The Ingrid Pitt column: a call for good ghost stories

Ingrid's after good stories for her next book. And she's got one here to set the ball rolling...

Ingrid Pitt

Well that’s it. Officially the days are getting longer. It’s the only good thing I can think to say about the limbo that is January. In modern times it has been the season to hunker down and watch television. There’s not even the temptation to slide out for a dose of whatever is the latest film to hit the silver screen. You know that five minutes later it will be appearing on the small screen in the corner and you can enjoy, or be bored, in comfort, stretched out on the sofa in front of a roaring fire.

It hasn’t always been that way. The winter months were a time for story telling and conjuring up phantoms from the past. The only thing that links then and now is the roaring fire.

February is a little better. For one thing it has Lupercalia. Saint Valentines Day. That old roué Geoffrey Chaucer realised way back in the 14th century that sitting around regurgitating old camp fire stories was a bit passé so introduced Valentine and his message of aspiring love to the masses. It’s easy to see why he picked on 14th February. 13th February – dark and gloomy. 15th – all the birds and the bees, plus the hyper-active squirrels are getting it on and man is beginning to cut down on the rancid animal grease he has been using to help keep the body heat in. The 14th gives out the signal, together with a little human inspired Wassailing, to the trees and bushes to make an extra effort and burst into bud and suddenly the yearly ritual of rejuvenation begins. That might seem like a bold and dotty statement to make, but bring on the sainted Valentine and judge for yourself. But for the moment let’s stick with the campfire stories.

An interesting story I have recently come across concerns two blokes and a women having a night out in the 1950s. On the way to a club they saw a pretty girl in a full-skirted contemporary dress, standing at the side of the road hitching a ride. Being of a gallant bent they screeched to a halt and welcomed her on board. (Things were a bit different then and a women riding in a car with strangers wasn’t the natural prelude to a rape scene.)

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Joy Hendrix introduced the girl to her husband Bob and his friend Jack and their newfound friend told them her name was Rose White. Jack was smitten right away. He had been expecting to play gooseberry all evening but suddenly the outlook had brightened considerably. Jack told Rose that they were on the way to a club and asked her along. He was a little surprised when she agreed without the slightest hesitation but decided it was another sign that his luck had change for the better.

Once inside the club the girl swung into action. Jack was dragged onto the floor for every dance. It wasn’t that he was unwilling. Just that he usually liked to lubricate his sexy gyrations with a beer or two. There was no time for that when Rose was around. He told himself it was all in a good cause. He did get a bit of a rest when Bob took her on for a twirl. In a brief respite while the girls went to powder their nose, Bob congratulated Jack on his luck and mentioned in passing the fact that in spite of Rose’s manic dancing style she didn’t appear to sweat. Having had the obvious pointed out to him Jack also noticed the lack of perspiration. It wasn’t something that was likely to sublimate his growing lust.

Joy wasn’t exactly joyful about the way the men were drooling over the pretty hitch-hiker and decided to cut the evening short. She wasn’t best pleased when Bob asked Rose if they could drop her off on the way home. Jack didn’t want to let the love of his life disappear without making plans for the future. When they came to the stretch of road where they had picked her up she asked to be dropped off, Jack nimbly nipped out of the car and gallantly opened the door. He looked around but in the dark could see no sign of a building. Rose assured him that she would be all right and he asked her to give him her telephone number. She confessed to not being connected but this was the 50s and a time when everyone did not have a telephone clamped to their ear so Jack had no reason to think that odd.

Next day Jack got Joy to drive him to the address she had given him. To their surprise it turned out to be a Nunnery. Not exactly the background they had envisaged for Rose. Jack wasn’t prepared to let a little thing like a cloistered habitat ruin his love life so he marched up to the heavy oak doors and pulled the bell chain. A nun answered the door immediately and looked startled when he asked to see Rose White. She scampered off but returned after a short while and said the Mother Superior would like to see them. 

The M S greeted Jack and Joy graciously and asked them if they would mind looking at some photographs and pointing out Rose so that she could be certain who they were looking for. Jack had heard that nuns took on ecclesiastically blessed names when they got into the habit so wasn’t surprised. What came next nearly blew him away.

The Mother Superior asked Jack and Joy to follow them and led them through the nunnery grounds to a small cemetery and stopped in front of an old grave with a weathered cross. The name carved on the cross was ROSE WHITE. The date of interment – 1889! Jack was shocked. The Mother Superior took them to a little arbour, sat them down and told them the story of Rose White.

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She became a Noviciate in 1885. She was a bit of a rebellious girl but had been forced to enter the cloisters by her religious father who thought she needed calming down a little. She wasn’t cut out for the life of a nun and disappeared on a number of occasions before the Mother Superior of the day decided she had had enough and asked her father to come and take her away. She seemed to be happy with the situation but on the day when she was supposed to leave she was found dead in her bed. A doctor was called and diagnosed a heart attack – probably brought on by the excitement of her father’s intention to take her home.

The reason that the Mother Superior wasn’t particularly surprised by Jack’s request to see Rose was that, over the previous 60 years or so, Rose had been seen on a number of occasions. Always in contemporary dress and always looking for a good time.

There have been no reported sightings of Rose since that appearance in the fifties but around now could be a good time for a diligent Ghosthunter to look for a girl in a Lycra leotard looking for  a good time.

The reason I’ve told you about Rose now is that I am gathering material for a follow-up to The Bedside Companion for Ghosthunters and would like to hear any stories of a similar or ghostly nature gathered along the way. I don’t need the whole story to start with – just a quick précis will do. All stories will be acknowledged.

Read Ingrid’s column every Tuesday at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.

 

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13 January 2009