Except it didn’t happen at Christmas. More people than I used to think don’t say ‘there’s no such thing as ghosts,’ grammatically or otherwise. One Catholic, one Lutheran, several nothing really, as if any of that makes any difference. I had it in my head that Catholics aren’t supposed to believe in ghosts apart from the Holy Ghost, but the name is a bit of a give-away in itself.
‘There’s this er, well, there’s this um, not sure how to say this. Ghost then. Ok, ghost. But there’s no such thing as a……”
It must be tricky being a vicar, sometimes. A little like the best religious joke I ever heard, about the little chapel in Ireland where the trainee priest looks up one day and see a man who he thinks is Jesus, glowing, in what was until then an empty pew. The trainee goes to the vestry and finds the priest, asks him what they should do if it is, to be told: “Look busy.”
But dear reader, to my story. I was in Scotland a couple of months ago, on the shores of a mist-bound loch. I was leading a tour of 50 people from the US, the Philipines, Canada and Australia. All strangers to each other. Some with no intention of making that otherwise. I Googled the old hotel we were to stay at, to find some local colour I could tell the group about, but all I could find was a tale about a Green Lady someone – and very much only one – had claimed to have seen there once, forty years ago.
I asked the manager there about her, but he didn’t know anything. He asked me not to talk about it, not because it was so dreadful, he said, but because talking about it scared him. So that was all I could tell the group. “Is it like …hanted?” could only be answered with “Maybe. One person a long time ago on a night like this – but I’ve said too much already.”
I didn’t notice some of the group crossing themselves, but there was no more I had to say. I wasn’t going to make things up. I wasn’t that kind of tour guide. Or no more than I had to be, anyway.
I woke up at five. I’d had a strange dream that someone was screaming, close to me. I was on my own and it wasn’t me. It’s when you go to sleep screaming that you need to worry. Just a dream. I went back to sleep for an hour.
It was only when I tried to talk to some of the more talkative holidaymakers that I thought something was a bit wrong. They hadn’t slept, they said. Because of the ghost. And what sleep they had ended at five, when they heard someone screaming in the corridors of the hotel.