beneath the fireplace in the dining hall. It was only there, where we discovered the veracity of this horrific tale.
Even though we had the pending ideas to investigate the vault, there was a slight indisposition in us to dare at first. But our intrigue had overcome our fears, and thus we determined that we would have to locate a hidden entrance into the vault. We had tapped upon the wall of the fireplace and found the entrance. The clock struck two o'clock, and we could hear the heavy clang of the nearby church bells. Was this a sign of divine nature-or was it a portentous indication of an inimical and forcouth presence? We had entered through the secret wall of the fireplace.
Afterwards, we found the mysterious vault that was mentioned. We made the rational decision to climb down, and we did by using a ladder. We then had confirmed our suspicion and revealed it to the ladies. Conscientiously, we proceeded and climbed down a corridor below, with anxiety and the flambeaux. Mr Benton, Mr Hartford, Mr Bonner, and the Earl of Buckingham had assisted me. Lord Timmons, was an elderly man, and remained behind. We had passed the long corridor of opacity, with a sudden angst and livid disturbance. We could not see anything evident.
Once we reached the ineffable vault completely, we located a colossal vault that had been left abandoned for centuries. It was not clear if this was the dismay durance of the innocent or the manifold sinners of lechery. There were rows of endless bones and skulls around left, as a defiled vestige of the dead. Then as we approached a ruin altar, we encountered shrieking daemon after daemon that came from behind the sturdy dilapidated stone walls that began to crumble. They attempted to illaqueate us in their immurement. The deafening shrieks caused us to cover our ears, as we scurried out of the dreadful vault and passed the corridor. We reached the ladder, and were extremely fortunate enough to climb safely out of the vault.
A huge gap was formed, as the hole caved in. We hurried to the edge, as Mrs Trosky and Mademoiselle LaFleur looked on with horror. A blazing ball of fire burst from the vault with impigrity, and a thousand malignant eidolons rose from the thick vault of hell and corridor, as they absconded through the walls and recesses of the house. We never saw the aimless ghosts again. A lucid light then from the corridor of the hall was seen vividly. Odd and blurry apparitions had appeared. They were the countless victims in pallor of the satanic rituals of death practised, by the Earl of Buckingham's dead ancestor; including all the loved ones of the invited guests. Suddenly they had disappeared, through the ordinariness of a drear corridor, as the clock in the hall struck, as the heavy storm had abated.
Then the front door creaked open, at the most opportune moment, and invited us to leave the haunted house in the early hours of the morning. We all left the house and never returned. Madam Pasternack had died a year afterwards of a cardiac thrombosis, during one of her séances. As for the guests, we never participated in another séance. We vowed to never disclose afterwards our praeternatural encounter, in the house of the wraiths tenfold. The house was sold and then abandoned. Thus, the lore of the ghosts faded into the veil of the posterity.
Whether or not it is substantially proven that ghosts are existential in this sublunary world we inhabit I shall defer that hypothetical question, with the utmost discretion involved. I shall not attempt to ascribe the notion of the praeternatural, as a mere fanciful fable of the ignoramus to confabulate disingenuously, when the equivocality is proven to be a factual contingency. I shall acknowledge to the dubious sceptics that for centuries, man has forsaken this claim, as foolish imprecation. But I know there are those with percipient awareness that confute the illimitable earth is full of the wandering spectres, who traverse this protean world of ours, like the luminous orbs that gleam, over the grim nightly landscape. I shall be audacious enough to offer my effectual admission that I was a veritable witness to the inherent existence of the ghastly apparitions that haunted the house I had visited. The dreadful place of the oppressed and the sinister execration would manifest surreptitiously, upon the gradual veil of darkness that loomed over the house. There was a perceptible darkness of absolute terror that horrified the throng of villagers, and elicited the lore of the house of the Mephistophelian heretics.