I had a seriously bad idea. I spent last night in a Northumberland castle which claims it is Britain's most haunted castle. I thought: "If I am going to spend a night in 'Britain's most haunted castle', I should do it on my own otherwise it would be cheating." Northumberland water must have addled my brain. Chablis never makes me think that way. Cheating? Cheating who exactly? The ghosts?
Usually, "on my own" translates to "surrounded by small children". This time I mean utterly, completely, not another living soul in sight "on my own." A night away from the children. I could have spent it at a luxury hotel with a complementary spa treatment. I could have zipped down to London and spent it with a credit card. I could have found a lover in a chat room, made some excuse about the car running out of petrol and spent it in cyberspace with my hand on my mouse. No. I spent it on my own where other fools have gone before and written comments in the visitors' book like this from George: "1am. Lying in bed, eyes open, wife asleep. A round ball of light flashes and is gone. Again a round ball of light." Or this one from a Whitby couple: "Caught lots of orbs. How exciting. Just to warn others, one was in the lounge area of the apartment." I am reading this book in the lounge area of the apartment in a chair that smells like it is trying to pass on a message. A message like: "Don't sit here. Someone is sitting here already." I read one from a week ago: "The bumps and bangs and sounds of furniture being dragged across the floor are still going strong! Spooky." I thought to myself: "I should stop reading this book and go to bed." I am slightly worried if I stop reading, I will look up and a hooded figure say: "Boo."
The "ghost walker" who gave us a tour of the castle and its grounds has not helped my state of paranoia. He described horrid, bloody tortures in the sort of professional detail I did not think entirely necessary. He shut us up in the darkness of the dungeon, described the freezing touch of a 12-year-old girl dead from pneumonia and the heavy rose scent of a deserted and unhappy wife. He claimed, as he sat in one room, a rocking chair started to rock violently while on another night, a flag dropped from the chapel wall to wrap itself round a visitor.
He also told me the little bedroom in my tippy toppy tower apartment had a "very oppressive" atmosphere. He predicted: "I bet you won't sleep in that one tonight." "Not now, I won't," I told him. He said visitors often abandoned the apartment in the middle of the night after doors opened and banged shut and lights went on and off. I said: "Feel free not to share." Not one to take a hint, he claimed two staff would no longer work in it after they went into one of the bedrooms and the door "jammed." There are three bedrooms in the apartment; the little one, a twin bedded room and one with a double bed. I am not into the supernatural. I am hoping the supernatural will not be into me. I am no sooner going to sleep in the oppressive little bedroom than fly. I am standing in the hallway thinking that neither am I going into any bedroom where the door "jams" and the walls start to bleed. (He did not say the walls would bleed but it pays to think ahead.)
The little room is up a stone staircase and has a curtain across the entrance; the other two bedrooms both have doors. I chose the one with the double bed on the grounds that four girls from Durham: "had a fantastic night, seen loads of orbs, sat in all rooms with video but the best had to be the twin beds." At least, in my room, George only saw two rather than "loads". Apparently, orbs are considered by those who like that sort of thing, to be the souls of the dead. There were two couples on the tour along with me. A nice man from Blackpool took a digital photo with a round shiny "orb" in the courtyard. I remained sceptical. I am sceptical even when there is what sounds suspiciously like a knock on my door. I think: "Bugger politeness, I am not answering the door to anyone who might be dead."