A Tale of Unrelenting Horror & Bad Muffins for Halloween
“Nevermore,” I said through gritted teeth, as I felt my way up the creaking, long-disused stairs, breathing deep the gathering gloom, feeling moody and blue.
Why does gloom always do that? Gather, I mean. It could learn a thing or two from me, learn to dissipate a bit, at least on weekends.
My nerve almost failed – – I mean, it’s hard to say “nevermore” with your teeth gritted, but then, the stairs hadn’t been swept in years, so I guess it would’ve been gritty no matter what I did with my teeth. My throat was knotted with tension and my teeth were already on edge from the howling storm. All in all, it was a desperately nerve-racking situation, dental-wise.
I paused to shield the guttering candle, almost snuffed out by a sudden icy draft. Nevermore will I stay in a haunted B&B, when it’s only rated 1 1/2 stars, and the only muffins at breakfast were prune and artichoke. Another icy draft filled the dank stairwell, and the storm outside rattled the windowpanes. I thought some more about icy drafts, and how nice it would be to have a cold beer, just to wash away the dust on my tongue. But one of the embroidered signs on the bedroom wall asked Guests Please Refrain from Eating or Drinking in Your Room. And Do Not Sit Upon the Counterpane.
I didn’t know what a counterpane might be, so I didn’t sit on anything, and slept in the bathtub.
Or tried to sleep.
The night was wild with a vicious storm, branches tap-tap-tapping on the window panes, some stupid raven trying to get in, too, but what really rendered the night sleepless was a horrible banshee wail from somewhere in the upper, supposedly vacant floors! Finally driven to distraction, I ignored the “Private. & Kind of Creepy” sign, and forced open the door to the back stairs with a poker I’d snatched from the hearth, the splintering wood and rusty screech drowned out by the storm. Man, beast, or spirit, I determined to climb the stairs and confront this evil, poker in my hand & black murder on my mind.
The wi-fi was out, so I had nothing else to do anyway.
I also had a candle, the Gideon’s Bible from the nightstand, and the bell from my bicycle. No holy water, but I brought the little complimentary spray bottle of Lavender & Paprika linen freshener, which really stings if you get it in your eyes.
(That’s a lot of stuff to carry, but luckily, I always travel with vintage 1920’s bathrobes from Abercrombie & Fitch, in MacKay tartan, the long-discontinued model called “The Huntsman’s Friend,” with tons of pockets, a hip flask, and ammo loops. You can unravel the belt for fishing line, in an emergency. I really recommend it.)
The horrible keening continued, and I froze for a moment, but with nerves of iron, I steeled myself to, no I mean, with nerves of steel and a backbone of iron, I was galvanized into action. That’s not quite right, either, is it. OK, like an iron, I pressed on. Whatever, I went up the stairs, metallically in some way, and burst open the attic door.
To be confronted
with a scene
of heart-stopping horror,
beyond the capacity of words to express!
Well, actually, we do have words to express it – – it was the B&B’s butler, playing the bagpipes.
The ghastly shrieks died away, as the fiend drew breath, fixed me with a glittering eye, and intoned sepulchrally, “It’s not keening, laddie, ’tis ‘The Rose of Kelvingrove’.”
I snatched my trusty Webley .455 from my bathrobe pocket, the one with a built-in holster, and emptied it in his direction.
“Ha!” I cried – – the stupid sign in my room said “Please don’t disturb the tranquility of our guests by turning on the shower bath, radio, or TV after 7:15 PM,” but it didn’t say anything about shooting guns!
“Ha!” I said again. (In crisis mode, my thought process was so quick, the casual listener would be forgiven for thinking I’d said “Haha!” instead of two distinct “Ha’s!” but I figured, really, after discharging a large caliber pistol in a confined space, they probably wouldn’t have heard anything at all, so I pantomimed “Ha!” for dramatic effect.)
Six shots rang true. The perforated bagpipe fell to the floor like last year’s haggis after a pub brawl in Glasgow.
The butler never flinched.
Totally impassive, he slowly turned, and bent to seize a large black leather portmanteau.
I felt an instant of dismay, because his kilt was rather short. He dragged the sinister case toward me. I regretted having expended all six bullets on the bagpipes.
Placing it between us, his mad glare never leaving my face, he slowly prised open the corroded clasps, and with infinite menace, slowly opened the stained, mouldering lid.
An appalling odor of stale mazurka flooded the attic.
His lips stretched into a hideous grin.
“Polka time, then?” he asked, as he removed the accordion.
A tale of B&B horror for Halloween.
48 thoughts on “All Hallow’s Eve in the Haste Ye Back Inn.”
Whoa. Great Halloween story! I felt spine-tingling terror as I read this! You should write a collection of these stories.
You’re funny: “Why does gloom always do that? Gather, I mean.”
Inquiring minds want to know: did each muffin contain both prunes and artichokes, or were there separate prune muffins and artichoke muffins? And on this day, could we say of the latter type that ghouls serve them because they are to choke you?
The section about counterpane and sleeping in the bathtub reminded me of two things:
The song includes the lines “I told her I didn’t / And crawled off to sleep in the bath.”
Thanks, Steve! I remember that line from the Beatles, but I don’t remember ever seeing the Robert Louis Stevenson poem before, I like it.
I’ve been enjoying your fine pun, and this morning, I checked your site, but you haven’t photographed artichokes – – I know it doesn’t qualify as a wildflower, but you’ve done Texas thistle, maybe you could photograph an artichoke some time?
The guiding rule on my blog has been to photograph only things that are native in a place, so unless I end up traveling to lands along the western or central Mediterranean, I won’t photograph an artichoke—at least not for showing on my blog.
I lost my head over this story….
haha! Thanks GP! 😀🎃
Truly a tale of Horror!
🙂 Thanks, Anne!
“The perforated bagpipe fell to the floor like last year’s haggis after a pub brawl in Glasgow.”
A classic line from an excellent story!
Thanks, Neil! Out in the open air, during a parade, I actually like bagpipe music.
There’s a lot to love in this one, including the bell, book, and candle reference. I don’t do Abercrombie and Fitch, but I think Orvis might have stocked that same bathrobe: sans ammo loops, but with a matching dog bed and blanket.
Shooting that bagpipe was self-defense. They’ll never convict. It is too bad the mad butler was intent on polka. If he’d been Cajun, that accordion could have accompanied a truly happy Halloween!
Thank you, LInda. And thanks also for the link – that Higgins family really knows how to do it up! wow. And good tune, too, I like zydeco & cajun dance tunes.
Wow! What a Halloween story!!!
Thanks, Peter! 🙂 just a bit of fun. I actually like bagpipes.
Good gracious! This is hysterical! My favorite is the robe bit, the ammo loops and so forth. And the bagpiper, that’s brilliant. Press on, you iron implement!
Thanks, Bill. This was brought on by a horrible night in a little inn – – the next room had someone who belongs in the Guinness Book of Records – – they snored like the Royal Scots Bagpipe Band
Well you brought that scene to life beautifully…happy Halloween. Play some Oingo Boingo!
Dead Man’s Party!! yes!
Should have kilt him while you had the chance.
Truly evil pun, good one!
He he. And as the watch lights fade from the gutting candle, the B&Bs bathrobed butler’s bagpipe bellows blew a brisk breeze, being bereft of its blare. But wait! The cold-hearted orb of the fatally punctured bagpipe started again its tell-tale beat, oozing strands of a haggis pudding, and sounding out: thump thump, skirl, thump thump, skirl…
And off in the distance, a group of seeming demonically possessed head-bangers chanted, “we will, we will rock you!”
Dave! Most Excellent! 🎃👍😹
And just try saying all those B’s with your teeth gritted!
Haha, good one! Sometimes a bunch of metal heads do seem to move as if possessed don’t they?
thump thump, skirl, thump thump, skirl… (Maybe they’re all haunted by bagpipes 😉 )
I read a paragraph out to Nigel and “..like an iron, I pressed on” elicited lots of laughter 🙂 Love that line! Well done Robert!
thanks Liz, this was supposed to be the year I stopped doing silly puns, but clearly I have not
There should be a law against mini-kilts. And prune-artichoke muffins. Those prunes should not be consumed before so much fright.
Terrifying! I won’t be able to sleep tonight, now!
Run! I think he’s got a harmonica, too!
It should be Halloween every month if you’re going to churn out such high quality ghoulishly ghostly stories like this one Robert!👻👻👻👻👻
Oh heck, Denzil, thanks very much. I enjoyed your post about walking around the Waterloo battlefield (and of course, my hometown is Waterloo, NY) but couldn’t leave a comment.
Yes I thought you’d find it familiar. Comments are back on now.
Crazy! It appears that the gloom has dissipated, Robert, thank you. 😉
What a great story! And artichoke muffins for breakfast would be incredibly scary. Oh, and I agree: Every good horror hero needs a robe with lots of pockets–nicely done!
Thanks so much, Cecilia. Yes, most of us feel 100% braver when we’re wearing a really good bathrobe.
Many thanks for stopping by my Travel and Photography blog. 🙂
I enjoyed this even though I don’t ‘do’ halloween. In fact I usually avoid it like the plague. Or is that avoid the plague like halloween? As for not being able to say ‘Nevermore’ through gritted teeth, try saying between a beak:
Haha! Very clever bird!
“Why does gloom always do that? Gather, I mean.” — you’re such a nut hull!
Thanks Dale I cannot deny it.
Hi Robert, Sorry I missed this on Halloween. What a excellent scary tale you’ve told! Well done. 😳
Thank you, Jane. 🙂